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Stash versus buying in time

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    Stash versus buying in time

    While Cheryl has been quilting for a number of years, I came to the party a bit late. Sure, I supported her in doing it, but it wasn't until we got EQ8 that I became more of an active participant. I'm the type of person who has to follow something in a logical pattern before I can fully commit to it. In other words, it has to make sense to me. Cheryl stores her fabric stash in a closet in her sewing room. We recently went through it with the intent of seeing exactly what she had (shopping her stash, so to speak). Let me say that Mom never had a fabric stash. When she started on a project, she went to the local Ben Franklin or the dry goods store attached to the local grocery store and bought what she needed. I think I probably could count on one hand the number of times she went into a local quilt shop (which our community didn't have). So when we went through her closet, I kept asking "what do you plan to use this for?" Most of the time she didn't have anything in mind.

    Much of the fabric was the cheaper kind. Some of it had been given to her when a member of her guild passed away. Some of it we bought on a trip to Pennsylvania when we went to the quilt shops in Lancaster County. Yet most of it was sitting in the closet, not being used. I have no idea how much we've spent over the years on fabric, but I do have a pretty good idea how much I've spent on books. And I knew that often times I would buy a book with absolutely no intent on reading it any time soon. I bought it because I wanted it. That's all well and good until it comes time to move, which we did two years ago. I donated 17 boxes of books to Goodwill, but I still had to pack (and unpack) about 85 boxes (we hired a moving company, so I didn't have to do any heavy lifting). That's when it hit me. Buying something to store doesn't make any sense. Having a personal library is nice, and it makes the house look nice, but if they aren't used you just as well go to the public library. Today, I have to commit to reading something within a year before I can buy it. I went from spending $2000 a year on books (I work in a bookstore, so I get a discount) to spending about $400 a year.

    I suggested that we apply that thinking to her fabric stash. We sat down together and went through every plastic bin she had and brutally cut back. Some went into the trash, 7 13-gallon bags went to Goodwill, and fabric that she didn't want to get rid of had to fit in five containers, plus she could keep one other container for use in making masks. What I suggested we do was to select a pattern (or I design one) and purchase the fabric for it. It will be stored in a plastic container but outside of the closet so she could see it every time she went into her sewing room. If she saw some fabric that she really liked, but didn't have a plan for it, she could certainly get it, but it had to fit in one of the five containers.

    So how has it worked out? Well, on the "Green With Envy" quilt that she just finished piecing, she couldn't believe how little waste she had. Some pieces (we had to buy a couple more fat quarters because she miscalculated a block size) she put in the mask box. Some pieces she plans to use to make a rug that she's giving to a coworker for a wedding gift, and we tossed a handful of scraps that amounted maybe to 1/16 of a yard. I've attached a couple of pictures that illustrates what I'm saying. This first one are her project shelves. The boxes on the floor are in the order she plans to work on them (with the flexibility to change her mind). The ones on the shelves are "sometime in the future" projects.

    This is what I refer to as "the closet of doom." However, now, it actually has some room and the door can shut.

    I did forget to mention that we invested in getting a bunch of fabric (mainly clearance) for her to make baby quilts. She makes about five or six a year, and this way she now has options that don't require a trip to the fabric shop, so if she can't sleep and decides to work on something, she can do so.

    Just as an aside, I wanted to include a photo of her latest project. She is making a quilt for my great-nephew, who has had a pretty rough life. She has always made quilts for all my nieces and nephews, but this one is special as my great-nephew is finally going to have a good life with a family that loves him. The frames wrapped in the polka dot fabric will be filled with truck appliques, and it will have a 3 inch inner border (with trucks) and a six inch outer border (also with trucks). The backing will be red fabric with, you guessed it, trucks. We purposefully chose bright colors to signify that he will have a bright future.

    So, how do you handle your stash?

