Saturday, December 01, 2007

I belong to the Stashbuster group, and though I'm not on No-Buy status I do want to get my stash under control. I need to enjoy having it, instead of feeling overwhelmed and unable to buy the nice new fabrics without lashings of guilt. So that means using up what I have, at least at the same rate as I buy it.

Judy L. has explained how her stash grew.

I can remember when my stash consisted of three fabrics, about 2m total. In 1980 I shared a collection of scraps and dressmaking lengths with Mereth, but when I moved to Queensland to go to college I took none of it with me. On a trip home we cut out this 1000 Pyramids quilt, which I hand-pieced over the next two years. And that was most of our stash gone in that one quilt. It's full of dress-making scraps and bits from relatives and friends, nearly 50 items of clothing that we made. We really did make almost all our own clothing back then. In fact I often had to make a blouse first, so that I could use the scraps, and Mum wouldn't frown at me for wasting fabric on patchwork. This is one of the quilts that I love the most, it has so many memories involved. It's faded and one patch has shredded, but it was the only finished quilt in my life for a long time. It's an old mate.

In my second year of college Mereth and I started swapping 5" Baby Basket blocks (also called Cake Stand I think). Each of these could be cut from a 6" charm square or scrap, and we would make several blocks, then post them to each other. It was always a good day when a fat little envelope was in the mail box. Those blocks in the centre marked the start of Mereth's attitude to piecing; why use the same fabric when you could use more, and why not use even tinier pieces if possible. I was shocked at her daring when I saw those blocks tumble out of the envelope. In 1982 I was staid and conventionalist, very close to Quilt Police status myself.

These little blocks are the beginnings of the serious stash we own today. We repeated very few fabrics, and the aim was to collect as many new prints as possible. We just never stopped, even when the quilts were done. And still not quilted as you can see; the marking pencil ran like a rabbit when something was spilled on the top, and now most of the seams have a black shadow. I'll quilt this on the Statler, and then tackle those stains; it's precious to me no matter how grotty it looks.

Being raised by a champion fabriholic, and coming from a long line of collectors, we never had a chance. In the beginning we were totally indiscriminate; if it was fabric and we could afford it we bought it. I think getting a bargain was sometimes more important than liking the stuff! Later we made better choices and built the stash selectively, but until last year there were things in my cupboards that made me shudder. It was a pleasure to weed them out and get rid of them.

Once I started quilting for a living, and had money to spend legitimately on it, I set about some serious acquisition. I spent four years travelling to dozens of quilt shops to teach, and at each place I built the stash. The material I bought then is probably still the bones of my collection; I bought rationally and with an eye to future quilts and I got a teacher discount on most of it. There's not a lot of it I regret.

What I do regret is all the bargain fabric I squirrelled away and didn't use. Most of it has been disposed of; cut up and sewn into utility quilts, gifted to others, sold or just plan thrown away. I really hope I never buy like that again, it wasn't healthy. I'm not going to give up buying cheap fabric, but I don't want to buy 3 metres of it if the price is the main attraction. I Am Not In The Market For Cheap Fabric! I am after beautiful fabric, full stop.

I think I started to feel a bit ashamed of myself when I'd get to the Spotlight sale at 8am, and by 8.30 I would have purchased all the nice cheap fabric available; anyone who couldn't get there that early would only be getting what I didn't want. But I didn't need any of it either. So I stopped doing that. I might go on the last day of the sale, and that way I consoled myself that

  • no-one else wanted it more than me
  • there must have been plenty for everyone
  • I was meant to have it anyway.
I did a rough count last year and calculated that I would have about 1200 metres of fabric; that doesn't seem toooo bad, for 30 years of collecting. And I can still stand in my sewing room and complain 'I don't have ANY double pinks!' and almost mean it.


antique quilter 11:21 PM  

I loved reading this post and could relate to a lot of it!
I also increased my stash while working for quilt shops making samples! Have cleared out of my stash fabrics I bought cause it was cheap but I didn't really like and knew I would never use now.
I love my stash now!
Love your cake basket quilt, what wonderful memories of that quilt you have. I agree the
more fabrics used the better!

Vicki W 6:26 AM  

I really enjoyed reading your post and seeing both of these beautiful quilts. I'm with you on the cheap fabrics. I've gotten rid of most of the bad stuff from my stash too.

julieQ 7:25 AM  

Thank you for your beautiful post. Your quilts are lovely. I like your triangles and especially the basket blocks.

Most of my fabric was actually given to me!! and so contains some blends, some real junk, and some very pretty nice pieces too. I have winnowed down to just keeping the nicer pieces. I like you bought anything I could afford for a while. But now am on a semi-diet...

Have a wonderful day!! JulieQ

Karen (Misiz C) 4:47 PM  

Thanks for giving me some food for thought. My stash has grown and evolved over the years too and as I bring together and organize what I have, I'm asking myself a lot of, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING! LOL But seriously, my tastes have changed and the quality of some pieces is not up to my current standards. I struggle with what to do with them... perhaps gifting them or just tossing them like you did will help me let go of a little guilt. =)

Your quilts are wonderful on their own and even more special with the story behind them. Thanks for sharing them.

Helen in the UK 4:14 AM  

Very interesting to read about your stash building history. I absolutely LOVE your basket quilt. What a shame about the pencil marks - hope you do get a chance to remedy this. It is so gorgeous and even more special that you made it by swapping blocks with you sister :)

meggie 4:10 PM  

I loved reading this post, & the evolution of your stash!
I love the idea of all the old patches still holding so many memories too.

Peyton 5:51 AM  

I LOVE the basket blocks

definately have this on my "to do" list.....

hmm....can I bust yet more of the 30's repros with them??

Chris the Quilter 6:00 AM  

just wondering....

do you have a pattern for the little basket blocks?

would be a different thing to do with my trimmed trianges (a la Bonnie Hunter)

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