State of the Stash, October 2014

A year ago I gave my annual State of the Stash report, a long-standing tradition in the  Stashbusters Yahoo group. The primary goal of the group is to encourage members to avoid unneeded fabric accumulation, and to use what they have. The stash report helps members be accountable for their progress toward their own goals. And it’s time to report again.

Usually my personal goals don’t include stash reduction, simply because I have a relatively small stash. However, over the past couple of years I’ve been transitioning my stash to brighter, happier colors. With that I’ve added some stash.

Most of my stash lives in the upper part of the armoire, sorted by color into plastic bins. A few pieces are in the lower right cupboard, including oddments like large pieces of light neutrals, a couple of over-sized pieces that might become backing, and a couple of themed sets of fabrics.

In the lower left of the armoire are other odd things, including some upholstery fabric and an old embroidery project.

I don’t keep track of how much I purchase or how much I use, as some Stashbusters do. But it will all fit in there, even with the additions from this year.

Besides the stash in the armoire, I have two drawer bins under my cutting table, and a smaller bin next to the table. They are the plastic units that have three drawers, which you can find at the big discount stores. They’re on wheels, making it easy to pull them out to find rulers dropped behind them, to vacuum or clean out the spider webbing, or UGH!! wash any mold off the walls… (That’s a task for the coming week.)

In the two larger bins are two drawers with scraps and one drawer with bags of various sizes. The other three drawers hold “current” projects. In fact I’m not working on those right now, but they are not abandoned. One project is simply a pieced table cloth for my dining room table, which I’m planning to quilt. Another is a medallion quilt with some special requirements, and one more holds a project to finish with my granddaughter. All three of those drawers are empty except for those items. In fact, they could all live in one drawer easily.

The small drawer bin also has three drawers. One of them has the arms for a 6-pointed star; one of them is overflowing with fabrics for an upcoming medallion or two; and one has fabric for another VA hospital quilt.

I am blessed with a lot of space, with my stash, books, the long-arm, and cutting table in one room. My sewing machine and ironing board live right outside the door in the family room. Here are a couple more pictures:

This is my sewing space when first installed. Right now I don’t have the bulletin board behind the machine, and I have a newer, nicer machine, also. The ironing board lives to the left of the surface, convenient for pressing while I sew. The Ott goose-neck desk lamp and the sconces on either side provide great work light. The boom box is moved, and in general my space is not as neat.

This photo shows the bookshelves, a total of about 48″ of shelf space. When I get a book (and usually they are NOT new, but new to me), I put my name inside the cover. Freebie address stickers that my insurance company or alma mater send work great for that.

My long-arm is a Nolting 24″ with stitch-regulator. Nolting is based a few miles from here, and I like knowing that if I need service, I can get it easily. They are wonderful people to work with. Some machines may be fancier — certainly some look fancier! — but I only quilt for myself, and I’ve been quite happy with it for my simple needs.

The photo is from 2011. The quilt currently on the frame is a small medallion in red and green, which I’ll give to one of my daughters.

Even though my stash has grown some in the past year, I feel like I control it, instead of it controlling me. I do give fabric (yardage and scraps) away from time to time, in order to cull things I don’t expect to use and to make room for those I really want. I manage my library and have few notions; I don’t have a bunch of patterns to track. My stash works for me pretty well most of the time.


17 thoughts on “State of the Stash, October 2014

  1. farmquilter

    Oh I wish! My stash was majorly enhanced twice in the past 5 years by two of my favorite quilt shops going out of business! I was really good this year…Buggy Barn closed early this month and I didn’t go there (and they are only 45 miles from me)! Very proud of myself! Now I just need to quilt like a crazy woman.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Well, you have a head start on that, right? 😉

      Yes, when great fabric is at unusually low prices, it’s pretty hard to resist temptation. I think the thing to do is pick out pieces you really won’t use, and donate them. Gives you less to keep track of, and makes it easier to use the pieces you really enjoy. I need to do some of that, too.

  2. socialstitcher

    I only have a relatively small stash being a fairly new quilter. I tend to buy as I need for particular projects, but I do buy lots of spots and stripes. Living in an apartment makes me limit my purchases to some extent. I agree about giving away what you won’t use, some of my earlier purchases made before I started to develop a style need to go!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      When you’re just starting it’s hard to know what will be useful to you or not. You don’t need to love all the fabric you use, of course! But if you shake your head every time you handle a piece, it’s time to put it in the pile to go away, especially with apartment living.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. gretchenweaver

    I am also updating my fabric stash by purchasing brighter colors and weeding out the darker, dreary colors. It is hard to give away fabrics that I’ve purchased, but it makes for a much more tidy room. I think we need to realize that we will never be able to sew up all the fabric we have, at least I won’t. Thank you for sharing.