    There's nothing more directly linked to who we are than the fabric that we make.
    --Ken Burns

    I stocked up on any fabric I loved for the last couple of years before I retired. I had a good amount of disposable income & knew that wouldn't be the case once I stopped working. We moved to another state & now my sewing room is smaller than before with much less storage space. Since I don't like to have my fabrics hidden in bins where I can't see them I decided I had to downsize my stash. I donated a lot to the guild I joined here in Oregon. However since COVID I've committed myself to using fabric ONLY from my stash & making a big, big dent in my UFO's. So far this is working for me. I realized that I had a tendency to by fabrics in the same color & value ranges. Fortunately I've been given enough fabrics in other colors & values so my stash was fairly balanced.
    Going forward I plan to be much more mindful of what I buy, so that I have a plan in mind, & a place to store it.
    May the road rise up to meet you...
    May the wind be always at your back...
    May you be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you're dead...
    Patt :icon_wave:


      Wow, tough question, as each person has their own idea of where the line is drawn between "stash" and "hoarding" LOL For me, stash is the right size when I know what I have and can find it with only opening one cabinet (all my fabrics are in cabinets, sorted by size then color). I generally only shop for fabrics when needed for a particular project, but often buy a more than the pattern calls for in case of mistakes, so I do end up with a bit of excess. Although occasionally I will see a fabric collection that I just love and will treat myself to either a Fat Quarter Bundle or some other pre-cut package (i.e. layer cake, jelly roll) and hold on to it until I come across the perfect pattern or other inspiration. My DH once told me "If I find fabric in the freezer, then your stash is too big!". Well so far I've been able to contain my stash to the cabinets in my sewing studio, with room to spare. The only fabrics I buy in bulk (aka a full bolt) are either white, black, or backing fabrics, I probably only have around 6 (partial) bolts of fabric right now. Back to the excess fabric now... after a top is completed, part of my clean up process is to cut down the left over fabric and put it away. I'll take a good look at it and decide if I: Leave it whole since it's at least 1/4 yard - fold it onto a comic board and put it away, less than 1/4 yd but still full width of fabric - cut into 2 1/2" strips then put away. Odd shaped left overs are cut down either to 10" or 5" squares. Now a caution.... these left overs can add up quickly, so fortunately I love to make scrappy quilts... no rhythm or reason and no color theme, so when I find myself wondering "what to do now", that's when I pull either my stash of 10" or 5" or Strips, and toss together a quick scrappy quilt. These are great donation quilts, toss in the back of the car quilts, I even use smaller ones as everyday table cloths - my grandkids especially love these as they can sit at the table with me and try to find "their quilts" within my scrappy quilt, or an easy quick gift! The key is to find a balance that suites you and your family and comfort levels for all.


        Hard for me to answer because my large stash didn't come from Quilting, but from making children's clothes (mostly little girls) to sell online. My stash consists of polka-dots, butterflies and fields of bright flowers. I have hard to find Miller, Kaufman, Bailey and you name it designers in there. I could sell my stash on Etsy for jacked up prices. lol

        I had to be honest with myself. I'm never going to make these beautiful ribbon winning quilts. So I'm repurposing my stash into children's quilts. I bought all my fabric to make an income and now it's going to charity, maybe some to sell as soon as I can figure out Instagram. lol

        So to answer your question, I only buy to match what I can't find at my in home store. 😀
        🌺 Lorie


        • Momofmonsters5
          Momofmonsters5 commented
          Editing a comment
          Ok I'm interested I have a few moda prints out of production that I can't find to finish. I bought them in the early days of ignorance.

        • Hulamoon
          Hulamoon commented
          Editing a comment
          lol, I wasn't really going to sell. Let me know what your looking for though. It wouldn't be anything from a precut, they didn't have those yet. Like a cell phone.🤣
          Last edited by Hulamoon; July 28, 2020, 08:49 PM.

        If you want to see how my fabrics are organized, go to my Sewing Room Album & view the pics. In general, they are organized by fabric line or color. They're in plastic containers or plastic drawer units. E.g., I have all the batiks together, all the Kaffe Fassett, children's & baby, Christmas, etc. Each of us has to organize the space we have & use what works for us. It might not work for someone else.


