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Plastic Bins for Storage?

Kimmiesmom | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi everyone!  I’m new to Gatherings – and message groups!  After a few (40+) years of sewing, my sewing machine is actually going to have its own room!! I’ve been looking at magazines, books, etc., gathering information to help design my room.   My greatest joy and biggest problem is my fabric stash…  My fabric for the “current season” used to live in an old, old dresser, which had to be discarded in our renovation, and my other fabric was stored in plastic bins with “air holes.”  

Some articles tell you not to store fabric in the bins, and other articles say it’s okay to do so.   I’d appreciate your thoughts on the bins!  Thanks!



  1. stitchmd | | #1

    I think the reason some think fabric "needs to breathe" is to prevent trapping moisture inside the storage container. But air can bring in problems, like moisture that wasn't there before, and pests. Fabric being stored should be clean and dry and kept away from materials that expose it to acids, like wood or paper. Acid free tissue and boxes are fine as is plastic.

    It shouldn't be compressed, because folds break the fibers. The best storage is rolling it, second best is refolding along different lines every so often. You can stack or hang, as long as you don't leave it in one position or hanging suspended by the same area too long.

    1. SewNancy | | #4

      If you want to use cardboard boxes you can find acid free boxes from photo supply sites, but they are not very deep. I recently reorganized my sewing room and used those styrene plastic binse that stack. I have non movable shelves in my closet and could get them 2 high. I use a dry erase marker to note whats in the box and then can easily change it as my stash changes. I haven't had any more insect damage or mildew with this system and here on Long Island mildew is a major problem.
      I organize by fabric type or in the case of black, by black! Made me realize just how much black I have!

      1. stitchmd | | #5

        I think you meant to address this to the original poster. You can get much larger boxes by searching for archival materials.

  2. sueb | | #2

    I struggle with this as well !  I have some of my stash stored plastic rolling carts, some of it in plastic bins (I leave the covers off) and some is in the closet.  If it's cotton I generally fold it up and don't worry about it.  decorator fabrics generally either are folded or stored rolled up depending on how much of it I have.  My velvets are typically hung up but I do have some smaller pieces that are folded and tossed into a bin.   I don't really worry too much about what's getting squashed under the weight of what because I go thru the stacks all the time and things are always getting moved around anyway.   If I had any high end fabrics that I spent a lot of money on that I wasn't planning on using right away then naturally I would be a bit more careful with the way I store it.   None of my fabric is exposed to direct sunlight so I don't have to worry about fading. 

  3. solosmocker | | #3

    Congratulations on your new sewing room. I have tried so many different ways to store fabric over the years, but the bottom line is, it has to be visible for me to be inspired. I have had poles hung from chains from the ceiling, over which I have folded fabric. I have used quilt racks, plastic bins, open shelving, glass shelved china cabinets, you name it. I just have to be able to see it so I am not crazy about plastic storage. If you are interested in seeing some neat sewing spaces, and some not so neat, google over to Delphi Forums Heirloom sewing and Smocking. There currently are some pretty animated discussions on fabric storage and sewing rooms. Some cool pictures and worth checking out.

    1. Kimmiesmom | | #6

      Hi again!  Thanks for your great ideas and kind words!   I will follow through and check out the Delphi Forums Heirloom site.  I, too, love to see - and touch - my fabric, so I was hopeful to have a rolling shelf unit with perhaps wire baskets or dividers.  I do tend to refold my fabrics, because I have always moved them about - just couldn't see them without unpacking - ugh!  I was concerned about the open shelves, though, because of pests (being in the basement).    I'll share pictures once I figure it out! 


      1. mimi | | #11

        Kimmiesmom:  Have you looked into the long underbed type storage boxes?  They come in all sorts of materials:  plastic, fiberboard and even cotton canvas.  If you roll your fabric onto a cardboard core (such as wrapping paper tubes) they will fit into these boxes.

        Having said that, I store mine in the industrual soft plastic bins that Rubbermaid makes and slap a label on the outside listing all the contents.  When I remove something it gets crossed off the list.  When enough things get crossed off, I make a new label, usually on the computer, and then tape it on the bin.  I also have some specialty fabrics that I store in a dresser, wrapped in tissue paper.

        I have used these methods for 30 + years and they work for me.  Isn't it nice to have everybody grown and gone so that we have room for a sewing room? (Insert evil grin here)


  4. Teaf5 | | #7

    I have always kept my stash in cardboard boxes with a piece of cedar at the bottom, and some of my fabrics are over 30 years old! I like to use the boxes that copier/printer paper comes in; they're all a uniform size, and they have lids that pop on and off easily. They aren't marked acid-free, but they haven't caused any staining, possibly because they're very clean and were designed to hold white paper without staining.

    The poster who mentions humidity and pests is correct; you really need to know your climate in order to know how careful you must be in preserving fabrics. A move of less than 50 miles made a huge change for me; I used to have to deal with mildew, but now I have problems with agricultural dust and carpet moths.

    1. User avater
      Thimblefingers | | #8

      I use Rubbermaid bins for most of my fabric but silks and linens are rolled.  I've used the bins since they first came out and now own enough bins that I think they should give me stacok in the company.  It's actully embarrassing how many bins full of fabric I have.  Anyway, where I live I neither have to worry about moths or mildew so that's not an issue.  However, I am one of those people who has to be able to touch and play with my stash regularily and know what I have.  This is difficult to do with some 40 bins full of fabric so what I've done is give each bin a number.  Then I sort my fabric into types like laces, sheers, lingerie, top weights, bottom weights, denims, etc. or you could use colour, fibre content, whatever.  Then i fill each bin with only one type of fabric.  As I fill them, I cut a swatch, and measure and record the amount and width of fabric on looseleaf and any other pertinent information then label the sheet with the bin number and glue on the swatch.  When I use a piece, I can just pull the swatch off, or adjust amount if I only use part of it.  Then in the evening when I'm too tired to do anything else, I can sit down and fondle my swatches and dream about what I might do with them!  (And no mess to clean up later.)

      1. FitnessNut | | #9

        You aren't alone. I've been using those bins for fabric and yarn storage for at least 13 years. The only different thing that I do is keep track of contents and yardage on my computer. No need for a swatch....this is one area where I have a photographic memory, LOL! I have a brief description of the fabric, fibre content and yardage all filed by bin number. When I use something, it is easy to alter the list accordingly.And you most definitely aren't the only one to spend time fondling your stash. Often when I'm retrieving a specific piece of fabric, I get lost in that creative dreamer's land and spend hours instead of a few minutes. ;-)

      2. Kimmiesmom | | #10

        Hi Thimblefingers.   Thanks for sharing your "40 bins" with me!  My husband thought maybe I needed to "weed it out" when he saw all of my fabric in one place!  The new home for my fabric, notions, etc., will be what used to be a closet under the stairs.  The door has been removed, and the doorway widened, so I have this nice open space with lots of lighting all the way back.   I went to our local JoAnn's, which was moving, and picked up a load of cardboard fabric bolts that they were discarding, only to find that when the space was finished, I had way too much fabric, not enough bolts, and - worst of all - no way to attach the shelves to hold the bolts because of the way the studs were placed.   So, back to the drawing board, hence the bin issue...!  I'm not sure I'm patient enough for the indexing idea, but I love the thought of being able to dream in the evening without dragging everything out from a corner!    Thanks!

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