Sunday, April 3, 2011

PM/GC Skill Builders Series Part 2A - Buying for the Stash

or, as I like to put it:

... for my cats to sleep on
Teehee.  Sorry.  I had to do it.

Check out Sandi's post on this same subject here.

Buying for one's stash is an incredibly personal decision, dictated by several factors.  Time, money, our mood at the moment, current fabric availability, current fabric trends...  I could probably go on.  And on.  And on.

Anyway, I decided to take a slightly different road from Sandi's post on buying for the stash.  She goes into a lot of great details, that you don't need to read twice.  I decided to discuss what makes me buy something for my stash, so let's dive right into that.

First of all, I've really only been buying with the intent to stash for about five years.  'Intent to stash'.  What do those words say to me?

When I buy fabric with the intent to stash, that means that I know darned well that I'm not going to cut into in the near future.  Near future being in the next week or two.  If I'm going to be cutting into it within that time frame, I'm buying with a project in mind.

But I digress... Back to intent to stash.

I know I'm not nearly as bad as some individuals about buying fabric just to have it.  I'm actually pretty proud of that.  I don't have unlimited space - I live in a two bedroom apartment that I share with my husband, son, and three cats.  So, I have to be pretty picky about what I pick up for the stash - I have to have a place for it all to live.

However, I'm right with Sandi when it comes to the things I look for when buying for the stash: Color, Value, Print, Scale and Quality.

Let's start with Quality because it's a quick and easy one to get out of the way.  I do not buy exclusively from quilt shops.  I do a lot of purchasing from my local Joann's, as well as from online discount retailers like  But with that said, I do my best to ensure that what I bring home isn't something I'm going to regret.  If I can see through, it doesn't come home at all.  I like cottons with a smooth finish and clean printing.  I like it to have weight to it, a solidity if you will.  Now, I know that sounds a lot like Sandi, but I think it bore repeating.  Most importantly, be happy with what you take home.

I can't comment on the lighter weight fabrics that have become popular, like voiles, because I haven't used them.  I'll be honest though... I'm not especially jazzed to try them either because I haven't seen any that really trip my trigger.

Let's move on...


I love color.  It's the motivating factor for me when I purchase fabric for my stash.  But because of that, I can go very long periods without buying for my stash.  This is due to the fact that there are 'in-season' colors as well trendy colors.  Past years where pastels or were super hot - I pretty much stayed out of fabric stores.

The top two shelves contain everything that is one full yard or less, organized by color.  Since I do a lot of scrappy quilts, I buy a lot of fabric at this quantity.

The third shelf contains the fabric that is over one yard in length.  I don't have as much there, at the moment.  The shelf was full last summer.  I used quite a bit of yardage from the stash for the Christmas Cactus Quilt and for the Piecemeal Quilts Friends and Family Basket Blocks top.

As you can see, I don't buy a lot of brown or yellow.  The yellow thing is due to the fact that I really don't like bright yellow.  I prefer mustard or turmeric yellows, shades that start veering into brown and rust.  Brown is simply not my choice of neutral, though if you look in the top left corner, I clearly have a white/cream and gray/black obsession.

Really, if I like the color, I'm very likely to take it home, as evidenced by the piles waiting to be processed into the shelving:
About six months worth of purchases - because I've been LAZY 
I've been accused of liking ugly fabrics because I tend to buy some really off the wall shades.  But that's because I like to include zinger fabrics.


These are one section for me, because they're inextricably linked in my head.  I love solids, but they make up less than 5% of my fabric purchases over the course of a normal year.  2011 is the exception to that, because I am doing a Dear Jane.

I buy a lot of tone on tone as you can see from these close-ups of the first two shelves of my stash:

I buy them in both small scale and medium scale prints.  Occasionally, there's a large scale tone on tone, but that's not common for me.  Honestly, this buying habit is something that seemed pretty unconscious for me.  On the surface, they're just what I'm attracted to.

Thinking about it though, I realize it is actually a conscious choice.  Buying primarily in the tone on tone, or 'reads as solids' group, I have of a lot of options open to me.  I normally piece in smaller units, so I don't lose the pattern at all.  My stash can go into a wider range of quilts.  Scrappy quilts are much easier.  These purchases tend toward more versatility, and age better than other prints.  I regret far fewer purchases this way.

