ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Studio Organization - How Much Fabric is Too Much?

After seeing the spacious and well-organized studios of some of the quilters I stayed with on my last teaching trip, I came home in the mood to get organized. I spent the last few days combing through IKEA,JSYK, and Canadian Tire, looking for storage solutions.

Every time I dye fabric for my store, I end up keeping a little bit for me. For the last few years I have been putting that fabric whereever I could find a space. There were piles and collections of unrelated fabric all over my studio, in my studio closet, and in the guest room/computer room next door. I simply couldn't stand it anymore. But I also couldn't stand the mess that my stash of batiks and commercial fabrics was in or the state of my studio closet.

So the last few days I've taken all those piles of fabric, sorted them, and placed them in the appropriate drawers. I have a large chest of drawers that contains about half of my hand-dyed fabrics. At the moment it is nicely organized, although the drawers are groaning with the weight!

There is a green drawer, but you should know that it only contains all the greens that I don't use in my hosta quilts. More details on that in a minute.

There is also a blue drawer. Yes, I realize there are a few green pieces in here, but they are part of a blue to green colour run, and there just wasn't enough space in the green drawer for them!

There is a mostly purple drawer, that also contains some pinks and blue-reds.

and a drawer with warm colours (yellows, oranges and reds). You should also know that this drawer doesn't include the bin of fabrics I use(d)? for poppy quilts, or the bin of red fabrics I pulled when I was working on Red Stool.
Finally, there is a drawer with neutrals and warm earthy tones.
This drawer does not include the bin of end-of-season hosta fabric.
Or the 3 bins of green hosta fabric: a bin of lights, a bin of mediums, and a bin of darks.
There is also a drawer in another piece of furniture that contains all the hand-dyes that were so multi-coloured they didn't fit into a particular drawer.

I've also been working on organizing my studio closet. I purchased 10 collapsible bins for the two upper shelves at JSYK. They are very light, which is an important feature so they don't create too much stress on the upper closet shelves. In a former life, when I was a clothes horse, I once caused the upper shelves to collapse with too many sweaters. I store light things in these bins, like batting, stabilizers, organzas, etc. I also purchased several bins to organize my batiks and black & white fabrics. The bins will allow me to pull the entire drawer of the colour I want without having to move a stack of fabric to get to the one behind. You can see one bin there that is holding a mixed variety of fabrics. I tossed pieces of fabric that fit nowhere into this bin, and will sort it later (later is always my favorite time to tackle messy and unpleasant tasks!).

On the right side of the closet, I organized all my commercial fabrics by colour, and also sorted them into bins by colour. The problem? The bins from IKEA don't quite fit the shelves the way I had hoped, so there are still stacks of fabric behind them.

After all this organization, I find that my two large stacks of hand-dyed meters don't fit back in the closet.

Maybe they will fit into this great little pantry I purchased this morning at Canadian Tire for the great sale price of $49.99 (regularly $89.99).
The idea when I purchased the pantry was to get rid of my rickety thread storage unit:
and find a way to store my thread in this cabinet. But it looks like I might need the new cabinet for the 3 bins of green hosta fabric, the bin of end of season hosta fabric, and the two large stacks of hand-dyed meters. Maybe I could move the thread to these wonderful drawer units I bought at Home Sense last year. They sit to the left of my work table.
Right now they contain some of my photos and surface design products. I suspect the 10 small drawers of thread won't fit in these 6 drawers though, and if they do, where will I put the "stuff" that is in them?

Is there such a thing as "too much"? I confess my stash has gotten the better of me, and I think I need a bigger house!


  1. That is so funny! You do have alot of thread though... we can compare stashes next year=)

  2. Wow - what a fabulous stash you have Elaine! I've just written about thread storage in my latest newsletter. I use tins for some (labelled with what's inside), and I have a 3-drawer cart that hold lots, sorted into smaller plastic bins. Fabric....well that's another story. My closet is full, full, full too. Time to make MORE QUILTS!

  3. Hee hee, too funny. Lucky you to have such an awesome stash, but should you ever need to destash, I volunteer for your castoffs. :)

  4. Beautiful storage--too much fabric and thread is a great problem to have! I am positively green with envy over all those beautiful GREENS. I'm making a flying geese piece with three long curving pathways of geese, one path using yellows to orange; another dark green to bright yellow-green; third pathway still undecided. Will send a pic later. Background is the HSW sateen.

  5. Ladies, you can all envy me tomorrow when I have to put that pantry together so I can house this crazy stash. Seriously thinking about selling off some of the commercial fabrics. I have culled them a few times and sold parts of the stash. Can I justify more than half a closet of commercial fabrics when I use my own hand-dyes more than 95% of the time?

  6. Hi, Elaine. Stopped by to enjoy your blog. Nice organization and even a nicer stash!
    best from Tunisia,

  7. I salute your work in getting organized-it's a great feeling (not that I get that feeling very often). My hat is off to you!


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