Build a Custom Vintage Mail Sorter-Inspired Cubby Shelf for Fat Quarter and Craft Storage

2:48:00 PM

While in the process of putting my basement back together after a very long and drawn out basement renovation, my mom decided I most definitely needed more storage space for my fat quarters and miscellaneous crafting gear. My solution was a custom built 32” x 55” x 7” wall cubby shelf with 7”x7” cubby slots, perfect for fat quarter bundle storage:
easy cubby shelf fat quarter fabric storage ideas
Once I had measured up and sketched out my plan, it was off to the hardware store for a bit of lumber (and a positive attitude in tow never hurts).

super easy to build custom fat quarter fabric notions craft supplies scrapbooking storage ideas wall shelf || Sew at Home Mummy
Powder blue UFO power bar from Amazon  ||  Pink fox mouse from Logitech  || Task lamp from Stella || desk drawer unit from IKEA || Gold circle shelf from
The shelving unit turned out really well; I gained inspiration for it from products I found online and a tutorial I found for a shoe storage cubby shelf, of which was a hack itself, so in essence, I hacked a hack (of a hack)?

You can see in my photos that the backside of my cubby unit is open – if you wanted a closed back shelf, this would be easily rectified with a single sheet of 1/4” plywood cut-to-size. I liked that open look – for some reason being able to see the wall behind makes the wall shelf seem less over-bearing to me - how to store fat quarter fabric shelf craft storage aurifil and thread storage! perfect size || sew at home mummyThe largest factory wrapped fat quarter bundles from Moda fit really well (perfectly, in fact! I designed it that way…), and because there are 28 cubbies, there is plenty of room for miscellaneous craft storage and display (including some of my pretty Aurifil and the vintage crafting and sewing notions I’ve collected over the years)
custom fat quarter fabric craft wall storage cubby shelf || sew at home mummy
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Like I said above – my mom helped me to put my sewing room back together after our basement renovation. As she was re-folding all of the fabric we had hastily shoved into storage bins before the reno started, she kept mentioning how great it would be to have some sort of shelf that would fit and display all of the fabric.

I went to work researching and measuring, researching and measuring. I initially wanted to put shallow 12" kitchen cabinet uppers on the wall, but was worried that even with the shallow 12" depth it wouldn't be shallow enough - that they would protrude too much, especially in my 'head space' above the workspace area of my office desk. Plus – these cabinet uppers were going to cost a fortune and I didn’t want to spend the next year saving for them.

I started looking for storage alternatives and what I fell in love with was this rustic-looking mail sorter cubby from Target -
make your own fat quarter craft storage cubby shelf ideas || sew at home mummy
image from
numbered cubby wall shelf

...but I estimated that I'd need quite a few of these shelves to make a dent in the storage I needed. The numbers on the front are really cute though, right?

I also considered this shoe storage unit:
make your own fat quarter craft storage cubby shelf ideas || sew at home mummy
19.4" x 24.3" x 11.6"

but I was worried about how sturdily I would be able to attach it to the wall given that it is made of mdf, and that it is almost 12" deep so would protrude off the wall quite a bit. On the floor or up on short legs, this would be a great storage system. It'd even work well up on a desk... but for me in that space that 12” depth was the deal breaker.
I would need to make something on my own.

Inspired by this post at Remodaholic I drafted and sketched up my own, custom, made-to-fit fat quarter bundle sized wall-mounted cubby shelf. The shelf finishes in at 32" x 55", with each cubby being 7"x7" square, perfect for storing fat quarter bundles:
easy diy fabric stash organization - how to store your fabric, fat quarters, craft and scrapbooking supplies  || Sew at Home Mummy

✴ NOTE: ✴
Always DIY safely (wear safety glasses!) and at your own risk.

(24) x 7" pieces
(5) x 53.5" pieces
(2) x 32" pieces

with links to Amazon* for products I have and used for your reference:
🔨 Mitre Saw, 12" (if you don't have the hardware store cut for you - we rented one for about $22)
🔨 Hammer

with links to Amazon* for products I used for your reference:
🔨 Brad Nails, 2" (fit specific to your nailer)
🔨 Wood Filler and/or (paintable!) Caulk (I like both, see below)
🔨 Sand paper (I like this multipack)
🔨 Primer (I used this KILZ) and Paint (I used a high gloss interior enamel in bright white) OR
🔨 stain and sealer (I'd recommend Minwax brand)
🔨 painting supplies like foam rollers and brushes (tip: check the dollar store for these supplies!)

Assembly Instructions:

1. Start by marking your first long board - starting at one edge, measure 7" and draw a line. This is where your first 7" divider board piece will sit, and each board will have 7" between, like so:
how to make perfect sized fat quarter storage shelf  || Sew at Home Mummy

how to make your own fat quarter craft storage cubby shelf ideas || sew at home mummy
turn the bottom board on its side, apply a thin bead of wood glue on the 7" piece of divider board which will make contact with the bottom board and from the underside of the bottom board and aligning the edge of the 7" board with the mark you made, nail in place.

Continue nailing your first row of sides in place until all 6 first-row dividers are in place.

Sew at Home Mummy Tip:
make sure to wipe away any excess glue that seeps out from under your divider boards as you go - keep a paper towel or rag handy to wipe away the goop before it dries.

2. Apply a bead of glue to the tops of each of the divider boards you just nailed in place. Nail your next long board on, making sure to check that each side board is level before nailing through the top of the long board into the divider boards below. Ensure the long board edges are flush on either side before nailing.

