Most quilters love a little retail therapy from time to time (myself included), but there is something immensely satisfying about “shopping” from my stash when I’m working on a project. I mean, I took the time to bring the fabric home and find a spot for it; I should use it, right?
I’ve done this most recently with a couple of projects still in the marking and quilting phases, so I don’t have finished projects to show you yet. But back in December I blogged about spending time going through my stash trying to find the right fabrics for a pattern I was making from our Best Fat Quarter Quilts 2014 special issue; click here to read that blog post.
I relied on my stash, particularly my neutral solids and variety of navy blues, to find what I needed to make the Vulcan Greeting block I showed in a different Weekend Workshop blog post. I’ve started quilting it — I set myself a complicated task with this one — and should have a completed project to show you very soon.
Lori also blogs frequently about the projects she’s working on, most of which she makes from her stash, both the quilt tops and her anything-goes pieced backs. You can read about the two high school graduation quilts she made this spring, one in purple and black and the other in navy and lime green, both of which she whipped together using quick techniques with beautiful results.
Let’s take a look at the phases of a quilter’s fabric stash: building it, storing and managing it, and finally, using or “busting” it.
For those of us who’ve been in this quilting game for a while, the notion of “building” a stash may seem foreign. But much like the parent of a teenager has probably forgotten the day-in, day-out struggles of getting an infant to sleep, longtime quilters have probably forgotten what it was like to feel as if we didn’t have enough fabric. (Stop laughing, we were all there at one point.) In fact, here at Quilters Newsletter we regularly hear from new quilters that they’re trying to build their stash, which is one reason they love our weekly giveaways.
As most longtime quilters know, there’s more to building a good, useful stash than just picking up any fabric on sale you see. I can’t be the only one with fabric I bought years ago hiding in the closet that is just not up to standard in terms of quality, let alone something I actually like. (I keep meaning to purge that stuff or at least segregate it, but we’ll get to that later.) New quilters would be wise to pay attention to building a stash of value, not just of quantity.
In the free Quilty video 5 Tips for Building Your Fabric Stash, Mary Fons answers the question: what is a fabric stash? (Hint: It has nothing to do with scraps.).
For her QNNtv.com show Quilt Monkey, Katy Jones also did an episode on her strategic approach to building a stash with fabric bundles, choosing fabrics and other helpful tips about fabric. To demonstrate fabrics in action, Katy makes a super quick pillow project using only two fat quarters and 10 minutes! Click here for more on Building Your Fabric Stash on QNNtv.com.
It really never hurts to have a variety of prints or blenders in different colors, fabrics that you like but that you aren’t saving for Just The Right Quilt. That way, when you’re working on a project and need another, say, blue fabric, you’ll have options in your stash that are ready and waiting. Once you find just the hue you need, you won’t hesitate to press it, cut it and get back to work — done and done.
Pre-assembled fat quarter packs can help with building this part of your stash. Someone else has done the work of picking the fabrics, and because of that, you probably won’t hoard them like I do with large-scale Tula Pink prints. Not only that, but these packs can be a great deal, too, with some averaging out to under $10/yard. QuiltandSewShop.com currently has bundles of fat quarters available in blue, green, yellow/gold, red, pink, and purple, in addition to Christmas, Halloween, patriotic and floral bundles.
If you love batiks, you should look into the QN Batik Club. In this monthly auto-ship program, you get a selection of batik fabrics totaling approximately 3 yards of fabric in a variety of precuts, including fat quarters, strips, squares and more. From what I understand, the club has been popular and there are only a few spots left. Click here to learn more about the QN Batik Club.
Store and Manage
Remember what I said above about needing to make some hard decisions about some of the old fabrics in my stash? In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ll get rid of them altogether, but I certainly should pull them out of the main drawers and set them aside for practice blocks and quilt sandwiches. This will only help me the next time I’m pulling fabrics together for a project, as I’ll only be considering fabrics I know I’ll use, making the whole process easier.
Last year Gigi blogged a couple of times about managing her stash. Click here to read “Learning to Love Fabric Storage,” and click here to read how she manages small or irregularly shaped pieces of fabric in “To Have and To Fold.”
In another free video from Quilty on QNNtv.com, Mary Fons shares 5 Tips for Storing Your Fabric Stash.
Stash Management 101: How to Tame, Love, and Use Your Fabric Collection is a popular on-demand web seminar in which Laura Stone Roberts, contributing editor at McCall’s Quilting, will show you how to prune and organize all of your fabrics and sewing supplies, enjoy your stash, and use it more. Even if you are a veteran procrastinator or have only a small amount of time to devote to managing your stash, Laura has tips and tricks learned from years of collecting fabrics, threads, and fibers on her many travels. She will share her knowledge with you in a systematic, fun, and non-judgmental way. Click here to learn more about Stash Management 101.
This is the part that really matters, right? It’s using our stash that turns us from fabric collectors into quilters. And really, as much fun as bringing fabric home may be, turning it into something amazing is the best part.
Learn to use fabric pieces of every size, from scraps to yardage, in Every Last Piece. Join author Lynn Harris as she demonstrates numerous ways to maximize how you use fabric in quilts, including string-pieced blocks, mini star blocks, applique, sawtooth borders and more. Click here to learn more about Every Last Piece, currently on sale for $18.49 (as of 5/29/15; prices subject to change).
Once you’ve acquired a variety of prints in different colors, you can start working on how to make them work together in one project. Quilt Color Workshop is split into 6 color-themed sections with block ideas for every color theory combination, so there’s plenty to inspire you to create colorful projects with ease. Click here to learn more about Quilt Color Workshop.
For me, one of the best ways to bust some stash is to pick an easy pattern and start cutting. Best of McCall’s Quilting: Simple Beginner Quilts contains patterns that will encourage you to do just that, regardless of your skill level. These 16 exclusive designs from the pages of McCall’s Quilting use basic piecing skills to make wonderful wall hangings, cozy cuddle quilts, and beautiful bed coverings. Click here to learn more about Best of McCall’s Quilting: Simple Beginner Quilts.
And here’s one more pattern I’ve always liked that would make for a good monochromatic stashbuster: Apple Blossoms by Jen Daly, available from QuiltersNewsletter.com for free download. Jen’s green-and-neutral palette is beautiful, especially when embellished with small pink blossoms, but you can customize this table runner with whatever colors you choose for a quick and charming project. Click here to download Apple Blossoms.
And just because, here’s a blog post I wrote over four years ago about a stashbusting utility quilt I made while pregnant with my older daughter. Seeing as how she just finished kindergarten, reading this again gets me a little verklempt, but you might be most interested in my description of how I let my stash tell me what quilt I needed to make.
Whatever your relationship is with your stash — newly developing, in need of some maintenance, or mature and ready for the next step — I hope these resources will help you see your fabric with fresh eyes and help you prepare for your next great quilting adventure.