Tips for Organizing and Storing Fabric Scraps

Friday, May 29, 2020

Happy Friday! Time for another sewing room organization post. If you've missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can find them all here: Sewing Room Organization Series.

This week we're going to focus on tips for organizing and storing fabric scraps! Scraps were the #1 topic that was submitted on my instagram post kicking off this series. It makes sense, most of us are constantly making new scraps! Left unorganized, they can get out of control really fast! So having a good system that works for you and your needs is an important part of having an organized sewing space. Let's get started!

Evaluate Your Needs

Before diving into reorganizing your scraps, I'd like you to ask yourself a few questions about your scrap situation:

- What types of scraps do you use most? (strips, 2.5" squares, 5" squares etc.)

- What kind of scrap projects do you make? (completely scrappy or more curated color scheme)

- What is your current scrap storage solution? What about it is or isn't working for you?

Now that you have a bit of a feel for your specific situation, let's get to organizing!

What Size Scraps to Keep

It's important to start by defining what a scrap means to you. This is very specific to each individual, depending on what types of projects you sew and what kind of piecing you enjoy. Also, how much space you have to store scraps! If you often find yourself working with little pieces and doing small scale piecework, you'll probably want to hold onto even the smallest scraps. If you're not interested in doing that, only save scraps the size that you think you'll actually use. Holding onto super small scraps you won't sew with will only clutter up your space!

For larger pieces, if a piece is around a fat eighth (9"x21"), I usually keep it folded in my stash. If it's a scrap that I still have yardage of, I'll often tuck it into the middle of the yardage. Or you could designate a storage bin for super tiny scraps and also for larger pieces that could be big enough for a zip pouch or other small project.

There isn't a right or wrong size to keep or toss. Figure out what works best for you!

What to Do with Scraps You Don't Want

There are a lot of things you can do with unwanted scraps, aside from throwing them away. Here are a few ideas:
- Use as stuffing for a pillow, pincushion or softie
- Give to a friend (or trade!)
- Sell them (I find a gallon ziploc bags full go fast!)
- Donate to your local library/school/community group/neighbors
- Bring to a retreat or your local quilt guild to share

Organizing Scraps

Here are just a few of the many different ways you could choose to keep your scraps organized. I'd recommend considering how you use your scraps when deciding how to organize them.

By Color
Keep scraps separated into color groups.

By Print
Keep scraps organized by print type. Ex: stripes, dots, blenders, solids, focal prints, novelty, holiday, etc.

By Size
Keep scraps organized by size. Ex: strips, small squares, large squares, etc.

By Designer/Collection
Keep scraps from specific designers or collections separated.

By Project
Keep scraps from individual projects organized together

By Fabric Type
Keep scraps organized by fabric type. Ex: Quilting cotton, linen, canvas, garment fabric, etc.

Personally, I use a combination of these organizing styles. First, I have my scraps separated by type. So all my linen/canvas scraps are together, garment fabric scraps and then quilting cotton scraps. Within my quilting cotton scraps, I have those organized by color. I also have two other small collections of scraps separated: Liberty Lawn scraps and extra special novelty fabric scraps. I don't often work with all the colors or fabrics at once, so for me it makes the most sense to have my scraps organized by color.

Scrap Storage Ideas

Just like for WIPs, I'm a huge fan of drawer units for scrap storage too. Basically anything that has separate compartments for the different scrap groups will work! The number of compartments you need will depend on how many scraps you have and how you've decided to organize them. Most of my scraps are organized in these drawers from The Container Store (Tall Opaque Modular Stackable Drawer*). They were an investment, but they've held up really well over the last four years and survived a thousand mile move unscathed.

Previously I used these inexpensive drawer units* that you can find at Target or Walmart, they worked great too!

Bins, boxes, and baskets work great for storing scraps too, and can easily be stored on a bookshelf or other storage unit. something opaque would be nice and hidden in a shared space!

If you don't have a lot of room for drawers or baskets, you could keep your scraps separated with ziploc bags. I organized and stored my scraps this way for many years when I was in a smaller space! I found it to work well and the bags lasted a really long time so you don't have too feel too guilty about the extra plastic. You could also use paper envelopes for a plastic-free option.

Scrap Processing

As I mentioned in the post on keeping your tabletop clutter free, I keep a big bin on the floor near my machine for tossing scraps as I cut. This really helps keep my sewing room cleaner, and it means I can tackle that bin all at once instead of constantly needing to put scraps away. I highly recommend using some kind of temporary storage location for scraps you're making. It's especially handy if you process your scraps before storing them. This will depend on how you use scraps and how you have them organized. If you are storing your scraps by size, you may choose to cut your scraps into those specific sizes before putting them away. So if you have a running stash of 2.5" strips or 5" squares, you can process your scraps into those sizes first.

