Organizing

The overflowing scrap bins are gone!  Yay!

When I first started quilting, I organized my scraps by color in large ziplock bags.  I read a tip that said to cut 1 corner of the bag so the fabric could breathe.  For a long time, I was satisfied with this system.
And then the bags became harder to zip closed.  So I took Matt with me to the dollar store, and we bought 20-some-odd plastic bins (about the size of a shoe box).  I dumped the scraps into the bins (separated by color still), closed the lids, and stacked them in the closet.  And again, this system worked for quite awhile.
Recently I read that an online sewing friend cuts her scraps into 5″ charm squares, and I decided I NEEDED to do the same.  I was tired of the disorganized scrap bins, and I have a soft spot for patterns that call for charm squares.  So I started out on the adventure of cutting lots and lots of 5″ squares.  I had tons of really tiny scraps from my paper piecing days, so there was a lot of sorting, measuring, ironing, measuring some more, and cutting.  Anything smaller than about 3.5″ x 4″ was tossed aside.  Pieces that were larger than 3.5″ x 4″ but smaller than 5″ square were cut into tumbler shapes.  The larger scraps were cut into 5″ squares.  I gave all of the tiny scraps to a friend for her daughter to play with.  I toyed with the idea of saving them to stuff toys with, but I already save batting scraps for that!
I cut up the last of my scraps today, and I’m so glad that I did!  Everything is neatly organized and easy to find-and I’m feeling inspired to do more with charm squares 🙂

So here’s my current fabric organization system:
1/2 yard or larger: folded and stored in medium size plastic bins (without lids).  I organize by collection and designer, but not by color.
Approximately fat eighth to 1/2 yard: folded and stored in smaller (shoe box-size) plastic bins without lids.  Most of these fabrics are organized by color.  If I buy a few fat quarters for the same collection and want to use them together, I store them together.  (My bins are organized like this: red, orange/brown, yellow, green, blue, violet, black and black prints, white/cream and white/cream prints, multi-colored, and an additional bin with some fabrics bundled by collection.)
And my scraps: cut into 5″ squares and tumblers, and sorted by color.  I have a few exceptions to the color rule: Amy Butler fabrics stay together, Heather Ross fabrics stay together, and I also sort out batiks and wovens.

Here’s a pic of my red scrap bin:

For now, I have 1 bin for each color, and then a few extras for the fabrics that are sorted by designer or style.    I sure hope that I continue to like this system, because it took me a long time to get everything cut!

Another tip: batting.  I buy my batting by the bolt, because I have a quilting machine.  Usually I by the 100″ wide bolt, because I will make the occasional queen-size quilt.  For smaller quilts, I will either try to get 2 side-by-side or lay the longest edge of the quilt along the 100″ long edge of the batting.
Inevitably, there are batting scraps, though.
For the really tiny scraps, I save them to be used as stuffing.  I find that it works best to chop them up pretty small for stuffing (this is Matt’s job, usually).
All of my other batting scraps are stored uncut.  The long, thin pieces can be used in straps for bags, and small squares or rectangles can be used for place mats, bag panels, etc.
To store the scraps, I write the size of the piece and the fiber content on a post-it note, and staple the post it to the scrap.  The staple slides out really easily when I want to use the batting!  This system has saved me a lot of time, because I no longer have to pull out all of my scraps and measure until I find a piece that’s big enough!

Organizing is a constant process for me.  I need organization in order to work smoothly.  I’m itching to move into our next house, because I have lots of ideas for my next sewing space!  For now, I’m tweaking things without having to buy more organizing systems.  But I dream of a bright space with lots of funky jars and containers to store my things in.  One day, one day…. 🙂

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