Organising my fabric stash

It was time to reorganise my fabrics and after having read articles in the superb series Art of Choosing by Jeni of In Color Order, I realised my stash structure was close to how I needed it to be, with only a few tweaks necessary to make. I spent some time putting back fabrics used in recent projects, shuffling within colours and looking closely at prints. It was great fun and I want to share my decision-making process, first through an explanation and then some photos.

Jeni uses the rainbow as her foundation, but originally I got into this from another direction, the artist’s pencils. Both Caran D’Ache and Faber Castell, which happen to sit (currently unused) in my crafting stuff, start from yellow, so that’s what I chose back in the day. I’m so set in the pencil order that I haven’t had any success when trying to switch to the rainbow order.

The order of colours I’ve chosen is this: yellow, orange, pink, red, violet, blue, turquoise, green, brown and the greyscale. I know some prefer pink between red and violet, and brown could go close to orange-reds, but since neither brown nor greyscales are in the rainbow I’ve put these at the end of the colour line. The greyscale starts with white and ends with black in my stash.

I want things neat, categorised and contextualised if possible. Blog articles are a great example in that you can add both categories and tags to them, and while tags are fine when you have lots of information to dig through, the very rigid categories are of fantastic assistance in this case; you want one context to be applied to a single fabric. (Or you could choose not to organise in any way, but simply keep stacks in a glorious mix. The latter isn’t for me though, so here we are.)

Jeni’s way of presenting fabrics with prints was the heureka moment for me. In Recognizing a Fabric’s Overall Color, she discusses with good examples the different looks that a fabric can have: 1. tone-on-tone fabric, 2. color+white fabric, 3. fabric with small accents, 4. fabrics with large accents, and 5. multicoloured fabrics.

I had tried too complex a way to sort – by background tone – and something was missing, so to view fabrics in this five-category way helped me learn more about the prints and bring order to the multicoloured as well as the greyscale fabrics, which were in a holy mess still. In Organizing Your Stash by Color, Jeni combines the tone-on-tone and color+white fabrics into one group, which is helpful. Now I use the five-category model to understand my stash, but the physical organising combines categories 1. and 2.

How I organise my fabrics with prints:

  • Coloured background
    • In artist’s pencil order
      • Tone-on-tone and color+white fabrics
      • Fabrics with small accents
      • Fabrics with large accents
  • Greyscale background
    • White background
      • Accent colours in artist’s pencil order
        • One accent colour
        • Several accent colours
      • Multicoloured accents
      • White+grey fabrics
      • White+black fabrics
    • Grey background
      • Tone-on-tone and grey+white fabrics
      • Fabrics with small accents
      • Fabrics with large accents
    • Black background
      • Tone-on-tone and black+white fabrics
      • Fabrics with small accents
      • Fabrics with large accents

The “troublesome multicoloured fabrics” in my stash are in fact not difficult at all. I’ve discovered that once I’ve identified a particular background colour for a fabric with multiple colours, the accent size will be enough for further classifying this fabric.

Fabrics with white background are the exception, as I have quite a lot of these. To make things slightly easier, when I’ve identified one accent colour as the main one, I place the fabric according to artist’s pencil order, rather than among the multicoloured accents, of which there are many enough to be in no order at all. To decrease the amount of sub-sub-sub-categories, the accent size of patterns on white background is ignored.

Now it’s time for the photos! I’ll use pink as an example.

Stash organising 1

Fabrics with pink background and fabrics with pink pattern on white background

Stash organising 2

Fabrics with pink background, tone-on-tone and pink+white up on top

Stash organising 3

Fabrics with pink background, small accents up on top

Stash organising 4

Fabrics with pink background and large accents

Stash organising 5

Fabrics with pink pattern on white background, pink-only accents up on top

Stash organising 6

Fabrics with pink pattern on white background, multicoloured accents that are mainly pink

Stash organising 7

Fabrics with white background, multicoloured accents – No main accent colour is identifiable

Stash organising 8

Fabrics with black pattern on white background

Stash organising 9

Fabrics with grey background – Tone-on-tone and grey+white up on top, small and large accents at the bottom, and question marks in the middle (possibly tone-on-tone or small accents so they are in between the two)

Stash organising 10

Fabrics with black background – Black+white up on top (which is where tone-on-tone would be too), small accents in the middle, large accents on the bottom

All the other colours work the same way as pink. Currently I don’t have any fabrics with grey accents on white background, but they’d be squeezed in between the multicoloured ones and the black ones on white background.

I’m a pretty organised person, but constant maintenance of this system will be too much, so the structure is one that I’ll keep in the back of my head when making decisions in the future on which fabrics to purchase (what type do I already have lots of, what is on the other hand missing). It’s also been great to finally develop a way of classifying fabrics out of a colour, texture and pattern point of view – because the quilt is the end product and that’s where the results will be visible. When chaos has reached an uncomfortable level, I’ll apply this structure once more when reorganising, but in between I prefer less rigid rules.

Next organising article will be on stash storage! (Yes, with photos once again!)

Edited to add: You can find it here now.

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This is the first article in the Organise Your Sewing Room series.


2 thoughts on “Organising my fabric stash

  1. Lizzie

    I must say, you have an enviable selection of mauves/antique pinks! I am intrigued by your organizational style…


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