Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stash management

I spent the best part of the past two days working on my stash. Well...working in my sewing room and dealing with/managing my stash. Now I don't have a huge stash. When I started quilting, my initial objective would be to use all of the fabric that I had on hand before I bought more. That objective didn't last too long. Then I resolved not to let my fabric have birthdays. The fact is that right now most of my fabric is under two years old. I usually try to have little or no fabric left when a quilt is done. Whatever the quilt calls for, I draw out or recalculate the stated requirements because after a big finish, I don't want any leftovers. Nonetheless, today and yesterday I sorted and reorganized what I have and right now I know what's there...which is more than I could have said three days ago. My bankers box of scraps is overflowing and my box of pieces too small to save is also full. When I was sewing garments, the fabric leftover was tossed. Not now. You never know when you need a tiny piece of green for an applique piece and what's the point of cutting into a large piece for a small piece you have on hand!!?

I like to keep a good assortment of fabrics: plenty of neutrals, both light and dark, and a range of choices in my country palette. My stash pretty well "matches". That's the way I buy fabric. I practically never buy one piece of fabric, no matter how great it is. When I get to a quilt shop, I have to know what I am looking for or else it's a waste of time for me. I wander around with that 'deer in the headlights stare' and don't buy a thing. A couple of years ago, I wanted to make a red quilt. Left Brain and I were at Mardens in Waterville ME, and I had no trouble finding that first great piece but I meandered around and just couldn't finish off the 3-3-2-2 (0r 1) combo...that is, till I stood in line at the cutting table and found the last two being cut for the customer in front of me!! What luck... and the combination made into a beautiful quilt. Similarly when I was looking for blacks. It's often easy to find the first two but those third and fourth pieces can be a challenge. I know people who collect for months to make a particular quilt and I gave that a try with nautical fabric. I have a box of nauticals...notice: a BOX of nautical fabric...not a NAUTICAL QUILT. I probably won't make that quilt. Kind of a waste, both of time searching and the money spent.

Recently I read an article called The Color-Filled Fabric Pantry in Quiltmaker magazine, May/June 2006. A great article if you can put your hands on it. Written by Heather Thomas, it begins with this paragraph:
"A workable stash is like a well-stocked pantry: it has all the basic necessities and is supplemented by the odd specialties. A stash, like a pantry, should provide its owner with the resources to create whatever she wants, whenever she wants. For a quiltmaker, fabric is the medium. We should learn to buy it in the same way a cook stocks a pantry, or the way a painter buys paint. We need to buy fabric not only because it is beautiful, but because it is useful".

As you see, the article suggests that the quilter should be able to go into her stash and create a wonderful project with the fabrics at hand. Have you ever heard a quilter say she bought a piece of fabric but has 'no idea what I am ever going to do with it'? Now I am not quite this systematic but I don't feel overwhelmed by the fabric-on-hand. My Christmas fabric is in one container, albeit a really large one, but I suspect that in a month or so, there will be considerably less. I am not buying more, except for a good Christmas green which I need for a Pam Bono project I am starting in November. The greens I have are too limey or too blue or too bright. One nice piney green and I will be set to begin the gift-making for this year. Two gifts are done, a few more to go. Tick tock...I know!! I have a wonderful quilt called The Gathering pieced as well and ready to quilt and a Red Onion top ready to be quilted. Two more months of the Debbie Mumm block of the month and that will be finished ...well, the top will be pieced. That's just the beginning!!

The Heather Thomas article suggests doing a fabric inventory and building your fabric pantry by purchasing what you need to round out your collection. She also encourages having your stash in an open area so that you can see it regularly and be excited about it and Heather uses the word "CULLING"!!! Get rid of the dated fabric. That could be tough...I am thinking about those beautiful nauticals I have looked at so many times!!! There is so much more in this article you may want to have that particular issue of Quiltmaker in your library. It's a great edition and the link to buying this past issue is here:
The article concludes with a great commentary on the color wheel and descriptions of those pesky terms that sometimes confuse us, like hues, tints, tones, shades and values and be sure to wander over to for tons of great articles like this one.

The next projects will be made from my stash. I am going on a non-buying spell for a few months, maybe till the spring. So right now, for me, it's all about stash management. Use it up and then fill it up!! That's a win-win situation if I ever saw one!

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