Monday, March 21, 2011

Keeping Track: Inventory for 523 Yards of Fabric

Every seamstress or hobbyist eventually has to deal with how to keep track of supplies, especially fabric. I've been sewing seriously since age 12. It was simple then: I bought material, sewed a dress and wore it. Scraps went into a small box, thread and scissors were stored in a sewing basket.

Soon I began to buy more than I could make right away. A box under the bed was perfect for that and the scrap box was growing. By the time I got married, most of what I moved to our new apartment was clothes and my sewing gear. In our first home, I took one spare bedroom for my sewing and he got the other for his radios and electronics. Now a large bedroom has been converted to my sewing studio, complete with sewing tables and cabinets.

Along the way I experimented with different ways to maintain my fabric inventory. Most of the time I stashed it in boxes shoved under beds or in closets, and had to rummage through them all to find what I wanted. Since I'm addicted to beautiful fabrics and can't resist a sale, I needed a better way to organize my collection.

I have now settled on a system which is simple to use and maintain. I usually catalog pieces one yard or more. You can accomplish this fairly quickly but you don't have to do it all at once. It can be a spare time project. Just pull out a box and get started. You'll need 3x5 index cards, a marker, a stapler, and boxes or storage bins.

Take a piece of fabric, clip off a corner and staple to the index card. Measure and write yardage, width, and any other info you want to track, like fabric type, whether it's been prewashed or if it has a defect. Fold the fabric neatly and stack in the first box, labeled A. List the box letter on the fabric index card. Load the box from the side instead of the bottom, so you can see all the folds when you open the lid. Once that box is full, continue to the next letter. My frequently used and newly purchased fabrics are stored on a cabinet shelf, so I note that on the card instead of a box letter.

Now sort the cards by color. You can use a file or recipe box with dividers, or photo albums that fit 4x6 cards. The larger size gives you more room to slide cards in and out. Leave several pages open between each color to allow for new purchases. Photo albums are more convenient for me to flip through when I'm searching for ideas. Finding a piece of fabric is a breeze; all of it is at your fingertips. When you use material, pull out the card and change the remaining yardage or toss the card if you used it all. As you acquire new fabric, make a card for it and put it away in the next box.

Feel free to use the system and adapt it to your situation. Being a computer gal, I tried logging all of the fabric info into a spreadsheet, but found that I didn't always go back and make changes when I used inventory. The manual system worked better since I already had the file card in front of me.

My 523 yards of fabric fill up eleven bins (so far) in the closet, plus six cabinet shelves. I have two large bins of yard sale and thrift store finds that haven't been sorted yet. Check back soon for pattern inventory ideas...

Useful Notion: Store fabric scraps and fat quarters by color in clear plastic shoe or sweater boxes. 

"Best idea for spring cleaning:  do it at night so you can spend the day in sunshine" -- Katie Scarlett