Friday, May 11, 2012

I Did It: I Busted My Fabric Stash

This post is basically meant as inspiration for someone who wants to get their fabric scraps busted and organized. It was a long term project that I worked at little by little, mainly anywhere from 15 minutes a day to a couple hours a week. The motivation was to get a grip on my over flowing fabric bin, and to take an inventory of what fabric I already own. A review of your fabric inventory never hurts, and I was surprised at what I forgot I had!  My goal and ultimate motivation was to find fabric that could be rediscovered and prepped for future sewing projects. If you love to be organized, like I do, then I encourage you to take some of these ideas and take control of your fabric remnants.

Here are the steps:

  1. Empty out your fabric drawer, box, cabinet, whatever. Decide what is really worth keeping. This is actually the easiest part. 
  • Keep It: Premium fabric bought for specific projects that you just haven't gotten around to making yet, fabric that you just love no matter how much is left, expensive fabric, fabric of significant yardage, any scraps of decent width or length. This amount will vary depending on the type of sewing you do and your craft needs. I chose to keep fabric if it was large enough to make a pillow case, since that is a common need in our home. I may have kept some fabric that was less than that amount if it was solid colored and could be used as backing for other projects.
  • Toss It: Really old fabric that has faded or degraded, small scraps of material leftover from craft projects that you are just tired of seeing and won't find joy in creating anything new out of, any scraps leftover from something that you made only to discover the material didn't hold up or has faded terribly. I would also add to this list, any significant yardages of material (including bolts) that are taking up space and that you realistically cannot commit to making use of in the near future. In my stash, I found some large yardages of dress fabric that are identical to dresses I already own; Since it was over more than a yard of fabric, I chose to donate it to the Christian Aid Ministries sewing program.
2. What you should have left, after turning some things into rags and throwing out tiny scraps that are too mangled or in poor condition, is a mini-mountain of oddly shaped scraps in varying sizes and lengths. If it is anything like mine was, then they are also horribly wrinkled. This pile will be a walk down memory lane of everything you have made over the years. You'll get to fall in love with some of your favorite florals and stripes all over again, while having some "What was I thinking?" moments about others.  

An ugly plastic grocery bag full of scrap material.
Now you are ready to bust.

Decide on a reasonable strategy for your mini-mountain. Do you have some projects that you make repeatedly as gifts? Do you know of a million things to do with squares or triangles? Have you always wanted to make a yo-yo quilt? The time is now. I've heard of some people who cute their scraps into 8-inch squares for simple block quilts that they tie together with embroidery floss. Maybe some of your material will end up as drawer liners. That's okay, just start thinking about how you want to break down your pile.

Since I'm a quilter, I opted to invest in a tool called a stash buster, which is a clear plastic quilting ruler, marked so you can easily measure and rotary cut 5" charm squares, 2 1/2" strips, and an assortment of usable shapes and dimensions. The reason I chose this method was because of the many charm pack-friendly quilting projects I would like to try (and already own patterns for) and breaking down my stash should leave me with a nice rainbow assortment of charm squares. Also, if there wasn't enough fabric to get a charm square out of it, I could easily cut jelly roll strips. Either way, I was getting good, usable material  in convenient sizes for future projects without spending a dime.

Besides the stash busting ruler, I also pulled out a few of my most frequently used craft patterns and made some key pieces in various fabrics. There is a table runner I love to make, so I got out the pattern for that and cut out a couple dozen shapes so I'll have a stock pile the next time I want to make that project. 

Tip: Remember to stack and whack. Whenever possible, double up the fabric before cutting save time.

If you have some larger pieces of fabric and are a quilter, I'd encourage you to cut 10" squares (layer cakes) as there are plenty of great projects out there for that size, and the larger you cut your blocks, the less time you will spend cutting and the faster you will bust your stash. (Tip: Always cut the biggest usable pieces you can, since you can always trim it down later, if needed.)

Once I figured out my busting strategy, it was important to make the commitment to grab a handful of fabric every few days, press it, and cut it down. I also made a commitment not to start any new sewing projects until this project was complete. I didn't want to get sidetracked and get stuck abandoning my bag of unsightly scraps. Was it worth it? I think so. A charm pack has around 42 squares and costs about $10, and while I haven't counted the results of all my cutting square by square, it's safe to say the savings will be significant. I now have a ton of usable pre-cut fabric in material that I liked enough to buy in the first place, and neatly cut fabric takes up so much less space than crumpled scraps. 

A 6-inch high stack of squares.

Final Step: Organize by color. This is just a good obvious way to organize your new sew-ready fabric supply so you can get some project ideas together. It's completely optional, of course.

Linked to Homemaker's Challenge as part of their Challenge Accomplished link up.


  1. about the only thing I do with scraps is make sunbonnets for resale at a few stores.

    1. Some day I would love to figure out how to turn my scraps into money.

  2. I LOVE your blog!
    Thanks for linking up at Homemakers Challenge so I could visit! :)

    I also blog at Our Abundant Blessings

  3. Now, if I can just get you here to help me do this great idea!

  4. What a great idea! I am going through my stash and I was wondering what to do with all those precious scraps:)

  5. I think this was a good idea to share to motivate us (or maybe just me) to organize that fabric stash and take care of those scrap I have accumulated over time. A lot of my scraps are from mens shirts where they wore out the collar or by the buttons but had some much good fabric left. I just cut off the bad parts and seams and put them in my scrap area. I think cutting them down to a more usable size, might just be the key. Thanks again.


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