          Books, I collect favorites and have read them all more than once. Fabric I tend to buy as needed, with a bit of extra, just because. I seldom have much stored. Ties up too much cash I need for other things. Twice someone has unloaded some of their excess into my hands, for which I am very grateful. Used most of it too.
          TRUTH is seldom appreciated, unless you happen to agree with it. When you don't agree, you just call it rude.


            While I do have a sizable stash, it was never intended to be that way. I have several bins that were acquired from my mother, mostly from clothing, some I acquired from working in a booth at a quilt show (I'd get to pick $100 of fabric at end of show), and others that I purchased for specific patterns/projects. About a year ago, I decided to organize by color. In the past 12-18 months, my shopping new has been limited only to special projects. I finally realized that I needed to sew up what I have, as there will always be new fabric that I will like in the future. I hope to retire for the 2nd time within a year, and this will give me more time to sew up that stash. Majority of my quilts are for either gifts or charity. My goal is to stitch up what I have so that if something happens to me my children don't have the extra burden of getting rid of my stash.


              I swear I have the smallest stash in the Forum! All my stuff is in a spare bedroom and not all over the house. I wrapped all fabric pieces on boards, stored by color. I have one filing cabinet in the closet. Drawers 1&2 = fabric on boards. Drawer 3 is precuts. Drawer 4 is mostly empty except for about 5 patterns, two hand quilting hoops, and about 25 balls of perle cotton thread. I also have an over the rod fabric shoe cubbie with deconstructed charm packs separated by color. I buy batting and backing for each project, and only what I need.

              I don't like to have alot of extra stuff around that I will not be using. My brother is a hoarder and that is a road I am just never going down if I can help it.


              • Momofmonsters5
                Momofmonsters5 commented
                Editing a comment
                I grew up with my mother hoarding. I do buy a lot of fabric but it's organized in one room. I hated that lifestyle.

              • Hulamoon
                Hulamoon commented
                Editing a comment
                My uncle was a hoarder too. The extreme, up to the ceiling some places. Then those shows came about and I understood more of the mental side of the behavior. It makes me cry to think about it.

              My stash is out of control. I'm the first to admit. I had gastric bypass 13 years ago and turned to retail therapy. When I got divorced ..forget it, i increased double plus a long arm and bernina. My daughter (17) sews and quilts recently went through my stash to shop her start up and said I was a hoarder lol ..lucky for her to shop. We're in a small house temporarily to save money and I lost my sewing room. My bf is supportive and if I want something I just ask. Background fabrics are my frustration...I need to buy bolts! I'm a traditional quilter who likes balance and matchy matchy. I do controlled scrappy lol. My stash is sorted by color and scrap. I've been waiting for a batting sale for a roll so I have about 20 quilts ready for quilting. It's all organized and accessible. My pre cuts as well I have about 40 of each, charms, layer cakes and jelly rolls. Each quilter is unique!


                Rob the HOAQ - I enjoyed reading your post but I couldn't see the pictures. They're just little squares. Is there any way you can repost the pictures?


                  There are times I thought about putting out a sign in front of my house "Fabric Outlet Store" (I only have 9 bins!) although about a fourth of my stash came from thrift stores, I buy because it's fabric I love looking at, some I can't bear to cut! yea, I know you're thinking that's stupid to hang on to fabric I'm not going to use. I also know fabric doesn't stay available for very long, so, I'd buy at least 2.50 yds. to 3 yds. I have put a dent into my stash by precutting tops & making quilt kits & putting into bins, with the pattern, and backing. I'm very limited on spending now that my husband passed, so, now I just shop my own stash.
                  Man, Despite His artistic pretensions, his sophistication, his many accomplishments, Owes his existence to a Six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact, That It Rains! anonymous


                    Before I started quilting I had another hobby which required a lot more space and equipment as well as raw materials. Money doesn't flow from the tap around here and if I can't afford to have spares or extras, I wait 'til I can. That hobby required I have spare supplies, and they needed to be on hand when the other ran out- not sometime later. Consequently I wouldn't start a job until I had spares. When I started quilting my buying habits changed because of how I like to quilt, so I will buy fabric when I see it, with a design in mind. I don't do patterns but design from the seat of my pants. So most fabric purchased is for a specific project that may be a while before I get to it. But if I see just the right color, or print, I buy it because it may not be available at a later date, and the design is pretty much set in my mind, and I'm not likely to change it much.

