Where to Stash Your Quilting Stash
Quilters tend to collect fabric. Lots and lots of fabric. It's mostly 100% cotton, and it's all purchased with the express goal of making a quilt out of it, "someday." If we're lucky, we'll find a project for each piece of fabric shortly after purchasing it. Sometimes, we'll find a piece of fabric that we absolutely love but have no clue about what to do with it, and we'll often buy much more than we'll ever really need, just to make absolutely sure we have enough when inspiration strikes.
You may have seen the bumper stickers: "She who dies with the most fabric, wins!" Yep, that's how many quilters feel about their fabric collections.
Needless to say, quilters love fabric, and building a stash is a necessary part of ensuring that we have enough projects to work on for the rest of our natural lives (and then some). Every quilter faces the dilemma of where to store this collection of fabric.
I have been quilting for 25 years now, and my own quilting stash has gotten out of hand more times than I've bothered to count. Every now and then, I pare down my stash by either making super-simple quilts (large squares thrown together to make a quick quilt) or by donating my excess to my local Linus Project chapter (thus providing fabric for more industrious quilters to make quilts for needy children). Despite these measures, I still have more fabric than storage space, but I am doing a lot better now than I was in the past.
I used to store all of my fabric in shoebox-sized clear plastic bins. This works well for a small stash that can be easily divided by project, by color, or by whatever classification works for you. The fabric is protected from moisture, and the clear plastic allows you to fairly easily see what's inside the box. Unfortunately, these bins usually have to be stacked to save space, and the fabric you want to find will almost always be in the back of one of the bottom bins. If you have the ability to add shelves to your quilting space, that disadvantage will go away, and the boxes should work well for you.
Every now and then, I'll find a really good price on fabrics, and I'll buy pieces large enough to be used as backings for my quilts. These large pieces don't fit well into the small boxes, so large boxes need to be used. Unless you're using a truly modular system, these large boxes will not go well with the small ones, so space is wasted.
A couple of years ago, I found what I think is the perfect storage system for my quilting stash. While looking through my local hardware store, I found a stand-alone storage system designed for closets. You buy the stand alone, wire frame setup first, and it will have a number like 7 or 10. Then you buy the baskets that slide into the frame. You can get small baskets (size 1), medium baskets (size 2), or large baskets (size 3) in any combination that fits into the frame you purchased. For instance, if you bought a 7 frame, you can have seven small baskets, or one large and four smalls, or one large, one medium, and two smalls. You can stack the frames, and you can add lids to the frames, thus adding storage space on top of the frame.
I currently have three 10-frames and one 7-frame, with two of the 10-frames stacked together and the 7-frame on top of the other 10-frame. Both frame combinations have lids on top of them. I have four size 3 baskets, six size 2 baskets, and 13 size 1 baskets. I use 2-gallon zip lock bags to separate my projects from each other, and I have dozens of quilt kits and/or projects in my storage system. When I feel like starting a different project, I can easily slide the baskets in and out of their frames, allowing me to see what I have available in my stash.
The true beauty of this system became apparent when we moved. We had rented a PODS container for our in-town move, and I decided to keep my stash intact by wrapping each basket lengthwise with green furniture wrap (available at U-Haul--it's like Saran Wrap). I emptied the frames, covered each basket with a couple of layers of wrap, moved the frames to the PODS container, then replaced the baskets within the frames. The frames were placed up against the wall of the PODS container, and boxes were placed in front of the frames, thus preventing the baskets from falling out of their frames during our move. When we got to the new house, I emptied the frames, had my children carry the baskets upstairs, put the frames in their new locations, unwrapped the baskets, and replaced them within the frames. It was so much easier than packing all of that fabric and trying to put it back within my storage system afterwards.
This storage option can be expensive, but you can buy it piece-by-piece, if necessary. Good luck in your quest to build a really nice fabric stash, and enjoy making quilts out of your fabrics!