the new plan for scraps : filed by color

sorting quilting scraps by color

The organizing was a huge idea generator. It shifted something – seeing everything grouped that way, it was somehow thrilling and I got tons of new ideas. There was also a big editing process, I just kept the stuff I loved.

It took forever and was hugely fun and satisfying to do. I haven’t figured out how to store them yet plus I love looking at them so for now they’ll stay where they are, just hanging out on a table.

sorting quilting scraps by color

The idea was to organize some little groups of scraps for my hexie quilt project. It snowballed into sorting through every single little cotton quilting weight scrap I have and organizing them by color. How do you sort your fabric scraps? Historically my scraps have been sorted mostly by project – owl scraps, doll scraps etc. but the hexie project uses all the scraps plus I’m experimenting with color transitions.

sorting quilting scraps by color

I found little scrap treasures I’d forgotten, and the original miss thistle turned up too – she’s been missing for years (her dress is still missing).

original tiny rag doll

hexie quilt made from scraps

It’s perfect for the hexie quilt – I’m working from the pale neutral pile now. And it does help immensely to have things pre-sorted by color. All the sorting and organizing led to more sorting and organizing, you know how that goes, and I think my plan for the remainder of this odd spring will be to organize and edit all my possessions.

How do you store your scraps? Have you tried sorting by color? Share in the comments if you like and check out out lots of awesome #hexiesforsanity projects here.

33 Comments

  1. Ann,
    In early March, I traveled to Florida to help my Mom celebrate her 84th birthday. The pandemic has me still here, many weeks later. The saving grace in all this has been my Mom’s abundant quilting fabric stash. She has been less than inspired to sew lately and I have dove in deep. I am a painter and designer by profession, so my need for creative production is great. Beside making and selling masks, I have been enjoying organizing and sorting the fabrics, especially finding purpose for the scraps. I have made a three tiny square pieceworks, crazy quilting, embroidery and now contemplating a pixel-inspired watercolor quilt portrait. Anxious to get home to my own studio in a couple of weeks.

  2. I organized my fabric scraps by color and in rainbow order too! It’s especially pleasing to me to have a bunch of hexies cut out and ready to stitch in a spectrum stack…This has led to some very specific eBay searches for vintage calicos in colors I’m short on tho-a slippery slope!

  3. ROBERTA CORDELL

    My sister made beautiful picture mini quilts. She was also fighting cancer at the time. On one visit to see her I went to Dollar Tree and bought a bunch of clear shoe boxes. We separated them by colors so at a glance she could find what she needed….we had 8-9 boxes. The day before she passed away she told me to take them home with me. I ended up making 17 baby quilts for the hospital and still had tons left so I donated them to a church quilting group who made quilts for the homeless./ I had almost as much fabric as she did and finally just got tired of making them.

  4. I sort my scraps by color, too! I have them stored on shelves in a small cabinet. I think being able to see all the colors, and not hidden in boxes, really helps. My yardage is a different story. I sort that by fabric weight – apparel, quilting, burlap (several coffee bean bags from various coffee roasters) and decorator fabric. My yardage is kept in boxes and labeled. I also have a nice collection of feed sack fabric, which I hang on hangers in a closet in my sewing room. I keep my wool felt stash in tins. Scraps are really the only fabric I sort by color.

  5. Oh yes! The joy of discovering what you forgot you had❤️ Organizing fabric is a favorite chore of mine. If the scraps are smallish, I gather like-fabrics and use baggies to toss them in a pretty basket. But then I forget what’s there! Looking forward to other suggestions posted here. Scraps are an encouraging sign that you actually cut into fabric at some point in time

  6. Christine Muller

    Ann I want to tell you how much your posts and photos are helping me right now in my isolation. We have had family illness for which I could not be present and I can’t see my grandkids. But I live on a farm in Washington state so there’s always lots to do! Fabric is my first love; my mom and her best friend Mabel taught me to sew and embroider when I was very young. I’ve done just about everything since, I love to make things! I’m 67yo and still learning every day. Anyway thank you so much. I have 3 of your kits and several patterns. Every time I look at my mouse-in-a-boat I smile. Your piles of fabric actually brought emotional tears to my eyes! Silly! My big project presently is repairing a quilt for my grown daughter – my mom and her friends made this crazy patchwork quilt in 1950; their names and the date are embroidered on the patches. I passed it down to my daughter , she loves it, and I’ve patched it so many times it’s almost a new quilt. But I know what’s under those new patches – pieces of my mom’s dresses and aprons…

  7. Sonia Simpson

    Looks great i have to do mine by colour too so much easier. And buttons and threads and ribbons
    I used all my like but dont love to make masks for friends and family did you know thin elastic comes in all colours. I love that in its history elastic has never been so sort after

  8. I sort all my fabric by color also. I sort everything, even my spices are in alphabetical order. Not that I am super neat. I make enormous messes but then clean up. I love to see my fabrics if they can be away from sunlight. If that is the extent of your scraps I would probably roll them up individually as much as possible, and hang in baskets on the wall, any too small could just be tossed into a vintage basket. Seeing my fabrics always helps get me motivated- that and an anthro candle and maybe some eva cassidy or jao gilberto

  9. Susan Kossow

    Ann, I sort all my fabric by color too. I mostly just work with scraps and 1/3 yard pieces for making whimsical dolls and pin cushions. I love combining colors and patterns in unusual ways.
    I store them in clear boxes with lids, about 9×14 or so and they fit perfectly on the shelves in my craft room. I do have the christmas theme fabric in it’s own clear container. I save even the smallest pieces and have found many ways to use them. It just makes me so excited to find that “just right” piece! I have to say, I love the little pear shaped doll pin cushion in your photo. Is it something you made, have a pattern for? She’s so sweet.

  10. Dianne Hayes

    I colour sort my scraps and roll them into a bundle which I tie up. They then go into a transparent box. The joy comes when you undo the roll and there is layer upon layer of fabrics to choose from.

  11. Margaret O'rien

    I sort by colour and type of fabric all in piles on shelves….light colours, light weights on top, then medium colours, again light weights on top, and darks the same way. I also have heavier upho-stery, flannels and woolens in another pile, tartans, and woolens. Also have rolls and squares of felt on shelves and in see-through boxes. Can usually (not always) choose combinations right on the shelves. Have in mind the ones for a small Hexie quilt for a due first Great-child. Love fabrics and yarns sorted out, but I must admit I don’t always put them back as neatly, and have a job sorting again.
    Absolutely love your column, and have your patterns, and kits made or almost !!!

  12. Henriet Ferguson

    I just make little stacks of fabric that has proved a good combination, and then tie them up like parcels with any sort of cord or string. I don’t have much room, so all bundles get tossed into a big basket. At the bottom of that I have the stuff that doesn’t yet ‘belong’ anywhere. Plus I have one shelf in a cupboard that holds anything wider or longer than 50 cm.
    Turning over the whole basket together with my 10-year old granddaughter ( who wanted to make a pincushion for her mother) was very inspiring! Since corona she has learned to sew on a sewing machine, and this project employed her new skill, plus some handstitching of course.

  13. I do sort by color. I use large clear plastic bags, often the ones the ones that sheets or blankets come in with zippers or gallon and 2 gallon zip lock bags. Then the clear bags go in big boxes that are labeled what the color is and the size. Ex: Large Pieces: Red Orange Etc. The plastic bags tossed in boxes give me the freedom to rifle through them when looking for just the right piece. Easily to stuff back in the bag and easy to toss back in the box when I’m done rifling.

  14. Marianne

    I have such a huge collection of fabric that has been stored in bankers boxes for a very long time. I gave as much away to a quilting friend that she would take, but still have over 3 boxes of fabric left. Going thru all of it with her revealed gorgeous fabrics I’d forgotten. Before stowing the boxes in their cupboards I spent a couple of days cutting a 1.5”x2” sample of each and attaching them to large luggage tags writing the number of the box the fabric was in on the tag. Now I don’t have to dig thru every box. I can audition combinations and hang the tags like bunting as I like.

  15. Marilee Reyes

    And here I thought I was just influenced by the concept of spring cleaning and a special project. I am not much of a seamstress. The sewing machine scares me so most of what I do in the way of mending or simple sewing is usually done by hand. So, I had decided that I wanted to make some amulets and the best way to start would be to organize everything by color. First the fabrics, then the ribbons and notions, the beads are already by color and in a plastic suitcase where I can see them, but the threads (both embroidery and on spools) were a tangled hodgepodge, and the itty-bitty fabric scraps from my sister’s quilting projects were stuck in all kinds of nooks on my crafts shelves. Once I got everything sorted I felt like a genius. I guess it sounds like I might as well live in a cave since little did I realize so many others had already been doing this. But along came your blog and the comments of your followers. Woot-woot. Aside with how much easier this will make things for me, how nice to know that I apparently got on the right track without even realizing it.

  16. Judy A Klem

    Hi Ann, I sort by color also mostly. I have a separate pile for Christmas fabrics and another for multi-colored fabrics that don’t seem to have a dominate color. I have open shelves along one wall of my studio and that’s where my fabrics are. There’s another bank of shelves that houses boxes with other craft supplies sorted into several categories: feathers, polymer clay, tulle, wood scraps, plastic things, little boxes, found metal junk, etc!
    I am so enjoying making hexies. I have 1330 of them done. Guess it’s time to start putting them together. I plan to put them all in a big box and shake them up then just grab them one by one and sew them together. The only rule will be no two alike touching each other. It should ne a fun adventure.

    Thank you for the Hexies for sanity inspiration!

  17. Debbi Sydow Wilson

    My fabrics are sorted by color, then placed in a monster of an armoire that belonged to my grandmother. Making masks led to a hunt for batiks, which led to fun color combinations, which led to more organizing by color. Sometimes I get lost just gazing at all those gorgeous fabrics. I was an art teacher for almost forty years, so I taught color theory to many classrooms of kids. We discussed the emotional power of color along with the psychological benefits of creating something beautiful. It’s what humans are designed to do!

  18. I love sorting up materials – be it fabric, paper, other

    Recently it has been my “paper” supplies along with other supplies that had gotten mixed up with it all, a bit like your Miss Thistle, I kept finding interesting things.

