Being Picky When Picking Fabrics

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Over the past year, I’ve watch my fabric stash grow. What used to be contained into two small baskets now occupies an entire metro rack. I became acutely aware of my fabric situation this past Spring Quilt Market when my entire suitcase was stuffed with fabric from Sample Spree.

During one of my regular cleanup/destash sessions, I found myself facing a lot of “limbo” fabric. Fabric with beautiful prints and colors, but just isn’t quite me. I’m a visual glutton. I see something cute or pretty and I have to have it for my collection. It certainly explains my childhood predilections for Pokemon cards.

The problem arises when my collector’s instincts beget impulse purchases of fabric bundles. Last winter, I bought a fat eighth bundle of Anna Maria Horner’s entire 24 print collection, Honor Roll. It sat on my shelf. And sat. And sat. I frequently took it off the shelf, thumbing through the prints, but I always returned it to the shelf afterwards. It never felt right for the projects I wanted to make. Sometimes I flipped through the stack and considered selling it on destash, but I would reshelf it again because I did enjoy the prints. I kept telling myself I would use it. And why wouldn’t I? It was beautiful fabric.

After a few other limbo moments, I started to understand why the fabric sat unused for months and months. I liked the prints, but they just weren’t my style. AMH’s grown-up fabrics don’t fit into my environment, which revolves more around cuteness and novelty. Sure, I like animals, but I also don’t bring the zoo into my house because that wouldn’t fit into my lifestyle either. I realized that liking something is enough to make it part of my life. It needs to be a good fit too.

That realization didn’t magically cure my collector’s impulses though. Wouldn’t that have been nice. I did however, find an acceptable system to help placate it. When I got home from Market, I dumped out the tote bag full of pamphlets, catalogs, postcards, and look books I amassed. I went through them, putting all the ads for fabric collections I liked into a pile. Then, I carefully went through that pile and asked myself, “Does this fabric collection fit my style? Would it blend into the decor of my home? Would I feel comfortable wearing it on a regular basis? Does is speak to my personality and the image I want to present?” If the I could answer those questions affirmatively, I decided those would be the collections I would be happiest purchasing.

The fabrics that didn’t pass the test would probably end up sitting regardless of how pretty they are. I was surprised by how many collections I ended up saying no to. Instead of purchasing those lines and regretting it, I opted to let the promotional handouts serve as a collection themselves. I’ve hung some on my walls. Some stay in a box that I flip through from time to time. It’s nice to feel like those pieces of art are part of my collection in a way that didn’t hurt my budget or take up much space.

If you don’t have access to promotional materials, try printing out photos of collections you like and projects made with those fabrics. Make a bulletin board or scrapbook with them. They can be a part of a new kind of collection.

For the limbo fabrics currently in my stash, I've decided to sew them up into projects to list in my newly revived Etsy shop, like the AMH quilt below. That way I can have the joy of sewing with the prints I admire without the responsibility of housing it all.


  1. You make such a good point. I just have to find it in me to do the same. Sometimes I think I get caught up in the hype and want what everyone else has lol.

  2. Be careful! I've been quilting on and off for 30 years. Fabric I thought would never work has often found its place as your style evolves, you get tired of one thing and find your attracted to something else. The one thing that I do differently is that I rarely buy a lot in one line - I feel it makes my work more original when I mix and match. I store my fabrics by colors - when a bin looks low I go shopping for that color - making sure I select different values within that range. I just hate for you to quickly use it up...because you never know!

  3. What a good blog post, definitely food for thought! I do find myself going through the process you discussed, it is so hard sometimes not to want the "in fabric". I have learned the hard way about having a large stash I just took 5 blue IKEA bags ( you know the ones) to my guild meeting to give away. Taste change, and just because it is popular doesn't me you HAVE to like it and buy it! Thanks

  4. I love this idea. As i have been trying to purge out some of my fabric during this year I have been doing something similar when I see new lines coming out and it has really curbed the excessive adding of fabrics simply because they were new or my weakness is on sale / clearance. I'm thinking of another purge some time soon and feeling pretty good about the things that I will be able to purge out thanks to this new method of thought -- basically would I buy this again, if no it goes or like you I might be making lots of charity or sell-able projects.