The Secrets of My Fabric Stash


Occasionally I receive questions on how I choose fabrics for my quilts, and/or acquire fabrics for my stash.  There's not a simple answer for this, as it's a bit of a task to analyze one's own intuitive process!  I've decided to put my mind to the task here and see if I can dig out any rhyme or reason that could be useful to you!

And I must add, before I go any farther, that anything I mention here is my own process.  I'm not implying that you are doing anything wrong if you do the complete opposite! 

So, there are kind of two questions that I get approached with.  One is how I choose fabrics for a quilt, and the other one is how I choose fabrics from the store to add to my stash.  Now, these two questions are quite related, so we'll see where we end up!

I started by going over to my fabric cupboard (shown above) where a majority of my fabric is stored.  The only fabric you won't see here are some larger backing pieces which are hanging in the closet, some larger chunks of home decor/ vintage fabric which I use for curtains, tablecloths, etc. and my tub of vintage fabric.

As I stand in front of my fabric cupboard, here are a few observations I make about my own fabric purchasing.

I never buy full fabric collections. (except Denyse Schmidt) I don't think in collections.  (I'm not saying I never have bought a full collection, because I certainly have.  And some good things have come from this, such as finding a new favorite that I didn't realize I would like)

Vintage fabrics I buy in person at thrift stores, or receive free from various sources:) Almost all other fabric I buy online since I'm not near any brick and mortar quilt stores.  This creates it's own challenge which I will address yet.

If I could use only one fabric designer's fabric it would hands down be Denyse Schmidt.  She designs fabrics inspired by antique textiles, so that's a no brainer!  It's actually not that I always love her prints so much.  Some of them are downright ugly.  But they always work in my quilts.  And I always run out of her fabrics before any other because I'm always reaching for them.  It's a very rare quilts of mine that wouldn't have at least one of her fabrics in it.

Which brings me to one of the very main important points that I've learned in my fabric buying.  I have had my share of misses, ordering prints that I thought I liked online, and then some of them I knew immediately when I set eyes on that I didn't like them.  And some were pretty but they've sat on my shelf for years and never been used.  So analyze which fabrics you actually use to make the quilts you love.  In my case, a lot of these fabrics are not all that exciting.  You will learn by trial and error which are colors and scales of prints that are useful for you.


Case in point are these two prints from Hope Valley by Denyse Schmidt.  I think I could say I've used these fabrics more than any others.  I reordered them quite a few times, until they went out of print and now I have just the tiniest sliver of the green one left.  (please reprint these Denyse!)  I find that two color prints are what I use most.  Small geometrics and small florals... 


Here's another extended stack of much used prints.  Some I've reordered, some I'm rationing, some I'm always looking for a similar replacement because they're out of print.  I find that I use a lot of muted blues, green, grays, tans and neutrals.  Pinks and yellows tend to be more accents, at least I don't go through them as quickly, so even though I'm so drawn to them, I have to keep my purchase of them in check!  I find though that I can never buy too many muted blue/greens because I'm always running out!

This is something that is very personal, but I'd say it's a better idea to buy fabric that works with the quilts you want to make, rather than make quilts that fit with the stash that you impulsively purchased.  (speaking from experience)  Are these fabrics as fun to buy as those cute multicolored florals and prints?  No, but they're sure easier to use up!


Here are some more examples of my all time favorite prints.  Sadly most of them are used up, except for these little squares in my scrap bin.  It's interesting to note that most of these give a vintage vibe, but only a couple of them are actually vintage.  (only two of them are vintage, can you pick them out?) 


I'll give a short description of each of these just for interest's sake.  I won't link to them because most of them aren't available. 

1.  Sweetwater by Moda - Sweetwater is a good staple for text prints which I always like to sprinkle in my quilts.
2.  A new print that I bought from a Korean store on Etsy.  There are some great fabrics in these Etsy shops (I'll link to a few at the bottom)
3.  Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley ( need I say more?)
4. A vintage sheet.  I don't use a lot of these in my regular quilts as I would tend to make a quilt just out of vintage sheets or else out of other cottons.  But this print I just loved for some reason, and I'm sure i'll never find more of it... boo hoo....
5.  A Lecien fabric, Memoirs Au Paris maybe?  Not sure on that collection name, but Lecien brand has some lovely prints.  Go search for Lecien on Etsy!  Or Yuwa... ok I'll stop on than one for now! 
6.  Hmm.. it's a reproduction print, pretty sure it's a Jo Morton print (she puts out many collections of reproduction fabric)  I tell you, your fabric stash needs a few of these, even if you don't think you like those reproduction style quilts!  A black like this, with a bit of an old fashioned design on it?  It will make your modern fabric choices sing!
7.  I think this is a Robert Kaufman stripe?  I'm so lazy and don't feel like researching these all!:)  But I do know that Robert Kaufman has these types of striped fabrics.  They're woven cotton, and your stash absolutely need a few woven cotton stripes!  Especially in a classic blue!
8.  A Liberty of London print.  I think I could safely say that any two color Liberty print is going to be a classic in your stash.
9.  Don't know this one, as I purchased it as a rolled up fat quarter in a brick and mortar quilt shop.  It's one of those that I loved at sight and used it sparingly and carefully and didn't throw away even the tiniest scrap.  And if I saw if for sale I'd buy a yard of it for sure!
10. Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley of course!  This green is just so very useful to me.  I've not found any other fabric prints in this exact shade of green. 
11.  This was from a Little House on the Prairie collection that was printed a few years ago.   By Andover, and yes, Andover has some great old fashioned prints here and there! 
12.A Moda polka dot.  Can't remember which designer?  But I can always count on Moda for some good muted colored polka dots.  Almost every collection they put out, and there's a lot of them! has a polka dot in a useful color.
13. Lori Holt Granny Chic, brand is Riley Blake.  This one is pretty new so probably still available, although I shouldn't tell you this because I want to buy some more of it before it's all gone!
14. Denyse Schmidt - can't remember which collection but this red and the green like it were some of my favorites and I'm so sad they're gone!  Her little geometric prints just work for all my quilts!
15.  I think this is from a Feedsack Collection, probably by Windham.  An older one so I'm sure it's not available.  I loved this one so much!  Oh well, there's always new ones coming!
16. A button down ladies shirt that I bought at the thrift store.  I don't do that very often, but just loved this print when I saw it!
17. And then, last but not least, this Anna Maria Horner print!  This is one of those big florals, that could seem like it would not be as useful, but I used it all up!  I guess it must have been the right colors for me...

