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Conversational Threads

Yes, 30 year oldI have a fabric stash

GailAnn | Posted in Talk With Us on

Dear Editors:

Just recieved your e-mail newsletter with a topic  of “using up your fabric stash”;

Here is the thing. 

Yes, I do have a stash, some of, may possibly be older than you are.  Very little of it, however, is “out of fashion polyester double knits” or cheap “bargan bin finds”.  As I lovingly sort through it, on occasion, I almost always remember where and when I bought it.  Not one single piece do I want to throw away, give to charity, or SEW INTO A TOTE BAG OR DECORATOR PILLOW.

If I’d wanted to do any of that, I would have, during one of my annual “shake out and refold” trips down memory lane.

So, I strongly urge you to stay on topic.  My topic of interest being the highest and best examples of the dressmaker’s art, past, present, and not too far into the future.  When I select one of my precious yardages to cut into and make up, I want to employ the finest quality of workmanship, I am caprable of achieving.

I look to Threads to guide me up that higher road.  Gail

Edited 5/11/2009 9:13 am ET by GailAnn

Edited 5/11/2009 9:14 am ET by GailAnn


  1. Tatsy | | #1

    Way to go, Gail Ann. Many of the things in my stash are bargain bin finds, but they got into the bargain bin because they were ends of excellent quality fabrics. When I'm sewing at ten at night I don't have to worry about finding a contrasting fabric for just the look I want or a piece of beige fabric for a lining. The ladies at the fabric store all know me by now and they are no longer surprised by how well that fifty-cent or dollar-a-yard fabric turned out. Besides, I get to sew for my nieces and nephews and the biggest expense is the shipping. I can also experiment on new designs and pursue the eternal quest for a good-fitting pair of pants without going broke or feeling a twinge of guilt. Dear Editors, please keep bringing us quality sewing articles and more gorgeous design ideas.

    1. Sancin | | #2

      I think I have all of you beat in older fabrics in my stash. I have 2 pieces that are 45 years old and in excellent condition due to care in storing. One is a lovey soft grey wool with a white cashmere stripe through it (a end of bolt find) and the other is a perfect colour velveteen. I had intended the velveteen for a reversible coat but could never find fabric to reverse with. I also have several cuts of wool flannel. I am glad I have them as I never seem to see wools of any quality in the stores in our area. I am looking for something classically elegant, but not too dressy for all of these fabric.

      1. GailAnn | | #4

        "never seem to see wools OF ANY QUALITY in the store"

        Miss Sancin, you have hit the nail on the head!  Perhaps that is why magazine editors think we want to sew, decorator pillows, tote bags, and pillow cases.  The fabric they find in the stores, today, doesn't deserve any better treatment.

        But the fabric we've seen, and felt, smelled, and tried not to drool on, the fabric we have saved our up our pennies and finally bought.  The fabric we have carried around in our suitcases, on vacations, even as we had to mail our laundry back home to make room. 

         Ahh that is a "horse of a different colour".


      2. User avater
        VintageFabric | | #34

        I've found old, fine wool can be tricky to store.  How did you store your wool to keep them in such nice condition?  I'd love to know.  I can appreciate this discussion, I'm a third generation sewer and have fabrics from my grandmother that I consider heirlooms and won't use.  Other vintage fabrics I no problem using for just the right project, or donating.  Some fabrics I'll hang onto and never use because of sentimental reasons, or historical study.  Nan 

        Edited 5/20/2009 12:40 pm ET by VintageFabric

        Edited 5/20/2009 12:40 pm ET by VintageFabric

        1. Sancin | | #36

          I haven't done anything special in storing the wool and other fabric. Initially it was in a wooden box lined with paper. The box was a very old transfer box and not air tight. Since then it has been in plastic containers (Rubbermaid or clear storage boxes), but not necessarily touching the plastic. Now, I must say, I haven't sewn it yet so don't know if there will be problems. As I have said before, I think the environment is important. I live in a cold dry climate therefore bugs and mildew and such are not a problems. I had some old pieced quilts lined with wool that had been on beds at our seaside cottage for years. I brought them home and tried to decide what to do with them. Most of the pieces had small tears, etc on them. After a number of years I decided that they really weren't salvageable - either to replace the pieces or to use parts of the quilts so I put them out at a garage sale. You wouldn't believe how crazy people went over them! I don't think even the wool was worth trying to save, tho I have saved other old quilt wool. Sometimes you just have to give old things a fond farewell and appreciate they served their time on earth.

