I’ve been thinking about fabric stashes and what makes a fabric stash useful and worth having. I’m quite organised with my stash. A local sweetshop owner doesn’t like to throw away the plastic boxes that the sweets are delivered in, so he gives them away to people like me who like to hoard things in boxes. I keep them all on the shelves of a bookcase.
Most are square boxes organised by colour, fabric type and theme. I have boxes of blacks and greys, whites, cream, pinks , reds and so on for colours. These are mainly prints though I have a single box of solids and one for charm packs which include a good range of shades. I have boxes for muslin, linen, white cotton, batik, double gauze, grunge fabric, organza, Liberty prints, plaids and tartans.
I also have boxes based around the themes that crop up most often in my work – kids, cats and dogs, birds, skies (clouds, rain, snow etc), Celtic themes, Christmas and novelty fabrics like text. Then I have a few long thin boxes for threads, trims and embellishments, paper templates and that sort of thing.
What I don’t really have enough of are spots, stripes, grids, tone on tone blenders and the sort of broad striped fabrics that make interesting borders and bindings. I notice over and over how useful it would be to have a choice of these and yet I never buy them because, if I am going to spend some money, I want to spend it on something I get excited about rather than something useful. This is a bit silly because these fabrics lift and enhance work in interesting ways.
I also don’t pay much attention to tones. I am always looking to have dark, light and medium tones in my work, only to find most of my stash includes prints that are much the same. This is where charm packs can be useful because they do ensure you are buying a range of tones.
I began my stash because I wanted to create appliquéd fabric pictures and embroideries, so I bought various background fabrics in natural linens for that purpose but I didn’t really have the skills at that point. There was much to learn, so I put those aside and starting quilting because I had done some of that years before. I thought it would be fun to make baby quilts so I spent many happy hours designing cot quilts and buying the fabric for them.
As I made one I planned more and bought more fabric for them.
I also bought fabric that I thought would be fun without any real idea of what I was going to do with it.
I bought too far ahead and without clear purpose. I am now faced with having to start those USO’s (unstarted objects) soon, to get them done and out of the way, reducing them in size or adapting them in some way, using the fabric for different things or selling it. It’s feels wasteful and and is holding me back, as I now want to do more ‘arty’ things with fabric – to print and paint my own fabric, add layers, surface stitches, explore needle lace, fabric weaving – and that is a long way from where I began.
So, now I am going to interest myself more in a range of tones and textures: stripes, grids, solids, linen looks, and tone on tone blenders and before I buy will consider their purpose in relation to the project I am doing next or the possibility of them having multiple uses in the future. Now and again I might splurge on something if I see the perfect fabric for something I plan to make soon but I won’t do that often. Buying way ahead of time wasn’t a good idea. I had no idea how much making and exploring fabric and design would change me. But maybe it’s not like that for everyone.
In hindsight, I think the thing to do is to buy bearing in mind what you are into at the moment and not too much of it. Know that you may change your mind and ideas in the not too distant future. There is often a feeling that if we don’t buy a particular fabric now it will be gone, and often it is, but we should be able to let it go. There will always be something that will work, if not today then a little later, and it might even be something better. I found this to be true.
I wonder how you manage your stash. I bet you’ve been more sensible than I have.
Strangely the fabric I most want to buy plenty of I can’t find, and that is genuine tartan in a medium weight cotton. I can find polyester cotton but I don’t like to mix that with my cottons (am I being too fussy? I feel that the cotton will shrink whilst the poly-cotton will not) ; I can find brushed tartan which is too fluffy; wool tartan which is too thick for EPP; cotton shirting which is too thin and floppy; and plaid which, though lovely, is not authentically Scottish and can’t really replace a genuine tartan. So, if you know of anywhere I can buy medium weight cotton genuine tartans (not fashion tartans) please let me know. I would like so many of my designs to include tartan but it seems it’s not to be. Instead I have to concentrate on Scottish themes, incorporate a broader variety of ‘tartans’ and plaids occasionally and tell myself that not everyone loves tartan, so maybe it’s ok.
This week I have been working on the top of a new quilt which I have called Hill and Heather. The design is an altered version of a traditional quilt block called Purple Sage. I may add more embroidery to the trees on the far right and left, as they look a bit sparse. Then I can set about turning it into a little quilt. Making this has taught me to think twice about using circles in little patches because if they don’t match up, it shows.
My husband is away, sailing on the tall ship ‘La Malouine’ to the Isle of Man, so I have a week to myself with fewer interruptions and I’m hoping to get plenty of new work done.
Till next time……