Our quilt guild organized a studio tour of some of our members’ sewing rooms a few years ago. One of the most exciting and prolific members opened up her cupboards to reveal that she had the world’s smallest stash – just a small pile of neatly folded fabrics in a small cupboard. There were quilts everywhere, and a great many small wall hangings for sale. But no stash! I couldn’t believe it.
In my sewing room cupboards I have piles of old shirts, denim jeans, and old batting off cuts (too big to throw away, too small to use for a quilt). I have a bunch of unsuccessful quilt blocks from classes or experiments from years ago. I have kept yards and yards of selvages, and any piece of fabric that will cut a 1 1/2″ square. I’m not QUITE a hoarder, but I do hate throwing useful things out. People give me old cotton clothing when they are downsizing. It is overwhelming to open the cupboard door. Sound familiar?
I’ve been noticing lately that many of us are working from our stashes. The stash busting started a few years ago with the Global Financial Crisis, I think – when we stopped buying so much new fabric. Now we’re trolling not only our sewing rooms for fabric that we may have bought in better times and forgotten about, but also consignment stores for cotton clothing that we can cut down into quilts. Happily, not everyone is doing this, or we wouldn’t have any quilt shops left!
At last week’s quilting retreat I used up some old ugly fabric (that chunk of Millenium fabric I bought in 1999 intending to make a 2000 piece charm quilt, and a skirt someone gave me because it was cotton, for example) on oven mitts that are bound for Ecuador with a friend who goes with a dental team to small villages there. Her job is to sterilize the equipment and she is always burning her arms taking the trays out of the sterilizer. I also used up some of that leftover cotton batting (you know you can piece batting, don’t you?). She didn’t care what they looked like and I was thrilled to be able to get this fabric I have no other use for out of my stash, and reduce the size of the bags in my cupboard.
I need to do more of this. There’s a theory in the retail world that if you put a lower price on things, you can move the stock more quickly and replace it with something new. I see this in some fabric shops – I’m thinking about places like Marden’s in Maine, where you can often find fabric for $5 and less per yard – and they get it. There are always new fabrics coming in and that keeps people coming back regularly.
What if we kept that in mind with our own stashes?
But it’s not only for the old ugly fabric. Two years ago I challenged two friends to make ten pieces each for a group art show we did last February/March. One of my own challenges was to use up some of that “holy” fabric in my stash – too beautiful to use. I gave myself permission to use anything I wanted on these pieces. It was very freeing. I started in on my hand-dye bin and kept going. That gorgeous piece of teal hand dye that I’ve been fondling for several years turned into this:
I can’t think of a better use for it!
What about all that denim I’ve been collecting? I have two stacks of denim quilts blocks that I’ve put together for the next call for flood/fire/devastation quilts. I must put them together one of these days and get them out of the house.
And the old blocks – not even UFOs because you’ll never finish them? A few months ago my friend Wenche asked if we had any quilts we could donate for a local Alzheimers’ fundraiser. I had just done a cleanout of my studio and offered my old blocks. She took a couple and made wall hangings for the fundraiser! Blocks that I couldn’t see any future for became colourful gorgeous wall hangings.
If I clear out some room, I’ll be able to fill it up with even more beautiful fabric! And I won’t feel so overwhelmed with the piles of projects and little baggies of STUFF that are everywhere. Sometimes it takes some creativity to figure out what you’ll do with all of it, but there are ways – otherwise, why have you been keeping it? There are lots of books with patterns using scraps (although I think some people’s “scraps” are significantly larger than mine……), and lots of ways to use up old thread, binding, batting, etc.
I still go to the quilt shop – usually for specific projects or to replace a colour I am running short of. But I MUST clear out my sewing room so it feels like a workable place. I think it’s a worthy endeavour for 2015.
Are you with me? Do you have any good ideas? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear about them!
Tags: stash busting