Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Stash

 Everybody comments on my stash, and I am embarrassed to say I don't think much about it. This is pretty much IT.  The little bins on the top shelf hold the tiny bits bigger than 2" square, but smaller than, say 6" x 8".

(All photos will supersize when clicked, then clicked again if you want to study each stack more closely.)

The bookcase is a simple melamine bookshelf three feet wide by six feet tall. Yes, it's messy, but I've been busy.

This is what it looked like when I moved into this house a year ago. Nice and neat. I haven't really added a lot to it since then, so most of what was in the stash in this photo was used to make the Fall House Top, Blue Deco, Blue Boy, Triangle Dance, Petals and the Diamond Jubilee quilts.

These are the White with Colors, Orange and Yellow stacks.

 Here are the Acid Green and Green stacks.

Next shelf down is the pink, lavender and blue.
  Light blue, dark blue and teal (blue-green)
Red and Purple.

 Black on Black (BOB) and Black with Colors.

Black and White (I LOVE B+W, but you knew that, right?) and Grey, a new stack this year.

 The the creams and browns and tans.

And these are my WOWs and very light things.

These photos were taken Thursday evening October 8, after I finished the Diamond Jubilee quilt. I like to have fabrics that are blenders, some that have smallish allover designs, and some that have medium designs, some with larger designs, and some giants, but generally, I like fabrics that I can do lots of things with. I don't get all too worked up about it.

Why am I showing you this? Because Jackie said "You must have a fantastic stash..." and she wondered "when you purchase fabric is it for a specific project or just because and if not for a project how much do you purchase randomly?"

I bought these fabrics when I visited Kathy in Belfast Maine this past July.
Wow. Talk about a good question.

First, look back at the stash. I buy a lot of pure, vibrant color. I do not buy muddy values, and I can't stand the  "civil war prints." Too tiny, too dull, and frankly too hard to work with. Most of what's in my stash reads as ONE color, with the obvious exception of the large prints, which I like to use as backings for my quilts. I tend not to have any of the "modern" fabrics either, because a lot of them don't know which color they are.

The two on the right were used in the Diamonds quilt
Fabrics that can't decide what color they are are too hard to work with so I don't usually buy them.  What does that mean, too hard to work with? It means the fabric can't decide WHICH it is, so neither can the viewer, which makes it a bad choice.

These are fabrics that were given to me, but they are examples of stuff that's really hard (for me) to work with. I don't buy fabric like these.

What I have come to recognize as my "style" is my ability to put different prints together and make them "flow" from one to the other and look good. I can do that because the fabrics I generally select lend themselves to this kind of work. They're basic, and don't fight with each other.

Then again, being trained as an Artist, I know how to make a color look good. Remember, colors are affected by the colors they are next to. So you can make a color look brighter or duller by changing its neighbors. That makes it look like you have more fabrics than you really do.

By and large, when I buy fabric, I buy half yard pieces. I might buy a fat quarter if I need a particular color and can't find yardage, but I don't generally hang out in the FQ section. If I'm making a house quilt, and I need a brown for tree trunks (for example), or I want a stone foundation, I'll check the FQ section, but that's about it.

I never buy more than one yard of ANYTHING unless I have a specific use for it. And I rarely buy  backing for a quilt until the quilt top is finished. (Ask me how I know this.)

NOW... I have my share of novelties and things that I just think are irresistible, but I know full well buying them that they are not the most "flexible" things in my stash.  Look closely at the yellow stack. There's a fabric in there of black and white zebras on yellow.  Not exactly user friendly, but I thought they were fun. At the time I had a yellow and grey and black and white quilt in my head, but I used a lot of the grays in the Petals quilt. Oh well. They'll end up somewhere. Remember, I'll fussy cut ANYTHING to get the look I want.

I adore "The Ghastlies" and someday I'll use them in something, but I don't know what. Stuff like this, I only buy a yard or one pattern repeat.
 For me, the novelties are the extra goodies I put in my word quilts as visual "jokes." They will be a letter "i" that is really a cat, for example, or something like the ladies in the Rules quilts.

