Using the Stash

Those responses to the stash questions were great!  Thanks! It was great reading how you all feel about your stashes.  Here’s another stash question for you:

When you get ready to start a new quilt, what steps do you take?

Do you first look through the stash and see what works?

Do you go to the quilt shop and see what interests you there? Maybe buy something special, the go home and hope to match it with stash fabric?

Do you totally forget the stash, go buy all new fabric and then wonder why you didn’t shop the stash first?

Feel free to add something that’s not even on this list.

Thanks for the answers!


  1. 1

    Diane says

    Usually as I am looking over the pattern I am already mentally going through my stash for what I want my quilt to look like and what I have that will work. I always shop my stash first and can usually get everything I need from there. Sometimes I find a pattern that I want to make exactly like the picture, some of yours for example. I don’t have many fabrics like yours so if I want to make it exactly I will have to make a trip.

  2. 2

    Susan says

    Step one…..I figure out the pattern first. Sometimes it’s a quilt I’ve designed in EQ6 and other times it may be a pattern I’ve bought. Step two….I always look through my stash fabrics before I buy any new fabric for the quilt. Step three…..if I don’t find fabrics in my stash that I want to use in the quilt I do a shopping trip for new fabrics. Most always though I contribute a lot of fabric from my stash in each quilt that I make with only a few new pieces added.

  3. 3


    I always shop my stash first. Once in a while, especially if I’m traveling, I will buy a pattern and the fabric for it, kind of as a remembrance of the trip.

  4. 4


    I shop my stash first – always. I make a lot of scrappy quilts. I may have to buy a consistent background or border fabric but I can usually find most of what I want/need somewhere in my stash.

  5. 5


    I typically shop the stash first and then I’ll buy fabrics to fill in where necessary. I will say also that over the last couple years I have bought very few pieces of yardage just for the sake of buying. Now I will buy precut collections that I fall in love with, but I tend to be a controlled scrappy quilter so these collections allow me to make a quilt from that collection without having to add to it.

  6. 6

    Julie H. says

    Most of the time, I have a great stash fabric that I want to use so I pull coordinates and find a pattern/book on my shelf that will work. If I really need another piece to go with it all, I go buy it. The other part of the time, I start with a great pattern that I usually want to make in similar fabrics or colors then see what I have on hand. Occasionally, a really great fabric line comes out and I find a pattern/book at home that I can adapt to the fabric line. Then I purchase amounts required plus a few FQ’s. I can always come up with a scrappy quilt from FQ’s. I found I was short on backgrounds so stocked up on those lately during a big sale. I almost always have to buy large (5-8 yard) pieces for backings. I have a couple of major Stash Enhancing eXperiences each year, also known as the big Sewing Expo in Puyallup, WA and my local (2 state) shop hop. At those times, I buy lots of FQ’s and fabrics that I either love or need for a project I have in mind.

  7. 7

    Evelyn says

    Decide on a pattern, pick a color scheme from my stash and get to work. I try to piece as much as possible from my stash and usually have to buy sashing and border fabrics. I might do a quilt all in greens or blues or purples. Or in color groups – usually by season – what I think look like Spring colors or winter colors, etc. Sometimes though – I will have beautiful fabric in my stash and then I will go looking for a pattern specifically to use that fabric. Of course – there are always exceptions! Cheers! Evelyn

  8. 8


    Judy, for quilts I have planned out, I always shop my stash first. Most times I end up needing a specific colour or type of fabric that I don’t have, so I go out and get that. There are also cases where I’ve seen some pretty fabric and I’ve bought some of that so I can make something with it later, without a concrete plan in mind.

  9. 9


    Right now, my system goes:

    Pull out a piece or set of fabric from the stash.

    Figure out what I can make with it to use it up.

