Ask Jo: My Fabric Stash

Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to.  That’s when I feature them on the blog.  This is one of those days. Today’s question is about organizing my sewing room closet.

Judy B asked:
“Would you please share what totes you ordered and from where? I’m looking for some new ones.”

As many of you know, I’ve been tackling my sewing room.  Most people might call it cleaning but not me.  I’m all into this so I’m calling it tackling!

One of the places I’m putting all of my efforts into is my closet in the sewing room.  Here’s a rough layout of my space.

The upper middle of the picture is the hallway.  Our upstairs bathroom in on the upper left.  If you come all the way down the hallway, my sewing room is 14 x 20 room at the bottom of the picture.  We designed it this way as down the road, most people would use my space as a master bedroom.

On the upper right in the picture is my closet off the sewing room.  It’s 6 x 11.  I love the room and it’s a lifesaver for storage.  It allows me to keep more things than I probably should.

In the five years I’ve lived here I’ve updated the closet and time and time again when either time or finances allowed it.  My last big cleaning session had me buying these shelving units (Find them HERE on Amazon) for my closet.  I love them.

They really helped things get better a lot….but still I wasn’t completely satisfied.

At the time I had enough money for the shelving but not nice matching totes that were the correct size.  I made due and that was perfectly okay.  I knew a day would come when I’d afford good totes.  So this time around, it this cleaning session, I’m getting the totes.

What I’ve found that is working best for me are these….

They are clear Letter Legal File Totes.  They are a nice size.  18 x 14 x 11-ish.  I keep my bright fabrics that are all the same color in a tote.  So I have one for each of the most used colors…Primaries plus pink.

I also bought these so I have them for the Kaffe prints I’ve been collecting and the calico prints I’ve been collecting.

I’m not finished getting the things all transferred into totes.  That’s my weekend job.

The new totes are the nice see through ones….

I love them and totally worth the money to see things nice and more clean.

My old totes were spilling over.  These, there is plenty of room.

More totes were delivered last night so today’s job is organize the shelving unit more.

I do want to say this…
This was a harder post for me to write.  People are so judgemental and often don’t keep their opinions to themselves.  Some then end up saying hurtful things in the comment section.  If you don’t believe me, look back on all the blog posts you’re read from other bloggers.  How often do they show off their fabric stash?  The reason they don’t, readers have been judgemental in the past and said unkind things.  Please don’t do that to me today.

Seeing how much fabric I have to some will seem extravagant.  Seeing what I have to others will not seem like a lot.

I decided to risk rude comments and write the post trying to help others make sense of their quilting space.  I know for me, I was starting to feel paralyzed by my space and all of the things.  My sewing room wasn’t a place I enjoyed.  When I walked in I felt more overwhelmed than happy.  I wanted that to stop.  I wanted the feeling of creativity back.  I wanted to feel joy when I went in my sewing room.

I’m risking writing this post because I know some of you feel the same.  I want that sense of creativity and joy for you too.  I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed when you see your stack of UFOs…see fabric that is unorganized and a chore to use..seeing quilt tops you don’t care it they ever get finished.  Most of us have this.  You are not alone.

Of course, my way of organizing isn’t the only way.  It just works for me and I’m hoping seeing what I’m doing might urge you to rethink what you are doing.  Is there a better way to store fabric?  Is there a way to make your sewing room happy again.

Those of you who are lucky enough to not have this problem of feeling overwhelmed in your sewing room, I hope you will share ideas with us in the comment section.  What works for you?  How do you store your fabric?  Is there something you do in your sewing room that really works for you?

The bottom line, is that this is my sewing room.  I feel comfortable about how much fabric I have.  With the projects I make and my commitment to not buy a lot of fabric- taking what I can find that is either thrifted or given to me makes me want to keep more fabric than I might otherwise.  I need to have a way to use it.  This system works for me…I just needed the totes to make it more efficient and cleaner looking.

For me each genre and color of fabric has a tote.  Everything muchst fit in that tote.  If the tote is getting full, it’s time to make a quilt using that color or sort through and see if some of my not so favorites can move on to charity.

In my process of cleaning my sewing room, to date I have almost touched every single piece of fabric that I have.  Each piece has required a decision.  Do I keep it?  Do I donate it to charity quilters?  Do I put it in a box in case I need to make more masks?  It has been wonderful.  I KNOW what I have.  I KNOW what I can make.  The fabric isn’t owning me anymore.  I am owning the fabric and I love that feeling.

I HIGHLY recommend letting go of fabric that you don’t love and passing it on to charity.  Make a guess of how many quilts you make a year.  Double that number.  For me, that number is around 20.  If I look at a piece of fabric and think, in the next 20 (or whatever your two year number is) quilts that I am going to make, what is the likelihood that I would use this piece of fabric in it?  If the answer is probably not, put the fabric in a donation box.  It is just taking up space and not allowing you to enjoy the fabric you still love.  Chances are all of the next 20 (or whatever your number is) likely won’t even come from your stash.  Stores are going to open and you’ll find your way back to the quilt shop and something is going to tempt you and one of your next quilts will be from fabric you don’t even currently own.

If you were in love with Debbie Mumm and no longer are, put the fabric into a box and lets find a charity that can use it.  It’s okay to change your preference.  If you were a big time Civil War Reproduction girl and you no longer love the fabric, it’s okay.  There are those of us who still love it.  Move it out.  Those fabrics you no longer love are not bringing you joy.

I hear so many people say, “I lost my sewing mojo”.  I’ve been there.  I get it.  Perhaps a realistic look at your space is what you need.  Did you fall out of love with quilting or fall out of love with your space?  If it’s your space that has down, sort it out!!  Donate.  Move what you don’t want out.  If quilting isn’t your favorite thing anymore.  That’s totally okay to.  Downsize your quilting stuff to make way for your new hobby.  It’s totally okay.  Chances are if you pick up quilting again, you won’t be in love with what you had.  Allow yourself to change and grow.

I always want to send out a HUGE word of CONGRATULATIONS when someone sends me a box of fabric or a UFO they no longer love.  I know it takes a lot of work to clean a sewing room and more so, I know it takes a lot of “knowing yourself” to know what isn’t bringing you joy anymore.

If you find this all meaningful to you and you have things you want to pass on but don’t know where to donate them to, drop me an email at  I’ll help find a charity that could make good use of your donations.

The bottom line is hobbies are meant to bring you joy and give you the heart of creativity.  They are not meant to be a chore.  If your hobby is not bringing you joy, what steps can you take so it does again?

People laughed when I said that this time cleaning the sewing room might take me a whole month.  I have 22 more days and even though I tackle at least one thing each day, I still don’t think I’ll be completely done by then, but when I am, I’m going to be SO-SO HAPPY and the anticipation of that keeps me moving forward.  I have found so many things I passed up on but really want to do.  When June 1st hits…I’m still going to keep moving forward on the cleaning but I am going to start a few new things.  Every day that goes by, I can feel my load lifting.
#Quilting #StashReport
Quilting StashReport