Fabric Hoarding vs. Fabric Minimalism

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Hello there, quilting friends! I’m back again for another week, and this time around I want to talk with you all about fabric hoarding. Because, well, I have a problem.

It seems to me that each quilter is either one extreme or the other - a fabric hoarder, or a fabric minimalist. I know you know what I’m talking about! Any hoarders in the house? *raises hand*

That’s right! I’m a fabric hoarder. I probably have enough fabric to make 2 dozen quilts just laying around! Check out my stash below - three whole dresser drawers, filled to the brim!

I never intended to hoard. Everything I buy, I’m always sure that I’ll use! I think this “problem” of mine goes hand in hand with my tendency towards over-enthusiasm - I am very quick to fall in love with a fabric, to feel inspired, to envision a complete quilt featuring my new find. And then - cha ching! - into the stash it goes!

But I want to find a way to convince myself to become a fabric minimalist. Because as time goes on and I quilt more and more, I find that this stash of mine is a quilting “whoopsie”, and it is actually more of a burden than a helpful tool.

Why do I regret building up such a stash?
  1. As discussed in a previous post, I don’t love to use a ton of bold prints in the same quilt. But that’s all my stash seems to have in it, because those are the fabrics that lure me in on a whim! That means that I can never make a quilt from only “stash fabric”. I always have to buy accompanying fabrics to make a stash fabric work. Usually, this means I use only one stash fabric, and buy everything else, which defeats the purpose of having the stash! (Plus, I end up adding to the stash faster than I can use it up)
  2. When shopping for the accompanying fabrics, I end up at the store where fresh inspiration abounds. But can’t use any of the beautiful new fabrics unless I ditch my stash inspiration… So I either end up buying more fabric for my stash, or nixing my stash fabric for something new.
  3. When I buy a fabric without an intended purpose, I usually just buy a yard of it. When I actually get around to using it in a project, I might need more than that, and it is usually impossible to find the fabric again to get more of it.
  4. When going through my stash fabrics, I find that I don’t even like a lot of them anymore, as my tastes have changed over the years.
  5. The stash takes up a ton of precious space!

Maybe I should take a page from Nancy the Quilting Goddess’ book. She is a fellow fabric hoarder, and a couple years back she put herself on a strict shopping ban for a whole year!!! She kept sewing up a storm, but didn’t let herself buy any fabric other than backing (because she didn’t have cuts big enough laying around for that). All the quilts she made were still gorgeous, and they were all made from her stash. If she can do it, surely I can too?

Any other fabric hoarders out there? If you are a hoarder like me, do you want to change your ways, or do you love your collection and use it?

Any of you fabric minimalists care to share how you resist the temptation to collect cute fabrics you don’t really need?

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  • Carolyn Knees
Comments 35
  • Robyn Johnson
    Robyn Johnson

    I tend to think that most creative people are hoarders. It goes along with being creative and thinking beyond what you are currently doing and about the next project and the next… Unfortunately I think I am easily persuaded by anything that comes by and entices my creative juices, along with thinking that I will go back and do the original plan. Makes sense right? I have the stash, I have the plans and even though it takes room and money, not so sure I will be changing. So just keep working toward being creative, It makes me happy! Isn’t that what it’s all about?

  • JEnny
    JEnny

    In answer to Kathy and her thoughts about our local quilt shop going broke….no, Never. There will always be new, gullible quilters following the path we have just walked. Have you ever heard of a liquor store going broke when an alcoholic or two reformed? No, it won’t be a problem.
    My big problem is that when I am needing to find a fabric from within my stash for a particular purpose, I tend to look at what I have, stroke it gently, then say, “no, I’m keeping that for something special”. But I didn’t ever buy them for something special, merely because they called out to me at the fabric store. Hmmmmm. What kind of idiot am I?

  • Janet
    Janet

    My problem is yard sales and thrift stores. I can’t stand to see cute fabric just sitting there. Example I paid $5 for 2 boxes of cotton fabric at a yard sale recently. Gave some away but still have a box full for me. How can anyone pass a deal like that up. I must have gotten over $200 worth of fabric. Things like that build my hoard. Good thing I make quilts for babies that our group donates to the needy.

  • Robin
    Robin

    I can so relate to your article and all those quilters that have left messages. My husband bought me a 20 foot shipping container, fitted out, for a sewing room. I have now a place for all my fabric, unfortunately I am unable to fit it all in. I am madly looking out patterns to quickly use this fabric up. I have decided not to buy anymore fabric for a while. The way I intend to do this is to start with one whole month of not buying, hoping to extend that to another month and then another month.

