Monday, April 27, 2015

3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Stashing....

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, then you know that I jumped into quilting without a whole lot of forethought or knowledge. I'm that kind of person most of the time in life, so it's not terribly surprising, but there's a few stash-building things that I wish I could go back in time and tell New-Quilter-Me that I thought I'd share with you guys, in case some of you are new to quilting, or for those of you who are seasoned pros, it might give you a good laugh :)

1. Don't buy that fabric just because it's on sale.

Just because it's a good deal, doesn't mean it's a great fabric. Doesn't mean you need 8 yards of it, doesn't mean you should even buy a half-yard of it! Only buy what you love, even if it's not on sale. Fabric you love will get used. Fabric you bought on sale because it was a good deal will wind up still in your stash years later when you move and you'll be embarrassed/horrified/baffled you even own it.

2. Don't buy fabric just because it's the "cool" fabric at the moment.

The only tastemaker in your sewing room is you. Much like other areas of sewing, beauty is in the eye of the beholder with your stash. If it's a fabric you're passionate about and love, you will find the right project for it. If it's the "hot" fabric of the moment and you feel like you're supposed to buy it, chances are it's going to land in the destash or donate pile at some point in your sewing life.

3. Variety is the spice of life - and stashing!

Variety is important in a lot of different ways when it comes to stashing, but most especially it's important when it comes to value, themes, and in some ways scale. Value is the relative lightness or darkness of a fabric, and is often easiest to see in a photograph when the color is removed, and the photograph becomes simply black and white. It's important to have fabrics of different values, as it's one of the easiest ways to create contrast in your quilt blocks. Themes are important too. Unless you have an unhealthy addiction to polka dots and want to make all polka dot fabric quilts, you want to have a variety of themes or styles in your fabric stash. That might mean some stripes, some florals, some text fabrics, whatever - just a variety. As for scale, that's somewhat subjective. Take my stash, for example. I'd wager to guess at least 75% of my fabrics are small scale, meaning the print is quite small. Small scale prints are great for quilt blocks, because even in small quilt blocks, you don't "lose" the print. Often with larger scale fabrics, if you chop them up into pieces to make a block, you "lose" the print. So with scale, some variety is good, but it's nowhere near as necessary as with theme/style and value.

Bonus: Enjoy the rainbow...not just one color!

Make sure to share the love as you're stashing - don't just buy eleventy million blue fabrics. Because you will never sew through all of them. Never.

What do you wish you could go back in time to tell New-Quilter-You? Or what do you like to tell your friends who are new to quilting? Happy Monday everyone :)


  1. I'd add - your gut will tell you if you absolutely love a fabric so don't be afraid to buy however much you want. You will use what you love and even if it falls out of "oh my gosh cool fabric" territory, you will still love it.

  2. Thank you for sharing! These are definitely good tips!

  3. Oh my, What would I have done.... so many different things.
    I wish I had spent the 12 years after my oldest sister died, quilting a million quilts instead of ice dancing. I started Ice dancing to stop crying. I think quilting would have been pretty good therapy too.
    I have a lot of fabric. I have started measuring it and bagging it, labeling it and donating it.
    Someone very creative will find the right use for some of the fabrics I have acquired.
    I hung onto my sisters sewing things for 12 years as well. Her taste and sewing adventures were completely different than mine. So I finally measured and bagged up her lovely fabrics intended for garments: suits, skirts, jackets, and donated then.
    I have a lot of fabric that I love. I should start using it.
    Thank you Elizabeth for these great thoughts

  4. I couldn't agree more! Especially #1 and #2!

  5. My addition would be ... Don't buy fat quarters. Fat quarters are the devil, making you think, oh, that fabric will look great in a quilt. Then realization sets in: that fabric might be great but there's not enough of it for more than a block or maybe two. :-)

    1. Agreed! I broke up with fat quarters a few years ago for that very reason :)

    2. Yes! Yes! I agree... I think of fat quarters as the devils candy.. so pretty to look at and a pain when you start to try and "stretch the fabric"" into something usefull

  6. I agree with everything you say but the last part of one point in #1... I have never ever been embarrassed to find a piece of stash in my fabric . I have had pieces with no earthly idea of how or why I bought it. And I gotta tell you I have some real questionable pieces in amazing quantities. Part of this might be because I inherited my mamas and my Mother in Laws stash... Sometimes I can place the "honor" with them most times not.

  7. This is great advice! It has taken me several years to learn these for myself but honestly I still can get caught up in buying what is "hot" fabric of the moment. I've gotten better but sometimes I'm worried that by the time I decide I like the new fabrics (the ones that have to grow on me) they will be hard to find. I use (or hoard) the fabrics I instantly know I love though. For fabrics that I no longer love or wonder what I was thinking when I bought them it has become easier to give them to charity groups for them to use.

  8. what great advice!! And indeed half yards all the way for me now!

