Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A New Basket Project and The Fabric Stash

Perusing all of the previously made basket quilts made me think a lot about the obvious, making basket quilts.  And I started wondering. Why haven't I ever made the 'Patchwork Garden' quilt? It's a pattern that I absolutely drooled over and finally relented and bought the pattern many, many years ago. Jan Patek is that good. Her patterns can resonate for years!
A new project
I think there was too many cuts of fabric that needed 22" length or something? and I normally tend to buy fat quarters. Plus, making from pattern directions has not ever been my strong suit! Okay, fine! I give.The pattern will never quit haunting me otherwise! I decided it was now or never and went and dug through the stash totes for a quick fabric pull.
Looking at some possibilities
Of course, being me, I couldn't make it in the color range shown on the pattern. Oh no, have to be difficult! But you know how it is when certain colors are wistfully calling out to us. Hey sweetie, why don't you ever come play with me? The first fabric pull is shown above. Then you can see below where I started trying to match up colors with pattern directions. That's the point where I decided to throw in a little green to spark things up a bit. 

And yes, there was pattern re-writing involved too. Like mentioned earlier, I generally have smaller bits and pieces of fabric than suggested. Why? Because I love scrappy and so tend to buy in smaller yardage amounts or have a lot of cut into fabrics that aren't very long anymore! And more importantly, because I always, always try to shop from the stash first which good or bad, can create limitations.
Definitely looks better with the green!
'Tricia' has commented on my blog a number of times lately. Hi Tricia! If people don't have a link back to their email, I rarely ever comment directly back to them here on the blog. It probably feels like I'm ignoring you, but its not personal. That's just where I draw the line, responding personally by way of email or not at all. Otherwise it can be crazy town around here trying to track everyone down and responding here and there and unintentionally leaving people out regardless! 

Anyway.... one of Tricia's comments has been floating around in my brain and causing deep thoughts. 'I never cease to marvel at the depths of your stash totes. You always talk about pulling all of these (seemingly ugly) fabrics for dozens and dozens of quilts out of your stash totes. Seems like a biblical miracle along the line of the loaves and the fishes--only better!'
There are small totes and large totes
Oh my. Where to start? I started out quilting in the 'Build the Stash' era. Oh yeah, I've been at this for a very long time {20+ years}, though I started out very slowly. Only buying for a project and stashing the leftover. Buying a couple fat quarters extra in case the original choices didn't work out as well as planned, buying with gift cards, splurging on vacation, etc. You can read herehere and here where I talk about buying fabric that we love or using fabric that is personal to our tastes. I happen to believe that having a solid, personal stash is vital to generating the best kinds of creativity in regards to quilting!
Most are full or close to full
Never, ever do I suggest that this would be an excuse to use any money that simply isn't there for just those purposes! In fact, part of the reason my stash got to this size is simply this: I developed an open door policy with all family and friends in regards to accepting unwanted fabrics. You would not believe how many bags and boxes of fabrics that I've been gifted throughout the years! It's a joy {mostly} to sort through and make a little stack of fabrics to keep and then move the rest on down the road to another grateful quilter/crafter. The unexpected treasures make the entire experience totally worthwhile and slowly expands my fabric options. All without costing a penny!
15 in all just so you know...
As time has went by and my love for quilting hasn't diminished, I've had to come to grips with a few things. First, that here is very limited space in my quilting room and secondly, I have to deal with lots of direct sunlight. So yeah. This is about as big as the stash is ever going to get and boohoo! it's not ever going to be displayed beautifully! 

