Stashbusting – Getting Started

This post is kinda like me giving advice on dieting or housekeeping!  Don’t do as I do but do as I say, ok?  🙂  I’ll answer some of the questions I’ve been asked lately about stashbusting.  Not everyone has a stash that needs busting but if you do, some of these questions/answers/tips may help.

1. How did  you get started stashbusting? I looked at my stash one day.  Actually I look at my stash every day but one day while looking at the mountains of fabric, several thoughts occurred to me:

  • I’m not going to live forever!  It will probably take more time than I have left, assuming I live out a normal life expectancy, to use the fabric I have.
  • I also like to knit (let’s not talk about that stash!) and read and garden and cook.  There just aren’t enough hours in my day and if I spend all my time quilting, I have no time for the other things I enjoy.

The realizations that if I continue to buy fabric, I’m not going to use what I bought.  The fabric here was purchased because I loved it.  No one else is going to love it like I do.  Who else would want a stash of all tone on tone fabrics?  Who else wants all these bright colors?  A few would love them but for the most part, too many quilters want the newest lines, all matched and pretty, and in colors that match their home. Not me . . I’m happy with my stash and I intend to use it.

2.  What keeps you motivated? The weekly stash reports are definitely a motivating factor.  Knowing that whatever I add must be reported.  How can I be the stash report leader and fail miserably at my own game?  Not gonna happen!  I’m competitive and most competitive with my own self.  I start the washer in the morning and set out a whole list of things to get done before it’s finished.  It’s like a race against time.  I do it every day . . with the washer, the dishwasher, whatever’s baking in the oven . . it’s part of how I get so much done.  But, I have a goal for 2010 and I intend to meet it!

3.  How can I join the stash reports? Simple!  Just write up a post on your blog, share a link to that specific post.  You can start any time.  You can stop any time.  No one’s taking names of who posts and who doesn’t. You’re only answering to your own self.  If you’re happy with your efforts, we’re happy with your efforts.

4.  What if I need to buy fabric? Then buy it!  We’re not on a “no buy anything” kind of plan.  If I have a quilt in my head and don’t have the fabric for it, or if I have all the fabrics I need except the perfect shade of something, I’m buying it!  If you’re not used to using the stash, you will develop a new way of thinking when you pull fabrics from the stash and make them work instead of going out and buying exact amounts of what you need in the perfect shade of everything!

5.  Don’t you feel like you’re hurting the quilt shops’ business? It’s all in how you think about it.  I don’t buy anything (except maybe Girl Scout cookies and that doesn’t count!) to keep a business going.  I buy what I need/want and though I do feel an obligation to shop locally first (like my appliance store . . I love those guys and I will pay a little more to buy from them vs. going to the big box stores in a real city) but I’m not going to buy anything just to help a business stay in business.  All this fabric I have here came from some business somewhere and I did my share of helping them out during that time I was buying like a mad woman.  I’m not saying “don’t buy anything” nor am I saying don’t buy from your local shop.  What I am saying is that I’ll have one heck of a shopping spree if I ever feel like my stash is getting too low to work with but I’m not near that point yet.

6.  When are you most tempted to buy fabric? When tone on tone fabrics are on sale!  Any time I can get fabrics for 40% off or more, fabrics that I know I will use, I feel it’s kinda crazy not to buy.  With fabrics going over $10/yard, anything in the $5 – $6/yard range is a deal I can hardly pass up.  That’s what happened when I was in Lafayette, LA and there were quite a few tone on tones for 40% off.  I bought 35 (or so) yards and didn’t feel bad about it one bit.

7.  How small a piece of fabric do you save? I’m not a scrap quilter.  If I have less than 1/4 yard of fabric left, I’ll cut it up into either 2-1/2″ strips or squares of various sizes ranging from 2″ to 3-1/2″. I have bins for each size square and though I rarely use them, I sometimes do and it’s nice to have them when I need them.

8.  What tips can you give to help me stashbusting?

  • Stay out of the shops!  If you’re serious about not buying fabric, the last place you need to be is browsing through a fabric store.  If you need something, go to the shop with a list of what you need.  Don’t buy anything not on the list, unless maybe there’s something on sale that you know you will use.  Even then, be realistic!
  • Shop your stash first!  When I come to a pattern I want to make, I may want to use green, pink and gold but I don’t have quite enough of one or two of those colors.  Then I’ll switch to maybe green, purple and gold and keep working til I come up with a combination I like and have the required amount of fabric.
  • Combine fabrics!  If a pattern calls for 4 yards of navy and you don’t have 4 yards of one navy, use 2 yards each of 2 navy fabrics or 3 fabrics to come up with 4 yards.  Don’t try to choose fabrics that look so close, they almost look like the same fabric.  They’ll look like you got real close but not close enough.  Use three fabrics that are close but different enough that it looks like you used 2 or 3 different navy fabrics that all work together.
  • Know when to give up!  If you’re trying to make a pattern and can’t come up with the perfect yellow from your stash but you’re dead set on using yellow and all the other fabrics from your stash are working just fine . . stop and go buy the perfect yellow!
  • Piece your backings!  You can use up a lot of fabric on backings.  The pieces can be as large or as small or as wonky as you want to make them.  I think pieced backings add character to a quilt.  Anyone can buy a wide backing fabric and stick it on the back.  Make your quilt backings as interesting as the front of your quilts . . almost!  🙂

This is surely not meant to be a comprehensive post on stashbusting but merely a starter for anyone having a problem figuring out where to jump in and get started with stashbusting.

