I recently attended a presentation by Kim Smith Soper of Leland Ave Studios and it really got my gears going. The talk was about stash and scrap management, which is something I'm always interested in because, well, scraps. I have 'em. And frankly, they're out of control. I'm pretty organized in my work spaces so if I'm saying it's a dang mess, you know it's bad news bears. So this presentation was SUPER timely.
She brought up a lot of really good points and tips. One I already knew - using a ruler to fold your fabric uniformly so you can maximize your shelf space. Admittedly, I have for years poo-pooed this one as being just too much effort. I have for years folded my own fabric exactly how I fold it at the shop. But as she talked (don't worry, it was a Zoom call and as usual my camera was off) , I started to fold using my 6.5"x 24" ruler. FINE, OKAY?! It's neat. It's tidy. But most importantly...THE SPACE SAVINGS.
She went on to talk about how we can better manage our stashes and part of that means getting rid of things that are no longer serve your quilting style. And it's true. Think back to when you first started out...are you drawn to the same fabrics now as you were then? I sure the heck am not. I used a lot of jewel tones, rusts, browns, lots of international themed prints, matchy-matchy lines. Now not so much. I very much found my niche with scraps, brights, and wild prints. So as I folded, I started to pull out the pieces I knew that realistically I wasn't in love with anymore and that have just become fixtures on my shelf. More space saved. She talked about de-stashing groups online and how to go through that process to distribute your unwanted pieces to folks who want them beyond donations.
She also talked about how sometimes having a lot of options is more limiting than having fewer, more focused options. This too, is true. I can tell that especially when I started out I definitely came from the school of thought that if one yard of something is good, then a few more yards of similar pieces must be better! Having a lot of choices seemed like a good problem to have. Heck, it felt like just being well prepared...and other justifications. But as it turns out, as many quilters can attest - you can have thirty different types of blue but you never have the one you need. Or...you like something so much you buy it twice. Guilty! Do I really need two cuts of the same thing? If we're being honest here, and in the spirit of trying to get things under control, it's time to get real. I still have a lot to go, but it feels really good to narrow it down to things I know I will use and that better serve me in my quilting journey now.
She also touched on the difficulty of letting go and some of the feelings we experience when we get rid of things - like guilt - that makes us hang on to things we don't need. Maybe we feel like we're being wasteful and that we should save it for a rainy day or for someone specific. Or maybe it was gifted to us and we feel bad getting rid of it even though we know we probably won't use it, or because of who gave it to us.
That last bit? Wow.
As I have been diligently refolding my fabric like a little psychopath, I have really enjoyed looking at all the pieces and thinking about where they came from and why I have them. I forgot about some things, and got re-inspired. Looked at some, and chose to move them on. But yet others, I think of that last thing - about how they were gifted to me by people I know. I suppose for me, that's one piece of advice that, while I appreciate where it comes from, I simply won't be taking on board. I have come across several pieces that as soon as I see time, I think of the person who gave it to me.
Like this one. This batik was one of several given to me by one of our late customers; she used them in a project but as one does, got sick of looking at them. She was a regular with whom I had a bit of a rocky start, but eventually we came to really understand and like one another. She passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. I never thought that the last time I saw her would be the last time I saw her. Every time I see these on my shelf, I think of her and reminisce on some of the conversations we had - I have never before or since met someone with quite her brand of humor and I came to really appreciate her for it.
I have several pieces from our late friend, Ardith, who many of you have met when she worked behind the counter at the shop. Every time I look at those pieces I think of her, and I can just hear her voice in my head. She and Mom were quite close, and even after she stopped working behind the counter she was in frequently with her projects. I have never met someone who got as excited as she did about fabric and playing with color. That's where she and I had a lot in common - playing with color is so much FUN. She would always tell us about her "hare brained ideas" (her words) that she would come up with for different fabrics - and they were always cool ideas.
Years ago Mom purged her stash and she gave me BAGS of fabric. Like. The big black trash bags. There are so many things I remember from when I was a little kid, and a lot of things that I remember she really loved but no longer fit her current style. Will I use all of those pieces? Nope. But they're important and sentimental to me and I know if I ever got rid of them I would always regret it. There's an international flag print and a frog print from the early 90's that my brother had shorts made from when he was a toddler. There's some foundation piecing patterns she bought when we lived in Virginia at the quilt shop that used to be in Luray (might still be there, I don't know).
My point is...decluttering and destashing every now and then to keep your sewing space under control and working for you the best it can whatever your quilting approach is, is a very good thing. Change isn't necessarily bad. Recognizing that things you bought ten years ago no longer serve you and getting rid of them isn't bad either (even if you feel a little guilty). Lots of really helpful and good/healthy takeways to be had! But for me, some of those pieces are as much about filling my heart as they are about filling my fabric stash.
I'll do (almost) anything to organize my work space...
How do you keep your stash under control? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments!