How to Organize Fabric Swatches with Magnets
UPDATE: find the updated version of this post at How to Make Fabric Swatch Magnets. It has the new supply list plus a video!
I love how this fabric swatch magnet board is both a helpful tool and a piece of art on its own. It looks so good in my sewing room!
Fabric swatches are so helpful when choosing fabrics for your sewing projects. Just like paint chips help you select paint colors, fabric swatch cards help you select just the right color for whatever you're sewing.
Many fabric manufacturers sell color cards that have swatches of all the fabrics in a collection - such a great resource when making color palettes for your projects. But the problem is that the swatches are often affixed in a set layout, not allowing you to mix and match individual fabrics to your liking. If you're like me, you want to look at fabric colors independently and arrange them to create unique color combinations.
The answer? Cut them up, just like paint chips! I'll show you how to cut out fabric swatch card sections, stick magnetic sheets on the back, cut out the individual swatch magnets, and slap them up on a dry erase board. Whiteboards are magnetic! Who knew?!
In this tutorial, I’m sharing two methods: using a fabric swatch card that IS cut-out-friendly, and using one that's not. Kona Cotton color cards (by Robert Kaufman) are cut-out-friendly, since the fabric swatches and text are all separated and glued in place so that you can easily cut them apart to make individual fabric swatch cards. Most all of the other manufacturer swatch cards are NOT cut-out-friendly, meaning the fabric swatches overlap each other and the text doesn't line up. No matter which type you have, you can hack your color card - I'll show you how.
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
UPDATE: I've put together a kit of supplies needed for this tutorial. Just go to https://kit.co/angelabowman/how-to-organize-fabric-swatches-with-magnets.
NOTE: some of the links are affiliate links, which means that if you buy, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Please know that I have experience with these products, and I recommend them because they are helpful, not because of the small commission I'd make if you decide to purchase. Thanks!
IF USING A FABRIC SWATCH CARD THAT HAS A CUT-OUT-FRIENDLY LAYOUT (KONA COTTON COLOR CARD)
- Fabric swatches. I'm using the Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton color card with 303 fabric swatches.
- Magnetic sheets. Adhesive-backed 8x10” sheets work great.
- Scissors. Use mixed media shears for cutting through card stock and magnetic sheets.
- Color wheel. Optional, but fun and helpful.
- Magnetic dry erase board. I used a 35" x 23" whiteboard and this smaller 23" x 17" whiteboard would work well for fewer swatches. Make sure it is magnetic - some are, and some aren't. Also, make sure it's big enough to fit all your fabric swatches.
- Installation supplies. Use an artist easel as a nice display support, or use hanging hardware & tools to put the dry erase board up on the wall.
IF USING A SWATCH CARD THAT IS NOT CUT-OUT-FRIENDLY (OR IF USING YOUR OWN LOOSE FABRIC SWATCHES)
- Same items as above, plus the items below. Make sure the fabric swatches are at least 1” or 2” square (your choice). I prefer to use 1” for fabrics that read as solid colors and 2” for prints.
- Card stock. Inexpensive white 8.5x11” sheets will do just fine.
- Printable swatch card template, available for 1” and 2” fabric swatch squares. Choose between two PDFs:
PDFs that you hand write the fabric details:
PDFs that are pre-populated with the fabric details:
- American Made Brand Cotton Solids - 50 swatches
- WHAT OTHER COLOR CARDS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HERE? If you're a fabric manufacturer/retailer, send me a color card (for me to keep) and I'll add it!
- Rotary cutter and mat. I like to use the back side of the mat since the pale grey is easy on my eyes.
- Small clear quilting ruler. This 1"x12" ruler works great for 1" swatches, or this 6.5" ruler would be good for either the 1" or 2" swatches, plus many other quilting projects.
- Fine-tip black marker. You don't need this if you use the pre-populated printable swatch card PDF template!
- Elmer's washable school glue. The liquid kind.
