I got an email from a reader (hi Barbara!) a few days ago asking me how to build a fabric stash…so I thought I’d show you what I buy and keep on hand.  And since the price of fabric may soon be rising….you may find its necessary to watch what you buy more carefully.
Here are my basics….what I consider to be staples in my stash:
solids, polka dots, stripes, and small scale prints.  Usually I have some gingham in there too.
I basically buy the same type of thing for every color and I always have them on hand:

So my basics I always have and keep stocked.  I usually buy 1/2 yards of basics…but more if its something I love like that Katie Jump Rope blue basket weave up there.  I don’t buy as many floral, large scale or novelty fabrics, but I do keep some just because I like them.  I usually buy 1/4 yard to 1/2 yard depending on the price. 
And they are usually the ones that stay in my stash forever until I need to make a baby quilt…but it is nice to have at least some on hand if you need them.   For instance if I wanted to make a quilt today with that floral Dream On fabric….
I could pull enough “basic” fabrics out of my stash to make it work.  You can usually tell when I’m clear out of fabric and I’m only using my stash…because there will be gagillions of polka dots.  Like this and this quilt…I buy way too many polka dots.
  I’ve said before I don’t keep a big stash…but because I have a lot of basics and “usable” fabrics…I can usually make a lot of projects from my stash without buying more. 
But no matter how I can ramble on about stashing…the bottom line is, whether you have a big stash or a small what you love.  If you love it, you’ll use it and be more happy with what you have. 

55 Responses to Stashing

  1. Dana January 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    Oooo you seem to stash the same "basics" as me, and you can never have enough polka dots either! Can I ask where you got (or who its by) the red spot on white background?? Im in the uk where the choice is not as good so will happliy buy abroad if they deliver- I would love to know, thanks

  2. Libby January 26, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    I LOVE the fact that you always USE your fabric!! You do such a great job with your fabric and colors and now I know why. I have a stash full of fabric that I dont know how to use…I havent bought enough (my husband would love that) basics. I have bought many big prints and I just dont use them. Thank You so much for these hints!! btw.. Do you usually stick with pure white in the fabrics or do you use cream? or does it matter?

  3. bethanndodd January 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    Thanks for the pointers. I love polka dots too! I want to make an entire quilt out of polka dots. I will throw some solids in there too, of course :)

  4. tabbiegirl January 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    Thanks, Allison! This gives me (and I'm sure lots of other quilters) some great ideas for building a stash and putting together a cohesive group of fabrics for an interesting quilt. You are so right when you say to buy what you love and you will use it!

  5. Goddess in Progress January 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    You can never have too many polka dots, or so I tell myself. :-)

  6. Peggy January 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    I really appreciate all your tips! And yes fabric prices will be rising. In fact the price of anything made from cotton will be rising… anything from clothing to feminine products. This bit of information came to me from someone who in the business. (if I remember correctly she said it would be between 5% and 25%… it all depends.)

    Do you have any recommendations for masculine quilts/lap blankets? Teenage to young adults? Two of our boys have asked me to make them "something" and I am stumped. So I figured a simple quilt might be in order…. I have to admit my tastes are similar to yours but the guys think it looks too feminine. Suggestions? But then again I might make them something as simple as a bag to carry their drum sticks/mallets or a pillow since they love both!

  7. Michelle January 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    I covet your stash. :)

  8. Robyn January 26, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. I inherited my grandma’s stash of fabric and sewing notions about a year and a half ago. It is massive! I haven’t really had an opportunity to use it yet because I have been trying to sort it all to what makes sense to me…like she had fabric sorted as red, but I thought it was more orange. It makes it hard to look for something specific if it's not sorted the way my brain works. Anyway- I am always looking for ways other people create and sort their stash to get ideas to manage my own.

  9. Jackie Russell January 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

    Really? You can buy to many polka dots. I didn't know that I thought you could never have too many. LOL! Love your fabric stash.

  10. Cheri January 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    I noticed only one of those groupings was without polka dots…they are like vitamins…you gotta have em.

