Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Questions Answered Regarding Stash Reduction

A lot of people either through private e-mails or comments have asked how I have come to the conclusion of giving away my fabric.  Before I talk about that, I want to talk about how one begins to amass this amount of fabric to begin with. 

I started quilting when I was a kid.  I had people giving me fabric all the time.  My grandmother helped, and so did other people.  They just kept giving me more and more fabric.  I then started buying good quality fabric when it was on sale.  And sale fabrics can cause a large problem, just because a good fabric is on sale, doesn't mean one needs to purchase it.  Sadly no one ever told me this.  I would buy fabric almost anywhere, and all the time.  I just kept folding it and putting it away, and moving and sorting. 

I came to the realization this year that I was so overwhelmed with the amount of fabric that I needed to something about it.  It came to the point that I was actually going to the store to buy more fabric, just because I didn't want to attempt to look in my own stash for what I needed.  And I know that I probably had what I needed in my stash! 

There is a point that what you paid for the fabric has no course of action in how you are going to be discarding the fabric.  How I decided what I wanted to keep was a bit of a challenge, I had decided to create a criteria on what I needed to or wanted to save.

The first thing I did was look at the tops and sets of blocks that were waiting to be finished.   I kept all fabric, that would be needed to finish this tops and blocks into finished quilts.  This means lots of sorting, and finding backing for the tops.  The block sets need further planing, such as the set, the borders, and then you can determine the backing for the block sets.  That being said, all of those fabrics were placed in the keep pile.

Since I have a large amount of tops, and block sets, this was actually a lot of fabric. 

The next criteria was that I would keep fabric that I couldn't part with.  Amazingly, this bunch of fabric, included no new fabric, and was mostly vintage fabric that was given to me by family and friends.  Some of this fabric will never be used, but its just a tactile memory. 

Next, I looked and decided what quilts do I want or plan on making in the future.  I pulled and kept fabric for these quilts.  Luckily this only amounted to about a hundred yards.

I also kept all neutrals.  And neutrals to me, mean several different colors.  I use lots of yellow and red as a neutral in scrap quilts, and navy blue follows closely as well.  I also kept all muslin, and wide backings.  Once I had these sorted, I then sorted them again, and discarded any white on whites or the like, I just don't like the effect they have on the quilts that I made.

Since I had lots and lots of vintage and antique fabrics, I had to develop a plan for them.  It was my intent to donate anything that was pre 1950 to a local university for study.  Especially since I had lots of fabrics from the civil war era to the present.  Most of it was unwashed and had been store properly and was still very bright.    This was also the time, that I decided I wanted to keep all of my fabric.  But I quickly realized that this was not going to be possible.  So because of this, I kept two 6 inch squares of every fabric that I would be giving away. 

The reason for this is I wanted to make some charm quilts where every piece was different, and I also wanted to have a piece of every fabric that I owned.  I placed on set in archival boxes organized by the era of the fabric.

Once that was done, I had to decide what to do with all the fabric I didn't want to keep.  Its important at this time to understand that my stash had taken over the entire house.   I had rooms full of fabric, and I have actually broken pieces of furniture because there was to much weight from fabric.  If my fabric collection was breaking the shelves, wooden mind you, what could the damage of all the combined weight cause on the structure of the house I was living in? 

So the great giveaway begins.  I knew that the local Lutheran Church made quilts for relief, as did many other church groups.  However, most of the churches that I contacted wanted only new fabric yardage.  They also didn't want to come pick it up for several weeks, which was just not going to work.  The Lutheran Church was the only group that openly said yes, and were over to pick it up the next day.  They received the most fabric.  And were very happy to receive it.

I also posted on my local freecycle group, and another church group contacted me, and they received a large amount of fabric as well.  Also through freecycle, a group that makes quilts for Mason Homes for Children, drove over three hours to pick up 50 copy paper boxes of fabric.  All these boxes held were pieces that were smaller than a yard, most were quarter and half yard pieces. 

A friend picked up 200 yards to be sent to a 4 H sewing group, that has basically no budget what so ever.

And by large, the most fabric went to the university that collects, and documents historical fabric.  They also took many antique quilt block samples, and instructions.  It was great know that all the stuff I wanted to get rid of was going to places that it was going to be used.  Its also important to know, that about 1/3 of my stash went to fabric recycling.  This is a company that grinds the fabric up and uses it for other things.  I took lots of polyester and blends there.

Was this a large undertaking?  Yes!  If I had that same amount of fabric, would I do it again?  Yes!  The important thing to remember that YOU as an individual must be willing to overlook many things in this process.  For me this was many months in the making.  Just not a spur of the moment choice.  It was something that I followed through on, and me being happy out weighs the actual amount of money that was invested.  I am happy and no amount of money can buy me this. 

Now, people wonder how much fabric I have now, and if I do still buy fabric.  I have about 3,500 yards of fabric.  That sounds like a lot of fabric, but considering how much fabric I had, this is about 1/4 to 1/3.  That makes me happy!  I still buy fabric, I live antique looking scrap quilts, so I still buy vintage fabric if I see it, but only if it makes my heart sing.  If I buy new fabric, its usually muslin, or patriotic colors for Quilts of Valor.

I also still buy batting, thread, and lots of needles.  I also still quilt for charity, and buy things for that.  At the moment I am very happy where I am with my fabric. 

But its important to remember that whatever works for me may not work for you.


  1. That was a nice explanation!

    I donated fabric when we moved to Minnesota and I tend to alternate between buying what I want and not purchasing anything. I think as long as my fabric will fit on my wall of shelves I'll be OK with it ...of course my strings are completely overrunning the sewing room so I may have to send some off to another HeartStrings quilter eventually.

    It sounds like you're pleased with your sorting/donating and having moved as much as I have, I realize what a big job that must have been.

  2. Congratulations on simplifying, and keeping only what you need and/or love. Giving to others is a great bonus too!

  3. I probably have 1/10th of the stash it sounds like you have, and I feel bothered at times that it just sits there in my shelves not being utilized. I'm glad you mentioned Quilts of Valor, alot of my fabric ends up in one of those too. I have downsized quite a bit in the last few years, and currently attempting to finish up the 20 or so tops I have hanging in my quilt closet.
    Nice that so many charitable organizations benefit from your love of fabric!

  4. Oh Jay, so glad to read about your sorting. I guess there is hope for me. Henrietta sorts me out. Last trip she matched backing to tops. When I am HOME I need to do something other than laundry.

  5. hi jay was glad that we were able to visit you last week and go through your quilts and fabric. i delvered several of your string quilts and everyone just loved them. i am so proud to have you as my son and i know you have a heart of gold so many of the people of morrill people are so proud of you and all of your accomplishment and that great big heartyou have , many people probly dont know that jay has sent quilt to many homeless shelders, to nursing homes since he was around thirteen, this giving just keeps growing, so yes he does have lots of fabric and he spend quit of bit of time and money making quits,afgans, baby sweaters and blanket for many people from all over. i guess a mother is allowed to brag on her son once in awhile. everyone back here said hi.

    love mom