Weblog and Idea Spot for Quilters

06 January 2008

Systematic Stash Storage

People who see my cottons stash often ask me why it is arranged like it is. Facility of course, and durability; but there is more to the story.

I've been a quilter about as long as I've been a seamstress. When there were scraps from a project they were thrown into a tall wicker basket and when the mood took me I'd turn a large pile of them into a quilt. This worked just fine for the once a year or so quilting project. When I was hit hard with the quilting bug (about ten years ago) I undertook a massive project to systematize fabric storage so that it could be easily recognized and used and so that it would maintain good condition even if stored for many years. (I know, I'm the ONLY quilter who ever lets a piece of fabric sit on a shelf for twenty years before deciding to use it.)

The first step was to seperate all my fabrics into the following categories: 1) couture fabrics, 2) accent fabrics like tulle and laces, and 3) quilting cottons. Once it was all sorted, I washed all the quilting cottons.

It only took me a few minutes of ironing (there was a mountain of it to do!) to realize I needed a systematic way to fold cottons in order to keep track of them well and preserve all that ironing.

I hauled out a one yard piece of cotton that I'd already ironed and folded it so that the selvedges met, folded it again in the same direction so that the selvedges lined up with the center fold of the fabric and made a one yard long, roughly 10 1/2" tall piece. This is the way all my cottons look when they are layed out on a mat waiting to be rotary cut. I accordion folded the fabric at 4 1/2 to 5" intervals along the entire length. This fold prevents any appreciable stretch along the bias of the fabric. For every forward stress there is an equivalent backward stress just a few inches away. That way you don't get the wavy creases along the center and quarter folds lengthwise.

Once everything was folded up it went into the stash cabinet with the selvedges towards the back of the shelf. These pieces fit beautifully on any standard bookcase. You can tell at a glance how much fabric you have in a given piece by counting folds. Four folds are a half yard, eight are a yard. The fabrics sit on your shelf being pressed flat by the fabrics on top of them so you never have wrinkled cottons coming off the shelf.

For years now as soon as a fabric comes home with me it goes straight into the washing machine to be washed then ironed then folded and added to the stash. I enjoy the opportunity to get to know each piece a little better as it goes through the process and all my cottons stay healthy and visible in the cabinet this way.