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3 Keys to Curating a Fabric Collection

3 Keys to Curating a Fabric Collection

Stash: noun ~ 1) cache 2) something stored or hidden away

Collection: noun ~ an accumulation of objects gathered for study, comparison, or exhibition or as a hobby

Can we please quit referring to our fabrics as a stash? I prefer to think of mine as a collection!  Here’s the deal, as quilters we NEED fabric. It’s a fact, we cannot quilt without fabric. It’s also a fact that most projects call for fabric in a variety of colors or at least shades. Ergo, we NEED a variety of colors and shades of fabric. Further, we don’t always know exactly what we want to quilt or what size of quilt we want to create, therefore we NEED to have a variety of yardage available. See where I’m going with this? Keeping fabric at home is a good thing, I’d even say it’s a “necessity”. Okay, maybe not a necessity for everyone, but still.

Now that we're all on the same page regarding the necessity of having fabrics on hand, I ask, are you barely managing a fabric stash? Wouldn't you prefer to curate a collection? That's what I talk about in the September 6, 2018 Tipsy Tuesday Facebook Live episode. Watch the video here to see what I look for when purchasing fabrics, how I organize and store my fabric, why I create my own pre-cuts, and how I pull fabrics for quilt projects. 

Here are what I believe to be the 3 keys to curating a collection.

Purchasing fabric yardage  

First, I don’t actually have as large of a collection as you might think. What I do have is a wide variety of fabric in workable yardage because I’ve learned to purchase according to a few simple rules.

  1. I won’t buy anything smaller than a ⅓ of yard. Sloppy cutting of a ¼ yard will absolutely drive me nuts and it’s just not enough to provide the flexibility I like.
  2. Fat quarters are my favorites. It’s a great way for me to keep my collection interesting and every quilt shop has a fat quarter section.
  3. Jelly rolls ~ just remember pre-cuts need to be double checked for accuracy so I always use my Stripology Ruler trim everything.
  4. ½ yds, 1+ yards work for both strip and 10” square projects
  5. If I really love a fabric for backgrounds or quilt backs, I buy 5 yards. I’ve been burned too many times thinking I’ll come back for some cool fabric only to find out later that it’s all gone. I’ve learned my lesson.


Storing fabrics

Secondly, I believe the key to curating a collection is storage! IMHO this is what separates collecting from hoarding. I need to see what I’ve got and that’s only possible if I sort by size and color.

  • ⅓, ½, 1+ yards get folded and stacked according to size and color on my shelves in my closet
  • Fat quarters ~ organized by color in clear Sterilite bins that measure 9 ½” x 12 ½” and come with lid
  • 1 ½” strips & 2 ½” strips ~ organized by color and stored together in clear Sterilite 3 drawer stackable cabinets.
  • Jelly rolls are kept together until ready to use, opened rolls are sorted and stored by color with my 2 ½” strips.
  • 5” charm packs ~ organized by color and stored in ArtBins’ clear 5” containers with lids (available in my Store)
  • 10” layer cakes ~ organized by color with 10” square cardboard sheets separating the colors. Layer cakes are kept together until ready to use, opened packages are sorted and stored by color.
  • < ⅓ of a yard gets cut into 10” squares, 5” squares, 2 ½” strips and 1 ½” strips.

Creating my own pre-cuts

Third, pre-cuts are great but sometimes I need a little more. I won’t say any fabric is ugly, but occasionally there’ll be a color I’m less fond of in pre-cuts. Additionally, while the colors and patterns in a pre-cut are well coordinated, I find I can get a wider array of texture and tone from mixing shades across many fabric lines. I’ve found the best way to supplement my collection is to create my own ‘pre-cuts’ from fat quarters or half yards. With the help of my Stripology Ruler I can easily cut 10” squares, 2 ½” strips and 1 ½” strips from both fat quarters and pre-cuts.

Using a collection to pull for a project

Finally, the benefit of a well organized and visible collection means I can pull fabric when inspiration hits. In this Tipsy Tuesday episode, I pulled fabric for two different projects. One I started with a vibrant floral print, the other, two striped blankets I bought in New Mexico. In both instances, I was able to pull darks, lights, stripes, geometrics, florals, all in varying degree of tone and scale without leaving my house. 

We never know when inspiration might hit, when we might find ourselves driving by a quilt shop, or with some extra quilting time. Having a well thought out, curated collection, means we’re ready.

Go forth and organize!