There was a time when I struggled with it too so I do think the more you try to bust the stash, the easier it becomes because I’m having no problems now making my stash fit all the projects I want to do.

Good luck!  And just think . . when you use it all, you can start shopping without guilt again!  Not that I’ve experienced any guilt . .


  1. 2

    Sandy in Canada says

    I found the perfect way to bust my stash — I gave it all away. All those pesky fat quarters that never matched each other. All those 1/2 yard pieces in too many patterns and colours. Call me a quitter if you like, but it worked. My stash is gone!!! By the way, I do not recommend this approach. I merely mention it for “comic relief” — always the joker, that’s me. 🙂

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    Great post Judy.

    I am one that doesn’t have a huge stash anymore. But it took me several years to get it down so it is manageable. When I shop, I shop with a purpose. Usually background, borders or special backing. But of course there is the gotta have fabric that I just have to have. 🙂

    • 3.1

      Pat says

      Great post Judy. My taste really have never changed, but I find myself drawn to making kid’s quilts now for the sense of accomplishment I get from them. I was passionate about Thimbleberries for years. Now, I find myself gradually using them up and passing along some of the fabrics I can let go of to other organizations to use.

      My heart has been led in a different direction. As the coordinator for the South Florida “Quilts for Kids” chapter please know that we’d love to have any “kid friendly” fabrics that end up in someone’s “what was I thinking” pile. 😉

      They’ll quickly find a new home in a quilt where they’ll be loved by a little one going through a rough time. We make and donate quilts to abused children or those fighting life threatening illnesses.

      We all struggle with giving away fabric that we remember paying good money for but it’s easier for me now that I think of it as entertainment that served it’s purpose at the time… it made me smile as much (or more) than going out to dinner or a movie.

      I suppose I realized this when I compared my hobby to the deep sea fishing that my husband does. Sometimes he has something to show for his fishing trips and sometimes he doesn’t. (And, he never seems to have a problem throwing back the fish he can’t eat. Isn’t that a little like some of my fabrics being considered no longer “keepers”?) When the bait’s gone, the ice has melted, the gas used up, and the beer drank.. he just doesn’t have look at any residue from his fishing trip several years later and ask “what was I thinking?”.

  3. 4


    I totally suck at stash busting. What I do bust is the matching stuff. I’m really really trying on the other stash, but I may just be a lost cause…

  4. 5


    I love stash busting. Like you I always try to challenge myself and when I can make a quilt completey from my stash, I have a great sense of accomplishment. I also try not to buy any fabric unless I have a quilt in mind for it. No more “just because I like it” stuff. One of my friends doesn’t get stash busting at all. She asked for a copy of that pledge you posted last year and she thinks that she should be telling me how much fabric she has used so I can add it to my totals. I told her it’s an individual thing. She also doesn’t count the fabric she bought. What’s the point then? And she doesn’t read your blog either. I hope! Well maybe not the comments. I guess we’ll see.

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    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    Pieced backs, oh yes! 🙂 And they go together much more quickly than the fronts do.

    It’s just great to see large chunks of so-so fabric disappearing from the stash.

    Now I need to make a few more DOZEN of them, just like the last four…

    –Nephew’s quilt (crib sized) Nov 09
    –Niece’s quilt (twin+ sized) Nov 09
    –Fund-raising quillow 54″ x 72″ Apr 10
    –Quilt for Haiti Apr 10

    all with pieced backs. And, when I look at the areas of my stash those backs and fronts came from, is there room in the drawers/containers?

    A little bit.


  6. 8


    I personally don’t really have a large stash, but hubby would probably say otherwise, LOL. I honestly don’t know why people want to get rid of their stashes! I use my stash when I don’t have money, and when I DO have money, I buy fabric. I want to always have something for those ‘lean’ times, so I don’t plan to reduce my stash on purpose 🙂

  7. 9

    Mary Beth says

    Thank you Judy! I think I am already half way there and didn’t know it. I want to make a spread sheet like yours so I can keep track. If I can see it on paper maybe it will inspire me to keep going.

  8. 10

    Cindy From California says

    Thanks for another great blog!! It really helps to give me some direction. I really intend to reduce my stash this year and every suggestion helps!!!

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    When asked “How do you eat an elephant?” The old man smiled and said, “Take a small bite and chew chew chew chew and then repeat until you finish. When you get tired, rest and then start again! You will finish one day.” That is how I plan on busting those bins of fabric…one project at a time. Only I have about 7 going right now so while the fabric is going down the UFO’s are multiplying.

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    Vicki says

    I’m hoping to use my stash for a nephew’s wedding quilt also for a niece’s wedding quilt. They’re at that age, everybody’s getting engaged! This will be great. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. The use of pieces for the backs…will make it even more of a treat for me.