Fabric Stash Organization

A form of this post was first published on my Facebook page. This is its edited form.

I decided to be the best beginner ever, with loads of organization and loads of willingness to learn. I figure this will help my wonderful, patient teachers to remain patient with me even after they’ve experienced my learning disability and basic ineptitude, enough to maybe guide me past both. Another thing that will help: being organized.

Because the one hard-and-fast rule for participation in the SCA is that you must make an attempt at pre-17th century clothing, anyone who stays in the SCA for a while will develop one of two habits. One habit is to squirrel away a substantial part of their disposable cash, earmarking it for garb. They’ll be buying garb from online sources, local merchants, or paying a local tailor or seamstress to make things to their measure. The other habit is to squirrel away a substantial part of their disposable cash, earmarking it for fabric.

Folks, I dearly, dearly wish I could buy off the rack. I dearly, dearly wish I could pay a seamstress to fit me, pattern for me, and sew for me. But that’s not going to happen. First of all, I don’t fit in off-the-rack clothing, because my body is unique, and will never look good or feel comfortable in standard-issue garments. Second of all, it’s hella expensive! Given the choice between a smock that costs $125 (US dollars, in 2014) and doesn’t fit really well, and an entire outfit for that price that is made to my exact measurements, I know which one I prefer. So I’m learning to sew. And in learning to sew, I am also learning to collect and organize fabric.

Since I’m so very new to sewing, or to buying/collecting fabric, I don’t yet have bad habits to unlearn. Now, therefore, is the time for me to learn good habits, before I can form any bad ones. In choosing my first good habit, I had to listen to a lot of folks, whether I realized I was listening or not. The people from whom I’ve gleaned information all say one of the same two things: “I have to be organized, or I can’t get anything done;” or “I wish I was more organized.”

So I’ve taken some hints from two or three who said the former, and this is what I’m doing about it. When I buy fabric, I take down the name of the shop where I got it, sometimes remember to take a picture of the shop, write down its address and some other information, and then I keep that with my receipt. When I get the fabric home, I blanket-stitch the end to keep it from raveling, then toss it in the wash immediately on the hottest setting. I dry it on highest heat, too. I want all the shrinking, fulling, or felting to happen before I make the first cut, so I know what that fabric is really like. Once it’s out, I don’t bother ironing it, but I do straighten it a bit, re-measure it, roll it up onto an extra-long pool noodle, and stick it on a well-laden shelf.

But that’s not all. It’s not good enough to have nicely rolled fabric. I need information. So I cut a small swatch of the fabric, pin it to a 3×5 index card, and then write on the card.

Color and Fiber content
Texture/thickness/thread count/whatever measurement the seller offers
Cost per yard
Where bought
Brand & color ID number for at least one sewing thread that matches closely enough
Other info
Suitable for
Amount used
Used for
Remaining length
Remaining scraps

(Obviously, not all of the information can be filled in right away.)

The swatch card then goes into a small box. I have a box for wool, a box for linen, and smaller boxes for silk and “other.” When next I go to a fabric store, I can take all the swatches with me so that I can match threads and notions, or buy coordinating fabrics to make a full outfit.

Someday, Hakim and I will have medieval wardrobes, all of which I made, and of which we are proud. So let it be written; so let it be done.

2 replies on “Fabric Stash Organization”

  1. I’m jealous, I’ve been sewing for years & never got this organized. I think I need to start organizing like a (very smart) “beginner” 🙂

    1. Heh. I learned it from some really clever folks. One of them said she was always rather disorganized until she moved house, and at that point she had to box up/organize/catalogue anything, so she just kept doing that. I’ve seen her setup, and it’s incredible. Her garage has all these rows of nice neat shelving with nice neat Rubbermaid boxes on the shelves, marked with box numbers and everything! I want to be like that.

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