I don't currently do much to my scraps before putting them away. I'll sometimes trim off little werid cuts from cutting curves or something, but not too much beyond that. I'd love to implement a bit of this into my process though. I love the idea of slowly cutting out a whole quilt worth of strips or squares from my scraps as I create them!

Scrap Project Ideas

I thought it would be fun to end by sharing a few scrap friendly projects:

Long Scrappy Pincushion Tutorial

Tiny Foundation Pieced Lined Drawstring Bag ( LDB Expansion Pattern)

HST Zipper Pouch + FOB Tutorial

Snack Size Pincushion Pattern

Warm Cool Quilt Tutorial

I hope this post has been helpful! I'd love to hear your your tips and tricks for keeping your scraps organized. Or your favorite ways to use up scraps! Don't forget, there is no wrong way! We all have different needs and preferences, these are just a few of the methods I've used to stay more organized.

Happy Sewing!

*Note: Any links marked with an asterisk in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and buy something, I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

DIY Fabric Grow Bags

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Happy Wednesday! I have a quick little tutorial to share with you today!

Over the weekend I set about making some DIY grow bags. I've seen grow bags at my local nursery before, but never really thought too much about them. Fast forward to the current COVID situation and I decided I wanted to make some with supplies I already had on hand to expand our planting opportunities. Ordinarily I would run to the store for some more terra cotta pots, but we're trying to avoid any unessential trips right now. I remembered we had a partial roll of weed barrier landscape fabric* leftover from a previous project and decided to try making some myself. I ended up making four and they came together really fast!

I've never used grow bags before, so I can't comment on how well they work, but I'm excited to give them a try! It was either bags or nothing for me, and I already had the fabric so it seemed like a good risk to take. I will update this post at the end of the season with my thoughts on using them! I plan on filling mine with onions and leeks. Excited to grow more veg this year.

In the meantime, I got a lot of questions about how I made mine, so I thought I would share a few quick instructions and information on how to make other sizes.

*2023 Update* - I have a brand new grow bag tutorial to share: DIY Felt Grow Bags. I tested out two different felts during the 2022 growing season and found one that worked great, held up over the winter, is easy to find AND is affordable! I think this is the best version, I highly recommend checking it out.

*2022 Update* - Unfortunately the cotton canvas was a big fail! It started to disintgrate within a month or so of planting, which was a real bummer! I do want to continue to experiment with other fabrics though, so I will probably try something else this season! Will report back if I do.

*2021 Update* - These bags worked great for our peppers all season long! They loved the extra heat from the black fabric and they drained nicely. I think the breathability of this thin fabric really suited the peppers. They sat directly on our asphalt driveway, so the very bottom stayed pretty wet. Because of this they did rip when we went to pick them up at the end of the season. 2020 was all about using what I had on hand to make it work, so I don't regret using the fabric that I did.

Now that we know how well we like grow bags, this year I plan to make them a little differently. Most commercially available grow bags are made from felt or other non-woven fabric, but it's pretty pricey. So, I am going to try using cotton canvas, in the hopes that it will last multiple seasons but still breath nicely. An added bonus is that it's a natural fiber, so I feel good about using it for growing food! I am also going to make really simple "trivets" out of wood for the bags to sit on. I think these changes will help with the overall durability. Will update here at the end of the season with the results!

The landscape fabric I used is the kind that's really thin and doesn't feel too plastic-y. It should still allow for the dirt to breathe and for water to drain. I wrote the instructions to double up the layers to provide extra durability. If your fabric is thicker, you could just cut two 32"x24" pieces and turn the top edges under.

Finished size: Approximately 16" wide, 16" tall, 16" deep
(The finished size is not exact because it doesn't account for the seam allowance. Plus once it is filled with dirt it stretches some.)

- 64" of 4' wide landscape fabric*
- Polyester thread (or heavy duty thread)

Cut fabric into (2) 32"x48" rectangles.

Use 1/2" seam allowances unless otherwise noted.

1. Fold rectangles in half so that they measure 32"x24". Top stitch along the fold on each piece to secure in place. You may choose to baste the other three sides if you want.

2. Cut 8" squares out of the two bottom corners on each piece.

3. Place pieces together, lining up all four edges. Secure in place with pins. Sew around three sides, leaving the top folded edge open.

4. Pull the top and bottom layers of one corner apart, pinch together so that the side seam lines up with the bottom seam. Pin and sew across with a 1/2” seam allowance. Repeat with other corner. Turn right side out.

