Even though spring supposedly started a month ago, it’s still cold and windy here in north Iowa. I am anxiously awaiting temperatures in the 70s with sunny skies. Maybe someday. So since spring is here, that usually means time to clean and organize. In this post I’ll share some tips for spring cleaning your sewing space and quilts, including storage. Let’s get started!
Spring Cleaning Fabrics & Tools
This is a good time to organize and clean the space you sew in. But it’s also a good time to organize your fabric. This will help you to know what you have and what you need so your next trip to the quilt shop is a happy shopping experience.
TIP #1: Organize your fabric stash by size and color. This is key if you are a scrap quilter like me. Here is how I do it. If I find a piece of fabric I really like, I will buy a yard of that fabric. Then I will cut that yard in half and have two half yards. I fold up one of those half yards and store it in a tub with others of the same color:
Next, I take the remaining half yard and cut it in half along the fold to make two fat quarters. I take one of those, fold it up and store in a fat quarter/quarter yard tub.
Then I take the remaining fat quarter and cut that in half (photo below) into two fat eights. I roll the fat eighths instead of folding them for easier storage.
If there is any yardage left, I cut that into strips. I like 2 1/2″ and 1 1/2″ strips. Or if you only want one fat eighth in that particular color, you can cut the remaining fat eighth into strips for your stash. So when I am done with a yard of fabric, this is what I can end up with:
I now have that color print in every size in my fabric stash so it’s ready to be used in my next scrap quilt! Here’s my mini video tutorial on this topic:
TIP #2 Put strips and scraps into organized containers. I like to have those organized just like I do with the fabric I cut up in tip #1. I organize my strips by size and color and store them in shallow tubs.
As you can see, these tubs are easy to stack in my storage cupboard. The labeling makes it easier for me to pick out the tub that has the size and color strips I need for my current project.
Now for the random scraps of fabric that are smaller than fat eighths and not the right shape to cut into strips, I also have those stored in tubs sorted by color. I use these scraps for my fabric appliqué and for making test blocks, like the one on the right. A test block is where I audition fabrics to see what colors I want to use for a pattern without cutting into my good fabric.
Doing these things with your fabric scraps will keep your sewing space and cutting table clean so you can work.
TIP #3 Tool Storage. It’s a good idea to store your tools in a way that makes them easy to reach or find when you are needing them. I shared a few tips over the last few weeks, but here’s a few more. This is what I do with important cutting tools and my rulers:
The cutting tool storage is actually a used coffee mug holder I found at a garage sale. The ruler storage is a metal peg board made for tool storage in a garage. It’s hung on the wall by my sewing table. If you do not have a permanent sewing space, you can hang your rulers in a closet using jump rings and a hanger made for hanging ties.
Cleaning and Storing Quilts
Next it’s time to focus on the quilts in your collection and to give them some TLC. If you like to display quilts around your house like I do, you will need to do a few things to keep them clean. Here are some tips on what I do. Please note: these tips are not recommended for antique or family heirloom type quilts. For those types of quilts, it’s best to look for advice from textile preservation professionals.
TIP#1: Light Cleaning: For wall quilts that can collect dust or cobwebs, use the soft brush attachment (like pictured below) of your vacuum cleaner and, on the lowest suction setting, brush gently across the surface of the quilt. Keep the tool moving constantly and do not to stop to avoid having suction concentrated on an area of your quilt. Never use any type of attachment that has moving parts.
Carefully test on a corner of the quilt on the back to make sure it will not do any damage.
If the wall quilt has picked up a musty smell or another smell from the room it is in, it can be aired out by placing it outside (in a shady area) on a clean sheet. I would cover it with another clean sheet to keep it from getting any dirt, leaves, etc on it. For cleaning a large quilt, lay it out on a flat surface and vacuum with the soft brush attachment, lowest suction setting again. It can also be aired out using the same method as a wall quilt.
Do not shake quilts like you do for rugs since that can weaken seams.
For cat or dog hair, I use the lint rollers made for clothes. Gently rolling these across the surface of the quilt will pick up the stray hairs without damaging seams.
TIP #2: Washing. If you must wash a quilt, be sure to use a gentle soap. I wash on gentle and I throw in a few Shout Color Catcher sheets in case I’m worried about a fabric that might bleed. Be cautious of this if your fabric was not pre-washed. If you do not pre-wash and you are unsure of a fabric in the quilt, I would advise against washing and just stick with tip #1 above.
If you do wash it and need to dry, it’s best to air dry it. You can put it in the dryer for 10 minutes or so on “air fluff” setting to get the dampness out. Then lay the quilt out on a clean sheet on a flat surface to finish. Never hang a quilt on a clothesline which can put stress on the seams. Also, do not wring out a quilt, which can damage and distort seams.
TIP #3 Storage. First, it’s a good idea to learn how to fold a quilt in a way that is the least damaging to the seams and fabric fibers. This is for large quilts. To begin, lay the quilt out flat and make a first fold on the bias:
The next 3 photos show the next 3 folds you need to make to end up with your quilt folded and protected:
Even though the bias option is the best, the other way I fold quilts is in thirds. The following photos will show how that is done. Here are the first 3 folds:
And the final folds:
When you have quilts folded and stored, be sure to refold them periodically. It’s recommended that refolding every 3 to 4 months is a good timeframe. This keeps the fabrics from breaking down in the folds or developing permanent creases. It’s also a good idea to refold large quilts that you have displayed on beds, ladders or draped over sofas or chairs.
For smaller quilts like wall hangings or table toppers, I hang them on skirt or pant hangers to store in a closet when I am not using them.
Here are some random do’s and don’ts for storing quilts:
Do not store them in the basement or attic of your home where the temperature and humidity is not at ideal levels.
Do not stack too many folded quilts on top of one another.
Do not store quilts in plastic containers or bags. Plastic can trap moisture which could develop mold that will stain quilts.
Do use clean white sheets to cover a stack of quilts for protection. You can also store single folded quilts in large pillow cases or make a case for the quilt out of an old white sheet.
Two other ways to store quilts is to roll them or to drape them over extra beds. Rolling large quilts may be difficult for storage since there would need to be a large space to store those rolls. But rolling them is a good way to avoid any creases from folding, so if you have the storage space, consider doing this.
If you drape them over guest beds, be sure they are not in direct sunlight that could fade a quilt. If there is direct sunlight into that room, you can cover the stack of quilts with a clean, white sheet to protect them.
So that’s it for this week. I hope these tips get you started on your spring cleaning in your sewing space and cleaning & storing your quilts. Leave a comment or ask questions below and I will enter you into a drawing for my quilt pattern for Strips & Stars.
The drawing will be on Monday, May 1st. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Pat W.!**