Cleaning out the Stash

I was digging through my fabric stash resource center looking for springtime fabrics, and I think I reached my limit.  I do like things more organized, and this closet has been a mess for years.  This project took me three weeks to complete, working on it a little each day until I finally got it to a modicum of control.  I have a lot of fabrics that have been given to me, either from friends, or from people on Freecycle, and some of them I know I will not use.  In addition, I have some decorator fabrics I have held onto for years and really will never do anything with them.  I really need to get some stuff off the floor, and have my batting all together so I can find small bits when I need them. I was part way through pulling all the fabric off one of the shelves before I remembered to take a ‘before’ pic. I have often spoken of my stash closet resource center, and here it is in all its messy glory. The closet is 10 feet wide, 8 feet high and almost three feet deep, stuffed to the rafters and behind the doors with fabric, batting, bits and pieces left over from projects gone by, clothing, wool felt, cotton felt, DMC floss, patterns and other stuff.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

The fabric is what I wanted to concentrate on. I have so much that I will never use, likely not ever miss either if it was gone. So, one shelf at a time, I pulled everything off onto the table and sorted it. Some bits were put into a large zippered clear plastic blanket bag, to be given to the humane society thrift store for a grab bag. It has everything that isn’t quilting cotton like denim, silk, satin, upholstery fabrics and some notions. Other larger quilting cotton pieces were put into 2 bags for the Cancer Care group to use in charity quilts. Some really small bits went into a bag for the local ministry’s shredder program. I gave myself permission to just donate this pile that I normally would press and cut into pieces for scrap quilts. I have so much that I am just going to do a purge for once and start over. Won’t be long until I have more, and I still have bins of scraps.   Most of the scraps are in a tower of stacking bins about six feet high, next to the bookshelves on the other side of the basement.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

Stuffed into the shelves and hanging on hangers in the laundry room were several dresses I made some years ago. Remember when we all wore these dresses over short sleeve t-shirts and flat shoes? I made several out of fun quilting cottons and corduroy, and wore them almost daily. Now I want to reclaim the fabric that I can from the skirts for other uses.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

The dress style is mostly out of style, but actually with a sweater over the dress instead of a t-shirt under, it could pass nowadays. So I might keep the Hawaiian print. The Christmas print is corduroy, and still cute. But I need to remake it into just a skirt, and get rid of the bodice part. There is plenty of fabric to do this, I just need to dig out a good pattern and get it done.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

I had one for Easter too. Cutting the bodice off, and removing the buttons, it went into the shredder bag.  The skirt was cut apart at the seams, pressed and folded for use in another project.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

Clearing one shelf, I put a plastic dry-cleaner bag down on the shelf to protect the fabric from wood stain.  Although I really don’t think this is an issue, one piece of fabric did appear to be stained, so let’s not take a chance. You can see there is still a jumbled up mess on the shelf below, with a forgotten denim shirt and other large pieces of dressmaker fabric like gabardine and challis.  I’m going to put some of it up for sale, and a couple of pieces will become new pj’s.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

The bolts of fabrics will stay where they are, and I will be winding more bolts with some of the pieces I have left that are over three yards.  The bags of fabrics are in 2-gallon zip top bags, mostly separated by collection, with some leftover pieces from previous quilts in bags too.  Why do I keep all that?  I think it is just in case a quilt ever needs repair – but that is silly.  Most of those quilts I no longer have, as they have been donated or gifted.  And the gifted ones were sent with some extra fabric just in case it is ever needed.  So those bags need to be purged.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

All these bits are what I call my luxury fabric box – silks, satin and velvet. I kept the largest pieces, ironed them all and put them in a sterlite container with a lid. Several pieces went into the grab bag donation.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

So, all of this is getting donated one place or another – four bags of fabrics, and one of cotton felt, along with a few big flat folds of felt.

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

OK, now that I have some room, I gathered all the batting together, marking the small bits with their size so I can quickly find a piece when I need a small bit. I actually discovered I had two packages of black batting when I thought I only had one!

Stash Reorganization ~ From My Carolina Home

Much better. Many of the two gallon bags of fabrics have been purged, with smaller pieces pulled out for donation or for the small scrappy project I have coming up. Some of my most favorite colors have been folded and stacked where I can see all of them.  No longer are there wadded up bits, or stuffed so tightly that I cannot see the back of the closet.  The 2-gallon bags are still two deep on the shelf, but at least now I can move enough to one side to see what is behind.  All the wide backing fabrics in one stack so I know what colors there are to choose from. Fabrics longer than 3 yards were wound onto empty bolt cardboard to reduce the creasing from folding.

