Why you shouldn’t build a fabric stash

Posted on Posted in Fabric Shops

I can remember when I first starting sewing, when I owned only a few scraps of fabric. I wasn’t taught to sew by a family member and I never inherited someone else’s stash and supplies. I lived in Bristol back then and the only fabric shop I knew of was the much loved fabric land. I was mostly learning to sew cushion covers and book slips, and fabric land cuts lengths in 10cm increments from a quarter of a meter so I’d buy only what I needed for the next project, make it, and have very little leftover – perfect for applique!

 

When I discovered dressmaking I quickly stumbled upon sewing blogs, and the concept of a fabric stash – a miniature haberdashery in your own home. To begin with I just couldn’t understand it. How could you buy fabric (or notions, or even patterns) without knowing what you’d use it for? How did you know how much you’d need? I thought “Shouldn’t I buy a pattern and then source the perfect fabric?” It turns out that I now believe the answer to that question is yes, but it’s too late for me, I already have a room of fabric. Reader, if it’s not too late for you yet, heed my advice.

 

  1. Let’s start with the obvious – how will you know how much to buy? Experience has taught me that I can get most dresses out of 2m, but if I only need 1.4m I’ll be buying, and restashing, that other 0.6m. Depending on your fabric budget and where you shop this could be a good chunk towards (or an upgrade for!) your next project, or even your next sewing machine!

 

  1. The space. Oh my goodness the space. I’ve moved house four times since the beginning of my sewing journey, and the last two have required me to make fundamental choices about my next rental based on it having enough room for my enormous stash. There were boxes upon boxes of fabric that I loved when I bought them but deep down know I’ll never love as a garment. Which leads me to…

 

  1. Your tastes change. One season I’m all about a pattern or a colour and the next season I’m ogling all the gorgeous new trends and I’m much less interested in what was lust worthy 6 months ago (and is still in fabric form, unconstructed). Your taste changes as you grow older or start a new chapter of your life like a new job. Fashion moves quickly, and you don’t have to follow trends to fall victim to the “I’m tired of looking at this and I want something new” feeling. The same thing happens with fabrics. You’ll rarely be as excited about something you bought a year ago than you will be about something you bought yesterday.

 

  1. Hopping back over to finances, if you do have a stash already, how much do you think it cost you? How much money do you have sitting idle in “garment potential?“. Maybe you’re happy to have your hard earned cash in fabric form, but ask yourself if you’d rather have it in your savings account (let’s not even pretend it will fit in your purse!)?

 

If I could go back in time and send a message to my pre-dressmaking self, I would say “don’t build a stash!”. Be thoughtful, plan a project that excites you, go shopping for the perfect fabric and make it this week or this month and then be excited to wear it. Don’t put it in a box – put it in your wardrobe! Or, go shopping for fabric and see what inspires you – buy enough to make the project you’re picturing, and donate the remaining length if you know you won’t use it. I still struggle to listen to this voice.

 

Now, I can already hear you saying “but there’s hardly any fabric shops where I live, so I have to stock up when I find a good one”! And yes, perhaps the idea of “zero stash” is a bit extreme, but if I could keep mine down to 5 – 10 lengths of fabric at any time I know I’d have less guilt, less stress, less anxiety, and more space, more money, more freedom to change my mind, and more finished projects with perfectly chosen, high quality fabrics. I’m working on this right now, trying to keep my stash within one box. I still have another 8 boxes downstairs, but they’ll be making their way to eBay shortly as I try to reclaim my home from my self-inflicted fabric-buying curse.

 

What do you think? Do you also shop faster than you sew? Do you have no space and no money?

Would you rather have a wardrobe full of clothing, or a cupboard full of fabric? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

10 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t build a fabric stash

  1. I’ve a (small) stash and never planned to have one. I always bought and buy fabric with a plan but sometimes I don’t have the time to make it (to busy at work). Seasons change and the fabric with the patterns ends in the closet to make next year. One other problem is the absence of good fabric stores. You can buy great fabrics in webshops but sometimes the purchased fabric doesn’t look like the photo you saw on the webshop. I’m now on a ‘Use what I have’ mission. Slowly my stash is vanishing and then when my stash is gone I only buy a new fabric when I made the last purchased one in season or not.

  2. You are definitely right. Another thing I found out is when I just started sewing I knew nothing about fabric quality and so just baught all the pretty “looking” ones. Now I have way too much not so great quality fabric and trying to get rid of it is hard.
    Thanks for the lovely post. I hope it help someone stay sensible.

  3. I absolutely agree wholeheartedly! I’m thankful I never had the means to buy a lot of fabric to begin with, but of that I do have, the “omg this is gorgeous!” feeling does fade, like you mentioned. Right now, I have a goal to use up all fabrics I’ve purchased when I wanted to learn how to use different fabrics and textures before purchasing new fabrics. It’s helping me to be disciplined and say “well, you better get to sewing if you want to get a new print!” I’d hate to spend money for fabrics I don’t have the time to sew up… and having a stash makes it sorta impossible to use every piece of fabric you purchase. I’m saying no to waste and yes to space! 🙂

  4. I am 100% with you on this! Though sadly it’s too late for me as well. I have a huge fabric stash that I’ve built over the last 6 years of sewing, and so often I wonder how much money is just sitting in that room. I want to destash a huge part of it and get down to a small, well-curated collection of fabric that I love. Just need to carve out a few (okay, a lot) of hours to accomplish that.

  5. I agree with you 100%! I buy fabric only for a project as needed, what little scraps I have leftover go into a quilt (or quilted project, ex: purse or tote) at the end of the year. That way I am able to enjoy sewing & not be stressed out by the mess.

  6. I do have stash, but it generally consists of stuff I’ve been given. Some gifts and some fabrics from friends who are getting rid. I also have a refashioning pile. When I buy fabric I do try to use all of it. Last year I bout 3m of black and white plaid. It made a dress, skirt, mini skirt for my daughter and a few scraps left over, pocket lining size pieces. I do plan to make a quilt and keep odd bits of cottons to make that with. However most of my stash is old sheets,curtains which tend to get used for toiles

  7. You are so right, particularly on the “your tastes change” front. I don’t have a huge stash by many peoples standards, but I still have plenty of fabrics that no longer excite me or that I actually dislike now. Time for a destash I think?

  8. In the boot of my car as I type this are 2 large Ikea sacks of fabric that has been passed to me but which I know I will never, ever sew. I recently took stock of my stash and was quite horrified to find that I had 176m of fabric stacked into 4 large plastic crates.

    I’ll admit that I spent a lot of time thinking about all this fabric, until I decided that I would go through it again, keep only the stuff that I loved and knew I would sew, and cull the rest.

    The sacks are going to a friend who sews who can choose what she loves and then pass it on. It won’t be my problem any more.

    Funnily enough, the stuff that I’ve kept it mostly fabric that I’ve bought, and which I adore and want to sew. This clearance has also cleared space in my head and now I’m keen to actually get fabric out of the stash and into the wardrobe!

  9. You are so right. I have a small-ish (large to me) fabric stash sitting in a chinese carved chest. Not planned, just fabrics I loved (and many I still love). I am trying not to add to it and sew it up piece by piece. But so often I prefer some other fabric that is available now, for a project. So I have learned the lesson you describe here – buy it, make it, wear it and do those things as close as possible to each other in time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *