Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Fat Quarter Storage

Hi Everyone,

I know I've been "away" all week.  I haven't blogged and I haven't even spent much time reading blogs this week.  My intention was to spend time this week prepping for the retreat that I'm going to next week, and I did begin that, but then I got distracted.

For some time now, I've been wanting to revamp the way that I store my fat quarters.  By "fat quarters," I mean anything smaller than a half yard.  Since the turn of the century (I still think it's weird to say that) I've been keeping them in dishpans.

Dishpans?  Well, when I was looking for storage 14 or so years ago, there weren't many sizes of plastic containers--and I didn't like any of the ones that were available, so I drifted into other aisles of the stores and found the dishpans.  As you can see, they hold two rows of fat quarters perfectly.  (If you have read my blog for any length of time, you may recall that one of my driving forces is that I can't stand when things don't fit "perfectly," or even nicely, into a space.)  I've been very happy with the dishpans, too, as I can grab one and take it to the cutting table and choose the fabric(s) I need for a current project.  I don't feel the need for lids, in case you are wondering.  These aren't stored out in the bright light and in 14 years, I haven't had any issues at all.

For a while, I kept them in a cabinet that we repurposed from the kitchen.  We put extra shelves in to hold all of  the dishpans, but at some point, either the cabinet didn't fit into my sewing room, and/or it was sold to help reduce the weight of our household goods.  (The military moves families when we get new orders, but there is a weight allowance--if you are overweight--you pay the difference.)  As I recall, I last had the cabinet in Alaska, but I don't remember it in Kansas.  At any rate, for the past 2-3 houses, I have kept the dishpans on  plastic shelf units in the closet of my sewing rooms.

This is how it looked.  It's a real mess!

In this closet, the rod is in the way, so I wan't able to use all of the shelves, so I've had to stack the dishpans.  Even when I could use the full height, there was lots of wasted space.  This is a mess, a poor use of space, and has been bugging me the entire time we have lived here.  But I couldn't find a solution.

Lately, I've been looking for some "cubby" type cubes that could work.  Some of the craft stores have the cube storage that can be an open cube, or have two drawers, or other configurations, but I didn't see any that just had one shelf, so I could put two dishpans into one cube.  My next thought was Expedit from Ikea.  The Expedit line is shelving units that are divided into cubes, with an open back.  They come in many configurations.

The only problem is that they don't have an option to add a shelf, either.  They do sell a kit that has one glass shelf, but it also has a glass door, and I didn't want all of that.

So, I've been "stuck."  My husband was willing to make something, and that was my last resort.  Really, what I had was working, it just "bugged" me.  And then I went to Ikea on Tuesday.

I took a friend who had never gone to one before, and I have only been there the one other time--last year.  Ikea is a bit over 2 hours away, up in the DC area.  We left early and got there just after it opened.  Since my friend had never been there, we looked at everything.  The only section we skipped over was the baby/kid section as we don't have small children at home and Tuesday is "kids eat free" day at the cafe in the store, so the place was crowded with kids and their moms.  I looked at Billy shelves, which I'm probably going to use for storage of yardage/books/etc. when we move to our "forever" house.  In the Expedit area, I double checked that there were no shelves, and there wasn't.  We stopped and had lunch and then resumed our looking.  My friend is not a quilter, but she was so amazed by everything.  She started the day saying how her grown son loved Ikea, and by just an hour or two into our day, she said she realized why he felt that way.  Neither of us was getting much, but we were having a great time looking at all the ideas and possibilities.

We finally had worked ourselves all the way through to the warehouse area.  If you have not shopped at Ikea before, most of the items are kept in the warehouse area.  When you decide you want something, you write down the item number and what aisle and shelf it is on in the warehouse.  We didn't need anything from there, though, so we were just making our way to the registers to pay.  As we were passing, I saw on one of the warehouse "endcaps" this system.

It is Trofast--which is toy storage.  There are bins that fit onto runners.  You customize the sizes of bins that you need--one that takes one slot, two slots, or three slots.  So on this shelf, there are 6 slots, so you can use 6 singles, 3 doubles, or 2 triples, or any other combination that works.  Here they are showing 2 singles and 2 doubles.  I looked at the single bin and it looked a bit shallower than my dishpan, but I thought it would work.  We found the section in the warehouse and I looked over all of my choices.  I ended up getting two, white, 6 slot shelves, just as you see in the photo above, but I got all white, single bins.  The shelves were $30 each, and the bins were $3 each, so it would all come in just under $100, but they were actually on sale, too!

