Don’t Build a Fabric Stash

When I first got into quilting, going to the fabric store made me giddy. The patterns. The colors. They were all so tempting. I would dig through the remnants bins every week and stock up during sales. I knew this yardage would be perfect for some quilt that I would make…sometime in the future. Anyways, I needed to build up my fabric stash! All the other quilters I knew had fancy sewing rooms with walls of fabrics. So, I needed that too, right?


I’m ashamed to admit, but after almost 10 years of quilting, all those yards I had bought to ‘build my fabric stash’ have remained in my fabric stash. Now I’m here to warn all ye quilters to not be temped by the idea of this glorious home fabric shop. At least, not in the way you’d think. Let me explain.


Why you shouldn’t purposefully build your fabric stash

First and foremost, picking out fabrics is one of the best parts of quilting. Fabric brings the pattern to life. It’s your special touch that makes a quilt yours. Chances are you’re going to find a better fabric for the project at the store than in your fabric stash. At least that’s what has happened to me. That green is a little too dark to match with that blue. This pattern looks too busy with that pattern–you catch my drift. Also, you don’t know your style when you start quilting. Do you only like to make double square triangle quits? Do you like English paper piecing? When I first started, I had no idea that I would like to focus on quilts with detailed piecing and like to use plain and simple fabrics. Now, I’ve got a box full of patterned pieces I try to fit in where I can or use on other projects (2020 masks? Anyone else?).


The other problem with building up a stash is that you don’t know how much fabric you need before you buy it. If you stock up on a yard or two of the most perfect fabrics, you won’t be able to use them if the pattern calls for even just an eighth of a yard more. And before you try to run back to the store, most fabrics (with the exception of some Joann fabrics) don’t stay in stores forever. Fabric, much like clothes, change seasonally. You don’t want to be that person searching all over the internet for the yardage from 10 years ago.


So, how do these spectacular fabric stashes build?


Acquire fabric organically

Don’t worry, you’ll still end up with a drool-worthy fabric stash. You just don’t need to buy anything you don’t immediately need. It’ll build organically over time. Here’s what you do:


  • Quilt left overs: You’re not going to use every inch of fabric you buy for your quilt, even if you buy exactly the amount the pattern says. I save all the pieces I think are big enough to use again. I fold the larger yardage and put the scrappy bits  in a plastic baggie. Maybe you’ll just need a tiny bit for an accent color on another quilt. Or, once you save up enough, you can make an epic scrappy quilt. I have used my scraps to throw together a last minute baby quilt for a co-worker using a log cabin pattern.
    Scrappy Log Cabin Baby Quilt
    Scrappy baby quilt I gave to my co-worker
  • The special ones: You find the one, and you know you’ll never be able to find it again. Maybe you’ll never use it because it’s too perfect to cut, but just looking at it brings you joy. The $12/yard price tag make you nauseous, but you’ll only get a yard… or two. When you love a fabric that much you’ll chose a pattern for the fabric. I’m still thinking of a quilt for my heart: Tula Pink’s Cotton Candy Fairy Dust.
  • Hand-me-downs: A lot of people buy all of the stuff to start sewing, but never actually get started or quickly give up. I’ve gotten amazing silks and the cutest patterned fabric from neighbors. I’ve made dresses, bow ties, and quilts from them. The only down side to this is you have to tell other people you sew. Once that gets out, everyone ask you make and fix all sorts of things for them.

I know, I know. Building a fabric stash overtime is not quite as fun as going shopping for copious amounts of fabric, but the reward will be with it. Soon, you’ll have your own stash filled with fabrics you use and love. That sure makes me want to quilt more.

Sew on!

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