So, that was long and I don't expect you to have read through it all... my purpose was to show you that my stash has been acquired over years of looking in multiple sources and learning what I actually use, versus what catches my eye and seems pretty at a glance.  Also, to find these prints online takes a fair bit of time.  The last year I've done very little fabric purchasing simply because I want to use up more of what I have and cut back on my own consumerism!  I used to keep up on fabric companies and designers and their new collections.  This allowed me to sift through and find the prints that I thought were exceptional and needed to come home to me:)

I've found that the best way to not be tempted to buy more fabric is simply not to look at what's available, so the last year I have not kept up with new fabrics much at all!  The reason I'm saying this is that I don't want in any way to contribute to anyone feeling like they need to go out and buy a bunch of fabric! 

Yes, a well rounded stash is very useful for making interesting quilts.  But too much can be stifling and overwhelming, so that's why I advise you not to buy full collections, but rather find individual prints that you love.

I've decided to write a separate post with tips on finding and shopping for fabrics online as well as the links to some shops.

14 comments

  1. I love so many of your quilts. The fabric combinations that you use are definitely winners in my book! Very interesting to read about your thought process for gathering/purchasing them.:)

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  2. I order a lot of fabric online too. The biggest disappointment for me has been in getting the wrong shade of a color. I make mostly quilts for QOV and use a lot of blues and reds. There is so many variations of the color red! A lot of reds are too light. Great post and I look forward to reading your next one.

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    1. I, too, make a LOT of QOV's. I buy basic red, white, and blue from a wholesaler that deals in closeouts. That means I can get these for $2.50 - 3.50yd. They are quiltshop quality, name brand cottons. The bolts are, typically, 15 yards. That allows me to purchase current prints I like in 2 - 3 yd cuts when they are on sale, either at an LQS or online. I want to provide the highest quality possible quilts; but, w/out buying wholesale I couldn't afford to make QOV's. Agree on "seeing" color, I find both blue and red really difficult to see accurately on a monitor.

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  3. I enjoyed your discussion about your fabrics immensely! I am a fabric junkie, trying to stop hoarding it and use it up! I am currently overwhelmed with my stash (yardage and pieces less than a yard and lots of scraps). Vintage fabrics, vintage clothes, new fabrics, newer clothes. I even just packed up a box of fabrics without looking at them and put them away to reduce the visual stash. Lol. I keep reminding myself to use it because it’s truly the best way to enjoy your fabrics. If I don’t use it up now, someone else will after I die. Might as well be ME!

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    1. Yes, I hear you! I actually did the same by packing up some fabrics that I wasn't inspired with. I think that if I pull them out in a couple years I may like them again. Or my daughter will use them. And I've been learning to use my favorites too, even though it's painful when they're all gone!

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  4. I loved Sally's comments - that could very well be me! I'm a 40+ year quilter, and I've made so many I-Spy quilts for adults in my life that had fabrics from the 20's up to current days, as well as so many pieced quilts for special gifts. I give away 99% of what I make. But folks who come into our home always stop with big eyes when they see my quilt room - often the comment is "its a fabric shop in here". I've bought from quilt shops I visited, local Joann's (although I hate to support them as I prefer quilt shops), online, yard sales, thrift stores, and from the stashes of family & friends. I need to use it much faster, as I'm not getting younger!

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  5. I'd love to visit your 'fabric shop'!

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  6. Love, love, LOVE that sweet vintage sheet!!!

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  7. Thank you so much for this post. It must have taken some time to do. I admire the fabrics in your quilts and its a gift to know some of the method to your magic.

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  8. Well, ask and ye shall receive! Thanks for this very interesting look into your fabric habits. Can’t wait to read the rest when you get around to it. I know this takes time to write and really appreciate it. I could tell some of the fabrics in my quilt must have been vintage or thrifted. Knowing how you sniff those out will be fun to hear. Thanks again for the lengthy inside peek!

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  9. Very fun to read your thought process about your fabric collection. It's the wise and practical wisdom that comes after years of experience. For some (me), we're just slow learners, lol. Looking forward to your next post on online fabric shopping.

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  10. thanks for taking the time to think about the questions and answer them so well. I really found your post interesting.

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  11. Lovely post, thank you. This line really resonated with me "...buy fabric that works with the quilts you want to make, rather than make quilts that fit with the stash that you impulsively purchased.".

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  12. The green Hope Valley print is one of my favourites too, I used up the last of it quite recently :( thanks for writing such a lovely post, it is so interesting reading about how you choose your fabrics. I've been using up my scraps and have made a couple of quilts using your tutorials.

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