How to Organize and Bust Your Stash

If you're going to use all that beautiful fabric, you need to know what you have and what you're going to make. It's time to see what you have and pick some great projects to plow through some serious yardage!

PS This post is part of the Summer Stash Busting Event-- Welcome! Be sure to check out the original post to see the full lineup of content here. 

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How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Organizing Your Fabric

Yardage

If you have a very large stash, you might mostly have a SPACE problem. If this is the case, organize your favorites onto your shelves and into your drawers first. If you come across things you don't like any more, set them aside for possible destashing later. But, if you know you have enough room, but everything just feels piled up and ready to fall over, use these two key questions to get a handle on and reorganize your yardage.

  • Decide how you want to sort your fabrics: In rainbow order? By collection? By length? Some combination? My stash is pretty small, so I keep mostly solids on the top shelf, random prints all jumbled up in the middle, and I mostly sort by designer on the bottom shelf. 
  • How do want to "contain" your fabric? I buy mostly fat quarters, so they come pre-folded, and I simply toss them on the shelf. The biggest thing for me is that I like to SEE everything so I know what I have. This is part of why I keep my stash more limited than many quilters. My friend Michelle at MeeshQuilts does a beautiful job folding fabric and keeps her neatly on bookcases (see a video of her darling stash and great folding technique here). Other quilters, like Lynn Rinehart from The Stitch TV Show, use comic book backing boards to wrap their fabrics. Still other quilters use bins or drawers instead of shelves. 
  • Read my full post on organizing and storing yardage here

Scraps

These little buggers multiply when we're not looking, amiright?! Here's some ideas to wrangle scraps based on how you are most likely to use them. 

How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

I tried the "general bins" strategy for a couple of years but didn't seem to ever make any progress on really using my scraps; I just don't do enough scrappy improv or scrappy paper piecing. Now, I'm in the process of migrating to a modified version of Bonnie's Scrap User's System and learning how to use these precut scraps as Leaders and Enders to build units. As Bonnie says, "If you build the units, the quilts will come!" As of now, I am cutting 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, and 3.5 strips and squares out of each project's scraps as I finish, and I'm in the process of going back and cutting up those bins I've been storing. I'm adding extra shelves to the bookcase in my sewing room, so that I can keep scraps laid out neatly on trays (see above), and simply slide out the warm, cool, or neutral tray as needed. Yes, the trays can only hold so many scraps. But, like my three shelves designated for stash, that is part of the point-- I want my storage system to "force" me to use the scraps I've saved and cut. Additionally, I've purchased Bonnie's Essential Triangle Tool, so that strips can easily become triangles for HSTs, etc. 

How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

So far, my first leader and ender scrap busting project is an excessively cheerful quilt made from aqua and orange pinwheels, four patches, and squares. It will not be the most glamorous quilt I've ever made, but I'm amazed at how many scraps it is using, and I was SHOCKED at how quickly the units really started coming together. In just one afternoon of using them as leaders and enders, I had a whole stack of square pairs ready to become four patches, and I don't feel like sewing them in-between the other bits I was working on slowed me down at all. 

How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

WIPs / Tops

Sometimes the "extra" in our sewing room is actually projects half done and unquilted tops. To organize these, start by pulling everything out and creating a separate pile for each project to see everything you have. Next, if you have any "quilts in progress" that you haven't cut fabric for (i.e. you bought a pattern and pulled fabric but never started cutting), consider putting the fabric back in your stash and setting the pattern aside for now unless you know you will be tackling that project ASAP. Then, make a list of the remaining projects and tops that need to be finished. If there are things you have fallen out of love with, consider destashing, tossing, or donating them. Finally, set goals for yourself about when you want to finish each remaining WIP/ top on your list. 

If you have a pile of tops, I have some great resources for you:

How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Books and Patterns to Use that Stash

Books

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it may grow with time, but here's a few of my favorite books for patterns and techniques that will bust your stash:

  • Addicted to Scraps - If you are using Bonnie's Scrap User's System, having at least one of her books is a must. My current fave is Addicted to Scraps, but she has other wonderful titles as well such as String Fling and Adventures in Leaders and Enders
  • Utility Style Quilts for Everyday Living - This lovely book by Sharon Holland is full of quilts with chunky piecing that will come together quickly and use up yardage. These are great quilts to give as gifts and, as the title suggests, to use regularly around the house
  • The Half Square Triangle - One of the easiest units to make is the half-square triangle, yet, as Jeni Baker shows in this beautiful book, the HST is also amazingly versatile! Pair up some bold prints and gentle neutrals or dive into your freshly cut scraps and get to piecing!
  • The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters - If you are dreading the idea of pressing and trimming your scraps, maybe you should try improv quilting! Sherri Lynn Wood's gorgeous book will show you many ways to turn those scraps into jaw-dropping, one of a kind quilts
  • Block Genius - If you like piecing, but you're more a "one block at a time" kind of person, this practical guide from Sue Voegtlin is a must-have reference tool of traditional blocks in multiple sizes. Keep your leaders and enders feeling fresh by making a different block each time and creating your own sampler
How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Patterns

Here are a few of my favorite patterns for stash busting:

How o Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story
  • Dart - This almost- queen size quilt (just add an extra border to make it queen size) from Natalia Bonner and Kathleen Whiting will eat through some serious yardage, plus it comes together fast and gorgeous (see my scrappy version above made with Rifle Paper Co / Cotton + Steel Wonderland prints and a bit of Thicket by Gingiber)
  • Charming Mini - To use up little scraps or mini charms, check out this adorable mug rug pattern by my friend Lindsay Mayland
  • Bowl Cozy - Speaking of Lindsay's pattern, you may recognize her fabulous bowl cozy pattern! It's perfect for using up stray 10" squares! Be sure to check out her post of bonus uses for these bowls, too!
  • Scrappy Table Runner - It's no secret that I love this easy, lovely pattern from my girl Kristin Esser. It comes together quickly and is a perfect touch to a table or sideboard!
  • Hold Everything Bag - Bags are another great way to use up good chunks of fabric, plus they make great gifts! I'm a die hard tote bag lover, and this one is my new favorite. I made one without the interfacing, and it's still sturdy and the perfect size. I'd love to try making one with quilted panels in the future. 
  • 15 Minute Zipper Pouch - Not only is this a great way to practice sewing with a zipper, but this easy to follow tutorial from Melly Sews makes a great pair with the Hold Everything Tote Bag. By the way, if you're making a pencil pouch, 9x5 inches is a pretty good size to cut your fabrics. 
  • Burrito Pillow Case - Using over a yard of fabric just doesn't get easier than this burrito pillow case! Make one for each of your quilts for an easy way to store them!
How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Other Resources

  • Make Modern Magazine - I love this encouraging, gorgeous digital mag straight out of Australia. It's a sustainable, affordable way to get fresh patterns delivered to your inbox every couple of months. 
  • Quilts and More Magazine - I love the fresh, easy patterns in Quilts and More. It's the perfect place to look for some simple stash busting ideas
  • Moda Bakeshop - Moda's blog and library of free, precut friendly patterns
  • Camp Oda May - This summer (2018), Moda is hosting a choose your own adventure quilt along. I'm excited to join in and make my own scrappy adventure quilt out of a big pile of fat quarters!
How to Organize and Bust Your Stash with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

PS Don't forget to pin this post so you can find it later!

This post is part of the Summer Stash Busting Event-- Welcome! Be sure to check out the original post to see the full lineup of content here. 

Do you have other favorite patterns or books for using your stash? Tell me about them in the comments below!