I'm not going to use a lot of the fabric, but when I do, I usually get a big impact out of it, so it's worthwhile. Stuff like this, I buy a yard, not more. Generally I see a print like this, and if I can see possibilities, and I like the colors, and it isn't "cute" or "cartoony" or "corny" or "tacky" I'll buy some. Yes, I am very, very picky. (And yeah, I know I'm opinionated too.)

Generally, I don't buy fabric unless I need it. I mean, OK, you've seen my stash, so that's not a big surprise. I just made two quilts (Petals and Diamond Jubilee) where I ONLY used fabrics from the stash. Look at the top photo. There's a LOT of fabric in there. There are more quilts to be had from my stash.

One exception is WOWs, or White On Whites. When I make a quilt with a "white" background, I use WOWs. So when I see one I like, I will buy a yard, but usually I buy four or five one yard cuts of different WOWs. In this case, more is better. I like a variety of pattern and texture. Regular readers know I use them randomly and interchangeably. I think they add interest and I like the way they reflect the light differently.

1. I never buy precuts. No jelly rolls, layer cakes, charm packs or any of that crap. Never. Ever.
2. I never buy everything in a designer "line." Oh, gag me with a spoon, how dull. Much, Much, MUCH more fun and interesting to combine a fabric or two from one line with blenders, batiks, or anything else from among the thousands of fabrics at any given quilt shop.

Okay, three things. I don't buy solids either. I use blenders instead.

I never buy fabric I fall in love with, unless I have a specific plan to bring it home and cut it up for a quilt I am making.

I bought these fabrics five years ago, and only cut into the one on the lower left when I made the Diamonds quilt last week!

Because it will sit in my stash for years before I cut into it.  That's a waste of money and storage space.  I keep threatening to teach a class and tell my students to bring their favorite fabrics and then make them cut it up. Does this thought make you cringe? Gotcha!

The only time I might buy something I really don't need is when I see a fabric and it's a beautiful pure color. Believe it or not a "true blue" is almost impossible to find, so when I see some, I'll buy a yard or more. As you know, colors come in and out of "style" so you can't always find what you want for sale in the shops. So I try to make sure I always have the basics.

I view my stash as my "Raw Materials." If it's in there, it's meant to be cut up. And one other thing. My stash is right out in the open. I never put fabric in a drawer, or wrap it up. For me, if I can't see it, it doesn't exist. I am not made of money, and storage space at my house is not infinite. Buying fabric I don't need, and then putting it away so I forget I have it, is a waste of money and space. I live by myself, so I don't have to worry about hiding my fabric purchases from a husband.  Believe me, I know full well that I spend more money each year on fabric than I do on clothes, but then, clothes are kinda boring.


I can do what I do and make the quilts I make because my stash has a wide variety of colors with varying scales of patterns. I have them on hand. If something isn't working, I can walk over to the stash (which is right next to my design wall) and rifle through it, looking for something else.

If you don't have a wide selection of fabrics in your stash, you might settle for something less than what you need. If you've read this far, you know I don't do that. I never settle. I keep pushing. Having a good stash makes my life a lot easier in a lot of ways.

The stash on the evening of Friday October 9th. I just had to organize it while I was working on this post.

I've been building the stash for five years, and let me tell you one other thing. It will NEVER get bigger than what's in this bookcase. Too much can be overwhelming. Sometimes endless possibility can be endlessly frustrating. You've heard me say it before, sometimes having fewer choices forces you to be creative about what you do have. Tim Gunn says "Make it work." I'm not above cutting a shape out of the middle of a piece of fabric if I want that part of a print to do something special.

I look at my fabric not so much as what it IS, but of what it can BECOME.


Quiltdivajulie said...

Excellent post !!! I would take that "bring your precious fabric" class :-)

lartiste said...

A wonderful, helpful post. I just wish all the pictures had shown up. Love your work and your philosophy!

NeverBored said...

Great post! I'm guilty of not being able to cut into a fabric I like (particularly batiks) and I'm going to make an effort to overcome that so I can create beautiful quilts using your guidelines.

Anonymous said...

So, yellow with zebras huh? Do they know they are never going to make it into a quilt? So sad.

Pat said...

Great post! I've been in the process of destashing, knowing I have way too much fabric. Some I don't like, some I'll never use, and the quantity is overwhelming. I have the back of my car full of fabric to be donated to a group that does lots of charity quilts. I can't believe how much stuff I've found that I'd forgotten about. Your post is really very helpful and will help me along the way in my destash efforts. Thanks!!! (p.s. I love those zebras. :D )

Misty said...