  11. Flo @ Butterfly Quilting January 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    OK, I have to admit….I dont think that I have any polka dots!!! I see now the error of my ways :) I will have to correct that….soon.
    I was so excited about your batting….but too bad, they do not ship to Canada :(
    Thanks for all the advice on organizing a stash!

  12. Jo January 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Thanks for the stash advice! I'm in the midst of destashing the stuff I'll never use (garish colours and too many big prints) and trying to buy organic fabrics where possible for the replacements.

  13. Amy January 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    This post was so helpful and interesting to me. I am just beginning to build up a stash, and I think this was just perfect! Thank you so much!

  14. Jenny January 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    What a great post! I am with you on the polka dots: love them, can't get enough of them!

    I'll link to this in my Link Love post on Friday.

  15. Ricki January 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    I'm addicted to polka dots too! Love them!

  16. Kate January 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    oo, I always love good fabric photos… and I am a huge polka dot person too! Thanks for sharing your tips!

  17. momto2wasd January 26, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

    I have never really liked polka dots, so I don't have many in my stash. However, I think that might be what's missing sometimes when I can't find the right thing for a quilt. Just because I don't like them much individually, it doesn't mean they won't be perfect in the right mix for a quilt. I guess I gotta add to my stash, right? Thanks for a great post about purposeful and practical stash building!

  18. Purple Quilter Queen January 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your tips! I always love the fabrics that you use in your quilts. They always seem to "go". Love your work! Jenn

  19. Jen January 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Thanks for the insight. I just moved into a new house and have my own sewing room with my very own shelves to store my "stash" so I can see it. Very exciting to me…but I realized that I don't have very many "basics." Thanks of opening my brain to why I can't make the colors work!

  20. marlene January 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Oh, I love polka dots, too! Thanks for the great post. Now that I think about it, I probably buy way too much floral, novelty and large prints and not enough of the "basics." For example, I was (still am) obsessed with Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane line … and while they all coordinate nicely, sometimes I just don't want it to be so matchy-matchy. Perhaps if I had a little more of the basics, I would find it easier to pull fabric for projects. Hmmm … gives me a lot to think about. Thank you for the insightful post!

  21. Erin @ two more seconds January 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    kindred spirits …. I stash way too many polka dots too!

  22. randi---i have to say January 26, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    all of those beautiful sets of fabric–love it!

    i am so bummed about the prices going up. such bad timing. just when the economy gets going, the price rises. :( i say that as a fabric-buyer as well as a fabric-seller!

  23. Cara January 26, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    fun to see how you think about the fabric buying – that is the same process we use for putting together a collection, making sure there is a nice balance of small, medium and large scale.

  24. lifeinredshoes January 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Great advice and perfect timing! I love your blog:)

  25. Sleepy Cat Hollow January 27, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Thank you for sharing!

    As with a few others that have already posted…I plan on making a polka dot quilt too. :) No such thing as too much polka dots! :)

  26. Keeper of the Skies Wife January 27, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    Love your stash tips!! Thanks for sharing!

  27. CJ January 27, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    LOVELY stash. I like seeing all the different color groupings. I don't seem to be that organized. Hmmmmmm

  28. Chris {frecklemama} January 27, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Great post! Reading it was like an AHA moment for me. Thanks for posting the fabric porn, but more importantly, thanks for posting your process.

  29. RachellaBella January 27, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    Lovely stash and lovely advice! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise.

  30. Judy January 27, 2011 at 5:19 am #

    Very nice stash! I just keep buying the entire line, plan a quilt even the backing. Way, Way too much fabric. I'm up to maybe $7,000. in fabric of complete lines. Thank you. I wish I had done this instead!

  31. Katri January 27, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    I love that yellow elephant print, what is it? :) I have been looking something like that!

    And oh, polka dots, I love them too!!

    And you're blog is wonderful, thank you!

  32. JCnNC January 27, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Love this post – I think when I started collecting, I got everything without knowing why, just needed a stash – now I buy mostly blenders and love bright saturated color. When I want civil war or reproduction fabric I buy for a particular project instead of collecting it.

  33. KerryQ January 27, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Now I know why I love your quilts so much, we have the same taste in fabrics! We actually have the same stash, only you actually make stuff with yours! Maybe you should work with a sponsor and choose a bundle of fabrics for us! With dots, ofcourse!

