Stash busting and getting organised - plus free templates!

I knew I had a problem when I couldn't fit any more fabric in my cupboard and literally had piles of fabric strewn around my sewing room.

Something had to be done.

I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions, but there is something to be said for making a change at the beginning of the year. For one thing, you tend to have a few days of downtime around the Christmas/New Year period, and for another, that's when you start to plan your year ahead.

My planning began with the #SewMyStyle project organised by Alex from Bluebird Fabrics. The plan is to sew one garment a month over the year, on the schedule with everyone else. On a side note, I really love the idea of this and other online sewing parties. You can see what everyone else is doing, how the pattern behaves with different fabric types, how others tweaked the patterns, problems they encountered, how they overcame them and fun little hacks they used.

I decided to use the project to do a little stash-busting and break out of my comfort zone by following the project garments and sewing a bunch on non-dresses (gasp!).

But! But! In order to stash-bust, one must know what's in the stash, and how much of a particular fabric one has, and which fabrics are knit vs. woven, and which are heavy and which are light.

My previous organisation techniques (if I was going to be that generous) was to have my wovens in the bottom drawer, folded and inserted sideways in what has recently become known as "Kon-Mari-style", and the knits rolled into spirals and also presented side-up in the middle drawer. The top drawer was reserved for lining fabrics and super-special items, like the brown boiled wool I've been saving until I have the confidence to cut into it and turn it into an a-line skirt. Large, heavy-weight lengths of fabric (such as scuba knits, 6m of striped ponte and some towelling) went on the top shelf, above my camera and other bits and pieces on the other shelves.

As I bought new fabric, though, those drawers became full, and new lengths of fabric would just get shoved into the nooks and crannies on my other shelves, until even that was no longer an option.

So how's a girl to know what she has and what can be used for which projects? I've had some of this fabric since before I even owned a sewing machine!

Enter AirTable. As they put it, Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organise anything.

And as I put it? You can use this to organise anything. Anything. With the categories and fields that you choose and are important to you. It's available as an app for iOS and Android and has a browser version for the more heavy-duty data entry work. Best of all, it's free, or at least it is at the level that most people would use it on. The free version gets you 1,200 records and 2GB of attachments per base. I don't know about you, but I think if I had more than 1,200 bits of fabric, I'd have bigger issues than paying for a subscription - and I'd be more than willing to do so, too! 

For me and my fabric stash, the important fields are:

  • Width
  • Length
  • Is it pre-washed?
  • Knit/Woven/Stretch woven/other
  • Composition
  • Fabric weight (as in, light/medium/heavy, not in kilograms)
  • Colour
  • Guterman thread match (in case I'm at the shops and need more thread)
  • Pattern (e.g. stripes, spots, floral, etc.)
  • Storage location

I've set my AirTable up so that I can sort by most of these, enabling me to find the fabric in my stash to suit the project I'm about to embark on. Check it out and have a play with the table below. Don't worry, it's read-only, so you can't break it ;)

Speaking of projects, I've also set up an AirTable 'base' to organise my sewing patterns, and another to organise my yarn stash. 

If this level or organising is something you'd like to try for yourself, please feel free to use my templates to set up your own databases. You'll first need to create an Airtable account, then follow the links below to access the templates and click on the Copy base button to import them into your account so you can make them your own. 

When copying the bases, make sure you choose "Duplicate Records" and "Duplicate Comments", otherwise you'll need to enter all the different categories again. I've included one example line from my stashes in each of the 'main' tables to get you started and so you can see how it works in practice, so once you've copied the base with its records and comments, you'll want to delete those records to start fresh.

For my scraps stash, I've just created two versions of the fabric stash base, to keep them separate, as I have a silly number of scraps. You might like to do the same, or you could insert a checkbox field into the main fabric stash base to indicate that it's a scrap, rather than a full-width piece. As I said earlier, this tool is all about customised bases, so you can use relevant fields that make sense to you and your craft.

In terms of actually using the tool, it works very similarly to Excel, except that you can include embedded attachments right there in your table, and the whole interface is more user-friendly. Airtable has great support articles and videos or feel free to ask me for help if you get stuck.

Happy stash-busting!

Disclaimer: Airtable is not sponsoring this post or otherwise compensating me for it. I will get account credits if you sign up using the create an Airtable account link, but honestly, I don't know if I'll ever use those credits, so it really doesn't worry me if you sign up or not. I just think it's an awesome tool - and it's free!