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Building a Stash: Collecting Fabrics You Love

Although quilters often purchase fabrics at one time for a particular project, there are also those fabric purchases known as “stash building.” To make the most of your fabric dollars, building a stash with a few ideas in mind can help you buy what you know you’ll love and use. Stash building includes not only maintaining a collection of different colored fabrics but also having fabric pieces on hand to use for borders, bindings, and backings.

Here are the amounts you should generally consider purchasing when stash building: 1/4 yard or a fat quarter. Though if you really love the fabric, you might even prefer 1/2 yard to one yard. Border purchases should be between 1 1/2 yard and 2 yards. Quilt bindings generally take 3/8 yard for the smallest projects and up to a yard for the largest quilts. For backing purchases, 4-5 1/2 yards are good numbers to keep in mind for most lap, twin, and full-sized quilts. There are also a few free quilting calculation apps for smart phones, such as Quilting Calc. by Robert Kaufman and QuiltFab, that can help you when purchasing fabric for a future project.

quilting stash

When working on building a stash, it’s important to store and organize your fabric so you know what you have and can easily put it to use. Storing fabric and scraps by color is an excellent way to be able to inventory what you have; this helps you determine what you need to purchase. To learn more about storing fabric and organizing your quilting room effectively see this Craftsy post. Beyond that, specialty fabrics should also be stored together—Christmas and other holiday fabrics, novelty prints, text prints, and low volume prints are fabrics important to stash building, and by organizing them you can keep from over-collecting in any one category. Keep a list of which colors you have a lot of and which colors you might need more of to help with your shopping.

It’s okay to have more of one color than another, too—if blue is your favorite color, it just makes sense that you’ll have a large collection of blues. You might want to consider making a scrappy one-color quilt if you have a significant amount of one color that you love!

stash shades

Finally, what about the stash fabrics you have but aren’t sure how to use? Fabric donations are always accepted by charity organizations and senior centers—consider donating unwanted fabrics so others might be able to create something useful with them. If you have a large amount of specialty or novelty fabrics, consider making an “I Spy” quilt with each square cut from a unique piece of fabric. Another idea is to piece fabrics that you might not use in a quilt top into larger pieces to use for a scrappy quilt backing. Finally, consider piecing quilts to donate with unwanted stash fabric.

Building a stash can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of quilting. What are your ideas for building and maintaining a usable stash?

In case you missed it learn about quilting bees, and come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to explore curved piecing patterns for your next project.


Marie Dwyer

Thanks for my first blog. A great help in sorting what I have already. Marie Dwyer


Thanks for info on stash building. I have followed your suggestions for years. However, it is not so easy — Your personal preferences always seem to float to the top for desirable buys. I have done all you have said and find I still have way too much fabric. I pared down in Nov by donating a very large amount of “undesirable or older” fabrics that my friends and I used to make children quilts for Project Linus by holding a Quilt-A-Thon for about 30 ladies (almost 150 quilts). Now I am re-downsizing by pulling out fabrics I’m not “thrilled” over or are special fabric (wool felt, pre-quilted, etc.) and sharing with my quilting friends. My next step is to match colors/themes and try to find a specific pattern I can pair with them for future project. My plan is to only keep those that are large enough quantity to use for backings, bindings, etc. Everything else will get pulled for donation to the orphanage in the Appalation Mountai area. All said and done, I’ll still have more “projects matched with patterns and fabric to last my lifetime (20 yrs?) I quess I just LOVE fabric–all kinds. I hope to limit my stash to my three five-shelves cabinets. My stash of books/magazines is about the same. I am working on downsizing and donating them, but I have a large love for books too. What suggestion do you have for “storing these projects–Bins, bags, plastic tubs??????

Danielle Catanese

I never like all the patterns in a magazine, so I cut out the ones I like, put them in clear page protectors and keep them in binders organized by theme ie: log cabin, stars, scrappy, modern, paper piecing etc. This way when I am in the mood to make something in particular, I just go to that binder full of patterns I really do love and don’t have to go through stacks of magazines. Saves me soooo much space and time. 🙂

Wanda Nordby

There beautiful!! Wanda I dontate ! Wanda


Great ideas, just waiting for new desks & bookshelf with drawers to arrive, will put you good ideas to use for my beloved stash.

Anything clear is a good idea but some pretty boxes look good too, I’ve Decoupaged two old cases too they are going to look good too.

Shari Heinze

I have inherited a large portion of my mom’s stash when she passed. So in memory of her and her sisters that would get together once every summer for a week to do stuff for the children’s hospitals and veterans. I am hosting a quilting be open house at our church site in August to do quilts for the University of MN Children’s Hospital. That way I can hopefully dwindle that part of my stash of kids material in I Spy quilts. I hope everyone enjoys material like my mom seemed to, I know I do. God Bless everyone

Maria Cook

just love the fabrics and colour selection,!


I love this site because I am just starting to quilt and it is so helpful. I am sixty seven and have only made four quilts for my grandchildren. They were not nearly as good as what I see here. Hopefully I will improve as I go along. I am on SS so I do not have the money to go and buy fat quarters from the store. I have been cutting up cotton clothing in good shape and making my own,


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