    I’m mostly focused on ‘simple’ and/or ‘method’ blocks right now – D9P, Rail Fence, 4 Patches, etc. I just want to get stuff used up so I can see what I have and maybe buy something for a specific project. My new love is a tessellation quilt I’m doing – sew strips of two different colors together, cut into squares, rotate to make offset plus signs. Quick, easy, and only needs two colors so it’s easy to use stash!

  10. 11


    I shop the stash. I don’t know if I have ever went shopping for fabric for a specific project. I shop a lot, so I have a large resource center. This gives me a wide variety for my projects.

  11. 12


    i find a pattern that i love, then i shop my stash (and my mum’s stash if necessary), if i really cant find enough fabrics in my stash (or mum’s!) that will work i will buy a LITTLE extra fabric to pad out what i have selected from the stash

  12. 13


    I neglected to answer yesterday but I would have said that I love my stash. Even the old stuff. Since I d so many different types of projects, there always seems to be a proper home for every fabric – even if it happens to be the back of a quilt.

    As for starting new projects I always start with the stash. Mostly that’s because I hate shopping so when the inspiration strikes I am going to search “locally” first. When I am fabric shopping I am rarely looking for a specific fabric for a specific project. I prefer to buy fabrics as it catches my fancy.

  13. 14


    Wow, you ask good questions!

    Do you first look through the stash and see what works? === I do now. Sadly, not all that much works for me these days but I do try…

    Do you go to the quilt shop and see what interests you there? Maybe buy something special, the go home and hope to match it with stash fabric? === I shop online since the closest quilt shop is over 40 minutes away on a back country road that I will never find again! (HAPPY DANCE: the local craft shop is suggesting that they are planning an annex solely for quality quilting fabrics! YIPEE!) And I have to say, online shopping for fabric isn’t as tempting as it used to be when I lived in Saudi! I have learned to appreciate the look and “feel” of real life fabric!

    Do you totally forget the stash, go buy all new fabric and then wonder why you didn’t shop the stash first? === in Saudi, I definitely did becasue I didn’t HAVE a stash to start. (It started to grow all to quickly with the help of other stashbuilding friends though. We used to have class trips to the Ras Tanura Aramco Guild shop two hours away! Poor selection but quality fabrics imported by the guild. And our weekly shopping trips to town for groceries usually found me at Al Zamil Crafts, shopping their supply of last year’s closeouts and factory seconds, which is where I got so many of the prints I no longer care for!) Now, I shop my stash and then see if I can find ANYTHING else online that might work. Which usually means I overbuy and end up with four or five fabrics I will NEVER ind a use for because they just don’t LOOK the same as they did on my screen… (color matching is a bear online)

  14. 15

    Gail Fearon says

    My stash…first, especially since I discovered that it has been secretly multiplying.I had hoped to deplete it somewhat(that would require rebuilding of course) but as you know the more you cut and trim and snip a piece the more the pieces add up. I have resigned myself to purchasing background material. I live in hope of using up all my stash so I can go out and buy more.

    • 15.1

      Darlene S says

      I’m with Gayle. I shop my stash first to see what fabric I have to go with a simple quilt. I tend to look for patterns that use scraps so I can use as many pieces as possible from stash. My hope is to use up enough stash to see room some where on the shelf that would hold NEW fabric. Right now it’s not looking like it’s going down. I need to get moving and make more pillowcases and quilts. Dar

  15. 16


    I have a unic situation. I do 95% charity quilts, but they are for spesific foster kids. The foster care counceler sends me a list of 2-5 first names, their ages. favorite colors and any special interests. then I shop my stash to see what I can come up with. Every once in awhile I have to go buy a focus fabric or something to go with a focus fabric, I have on hand. But usually, If I try, I can find it in my stash.

    Rarely do I NEED to shop. But when I do shop I go CRAZY. And usually it is not with a specific quilt in mind. And Sales. Yikes!

  16. 17


    I always shop my stash first. Sometimes I pull out a ton of fabric and find what works and the find out I don’t have enough of the best matching fabric. That’s when I start thinking of other options as in a different fabric. But if a certain fabric sticks in my mind and no other will do, I think about how old that fabric is and if it’s still available. More likely it’s not so I make do with something else. And 9 times out of 10 I really like the second choice. It’s very rewarding make a quilt, front and back entirely from your stash.