Very interesting to learn your thought process behind fabric purchases. I work somewhat differently but I can appreciate your reasons for excluding some fabrics and selecting others. I like the way you categorize the types of fabrics you buy or don't buy. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Your fabric looks very well organized! I would be ashamed to show you the state of my stash!

Megan said...

I want your stash! Mine was purchased primarily in the first 15 years of my quiltmaking, with little added in the past decade. Unfortunately, that meant that I bought a lot of fabric that is difficult to use - fabrics that I could call 'multicolours', which you call "fabric that can't decide what colour they are". And yep - you're right: they become hard to work with. I make a concerted attempt to use a lot of those fabrics when I'm making Bonnie Hunter-style quilts, but even so, you've got to use a lot of 2in squares to make any impact in the size of the stash! LOL

I'm also opinionated. And, I also never buy precuts except for charm squares (as I use a lot in my scrap quiltmaking) but ... I never ever ever buy everything in a designer line. After someone has gagged you, they can gag me. I think quilts made from fabrics all from the same range are flat, lifeless and, often, ugly! Because I work for several craft magazines, I see a lot of quilts made in this style and I have yet to see one that I think is successful. So many of the designers who use single fabric ranges provide tips for newbies to do the same, as they say that it guarantees that all the fabrics will work together and it means that you don't have to agonise over choosing fabrics yourself. But ... if you don't ever practise choosing fabrics yourself, how do you acquire the skill? How do you learn what you like, what 'works' for you?

I had to laugh at a tip provided recently by a project designer who has only been making quilts for a few years - her tip, her Big Secret - was not to use fabrics all from the same range; to choose timeless fabrics in tone-on-tones and geometric prints that weren't readily recognisable as having been designed by a specific designer or having been produced in a particular era. I was gobsmacked that there were so many quiltmakers who had become caught up in the fabric manufacturers' marketing ploys that this was considered secret knowledge to be shared. LOL But, in her circle, it probably was.

All that said, I don't get uptight about what other quiltmakers do. If they enjoy whipping up jelly roll race quilts or hoarding all the latest fabrics from a specific designer, good on them: I hope they get a lot of pleasure from their crafting. That approach is not for me. A lot of people don't like the quilts that I make either, and that's fine. I make quilts because I like making quilts.

Sydney, Australia

Jackie said...

Thanks so much for answering my question Lynne and sharing photos of your stash. I am learning so much from following your blog and really feel that my tastes and the way I look at fabric has changed significantly. What I was attracted too six months ago no longer does it for me. I would become bogged down by patterns but now look at fabric differently and I have you to thank for it. Thanks so much for sharing.

Marei said...

Great post, Lynne, and I have to say I agree with everything you say. I, too, am opinionated. I, too, hate precuts. I, too, find that those multi-colors...the ones that don't know who/what they are...are painful to work with. And I particularly agree with keeping your fabrics out in the open; mine are on shelves that I look at every single time I go into the quilt cave; and about keeping your stash to a limited size. I only let my fabrics occupy so much space -- not one inch more.d Well...maybe I do stretch my boundaries, but not often.

Sewgirl said...

Lots of very useful tips Lynne, Thanks for being so generous with your information!

Cherie in St Louis said...

Thank you for giving us insight to your fabric stash. I had never put a name to it but I now see most of the fabric that I have a hard time using is because they don't know what color they are. I can't wait to get home and view my stash through new eyes now. This could explain why I love working with thrifted shirts.....they generally always know what color they are ;-)

Jennifer said...

thanks for the fantastic post! I think that we have similar "styles", as far as approaching colors, and using the fabrics. (I never, ever like to do something that's expected...) but you carry it off WAY WAY more successfully than me! I had to laugh- your "before" picture of your fabric bookshelf, and your "after" making 6 quilts fabric bookshelf are not very different! how is that possible? I find that with my stash, too- it never really decreases! I enjoy your blog lots, and millie's, too, when I remember to look. (millie is my cat's name, too. we named her that because we were told she was a good mouser. it's true- she caught 3 yesterday!)