How Much Fabric Do We Need to Stash?

organized fabric stash


stash, noun: a store or supply of something, typically one that is kept hidden or secret.


We sewers usually have some sort of a fabric stash. A literal stockpile of cloth to be used for making quilts or other projects. We sketch designs on scraps of paper or we start with a pattern. We form a plan, with a sincere hope to start soon. There’s comfort in knowing that when we are ready to start, there’s a pile(s) of pretty fabric, right at our fingertips, to pull from. A fabric stash represents hope in our lives, a future of creativity! The promise of quilts.

Most of us have more fabric than we will ever use. It’s true. We have fat quarter bundles, jelly rolls, a couple of yards of a particularly beautiful print we’re worried might sell out. Maybe you’re gifted fabric you don’t love, but feel guilty donating it, so its kept in your stash in hopes of finding some way to use it in. I get it. It can feel wasteful to pass these pieces on. Having it on our fabric shelves means the possibility of use is always there. It sets the intention of using it and not waste it.


How much fabric do you need to make a quilt-


Did you know with a full fat quarter bundle of a designer’s fabric line, you can make a quilt? (A really pretty one too). A men’s dress shirt will yield 20-25 4″ squares. With 3 or 4 shirts, you could make a quilt. A rough estimate of the amount of fabric it takes to make one of my quilt patterns (quilt top only) is between is about 4-5 yards (and the less complex the design is, the less fabric it will need). 4 fat quarters is a yard.


When you do the math, you might realize you have several quilt’s worth of fabric in your stash.


Yet, with all that fabric at the ready, how many of us begin a project by taking a look at our local quilt store’s selection or what our favorite fabric websites have? Just to see? I totally do that. Its a favorite pastime. To sit and internet fabric shop. Sometimes, the fabric that has yet to be bought just a little bit prettier than what we have. Or maybe I’m missing just the perfect fabric from my stash.


When I wrote Wise Craft Quilts, I actually spent very little on fabric. I wanted to use what I had collected. That was, after all, the real essence of the book’s message. Of course there were times that I purchased additional fabrics here and there to make a quilt feel as I wanted it to. But overall, the supplies I needed for that book were minimal and I was super proud of that. I was living my message!


The creative surprise of limiting the choices-


I also remembered something interesting while writing that book. Something I knew, but had forgotten…


Tight Parameters Force Creativity


Working only within my stash, and restricting my choices of color, pattern, and composition to only using what I had on hand was challenging. But so inspiring! It forced me to stretch in ways that wouldn’t have occurred to me if I’d had infinite amounts of fabric and color choices. Creating within tight parameters required me thinking about all my fabric in more than one way. 


Can I fussy cut this area of the fabric pattern to get more of the effect I want?

Not loving the front of this fabric, but what about the back?

Could it be overdyed?

Could I remove some color using a product like Rit Color Remover?

This color still isn’t exactly right, but its so surprising that I like it when its placed next to this color!


These days, this is exactly how I approach my stash. I have completely KonMari’d my fabric stash and said thank you to a lot of fabrics that no longer worked for me (more on that soon, I promise). The fabrics I now have left in my stash have been properly vetted and  “joy-checked”. And I am vowing to use them. 


I actually think this way of thinking has made me a better quilter.


Quilt from my stash


As a test, I started a brand new scrappy quilt using all my very lightly colored fabric. I am teasing dark and light value differences from them using my Ruby Ruler™, and am sticking to just what I have in my stash. If I use up a fabric I adore, then its used up! I am not at all worried. There will be other fabrics I adore to fill its place once in the future. And other quilts to be made.


What about you?


How do you approach using your stash? Do you cherry pick only fabrics you’re willing to cut up, saving the rest for a better project? Find it hard to use it up? Maybe you have fabric use paralysis, afraid to use any of it (or procrastinating that first cut)? Why I don’t have a magic formula to tell you how much of a fabric stash you need, I’d love to know how you use yours! Leave a comment on the Wise Craft Facebook page.



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