Friday, July 8, 2011

Stash Busting 101

First off, there is nothing you are about to read that you don't already know or haven't read before but perhaps it bears repeating.

Yes, we are a quilt shop and indeed we sell fabric but a day doesn't go by without one of us either hearing or muttering to ourselves, "I have too much fabric! I don't know what to do with it all!" And then another fabulous shipment arrives and we drive home with yardage...

So, and speaking for myself, when confronted with what appears overwhelming, the tendency is to do a Scarlett O and just say, "Fiddle de de, I'll just think about that tomorrow!"

M' dears, tomorrow has arrived for this quilter. I had a good chin wag with Pearl yesterday and she gave me some good advice. I pass it on to you in the hopes that if tomorrow arrived today in your home, you will find this useful.

It's daunting to look at the spread you've got tucked here and there and know where to begin. So break down the difficult into manageable pieces. The rest will follow. (they're not going anywhere without you, you know!) And remember..... it took you years to get to this point; it's not going to unravel itself in a day, unless you are really motivated by something, (like moving).

a. In an effort to not overwhelm your senses and space, Open one drawer or tote box and go through it. Just one. Did you love the fabric then and wonder 'why?' today? Go with your gut and put it in a one of two stacks. If you love it still, keep it. If you reaction is "meh.." let it go. Give it up. That one goes in a non see-thru box so you won't be tempted to pull it out again. When you have plowed through that first stack of fabrics, give yourself a break. If you have the strength to continue....
b. Repeat this with another box or shelf of fabric. Now stop.
c. After you have culled, put the "To Go" box out of sight and organize what you intend to keep. Chances are you have fabric you haven't looked at in a long time and already your mind is swirling with possibilities. Group that together and write down what you are thinking. Put it in a ziplock bag or grocery bag together with the notation. This is important because with the passage of time comes memory loss. My best ideas are gone before I can finish thinking them throu..... what was I saying?

If you don't have any bright plan and or still have fabric orphans, organize what you are keeping in some manner that appeals to your method of quilting. I would make 3 piles and organize by size first. Scraps (yes.... I keep everything!!!!! groan), less than half a yard cut and yardage. Stay with me here..... Then box up the scraps so you don't get distracted. Put them aside. (There are ways to break even those down further but that's for another day.)

With the larger pieces, you need some form of organizing. Big chunks of yardage are easy to stow all together and then easier to find when it isn't jumbled in amongst the bits n bobs. They can be folded neatly and placed on end in a large clear container and if you are really good about this, you can measure each piece and place a sticky note like a file tab so in the future, when you have a pattern in mind, you don't have to drag it out completely to see if there's enough of that for the project.

There! The small pieces are done, the large chunks are out of the way..... It's the smaller, less than half-yard cuts that are most cumbersome. And probably account for half the battle.

We love to buy fat quarters but then they pile up and we want to use them so we just shuffle them around until they get mixed up and lost. So begin by deciding how you want to find them in the future. By color? All reds, all greens, etc. By brand? mmmmmm maybe not. By motif? all Asians, all polka dots, all baby, all batiks. (I have two boxes all Christmas! Who knew?)

Once you decide that, how are you going to stack them? In boxes, or on a shelf? Measure the intended space and fold the fabric to fit neatly in or on it. And stack it so you can see what you have without picking up what sits on top. If you have a label maker, stick a reminder on the outside of the box or on the shelf so you will know what is there without having to open it. Then, when they are all tucked in and you stand back, you will be amazed that you didn't do this before.

There! In less than a few hours you will have gotten some handle on your problem and probably are feeling less stressed as a result. You have taken the first step toward stash busting and I hope will feel enthusiastic about continuing with the remaining piles and closets and under-the-bed bundles of fabric.... (I hide them too... like a squirrel with nuts)(It's an illness.) until every piece is both accounted for and dealt with. Nothing left untouched or forgotten. And if this takes a week, that's okay. The point is you did it. You know what you have and you are in control again. (I'm not, yet, but I'm working on it....I'm working on it!)

Repeat this with your collection of books, magazines and patterns. Oh NO!!! Oh Yes. Have a pattern swap. Thin out the herd of magazines by tearing out the patterns you want to keep or cut just the photo of that especially pretty quilt you admire and get a 3-ring notebook instead. Why do I keep old advertisements on my shelf in some musty old magazine from 1996? OUT!

But what about the cast-aways? Don't toss it in the garbage!
If you belong to a club, propose a swap. Or make a scrappy fast quilt and give it away. Give it a good home. It came from one!

I read once that "clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions" and I think there is wisdom there. I know I feel better about what I am doing when I know where I have my stuff.

Now! You know all that stuff you kept? If you are ready to actually use some of it and want ideas, look for our little happy stars we have placed on patterns and samples throughout the store.

Scrappy quilts are awesome!

These little guys are there for you to get inspired to use what you have and be excited to do so.

I hope this has been a useful read. Send in photos of your busted up stash and quilts made from the results. We love to see what you do!


Anna said...

Good advice and great writing!

Chris said...

Thank you! And thank for reading our blog.

lucy's mom said...

good ieda love that idea thanks for all that info

Chris said...

You are very welcome!!!!! I hope it helps in getting the Stash Monsters under control! I found two lurking under my pile of fabric....

Anonymous said...

THANKS I Will put your idea to work. I have been stashing for years and now I have a reason to go through and sort out what i might not find inspiring anymore.

Chris said...

A useful way to "recycle" the fabrics you no longer wish to hang on to is to donate them to a club or guild that makes quilts for donations. You might be surprised at the number of these groups.

How to find them? ask a local church or quilt shop and even a library!

If you really can't bear the idea that they will get tossed..... make string quilts!!!!!! seriously! My aunt makes many of these gems and when you are using good quality cotton, the fabric motifs simply don't matter! They all work together.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget sewing classes at your local high school. Chances are they have no budget for fabric any longer and love donations of any size. Teach my students patchwork to make usable size pieces for bags, etc.

Anonymous said...

I just did the big sort (what else can I do in this deep freeze?) Our church has a weekly quilt group, making 36 quilts last year they gave to homeless families. They rely completely on donations. I like your ides of putting fabrics I no longer want in box I can't see thro cuz had to sort it again. great ideas

Chris said...

Well it sure took me long enough to see you had posted a comment! I am so glad you liked the Stash Bust post and I agree... fabric is so welcome at many churches......

Mary L said...

Thanks for this post. I am new to sewing and quilting and I went out and bought fabric as if I had to buy everything for every quilt I was ever going to make in the future. Then I went to my mom's, who has been making quilts for 60 years and realized her stash was very small. I am now on a mission to organize what I have and use it, so your post really helps!