If you need extra help understanding this step, I have a photo and video tutorial of this technique here: Simple Steps to Great Looking Gussets

5. Optional: Add tucks to each corner for extra shaping. Use each bottom corner as a guide. I have a video tutorial of this process here: Using Tucks to Add Structure to Your Bag

To make other size grow bags:
This simple math formula works for square shaped bags. Decide what size square you'd like the height and width of the bag to be. Let's use 12" as an example.

Multiply the square size by 2 to get the width of the fabric pieces to cut:
12" x 2 = 24" 

Multiply the square size by 1.5, then double it to get the height of the fabric pieces to cut:
12" x 1.5 = 18", 18" x 2 = 36" 

The corner square cut out is half the square size: 12" / 2 = 6" 

So, you'll cut 2 pieces 24"x36", and cut 6" squares from the bottom corners. Resulting grow bag will be around 12" tall, 12" wide and 12" deep. Actual finished size will be a bit smaller because of the seam allowance.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial! I have lots of other tutorials for everything from quilts, pillows, bags, and holiday items to informational series and techniques. Find all my tutorials here: Tutorials. My online shop is filled with patterns for quilts and bags. Find my patterns here: Jeni Baker Patterns

If you make something using one of my tutorials or patterns, I hope you'll tag me @jenib320 and use my hashtag #jenibaker on instagram!

Happy Gardening!

*Note: Any links marked with an asterisk in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and buy something, I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Tips for Storing Projects in Progress (WIPs)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Happy Friday! Time for another sewing room organization post. If you miss the last one, you can find it here: Tips for Keeping Your Sewing Table Organized and Clutter Free. This week we're going to focus on tips for storing works in progress or WIPs for short.

This is an interesting topic to discuss because there are such a wide range of needs based on how many projects you have going at once, how long you've been sewing, your sewing room/storage space, etc. So, I'm going to break this post down hopefully in a way that means you can find information that is helpful to your unique situation. I am planning a dedicated post for those of you who work in a shared or small space, so please don't think I'm forgetting about you!

As I mentioned in my post on keeping your sewing table organized, I think it's important to start by evaluating your work in progress situation. A few questions to ask to get started:

What different types of WIPs do you have? (quilts, bags, garments, handwork, etc)

How many projects do you actively work on at a time?

Now is also a great time to look back through your projects in progress (long term in particular) and rid through them. Are there projects that just never got off the ground? Pass them on to a friend or incorporate the fabrics back into your stash. Start an orphaned block quilt! Make leftover blocks into a pillow or add to the front of a bag. There is nothing wrong with changing a project's course, especially if it has lingered for a while.

Okay, let's dive into some solutions!

Active Projects in Progress

Especially for quilt projects, most of us rarely finish a project in one sitting. Inevitably you're going to need to leave it and come back to it. If you work at your kitchen table or in a shared space, this is even more important, since you may not be able to leave your project out. Jantine (@urbanstylejantine) commented on one of my Instagram posts that she uses a tray to keep her project she's working on organized. I absolutely love that idea, and I immediately ran to pull a tray from our dining room. I've also seen unused jelly roll baking pans used in this same way. Baskets, big open tins or a shallow box would work just as well. If you need something a little more contained, a simple clear storage container works too! It doesn't need to be fancy.

Short Term WIP Storage

I tend to have multiple projects going that I work on simultaneously, for those projects I like to keep them stored near my sewing table. Personally I love chests of drawers for my short term project storage because I can keep different types of projects separated. For many years I used one of those inexpensive plastic drawer sets that pop up around back to school time (like this one), but last year I upgraded to an Alex unit from Ikea. I love the flat shallow drawers, they're great for storing blocks, fabric that needs cut and other WIPs.

Here is another set of drawers that house projects as well as some of my garment and canvas scraps.

Project storage that works well for you doesn't just mean having a place to put your projects, it also means keeping all the pieces, pattern and fabric together. It's not fun to pull out a project and realize it's missing things. There are a few ways I like to keep my project pieces together and organized.

Project Information Sheet

In my opinion this is probably the biggest time saver I can share with you if you have a large number of long term works in progress. When you start a new project, create a project information sheet. Now this can have as little or as much information on it as you feel like including. I typically include the pattern information (if it's not one of my designs), any math that had to be done to alter the project, information on the fabric (especially important for solids), how many blocks I'm going to make, etc. Storing this sheet right with the project means that when I go to pull it out, I don't have to spend time figuring out what to do. They're even more useful if you write yourself a few notes when you make progress!

Project Bags

Bags are a great solution for storing projects. I have a rotating stash of plastic ziploc bags (freezer style last much longer without ripping), plus some handmade project bags too. Personally, I love clear solutions because I can easily see what a project is without opening a bag or container.

