Anatomy of a Fabric Stash

4.24.2015

I know you guys usually read the blog for FO photos, pattern hacks and to mournfully shake your head at my grammar. There will be more of that sort of thing soon, but today we're going to have something a little different.  Professor Froggie has prepared a little science lesson for you, so try not to nod off or pass notes to the cute boy in the back.  Now focus your eyes forward towards the overhead projector in the front. Really dating myself with an overhead projector reference aren't I? Anyway, I'm going to turn the rest of this blog post over to Professor Froggie so you can get some education.

Hello Class, Professior Froggie here. Today we will be learning about a subject that is near and dear to my heart, fabric stashes.  It may look like a random pile of fabric to the non-educated, but it is actually divided into layers that accumulate over time. Now the number of layers in the stash will depend upon location, size of storage area, amount of mad money and if the stasher was born with a hoarding gene. You find that some stashers keep their supply levels down to a mere three layers, while others will proudly/guiltily display the full seven. My job is to teach you about those layers so you can accurately assess the level of "hoarding" going on with your favorite sewists house. For the deeper layers I will give you tips to help prod your stasher into sewing that fabric.

To properly access the maturity of a stash you must first know the names and characteristics of each stash layer. I've constructed this handy graphic to help you in your education. The top layers in yellow are sewn from the most. As the stash deepens the colors darken to show how the fabric is then ignored in favor of upper layers. Finally we get to the red layers that never see the light of day unless an errant child rips apart the stash with glee.  Now let's dive deeper into an explanation of each layer.

Color key
Yellow = Happy fun sewing time and smiles for all.
Orange = Aggravating sewing project that will either bore you to death or make you want to stick a seam ripper in your eye in frustration.
Red = Would rather trade your first born child away than sew that fabric.

Layer 1 - Pure Excitement layer. The top most strata of the fabric stash which could also be named, "Happiness incarnate." This layer houses brand new fabric purchases that have recently been added to the stash. The time frame for a purchase to be considered "brand new" varies among stashers, but usually anything that is less than 6 months old qualifies. The fabric here still has the glitter of fairy dust and frenzied sewing dreams.  The giddy feeling of acquisition has not worn off and when ever the stasher takes a look at this layer their face looks a lot like this.
Yes
This layer is usually not to thick since the stash will either sew the fabric up right away or leave it until it sinks into layer 2.

Layer 2 - Slightly Seasoned Pretties layer. This strata is comprised of fabric that stasher still loves, but has been around long enough that they no longer consider it a new purchase. While this layer doesn't have the same amount of glamour as the Pure excitement layer, the stasher still cackles with glee when gloating over their precious, precious fabric.  They just haven't had the time to sew the fabric up yet. But they will, oh yes they will and it will be glorious. They just have buy some more new fabric first. The thickness of this layer will depend on your personal stashers monthly buying habit, the amount of sewing time they have and if they recently had a someone tell them they have "enough" fabric. More on that later.

Layer 3 - Out of Season Favorites layer. Layer 3 is very similar to Layer 2 with the exception that the fabrics don't match the current season.  The stasher concedes that while they think that fabric is great, it still won't be used for several months.  They might think, "I'll sew a coat next year when it's cold instead of giving myself heat stroke trying to get blog photos in June."  "Or I love to sew a sundress but the -10 temp turning my skin blue might cause some concerns."  Note - Some stashers often sew out of season anyway so this layer also holds "Planned projects that are still exciting enough not to be abandoned." That project might not get sewn up for awhile but it's still on the mental list so to speak. Fabric can cycle between layers 2 and 3 for a few years.  If it remains unused the fabric may find it's self sinking into Layer 4. Eeek!

Layer 4 - Aborted Plans and Remnants layer.  Poor fabrics, once so full of promise that somehow never got sewn up.  Maybe the pattern it was bought for didn't work out. Or maybe the stasher was distracted by a new shiny project and never got around to sewing up the already purchased fabric Maybe they just bought so much fabric that they couldn't possibly sew it all this year. "I had to buy all the pretties. What if I regretted it later" - they cried. (Dangers of the hoarding gene) This layer also houses large-ish pieces of fabric left over from other projects.  No self respecting stasher can part with "good fabric" unless it's a tiny bit.  Now all this yardage makes the stasher think, "What the heck am I going to make with this."  I recommend having them join sewing groups with general themes, having them rifle through their patterns and pointing out fabrics that coordinate. You can also throw in the carrot of new matching shoes if it gets them cutting into that fabric.

Layer 5 - Tricksy Fabrics layer.  The home of all those hard to sew fabric that don't lend themselves to quick projects.  For example only people with super hero skills or are bat-shit crazy think "I'll just quickly whip up a silk chiffon top."  This layer might be full of fabrics the stasher thinks are beautiful, but can't quite put up with the hassle of sewing them. "Ugh, who wants to lay out a bunch of paper to cut some silk. I'll just sew a cotton dress and eat cake instead." - I have often overheard.  Some times the stasher continues to buy these sorts of fabrics with abandon swelling this layer to unruly proportions.  If this happens I suggest tricking them into keeping records so that they will notice their sewing patterns. Then they may just give themselves a personal ban on certain fabric types. Then steal some of that stash to sleep on because everyone deserves silk sheets.

Layer 6 - Regrettably Changed Taste layer.  One of the dangers long time stashers run up against is finding that there fabric tastes change over time.  A certain stasher I happen to live with once bought, sewed and wore a lot of rayon jersey. Now not so much, but the stash is still full of them.  You might be tempted to point out that this layer shows the stasher should buy less so that fabrics gets used up before they strike out on some other style whim. Don't Do This!  It only aggravates them and causes what I like to call a "spite purchase." (Same goes for spouses/children of stashers using the phrase "You already have enough fabric." You are only making the problem worse.) Instead leave the stasher to come to the conclusion themselves that this fabric should be rehoused either via reselling or donation.

Layer 7 - WTF was I Thinking layer.  Fabric that was bought "on sale" that really shouldn't have been.  Colors that make the stasher look like they are battling a bad case of food poisoning. Things inherited from other people that on second thought should have gone to the dump instead. Stashers are a funny lot that sometimes hold on to things they shouldn't.  Take their hand in your hand/paw and say, "It's all right, everyone makes mistakes. You can let that fabric go." Then help them pack it up in boxes to donate at the nearest facility. If they protest loudly then let them keep a few yards to "make muslins" and then take the rest out when they are binge watching Netflix's "Daredevil." (Side note - if they are watching 2003 Daredevil staring Ben Affleck then do them a favor and destroy that DVD first, then dispose of the fabric. No one needs to subject themselves to that garbage.)

And that concludes my lecture about the strata of fabric stashes. I hope it either helps you in diagnosing your own stash levels or helps loved ones interact with your stash in the proper way. Class dismissed!

P.S. Heather here - I put the entire Etsy shop on sale for the month of April. If you like to help me rehouse some of my "Regrettably Changed Taste layer" then click here. Thanks to those of you who already have. :)

43 comments:

  1. I am printing that layer graphic and hanging it in my fabric closet right now! LOL - it's all soooo true! (Somewhat sad, but true!)

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  2. It's not just the errant children that expose those red layers. There's also the organization junkie husbands who occasionally "tidy up" your sewing room when you're not home and can't do a thing to stop him. I guess at least he didn't throw anything out, even if he did move the fabric shelves into the closet where he doesn't have to look at them... And man, that orange layer. It's definitely tricksy.

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  3. I don't relate to any of this. In any way. And I definitely don't have a hoarding problem. No. [weeps sadly into imaginary cake cause no one in this house bakes]

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  4. Ha! Yup! I even have a few more layers than these. There's the "I can't find a pattern that suits it", "I didn't buy enough for every pattern I want to use it on", and of course the "I'm fat now and trying to lose weight so I'll hold on to this super precious fabric until I get to my ideal (which may never happen)."

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  5. Uh, where is this unwanted rayon jersey, and why don't you love it any more? What is WRONG with you? (nothing, obviously.) I went through the bags of stash hanging in the closet last weekend, and it was strange to see my quilting cottons and seersuckers and double gauze. So pretty, and I don't want to wear it. I put a whole giant bag of lining fabrics under the bed because they were taking up valuable sewing room stash space. Can't get rid of them though, because one day I might want to line 8 dresses, and I'd better have stash for that! (?!?!)

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  6. So true, Professor. In my field studies, I've also noticed a layer wedged between poorly folded up UFOs and the stash layers of projects a discrete layer of fabric that has been cut out, I don't think I'll use it for what I cut it out for, but I can totally find a pattern or use for it by working with those pieces. Like that gathered skirt piece, it could be anything else, right?

    http://raptureunexampled.blogspot.com/

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  7. Absolutely brilliant and so so true! There's also the six and seven's which get sent on sabbatical to the secret stashes that only the stashee knows about. Lofts are excellent holiday homes for these as they can easily shelter underneath unwanted household detritus without fear of ever being discovered!

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  8. Professor Heather B, you made it clear: we are one AND we are the same! This is the anatomy of my own stash and this is me on the picture fabric shopping for the 1,000th time!

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  9. Antipodean StitcherApril 25, 2015 at 12:13 AM

    Yes, this is very accurate! Most of my stash is layers 1-3, then a sizable amount of layer 5 (of course I had to buy 4 metres of vintage emerald green velvet and various pieces of silk georgette, that they've been in my stash for years now is completely irrelevant), and bits of layers 4, 6, and 7. But hey, the excessively large stash means that when I look through it I find things I'd forgotten about - it's like going shopping in my own home!

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  10. As a curator of a very refined fabric collection, I can tell you that there is life on the other side. Donate the WTF and the "I will never sew with this type of fabric" again. Once you have a curated collection make sure that all future buys fall within your new sewing philosophy. Make sure there is some fabric in there for special occasions and to use for flight of fancies. Using these few rules, you should be able to avoid the dreaded Layers 4 and 5 that Professer Froggie so wonderfully dissected.