3. Toenail (i.e. - shoot those nails in on about a 45 degree angle) your next row of side boards in place,

how to make your own fat quarter craft storage cubby shelf ideas || sew at home mummy

again placing them every 7". Make sure you keep checking that your boards are level and square with the ones below them (as much as possible - I had some warped boards so I did the best I could).

You can't really see my spirit level here very well (well, it's just a yellow blur) - so you'll have to use your imagination a bit - but check that each divider board is level as you go before you nail from the top down:

how to make your own fat quarter craft storage cubby shelf ideas || sew at home mummy
the yellow blur to the right of my right hand and under my left hand is my spirit level
that's my 'don't bug me, I'm concentrating' look...

4. Keep going! Lather rinse repeat - measure out your 7", mark, bead of glue, toenail, wipe excess glue away. Repeat all the way across, repeat the process with the long boards until you're done all four rows of cubbies.

5. Apply your sides using the same process - beads of glue along each point of contact, then nail in place.

6. For extra support, I added 2 screws at each divider contact point all the way around the perimeter of the cubby shelving unit, first drilling pilot holes with a pilot bit smaller than my wood screws, and then screwing the wood screws in just under flush or countersinking them slightly (so that I could fill the recess with wood filler and you wouldn't know there was ever a screw there)

fat quarter storage cubby

7) Using wood filler and caulk, fill all of the screws, knots, cracks, imperfections, and corner joints (caulk is best for these seams between the dividers and long boards; a thin coat of fill over dark knots will help paint and primer to cover the dark color better).

**If you’re planning on staining, fill imperfections and screws with a stainable wood filler, like this one, and make sure to color match your filler to the type of wood you’ve used. Don’t use caulk.**
fat quarter cubby shelf

fat quarter storage system
8) After letting your filler dry, sand to smooth, repeating the process as needed. Clean all surfaces of dust and debris with a dry cloth.

9) Apply primer and paint, or stain and sealer, according to manufacturers instructions.

Sew at Home Mummy Tip:
consider checking your local dollar store for paint supplies like foam rollers, brushes and trays.
for less finicky projects like this I use cheaper painting products that I can just throw out – easier than worrying about cleaning them when I’m done!

Hanging Instructions:

10) Apply French cleat wall hanging system according to enclosed instructions, making sure to first drill pilot holes in your self unit before screwing nails to ensure the wood doesn’t split.
make sure to pre-drill pilot holes slightly smaller than the screws you'll use before attaching the French cleat!
drill is Black and Decker's MATRIX
11) I ended up using several more screws to attach the cleat system to the wall and shelf than were included – total overkill, but I wanted to be sure there weren’t any issues with it *ever* coming down – and you’ll notice in the picture below that this French cleat system comes with a built in level system so that you can make sure that whatever you’re hanging is perfectly level:
gorgeous sewing room and fabric storage ideas - diy sewing machine table and how to build your own fabric shelf
12) You’ll notice because I have an open back on the shelf you can see the French cleat – easily hidden with a strategically placed fat quarter bundle!
gorgeous sewing room and fabric storage ideas - diy sewing machine table and how to build your own fabric shelf
I’d love to see pictures of your fat quarter storage in the comments – what do you use? and if you make this project, make sure to leave a comment with a picture or a link to a photo of yours, I’d love to see it.
gorgeous sewing room and fabric storage ideas - diy sewing machine table and how to build your own fabric shelf
UFO power bar from Amazon || desk drawer unit from IKEA || task lighting from Amazon || Gold circle shelf from Target
...and, a wider angle of some of my sewing space - and here's the tutorial on how I made two sewing machine tables, one of which in the picture below (for less than $80 each) - 
gorgeous sewing room and fabric storage ideas - diy sewing machine table and how to build your own fabric shelf
Gold circle shelf from  ||  Desk and drawer unit from Ikea  ||  Task lamp by Stella  ||  MC6500P Janome Sewing Machine || sewing table tutorial is {here}  || pink cutting mat from Amazon
Happy DIY'ing!

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  1. Thanks for the info on how you built your fabric cubbies. I am also trying to make cubbies for my fat quarters and also some larger cubbies to hold my batting and interfacings. You gave great instructions that will help me with my project too!

  2. This is amazing and so simple! We are going to use this to display our Pop! collection! book shelves were getting to expensive and hate that you can't see the stuff on the floor. Will probably mount this above our couch and then make a smaller one for above our entertainment center!

  3. Well done, well explained. very inspiring!!

  4. Awesome storage idea and this blog post is most excellent! Thank you for the exact directions!

  5. Do you know approximately how much it cost you for the supplies to make this project? Great tutorial, by the way. I'm definitely considering making one. Just wondering about the price. Thanks!

  6. Hi! Do you know approximately how much it cost you to buy the supplies for this project? It's a great tutorial and I think I'd like to build one (a larger one to store regular fabric) and I just want to know if it's something I can afford to do right now. Thanks so much!

  7. I so want to thank you for the this how to xoxo as my mom and grandma would say girl power!I have been sewing crocheting knitting drawing anyting to create some type of Art since I was 5 got my first sewing machine it was a little girls for Christmas and it was broke right out of the box and I was moved up to the big girl Machine by Sears and robot and along with sewing lessons I am a young Nana to three at 51 and can't wait to see the creative things that my granddaughter and grandson's come up with.
    Thanks Lisa


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