Annual Stash Declaration

The yahoo group Stashbusters has a tradition. Each year during their birthday month, members declare the state of their stash. Today is my birthday. And this is the state of my stash.

I don’t keep records of my purchases and yardage used, as some do. This year my purchases have been exceptionally small in quantity. My sister visited in the spring and helped me indulge with a few pretty things. My friend Nancy and I went to Helios in Mt. Vernon, and I got a few others. Other than 3 yards of backing fabric purchased a couple weeks ago, I don’t think I’ve bought anything since the middle of the year.

Of course, I haven’t made much since then, either.

Still, I think usage has probably been higher than purchases this year. I think my stash has depleted some in total. I’ve emptied a couple of my plastic bins. My dusky teals and old-fashioned rusty oranges are largely gone. I’ve consumed most of the navies in my blues bin. My scraps drawer is close to full…

Here. Take a look. This is ALL my stash. Okay, not all of it, but the vast majority.


In the upper right corner are two stacks of oranges. This is what they look like spread out a bit.


You can see, there is A LOT of fabric there. But in a relative sense, not really a lot. Very few cuts are more than a yard, across my whole stash. There are lots of little pieces, less than a fat quarter, in those stacks above.

I also have a bit already grouped for specific projects, and I have some solids that aren’t with their color sets. And there are a few special things, including fun large prints and batiks, an African wax cloth, and an Aboriginal print.


From left to right: traditional print, African wax cloth, print that looks like batik, Aboriginal design print, print that looks like batik. These could all end up in the same project.

Finally, there is my scrap drawer. While I love scrap quilts, I don’t use scraps very well these days. Occasionally I’ll dig through and find pieces to use, and I’ve become comfortable with piecing scraps together to make patches that are large enough. But mostly these languish. I don’t make quilts that use them easily. And I don’t much want to.


Over time, my purchases have changed. Early in my quilting I found a lot of value in tone-on-tone prints. These provide a sense of texture and depth without giving a distracting or specific pattern. On the far right is a print that mimics coffee cup rings, an example of tone-on-tone since the patterning can disappear into piecing. Others are more mottled and less patterned than it.

Early on I also bought what were called “focus” fabrics or inspiration prints. They were mostly larger florals, but there were some other types. Two you can’t see in the orange stack are one with bunnies printed in yellow on coral, and one that’s a 1930s repro with tiny kitties on it. They are harder to use than fabrics with less distinct patterns, and they are  most suitable in quilts with a particular feel.

I still buy tone-on-tone and small prints. I don’t use many large florals. But there are more interesting prints in my stash than there used to be. Some of them are “ethnic” prints reminiscent of other cultures. They can be harder to use, and sometimes quilts need to be designed just for them. However the impact of these can make a quilt something quite special.

Today, for my birthday, I’m going shopping with Jim. My favorite quilt shop has a sale going on. While that rarely lures me, I’m ready for some inspiration from new things.

(If you’d like to see my studio, please take a look at my stash report from last year.) 

34 thoughts on “Annual Stash Declaration

  1. Kerry.

    Hi Melanie your “stash report” is very interesting and an eye opener for me.
    I’m going through a tough time at present and I thought sewing would help
    to ground me but instead it’s the opposite cannot motivate myself.
    Despite money being very tight I’ve gone overboard in buying fabric.
    No LQS so buy online and right now I feel I hate everything I bought.
    When I started making quilts I came across a B.O.M on youtube the lady doing
    the BOM kept repeating
    “Don’t waste an inch of fabric, remember the inches soon mount up
    and look at all the money you have wasted”. .What a guilt trip. .
    Despite sending a large package of fabric to a charity I still feel overwhelmed
    by it all and have no desire to make scrappy quilts or any kind of quilt right now.
    MeIanie, hope you had a really happy birthday..

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you for the birthday wishes. It was a very good day. I’m sorry you’ve been having a hard time. We all react differently when we go through tough stuff, and some people shop, as you have been. If you don’t feel like quilting at all right now, it might be as well to package things up and put them away, and resolve to find another way to soothe yourself. Someday you may want to quilt again, and then you can assess your stash for what you love, what you’ll find useful, and what just makes you sad still. There may be some of each and that’s okay. You can deal with it then.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Not sure I’ve updated on that, but the answer is YES, I’m doing much better, thank you! Now the therapist is working specifically on me getting up off the floor. HA but really, on using the right muscles in the right way, so I can get up more easily, without a lot of maneuvering and pushing off with my hands. I’m looking forward to getting that “simple” skill back. thanks for the happy wishes.