                    I could never operate by your methods because I find that tedious and no fun. I'm a lot more spontaneous. About controlling my SO's stash? Never. She doesn't come in the shop and tell me I have too much raw material, or I really don't need that extra bottle of gas, or complain about spare saw blades, or belts for my lathe, etc. After my start in quilting, we each have our own stash, and I appreciate that. I don't try to control her fabric needs. She has that under control. If anything, she's one who tends to always attempt to reduce her stash. I tell he not to because I might need some of it at a later date. She can also shop my stash if necessary. If I had my way, and we had the money I'd have a fabric store, but all the inventory would be for my own use. Bottom line- I feel that to control someones hobby might take the fun out of it for them. We do have a budget for such things, but she's a lot better at sticking to it than I am.

                    We also don't share too much when it comes to quilting equipment unless it is an expensive piece like the embroidery machine which isn't used all the time. In other words- do NOT borrow or use my tools.

                    We belong to a large guild and have several quilting friends (one of which owns a shop) so we control our inventory somewhat by trading.

                    I think maybe that when you really get into the production of quilts your views might change
                    You gots to risk it to gets the biscuit-


                      Oh lord don't come to my house please. I have tried to stop buying fabric and I am doing fairly well right now. I did just buy some black as I have just about used what I had making masks. It doesn't mean I haven't been looking. BUT if I go into a store I feel obligated to buy, so I am trying to avoid going to a store.

                      I have been working so much since March that I really haven't had time to straighten up the sewing room. I am thinking in the fall when it gets cooler I want to move things around again. And get more sewing done.
                      Blessed are the children of the piecemakers for they shall inherit the quilts!


               mentioned, we are all different. I rarely have the opportunity to plan a quilt by going out and purchasing something for it. I am blessed that I am attracted to scrappy quilts. I shop my stash by colors. Right now, I am making a double wedding ring with greens and blues all from small scraps.
                        For years I made quilts for Shriners CHildren and I was blessed by this forum for sharing their stash of small and sometimes large pieces so a large variety came my way. I find that putting together things you have are far more interesting than buying a fabric line from a designer. Just my opinion.
                        I have shelves of fabric . I bought two pick up truck loads from a woman who worked for a childrens clothing mfg that went out of business. That was a challenge to use. Some of the pieces were 3x3 and some were 10 yds by 15 inches. I learned a lot about designing pretty things from little expense. I used most of the donated fabric first because it was given to me for the Shriners project. Now, I am working on those clothing cottons. Life is good.
                        I keep all of my fabric folded on shelves where I can see it and plan it.
                        At one time I was overwhelmed with pinks and purples. I was determined to whittle that away. I love log cabins for stash and double wedding rings. I just chose two or three colors and work from there.
                        Before I started charity quilting, I would go to a fabric store and chose three or four colors and buy a yard of each and start cutting. Then I would do it again and what ever scraps were left after two quilts would become the third quilt. I havent' been to a fabric store except for backings and battings for 6 years but someday I will have those scraps and pieces used up. I love being able to give away the quilts to charity without it costing an arm and a leg.
                        Walk in peace with the Lord by your side.


                          How do I handle stash?...without my DH. The line is drawn at the doorway and he doesn't cross it. There isn't enough fabric or sewing machines to ever match the boats, cars, trucks, fishing equipment in our life. Plus he isn't interested in my projects except to say "it looks nice".

                          I have a significant stash of yardage and pre-cuts accumulated over the last few years. Most of it is dedicated to projects in my head for someday. All yardage is ruler folded neatly on the closet shelves. I have tried to shop the stash for projects and ended up buying 6 more yards to finish.

                          It is interesting to see how our styles of selecting and purchasing fabric change during our quilting journey. It does get easier to let go of those fabrics no longer in favor.