The past few weeks I have been sorting through my overwhelming collection of fabric. Yes, for most of you this may only take a few hours or a couple days, but for my toppling stash, it can very easily take a couple of weeks! :) As I am sorting different pieces into piles for projects, several thoughts are running through my mind - Why did I ever buy this fabric? Why didn't I buy another yard of that? Oh, I wish I had the coordinate to this floral! I'm tired of this fabric; it has sat on my shelf for over 5 years and I still haven't used it.
Often I will end up with more fabric than I need for a project or not quite enough for what I am wanting to do. What are my guidelines for buying fabric? Everyone has their own ideas, but here are a few of my thoughts...
When I first started sewing and buying fabric, I had a 3 yard rule. It didn't matter what it was, if I liked it, I bought 3 yards. In my mind this gave me enough for several kinds of garments, lots of quilt blocks and borders and plenty for cutting and stitching errors. Several years later, I knew my 3 yard rule had to change. Not only was I running out of space to store all my fabric, but my checkbook just couldn't handle the expense.
I desperately needed to develop a new strategy for buying fabric, so I came up with the following rules:
It's a piece I love & can use in various ways, 3-4 yards.
It's something I like & don't have anything that is similar, 2-3 yards.
I absolutely love it, but don't have any idea what I'll use it for, 1-2 yards.
It's unique & different, but not my favorite, 1/2 - 1 yard.
It's on sale for a fantastic price & can be used in a hundred different ways, whatever is left on the bolt.
Now, with quite a fabric stash built up, I don't always buy following these guidelines. Over the years my taste and thinking in fabric has changed. Some fabrics I have used and am now tired of trying to use in new projects. A few are dated in the sense that some prints and colors are popular for a time and then go out of style. I have also developed more of a feel for which fabrics I will be more likely to use and what projects I can create from them.
I still love fabric and will indulge in several yards here and there, but not to the extent that I did in past years. I try to keep in mind the following:
I'm using it for a project right now, whatever I need plus 1/4-1/2 yard extra.
It's a solid, marbled, textured, or tone on tone print that can easily be used to stitch embroidery designs on, plus many other uses, 3-4 yards.
It's a novelty fabric, floral design, kid's theme or Christmas print and I love it, 1-2 yards.
What's my theory behind these guidelines? If I am only purchasing a yardage amount for a project, I like to have a little extra. That way if I make mistakes such as figuring wrong measurements or cutting wrong sizes, I'm still ok. A solid, marbled, textured or tone on tone fabric is perfect for embellishing with embroidery; for obvious reasons - the designs will show up on these fabrics versus a busy print. Not only are these pieces great for embroidery, but they also work well for blending or coordinating novelty and floral print fabrics. A fabric that is an obvious or busy print is more limited and can't be used quite as many ways as a solid, so I try not to buy as much of it. It can easily be incorporated with several solids or tone on tone fabrics.
This lets me get the fabric I need, while letting me purchase some fabric for future use. It keeps my fabric stash in check, but doesn’t let it dwindle down to nothing! There are still times when I enter a fabric store or go online and buy more than I really need. Or as my mom used to say when I would come home with a sack full of fabric or another box of fabric arrived at our front door, "You just can't stand it; you just had to buy it!" But when starting a new project, I try to use fabric from my collection with maybe only needing to buy a piece or two to blend in with what I already own.
Do I regret having the fabric that keeps my shelves overflowing? No, definitely not! Maybe I went a little overboard, but I have found it very useful to have multiple pieces in several colors of prints and solids. I can pull out pieces and coordinate the colors I want for whatever project I am currently work on. I may only need one or two additional pieces to complete it or perhaps none at all.
The next time you are ready to buy yards of fabric, keep in mind what you are going to use it for. Is it just something you love and will not really use? Or is it a marbled or textured piece of fabric that can be used to stitch embroidery designs, blend with floral or novelty fabrics or used as a quilt backing?
Do keep in mind that your fabric buying habits and ideas will change. There will be times when you are sewing more projects with prints versus solids or batiks. Or perhaps two or three colors will grab your attention for several months. There are most certainly no rights or wrongs in purchasing fabric, just different ideas. Thinking about what you are buying and the reason for it may help your stash to be put into quilts and other projects instead of just sitting on the shelf.
Serena Smith is an avid embroidery and quilting enthusiast living in Kansas. Creating new projects and sharing them with others through local classes and online lessons is one of her greatest joys. Visit her website, [http://www.embtreasures.com]Embroidery Treasures, for fun projects, helpful tips, inspiration, notions, fabrics and embroidery supplies!
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