  2. snarkyquilter

    Do consider that if you wait long enough those out of fashion colors will come back. Your efforts to assess your stash are impressive. That way you don’t discover buried treasure you had forgotten about, the way I do. Have you ever noticed that some fabrics seem to last forever in your stash, even though you think you’re using them up? On a nonquilting note, many happy returns of the day.

  3. KerryCan

    You and I almost share a birthday–just a few days apart! I hope yours was wonderful and that you had a nice shopping trip. I had to laugh when you mentioned getting rid of the dusty teals and rusts–that is pretty much exactly what the yoyo quilt was designed to do. I made a quilt in those shades way back when the colors were trendy and had tons of scraps to use up!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I can still send you a few more, if you’d like! 😉 Yes, my taste seems to have moved largely away from those: though I still love them, I enjoy using brighter, more saturated colors more than I used to. Happy birthday to you, too!

  4. TextileRanger

    Happy Birthday!
    I am wondering if your more recent travels to Cuba and Scotland will result in any changes in your fabric tastes — not that I expect you will suddenly start doing tartan quilts, but I was just wondering if you think those trips will influence your future fabric choices.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think they will, but not in a direct way. More than that, taking on the adventures of the trips, doing things so far outside our everyday, I hope will make me even bolder as I quilt. Fear is a useful emotion, but not for everything. THanks for the birthday wishes.

  5. katechiconi

    Sorry to have missed wishing you happy birthday on the day itself – we were on the road home. I think your stash is impressively small and organised, and remarkably disciplined as to colour. I can’t seem to stop myself buying fabric on impulse because it’s pretty, despite knowing it won’t work well in a quilt. Mind you, I tend to stick to fat quarters unless it’s for back or sashing, so at least I don’t have heaps of unusable yardage…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It is still the day of, here, and I’m happy with birthday wishes any time, so thank you! One thing I noticed while pulling everything out of bins is that it’s kind of boring. I don’t think that’s the reason for my current slump (lots of other factors to blame) but it may affect my motivation for going again. “Useful” is a good thing, but not always inspiring.

  6. Cindi Lambert

    Happy Birthday to you!!! I’m afraid the state of my stash is just about out of hand. I have more fabric than I can ever possibly use. I generally buy fabric that I see that I really like, and will sometimes buy some of every color. I will also buy for a specific quilt. I’m ahead of myself by at least 12 quilts, some of which are already cut out but some still in my head. I have a tiny sewing room of about 14 X 10 which also has bureaus of my clothes and a closet out of one corner. I have room for my sewing machine cabinet, my computer and a small 24X36 PVC quilt frame and that’s about it. When the quilt frame is up, which is generally all winter long, the ironing board is down. Not enough room for everything.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Good question. I order it by color, except the scraps. I have 10 plastic bins that are considered shoe box size, I think, plus 4 of them that are taller, I guess boot sized. Almost everything not-scrap is in one of those, normally. When I’m pulling fabrics for a quilt, I try to go through everything that might possibly work, including accent colors. I pull a lot of stuff I won’t use that way, so ultimately it goes back, and I also usually pull at least one more time for a project, and sometimes hit colors I hadn’t figured on before. Since there is not very much, I can literally touch everything to decide if it will work. My system wouldn’t work for everybody but it does pretty well for me.

  7. tierneycreates

    Wishing you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Have fun shopping at the quilt shop sale. I enjoyed your annual stash declaration, your stash is not too bad, you have good self control for a quilter. Oh you know I have a think about orange, thanks for the photo of your orange fabric 🙂

  8. piecefulwendy

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy your trip to the quilt shop. Your stash is so neat and tidy. I need to get mine organized soon. Have a wonderful day!

  9. Alice Samuel's Quilt co.

    Happy Birthday! I trust you are feeling much better. I love your stash arrangement, mine is all squashed into a huge bag but I will arrange them someday fingers crossed. I already repurchased some fabrics I already had in my stash but haven’t seen in a while 🙂

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      If you love the fabrics and will use them, there’s no problem with repurchasing! Thanks for the good wishes. My knees are getting better, thank you for that, too.


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