  34. Shelley January 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Great advice – thanks for taking the time to write it all down and photograph it.

  35. momawake January 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    I love your advice about stashing! When I read "build a fabric stash" I laughed out loud. My stash building procedure has always been love it buy it. I have tons of that! There was not much thought given to it. Now I'll be more thoughtful when buying. Thanks.

  36. Shasta January 27, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    That's a great idea to load up on the basics. I usually buy what I love, and wind up with a huge stack of the floral, large scale, novelty fabrics, which is your smallest stack. Now I am trying to avoid adding to the stash altogether – buying only what I will use right away.

  37. JenniferO January 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Good advice. I've realized I buy lots of large scale florals. I need more of your basics.

  38. everyday muses January 27, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Good idea about buying staples of the same color…I always end up with really cute fabric of clashing color when I feel like making a quilt.

  39. I am Just One Mom January 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    good basics in a stash make any quilt possible! love all the polka dot lovers in the posts above. hope fab fabric designers are listening!

  40. Dianne January 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    Without a doubt THE best tutorial on stash building I have seen. I now have the info I need to weed out my stash, keep what I need for a really wellrounded selection, then decide what to do with the detritus. THANKS!!!!

  41. Jessica Plumeau January 28, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Thanks for posting this! I am always stashing fabric, but it doesn't always seem to go together unless it comes from the same collection – this is a great starting point!

  42. Alex Duenkel January 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for the hints… Now it's time to get my stash organized. I'm afraid that I might have too many novelty prints. Just can't help myself sometimes!
    Like you, I like to buy 1/2 yards and love polka dots, any size.
    I enjoy your blog so much and you inspire me on a daily basis! Thanks!

  43. Camille January 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Love all the polka dots! I recently went through my stash and realized if I'm going to start quilting, I need to start stashing smaller prints too. I also LOVE polka dots! I am jealous of all your polka dot cuteness!

  44. Plum Patchwork January 29, 2011 at 4:05 am #

    So this is why I have a huge stash and can never make anything out of it!

  45. Emily Elizabeth January 29, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Awesome post! When I started out I did things backwards and built my stash around the "wow" prints. I ended up having to go to the fabric store all the time to get coordinates!

  46. Tracey January 29, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    I am very new to sewing/quilting and found this post full of information. I have been wondering how much fabric to buy if I don't have a particular project in mind, and this article has answered it well.
    Love me :-)

  47. rachel griffith January 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    great post.

  48. Carol February 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Thanks so much for your post. I have been stashing, but often forget to add the small prints and polka dots that will balance out the larger prints. I'm pretty sure your post gives me a license to do some fabric shopping!

  49. amandajean February 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    i don't think you can EVER have too many polka dots! just my two cents. :)

  50. Gemma Day December 28, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    I need to stop buying and start using! :O)

  51. Krista February 6, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Your post inspired me to reorganize my stash into basics and novelty/florals and pass on some of my fabric stash. I linked back to your blog post. I vow to be more mindful of my fabric purchases! Thanks for the inspiration.

  52. Sue B April 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I have just found your blog, via the sprocket pillow tutorial, but found this one on stash. I have been buying fabric just because it was cheap and not because I love it, and when I look back 50% of my stash is fabric I wont use. So I started weeding that all out and have listed it for sale on ebay and with the money I make I will but some new fabric, that I love. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  53. Christine Welsh April 15, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    I must admit I learnt a long time ago to always ONLY buy fabrics I love…..otherwise I just don't use it and it stays hogging space that could have been occupied by something I might actually enjoy looking at! Well….come to think of it,I have some I love so much I just don't want to use it, just look at it! LOLLL Christine
    ChrisW Designs

  54. Luanne Pang November 27, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    Love your stash! Are these cotton?

  55. Janet Maddox August 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    I enjoyed the blog. I am cleaning out my stash drawers. Many of the fabric pieces I was given and they just do not speak to me. They have just sat in the drawer. These same pieces of fabric have been passed by even for use in lining in projects. So I am cleaning out! Thanks for the ideas on building a stash.

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