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  11. I *think* I have all of those layers, but I'd have to fund a geological expedition through 1+2 to find out.


    That must be an old picture, considering 2 of those fabrics are sitting at the top of my stash now. :)

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  12. Haha spite purchase! Never done that. No. Never.

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  13. Professor Froggie, the depth of your knowledge and thoroughness of your reporting is impressive. I suggest though, that the tricksy fabric layer is vitally necessary to motivate a seamstress to improve her skills. All that $$$ prettiness lying about inviting insect attach can actually lead to real life silk chiffon dresses (my field research suggests a 3-5 year maturing stage is necessary for this development) It is important not to prematurely disturb the stash whilst this maturing process is occurring, as this can actually lead to stashburgeoning in other categories, and even worse, repeat purchasing!

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  14. I love this article! Froggie made some really good points and made me feel much better because now I know that I am not alone! Thanks Heather!

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  15. (I made muslins this weekend while binge watching Daredevil. Have you been spying on me?)


    Also, very sneaky the way you don't count how many pieces of fabric are in each layer. I was beginning to think something was wrong with me for having more than seven cuts of fabric on hand!

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  16. As the child of a geologist, you'd think I'd have a better handle on my stash striations, but nope--thanks for this educational post! xD I have re-organized my stash enough times using enough different systems of logic that it no longer has a sensible order from top to bottom. I guess I'd better get busy!

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  17. I recently discovered that my daughter thinks my WTF was I thinking fabric is the best stuff since sliced bread. A bizarre red, white and blue floral pique is even now in the stages of becoming a skirt for her. So if you wait long enough, family members will find your WTF fabrics fashionable and fantastic. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. (firm nod)

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  18. :) It seems that Froggie has learned much by observing me in the sewing room. Probably too much.

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  19. HAA HAA HAAA! I have a spy in your house that said something about chest of drawers being overstuffed with fabric. Where they lying to get extra dog treats?

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  20. Froggie is pleased that you enjoyed his teaching aid so much. At least we can laugh through the sadness that is the lower part of the stash.

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  21. NOOOOOOOOOO! Stay out of the sewing room well meaning husband. You've ruined the start of fossilization! ;)

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  22. Amen! I really hate the "I didn't buy enough to use the pattern I want" layer. Makes me want to yell at my past self.

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  23. LOL. What if the zombie Apocalypse happens and you need that giant bag of lining fabric? You need be prepared.... to line dresses or maybe strap your cutting shears to your leg.

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  24. Ooooohh, you have educated us today because that layer does not exist in our territory. Sounds like a hard one to get rid of, pesky fabric.

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  25. LOL! "Why yes this is ALL of my fabric." *Tries not to look at other secret stash areas in front of family*


    Here we do have the stash split up into smaller chunks to fool the eye. Might help more if the stacks weren't falling over from being stacked too high.

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  26. My long lost twin! Let's forget about that pesky stash and go put the "just bought new fabric" look on our faces. We'll worry about the fall out later.

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  27. First of all it would have been a crime not to purchase vintage emerald green velvet. Professor Froggie even agrees.


    Shopping the stash is pretty fun when there's no one else around to give you the stink eye. I always forget about the basics in the stash like navy wool suiting and while blouse weight silk.

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  28. HAA HAA HAA! I'm delighted that your daughter loves the WTF layer. Guess everything really does come back around into fashion. :)

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  29. LOL, "I'll show you who had enough fabric. NOT ME!" *Clicks purchase button*


    This may happen regularly in my house. ;)

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  30. Thank you for the very good stash advice Carolyn. I trust it coming from you and your healthy stash. :)

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  31. Haa haa, you caught me! Decided to take the lazy way out and reuse an old picture instead of getting up and taking a new one. Hope those babies are being well behaved in your stash.

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  32. Hee hee! I will sew to get matching shoes. Froggie knows me so well.

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  33. There does always seem to be a WTF purchase for some reason. New fabric fumes must get us high and make poor decisions. :)

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  34. LOL. All of what you say is true. It sounds like our local silk may be reaching maturity. Must get those scissors sharpened in order to harvest some chiffon dresses. :)

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  35. Hooray! Froggie always likes to make people feel better. Don't worry, you're stash layers are not alone.

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  36. Not spying honest.....we were too busy binge watching Daredevil. LOL.


    I assure you that Froggie will never suggest counting everything because that sounds like work.

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  37. Ooooo a stash re-organization sounds like fun. Can Frggie and I come by and fondle all your fabrics, promise to wash our hands first.

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  38. SCIENCE! :) Who knew it could collide with our hobbies.

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  39. Heck yes! I bet it's much more fun with co-conspirators...er, I mean, helpers! =D I'll even let you pet the Chanel if you bring some cake!!

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  40. So funny. Perhaps the WTF layer happens when you actually do have a case of food poisoning and really want to adorn yourself with the fabric that lets everyone know that they need to treat you really nice when you're feeling crummy.

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