A Stash Is More Than Fabric: Photos

I recently wrote about my current fabric stash. In truth, every quilter’s stash includes more than fabric. We have equipment and gadgets and notions. We have patterns and books and thread. There are rolls or packages or garbage bags of batting — sometimes all three! We store, on every possible surface, UFOs (unfinished objects) and WIPs (works in process), and projects we can’t even categorize. And we have photos. Oh, my, the photos!

If you’ve seen my studio pix, you know I like my space pretty neat. I put things back when I’m done with them; I vacuum and wipe surfaces between projects. My biggest mess has been with my quilt photos. Oh, sure, that mess didn’t take up countertops or my cutting table. It didn’t spill out of drawers or off shelves. But it did include hundreds of photos taken over 13 years, which lived on two computers, three flash drives, and at least three internet-y “cloud” spaces. They were in folders of a wide range of names, nested one in another until I had no idea what I had. There were duplicates of duplicates, same photos in different sizes, and same photos but cropped and adjusted or not. But now duplicates have been deleted, best sizes and adjustments chosen, and filing names consistently applied. The quilts I’ve made are filed by year, except the donation quilts. Those are in a folder called “Donation quilts.” It’s still a work in process, and it’s not necessarily a perfect system, but it certainly is better than before.

As I sorted, I found pictures of quilts I’d forgotten. For instance, here is the top of one made as a donation through my guild, probably about ten years ago. I’d seen accounts of quilts just made from 2.5″ strips. They likely were jelly roll “race” quilts. I didn’t want to make that style with the width-of-fabric strips. Instead I joined short segments of purples and created 12″ finish blocks. I like the way the segments join into each other in unexpected places, blurring the edges of the blocks. This idea is worth trying again.


(And remember the cool thing is I can FIND this photo again if I want to!)

Here’s one from 2011. My friend Lisa and I were band parents together, and volunteering together was always more fun. We tease each other about the messes we used to get into together: I call her “Lucy” and she calls me “Ethel.” When I found some fabric with Lucy’s famous chocolate drops, I had to use it for Lucy/Lisa’s quilt.



And in 2013, I made the first special quilt I intended to keep, rather than give away. I call it “My Medallion.”


While I still have a few more items to sort, and I need to create a good back-up, I can find what I want, when I want it. I LOVE having this photo mess cleaned up. And that itself is good incentive to never let the mess accumulate again.

How do you sort and store your quilt photos? Let us know in comments.

22 thoughts on “A Stash Is More Than Fabric: Photos

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Well, the biggest help was having time with no online access. While we were on our Scottish barge trip we had no wifi, and I spent maybe 5-6 hours during the week sorting photos already on this laptop. I sorted them into folders by year, beginning with 2010 and before, and then individually numbered years after that. Each photo got named, or put into another named folder (like Beth’s graduation quilt folder had a number of pix, including her opening the present.) With them all sorted alphabetically, and knowing what the name of the quilt (or the owner) is, I can find each of the pix. I also tried to save only the best version of each picture, or the one with the most info (biggest by pixels.) And the others got deleted. Only after this computer was cleaned up did I start working on the other one, and the flash drives. But by then, many of them were already duplicates, so I could just check one against the other and delete the lesser. Again, having time offline really made the difference!

  1. Lisa in Port Hope

    I try to keep my project photos in a folder which is labeled “2016 *project name*”. Then everything links to my network back up drive, and a lot of the photos I use for blogging are also in flickr, which gives me another backup location. The tough thing is the sheer quantity, I have over 13,000 digital photos, and I’m trying to be more ruthless about deleting the bad ones.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of photos! Oh, Lisa… 🙂 Sounds like you have a good system, though. One of the things I appreciated with my sort was deleting some bad photos. It isn’t always easy.

  2. KerryCan

    ALL of my photos, since the beginning of digital photography, are in the mess you describe. I hyper-ventilate and get all clammy who I think about the mess and what to do about it . . . I am very impressed that you’ve gotten a handle on your pix.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It is a daunting project to consider, for sure. I’m fortunate that Jim takes most of our pix, and he’s got a pretty good handle on the organization, so I don’t need to. 🙂 If you want to take control, start with one closet — er, subject — like your antique linens. Since many of those are linked to your etsy shop, it would be valuable in a monetary sense to have that done.

  3. cjh

    Very inspiring. A project to put on the “top” of my long list to be started in 2017. One way of keeping my photos that I really enjoyed, and should do again is compile a mini-album through Walgreens photos (or any photo printing service). It is fun to look at a real book of my own quilts every now and then. Of course that was about 4 years ago, so I do need to catch up a lot.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It didn’t take as long (in hours) as I thought it would. I did most of it while we were on the barge without internet access for a week. I worked on it during a couple of evenings after dinner and did the biggest part. Also some time here after we got home. And now there is a cupboard full of non-quilt photos, real printed ones…

  4. snarkyquilter

    Photos of my quilts are on my hard drive and backed up to a flash drive. I have two folders for completed quilts – finished quilts and gifted quilts – arranged by quilt name. In some cases the name is “so and so’s quilt.” Then, I have folders for individual quilts I’ve spent a lot of time on to show my processes. These are labeled by the quilt’s name. I’ve started using the cloud for other photos, but I don’t trust it as photos have come and gone, and then come back, in my Google Photo account.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I agree that trusting cloud backup is hard. If you keep a safe deposit box anyway, (I’m saying to me, as much as you,) it might be a good idea to keep one more flash drive there. Even though it would always be out of date, it would be better than losing all the photos in a home disaster. And of course you could drop in a new version now and then.

  5. katechiconi

    All in one place except for a few on the hard drive of an old laptop that I dropped and broke so badly I can’t start it. One day, I’ll take it in to a repair shop and see if they can copy the images off the hard drive for me. The images on the hard drive are actually in the gallery of my blog too. The rest are safely stored on a 3Tb external drive which is only hooked up to back up, and is therefore safe from storm surge damage or catastrophic failure of my laptop. I think there’s only one quilt I’ve ever made that I have no visual record of at all, from way back when before I realised the importance of keeping a record. Strangely, I still have the bundle of scraps left over from making it, and a few of them recently appeared in the Grey Nomad quilt!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Sounds like you are all set. There are a few of mine I don’t have pix for, and those are mostly donation quilts I worked on. It’s okay. I don’t have an emotional attachment to all of them. 🙂


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