  • Dauna O'Larey
    Dauna O'Larey

    Hoarder here. I’ll match your three dresser drawers filled to the brim and raise you five large totes and an entire five shelves in a cabinet full! I seriously need help! I thought I was going to cut back my spending this year, but there always seems to be just one or two pieces that I need to complete a certain collection. Yikes!!!

  • Leandra Skinner
    Leandra Skinner

    I am not a fabric hoarder, I do have fabric left from quilts the past 2 years I have been making scrap quilts to clear the accumulation and I still have enough to make several more I only but when I have a project in mind

  • Mary
    Mary

    Hoarder. I would have even more than I do , had my stash not burned up in a car fire while moving…. but on the lighter side, our local fabric store had that sign that says " my husband says if I bring home any more fabric, he’s leaving! …..I’ll miss him! "
    I did one better… when my husband did leave ( not for that reason ;) ) I filled his dresser with fabric. Three dressers is NOTHING! I have a whole attic full. ( not all quilting fabric, though) ….

  • Carolyn Hickman
    Carolyn Hickman

    I too am a fabric hoarder. Pretty fabric makes me happy. I’ve discovered making rugs to delete some of my Jelly roll stash. They have turned out beautiful. I’m considering donated some of my fabric that I have fallen out of love with to a nursing home that has residents that make quilts. I’ve just turned 60 so hopefully I have many years ahead of me to use a lot of my stash. If not my husband has instructions to just give to my group of quilting friends to devide up amongst themselves or give to the nursing home.

  • Jan
    Jan

    I started to collect fabric for those special projects in the future. And, as you, ended up with the beginning of a stash. When I would go to that stash to find the perfect piece for a project, I wouldn’t have it.
    So, I switched to collecting online patterns. Now, I don’t go into the quilt shop without one or two of those in hand. Shopping for fabric now has a purpose. What I can’t find in my dwindling stash, gives me a shopping of what type of fabric and quantities I’m looking for.

  • Colleen Anderson
    Colleen Anderson

    I live in an area that makes it necessary for me to travel to buy fabric. Needless to say my hoard is pretty big. It always seems that I don’t have just the right piece to make my quilt perfect. Never miss a chance to hit my favorite quilt fabric stores twice yearly 40% off sales.

  • JoAnne Dewhurst
    JoAnne Dewhurst

    Hi. I am a bit of a hoarder too but lately I’ve been dipping into my stash. Because I buy fabrics I love, I find they often go together so can be used in the same quilt. Also, whenever I take a class or a workshop I try to only use from my stash because I might not like the technique taught or might not want to finish the project. That way I haven’t wasted a lot of money.

  • Cindy Johnson
    Cindy Johnson

    I no longer refer to my stash as fabric. I call it my SABLE. Stuff Aquired Beyond Life Expectancy. I purchase very little fabric. No need. I have wonderful friends that make sure I am well stock. So, does that really mean I am a hoarder. haha

  • Kelli L
    Kelli L

    I have a room that has enough fabric for a hundred quilts. It is insane.

  • Alison Taylor
    Alison Taylor

    I moved from one side of Australia more than 3 years ago and I still have tubs of material in the container we used to move. I have nine of the biggest plastic tubs available full of fabric. I have started inviting my friends from our patchwork group to come out and help themselves to some of it. I still have some pieces of hand painted fabric I purchased back in 1998, but haven’t been brave enough to use it.

  • Debby Gregory
    Debby Gregory

    I used to work with a designer in Virginia, and she taught me that in order to have enough choices to pick from for the quilts, you need a large assortment to choose from. That is my story, and I am sticking to it!! :) Plus, she was a wizard in combining seemingly wildly incompatible print fabrics together, and she also taught to not be afraid to throw these prints together. The quilts we did always turned out so whimsical and beautiful. So I am proudly a hoarder!