  17. 18


    I find or draw up a design and shop first in my stash and fill in from the store…usually I need the background fabric.

    I buy most fabrics just because they call my name from the shelf and there is no plan at that time. I’ve had to change my design to fit what I have in my stash rather than what I see in my head 😛

    There are only a few quilts that I purchased the fabric for the whole quilt.

  18. 19

    Joyce Barham says

    I look in my stash first. If I find 3 or more colors that ‘go together’, then I concentrate on what pattern to use. I only buy backgrounds, sashing, and backing. I do have 3 large muslin backings, but they won’t work on every quilt. I have my LQS half-price room. Oops!

  19. 20

    Lynne in Hawaii says

    I shop stash first. I usually have a general pattern in mind and usually have a specific purpose/person to quilt for. I take into consideration their favorite colors and work from them. Sometimes I get the top to a point but have nothing left in stash that will work…so then I shop my girl friends stash:-). Last resort is to run to the store.

  20. 22


    See a pattern, use my stash to make it.

    I’ve been known to start pulling fabrics for a quilt… finding out that I don’t have enough of something, don’t have a suitable replacement. Start all over with a whole different set of fabrics from the stash until I find something that works.

    The only occasions I buy fabric is for VERY specific stuff. I want to make a Stretched Star quilt for the baby, using white fabric for the background and have people sign their names on it. I didn’t have plain white fabric, so I bought some. Another time I was mystery testing and it required a focus fabric. I had a few that might work, but I wanted a boy themed quilt, so I bought exactly what I needed and pulled the rest from my stash. Then my sister-in-law was having a themed nursery for her baby, so I bought fabric to match her theme.

    Otherwise, I want to use up my stash as much as possible to the point where I can start having an even amount in and out. Have a “foundation” of 100-200 yards, and then see what works, buy more if needed. As it is right now, I probably have 700-1000 yards. Must quilt faster! 😉

  21. 23

    pdudgeon says

    LOL, i do something totally different.
    I now shop a year in advance of making the project, so that helps to limit both my spending, my accumulating stash, and the number of projects i make.

    Having tracked my quilting for two years previous, i know about how many projects i can expect to accomplish in a year. so when i buy i try to leave some ‘wiggle room’ in case some fabulous fabric becomes available later in the year. and i buy just for the quilt with little left over.

    i can say that i have safely survived not buying several fabric lines that i loved madly, (and everyone else was also dying to buy!)
    so i know that not buying won’t kill me. if it doesn’t haunt me at night, then i know that i’m safe. LOL

    When i buy I decide on which fabric lines i want to get, then shop my stash of patterns to see what yardage they call for. And i look for patterns that primarily use the pre-cut fabrics, so that i won’t have a lot of left overs.

    where i use my stash the most is for scrap quilts because matching doesn’t matter so much. that’s when any dab of fabric will do the trick.

    Sometimes i’ll find a new pattern, or a new book with several patterns, or there’s a pattern in a magazine that i want to make. but most often i’ll use the patterns i already have.

  22. 24


    I find a pattern online or in a magazine and if it really screams at me I go and check my stash to see if I have enough to make it. I get inspiration from a lot of my Blogging Friends. Sometimes I find a new line of fabric in a magazine that makes me go to the Fabric store to find it… I can be tempted easily. That’s why I don’t do the Stash reports.

  23. 26


    I always shop the stash first! I would like to say it is a philosophical or artistic position I’ve taken but I’m afraid it comes down to cold hard cash. Fabrics are UNBELIEVABLY expensive in Australia compared to the US, so about every week I buy a random six yards of fabric (which is the amount that will fit in a global priority envelope) on-line from a US shop.

    It arrives, I have a bit of a chuckle at the oddities and then put it on a shelf. And when I want to make a quilt I shop the shelves! It’s amazing that the most unlikely (ugly, to be frank) fabrics work well with other unlikelies and the whole thing comes together.

    So I probably qualify for the “Cash Rules My Quilting Life” award:)

  24. 27


    I always try to incorporate the stash into any new project. Sometimes it doesn’t work……but I rarely (if ever??) buy totally new for a project.

  25. 29


    Depends what I’m making. If it’s a gift for someone, I pick a pattern, work out fabric requirments, then go out and pick fabric. If it’s a personal project (neat pattern I saw, mystery quilt, etc) I try to find fabric in my stash first, but shop if necessary (I often bail on projects if I can’t fit it from my stash). And then there are projects where I look at my stash, decide I want to use *this* fabric, and figure out a pattern and the rest of the fabric (hopefully also from stash).

  26. 31

    Deb says

    I usually pick a pattern and then the fabric from stash. Sometimes the husband likes a line of fabrics (he loves batiks and oriental) and I will have to make “him” a quilt that he wants made. (Orientals are the only thing I HAVENT collected, since I already have WAY too many collections!) But he keeps finding ones that he WANTS me to collect, and I have to say, no, we already have enough of that! And sometimes he makes me buy some anyways. (Doesn’t happen often…) I think in my head I am keeping track of my stash too, so that when a pattern that I really like comes along, I can go to the stash, and find them and dig it out. Other times, there are a few “sets” of fabric that I have, but it only might be 3 or 4 fabrics, and will take just “the right” pattern for, some I have not found a pattern for after years.
    So, here is question for all of you also…When you find a fabric that you cant live without, do you just buy it, or then buy coordinating pieces to go with it? I usually buy coord. fabrics-2-3 yard pieces, and end up with either too much, or not enough of ONE piece when I go to use it.
    This is why I have tried to stop buying, and to try to switch to tone on tones. I will end up giving it all away because it will bug me to keep looking at it, and not figure out what to do with it!

    • 31.1

      Linda C says

      “When you find a fabric that you cant live without, do you just buy it, or then buy coordinating pieces to go with it?”


      FWIW, ever since I realized that every time I have run out of fabric and had to go buy more I liked the new stuff better than what I’d run out of, I don’t buy coordinating fabrics. It helps that I like scrappy quilts and will never use one green where six will do. If there’s a fabric that I absolutely love, I’ll buy two yards at most. More often one yard, and fat quarters for things that are just liked.

  27. 32

    Peggy says

    I check my stash first. I do not want to spend money on fabric when I have so much that needs to be used. Sometimes I will design a pattern around the amount I have. I am not saying new fabric doesn’t come into my house, because it does. I am just saying that it is important to me to challenge myself to try and put projects together with my stash, fabrics left over from making quilts for manufacturers or from fabric I have won in contests.

  28. 33

    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    Most of my recent projects (including a twin-sized quilt for 3-y.o. niece and a play quilt for 1-y.o. nephew) have been 100% from stash.

    I was recently *very* irritated b/c I had to purchase fabric for a border. All the fabric I’m dealing with, and I didn’t have any B&W in sufficient quantity to make it around the quilt, even for a 1-inch finished inner border. Gak.

    But almost everything the past three or so years has come 100% or at least 85% from stash: front, back, borders, binding. I’ve purchased a roll of batting, but that was about it. And the batting was 50% off. 🙂

    • 33.1

      Darlene S says

      Sharon, I really want to be like you. Then my stash would shrink, I’m sure of it!! Congratulations on your major stash busting. You are my hero! Dar

  29. 34

    Jane says

    Right now I am big into buying kits….wham bam everything there and I don’t have to think. I know, it’s not being very creative…and I do have a stash (boy do I ever!!!) but it’s a time “thing” for me….and I’m such an impulse buyer that a kit is quick and easy!!

  30. 35

    Linda C says

    I’m working on a couple of pieced quilts now (twin girls blessing a friend real soon now.) It’s fabric everywhere! (and pretty typical of the process.)