Stash Clean Out @ From My Carolina Home

Now, it is much easier to see what is here, all the loose fabrics are folded and sorted, and the number of bags is reduced. Now I know what I have in larger pieces fabrics as they are on bolts. The patterns were purged too, and organized into the blue pattern boxes. The little purple pattern boxes on the top shelf hold my DMC floss in numerical order, and I went through those too refiling a bunch that were just thrown on the top for later filing.  Wool felt is now all together next to the blue pattern boxes.  Plus I found three sleeves for quilts that I’ll need later in the year to prepare a few of this year’s quilts for hanging at the fair.

Stash Clean Out @ From My Carolina Home

Everything is now off the floor too, just a plastic bin left which will be used elsewhere later.  Loose bits of batting and fiberfill along with a few old fabrics and stray pillowcases will go into dog beds.  There is still the scrap tower to go, but this is enough for now!

Have you done a fabric purge lately?  How do you organize your resource center?

36 thoughts on “Cleaning out the Stash

  1. Carol

    Sounds like my scrapbook room! I have been trying to organize now for three weeks, didn’t realize I had accumulated so much stuff but I am getting there!
    Have a GREAT day my friend!

  2. mlmcspadden

    I’m in process of purging a large portion of my clothing and non-quilting fabric stash! I’ve initially sorted out half of it that I’ll be donating to a craft recycle charity. These are fabrics that range from $10-20/yd retail so I’m not going to give them to Goodwill. They stand a chance at being bought by someone who will use them at the craft recycle charity and I’ll get a donation receipt. More to go on it as I need to measure it all but I’ll get there!

  3. I have to clean up my stash. I am overdue. I hate doing it as it sucks so much energy due to all the decisions that need to be made. Your job was terrific!

  4. Debbie Miller

    I am also purging my fabric stash. I am sorting out all the clothing fabrics along with decorator fabrics and cotton that I know I will never use. I found a business in Atlanta that accepts cloth and clothing donations to train homeless women to make rugs as a job. Once I have everything together, I will be making a trek down to Atlanta!

  5. Jennifer Rauch

    Wow that is one neat closet! I have bins & bins of fabric that are organized by colors, but I’m sure there is fabric I should have donated to our Quilt Guild annual auction last week. I just didn’t get to sorting, after stashing those bins out of the way to make room for family visiting @ Christmas. I hated to start in making more mess again, I guess. Will try again next year! Good job purging yours!

  6. I’ve not been home for awhile—visiting with my 2 year old granddaughter so I’m not in a position to purge my resource center right now…but I’m hoping the inspiration will follow me home. I so need to tackle this issue as well as just studio organization in general. And yes—I remember those dresses—I have my own closet full of them….I’m sorry they are passe now because I loved the style….but then–what do I know? At times I miss the big hair and shoulder pads of the ’80’s!

  7. Cheryl Buchanan

    You are so brave. Cannot even think about letting go of any of my fabric. But I did recently refold and rearrange. Still cannot get it all in the cabinet. But you, now you have room to buy some new fabric. Hurray!!!!!

  8. Sharon Schipper

    I have some of those fabrics! bought some from craftsy on clearance again last week, particularly large cuts for backings, and bought some neutrals at JoAnn’s 2 weeks ago because my stash is deficient in background and fillers. I had sorted by color several years ago, buying the cubbies with the fabric bins with the thought to put pink into the pink bin, etc etc, and that works, but I still seem to end up with the plastic bins as well! I have the plastic sorted by project mainly. I need to be ruthless, especially with specialty stuff, satins and laces and velvets but hard to part with sentimental stuff, we made a baby quilt for my nephew a few years ago with fabrics from the whole family, especially from clothing of family that have passed. He was born with spina bifida and had surgery at 2 days old, we had the quilt when he was born, to surround him with lots of family love! I am encouraged that I’m not the only one with bins “6 feet tall”! you’re absolutely right, lots of us will be leaving stash estates for our daughters to deal with I’m thinking!
    PS what does one do with large cuts of home dec fabrics that may never be used? Craigslist? I will have to research about shelters here, as Debbie M suggested…

  9. Rosemaryflower

    Yes. I need to do this.
    I gave away some fabrics last year to a friend that has a sewing school. I also individually measured, identified and packed up my beloved sister’s yards of polyester fabrics she intended for work clothing and gave that to charity. I never know what charities do with donate to
    You did a great job. Yes, I remember those jumpers. Great for work, back in the 80’s. I even made a few for my mom
    Have a fun week. I was sick with that sinus chest virus. stubborn thing. kicked it out for good
    I know you have some daffodils and such too huh? so cute

