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:
- Get excited by the idea of having a collection of fabric. Buy literally anything that catches your eye.
- 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.
- Begin only stashing “special” fabrics that you get on sale or while on a trip.
- 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.
- 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”
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.
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.
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.