Tutorial: Folding Fabric

Mal | Home,Media,Organizing,Sewing | Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Fabric progress

Several people have asked about the techniques we used when cleaning out my mom’s fabric stash last week. There are of course many ways to purge, sort, and organize fabric, which I’ll write about later. But first, I wanted to address questions about the folding station and the folding method we used.

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

It’s the same method I’ve been using as I’ve been sorting and organizing fabric in my own apartment. Here you see an in-progress picture of my new studio corner with stacks of uniformly-folded fabric. This is a method I first read about from Monica, the Happy Zombie and later from Marilyn Bohn’s video.

Tutorial: fabric folding

Of course there are other ways, but this is the cheap, easy, quick one that works for me. The goal is to end up with a stack of fabric that is uniformly folded — the same length and width.

Tutorial: fabric folding

The height of each folded piece varies according to how much yardage you have to begin with.

(Read on for more…)

The Intervention

Mal | Color study,Here and Now,Home,Organizing,Simplicity | Monday, July 6th, 2009

Mom's kits

I’ve written about my mom and her fabric “collecting” in the past. Recently, she asked us for help in creating a functional sewing room in her basement, including purging the fabric she doesn’t intend to use. Naturally, I made arrangements to take time off of work and be there with my sisters.

Fabrics in their natural state

Although she has hoarded for many years, she has never actively sought help, so I was both nervous and relieved as I made the long drive to my parents’ house. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m going to spare you some of the details here, but…

Beginning of Day 2

At the end of Day 1, we were all feeling pretty good about the progress we’d made. Then, after she went to bed, we found a few more of her hidden stashes and uncovered more than twice the amount of fabric than what we had sorted and folded during the entire first day. Let’s just say the task felt pretty daunting at that point.

Folding station

Here’s a folding station. The task of sorting and shelving was pretty monumental, and at any time during the weekend, we had 3 folding stations going at once. I’ll probably put up a tutorial on the folding process, since it’s what I am using to stay organized in my apartment, too.

Mostly, my siblings and niece worked at the folding tables, while I sat knee-to-knee with my mom and talked her through everything. (This is a downside of being a therapist, I guess — when no one else can handle the talking, it falls to you.)

Sorting with mom

I literally spent 3 days handing her fabric, talking her through each stack, and carrying it to her shelves or the giveaway pile. It’s important to note that we went through the entire collection 3 times, each time purging more, until everything she wanted to keep would fit onto the massive shelves.

Bags of fabric

Here’s one of my macho brothers hefting industrial-sized trash bags of fabric out of the house. We estimate that these bags each weighed around 150 pounds, and we filled about 5 of them.

Filled shelves

This is what she was left with at the end of the weekend. It doesn’t account for all of her flannels and other fabrics; we didn’t sort through her books/magazines/patterns; we collected all of her in-progress projects into one place but didn’t get them really put away; and we haven’t even touched her batting and notions. Oh, well. It was a good start.

Pinks, Reds, Yellows

The shelves look nice, but little empty spaces like the one you see above make me very nervous. I hope she doesn’t go out and binge on red-and-white fabrics just because there is room left in that stack. Although we did a good job of clearing things out this weekend, I think we all realize that we are a long way from resolving the underlying behaviors.

Closer up on shelves

Still, I hope she feels as clear-headed and inspired by looking at these shelves as I do when I look at the photos. I love my mom, and I’d do just about anything I could to help foster her creativity and peace of mind.


Mal | Home,Organizing | Monday, April 20th, 2009

Small to large

A closeup of the “browns and creams” stack reveals some progress on incorporating my mom’s stash infusion. I had started with washing, ironing, and folding the smallest pieces — fat quarters and 1/2-yard cuts — and am now graduating to the larger pieces. You can see how they get bigger toward the top.

Fabric progress

I keep having to remind myself, with internal pep talks and late-night hand-wringing, that I am making progress on this gargantuan project. The picture below was taken two weeks ago:

The beginnings of assimilation

The larger pieces present unique challenges. I don’t need the fabric to be perfectly crease-free, but I would like it to be relatively straight before folding. Ironing and folding 3-, 4-, 8-yard cuts of fabric on my miniature ironing board in my miniature apartment feels very daunting sometimes. I try to plug along — committed to folding at least 5 pieces a day — and know that ultimately, I will reach the end.

Sewing room, disguised as kitchen

I have mentioned before that I live in a small one-bedroom apartment and am relegated to using the kitchen table for my projects. Although my mom’s fabric infusion has overtaken corners and closets throughout my entire apartment, the kitchen is where the impact is the greatest. All of my regular “working” surfaces are covered in scraps, folds, and stacks of fabric. I haven’t been able to work on any of my other projects for weeks now, and I feel it building up in me.

This made it both exhilarating and difficult to edit, share, and think about Julie’s recent guest entry. I loved to read about her process of retreating from corporate culture into her lovely blue cocoon, healing from the fast-pace and expectations of modern employment. Even just looking at the photos, as Clare mentioned in her comment, felt like good therapy. But as I come home every night and try to cook dinner around stacks of fabric, ironing boards, and baskets overflowing with scraps, I admit that I do feel a little jealousy about that amazing backyard studio.

Julie’s post ends with an echo of Virginia Woolf‘s famous words about women — creative women — needing a room of their own. I have long thought this was true and yet also harbored a secret fire of rage over this concept. I have never had a space dedicated only for creating, and probably never will. As it is, I survive in a hybrid living space — half apartment, half art studio. Sometimes this is thrilling and inspiring, others it is downright frustrating. People who come to visit me must accept the fact that the television sits on the same shelves which house the paints, that the couch faces a wall of art supplies, and that the kitchen, well… the kitchen is full of fabric.

I’ll get over it. I feel badly complaining about this windfall, since I recognize that my mom was very generous to share so much. For now, I just need to keep working at the project and encourage everyone to enter the Granny Day Giveaway to get rid of some of this stash!

PS: Julie makes such lovely creations and is instilling such a creative spirit in her daughter that it’s hard to be jealous for too long! I’ll share more thoughts about Virginia Woolf’s famous statement later.

Assimilating it

Mal | Home,Organizing | Friday, April 10th, 2009

The beginnings of assimilation

My creative output has whittled down to zero this week as I’ve worked to assimilate my mother’s generous gift of fabric stash.

I live in a small 1-bedroom apartment and this gift means I’ll probably have to re-arrange all of my furniture. I need to buy new shelves to hold the fabric, and have spent every night since the wedding ironing, folding, and sorting. I have to spend time with each fabric piece and ask myself if I will really use it, if it’s worth keeping, if it should also be given away or (in many cases) just tossed.

Fabric to be folded

Once this folding and sorting and re-arranging is done, I expect my creative output to go up — way up. Until then, though, there is something psychological and primal for me in trying to assimilate my mother’s cast-offs. My life has always been colored by her mental illnesses — my childhood needs eclipsed by hers. Most of those rifts have been repaired by now, and we largely enjoy a positive adult relationship.

I just have to remind myself, until new shelves are purchased and the couch is moved and the old stuff discarded, that this infusion is a gift — a great and generous gift — and I am lucky to have it. I am lucky to have her.

Most of this fabric is not modern or trendy. Would you still be interested in blog giveaways? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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