The best solution for storing the stash ended up being basic solid totes. So ugly. When I see the lovely open arrangement of fabrics that so many are able to have in their quilt rooms? I have such stash envy. There is serious amounts of quilt room envy too. {I'm human.} But that's not beneficial at all, so I tamp it down hard. Forget that garbage! What I want is to feel grateful and thankful. It's a blessing to have this kind of creative outlet in my life and I don't want to forget that for a minute.
And one on the counter which is a pain to lift up and down
Back to the acceptation of unwanted fabrics. I would say that policy is responsible for well over half of my stash. Seriously! I'd love to say all the fabric in the quilt room is stuff that I'm in LOVE with, but that's just not so. Sorry. It's not a magic kingdom of all the best fabrics! There's a lot of super usable blender types. Lots of fabrics I'll probably never.ever come to hate but aren't exactly fabulous. Plenty of lovely yardage that make my heart melt into a squishy little puddle. Handfuls of wonderfully challenging to me prints. Layers of oldy moldy fabrics {constantly trying to throw something new on top or beside in order to spark new love}. And yes, even those ugly bits and pieces that I'm slowly incorporating into all the improv. work as is color appropriate. Sometimes even cunningly cutting very small and disappearing them, one little fabric at a time! Larger 'less loved' fabrics get stuffed onto the backs of quilts on a very regular basis. There are creative ways to use most all fabrics! Anything truly offensive to me will end up being thrown away or given away. I won't willingly ruin a quilt, you know that!
Totes are sorted into Dark Green, Med.-Lt. Green, Oranges,
Lavenders & Purple, White/Cream with colors, Christmas fabrics
It's all mine though. MINE. And you know how personal that can be. Mary Fons has an article that I've read a few times through the years and thoroughly enjoyed, 'Consider The Stash' . In it she writes: 'If you have a stash, you made something. You’re still making it. If you have a stash, you have created, fabric by fabric (in the case of quilters) a physical manifestation of your style, your approach, your world. Stash as painting. Stash as symphony. Stash as quilt.' Later in the article she writes this, 'But I will make quilts. I always will. And just as a painter needs paint, so does a quilter need her fabric. And each fabric is a memory. And each fabric is an idea. And each fabric was brought into my home, by me, for a reason. I made my stash. And my stash is just the beginning.'
Black & Gray, Reds, Browns, Creams & Light Tans
Not to say that every single quilter will need or want to work in just this way. There are those who want to pare down for reasons of money, waste, space or even personal conviction. People who feel guilt and shame at the excess or hint of obsession? Quilters who are ready to get rid of a very old, unloved collection. Those who feel that for whatever the reason, having a stash is holding them back or causing stress in their life. Perhaps they want to upcycle and recycle more than they desire to incorporate newish fabrics into their quilting. Whatever works. Quilters can be in any number of different seasons of their quilting lives, so I try not to judge. There's definitely things to be learned from every method.
Pinks, Dark Blues, Yellow & Golds, White & Lt. Cream,
Lt.-Med. Blues
As for me? A hard and fast rule is to shop from the stash first.  Always. Have you heard this before? lol  The stash represents my old loves, my new loves and everything in between. It's my quilting voice. If something runs out or runs short? Make-do. If at all possible. And sometimes I'll try to make-do over and over before I cave and go buy something deemed essential. Have I totally quit buying new fabric? Absolutely not. Are you crazy? 

I am definitely choosier these days and don't tend to buy fabrics just because it's a good deal or I might feel sorry for it. I've learned to be much more specific in buying for the 'holes' in my stash or particular needs of a certain project. And again, I tend to buy small. Quilters have taught me to look at shirts and used clothing for possibilities too. It fits so well with the way I make and also, those stash totes? That's it. I'm all maxed out. There is literally no more space in the quilting room for any more totes. If new fabric comes in, old fabric has to go out. One way or another!*wink  Best get to quilting! There will be no hoarding and stashing in out of the way places from this quilter, 'cuz I'm not ashamed and I'm not hiding. So what about the rest of you? Stash or no stash? We'd love to see some pictures.....


  1. I always shop from the stash first and quite often find that I still need something for background or something - it is in our DNA I think as quilters - we say shop from the stash but find we need more (want?)
    The quilt pattern that you show in your first photo is something I would associate with you immediately - it looks like you!

  2. I, too, shop from the stash and do my level best to "make do" before purchasing new yardage. I have made a dent this year which makes me happy - and I love the article by Mary Fons and her take on her stash. Another most excellent post!!

