How much fabric is too much fabric?

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I’ve recently become rather overwhelmed with the amount of fabric I have & want to tackle the stash before it becomes too onerous. I’ve been inspired by a couple of initiatives on Instagram lately, encouraging just to use what we have, rather than constantly buying more & more – for example #offwithherstash run by Karolina @tuulikiathome #sewingleftovers by Shauni @shaunimagnifique & #makeyourstash by Pilar @pilar_bear.

The Stash! All nice & neat mind

Since my son left home I have utilised the drawers in his room to accommodate my fabric. There are 4 double & 4 single drawers alongside a chest downstairs next to my sewing table. The chest isn’t full but the drawers are! I ‘inherited’ a substantial amount (around 100 metres) from my mums friend Denise when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, (in return for a donation to MacMillan). She was an ex sewing teacher & had made some fantastic garments but knew she was never going to sew again & wanted it to go to someone that would appreciate & sew the fabric – not just hoard her precious collection & sew with it I have! During #MIYMarch I collected all the pieces together that I had made, see below: There are 13 dresses, 4 blouses, 1 pair of trousers, 1 hoodie, 1 cardigan, 1 sweatshirt, 1 jacket & a cape. But despite having sewn with much of it I still have lots left including remnants from fabric that has already been cut into.

Clothes made with Denises fabric

Along with this I have also been on the receiving end of a couple of other peoples fabric, some from another friend of my mums who is primarily a quilter & had no use for garment fabric & some from a friend of a friend who no longer sews. Then there are fabric swaps at meet ups, I always take some but seem to come back with more, it seems a shame to leave behind nice fabric!

I did a quick count of what I have so that I can assess what I need to do. Essentially I have 245 pieces of fabric. (This is just garment fabric, not upholstery, bag-making, quilting or lining & cuffing fabric) – I know don’t judge me! However, a lot of the double drawers contain scraps or remnants of fabric that has already been cut into, the drawer containing jerseys & stretch fabric for example only has one piece of fabric that hasn’t been previously used. One drawer is full of upholstery fabric, primarily leftovers from the curtains & blinds I made last year & quite a bit of curtain lining which is useful for toiles. I have another drawer which is just linings, Denise had a lot of linings!

So of the 245 pieces of fabric 110 are remnants/scraps of fabric I’ve already cut into. I did a bit of a sort through these before taking the photograph & got rid of the smallest pieces but if I can get a pair of Megan Nielsen Acacia undies out of them, then I’ve kept them, this is a free pattern for subscribers to her newsletter and is a great scrap buster  

Megan Nielsen Acacia Nickers in progress

Of the the remaining 135 pieces of uncut fabric, 45 were gifts/inherited/swaps (i.e. free), 7 were bought 2nd hand, either at a car boot or charity shop, 30 were bought as a remnant, Fabworks remnant bin is my downfall, (though looking at the outfit I’m wearing today both my top & trousers were from the remnant bin!) But here’s the shocker – there are 50 pieces of fabric in my stash that I’ve paid full price for & not used – what!

Vector pop art illustration – Shocked

On the plus side it is all KonMaried (sort of), & sorted into substrates, so that I can see clearly what is in each drawer!

I think one of my main problems, (apart from being unable to say no to peoples cast offs & the lure of a bargain) is that when I’m sewing with a pattern for the first time & I’m unsure of the fit, I am more likely to reach for something that hasn’t cost me anything or very little. Oftentimes, once the itch has been scratched, so to speak, I don’t get around to making the pattern up in what I consider ‘The Good Stuff’. So I will make the toile & like it as is & see no reason to cut into the fabric that I may have bought or put aside for that project! Not a very frugal approach I know – but I have a plan.

The Future

So where do I go from here? Well my original pledge on #offwithherstash was to empty at least one drawer before the end of the year & only buy fabric if it’s for a specific project but I feel that this needs to be revised, as in order to empty a drawer I would have to use up all of a specific fabric type. Which isn’t practical, the drawer with the least amount of fabric in is wool, as it contains some bulky pieces but since we are heading towards summer, I really don’t feel like using much wool at the moment.

So I think I need to go for a percentage that is achievable, say 20% overall reduction, that’s equivalent of using around 2 pieces a week until the end of the year. I’m rounding it up to 50 – hopefully it will be more but I have an unrealistic expectation of how long it takes me to sew a garment. This equates to approximately sewing 2 things a week without adding any more to the stash.

