Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tip: Digital Stash "Management"

I've left my knitting days behind me (mainly) thanks to carpal tunnel, but one thing I really miss about knitting is Ravelry's yarn stash management function. For example, here's my neglected yarn stash, with photos and details of remaining yardage, weight, color, fiber, etc. Every time I acquired a new yarn, I'd photograph it:

I've been spending much more time on PatternReview these days, of course. Now, PR does have a fabulous pattern catalog function that lets you directly link to all the reviews of the patterns in your stash and see how other sewists have made out with those patterns (similar to Ravelry's "projects" feature). Here's a peek at mine:

But how to manage the fabric stash?

Well, I'm a digital girl, with a digital camera, and I like being able to use fabric images for my digital sketches. I have only a few small cramped drawers in which to hold my modest apartment-dweller-sized stash (which is why half my fabrics are in my "sock" drawer), and it's hard for me to see or remember what I have or dig it out.

So before I started sewing again, I took an evening to photograph, measure and catalog EVERYTHING in the stash using Flickr, and as I acquire new fabrics (or use up existing ones) I've been updating my digital fabric catalog fastidiously. I note yardage, fabric type and content, where I purchased it and for how much (if I remember), any descriptive or fabric care details I have available, and if I get a sudden idea, what I might use it for. Here's a sample individual page from the stash:

For now I've split it into four categories, but I'm thinking of giving the quilting cottons a separate area away from the apparel fabrics:

I've mainly shoved the blacks, whites and grays in the "cool" category, and when a fabric has both warm and cool colors I've sometimes put it in both places.

I find all this organization bizarrely satisfying, but then again, I'm the same girl who once decided to make Library of Congress catalog labels for all my books (though I had to give up, since I have well over 1,000 books). And I find watching slideshows of my stash very inspirational (and guilt-inducing)! So while I'd like to call this digital stash management, I fear it may be more like digital stash self-enable-ment.

Oh, and although I love the PR catalog feature, I do also catalog my patterns in Flickr, mainly so I can also see the back views and flats. Some of the categories I've broken them into:

How do you "manage" YOUR stash?


  1. I certainly "manage" my stash too, though not so much digitally. I have a 2 draw filing cabinet full of patterns all organized by garment type then by whether I will make the patter or not inside each section. My fabric is organized too, but much more fact now that I think about I should start reorganizing it. This is really cool to see how other people are organization crazy like me and how you've found such great tools to do it!

  2. I've been trying to put together a database for patterns and for stash, but I'm not quite clear on how to use Microsoft Access. I want to be able to search by colour, by fabric type, by metreage and by season. Likewise with patterns, I would like to be able to sort by style, manufacturer, fabric type, season etc. I thought I could add a photo of the fabric or a scan of the pattern envelope and it would be all there in one place. I just need a quiet weekend to sit down and figure it out. Until I get this sorted out, my patterns are in drawers and my fabric in plastic tubs. I know vaguely where certain things are, but it's always a hassle when I have to go searching.

  3. Carol, that was my first thought as well--a digital database or spreadsheet would great, because then it could be sorted (Ravelry actually has that as an option for yarns--you can view as a spreadsheet and sort by color or weight or yardage, etc).

    But I realized my priority was being able to access it from anywhere that had an internet connection. I do use free online Google Spreadsheets for some organizational sewing stuff, but when I tested it out for fabric stashing purposes, the images I inserted were free-floating and wouldn't sort along with the other data.

    I wonder if there are some free online databases that might do the trick, though...

  4. P.S. A quick online search turned up a free online database tool called Grubba. It seems to have image upload capabilities. Maybe I'll try it out at some point, though my stash is still small enough that I think the Flickr solution is probably anal-retentive enough for me at this point!

  5. Well, not half as well as you. I'm a new sewist so I haven't had that long to "collect" though I have, likely, 20 patterns, a whole section of lingerie fabrics and notions and various wovens and knits.

    For starters, I try not to buy fabric too far in advance of sewing the pattern in mind. That's not always successful :-) I also keep a table showing garment by fabric purchased to make it by the amount of the fabric I own. If there is fabric left over (at least a .75 yard) I indicate that it's an end, which may work for something else (I indicate what, if I know).

    I have another chart indicating what patterns I want to make for the next 6 mos and I cross them out as the item is completed.

  6. Tell me about it! I would kill for Ravelry's stash functions! I have a spreadsheet linked to photos on my harddrive, and that works ok, but I'm thinking of trying your flickr idea - it gets old not being able to access it from any other computer!

  7. K. Line - May you always have a plan in mind and not buy fabric too far in advance! Some of us, perhaps not having the time to sew, buy too much -fabric, books, notions, thinking we'll be prepared when "it's time," and spend way too much time trying to keep it organized.

    For years sometimes.

    Keep it up, thanks for a reminder of what I used to do!

  8. I'm not particularly well-organized, but I do maintain a small archive of new fabric pics as a reminder of what I have. I also update it with what I've subsequently made with the fabric (if anything). Gives me a sense of accomplishment.


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