  3. I declare, am a fabric buyer! My hubby once managed to see into the cupboard where I store my stash, he said, "so that's where our future Super Funds have been spent!!"
    My problem is I started years & years ago buying 'country' & reproduction and now I learn towards more modern fabrics, also I am making quilts for young adults, so therefore more modern fabrics. (which can be more graphic type designs which read as earthy markings or modern vintage, plus add in a few brights) so I feel so guilty that I have these old fabrics stored that I am not really interested in. I might have to look into trying to sell some of the fabrics, but many other quilters in my quilt group, say they already have too much fabric too!
    And with so many new fabric ranges coming on the market it's always interesting to add to the stash, so that what I make doesn't look the same as previous quilts ~ so that's my excuse for buying new fabric and I am sticking to it. Ha, ha

  4. I have an enormous stash! The fabrics I buy are mostly solids to use with all kind of scrap quilts. Just like you I get a lot of donations from friends and friends of the members of the Quilting Bee I run. The Bee makes quilts for charity. Pieces, small, big, cotton clothing, you name it. I shop at secondhand stores. They have beautiful cotton dresses and skirts. It is a challenge and fun to make beautiful quilts out of scrap.

  5. I love that JP pattern! It does look like something you'd make/ design. With the Patek patterns that so often need 22" in my 18" world, I just sew on another fabric and make do.

    I don't have a huge stash of quilting fabric [you haven't really seen a STASH til you've seen a designer's huge loft wall of shelves filled with imagination and someone else's money,lol. And we always ordered three yards. In every color!] ---and like you I almost always buy quarter or half yards. I know what I have, and so I don't ''shop my stash'' or do a fabric pull to see what might be useful If it's here I know it and get it out when needed. When I fell for JP's Festival of Life Bunnies pattern a few months ago, I totally knew that I didn't own any of the corals needed and so felt okay buying those fat quarters for the project. The rest is, yes, stash.

    I counted , I have about 6-7 smallish bins; I d have one more but baby Mo the pug has taken over one of them; the thrifted shirts are now homeless. I prefer the clear plastic bins, bec I sort by color; and I am switching to smaller flat bins bec I no longer can lift the big totes without pain.


  6. Ah the stash... For the past few years I have made a real effort in shopping my stash first, I'm a scrappy quilter and like you mainly have FQs not metres of anything. Still, it's a good place to start, challenging & satifying at the same time! I have also noticed with my fabrics that things do get a little stale, a little more out-of-date as time goes on, so I shop to add new life and colour. Your latest fabric pull- with the extra greens- has got my seal of approval!

  7. I have a big stash, some bought by me and some given to me, and often I try to make a quilt from stash... or at least that is the plan. Occasionally I buy something just because I like it. But I do not buy so much anymore since my stash is big and I do not know where to keep it anymore. I think I have reached the point that if new fabric comes in, something has to go..

  8. You and I must be related...we also must be about the same age...I have so struggled as I know deep down I need to downsize this collection. I go through it make a big big mess and realize I love making quilts ...many styles many kinds....but then the 70 year old quilt quilt guilt steps need to downsize....printed all of your fabric blog thoughts for solace and hopefully some type of decision and action on where to start.

  9. I really enjoyed your comments on your stash.

  10. I have what I've always thought was a huge stash--but after seeing and hearing about all you guys here, I'd have to say "middling".;)))
    Mostly I own fat quarters (for some unknown reason??) and some older yard lengths. Rarely, if ever, did I or do I buy 2-3 yds--but, in so many cases I dearly wish that I had done so...BUT--perhaps my "thrifty" mindset just reflects using bits and pieces, orts, leftovers and making stash is mostly (I've come to realize) prints, prints and yes, more prints. I have few blenders, no polka dots and few stripes or plaids...isn't that strange?? Last year I went on a solid color spree--so I do now have a fair amount of those (as you can see in present conundrum improv sewing!!). I am always surprised when digging through the stash--at what I may unearth...what fun ;)))
    AND--it's ALL MINE hahaha hugs, Julierose

  11. Your stash sounds uncannily like mine: I have about 2 dozen large "solid" tubs, sorted by color, mainly smallish scrappy pieces, dating back several decades, with a wide range of eclectic style. My space is finite also, and I'm about maxed out, so much less buying than in years past. I also enjoy exploring and finding forgotten pieces -- I can usually come up with just the right thing!

