Sustainable Sewing Tip #3 – Know What’s in Your Stash

A well-curated, organized stash makes sewing a pleasure. It saves you time because you won’t have to spend all day hunting for supplies that you just know are there somewhere. It also saves you money because you won’t waste gas and cash to go buy a duplicate of something you know you already have on hand.

Imagine: (1) You’re inspired by a project you see online. Within 15 minutes, you’ve pulled the fabrics and supplies needed for the project and are getting busy, or you’ve made a list of the 1-2 items that you may need to pick up next time you run errands.

Imagine: (2) Your quilt guild puts out an urgent call for kiddie size quilts (36″x48″ to 54″ square) to donate to the local sheriff’s department. You can quickly pull supplies needed to make the quilt top and your machine is ready for simple straight line quilting or a basic meander to get the quilt finished ASAP.

Imagine: (3) You’re stuck at home for a day or two. You have enough supplies in your stash to keep projects moving forward. (Or you’ve downloaded some quilting mags from the library to read on your device – see Tip #1)

Reality check: Recently, I helped clean out the sewing room of someone who’d passed away. I would classify this lady as a hoarder because she had so much stuff tucked everywhere. There’s a meme that goes something like “She who dies with the most fabric wins.” Nope. Your loved ones have to figure out what to do with all your stuff. Fortunately, this lady’s stuff was fairly well organized by type of craft and then by notion. The unfortunate thing is the beautiful vintage textiles stunk so bad, we wound up throwing most of them out – even after a couple of months of “de-stink” treatment. Nobody wanted them because they couldn’t handle the smell.

Do you need to pare down some of your beloved stash? Now, might be a good time to right-size your fabric stash, tools, machines, books and patterns to only those things you love, add value to your sewing and you know you’ll eventually use.

I’m not going to get into the details of organization systems, but I will share how I manage my fabric stash:

(1) Fabric is sorted into 3 categories: Precuts, Fat quarter to < 1 yard pieces and then yardage.
(2) Precuts are stored in Art-Bin satchels by jelly rolls, layer cakes and charm packs.
(3) FQs to < 1 yard pieces are sorted by color and stored in color coordinated fabric bins. This comprises most of my stash and yes, I do break apart FQ bundles.
(4) Dog, holiday, kid themed and Lori Holt fabrics are stored separately.
(5) Yardage is kept on bolts with cut pieces in a separate storage tub.

For everything else, a module system seems to work best for me. I first heard about this system in some minimalism audiobook I listened to during a marathon quilting session. It makes total sense to me, though. I keep like items needed for a particular task grouped together in a plastic bin or basket. My ironing supplies are in one basket. My markers are in one bin. My hand embroidery supplies are kept together. Small craft tools, wire and findings are in another bin. My applique kit (threads, special needles, glue bottles, interfacing, point turner, Karen K. Buckley scissors, mechanical pencil and a pack of baby wipes) is probably the module I access most often.

I use an app to keep track of my die-cuts, rulers and books, so I can instantly see whether or not I already have one at home. It took time to set up the database, but boy has it paid huge dividends.

Every six months, I go through my stash and rehome the fabric, books and patterns I know I’ll never use.