Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Stash

Before you get too excited or have a conniption in you have to realise that in patchwork and man other crafts the word stash has a particular meaning, unrelated to how it is used in the rest of the world. It doesn't relate to drugs of any sort or a pile of money. It is valuable though... very valuable at times.

In crafting your stash is your stockpile of resources associated with that craft. So in patchwork your stash most commonly refers to the fabrics that you have bought and stored up to use in your future projects. It is often the fabric that is purchased usually without a particular purpose in mind ie not to go towards making a pre-planned project, just to be there for some future project... maybe.

Some patchworkers have the most amazing stashes... they are huge. Some talk about having shipping containers stacked with fabric. Some women rent storage lockers I have heard of patchworkers boasting that they have more fabric in their stash than many small local quilting stores (LQS as they are known in many patchwork circles)

I don't come close to any of these stashes... and honestly I don't want to.

When I first started patchwork back in 2001 I think it was I did fall into the "buy it now" obsession although I did resist for a little while. For a little while I was a one project at a time, only buy what I need crafter but it wasn't long before I had multiple projects on the go and saw any patchwork shop as an opportunity to add to my stash and a sale... well that was even more so.

Buying fabric that you don't have a plan for can mean you can end up with stuff that you don't use... ever. Fabric that doesn't go with other stuff. And when you start a new project it is lovely to be able to go out and buy stuff just for that project - to purchase what you need, in the amounts that you need and have everything go together.

My stash never go out of control... despite what my family might think. It all fits in one room. It all fits in one cupboard even... well mostly.

Another problem with having a large stash is organising it... having your fabric (or whatever) organised in such a way that you know what you have and you can locate it with ease when you need it.  Some people sort by colour, others by collections, others by type. Some sort by size of the piece of fabric and others by a combination of all the above. There are many different ways to sort your stash and store it and there is no right way. For the individual crafter the right way is the way that works for them.

For me I have a mixture... and yes that means that i can't always find what I want and hunting for fabric can be a journey of discovery. Mostly I sort by colour. I have plastic boxes with fabric folded up on its side so I can see more of them in the box. As well as the obvious colours - red blue green etc I also have a box of brights by which I mean multicoloured bright fabrics.

Most of my fabric fits in this cupboard. The side behind the door has most of the boxes of fabric sorted by colour and the baskets in the side you can see has some of my larger pieces of fabric. I also have two boxes of reclaimed fabric - doilies and other linens that I now work into my projects.

I have a couple of boxes of picture fabrics mostly smaller cuts sorted by theme - animals, people, toys, vehicles etc. This is left over from the time when I was doing year quilts and needing lots of themed fabrics. (I will explain about Year Quilts when I get to Y but I have done a blog about them before so go here if you are curious

Then there is my scrap stash. This is scraps of fabric, left over from previous projects (or donated by friends who don't keep theirs) which are cut into useful pieces. I tend to make lots of scrappy quilts... quilts made from lots of different fabrics rather than from a smaller group of fabrics used frequently through out the quilt.

These 3 scrap quilts were all made from my stash, including the backing. No fabric was espcially bought to make them.

I have 3 sets of plastic drawers into which I have sorted these scrap fabrics according to their width. Sometimes within the individual drawers I have used smaller boxes to further sort the fabric usually by their length. I have at times further sorted by colour but this hasn't worked too well as they get messed up when I riffle through the scraps looking for different colours. I don't always put the colours back in order... so its a bit of a jumble.

I also have a couple of boxes with the really big pieces of fabric which are often used for the backing of the quilts although lately I have tended to piece my backings as well.

I am trying to use my stash and have been for the last couple of years. I shop my stash when starting a new project as much as possible ie I choose fabric for it from my stash first and only buy what I can't source from my stash. I went for over 12 months not buying any new fabric at all except when I had to get some to finish a project. I didn't buy any fabric to start new projects. It was immensely satisfying. Admittedly the following year I really enjoyed going on occasions to buy fabric for a specific quilt. It seemed really decadent.

This is a quilt I made for my oldest sister for her 70th birthday. I made it in 2013. It was the first quilt that I specifically bought fabric for after my fabric diet in 2012

I decided to make a large quilt for the queen bed in our spare room. It was made from a combination of fabric from my stash and some especially purchased fabric.

I am still trying to be restrained and NOT buy fabric for the sake of getting it. I do have to have a project in mind for it. I have bought 2 fabric bundles in the last 6 months which were impulse buys on Massdrop. One lot I have dipped into a bit and am now putting it aside for a sampler quilt that I have started (hope I have enough left) The other is a bundle of useful fabrics that will work their way into any number of projects fairly easily. (Ed... since I originally wrote this I have to confess that I have succumbed and bought another bundle of fat quarters from Massdrop. sigh)

To help me keep track of my stash purchases my daughter set me up an Excel spreadsheet using a formula devised by Pam from Hip To Be a Square. Its a formula she devised for calculating how much fabric you use in a quilt. This is more than just the width by breadth as the quilt is pieced and there are lots of seams. Plus there is the binding and of course front and back of the quilt. Pam devised the formula, Fangirl jigged up the spreadsheet and Fixit Guy has added features for me as I have thought of them.

I have never calculated how much fabric I have in my stash and that isn't what the spreadsheet is for. What it does is work out the fabric I use and sets it against the fabric I buy. I only calculate fabric usage on FINISHED projects. Some other people calculating their stash usage count finished tops but that isn't the way for me. It has to be completely done.

I enjoy using my stash record and it really does work to keep me from impulse buying. I don't want to have to add it to the stash report, particularly if I haven't had a finish. I want my net stash used numbers to keep going up. :)


  1. Admit it - you kicked the kids out of home so you could turn the play room into your quilting room :) No room for all those boxes if the cupboards were still full of toys and instruments!

  2. My stepmom has tons of yarn for the knitting that she does. I am considering starting quilting. I have never sewn in my life. But, my mom does a lot. And whenever I go to the fabric store with her, I love to look at all the different fabrics. Trying to think of something I can learn to do so that I have an excuse to buy the fabric! Then maybe I can go to the craft fairs with my mom and sell my work. Quilting is one thing that popped into my head the other day that maybe I might try to learn. Great post! If you have time you should stop by and check out my S Post.