  12. Being new to quilting, I am stash building as it were. What a great excuse to fabric shop! But I always look in my cupboard first for what I need and love being able to use it...well not the William Morris fabrics...I'm not sure what it will take for me to cut those. Meanwhile, loved reading this post of yours and seeing those lovely piled up totes.

  13. I have the same storage dilemma, lots of light and only so much room in my studio loft. I, too, use plastic totes. Some are translucent, some grey. I have added page protector sleeves on one end with a piece of fabric the color of what is inside. It helps! My totes seem to explode in a fabrigasm at times, but at least I have some idea of where that certain fabric is supposed to be. I love your write up, and justification including Mary Fons', as to why we need all of that fabric. I even wrote a list of >70 reasons why I need more fabric. It is entitled "He made me wait in the car." Happy Sewing.

  14. Do you sometimes buy fabric because it's just too good a deal to pass up? I did that this year and kind of lost my mind a teeny bit. It was at an estate auction of a lady with over 30 totes of fabric. After the totes that sold to ladies who knew exactly what they wanted, they ended up selling the remaining totes for $7.50 per tote and each tote contained at LEAST 50 yards of fabric. How could I pass that up? I bought way more than I should have. I kept thinking I can sell whatever I don't want . . . Ha! Well, that hasn't happened. I keep thinking "I might NEED that!" It was SO FUN going through the totes that I did buy. But I think my stash is a little too big right now.

  15. I'm pretty good about knowing what I have in my 15+ tubs of fabrics, but it's nice to mix in some new pieces too to give the old a new look. (That's my justification). I do shop my stash first, but if I don't have the right thing, I do go shopping.

  16. What a lucky gal you are to be on everyone's fabric donation list - I can only imagine the goodies that you run across. For years I used the same storage system as you but it just got too frustrating digging into those bins every time I needed something so I finally picked up two Ikea shelving units with cubbies and never looked back. My sewing room is very small but they ended up along one wall and didn't take up any more space than my bins had - maybe a little less. The real bonus is being able to see what I have. I've got the fabrics sorted by colours and then a few of the cubbies are used for backings and odds and sods. The fabric is folded in relatively consistent sizes, but not perfection by any stretch. One downfall is that I am easily distracted when something catches my eye, but I figure that's not a bad problem to have. It was a game changer. :D

  17. Great post! A lot of light is a great problem to have! I love the practical way you organize your stash. Your fabric is accessible and protected! I have given a lot away in recent years, sort of constantly editing my stash, which has felt freeing. However, in prepping for tiny Tokyo apartment living, it was painful to have to pare way way down. But I just had to bring some small cross section of my stash! Love those quotes from Mary Fons.

  18. Thank you for this post! It is comforting to hear that I am not the only quilter who has incredible amounts of fabric...boxes and boxes and boxes from 30 years of quiltmaking and sewing...I use cardboard boxes from Office Depot and cardboard AVON boxes I got years ago from a friend who sold Avon. These are mostly sorted by color with a lot of them marked "Mixed" because I like to see different colors interacting with each other too! I make quilts totally from my stash and only pick up new stuff if it's seriously on sale or from the thrift shop.....because I really just have so much already! But I absolutely LOVE all of it! I feel so rich with all that possibility for beauty at my fingertips. I am making quilts as fast as I can!

  19. You have me wanting to stitch up a Patchwork Garden quilt now! lol! I've always enjoyed Jan Patek's designs (and now, her videos too)... :-)
    I had a stash of fabrics, threads, wool & patterns that was of considerable size. After awhile it just became too overwhelming for me (smothered the creative process) I began selling tossing and donating most of it. Now that I'm down to a bookshelf and a tote full of stash....I feel more at peace to actually enjoy the creative process! Plus, I've gotten rid of most of my dark and primitive stash and I'm now replenishing with lighter & happier colors! When I finally move to my "forever home"....I just may get a bit nutsy with stash enhancment! lol!