I've made several of the Work in Progress Bags by Amanda Jean Nyberg (the pattern is unfortunately no longer available). Here are a couple other similar options: Project Bags Pattern byAnnie, Vinyl Project Pouch Tutorial by Kristina, and WIP Project Bag video by Fat Quarter Shop.

Project Containers

My favorite containers for holding projects are these Super Satchels by ArtBin. I've had some of mine for 10 years, and they still look great. I love that they can stack on top of themselves and have a handle for easy carrying if I want to work on a project out of the deck or downstairs. They come in lots of fun colors too.

They're a great size for quilting because they can find 12.5" unfinished quilt blocks.

Simple shoe box sized plastic storage containers work well. For really small projects you could give a second life to old food containers (well cleaned of course) or odd-sized tupperware you never use. I know I have plenty of that!

Trying to stay away from plastic? I love storing projects in old metal bread boxes and tins. I am always shopping my house and basement looking for different ways to use things I already have. I'll use nice cardboard boxes too. Especially the kind that has the attached lid. Whatever fits your space, needs and budget!

Hanging Storage Solutions

Have a lot of quilt tops waiting to be quilted? Hang them up in your closet! Not only is this an efficient storage solution (as long as you have closet space), but it will cut down on your ironing when it's time to quilt. You could also achieve a similar level of lower wrinkle by storing quilt tops in long boxes or bins under a bed. If you happen to have a space bedroom in a basement or somewhere you can keep the windows closed, you could even get away from spreading quilt tops out on a bed! Throw a bedspread over top and they're out of sight. Just don't forget to move them when you have guests! :)

Long Term Project Storage
If you have projects that you know you aren't going to work on in the near future, you may want to consider some alternative storage options. You want your project protected, but keeping it in something totally airtight might result in some mustiness. Wrapping your project up in a big square of muslin or even sticking it in a cotton pillowcase and placing those in a storage bin might be a good solution. If it's got any animal fibers in it (wool, silk, etc) make sure to include some cedar balls or boards to keep the moths away. On that note, a cedar chest is a great place to store projects long term!

You could also make yourself some simple project bags to use specifically for storage!

I hope this post has been helpful! I'd love to hear your favorite methods for keeping your works in progress organized. Don't forget, there is no wrong way! We all have different needs and preferences, these are just a few of the methods I've used to stay more organized.

Happy Sewing!

April Monthly Report

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Happy May! It's time for April's monthly report. See past reports here.

I didn't sew a ton in April, but I did finish a few things! Right before Easter I whipped up this bunny drawstring bag, just for fun. I even made ties for once. I think it turned out pretty cute. This is my third bunny bag I believe, which doesn't seem like enough. The bunny fabric is Minny Muu* by Lecien.

Tutorial: Lined Drawstring Bag Tutorial
Pattern: Lined Drawstring Bag Pattern

I finished a quilt! Before things shut down I was contracted to make a quilt for a magazine. It should be out in the Fall. It was made completely from my stash which is always fun. I have had this backing fabric for years and years, it's super old Erin McMorris. Love when you have the perfect thing on hand.

I finally pulled out my vintage sheet bear paw blocks and made another one! I really should work on this project more regularly. I pull the fabrics and cut as I go, and I think that is what keeps me from working on it more. I typically pull and cut fabrics in advance for projects.

I've been sewing fabric masks using this tutorial by Craft Passion. I used my Cricut Maker* to cut out all the pieces which was helpful since they're curved. I used some of my fabrics for the outsides, since I have lots! I sent most of these to my brother, who is a physical therapist and a few for family and ourselves.

To keep myself accountable for my stash goals, I track my yardage for fabric and yarn each month. Read more about how I track here. Here is how I did in April:

April Fabric
Used up: 10.25 yards
Brought in: 5.5 yards
Net: -4.75 yards
Year to date: +2.5 yards

April Yarn
Used up: 0 yards
Brought in: 0 yards
Net: 0 yards
Year to date: 0 yards

I bought fabric! It feels like a good time to relax my restrictions a little and support some fabric shops. This haul is from Pink Castle Fabrics. A few blenders, some lawn and some waxed canvas. Excited to cut into these!

Speaking of small businesses, thank you so much to everyone who has been ordering patterns, books, twill and webbing from my online shop! You've been keeping me busy!! I have fully restocked all the twill tape styles and more cotton webbing is on the way, but for now there is still a little 1.25" left. :)

Two George pictures this month because we need it, right? I love this one of him, he wanted to smell the phone as I was taking the photo.

Such a handsome boy, love him so.

Hope you all are staying well and safe! Have a great month!

*Note: Any links marked with an asterisk in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click through and buy something, I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.