Why I keep a small stash

I started sewing long before I discovered the internet sewing community and didn’t know fabric stashed were a thing until a few years ago. Around the time I discovered sewing blogs, I began working full-time as a teacher and had a decent disposable income for the first time ever.

I very distinctly remember the moment I started my stash. I’d received a gift certificate to Fabricland from my parents for Christmas and bought a couple lengths of random, cheap fabrics. Not long after, my husband and I planned a day trip to Montreal for me to do some fabric shopping where I mostly picked up quilting cottons that I now know are terrible for garment sewing.

I think we all go through roughly the same phases when it comes to our fabric stashes:

  1. Get excited by the idea of having a collection of fabric. Buy literally anything that catches your eye.
  2. Start buying fabrics that are better suited to garment making but still kind of random, often not enough fabric purchased when you actually want to sew with it.
  3. Begin only stashing “special” fabrics that you get on sale or while on a trip.
  4. Work on honing your colour palette and strategically buying fabrics with vaguely planned projects in mind. Develop a standard yardage to buy for certain types of fabrics.
  5. Focus on curating fabric choices and buy only when you have a specific need.

I’ve never had a huge stash, but I have definitely felt that guilt of having too much fabric and too many ideas. I’ve had a fabric sit in my stash for years making me feel awful about not using. I’ve experienced the feeling of regretting buying something trendy that I stopped liking before I could make it. I’ve imagined an amazing project only to realize I don’t have enough fabric when I go to cut it out.

About a year ago, I reached Phase 5 of stash-building and dramatically reduced my spending on fabric. I’m working toward having no stash at all and thinking I’ll be getting there in 2020. I haven’t imposed any specific rules (ie no buy, one-in-one-out), but have been slowly working through the fabric I do have saved and only buying new stuff when I have a specific project in mind that I know I will be making in the next three months. I’ve stopped sale shopping and filling by cart to get free shipping because having a clear mind and a clear space are way more valuable to me than 20 per cent off.

I’ve found this to be really freeing for many reasons. I don’t have guilt over projects that will never get made. I never have buyer’s remorse. I don’t have random half-metre scraps that aren’t quite enough to anything out of. I don’t pull out a length fo fabric to realize is 45″ wide instead of 60″ and have to re-think my whole project. I don’t fall out of love with a fabric when my taste changes. I don’t worry about buying expensive fabric because I know it’s going to be used. I’m forced to use what I have and create less waste. I’m refashioning failed projects and making my kids clothes out of stuff I never wear. I’ve got more space and money for tools. I take my time sewing because I don’t have a list a mile long of projects to finish just to use up fabric.

I’m not saying having a stash is wrong or bad, but it was just not for me. I live in a tiny apartment with three other people and my sewing machines already take up a lot of space. I’ve also got a lot going on, so guilt about unmade projects is not something I need in my headspace. Has anyone else gotten here? Are there a bunch of minimalist sewists out there who are also buying their solid, basic fabrics one at a time when they need it?

3 thoughts on “Why I keep a small stash

  1. Yes, yes, yes. I still have quite a stash of fabric, but I’m far more intentional about what I make. I now buy with specific projects in mind and while they don’t always get made straight away I do stick to my guns and avoid impulse buying. This is the year of reducing the stash. Helped by the fact I’m making for other people. Currently two coats and a wedding dress on the go for others.

  2. Thank you for this! I have often bought fabric to engage with my hobby when I did not have the time/energy to actually sew, which resulted in a huge stash. I stopped buying when I realised that and now I make a conscious effort every evening to sit down and work through the piles. Luckily, I have bought things that work well for me, because I have always had a good idea of my palette and the type of drape/texture I like and it hasn’t changed in decades. And it is really freeing to turn an 8 years old piece of fabric into a garment, but I still have to force myself a little. I don’t want to rush it, so I plan thoroughly and take my time. I hope that in two years, my stash will fit in a basket, like yours. Right now I feel guilt every time I look at it.

  3. I also buy fabric for specific projects! I like being flexible and I don’t like waste, so with one exception (high-quality denim) I buy for the very next thing I’m going to make, and that’s it. I know I’ll always need jeans though, so I have a few lengths for those. I consider denim to be more like zippers and tracing paper – something that enables sewing in general, that never goes stale.

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