    I found a pattern I liked via a Design Wall Monday blog post, thought about colors in a general way, went through the entire stash pulling anything that seemed even remotely possible (all over the couch and the table), found a fabric I really liked for this pattern in there, took overnight to figure out where I really wanted to use said fabric for. Went through the piles pulling stuff that would work better with that focus fabric, refining as I went. Figured out all the backgrounds, the design elements, and so forth. Sorted everything into piles, worked up numbers of pieces of various colors, reviewed some colors and rejected some more, added some back in, took them out again, added (fewer) back in… By tomorrow evening everything should be cut (I hope) and ready to start sewing, and in the meantime the couch is still awash in fabric.

    I’m really working to use stuff from the stash, and this pattern’s been great for using some stuff I wouldn’t think of otherwise. Plus probably discarding (setting aside for friends to take) a few fabrics that have started to fail the “will I really ever use this?” test.

    Usually backings get bought to order when the top is done as I don’t buy yardage as a rule, and I’ll buy to fill a need for a given quilt but I am trying really hard not to buy much if anything just because it looks good at the time.

  31. 36


    It seems that I usually have a quilt in mind to start, (and many more than one!), and then I decide on the colorway I want. I have yardages on bolts that I search first for borders and to select colors from. Then I shop from my stash. I only purchase something if it’s not there. And believe me, it is USUALLY there! I just cut an entire king size quilt, including 5″ borders from the stash only. So far so good.

  32. 37


    For me it always starts with the pattern. Since I have not been quilting a long time, I tend to make my quilts for specific people so that determines a lot of fabric/color choices that are usually outside what I have on hand. Also, I do not have a big stash…yet…so I usually MUST shop, which I do with relish!

    For instance, my youngest DD is next in line for a quilt and we spent a lovely couple of hours recently picking out lots of different fabrics at a fabric store for the quilt pattern she selected from one of my magazines. It called for fat quarters but we bought 1/3 yd cuts so there will be lots of leftovers to use to piece a backing or make a matching pillow cover, etc. (plus I get all the yummy scraps!)

    Now, scrap quilts I shop my stash for, because I seem to have lots of fat quarters and odd size pieces leftover from other projects, and those work great for scrappy quilts. I have also cut my scraps into strips and squares to use later.

  33. 38

    Darlene S says

    Judy, You have been asking really good questions and getting some great answers. Now that we’ve told you our way of doing it, what about you?? I know you use your stash majorly, but do you start with a pattern in mind first, or just pull fabric. Do you ever piece your backs from stash extensively or buy yardage for these. Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂 🙂 Dar

  34. 39

    Marilyn Smith says

    I shop the stash first. Then, I may go buy 1/2 to 1 yard of something to incorporate into it and buy the backing at the same time. I don’t have a lot of big pieces for backing. Sometimes I piece them, but will often buy the backing after I decide what I am going to use from the stash. I do like to incorporate something from the top to be used as backing.

    Good questions!

    Marilyn (IQuiltToo)

  35. 41

    Dawn says

    I used to go out and buy a carbon copy of the fabrics for the pattern I liked. I used to make “that quilt” exactly the same. Then I branched out and liked the way the same pattern can look so different with other fabrics. I usually start out by pawing through my stash and picking fabric I would like to use to fit a mood etc. Then I go looking for a pattern I think would be pleasing and go for it. Sometimes I am very surprised at the outcome and dont love it but with quilts there is always someone to love the quilt and be comforted by it. Other times I am pleasantly surprised and keep the quilt for myself. I think I like the elemanet of surprise and versatility that quilting has. Also trying to use up the stash these days to be able to create but also save money.

  36. 42

    Candy says

    I alway, always, always go to my stash first. I buy fabric I love when I see it. When I go to make a quilt I can usually get most of the fabric from my stash. I do sometimes need to buy something to have enough to complete it.

  37. 43


    Lately I’ve been making a lot of bags: gift bags, handbags, makeup bags and therefore shop for bright, fun colors. It doesn’t matter too much on style or size, so shop a lot of sale racks.

    If an occasion pops up that I need a quilt, baby shower, new baby, gift, I shop first at my mother-in-law’s house! She has a ton of fabric and no longer quilts. She’s also very generous and is grateful somone is putting her treasures to good use. Sometimes I need to buy to help with an accent color, but she typically bought enough to do large quilts.

    Patterns are another story… I try the library first, but I have a fetish for the latest magazine, or pattern (bags and quilts). But I usually end up with a couple tried and true and/or personally modified patterns that I know work.

    We all need a hobby or collection, right?

  38. 44


    I start with my stash and a pattern or drawing. If I can’t find anything, I’ll go buy, or if DH says it’s too practical and not “matchy” enough, I’ll go shopping. Occasionally, for something that requires lots of yardage of one color, I’ll pick from my stash the colors I like, then go find something similar in the shop that I can buy yards and yards of.

  39. 45

    Dianah says

    What a great question! I do a few things.

    1. If I am given cut goods, (jelly roll, layer cakeI will buy yardage from the line for the boraders. I am matchy that way.

    2. If I purchase a large print I will come home and shop my stash to go with it before buying more fabric.

    3. I also recently tried your technique of selecting a print I like and using the dots at the bottom to pick my colors. I did this from Morning Splash. My print was a stripe that will be my binding, I am on hour 6.

    4. Most of the time I shop my stash first though.

  40. 46

    Sandra (Sandy Gail) says

    Since I don’t have a blog you can see my meager stash on my FB page. I’m on there as Sandra Neel Hutchins. When I start a quilt I pull the fabrics from my collection. I don’t have yardages, but rather scraps. Oh what delicious fun to pull fabrics that may be from the 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s to go with more modern fabrics. I also have original flour sack fabrics from the 50’s. My quilts have a vast array of fabrics that you’re not going to find at the local quilt shop. I do sometimes buy a fat quarter of two to add to the stash. I support the quilt shops by buying high quality fabrics for my backings. I love new fabric for the backings. You can see one of my quilts that I’m currently working on by going to my FB page.

  41. 47

    Lydia says

    Usually I’ll see a pattern (or a quilt or picture of a quilt) that I’d like to make. Or I’ll remember a pattern (or a quilt in a book or magazine) that I already own, or will run across it as I’m looking through my books. Anyhow, I’ll get inspired by a design. Or I’ll come up with my own design. Then I’ll go to the stash and pull fabrics. Occasionally at random times, a fabric will leap off the shelves into my arms and say “use me, use me!” and then I’ll figure out what pattern to use it in, or whether to use it in something other than a quilt, like a tote bag or a jacket or whatever. Sometimes, that fabric will pull some of its friends off the shelf with it, and voila, instant fabric pull — now to find the pattern! Once in a while I’ll have to buy something to fill in, but since I’m going more and more to scrappy quilts most of the time now, that’s become less and less true. Most of my buying these days is to fill in a need — for a border or because I need one or two more greens in a particular shade so the ones I’m using aren’t too densely distributed. But I also buy things that speak to me, with no particular use in mind. When I see a fabric I absolutely love, I’ll buy it. When I’m ready to use it, I’ll either pull stuff to go with it from my stash, or I’ll shop if necessary.

  42. 48


    I always shop the stash first. Sometimes, I start with the fabric and find a pattern that works with the quantities I have; other times, I start with a pattern and find fabrics that work.

    I do add to the stash randomly with maximum 1m cuts of stuff I really love. I do love the look of lots of different fabrics in a quilt, so I’m not too fussed if I don’t have a lot of one particular fabric.

    I’ve only ever bought one kit and I did like that there was very little in the way of leftovers, but generally speaking I like to make a quilt my own and not exactly like the pattern.

    GREAT questions, Judy! Thank you!