  20. When I began collecting quilt fabrics about 30 years ago, I could only afford small pieces, because I LOVED the scrappy look I found in the quilt books of the day. I read every book the local library had on quilting, and before I made my first quilt had memorized most of the block names... which by now my aging mind has much forgotten! I began storing my fabrics in those Xerox boxes with the lids. Then found out that the acid in the cardboard would age, weaken, discolor my fabrics! So I went to the 25 gallon plastic bins with the two interlocking hinged tops. All my fabric is washed, dried and ironed after it gets home. If I have a project(S) that it will be going into then cuts are made, and the pieces go into their respective project boxes. What is left gets folded. The fabric bin gets set on its end, and all the fabric gets put in one on top of the other that way so when I later open the bin I can see the ends of all of them to choose from. I sort my fabric by 1800's and the predominant colors in the bin (5 bins of those, very full). Full they can weigh up to 24 pounds. At one time I was part of a guild who made a house quilt for each new habitat for humanity home owner in town. So I have a bin of fabrics to make house blocks... roofing, siding, brick, flower gardens... I was in charge of putting together the quilts for a number of years, other members would make house blocks of (12" finished size) and I would make a big house for the center with sky, landscaping, etc. Their blocks would circle the center and I got fabric for borders. Those were fun to make, especially when the other members checked to see if they had completed their blocks to the correct size. Enough on that. I also have a collection of fabrics for landscaping for art quilts. Seasonal bins. Cat quilt fabrics, many in my family love cats and want cat quilts, so I buy themed fabrics for that occasionally still. Another member wanted a black and white quilt, I added bright splashes of color and so there is a bin of black and white prints. One bin has flimsies... unfinished quilts who are now tops or nearly tops, and some larger fabrics for backings. There is a bin for plaids of all kinds, one for polka dots of all varieties, at least 3 of Batiks, one of large florals that I've made at least 4 quilts from, Western themed, one of plain solids... Splurges have been a smaller bin of oriental fabrics. So you see I have a wide variety. Project bins are smaller and I stick them in old t-shirts to keep the light out so no fading. If in a box then the project is wrapped in a white dishcloth so the acid of the box does not touch the quilt fabrics. All those bigger bins (likely near 40 of them?) are in a dark cargo container on shelving. Hard to get at now since we moved and the isle is getting filled with more stuff as the years go by. Someday there will be a treasure hunt in there, hopefully by quiltmakers if I do not get to using it all up.

  21. I misspoke, they are 12 gallon bins!

  22. I made that Jan Patek basket pattern years ago. Rates high up in my favorites that I have made.

  23. Friends gave me fabric years ago and a few do now. I also gift to others. I switched to smaller clear boxes a few years ago because I can’t lift those big ones and my room can be darkened. It’s easier to find things. I still think I have too much although it’s much less than yours. However, I’m not tossing it. The old stuff makes great backs if nothing else.
    I also look through the stash before buying anything. It helps to know what you have and don’t have.

  24. Love that Basket pattern! I always shop my stash firt too!

  25. It's interesting to analyze how one buys and uses fabric. I watch trends and am always looking for what's new. Sometimes I find a fabric line that I can't stop thinking about and eventually I end up buying a layer cake or jelly roll and then put my stash with them. The quilt I'm currently working on was like that and I was fortunate to find a kit well after it had sold out everywhere else. I've added to the line (which I had to purchase) and am creating the quilt as I go. I have a small sewing studio and it has a double closet with shelving that is full. I have three under-the-bed boxes in the guest room and the closet in there is full of batting, quilt frames, numerous tops waiting in the queue, and another box of fabric. I tend to buy with a specific plan in mind and so my fabric is stored by project. I can usually remember where I bought my fabric (not how much I payed - ha!) and what I bought it for. I have a tendency to buy 3 yd. pieces of fabrics I particularly like and that has come in handy for borders. The gist of it is. . . I have way more fabric than I need and that doesn't bother me right now. I can find what I need to sew merrily along.

  26. This is just to say -- I am in awe of your enviable collection of fabrics, Audrey! I can see now how you can pull several dozen fabrics of the same color range in a variety of colors for one quilt. I suppose all of my fabrics (except the uncut shirts, some of which may go back to the thrift store) would fit in two of your large tubs. You can see why I call your collection enviable! Thanks so much for sharing.


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