When I do purchase large scale prints:
They are almost inevitably very limited in color palette, and they're something I use as a leaping off point for pulling the other fabrics for a quilt.  I have fewer colors to worry about matching, which is awesome as colors go in and out of fashion.  Finding a zinger fabric (something that stands out to draw the eye) is so much easier, because I simply pick that's not even in the large scale print.  For instance, the fabric on the far left with the yellow, gray and white on the black background?  I'm thinking aqua would work well as a zinger.


Because I'm attracted to so many different colors, in such a variety of shades and tones, I actually have a wide range of values to work with:

Value is just as important as color, in order to create a sense of movement in a quilt.  Sandi showed off some great examples of this in her post, so I'm not going to re-illustrate for you.  Instead, I'll just encourage you to purchase fabrics in a wide range of colors and values - you'll be so glad you did, in the long run.

Now, you'll notice I didn't touch on pre-cuts, or vintage, re-purposed fabrics.  I don't buy pre-cuts.  This is because pre-cuts highlight a single line, in all the color ways.  I find that tremendously boring.  I also end up feeling extremely limited and frustrated by the fact that they are pre-cut.  I'd much rather be the one to decide how my fabrics are sliced and diced, and I dislike losing the nature of a large scale print to a small shape.  As for vintage or re-purposed fabrics, typically, they're not something that I like.  Most old bed linens tend to be large florals in pastel shades.  That's just a double whammy of 'no' for me.


As a buyer, it pays to be aware of changes in the market.  You want to know when the stuff you like is moving out of stores.  I take that as my last chance to stock up.  Keep an eye on your local department stores and clothing boutiques to see when displays change, and when seasonal goods start getting shifted around.  See what colors are being used in clothing and home goods ads to determine if you need to start stockpiling the stuff that you liked but either didn't buy a lot of or put off.

I personally don't keep tabs on what fabric is coming out when, but that's also a very good indicator of when these industry mandated change overs in trendy/popular colors are about to take place.  When retailers offer an additional markdown on their clearance fabrics is a good sign that an influx of new product is about to hit the shelves.


I very rarely buy less than a yard of whatever fabric happens to make it into my cart.  I don't make small quilts for myself.  I prefer them to be a generous lap-sized quilt at the least, but prefer something that can fit on my queen size.  If I'm looking at a large scale print, I'll almost always buy two yards, so that I can retain as much of the image as possible, as well as to incorporate it in either the backing or a border.

I've been known to buy fat quarters, when there is really no other option if I want to obtain a certain color.  I'm not really into them, because of their cost.  Since I'm careful to buy my yardage at sale prices, fat quarters actually end up being prohibitively expensive.

Hopefully, this all will help you the next time you go fabric shopping.  If I need to clarify anything, please leave a comment and I will get right back to you.


Michelle said...

Thanks for both of y'alls posts! You've made me think a lot about color choices and I think I'll start looking at fabrics I wouldn't normally buy, but are at a great price, for my stash. When I'm pulling fabrics from my stash for a quilt I always feel like there's something missing and I think it's those zinger and odd fabrics that I shy away from in the store.

quiltmom anna said...

One of the challenges I have is finding the zinger fabrics - I Love prints and a friend long ago said that she buys fabric when she sees it and it makes her heart hurt not to buy it( a real wow factor)
I have a very large stash that I have collected for the last 10 years- Like you I don't buy many precuts- I just bought a couple of batik layer cakes because I want to try a quilt pattern that uses them. I buy what I like and I buy what is on sale- both in the quilt store and in a store called Fabricland( we don't have Joann's in Canada) I usually buy 2 meters unless it would be perfect for a back and the price is good- then I will buy 7 meters. I make only bed sized quilts (twin- king size) I like to be able to curl up in a quilt.
One interesting thing I read not long ago was from Bonnie Hunter who said she sorts her fabrics into neutrals and not neutrals ( white, grey, tan, beige, cream) and everything is not neutrals. It is because all other colors are more comparative - it can be light or dark compared to the other fabric that you are comparing it with. Her sorting system made sense to me- though I do have my fabrics sorted into colors not values ( ie. all reds together and greens etc.) I do have some tone on tones together and some specialties collected( sunflowers, stars, Kaffe Fassett, children, batiks and 30's fabrics) Sometimes I make a theme quilt so I like to have special fabrics together.
Thanks for sharing your stash and your ideas. It is interesting to see how others choose to organize their stash.

Lynne said...

As a novice quilter, thank you for your insights; it was a very interesting read.

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