  4. zippyquilts

    Enquiring minds want to know: how do you justify the expense (in money, time, & space) of a long arm? So many people seem to be getting them, but I’m afraid it would take too much time & money.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It is a lot of money, for sure. And for a lot of people it wouldn’t pay off in either a financial or a “satisfaction” sense. In fact I’ve heard too many stories of people who invested in a longarm system and then were too intimidated to ever use it, or tried a few times and gave up on it. I was fortunate that my sister bought hers first. I used hers several times, so I knew I would be able to manage it from that standpoint. I had enough space, so that wasn’t an issue. So the two determining factors were cost and pleasure. I make 10-20 quilts a year, most years. DSM quilting was never going to be something I enjoyed. Big quilts (my preference) would always go to a longarm pro. When you think of the cost of that, it’s a big pile of money, too. So financially I have my payback now. I bought used, not new, which helped with that.

      Sorry this is a jumble of thoughts. Hopefully you can weed through it.

  5. snarkyquilter

    I can tell you know your stash much better than I know mine. I admire your resolve in keeping your stash size under control. Every once in a while I make a happy rediscovery of a long forgotten half yard that’s been buried under more recent purchases. And I don’t give away fabric that no longer fits my taste if I can transform it through dyeing/painting/printing it. I’ll also sew such fabric together to make quilt backs, as I recall you do, too.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I still get surprised by pieces! It’s still a HUGE amount of fabric. I think I could make dozens of big quilts without buying anything new at all. I’ve made 3 in the last couple weeks (lap/couch sized) and didn’t make any dent at all. And I like going through it all. The only way I can do that is if there isn’t “much.” hahahhaaaa!!!

  6. Thread crazy

    Ok, so you’ve opened up Pandora’s box and want to talk about our stashes! Many many years ago when I first started collecting, I only collected fat quarters (FQ’s). Then after working at the quilt shop for many years I did start collecting yardage. Unfortunately, I also started collecting “kits” of fabric too. By kits I mean, fabric needed for the top along with some backings, all neatly packed in 1-gallon plastic bags and stacked neatly in my closet, along with an armoire and my ironing/cutting cabinet! My last count I believe was 32 kits; that’s one of the fallacies of working in a quit shop. Now, this year I have refrained from purchasing fabric, other than fabric needed to complete a project or for backing. My husband swears we could open our own quilt shop out of my studio! I have thinned and donated some but need to do more, but waiting for a “rainy day”. Four years ago, I too desired to have a quilt machine and at the time I didn’t have the room for a long arm. So I started checking out mid-arms; mostly sit-down models. Ended up purchasing a gently used HQ Sixteen that can be used both on frame and on a table. I’m currently using it as a sit-down and love it. Nolting is a nice machine also; I just couldn’t find a used one when I was looking.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Do you ever un-kit? Disassemble bags to use the fabric for other projects? I occasionally “kit” fabric for myself, when I pull together a bunch of things for an imagined project. I’ve found, though, that unless I get to it quickly, I’m better off un-kitting and putting it all back in stash.

      1. Thread crazy

        Funny you should ask that question…about “un-kitting”. I’ve been tempted to a couple of times and have refrained as luckily enough I found something else in stash that would work. However, during the winter months I do believe I will un-kit some once I decide which kits ! Great idea Melanie… I’ll have some new material to use and it won’t cost me a cent! I too must visit the Yahoo group.

  7. bermudagirl

    Thanks for the reminder to clean up my stash, doing so many projects right now, for me that is, that I need to know what I have to quicken up the pace a bit. The Yahoo idea is great, with that stashbusters group, maybe I will check it out some time.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It’s a great group in many ways. One of the things I enjoy is not just the encouragement on progress, but also the great resource for HOW to do things. There are lots of opinions, of course, which is part of the fun. But we all agree that what works for me may not work for you.

  8. Yanic A.

    Such an interesting post, love hearing about your process.

    Oh, that bend and bow of the heavy book shelves! I used to have that… When I spent 2 months at my mom-in-law’s last year, I was just in AWE over her quilting books cases : Shelves and shelves of patterns, magazines, books… I spent afternoons going through book, jotting down the ones I eventually wanted to buy for myself, scanning patterns to send myself over email. I got home and funny enough, I lost interest. Not in quilting, but in the accumulation of books. I started thinking about my cookbooks. I have so many and yet, when I’m in the mood to try a new recipe, I go to the computer instead. So many amazing resources online, I figured until I get good enough (and disciplined enough) to follow a pattern and quilt huge pieces, I would just be happy online. Now, if my pinterest boards had a physical “weight” to them, I’m sure my computer would be bowing and bending. LOL!

    On another note, I would LOVE a long arm. I loved working on my mom-in-law’s machine. But no space so for now, I will work on my free motion. 🙂

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Good morning. Yes, my book shelf is at capacity! And if what I own does not fit, that means I need to get rid of some.

      Will send you an email this morning. I’ve been bogged down…


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