Stash Busting Ideas

I had a lot of success with the #Makeninechallenge this year, using only patterns & fabric that I owned, see here for the original post: So I will make another make 9 plan, again based around what I have & maybe a holiday themed one too, I’ve got a trip to Greece in late August/early September, with hand luggage only, so I may look at a mini capsule wardrobe for that. Whitney @TomKatStitchery, is doing a 3 part series on module sewing, looking at silhouettes, finding patterns & fabrics & choosing colours, to create a cohesive, rather than a minimalist wardrobe.

I enjoy taking part in sewing challenges, particularly if they have shorter deadlines & participated in @Sewisfactions GBSBsewalong for most weeks, it made me have a look at what I had in a different light, as there wasn’t really time to go out shopping for fabric. So a few challenges that I’m taking part in at the moment are the #PatternSwap19, #MadeLikeMaisel, #jazzupjuly & #outfitalong, (this one is a knitting & sewing challenge).

Another plan I have is to have a go at some zero-waste patterns, I already have the Maynard dress by Elbe patterns to sew, I’m hoping that I can pull this look off, it’s not my usual style but I love this striped version.

Elbe Patterns – Maynard dress


Stash busting & scrap-busting are 2 very different animals but given around 50% of my fabric are scraps of one sort or another, I thought I’d add a few ideas here.

Last weeks Love To Sew Podcast (episode 98) featured scrap busting ideas, which came at a fortuitous time Some ideas that I already practice, such as cutting out Acacia undies from leftover jersey remnants but what I hadn’t thought of is keeping the pattern to hand, so that it is easier to find. The pattern now lives on a hook on my peg board above my sewing table along with the super basic tank top which is free pattern from half moon atelier, which takes up less than a metre of fabric

It would be impossible to highlight everything here but there are a couple of patterns which lend themselves to colour blocking, which is good for using up scraps, such as the Megan Nielsen Karri dress, which was specifically designed for this purpose. I’ve already made the Sew Different Essential Denim dress, which was a free pattern at the time but no longer is, I’m afraid. Again, Elbe patterns have some interesting ideas, including a free hat pattern & this blog post for patchwork clothing

Camis are great scrap busters, the Ogden Cami has been very popular & although I don’t own that pattern I have drafted and made several tops from the leftovers of other projects & again it’s useful to do that while you are cutting the original pattern to save time.

Self drafted cami top – the blue one in the middle was a remnant that I managed to get 2 tops out of

Seamwork have just released the Clarke top & Miller shorts both of which have been specifically designed for smaller amount of fabric but also use either woven or stretch & the top is good for colour blocking. They are also running a challenge for stash busting this month, so, I will be joining in with that too. The prize is a book called ‘Sewing Happiness’ which has 20 simple projects too work with your stash, interestingly they have also produced a blog post about why you should have a stash

Megan Nielsen has some useful resources on her blog, as does Wendy Ward, who has just released the Wharnecliffe collection a 6 piece accessory & bag ebook. The Japanese knock off tote bag & the Ida clutch in fact all bags are all great for using up scraps. I will also be making the Pouf from Closet Case patterns, maybe towards the end of the year, as it will use up some of my denim scraps & you can stuff it with all the smaller scraps that would otherwise have gone to landfill – win-win!

Closet Case Patterns Scrap Pouf – cute dog not included

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the aim is not to have so many leftovers in the first place & to sew with the good fabric. Overbuying fabric needs to be addressed. I rarely buy more than 2 metres if I don’t have a specific project in mind but I think in future I need to be mindful of what I bring into the house, bargain or not as I’m running out of space! I also need to be pretty vigilant about the real yardage required for a project by checking the pattern pieces against an existing fabric length, bearing in mind that the width of fabric makes a lot of difference.

On the plus side, my stash is pretty well ordered, I can see everything at a glance. I’m taking heart in the Seamwork article that I am an artist who is inspired & motivated by my stash & on the whole I shop at my local independent fabric shop, which mainly sells deadstock & ex-designer remnants. And I do use it – I sew – a lot, it’s my hobby & I love it.

How big is your stash – go on show me yours!

Till next time – where I will talk about my 2nd make 9 plans.

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