  9. I totally agree - great advice! I bought Flea Market Fancy because everyone was talking about how great it was. Luckily I was able to destash it! Now, I am thinking that I may have to break up with fat quarters. I will keep these tips in mind for any future purchases!

  10. Buy solids, too :-)
    Best regards,

  11. Great advice that I wish I had know when I got into quilting. And the big one for me is don't buy just because its on sale and a good deal. I am moving soon, so will be destashing all that sale fabric and just keeping the stuff I love. And I agree - fat quarters aren't a great choice. 1/2 yards for me!!!

  12. I read all your thoughts. I have found that I have fabric I would never use in the yardage amounts, but if you cut it small enough it looks different when sewn up into scrap quilts. So look at it different than just the print it shows. Step out of the box and you might find a perfect spot for it.

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  14. oooohhh, number one was my newbie downfall! I had the (mis)fortune of finding a great discount fabric outlet nearby that allowed me to start to build my collection. "oh, I coould do something with that. and that. and this one..." oy vey! fast forward a couple of years: my local creative reuse was happy to receive my boxes filled with donations while I tried to convince myself that I had absolutely no idea just how much all of that sale fabric cost.

  15. OMG Elizabeth, I very rarely comment on blogs, although I do enjoy reading blogs. However when I read yours tonight I could not NOT comment. You hit the nail on the head for any new quilters. Everything you say not to do I did - although I don't think I purchased 8 yards of anything, I was usually known as "I'll take 2 yards". LOL When asked what are you going to make, my usual response was, I don't know, but I'll make something. When I look at the material (amount) that I have I cringe (I'm known as "Mel Mart" among my friends). You are sooo right when you buy material on sale just for the sake of the sale and not a project, it just sits there. I have so much material that I purchased as a beginner quilter that is still sitting in my stash - that I probably could even tell you when and where I purchased it. And probably how much I paid for it. But I still don't use it. I guess it's time to start purging (yet again). Maybe the best question for a seasoned quilter to purge their stash would be: would I buy that today? If the answer is yes, keep it. If not then it's time to pass on. Thank you on your great article - definitely hit home!! Thanks also for a great blog!! Sincerely, Carmela

  16. I too have done the same and now have an apartment full of stash. i was addicted to fat quarters, being a fabricaholic and not living near fabric stores, I bought fabrics on my travels around the world. now with way to much, I have started to "KIT" out my fabrics to make really quick and easy quilts with lots of fat quarters. I have been giving these KITS to my friends and asking them to make the quilt tops for me, these I then quilts (on my longarm) and donate these quilts to various projects. I have so far made 100's of these quilts, but still have not made much of a dent. it is now time to re kit my friends again. What I do buy lots of is bolts of background fabrics, the sale fabrics go on the back of most of these quilts.

  17. I discovered the joys of sewing a couple of years ago. There are a couple of things that I wish I'd known then:
    Patterns are wonderful, but solid colours are essential.
    I went a bit fabric-happy when I started and spent far too much money. Most of that fabric still hasn't been used. On the plus side, friends who enjoy sewing have benefited from my fabric-happy phase.
    Don't run before you can walk. Mastering the basics is helpful!! I bought all manner of lovely books and spent many an hour perusing the beautiful quilts on blogs but I didn't really have the skill-level needed. I think I would have benefited from a few courses.
    An element of planning is helpful when making a quilt (this is probably obvious to most people!!). This would avoid the unnecessary purchase of fabric that you then don't use.
    If a piece of fabric calls to you, then you should probably buy it!! In my nearest haberdashery, you can purchase 1/3 of a metre (not sure about the equivalent in yards!), which I find quite useful.

  18. I would add not to buy cutesy kids' prints - that was my downfall when I started quilting. Those were really hard to use up.

  19. I believe I still have some of that 'on sale' fabric lurking in my stash! Back then, I just couldn't help it! As for buying the latest and greatest craze, I never got on that train! Until lately when I wanted to have something current, hot and not solids!

    Variety is the spice of life! Just don't get too spicy!

  20. As a new quilter, I would like to say thank you. I recently bought a quilt BOM kit from a photo and loved the look of it. However, Once I started getting the monthly installments I was so disappointed. Why? I hated the fabric. It was a very challenging quilt for a beginner made more difficult because of the fabric. I'm so proud of that quilt flimsy but I know I'm going to give that ugly fabric quilt away.
    I'm also catching on to the fat quarter business. Haven't been able to stop yet though.

  21. #1 for me all day. When I really started quilting I worked part time at a quilt shop. Most of that fabric has been purged. I can now safely go to the LQS BIG SALES and not buy anything. Success. I'm trying to limit my purchases to what I see myself using in the next year or so.

  22. I agree!!! I don't buy precuts least I don't try to anymore...because there are so many in the pile i don't like!!!


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Welcome! I'm Elizabeth, mom to a mood teen boy and a chatty six-year-old girl and I sew for my sanity. Let's get to quilting, shall we?
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