28 January 2011

Reflections on: stashes

Is your stash worthy of an archaeological dig? Can you tell the age of some fabrics simply by their places in the piles, as if they are layers of sediment laid down by geological forces of the past? If you answered yes, it's time to move on.

I have been slowly sorting through the fabrics, books and magazines in my studio for the past year. My objective has been to discard the parts of my collection that are holding me in the past. In order to focus on designing and making quilts, I needed to clear my physical and emotional space of clutter.

Of course, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. I’ve found myself re-reading every magazine before deciding whether to keep it. I have several hundred magazines, so you can imagine how long it has taken. Each piece of fabric has to be removed from its shelf, opened out and fondled. The assessment process has taken ages.

When I first started quilting in the 1980s, I bought most of the available magazines, simply because I needed to learn so much. Some of the titles excited me then and it is interesting to realise that those particular ones still do. Even though I have learnt so much over the past twenty plus years, my initial attraction has not receded. It is the other titles that I have discarded; the ones that never fed my passion in the first place.

The same goes for the fabric in my stash. I remember that I was taught to collect fabrics in a wide range of colours and patterns, so I would have a palette on hand. So, I purchased fabric that didn’t attract me. Beautiful patterns, admittedly, but just not to my taste. No wonder it has stayed in my cupboard, unused, for all those years.

In the fabric world, the term vintage is usually defined as cloth made before 1970. I don’t have any of that in my stash, but some of it sure is old and outdated. I can identify some of the trends of the day by the designs on the fabric – the butterfly period, the country period and the pansy period. I wonder why I bought those fabrics?

Have you ever looked at your stash in this way? Wondered why you thought it was a good idea to buy all those Christmas prints, when you never made quilts with a Christmas theme. Mused about one day making a needle turn appliqué quilt with masses of floral motifs, when you only actually used your sewing machine, and never hand stitched.

Some quilters may see these as goals and dreams. I see them as dead weights, cluttering up my creative life. There are so many projects I want to make that the last thing I need is to be buried under the burden of the past. Out they go!


  1. Couldn't agree with you more Erica. I had a similar clearing of collected 'stuff' a year ago & it felt so good.

  2. I have done that on a yearly basis just before we have our quilt show and I sell it on our stall.
    Most quilters love a bargain and after it leaves me I really don't care if it sits on someone else's shelves forever!

  3. Well said.....after our move last year and the packing and unpacking of my sewing 'stuff' I feel the need to have a clear-out too.

  4. Great minds think alike.
    I feel so much better now that I've stopped blocking my creativity with mountains of outdated stuff

  5. I have cut all my unwanted remnants/uglies/why did I ever buy that? into 2 1/2 squares and 4 inch squares and am making charity quilts using half square triangles ( they end up as 3" and 1 1/2" squares )- the bigger bits have been donated and some kept to make the occasional larger block if needed. Gives me fun making something and scrap quilts do make the most of redundant fabric.


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