I was so excited that the two-hour trip home seemed endless! When I finally arrived, I immediately began assembling the shelves and then transferring my fabric from the dishpans to the new bins.  Since the bins were shallower, and there is no clearance above them when they are in the slots of the shelves, I had to refold it all.  I also realized that I wouldn't be able to fit all the fabric from a dishpan into one of the new bins, because needing to fold each piece smaller made it thicker.  As I worked, I pulled out all the small bits to cut up into strips and squares.  I purged pieces that have been lingering in those bins for 10 or more years and never used.  Any full half yards that I came across, I pulled out to be folded and kept on my yardage shelves.  It was a purge that I had been wanting to do, and it felt good!  I worked that first night until 11:30.  My husband has been gone all week, so I didn't need to adhere to any regular schedule.

I had so much going on this week, that it wasn't until the next afternoon that I could resume.  I finally finished on Wednesday night.  Yesterday I stopped and picked up some fun chalk-board labels so I could keep the bins labeled.

Here is my "Red" bin.  You can see that they don't fit as perfect as they did in the dishpans, but I'm still very happy with it!  Those pieces on the ends are actually a bit longer than the other fat quarter pieces, so it is nice to have a wider area for them. 

Here they are, all in place, filled, and labeled. 

There is room on top for my bins of strips.  I used more chalk board labels to mark them, too.

This is the "before" and "after!"  This is the same location in my closet!  Isn't it amazing?  I was able to add the bins of strips that were kept on the closet shelf  and I still have all of that free area on the top!  I am delighted with the results!
I guess the lesson here is to not just go to the obvious areas of the store.  Be it dishpans or toy storage, you may find answers in other places.  If I had only seen the Trofast system in the kids area, I may not have given it a second glance--but seeing it first in the warehouse, I had no idea it was for toys, and instead I saw it as the perfect solution to my fat quarter storage dilemma.  I can still grab the appropriate bin of fabric, make my choices, and easily slide it back into place.

I shall be back soon to discuss all of the cutting and prepping I've been working on.  My Schnibble has been abandoned for the week--I need to get back to it, too.
See you soon!  Have a great day!


  1. What a happy find for you and thank you for sharing it. I remember seeing systems like this for toys and actually rigged my own using some old Ikea shelves and dish basins. I laminated some graphics so my son would know which toys went in which bin. The basins are empty now (he's 23 and toys are much bigger) so I have been using them for my project organization. A move is in our future and your "find" just might be the perfect solution. Now, I just need to get serious about the purging step. Doesn't a good reorganization make breathing easier?

  2. I love organization - and you sure found a great solution to your problem! I really love the chalkboard labels - I've never seen them before.

  3. Your new shelves and bins look amazing! I love the clean look of it, too! And that is so funny, cuz I'm the same way......things needs to fit perfectly or I'll fret about it forever! lol

  4. I often times wonder if there really is a "perfect" solution, but yours looks to be pretty close! I'm going to IKEA on Tuesday so I'm thinking I'll have to check your unit out face to face.
    Congrats on finding something nice!

    Enjoy your retreat....I'm jealous! I need one NOW! But I have to wait till May :(


  5. I love organization too - I don't stress over it, but think it really helps creativity to have things neat, clean, and inviting.

  6. What a great find ! Love the chalkboard labels never heard of them before , now I need to buy some ;-) I have to have things organized too . Makes it much easier to see things at a glance and not search thru piles

  7. Great look for organizing your fabrics, JoAnne! I'm sure it's worth all the time it took to get where you are now with the new storage unit. And extra space for more! Can't argue with that!

  8. What a big difference from "Before" to "After". Looks like a system that will really work.

  9. What a great find and yes, everyone should check out IKEA...never know what you will find. Great organization you did!

  10. great job and so reasonably priced!

  11. How satisfying!! Your new look shelving looks great - what a productive week!

  12. I'm going to IKEA! The majority of my sewing stuff is in the basement, but since it's not finished and there is a complete lack of outlets, I sew upstairs. This would work great to put projects and tools in and I could tuck it into a closet!

  13. Your ikea solution seems to have helped many quilters . Your before and after pictures are a wonderful visual of your productive week.

  14. Thanks for a great post. I love organizational ideas but, like you mentioned, it' sometimes difficult to find the time to implement them. BTW, your before picture doesn't look that bad!

  15. All the fabrics are neat and tidy. Easy to access. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I've just returned from a trip JoAnne and getting caught up on my blog reading. I love this storage solution and so happy that you found it on sale!

  17. thanks for posting in such detail about your great find! I'm going to browse the IKEA website since I don't have one nearby and look into this a bit more, hoping that maybe it will fit under my cutting table.

  18. What a difference! It looks great. I've never been to IKEA, but I considered those Expedit shelving units for my sewing room when I was renovating. Shipping costs were pretty crazy though! I'd love to visit a store one day. Doesn't seeing everything so neat and organized get your creative juices flowing? It always does for me.

  19. I love ikea for exactly the reason you stated. Even if you're not buying anything you are collecting ideas and planning things like organisation and storage.