Quilt books

June 27, 2010

Last week, after reading my photography post, Claire sent me an email in which she brought up the topic of organizing our quilt book collections. This made me painfully aware that I don’t have all the answers (ha!ha!). My library system up until now is to put each book on the shelf wherever it will fit and then hunt through every title when looking for something I want. Now I have until my Thursday post to get my act together. I’m going to analyze my collection and see what miracle ideas I come up with.

I’m sure some of you have answers to this dilemma. If so, please share them with us by clicking on “comments” at the bottom of this post. I’d really love your insight and I’m sure others would too. Just to get things started, here’s a “before” picture of my bookshelf. Not too terribly messy and yet without organization!


  1. I have mine in alpha order according to last name of author.

  2. I group my quilt books in categories – paper piecing, blocks, reference, machine quilting, special techniques, small quilts, etc. It’s especially challenging for me because many of my quilting books have had the binding cut off and replaced with a spiral binding. Although it is no longer possible to identify the books by their spines, I can now lay the book flat or even fold it back to a single page. Any books where I want to be able to lay it open beside me or copy templates are much easier to use now.

    • I’ve often thought about having some of my books spiral bound, but this is a downside of that I hadn’t thought of. Hmmmmmmm.

  3. I used to tear out the quilts that I thought I would like to make, put them in sheet protectors, and file them in notebooks by category. I now have a shelf full of heavy notebooks. I am able to find patterns quickly, but I’m drowning in paper!
    This spring in anticipation of being in an RV for five months, I began to scan in the patterns I wanted to make this summer. I put them in the same categories as my notebooks, but I have the advantage of being able to scan for them.
    I plan to convert my many notebooks to my computer, leaving much more room for my stash!

    • Fascinating! Tearing out of books is a bit bothersome to me, but the scanning idea is great. I’ve used the “tearing out” technique for magazines, but that’s a whole new topic :-).

  4. I like the computer idea. Why not put the list on your computer as in a library and they arrange them in the order you want on the shelves. You computer list can mirror the computer. Your very own index system.

  5. My books are loosely organized by the type of information they contain. I’m familiar enough with them that I can usually find what I want pretty easily. My quilt book collection started about 25 years ago and the one suggestion I have that I’m glad I tried is to WEED out those books that I never use. I donated them to the local AAUW used book sale and I hope they have found great new homes!

    • Donating those which no longer interest us is a great idea. Guild libraries are often glad to accept donations.

  6. My system is much like Sandi’s; I group my books by category. I love my books!
    There is a site where you can create your own library or list of books, called librarything. I don’t recall the particulars of the site, but I may revisit with my quilt book collection in mind.

    I had many, many magazines, nearly all from tag sales since I don’t subscribe much. I finally ripped out the interesting patterns, articles and pictures. They are grouped by category, in sleeve protectors, such as patchwork, applique, history, techniques,etc., all in binders. Takes up a shelf in my sewing room bookcase but well worth the time, because I can easily browse each category.

  7. I have about 75-100 books. Many were gift from my Amazon wish list. I bought myself about 25 this year at http://www.Half.com. You can get new and used books for 25%-50% of retail. I was even able to buy ones that were out-of stock at Amazon.
    As for organization: By subject and alpha-Applique first. If I use the book for reference I put a post it note-hot pink sticking up out of the top of the book in the first few pgs. At the end of the yr I can scan and see which ones I have not used for some time-many years. Those I don’t use any more I sell on Half.com.
    I also have a small bin on the end for the “hot” books I am always looking at: machine/hand quilting patterns, color references etc. I am also in the process of reviewing and sorting my Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine and Quiltmaker going back to 1993. My goal is to pay the teenage boys to help me sort them. They are in hanging file folders, but not in order. QNM has an index, and I am going through 3 issues a day before bed, randomly grabbing old mags to see if there is a pattern or quilt design that intrigues me. If there is I scan the first pg of the pattern, thus adding it to a “maybe make” folder. I am trying to do the same for any machine or hand quilting designs I come across in the mags. I also keep is a binder of shortcuts and tricks for when I need them and the walls of my basement workroom are covered with quilt post cards that are framed and bigger old calendar quilt photos pinned in the paneling for inspiration when I want to quit early. Also, a TV with DVR and DVD are essential. I also listen to books on CD while I work to keep up with my reading. When I have nothing from the library left to listen to, my Jane Austen CD’s are always there, like an old friend.

  8. I organize mine first by publisher and then alphabetical by author. I used to work at Quilting Books Unlimited so my knowledge of which book came from which publisher has stayed with me. I rarely remember a title but I will remember who the author is. I realize this system wouldn’t work for most people.

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