Monday, June 15, 2015

Top 10 Tips: Using Your Fabric Stash

Having a fabric stash is a quilter's equivalent to owning a large share of stock or a secret candy drawer. Not everyone has a large stash, but no matter what, you've probably spent some time staring at and touching all of your beautiful fabrics. After all, what could be better?

This was most of my stash at one point in March 2014 - so neat and tidy! It's not like that at the moment. :)

However, most of us, for one reason or another, have bought fabric, only to become uninspired by it and let it sit. And sit. Or, perhaps you've been accumulating more fabric than you know what to do with. Maybe you bought fabric for a specific project and you have extra afterwards. This topic is for you!

Top 10 Tips for Using Up Your Fabric Stash

1. Make pieced backings. This is my absolute favorite way to use up large scraps or pieces of fabric! I love to color coordinate my backings with my fronts. I typically pull two to three colors out and piece them together at random. It does take longer than, say, using one piece of fabric, but then you don't have to buy fabric for the backing. You're using what you have AND making a double-sided quilt!

 On the back of Pebble Cascade, I drew blues and greens from the front, and pieced some little triangles for interest.

The back of my Supernova quilt was pieced in panels. Can you see where? This is the easiest way to piece together a back, in my experience.

Simple and shows off the large prints: I used 3 cuts of Anna Maria Horner fabrics to back Soar.

Finally, I used some of my favorite pieces of fabric ever on the back of my Sister's Ten quilt. I use the back sometimes as the front because I love it so much!

2. Give it away or donate. This is a fun one - check your local 4-H club, Girl Scout/Cub Scout troops, or high school sewing classes. Your local quilt shop (LQS) might collect fabric to be used for charity quilts (see below). Our guild has a Freebie Table at every meeting, where members bring in sewing items in good condition; these items get donated after a couple of months if they aren't taken at meetings. It's very popular. Really, there are so many options out there for you!

3. Sell it. Between Etsy, eBay, Instagram, garage sales, and your own local quilt guild, there are many different venues to sell your fabric. You might want to consider packaging/pricing your fabric by the yard, half yard, or fat quarter, along with weighed or measured scrap bundles.

This quilt was made by Amanda Jean Nyberg. It's inspiring to me!

4. Teach someone how to quilt or sew. This is probably the most exciting one! If you teach them, make them a care package (or randomly drop off fabric from your stash that you think they might love). Let them choose fabric from your stash (I can understand how that one can be tough to do, but they're using it! It's just fabric. Right?). You'll have a blast together, you'll be teaching someone a new skill, AND you'll be using your fabric. That's a win-win!

5. Make charity quilts. Get together with your local guild, fabric shop, or group of quilters and make some charity quilts. They can be as simple as 2 fabrics back and front, and they can be perfect for the occasion. Try pairing hard-to-match fabrics (like some baby or novelty prints) with solids to make them really sing.

CJMQG 2014 charity sewing day - quilts made from fabrics donated by guild members
6. Start a challenge. Either online or in person, gather your quilty friends and challenge yourselves to make something from a large cut of fabric you've had sitting in your closet. I'd like to do this towards the end of the year when all my mini quilt swaps are done. :)

7. Surprise someone. Make pouches, tote bags, drawstring bags, pillow covers, coasters, or tablerunners for friends. These can be quick and easy projects, especially if you use one or two fabrics only!

8. Make your holiday gifts. Granted, this one requires some decent time, money (for materials), and planning, but it can be worth it! I've used up many pieces of fabric that I didn't know what to do with when sewing for loved ones. There are also some easy sewing gifts that can use up lots of fabric -  Sew Mama Sew's annual Handmade Holidays series has tons of ideas and links to tutorials.

 Fabric I didn't know what to do with = perfect wine tote Christmas gift. The inside is most of a fat quarter, too!

9. Premake bindings. Solids and small prints work perfectly! This is also a good step to take if you have a pile of quilt tops waiting to be quilted. If you make the binding in advance, then you have to finish it, right?

 Binding for Sedona. YUM, scrappy binding.


Binding for Breeze.  I love taking pictures of rolls of binding - not so much the binding making!

10. Swap it.* Get together with your quilty friends and swap fabrics you no longer want for something that you covet. If your stashes are mostly modern fabric, you could make that a stipulation. Or, swap solids. Swap small prints or large prints. Swap a size (fat quarter, half yard, or yard). Blind swap or white elephant swap. This would be really fun to do at a quilt retreat or quilt guild meeting!

*This option obviously puts fabric back in your stash... but hopefully the new fabric inspires you to make something, right?!

 We did a white elephant mini quilt swap at Mid-Atlantic Mod 2015 - I used my fabric stash to make a mini, and I got one to hang up in return!

Do you have more ideas for using up your fabric? Sound off in the comments. Let's make this a resource for all quilters looking for a way to use their pretty fabrics.

See other Top 10 Tips:


  1. I use some of my most fun fabrics to make stuffier for the RCMP in my little community to keep in their cars for the kids.

  2. Not sure if my message made will try again. Love using up scraps and the stash, my current goal. If any of your followers would like to donate 12-1/2 inch blocks (preferably quilted with edges raw for joining quilt-as-you-go style) to A Village of Hope-Guatemala, please contact me. The family style home is for special needs kids and vulnerable mothers.

  3. great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love the challenge of using stash to join in quilt-alongs, or bom's. Such a great way to meet Quilter's online, & it is really fun to share variations of the same pattern!

  5. These are great tips for sewing and using your stash. I personally just gifted a lot of fabric to a friend who is just starting to learn to quilt, and it was a very liberating experience!

  6. Unfortunately I don't like making pieced backs...I do like making clothes though, that uses up 1-3 yards per piece. Mini quilts are my go-to for using up FQs, and I use low quality solids for tester quilts for trying out quilting and tension on. I also like to make little bags and stuff and like to use cute, but not my style fabrics for the lining, especially of pockets. I've donated a bunch to a local charity that works with homeless people to give them a free and safe place to create (it's called Art Street, they have every craft imaginable!), and then they have artist shows twice a year and they have an opportunity to sell what they've made and make some cash. I figure they'll do something interesting with even the ugliest of fabric, or it gets thrown away and either way it had another opportunity at another life/use. Oh and pillow cases are a good way to use up a yard or more! I'm thinking next month with be No Buy July, (with the exception of some purchases in NJ) and extend it to my bday in August when my LQS has a 25% discount on for birthdays.

  7. jzuckman@comcast.netJune 16, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    Charity thrift shops love fabric. I volunteer in one - we sell lots of yardage, and some we give to the HS sewing teacher.

  8. You have some great tips.... But sometimes it's just so darn hard to take that step to "cut" into a cherished selection of fabric!!! I can't be the only one who feels this way, right??!!

    1. Michele, I know how you feel. I also just can't give my old stuff away.

  9. Great ideas here. A recent blogger posted, can't remember which one, about doing a type of sew along for little dresses for Africa that might be fun. Can anyone tell me which blog as I think I'll use up some of my stash for that project?

  10. Thanx for all the great advise. I am trying to get rid of my stash by making scrappy quits and I too use the bigger pieces for backings. L

  11. Great ideas and things I didn't think of. I haven't been one to use pieces for my backs but after seeing yours I am definitely going to do that!!! Thanks! I can't wait to click the link for Christmas gift ideas!! Excellent post and well written!


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