The Cash in Your Stash



Take a look at your stash.

Go ahead. I’ll wait….

What did you see?  Is there more of one color than another?   Are you missing basics?  Do you know if  you’re missing basics?


Most sewing enthusiasts, regardless of what they like to sew, have some fabric put back for projects, and believe me, quilters are no exception to this rule.  I have quilting friends who have stashes that are literally floor-to-ceiling-come-to-Jesus stashes, and then I have friends whose stash literally fits into one or two drawers.  The first kind of quilter purchases fabric because they like it, it’s on sale, and they don’t mind having material that’s not pre-destined for a project.  This first kind also keeps nearly all the leftover scraps.  The second kind of quilter only buys fabric for a project they’re working on and may keep some of the bigger pieces of leftover material.

I’m somewhere in the middle.   I have a good-sized stash, but it’s manageable.  It all fits neatly (most of the time) in a bookcase and I have a few bolts of fabric stacked beside of it.  A 2014 survey taken by the National Quilting Association, stated that the average quilter has a fabric stash worth $6,000.


Six thousand dollars.  That’s a lot of money to have invested in material. If I’m investing $6,000 of my hard-earned money in anything, I want it to be worth my investment and give me a good return.  I don’t think fabric should be any different.  So what do you buy?

I mentioned earlier in the year, when I was bemoaning the fact that quilt shops seemed to be closing left and right and being eaten up by the internet monster, that we needed to not only buy from our LQS (both on line and store front), but that we also need to carefully cultivate our own stash.  What does that mean and does that make a difference in what you buy?


I have to admit, I’m as big of a sucker as anyone when it comes to a fabric sale.  And when my quilting peeps get together and we visit a quilt store, I know that I am going to purchase some fabric to take home with me.  It’s inevitable.  It’s like going to the grocery store – you know you’re going leave with  toilet paper.  When we go to a quilt shop, I’m going to buy fabric.


There are a few personal guidelines I adhere to:

  • If you see a fabric you absolutely fall in love with, buy five yards. The reason behind this is that once a fabric line is completely sold out with a manufacturer, they will not reprint it unless there is a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) demand for it.  Chances are five yards of that beloved fabric will take you nearly anywhere you need to go with any size quilt.
  • When you buy it, realize you have to manage it. It’s like bringing home a new puppy.  It may be cute and cuddly and has completely won over your heart, but you know you have to train it.  It’s the same way with fabric.  It’s lovely.  You love to pet it.  You have all kinds of ideas about what you want to do with it.  But you have to organize it in such a way that it protects the fabric, allows you to see it, and keeps your work area, well, workable.  And there are tons of ways to do this, but we’re not going there with this blog.
  • If I am buying for a particular quilt pattern, I generally purchase a quarter to half-yard more just in case I make a mistake. Any leftovers I can always add to my stash.
  • Buy quality fabric. It will make the sewing experience easier and your quilt will hold up longer.

Allow me to field some questions here:

If I am serious about making my stash something workable, where do I start?

I am a big proponent of shopping your own stash before making a trip to the store.  And as big of a thrill as I get when I purchase pretty fabric, I am overwhelmingly overjoyed when I find I have everything I need already in my studio.  This is how I go about making sure that I at least have a good backbone stash.

1).  Purchase solids in the primary and tertiary colors.  And this should really be yardage verses fat quarters or pre-cuts.  This is not extravagant spending.  Quilts generally use solids in their layout and most of these solids fall in either the primary and/or tertiary range.

2).  Make sure you have a range of prints in your stash.  Have small enough prints that can read solid from a distance.  Have medium-sized and large prints in there, too.  Nothing screams boring like a quilt made from the same sized prints and the same value-range of fabrics.  Which brings me to my next point…

3).  Make sure you have tints, hues, shades, and saturations of all levels.  These terms were explained in detail in earlier blogs.  Quilts should sing with not only different colors, but also with different saturation levels.  Otherwise it just kind of “grays” out.


Now let’s talk background fabrics.  And I’m talking “traditional” background fabrics – neutrals.  I realize that quilters can literately use any color as a background fabric, (as a matter of fact the last several best of show quilts at the Paducah AQS show had very colorful backgrounds), but let’s stay traditional at this point – whites, creams, ecrus, blacks, grays – if you find these on sale, purchase several yards.  You will always find a use for these fabrics.  And don’t be afraid of using a printed neutral as a background.  White on white, white on ecru, black on gray, etc., make for subtle movement and added interest in a background.  The only caution I would throw out here is be careful if you’re using the background for hand applique.  Often the tone-on-tone prints have a “rubbery” feel to then and are difficult to get a hand sewing needle through.


What about that (ah-hem) questionable fabric on the sale table that has been marked down to $3 a yard?  Should I purchase any of that?


But maybe not yardage.  If you’re purchasing from a quality fabric establishment, the material, no matter how homely it looks, is good fabric.  People just haven’t thought out of the box about that material, so it’s been left to languish in the bargain bin.  If a stack and whack quilt is in your future, and there is fabric there with good repeats, grab it and march yourself to the cash register.  If applique is your thing,  and there is fabric with large flowers or leaves, you may be able to fussy cut some of those for a project.

Never pass a sales table without thinking out of the box.  If it has possibilities, buy a half yard.


I have an established stash.  How do I make sure it’s workable?

It’s no secret that my favorite color is purple.  Therefore, my stash has quite a few purple pieces of all tints, hues, values, and shades in it.  My least favorite color is brown.  Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of brown material.

Your favorite colors will always beckon you from across the room.  Some colors just make you feel happier or more serene than others and you gravitate towards them.  However, you have to look at a stash the same way a painter prepares his paint palate to create a landscape – there has to be a good range of all colors.  Quilts are no different.  So even though you may favor some colors more than others, make sure you have at least some of each to start with.

The color I have the most difficulty with?  Green.  Not because I don’t like it, I just never seem to have just the right green.  I think it’s a calculated ploy to make me have to buy more fabric.


What about precuts?  Should I have them?  And if so, how many?

To me, precuts are a personal decision.  If you’re working with a pattern that calls for 2 ½-inch strips, it makes the most sense to try to find a jelly roll that will work for you.  And there are tons of wonderful layer cakes.  The pre-cuts I work most with are fat quarters – they’re just the most versatile.

But all of the precuts can be limiting.  There are patterns out there just for them, but with yardage you can make any pattern.  So I do not tend to have a great deal of precuts in my stash, with the exception of fat quarters.  I really have to love them or find them on sale before I purchase them.  And that is a very personal, creative decision.  Folks feel differently about them and that’s fine.

I carry one of these with me when I shop.


If I find a fabric I want to use in a quilt, this does give some idea about how much to buy.

I hope this helps someone with their purchasing habits.  A fabric stash is an investment.  Purchase wisely and use it well.


Love and Stitches,


Sherri and Sam


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