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Dear Professor Pincushion – Fabric Stash

Dear Professor Pincushion Fabric StashDear Professor Pincushion,

I’m new to sewing and, therefore, don’t have many supplies.  I’ve heard of that many experienced sewers having a fabric stash to use, but how do I go about starting my own fabric stash?



Dear mountainsew,

Let’s back up here.  Before we even start talking about a fabric stash, you must first consider the “housing” of the fabric stash.  If you think a remote area of your closet or having a bookshelf will be sufficient room, I fear that you may have not properly prepared yourself for the fabric stash.  In fact, I would contact your banker now and see how you can go about financing a new addition to the house or maybe building a separate house on your property just for the fabric.  A real fabric stash is usually large enough to warrant warnings of fabric avalanches or the disappearance of small pets and children.

Next, a fabric stash is a character all on its own.  You may think you have control over the fabric stash, but that’s just an illusion.  It can grow on its own in the dark like rabbits and, before you know it, you’re just maintaining a fabric monster.  But this monster is your monster, therefore, you’ll find yourself defending it against fire, floods, and the unsympathetic spouse, who rarely understands.

In fact, you don’t start a fabric stash, the fabric stash starts you (or at least starts your descent into fabric madness).  It starts off innocently enough.  Ok, you’re learning to sew and start a couple of projects.  As a beginner, it’s common to be paranoid that you won’t have enough fabric so maybe you buy a little more than you need.  When you finish your project, you have a big enough scrap leftover that tossing it is just seems so wasteful.  You keep it.  I mean it’s just a little piece of fabric, it doesn’t take up hardly any room at all.  There’s a little voice inside you that tells you there will be a perfect project that comes along where this scrap will play a fundamental role and become a hero.  And then after a few projects these scraps start to add up, now it’s a little mound of fabric.  (Look at that little pile of fabric.  It’s so cute!  Hey, there little buddy!)  While this pile may seem innocent enough, there is an on-going trend that everything you make happens to be too large to actually use any of these scraps, but we ignore this and continue on with the sewing fun, completely ignorant of what the future may hold.

If this was all that occurred, it really wouldn’t be so bad, but there’s a larger force that usually contributes to the growing fabric stash.  Let’s bring in another character.  I’m going to call her Aunt Betty.  The name may be different in your situation, and this person may not even be related to you, but, as this is a common occurrence for many of us, I’m going to coin the term as the Aunt Betty Fabric Stash Factor.  What is the Aunt Betty Fabric Stash Factor?  Let’s just say that word starts getting around about your new hobby and, suddenly, Aunt Betty happens to mention that she’s given up the craft, but you can totally have some of her fabric.  (Yay, free fabric!)  What you don’t realize is that she is passing her stash on to you.  Despite given up sewing, there’s still an attachment to the fabric.  (We’re like fabric pirates who love to pour over our textile treasure even if that treasure is covered with chile peppers, chickens, or cartoon kangaroos.)  She could have given it all to a thrift store, but she’s been waiting for you, a person who will treasure her fabric stash as much as she had.  So while you thought you were going to get a few yards of fabric, you suddenly find yourself, in possession of a garbage bag full of fabric.   You even pull out a few scraps and Aunt Betty will chuckle and say, “Oh dear, I remember making something out of that but this scrap was too big to throw away.  It would be perfect for a crazy quilt that I never got around to doing.”  Stop and remember this.  This is your future.  And even if you know what’s going on, you will not be able to stop yourself from accepting the stash.  The temptation is just too great and the fabric pirate must add to the booty.

And this is not counting the number of times you walked into a fabric store and walked out with fabric that was just too adorable and purchased “just because.”  This is probably the most dangerous type of contribution to the fabric stash.  You buy fabric without having a particular project in mind.  So it sits in your stash for a few years and when you get around to wanting to use it, now it’s been discontinued so if you cut it and make a mistake, it’ll be forever ruined and the fabric is too cute to be ruined, so back in the stash it goes!

Fabric Stash Pie Chart

I've created a pie chart to show the makeup of a typical fabric stash.  We have fabric too ugly to use, (donated by Aunt Betty), fabric too cute to use, fabric scaps and, lastly, the smallest part is fabric that is use-able.

