Alternate title, how I organize and catalog my massive fabric stash.
At last count, I had 455 yards of fabric. Granted, that was a month ago – I’ve acquired and sewn quite a bit of fabric since then, but it gives you a sense of what I am up against. When that number was smaller, in the 150-200 yard range — before I met a man who had purchased the estate of two deceased seamstresses and “needed my help” getting rid of it for $2/yard — it was folded into clear plastic bins and I’d rummage through it all as needed. Even then, there were lots of issues with this lack of a system:
- I forgot what I had – to the point that I have three different cuts of emerald green stretch cotton sateen,
- even if I remembered I owned it, I could certainly not recall how much of it I had,
- I’d often dig through the bins to get a piece of fabric for a project only to realize it was thicker/thinner, drapy-er/stiffer… than what I needed,
- I could never remember if I had pre-washed and dried it. This is critical, especially with cotton, which makes up a large portion of my “collection”.
When my yardage-on-hand doubled in the matter of a week, I knew I needed a way to catalog it all. So I googled.
This post got me started. But I wanted more flexibility with what I tracked on each card, so I decided to just use blank index cards. I got my cards, hole puncher, key rings, stapler, scissors and measuring tape and got to work. But the issue with that system for me became apparent almost immediately — volume. The key rings were difficult to flip through when loaded with cards and fabric swatches and I was going to need 5+ rings. Those rings would not stack neatly and were bulky. Then it hit me — the rolodex. You know, those hunks of metal that used to sit on the corner of every desk (and if you were super-popular you had multiples); the antiques that you can buy on eBay for $20, or Etsy, for that perfectly curated vintage looking office space, for $100. It was the perfect solution to my problem. So I bought one, along with the cards, and it all came together over a glorious weekend.
Now, when I decide on a pattern I want to make, I simply flip through my rolodex and pull out the cards for each of my fabric options. I then take those cards to my stash and pull the fabrics for review.
For now, I’m still using the original rolodex card dividers – C is for cotton, D is for denim, F is for fleece and felt, H is for home decor, K is for knit…
Not all of the cards have the same categories of information – it depends on how thorough I am feeling when I catalog it – but I always try to include my best guess at fabric content, the width and length of the fabric, and a small swatch. I also like to include when and where I bought it and for how much money, and if I have washed/dried the fabric already.
After I’ve finished a project, if I have fabric left, I update the card with the amount remaining and indicate what the first portion was used to make and when.
I also have a sticker on the back of each card telling me which tub it is stored in. I just made this update recently and it has already saved me a lot of time.
If I was truly as organized as many people think I am, I’d also keep an Excel spreadsheet tracking my totals (in & out) so I would always know exactly how much fabric I have on hand, and I’d have an app on my phone with all of this information so I could access it when I just happen to accidentally find myself in a fabric store (how in the world did I get here?!?!?), but I’m not there just yet.
I also have a fairly large collection of sewing patterns – both vintage and modern. This post, also from Colette Patterns, taught me how to best store and organize those. I still have a bit of fine-tuning to do there, making the my categories more detailed and I do not have an electronic/portable database of those yet, but I’m making progress.
4 thoughts on “This is what happens when a “type A” is also a “collector””
This is brilliant!
Thank you. I’m not sure it’s brilliant, but it certainly works well for me. Now if only that rolodex fit on my handbag…
Noting on the cards when you’ve pre washed the fabric is a wonderful idea. I don’t have nearly the stash that you’ve gathered, but I’m prone to on and off sewing and don’t always remember which fabrics I’ve already processed. I need to look for an old Rolodex-I like your system and it would be good to organize while mine is very manageable.
The rolodex has worked well for me. I like how I can easily pull out several individual cards to consider for a project. I often attach them to the pattern envelope until I decide which one to use. The trick is being diligent – making a card as soon as new fabric is purchased or editing a card as soon as some fabric is used. My vintage rolodex came without cards, but I bought them on eBay for a song. Other people’s outdated trash is my treasure in this case.