I've recently organized a large part of my fabric stash because I couldn't remember what fabric was pre-washed and what fabric wasn't. I've probably pre-washed some fabrics more than once and that's when I decided I needed a way to track some information, so I created a swatch library!
It took me a weekend of pre-washing all the unwashed fabrics + the ones I was unsure about and created a template to keep everything organized. I thought I'd share a bit about the process and notes on how and why you should create a swatch library. But let's start at the very beginning...
What is a swatch of fabric?
It's a small piece of fabric. That you get from:
- Fabrics you already have in your stash.
- (Online) fabric shops.
Why do you need fabric swatches?
If you haven't started a project yet, it's a great way to check if the fabric is a match for your project before you commit to buying several meters of the fabric. Especially if you are shopping online!
You never know how the fabric feels, what the color actually looks like, how the fabric drapes, washes or handles until you get your hands on it. For some projects, it's OK to take a gamble, but when you are working with expensive fabrics, that's not a risk I'm willing to take.
If you already own a piece of fabric, or you've already used it up for a project, it's still smart to save a swatch of your fabric. You can use it as a reference for future projects or when you're looking for similar qualities online.
How do you obtain fabric swatches from (online)stores?
You can ask for fabric swatches in a fabric store and you can buy them from most online stores. You often have to pay a small fee and/or pay for shipping.
In my local fabric shop, I would be able to pick up a small strip of fabric for free and in other shops they made me buy 10 cm / 4 inches of the fabric. So just ask about your shop's policy on fabric swatches and visit at a quit time, not at peak shopping hours.
But once you have all these fabric swatches, how do you store and organize them? In a fabric swatch library or a fabric swatch book!
These pretty swatches all came from different (wholesale)suppliers, the swatches were simply stapled to a sheet of card stock.
What is a fabric swatch library or a fabric swatch book?
A swatch library or a fabric swatch book is where you catalogue your fabric swatches and write down the details of a certain fabric for future reference.
Why create a swatch book?
- Easily see what you already have without rummaging through your neatly folded fabric stash.
- Keep it near when you are shopping for fabrics online.
- You can use it to log how many meters/yards you have left of a certain fabric.
- Log if you've pre-washed fabric.
- If you have multiple locations/boxes/drawers where you store fabric, you can track where it's stored.
How do you make a fabric swatch book?
It can be very basic. Use double-sided tape, pins, paperclips or staples to attach the swatches to a piece of paper and write down the specifics next to the fabric. Or you can make a nice page layout and work on that for hours whilst procrastinating and putting off ironing the pre-washed fabric, like me! ;)
To download the template I made, subscribe to the newsletter. You'll receive the template in your welcome email.
You can use staples, double sided tape, pins or paperclip to attach the swatches to a piece of paper.
A handy tip to help against fraying and curling edges, add a strip of tape before you cut out your swatch.This is particularly helpful if you are working with knits.
Once you've attached the swatches to a piece of paper, you can store them in a binder. You can either punch holes directly into the paper or you can use clear plastic sleeves to hold the pages and store everything in a binder.
I prefer to use clear plastic sleeves. I can flip through the pages easily without ripping the paper and I have tons of them lying around from when I used them in college, so it's nice to re-purpose them.
Another option would be to use an accordion file folder / expanding file organizer to hold the paper with swatches.
Some shops will send you little swatch books with all your swatches combined and stapled to some cardboard. I tend to keep them that way and just stick the little booklet into a plastic sleeve or the accordion file folder.
What information can you include in your fabric swatch library:
The possibilities are off course endless, but it highly depends on your needs. here are a few ideas to inspire your own system.
- Type of fabric (batiste, poplin, denim, gingham, tweed, jacquard, boucle, voile, double gauze, taffeta, etc.)
- Name of the design ( prints often have a name )
- Name of the designer ( prints can have the name of the designer in the description )
- Where you bought it.
- Fabric content ( 100% cotton, 97% cotton + 3% elastane, 100% linen, 100% tencel, etc. )
- Care instructions.
- Where you've stored it.
- If you've pre-washed it.
- How much you have or have left.
- The price.
- The weight of the fabric.
How do you organize your fabric swatches?
I just randomly stick my swatches in my library, but you can do whatever works for you. You could group them by:
- fiber content
- type (stretch, non-stretch, knits, etc. )
What size is a swatch of fabric
It depends on the shop. Most fabrics watches I've bought online were around 5 x 5 cm / 2" x 2", But when I bought wholesale would often receive larger fabric swatches up to a4 / letter size. However, if I'm cutting into a new piece of fabric I mostly cut off a small sliver of fabric to avoid cutting into the fabric too much.
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