  • Sheryl
    Sheryl

    I like to think of myself more as a fabric collector! My husband built me a wall of storage cabinets which are stuffed full. I categorize by color, stripes, Asian prints, children’s, civil war repro, depression repro, tropical, batik (light & dark) , wildlife, near solid, solids, leaves/fall, winter/Christmas, patriotic, Easter, and misc holiday. All my flannels occupy under bed bins and are under 2 queen size beds
    along with a couple bins of fleece. I have 20 plus bins of wool from thrift store skirts, etc which I’ve felted and deconstructed. I have about 10 bins of antique or vintage linens, I have several bins of 100% linen and linen/cotton & linnen/rayon blends. I have 5 large bins of corduroy, and a few bins of clothes to use as fabric. I also have several bins of silk and 2 smaller bins of silk ties. All in all I have taken over 3/4 of our master bedroom upper walk in closet shelves with large tote bins; about 1/4 of our hallway linen closet; a spare bedroom closet, filled with all the non cottons, as well as quilting cotton overflow unable to fit in the wall cabinets ; the upper levels of the den closest houses fake fur , patterns, and acrylic felt. The downstairs hall cabinets are stuffed with all the various holiday fabrics; I have trunks in my sewing room, bins nehind my Koala sewing cabinet, and plastic stacking drawer bins with wheels house my scraps, about 5 of those, and a small IKEA drawer cabinet holds my precut stash. I think I need to live at least 6 lives to use up all of my stash! It is an addiction, because it traps you. There’s too much to choose from, so I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. I have recently been on a quest to finish all my UFOs and also make quilts for family and friends for the next 2-3 Christmases. My rule is: Never pay full price for any fabric, unless the bolt is nearly gone and you absolutely love it!

  • Marija Vujcic
    Marija Vujcic

    oooh boy…do I relate here…. and even worse – if you with three drawers full of fabric area hoarder, what should I call myself – with 3 (as in THREE), floor-to-ceiling, 1 ft deep and 4 ft wide shelves, FULL of fabric?? I must be a clinical case!!! LOL
    In my defense, I have been quilting over 25 years now, but still… I definitely need to go on that “no-fabric-purchase-for-a-year” diet!! Can I do it? I guess all I can do is try, right?
    And maybe a new Instagram destash account?
    Hey, all of that is better than intervention, right? :)

  • MARCIA HUGHES
    MARCIA HUGHES

    I too am a hoarder! I have been quilting for about 3 years. My bestcfriend who has passed away got me started, never telling me if there is a vaccine for this ailment. I sometomes look up to heaven snd say " Nanc what did you do to me??" I have been on one bus tour and going on a shop hop this Friday. I have bins thatI got from Nanc and my own buying habits. I tell myself that everything has a purpose!! Most of my fabric is put together for a certain project, quilts with a theme.

  • Jan
    Jan

    I have only been sewing for a few years, taking up sewing after retirement. Am I a hoarder? You bet! Fabric talks and I have listened. Shelving units (4) filled with fabric, boxes in closets with t-shirts and sorted scraps, boxes filled with jelly rolls and all sizes of pre-cut squares. Sewing keeps me sane!

  • Jo's Mom
    Jo's Mom

    My sister and I have shelves that our cotton quilt fabric are displayed they are color coded so when we beginner a new quilt the matching colors our together or in the corresponding bin she even has her scrapes that why and gives quilt class to young girls giving the scrips if the what somethin bigger they buy it from her or the store.. My husband understands that fabric makes me happy so only complains when money is tight.

  • Leslie S
    Leslie S

    My stash has reached the limit of the space available for storage in both my sewing room and the area where the longarm is located. Like you, I spot fabrics that inspire to “do something,” but I am not always sure what, and having an artistic husband who shops for fabrics with the same enthusiasm he uses in a home improvement store…! I have declared a ban on fabric shopping till my stash is cut in half. So far we’ve gone 4 1/2 months and I’ve finished 3 quilt tops, 1 table topper and a number of smaller projects like microwave bowls. There is hope for me yet!

  • Rose phalon
    Rose phalon

    If you are a fabric hoarder and you would like to decrease your stash you can send it to us. I am the founder of Quilting for a Cause NJ and we make quilts for the homeless. We started in January 2017 and since then we have completed and delivered 1171 quilts! Check out our website at QuiltingForaCauseNJ.org

  • Emmy
    Emmy

    I’m a hoarder fall in love with colours and have hundreds of lovely coloured fabrics, plain, flowers, stripes, plaids big small everything. I make blankets in patchwork bags cushions and children’s toys

  • Ginger Marshall
    Ginger Marshall

    Hi my name is ginger and I am a fabric-holic. I just gave my husband my credit card last night in attempt to stop buying so much fabric.

  • Elaine E Gebhardt
    Elaine E Gebhardt

    I have 6 totes full of fabric. Pass down from my Mom plus what I had on hand. I also buy what I think I might us then it goes in my bins and dresser tops. I am a beginner at quilting and still not sure what type of fabric to use? Can I mix fabric? Not sure the names of different kind. How can I learn about what Fabric I have and what you can use it for. The one I know for sure is Flannel and I make Teddy Bear Blankets with that. I have made lots of curtains but use what ever fabric I like at that time. Not sure what I should do with all the fabric. Any suggestions?