  10. Phyllis Smith

    Hi Carole,

    Well here goes. Like you I have a few bolts of fabric I have wanted to make curtains , pillows, and tale covers that match for my livingroom, some projects I put into the jumbo sealable plastic bags that zip closed with the pattern and some of the fabric I collect for the project. Don’t have quite the stash you have but I have bought chenille bedspreads to make some schals and pillows for my front porch swing and a few other ideas for nice decorative fancy bedspreads to mix with the satin, brocade ,and silks I get at the thrift stores. Have several pretty silk bed jackets and robes to use in cathideral windows. I like to keep my project book with my material in plastic containers I purchased from Jo Anns with my ½ off coupons and sometimes on their special day coupons for senior citizen Have found some very pretty table cloths to use at the thrift stores to use. Now that the weather has gotten better I want to go to yard sales for lots of other things for my garden and get that going, finally got my herbs going to keep of the deer, rabbits and squirrels out. Wish I could convert one of my closets like you have yours but I have to many evening gowns and wedding dresses in them right now. Well I try to limit my time on the computer so better get started with my day, Have a good one.

  11. WOW! My first thought was …. “how long have you been quilting?” That is quite a resource center! I entered (with great trepidation) the Quilting world as I was working on downsizing and re-vamping some areas of my home, and amazed at the “stuff” I was able to live without, it became apparent that the home was now more orderly – and I like it that way! I’ve devised a storage area (free from sun and artificial lights) for fabrics, and a two-table-cutting-sewing-planning area that is joined (U-shape) by a squared ironing board surface – a couple of floor lamps (goose-necks) brighted the work area beautifully……….and I am as happy as a little quilting clam can be………………..I realized that a cluttered house defined my cluttered mind, and the cluttered mind lent itself to a cluttered house. Too old, too smart, too LATE!

  12. Wow, that’s some difference! Congratulations! It’s amazing how getting rid of things can jump-start creativity. Also, I had to laugh at the dresses. Isn’t it funny how fashions change? Good for you for saving the fabric. It will be fun to look at in a quilt.

  13. Hello Carole! Wow was I ever shocked to see this. I have always pictured everything in your house to always be perfectly put away in the place it belongs right away. A very organized craft room all the way around with all of your crafting adventures. So, I don’t know, but it makes me that you and I have got to meet some day! My fabric storage room is our small second bedroom, which we now call Deanna’s room. Basically, it is pretty much a disaster with a path just wide enough to lead to the bed. The one shelf that is against the back wall, is almost unreachable because of the totes in front of it that I need to unload onto that shelf. I do go in at least once a week or more and work on getting it all organized again. Which would not take to much time actually so I should just do it and get it done. It always does feel marvelous to donate the items we know will not be used! You certainly earned your Brownie Points today! Thank you for sharing and have a great day!

  14. Three cheers for all that you accomplished! That’s a big job and one I need to revisit. 🙂 I love that you call your stash your ‘resource center’! I’m going to have to adopt that phrasing (giving full credit to you) – clever lady! I’m betting that you just grin when you open those closet doors now. As well you should! 🙂

  15. lois92346

    I truly enjoyed the journey through your organizing process. I don’t have nearly as much to deal with as you but still, it haunts me! I have a bin of gorgeous Thimbleberry FQs; all I need is a few yards of neutrals and I could have a lovely quilt or two…make that THREE! My thanks to you and the other ladies that have posted. You’ve inspired me.

  16. Nancy L.

    Hello Carole: This info is very timely and motivating, too, as I finally have reached the point of how “chaos” (bigger than your one closet for sure) is in the way of good productivity and where things are. I need this staring at me on a wall somewhere to keep me focused and on task. Regretfully for me, it isn`t just in the sewing room. I have spilled over to other areas in the home — not good. So thanks for your example and the comments of others. Hope to “just do it” with better intention than so far. It will take time for sure.

  17. Betty Jansen

    You have completed a job that I desperately need to do. I find it difficult to take valuable sewing time to do such a chore, but I certainly would be better off when wasting time looking for something I need if I would just go ahead and organize. Congrats on a task well done!

  18. Laura Puckett

    Mother called it a fabric library, seems right since you cannot have too much fabric or too many books.

  19. And I thought I had a messy storage area,, and lots of fabric, but I don’t come close to your amounts of yardages and pieces, It is good to have a massive clean out and tidy up, for my batting I had some fabric cardboard rollers, from a fabric shop that was closing, and rolled the batting onto these, It saved any creases. Love the idea of larger yardages placed onto the boards like any good fabric shop would do. and the cupboard is that wonderful width. Thanks for all the photos, a great insight into your life.

  20. Wow! This progress is impressive! I need to take your lead and follow suit myself. I am happy when it’s all put away and the doors will close on the chaos stored behind. 🙂

  21. Great job organizing, sorting and clearing out. I did something, on a smaller basis, last year. I belong to several groups that are given fabric for charity quilts etc. It always helps to be able to see your fabric-yours looks great.