Even if you have an impressive fabric stash that fills a whole room, whenever you start a new project, nothing in your stash will ever be good enough and so you must go back to the fabric store to buy more fabric and maybe get a little more than you need because you don’t want to run out and that fabric  is cute, and that fabric is cute.  Better get a couple of yards, just because….phew, I better call my banker again.
-Professor Pincushion

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19 thoughts on “Dear Professor Pincushion – Fabric Stash

  1. Plano,TX

    Thank you for offering your tutorials during this time, we have only been housebound 5 days and I’m going stir crazy. Just watched this video about Fabric Stash and I’m laughing because this is so true. It’s 7:00 am in a quiet house so the family has to come see what is so funny. They watched the video and now understand that it’s just not me. I have fabric stashed everywhere but have never made a thing because I’m not good at sewing. I have the same new Husqvarna that you do so hoping these tutorials will help. Thank you!

  2. kims

    I only started sewing in the summer, but as an avid knitter for the last 40 years I know the perils of a ‘stash’
    I now find myself behaving in the same hoarding grasping fashion with fabric as I do with wool. My poor long suffering husband is quietly going mad lol

  3. queer1

    The thing is that regardless of what kind of fabric it is, I will find a way to use it because I have to right now. The idea of a pay-it-forward kind of thing is how I’d deal with whatever I can’t find a reasonable use for.

  4. queer1

    I’m actually in a situation where I would welcome an entire fabric stash for free. My family has undergone some financially detrimental changes. We also desperately need an update to our wardrobe. So I have taken it upon myself to learn to make our clothes and have Brennan collecting any and every pattern I can find for free, buying whatever huge amount of fabric I can find on close out/clearance, and taking whatever clothes anybody is giving away so that I can use them for practice, stashing what can be used later, attempting tailoring what I am able to. Where can I find people destashing? I have been searching fervently for weeks now and this is the first I’ve found anything. I’ve checked forums, social media, Craigslist, etc. I have a need and I know somebody somewhere has a need to destash in bulk and I have a need to grow my stash as much as possible.

  5. Avarras

    Hi, this is very funny. I’m somewhat glad that I moved in a town without a good fabric store. It forces me to work with I already have and be more creative. I started dyeing fabric too to achieve the perfect color when I need it. I bought bins for my stash and sorted them out by color. I have 12 of them for now. Some more than full and others almost empty. Everything under 1 m is in a bin. All the fabric left is on cardboard, stored in a bookcase with doors. Or on rolls on under my sewing table. I’m the Lady with 75 m of red organza for a dress I never made. Yet.

    The the secret word. Yet.

    Have a nice day, Ava

    P.-S.-My pearls stash is scarier by the way.

  6. charlie7043

    lol..this fits me to a tee!! Even though I just started back into sewing, I’ve already accumulated more “pieces” of material than actual material!!! lol I’ve made a dozen or so pillowcase dresses for my housekeeper’s daughters. They absolutely love them and I enjoyed making them they were so easy. Been making the Japanese Knot bag now and use a different one every month or so. I’m having so much fun. Since being retired, needed something to fill my days and sewing took the spot!! Love this site and all the videos, comments and fun that everyone seems to have. Makes these ole bones happy. God bless all of you and keep the funnies coming…

  7. ElizabethQ

    Funny and True, true, true!!! Would you consider doing a video explaining fabric. I purchased way too much quilting cotton when I started out and now I find I’m quite confused about the difference between cottons. The pattern sometimes says Polished Cotton, lightweight cotton, lightweight broadcloth, broadcloth? Despite inquiring at the Jo-Ann’s I cannot find anyone who can explain what the difference is in these fabrics. Seems my quilting cotton isn’t the best choice for garments. I don’t quilt and need help finding the correct apparel fabric for the job!
    Thanks so much,

  8. eagron

    I had a big big fabric stash, I did get part of my grandma stash when she passed away, but my home was burned by burglars who robbed and then burn every trace and lost every fabric, notions, books, magazines, etc that I had for years of sewing since I was a girl. I really missed my stash of fabrics. My stash now has three years, From that stash I made a beautiful baby dress. I don’t care how little a piece of fabric can be, you always can use it to decor a dress or do a wallet. Love you videos and subscribed. Thanks for your videos.

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