- Foam brush. 1” wide. The uber-cheap kind.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR A FABRIC SWATCH CARD THAT IS CUT-OUT-FRIENDLY (LIKE KONA COTTON)
1. Cut out large sections of cards. Cut out the name of the fabric collection, too.
2. Cut out matching-sized adhesive magnetic sheets. To do this: with a pencil, trace the edges of the large card sections onto the paper side of the magnet. Then cut them out. Or, if you cut them a tiny bit smaller, they'll be easier to align in the next step.
3. Peel away the adhesive paper from the magnets and press the card sections onto the exposed sticky surface. Align them as best as you can.
4. Cut out the individual swatch cards. Just cut on the lines. You now have a bunch of little fabric magnets!
5. Arrange onto the magnetic dry erase board. Use whatever layout you want!
6. Apply a magnet strip to back of a color wheel and place it on the whiteboard. Use it as a guide to create color palettes! I pressed the adhesive magnet to the back except for the middle portion, so the wheel can still spin around.
7. Install your fabric swatch organizer (formerly just a plain ol' whiteboard). Put it on the wall, on an artist easel, or just keep it mobile to move around as you want. Enjoy! This whiteboard measures 35" x 23” and is holding 303 1” fabric swatches, with lots of extra room for creating palettes.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR A FABRIC SWATCH CARD THAT IS NOT CUT-OUT-FRIENDLY (OR IF USING YOUR OWN LOOSE FABRIC SWATCHES)
1. Print the swatch card template PDF onto white card stock. Print at 100% (no scaling).
2. Cut out 1” squares of each of the fabrics. Or 2” squares if you're using that size of template. A quilting ruler and rotary cutter make it easy. Make sure to keep the fabric squares in order, so you can label them correctly later on.
3. Apply Elmer's washable school glue along the top 1” of the card rows. Smooth the glue with the foam brush. If using 2” squares, glue along the top 2”. Or, only apply a glue line to just the very top area if you want to keep the swatch loose to be able to feel the fabric between your fingers.
4. Press the fabric squares onto the glued area. After pressing with my fingers, I use a spare sheet of card stock to temporarily place on top and smooth out the entire sheet with my hands - like a pressing cloth.
5. Hand write a fabric details caption under the swatch. Use a fine-point black marker and very small print. TIP: You don't have to do this step if you get the pre-populated PDF, linked above.
6. Repeat for each of the fabric swatches. To keep everything in order, I do one row at a time.
7. Cut away and discard the empty outer margins. If using a manufacturer's swatch card, cut out and keep the name of the fabric collection.
8. Cut out matching-sized adhesive magnetic sheets. I've sized the swatch card template PDF to be close to 8x10” (a common size for magnetic sheets), so trimming will be minimal or not needed at all. With a pencil, trace the edges of the large card sections onto the paper side of the magnet. Then cut them out. Or, if you cut them a tiny bit smaller, they'll be easier to align in the next step.
9. Peel away the adhesive paper from the magnets and press the card sections onto the exposed sticky surface. Align them as best as you can.
10. Cut out the individual swatch cards. Just cut on the lines. You now have a bunch of little fabric magnets!
11. Arrange onto the magnetic dry erase board. Use whatever layout you want!
12. Apply a magnet strip to back of a color wheel and place it on the whiteboard. Use it as a guide to create color palettes! I pressed the adhesive magnet to the back except for the middle portion, so the wheel can still spin around.
13. Install your fabric swatch organizer (formerly just a plain ol' whiteboard). Put it on the wall, on an artist easel, or just keep it mobile to move around as you want. Enjoy! This whiteboard measures 20" x 16” and is holding 50 1” fabric swatches, with lots of extra room for creating palettes.
Make one of these for each color card and have fun making color palettes!
Consider making a single large 2” swatch card for each fabric collection, and only glue the top of the fabric square in place (about 1/4”) so you can feel the fabric and compare to other brands.
The 2” swatches work well for prints. I like making these for basic fabrics that won't go out-of-print (OOP) anytime soon. These larger swatches show more of the fabric motif and help me visualize combos with other lines of fabric.
Go ahead, hack your color cards and make them into useful magnets!