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Finish: Storage System

Man it’s good to have this one finished, because it will help on all future projects! Although I suppose it’s not technically finished as I’m still dealing with scraps and how I want to organize the lower half.


Back in January, Eli and I made a trip to IKEA for my birthday to pick out a storage solution for my fabric. I knew I wanted something that had glass doors (so I could see the fabric but it would help protect the fabrics from dust and some UV) and the ability to add drawers would be nice. I went there with the HEMNES system in mind, but when we got there, those units didn’t feel as sturdy as I wanted.


After many, many hours, we came home with the BESTÅ system. It offered the most extensibility and felt pretty sturdy. I’m going to be honest, once we were back, the boxes of furniture stayed in the van until the weekend before QuiltCon when I finally cleaned enough stuff out of our front bedroom (which was being used as storage) to move the boxes in. The weekend after I returned, we put the furniture together, and then I have been ironing and boarding all the fabric since then. This weekend In was finally able to color sort it. So all told, this project took almost two months.


I was am incredibly embarrassed about the before pictures, but I took them and am posting them here to show the reality of the situation, and to show that I don’t have some über house in which my fabrics magically look amazing. We basically put stuff in this room to store it and would keep the door closed and pretend the room didn’t exist. So the first step was obviously cleaning all this up to make room for the cabinet (this picture was actually taken after I’d removed a bunch of boxes that were sitting where that clear patch of floor is.) The cabinet is now along the right wall. And no, I still haven’t decided on a paint color. 😉


But with the cabinets, I was able to go from this “sorting method”, to this:


So much better, and worth the effort!!!

I’ve received a lot of questions about all this as I have been posting pictures on Instagram and flickr, and I wanted to try to answer them all here in one place, for other people interested in organizing their fabric.


Cost – I went with IKEA because cost was definitely an issue. I ended up with something that was pretty tricked out, but because you can modify it to your own needs, you can get off for fairly cheap. The shelves were on sale while we were there (15% off, yay!) so that helped as well. The shelves themselves are $89, and this is three shelving units set next to each other. The drawers add a lot of cost (around $50/drawer I think), especially because I got the kind that open all the way out so that I don’t have to worry about losing things in the back. The feet added a surprising amount because there are only 2 per pack at $11, so I needed 6 packs which was another $66. The system comes with little pads for feet, so if you don’t want a raised unit, you can skip this cost. And then of course the doors which I can’t find the price on now. The knobs were pretty negligible at $4/2. However, you need some sort of knob because the drawers are almost impossible to open without them. As you can see above, there’s very little room to catch the drawer front.

The total cost was in the range of $550-$600 if I recall correctly. Without the drawers, that would have dropped significantly. The nice part is that you can buy the base shelving units and add functionality as you go. However, do note that adding doors does take up shelving holes and so one of my shelves couldn’t go where I wanted it to because of that. I ended up using that section as a little display area, but it was a tad frustrating at the time.

Stability – This is IKEA, so this stuff is basically veneered cardboard, but it still felt pretty sturdy. However, the doors I got are real glass, not plastic, which means the doors are way heavier than the base cabinet which means without shelves, the cabinet would tip forward when the door was open. Obviously this is REALLY bad. I’m planning to add earthquake straps for extra protection (and because we get earthquakes) but once the shelves and fabric were in, they’re much more stable. I also modified the feet a bit so that the cabinet leans backwards ever so slightly. The feet I got came with built in raisers so you could do this.

Sun/light damage issues – Weeks Ringle mentioned on Facebook that she lost a lot of fabric to not just sun damage, but overhead lighting damage. So this is something to definitely be aware of! Glass does offer some inherent protection, but if you get direct sunlight or have your overhead lighting on a lot, I’d still strongly consider getting wood doors or curtaining off your fabric. I don’t have the lights on much in that room if at all (I currently sew elsewhere) and the room gets only muted indirect light, so I’m fairly confident it should be okay, but it’s something I am keeping an eye on.


Folding – I used the tutorial available on Smashed Peas and Carrots in which the fabric is folded around comic book board backers. These are about $10/100 and available at your local comic book store (or on Amazon, but it was cheaper at my local store). I used a little over 900 boards. This is a time consuming process and some people find that they don’t like it once they’ve done it. So if you are considering this method, I’d suggest just doing a few fabrics and seeing if you like working with it. This is the fourth folding system I’ve tried, and so far I like it the best. I find putting the fabric around the backing boards to be fun, so it’s easy for me to put them back on when I’m done using a fabric. If you find it arduous, it’s really unlikely you will keep it up, and you should probably find another system.

Another complaint I’ve heard is that the cardboard backing boards do bend and they don’t stand up straight if there aren’t enough fabrics. I’m encountering this, and I’m going to try getting some book ends to keep everything upright. I’ll let you know how that goes.


Organizing – I organize by color because if I organize by collection, the fabrics never get used. I end up feeling like the fabric has to be used together but I don’t actually like doing one-collection quilts, so it just goes unused. I realized this was happening when I bought some Architextures for a project, even though I had a full collection of it that I had never cut into. By breaking it all out into colors (which is how I design) it breaks that behavior pattern for me.

For organizing your own fabrics, don’t just follow someone else’s plan without considering your own needs. Here’s a few questions to ask when making your own plan.
1. Consider how you use fabric. Do you care about what line it is in? Do you care about some lines but not others? Think about how you look for fabric (be honest, no one else needs to know or care), and sort it to fit the criteria you care about. I have a friend who sorts her fabrics into cool and warm and it works great for her. Some people have some designers they care about so they put those in one area, and the rest are color sorted.
2. Do you have a pile of fabric that needs to be sorted but you haven’t gotten to it? What’s keeping you from doing it? Does it not have a place to go? If so, you need to de-stash or get more storage! Do you hate the process required to get it ready for storage? Then you should consider a different folding or storage method. If you don’t want to to do it, you’ll never keep up on it.
3. Do you feel overwhelmed by too many choices? Or have fabrics you never use? I just read a great post by Amy at Badskirt about how she has a very small stash because it helps her creatively. Perhaps de-stashing will help. Yah, I’m still working on that one, too. 😉

I hope that helps! This post is way long enough as it is, so if you still have any questions, please feel free to ask and I’ll happily answer them!


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