  22. Mary Jean Cunningham

    Well, you’re either inspiring us all or making us feel like worse slobs than we already thought we were, ha, ha! I have a ton of stuff in plastic containers, closets, etc. and have started chipping away at cleaning things out but am still working on things from my late mother’s stash as well. I think I inherited the “Great Depression” mentality from her where you hesitate to get rid of anything because you think you might use it some day – many a hot summer afternoon as a child was spent removing buttons, zippers and trims from worn-out clothing with a seam ripper because they were “still good.” I take comfort in thinking when I donate something it will be useful to someone else and not wind up in a landfill, hopefully, as I donate to a “zero-landfill” charity thrift store where even clothes and fabrics that are otherwise unsalable or unusable are sold to be recycled into things such as carpet padding. When I’m vacillating on keeping something, I ask myself, “Would I buy/wear this now?” If not, the choice to put it in the donation pile becomes crystal-clear. The other hard thing is acknowledging that some long-held ideas and plans are not going to come to fruition, so I have to give up on a dream, as it were, and that can be difficult – dealing with reality can be a bummer!…and then we find something new we want to make and the process begins again! I’m trying to shorten the time between something coming into the house to be made and the actual process of making it happen, but I have quite a backlog!

  23. Great job, Carole. Actually, I keep my resource center pretty well organized all the time. I took an ergonomics/organization class when I had the opportunity to go the Houston quilt show about 5 years ago. There I learned the secret to folding and stacking fabric. I purchased a 24 x 8 1/2 inch rotary ruler to use especially for this task. With the fold of the fabric on the left side, fold an edge of the fabric over the long edge of the ruler, then you just turn the ruler, folding the fabric around it as you go. When done, fold the folded fabric in half lengthwise. The piece of folded fabric comes out the size of a bolt, and folding it in half makes it so you can get it on a 12 or 15 inch shelf, which is what I have. You can then use the ruler to put on the top of your fabric stacks and slide a piece of fabric in at the very top, or even slide the ruler in under the piece you want to pull and slide the piece out without messing up the whole stack. After I came home from the show and refolded my entire inventory (1 yard or larger pieces only) I was able to get three times! the amount of fabric in my shelving unit. Each color is in its own stack or stacks and every once in awhile, when things have gotten pulled out and put back a lot, I pull the stacks out one at a time and restack them. When I bring home new fabric, I immediately fold it in this manner and when I’m done with a project, I refold the left over fabric larger than a yard and put it back on the appropriate stack. It’s really nice to be able to see all your fabric at a glance so you can pull candidates for projects really easily. It takes awhile to get organized, but you end up saving a lot of time looking for just the right piece of fabric on the other end and not end up buying a lot of fabric you really don’t need….not that I don’t buy a lot I don’t need anyway just because I love fabric. 🙂

  24. Melanie

    Wow, I am so impressed! I have not done a real purging forever, it seems and the fabric doubles overnight every night. You have given me incentive to get with it, and I must. I have bins of strips in various widths just ready for the right idea to get them sewn up and quickly. But I may have to bag and donate to make needed room. I have a closet the size of yours and 2 additional free-standing ones just packed with stuff I’d have to live 200 years to use up. What’s wrong with me???? LOL

  25. Great job, Carole!!! Feels good when you are able to get rid of ‘stuff’ you know you’ll never use. Not to mention you have a lovely tidy cupboard and it’ll be much easier to find things.

  26. I sew “upstairs” in the garage. I have two metal shelving units and because they are open, I choose to store in plastic totes. I went to the same class as Carolyn (one block wonder woman). I use my 6×24 ruler to do my folding, and a piece that is folded in that manner fits nicely in plastic totes. I have “downsized” the containers to ones that are not quite as deep, and I can double stack them on the shelf. The fabric is in the totes by color. I have a tote to keep stabilizers in, with random bits in ziplocks in the tote. I have a big tote for random batting bits and I use lots of Pellon batting tape to fuse together the edges. I have a cabinet with a door that houses my “scrap storage system” – small containers labeled by size of ready to use pieces. I have a “plastic veggie basket stacker” to keep “unprocessed scraps by color”. When it overflows I choose a color, and cut them into sizes that work in my scrap storage system. I need to “refold” all my fat quarters so they store exactly the same way. They are in 4 small plastic containers, grouped by color too. Need more scrap projects!!!

  27. Wow! I am also in the process of purging by necessity. I am moving most of my stash from one room into another, and I need to condense. I have some bins and shelves in the new room, but I’d love to start out “fresh” with fabrics I’ll actually use. Hopefully I’ll find the same motivation to do the same!

  28. My garage is my stash place, the back wall is filled to the roof with fabrics, tools, and other things. At least it keeps it out of the house!

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