Ask anyone who sews how much fabric they have, and you’ll hear variations on the same answer:
“Piles and piles!”
“Too much to sort through!”
“Enough to open my own store!”
Now, ask them how the store their fabric, and you’ll get almost as many different answers as people you ask.
I may have mentioned that my very first paying job when I was 16 was at House of Fabrics at Park Central Mall in Phoenix. It’s long-closed, but the fabric from my time there lives on – that red courderoy fleur-de-lis stocking is made from baby cord I once upon a time intended to use for a jumper! Today, the majority of my fabric is intended for Christmas stockings … but there’s still a lot of it, much of which has followed me from Phoenix to Tucson to New Jersey and back to Phoenix.
How you store your fabric has a lot to do with two things:
- what kind of fabric it is
- how often you use it
General Tips for Storing and Caring for Your Fabric
- Should go without saying, but your fabric must be clean when you store it. Regardless of how carefully you pack and store a piece of fabric, dirt or residue will ultimately damage the fabric, and the longer a stain sits on a piece of fabric, the more difficult it is to remove.
- You might want to think about preshrinking your fabric before you store it. That way the it will be ready to use when you need it.
- If the fabric was hanging, as opposed to rolled on a bolt, when you bought it, you will want to store it the same way. Certain fabrics, like velvet, can become permanently damaged if they are folded. Even the crease created by folding them over a hanger may crush the texture or nap. Use safety pins or trouser hangers to avoid this.
- Remember, your fabric is not a houseplant: it doesn’t like direct sunlight. Sunlight can damage the fabric fibers, causing colors to fade and whites to yellow. Storing your fabric in a dark, dry area will increase its longevity.
- Temperature and humidity also are important considerations for the long-term care and storage of your fabric. This is less important if you are constantly using it, but for fabric that gets put away in a garage, attic, or basement, you must take note of the environmental factors. Humidity can be particularly damaging, if the water vapor in the air invites mold to grow or fabric dyes to break down. Extremely dry air has its own issues, though, in that it can cause fabric fibers to become brittle and even break.
- While the garage, basement, or attic certainly are less-than-ideal locations for storing fabric, sometimes you just have to make due. Be aware of things like dust and dirt that can lodge within the fabric fibers and cause damage. These pollutants can also attract bugs and insects … so make sure your storage area is cleaned regularly.
- Plastic containers are ill-advised for the long-term storage of fabric, because fabric needs to breathe! The air within a plastic container can become trapped and stale, potentially leading to increased temperature and humidity which is a wonderful breading ground for mold and mildew.
- Acid free containers are important for long-term fabric storage, as acid can cause staining and a general distortion of the fabric.
- Keep your hands from becoming culprits by making sure they are oil- and lotion-free when you’re handling your fabric.
- Store wool in a sealed container with cedar, eucalyptus, or tea tree oil on a paper towel in a ziplock baggie … to keep the moths away.
- Keep track of the length of the fabric piece, when and where you acquired it, the and projects in which you’ve already used it on a 3×5 index card that you pin to the fabric. Depending on how much fabric you have and how organized you are, this may or may not be a realistic idea!
You will increase the life of your fabric by taking the time to properly store it, ensuring that it’s in an optimal environment.
Specific Suggestions for Fabric Storage
- Metal Grid Cubes
These can be configured to virtually any shape or size you need. You can put them together to go up against a wall and and over a desk, stack them on top of a long table, set them on the ground like shelves, or even hang them on the wall. Some cubes come with pre-made “drawers,” or you can buy square plastic dishpans at the dollar or discount store. This is a great way to store sewing and crafting supplies, as well as patterns and notions.
- Wire or Wood Shelves
Hang coated wire or wood shelves covered with contact paper on your walls and stack folded fabric on these shelves. This is a great option if you are one of the many who have NO floor space but do have a bit of wall space. Use a piece of fabric that’s the same color as your wall to hang in front of this shelf as a curtain. The shelf will blend in with your wall so you’ll hardly see it, and it will keep your fabric from becoming dusty!
- Rectangular Plastic Bins
Stack these on end with the lids on or off – it’s up to you. Fold the fabric into thin pieces and lay them in the bis so that you can see the print on each piece. As mentioned earlier, use care with storing your fabric in plastic bins – air them out once in a while and NEVER put pricey fabric in plastic containers!
- Fabric Bench
For those projects in process, a fabric bench that you use as a seat for your sewing machine is a handy idea.
- Sweater Bags
For everyday fabric you access regularly, you can purchase inexpensive sweater bags or under-the-bed storage bags. They are clear, allowing you to easily see material.
Web Resources for Fabric Storage Solutions