    Not all of it is sorted and is actually piled on the floor but it’s in a place that I can’t trip over it…

    Even though Lockdown is more or less over in New Zealand, I’ve loved being a kind of hermit with her art supplies and having to made edible food with someone else’s choice (another learning curve). Anyway, having to “live with your self” I’m now on a major makeover of all kinds of objects. Because frankly, I’ve “made do” for far too long…

    And I’m still wary of going out and about…shopping and all that guff. Online shopping has been godsend whilst I was truly locked down, due to my vulnerable health. And so today, more research on the march to “makeover” – some items will just be refurbished with some of my threads and fabrics…

    I could’ve done all this during lockdown, but actually I spent a lot of time with “overwhelmism”

  19. When I first started on my little Elsie May and Bertha shop, I bought fabric whenever I found it, usually in charity shops and remnants, stuff I liked of course. However over the past 10 years my work has changed, it’s got smaller. It’s scraps that excited me these days. Big pieces shout clothes, bags, cushions etc and I jut don’t want to make them anymore ( plus selling these got a lot harder!). Now I make little things out of scraps of fabric. Like many of us, I’ve spent a lot more time in my workroom as I can’t go out and I’ve been staring at all of the big pieces of fabric, so I’ve decided to get rid of it, either back to charity shops or in the community if I find anyone who needs fabric. As for my scraps, I keep them in categories – stripes, floral, patterns etc though I’m planning on sortting my little scraps into colours.

  20. Ann Cummings

    I have 6 totes large, but not to deep. Scraps sorted by color, some colors share a tote. They are stacked on metal shelving. Easy to go through when need a color or project.

  21. When you first mentioned “hexie” my brain read that as to do with witches.And I thought perhaps you were making a witch doll or a blanket for a witch doll.And my tired old brain played with that idea and I find myself doodling hexie dolls…

  22. chris wackett

    I sort mine by colour too . I also used bigger stash to make fabric boxes to hold them in and those I can decorate with whatever takes my fancy . I made them so they can fit two to a drawer where I keep my bits . Obviously they too are colour themed ! Blue for blue scraps etc …. It’s an ongoing project as I haven’t made for all the colours yet but I will eventually .
    It’s also good for helping spot gaps in colours …I found I had very little purple .

  23. I sort by color and type, cotton, batik,silkies. I have shelves in the closet for large pieces and a bookcase for fat quarters and small pieces.

    The closet door is usually open. I love to see all my fabric.

  24. Fran Boydell

    My scraps are rolled and stacked in colour ways in square baskets laid sideways on a shelf so I can see them all calling for me to make a quilt.

  25. I sort all my quilting fabric by color and they are folded so that they stand upright in two small chests that are bedside tables. There is generally one color to a drawer. Started this 15 years ago and have moved 3 times with this system. The yardage is now rolled and on shelves in the studio closet and is sorted by type and loosely by color on the shelves. I also hung a sheer curtain in front of them to keep the dust down but still easily visible and accessible. Paper and other craft supplies are standing in drawers. Moving piles was such a hassle. The small piles in the studio are the ones for works in progress and stay with in view.
    Have enjoyed reading everyones solutions. Love your work, Ann.

  26. Susan K

    I have the oldest scraps stored by color and have been trying to cut the smaller scraps into squares – 1 1/2” to 6” squares. Those are stored by size.
    I have my larger pieces of 30’s, civil war, batiks, and solids stored together.
    It’s time for me to get my fabrics more organized so I can find hidden treasures.

  27. Sande Bamford

    Isn’t it fun to rediscover all those little bits! And the memories of projects past that are generated in the process. Here in Australia, I have found polystyrene broccoli boxes make fabulous fabric storage. They are narrow rectangles which can be stacked on top of each other, whether lengthwise or upright, making a kind of open shelving. They come with lids if you want to seal from unwanted pests visiting, but I love them just open.
    Folding fabric by the yard then down to quarter yard, and then into the box depth works brilliantly. You can even put a length label onto the selvedge if you have a dress length perhaps amongst other lovely things. Colourful blessings

  28. Judy A Klem

    I forgot to say that I love original Miss Thistle! She’s adorable!

  29. My scraps and under 1 yd fabrics are also sorted by color. The larger pieces are tied in bundles with scrap fabric ties. The smaller and smallest scraps are in a large metal candy tin, which they are rapidly outgrowing.
    We don’t have a fabric store in our tiny town, but we do have a thrift store where the local sewers send their leftovers- a treasure trove of bitty scraps.

  30. Donna Miller

    Thanks for sharing your idea for sorting tiny scraps. Ended up making drawer deep 7″w x 7″d x 8″h dividers out of corrugated cardboard which doubled the drawer dedicated space. When square footage is at maximum level one must go up. Also added a drawer. Each colour gets its own ‘bin within’ and a couple for linen bits, chenille and selvedge. Thanks also for the freedom to edit and rehome the scraps that we know will never work for the colour or patterns. Been over a month and everything is still tidy and easy to find. Naturally progressed into the tiny hexies…

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