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How to Build Fabric Stash for Quilting

by | Nov 4, 2020

One of the many joys of being a quilter is to collect fabrics that you love and later include them in your projects. However, building a collection of inspiring stash fabric does not happen overnight. Many quilters spend years purchasing their favorite fabric and designer’s collection to display their gorgeous and very personal pile. 

A well-curated collection of fabric can really enhance the personal style and interest of the quilts you make. As you are able to combine fabrics from different collections, times, styles, and brands, your quilts become a much more personal expression of you than if you are simply utilizing fabrics from one single collection.  

Though it can be overwhelming at first, building a quality stash of fabric is important. Your fabric stash will enable you to create wonderful quilting pieces that will bring you joy and let you express yourself more fully creatively. 

If you are new to quilting, chances are you do not have a fabric stash yet. But you do not have to worry! In this article, I am sharing some useful ideas that you can follow the next time you are at a fabric shop

Here are some guidelines that you can follow when building a quilting stash

fabric stash

Identify the type of fabric that you need

Before you purchase anything, you need to identify the types of fabric that you need to buy. What color schemes do you often use? Do you prefer plain or textured fabrics? What type of prints do you want to work on?

Identifying these things and creating a list out of it will refrain you from hoarding fabrics that do not go well in your future quilt projects and your style. Instead, enabling you to buy the ones that will be well-coordinated to each other and perfect for your quilt ideas

Trends and fashions come and go in the quilting world much as it does in the world of fashion and home decorating. I recommend that you be a little wary of super-hot trends and designers that don’t truly fit with the types of quilts you enjoy making. For example, a few years ago, I got swept up in collecting fabrics from some new and “hot” designers. I bought entire collections as fat quarter packs or even half yard packs at a pretty penny. Six to seven years later, they are still sitting on the shelf because they truly aren’t color combinations that make my heart sing and the patterns are too big and multicolored to work well in the applique quilts that I often make. 

Don’t be afraid of sticking to one or two core styles of fabric that you are gravitating towards, especially when you are just starting your fabric collection. For example, I love Japanese Taupe fabrics and they can be hard to come by in the US. When I find them in person, it is usually at a large quilt event like Quilt Week or QuiltCon. I buy smaller cuts of what I can afford. 

Over the years, I have amassed a really nice collection of these beauties, even though they have never been very trendy in the US. On the other hand, I will never be really into Bonnie and Camille fabric, no matter how popular they are with everybody else. It just isn’t my style. However, I rarely pass by a good shelf of feed sack prints without picking up a few. 

Purchase Fabric Collection

One of the tested ways to build up your fabric pile is to purchase every fabric in a fabric line. Most of the fabric collections in the market contain well-complemented fabrics and they have a certain theme, so it can be easier for you to just pick up a piece of fabric and start a new quilt project. Additionally, some of these are available for just a limited time, so you might end up the only one owning that kind of fabric collection!

However, one drawback of this method is that your fabric stash may start lacking in the “happy surprises” and creative interest that happens when you blend fabrics from many collections and styles. I sometimes buy an entire line, but only if I am head over heels in love with the fabric, and if it is something I feel will stay interesting and useful over time. I try to never buy entire collections if I feel like the fabric is just a quick fad. 

Shop for Charm Packs

Shopping for Charm Packs is a good step in building up your stash of fabric without the need to buy a bulk of fabrics. This can be a very economical way to add diversity to your fabric stash and it is a lot of fun if you want to “try on” a new fabric style without spending a lot of money. 

Charm Packs are also a great option since they are already pre-cut and allows you to put together your quilt top more quickly. If you check out our autumn log cabin quilt, you can see how I used Charm Packs to great success in a couple of lovely log cabin quilt designs. With two packs of charm quilts, I was able to produce 58 small log cabin blocks

Since the fabrics of Charm Packs are already curated by fabric designers, you do not have to worry about planning out color schemes. This is great if you are insecure about combining fabrics yourself or if you just don’t want to spend time and energy on the selection process.

Apart from log cabin quilts, charm packs are also perfect for creating hexagons through English paper piecing. They are great for applique as well!

Charm Packs

Opt for Jelly Rolls

Just like charm packs, buying Jelly Rolls is also a good start in building up your fabric stash. Often, these rolls measure 2.5” strips of pre-cut fabric and usually feature a wide variety of colors and patterns, which are perfect to make that log cabin quilt pattern that you have been wanting to create!

Apart from the coordinated fabrics, Jelly Rolls are already pre-cut, but it is also quick to cut them down further for narrower strips or even 2.5” squares. Hence, giving you more time in designing and sewing up your masterpiece. 

Invest in Classic Fabric Patterns

Surely, it is fun to purchase quirky and novelty fabrics, but do not forget to stock up on classic fabric patterns. These kinds of fabrics will go a long way and can be partnered easily with any fabrics that you have. This enables you to easily pull these up when a particular project comes up. Here are some of the classic patterns that you should have in your fabric collection:

  •         Check and ginghams
  •         Floral patterns
  •         Polka Dots
  •         Stripes
  •         Solids or semi-solids

These printed patterns definitely add style and character to your quilt patterns. For example, low-volume polka dots are perfect as backgrounds while colorful dots will make your quilts stand out. Lastly, ensure that you have a good mix of small and large print, so you’ll have well-blended quilt projects. 

fabric stash

How much fabric should I buy?

Surely, quilters have different opinions about this. Some quilters purchase ½ yard cuts per fabric, some may buy more than this, and some buy less. 

Though there are no correct answers to this question, it is essential that you know the fabric requirements for the quilt that you will be making, especially if you are buying for a special project. If you are buying for your stash, here are my guidelines: 

  • 3 to 4 yards of good fabrics I can use as a background for applique or throughout a pieced quilt and I absolutely love it (polka dots…here I come). I usually get that much yardage because I want to be able to make an entire quilt with it being prominently used. 
  • ½ yard for classics that I know I won’t get super tired of (in my case that includes civil war reproductions) and that I know I can use blended with much other fabric in a log cabin or hexagon quilts. For these types of fabrics, I know I will need lots of different fabrics rather than lots of each to get the scrappy look that I really like. 
  • 1 to 2 yards for statement prints that I may want to use for borders on quilts or in quilts with large piecing. In my stash, these include my Ana Maria Horner, Kaffe Fassett, and anything that is an interesting stripe. 
  • Fat quarters or fat eighths if I am planning on using them for applique projects. Very often applique only uses small amounts of fabrics.

Key Takeaway

Surely, building your stash fabric can be a bit overwhelming and daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to start. Hope this article gives you ideas on how you can start building up your pile of fabric!

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