  • beth d.
    beth d.

    I am a fabric hoarder for sure. I bought many fabrics when a quilting store went out of business and has not used any of it. I already had a stash. I need to make a lot of quilts. I also need to give my quilting friend some of my fabric t hat I know I will not use. I need to go thru it, but do not have the time.

  • Nancy
    Nancy

    May I suggest you become a string quilter? All those yard cuts of fabric that you’ve lost interest in would look beautiful cut into strips of different widths and used in a string quilt. Rule number one is no matching. ( you’ll drive yourself crazy, and we sure don’t want that!!) I love scraps and scrap quilts. My friends even GIVE me scraps. The majority of my quilts are made for donations to QOV that are red, white and blue.
    Do a search for string or strip quilts. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
    It was great to read your blog I can relate. My husband calls me a hoarder all the time. After that I have to reward myself by buying more fabric. lol

  • Joan Martain
    Joan Martain

    There are probably worse things you could do than hoard fabric. Look at the pleasure you get going through the drawers. Also, I want to mention, I love your little jokes. They are right up my alley.

  • Juanita in OH
    Juanita in OH

    HA, HA, HA!!! I think I am probably the president of the “Hoarders Club”. I could start sewing now, every minute of the day and I don’t believe I could use all the quilting fabric I own, lol. I do fall head over heels in LOVE with fabric and spend too much time on pinterest searching for things that are no longer available. You have given me some food for thought…maybe I should start a "Fabrics Anonymous! " because I feel that this ISSUE is that serious. Have a great day and TFS. PS so does my husband.

  • Judith Dembowski
    Judith Dembowski

    I wish that was all the stash I had!
    When we moved from Ft Worth to Florida I had my stash in our house and our townhome to bring with me. My Sweet Husband sad no to my library of quilting books so I hid most of then in boxes I packed. My Sons packed the fabric at the town house and I packed the fabricked the stash at the house before my Sweet Husband got home. I marked the boxes as guest room, master bed room and kitchen. Now that we are getting settled in Florida and I am combinding my fabric I have filled the walls of shelves we had put in the giant family room my Sweet Husband gave me for my quilting. Plus we have built two sides of shelves down the middle of the room and I still have so many unpacked boxes of fabric.(My S. H. Keeps asking when I’m going to unpack those kitchen, etc. boxes. How do I tell him I need even more shelves?) I’ve even filled the shelves in my closet with fabric.
    I’m 71 years old and I don’t really think I will long enough to use all this fabric. I haven’t met my neighbors yet so I’ve got an idea.
    I am offering free quilt classes (I taught at three stores in FW) in exchange for blocks for charity quilts ( homeless, battered women and traumatized children.) using my fabric. I asked for sewing machines on our Neig

  • Carmen Grant
    Carmen Grant

    Hi Carolyn

    I’m sorry, 3 full drawers full are just a drop in the bucket to mine. LOL I think I have a serious problem. LOL

  • Selina Conn
    Selina Conn

    Hi there – fabric hoarders abound! I have the introducing others to quilting is typically when they go crazy buying fabric!! Word of caution – make sure they like quilting first!! The one tbing that fabric hoarders have in common is their generosity to share. If you need a piece to match or have run out someone else out thete is sure to have exactly what you need! Yes, I am also a hoarder however over the past few years I have made an honest effort to use my “stash” in making small project = Christmas gifts and finish the “projects” for which some of the stash was intended!
    Good luck to the rest of you. Happy quilting.

  • Graciela Parsons
    Graciela Parsons

    Well, I used to be exactly as you. I gave a lot of fabrics to a new quilting group that they wanted to quilt but were low on funds. My husband use to asked me why I bought so much fabric and I would say to him, honey, fabric is like wine, you have to let it age. He looked at me like I had three heads but somehow my answer was good enough. I still have lots of fabric because I was never a big quilter. I did one here and one there so I still have lots of fabric. But I am getting the urge to quilt again, that is as soon as finish painting and thin out my storage unit. If you hoard fabric you probably have a lot of other stuff. LOL We have to do what makes us happy.

  • Kathy
    Kathy

    Maybe cut back in phases, if we all go on a fabric diet, it could be devastating for our favorite quilt shop. Anyone have any ideas how to balance the two?

  • Jean Byer
    Jean Byer

    I can SO relate to your post. I have way to much fabric and same thing, only end up using one fabric out of my stash and buying more lol

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