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!


  1. These are some great ideas. I often store quilts-in-progress in XL ziploc bags that I order online and keep them all in a large plastic bin with a lid.It keeps a lot of projects in a relatively small, contained space. But I agree that the most useful thing is a project worksheet and/or plenty of notes. I also keep an overall sheet on which I plan the project, keep notes on changes I've made, or things I need to be careful about. In addition, when I stop working for the day, I will often jot down a note of what I just finished and what I need to start with whenever I get back to the project, so I don't lose my place, and pin that note on top of wherever I need to start.

  2. I'm a BIG fan of the humble chest of drawers. LOVE your red one (even though I'm not really a "red person"!) Thanks for sharing your storage solutions with us.

    1. Thanks! I'm not a big fan of red either, but I can't resist metal furniture!

  3. You shared some great storage ideas, Jeni! I also wanted to ask you about a couple fabric prints I see in the white serving tray picture! Would you be able to tell me about the purple flower print and also the red, pink, with white flowers and vines?

    1. All of the prints in that tray are Liberty of London Tana Lawn!

  4. I salvaged the drawers from a colorful stack of 10 drawer rolling cart. The cart and drawers were in the trash because the cart had broke. They work great for project like sew alongs that span over time. I also have 12.5" boxes similar to yours. I include a project sheet and other notes as well.

  5. Sometimes I am neat and tidy, and very organized. I have my projects in various containers as you have shown. Other times, my sewing room looks crazy. I do have three design walls, which encourages me, that if I have so many projects going at once, I should get one of them off of the wall!! I did that this week-end. Of course the new project was up the next hour.
    Happy week-end Jeni. I hope you enjoy sunshine and flowers and perhaps chat with your momma

  6. I take projects and put them in a freezer bag and then poke a hole towards the top of the zip Lock and put it on a hanger. I am in an RV so this lets me use those small hanging spaces beside the bed!

  7. this was incredibly helpful! thank you!

  8. Love this post Jeni, lots of ideas for us and I think I need to sort out my WIP methods of storing.

  9. A fantastic round-up, Jeni! I've had my eye on those Alex drawers for awhile, but have been hesitant to purchase as I worry about the hole in the drawer. Does it lead to lots of dusk getting into the drawer?

    1. I think a little dust probably gets in, but it isn't significant!

  10. A really great post. Full of detail and great ideas. Thank you.

  11. Your article is so organized! When I store a project in one of those art bins, I cut a piece of index card, write the project name on it and place it vertically inside the front of the box. I've found this particularly helpful when a short-term project becomes longer-term. That way, I don't need to open each box in the stack to see what's inside.

  12. Another great blog post! I totally agree about storing in clear bags or containers.
    I'm looking forward to your tips for working in a small post.

  13. These are all great ideas, and I second your tip to write notes as you go along and keep it with your project. I always think I will remember or be able to figure it out by looking at the blocks, but it is rarely as obvious as I thought it would be.

  14. Thank you! This is what I needed. My WIPs are all in various paper bags, I can't see them, the bags are all different sizes and some contain multiple WIPs! I bought a large picnic basket and now I will line up the Zip bags in it. BTW the white pillow case with the teal flowers on it - my Mom had that same one! Made me smile.


Thanks for keeping this blog a positive place, I appreciate the time you are taking to leave a comment! I will answer any questions here in the comments section.

All comments are moderated to filter out spam. Your comment will appear after it has been approved.