  2. Ralphetta | | #3

    One of the reasons I have accumulated a stash is that I have no interest in just sewing as busy work or to "get rid" of fabric. My favorite pieces are still here because I have a surplus of things I want to do with them and can't decide, not for lack of ideas. I do have some odds and ends that aren't valuable or exciting...but my life is much too busy to waste time sewing something just in order to get rid of them. They are handy when I have a last minute emergency.

    1. GailAnn | | #5

      Yes, Miss Ralphetta, I fine the phrase "use up" or "get rid" of my precious fabric unsettling. 

      Occasionally I do find that I have a piece of fabric,  I obviously must have purchased on a whim.  If I find, I no longer care for it, or find I am dissapointed in it in some way, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD I BE WILLING TO INVEST, YET ANOTHER, 3 OR 4 HOURS IN IT????

      It's off to the Thrift Shop, or the Theater Department of our Local College with that.

      Thank you for your support,  Gail

      1. Teaf5 | | #21

        I completely agree with your reasoning that, "if I find I no longer care for it...why...would I be willing to invest yet another 3-4 hours in it?" If I don't like it, I don't even want it in my life anymore--in any way, shape, or form!An awful fabric makes an awful bag or pillow, and a wonderful fabric can bring us joy even while stacked in a pile. If I don't like a piece or don't think I can use it for some functional, hidden purpose, I give it away. In this way, it can become part of someone else's treasured stash.

        1. GailAnn | | #22

          Along the same lines......... I have a glass front china cabinet.  I only use the dishes in the cabinet, to eat off of, 3 or 4 times a year.  I enjoy looking at them every single day.  Gail

        2. ljb2115 | | #41

          I am at the stage of my life where I love to purchase and "treasure" my fabric.  But I digress:  I am now going through all my boxes, tubs, etc. and wondering "where was my head" when I purchased this???  Now, I am looking at each piece, deciding whether or  not I want it and who could use it.  I will give my loving outcasts to the local Project Linus group and I know it will get a good home.  Unfortunately, I am looking at a serious amount of money spent, but if I can't use it - out it goes.  I have tried to sell some at garage sales, but the usual response is I can get it cheaper at Walmart.  Go ahead lady, this is far superior to anything from WM, but who am I to argue.  I feel better just donating.  I will never live long enough to use all the fabric I own --- but I am on the way to a 50% fabric sale on Saturday.  I need one piece to finish a purse.  (Loralie Designs hot pink lips!)

          Enjoy the Memorial Day week-end, and remember why we are celebrating it!!!!!

          1. Teaf5 | | #42

            Instead of feeling guilty over money spend on un-used fabric (LOTS of un-used fabric, but mostly bought at big discounts), I tell myself that it is a whole lot cheaper and better than spending money on 1) therapy, 2) tobacco, 3)gambling, or 4) expensive clothes that never fit.

            And, now that fabric stores are becoming extinct, I even tell myself that I can keep sewing forever if I ever get around to it!  Indeed, the key to growing old gracefully is rapid rationalization....

          2. gailete | | #43

            Absolutely! I also never drank booze nor have I spent more than $50 in my lifetime on makeup so i think I deserve a collection!

            >> Indeed, the key to growing old gracefully is rapid rationalization....<<

            I love that thought!


          3. lou19 | | #44

            I often tell my husband that I can't die as I've so much sewing to do. Cupboard full of fabric all waiting to be sewn

          4. Tatsy | | #45

            How true that is! My job drove me to drink, but I'm sure haunting the fabric shops and carting home huge bags of beautiful fabrics kept me off illicit drugs. Now I sit in my sewing room surrounded by all this possibility and just beam.

  3. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #6

    Nice point M'Lady. The point of having a stash is to collect fine fabrics for later use. The inexpensive stuff is collected merely for muslins and is used up all the time for that purpose. Even my oddball fabrics are appreciated by my daughters whose tastes are different than mine. I only collect that which "bites" me, in other words, fabrics that I love. They tend to be classic, good quality goods that will pass the test of time. Cathy

  4. gailete | | #7

    What is wrong with having a fabric 'collection'? Would a stamp collector magazine urge their readers to use the uncanceled stamps for postage since postage has once again gone up? Heaven forbid! I have a huge stash of both garment fabrics and quilting fabrics. My hubby has urged me to buy many pieces that HE likes! Even with something like 8 boxes of quilting fabric, at times, I still need to buy some more to fave a perfect something for a quilt. I too love going through my fabrics and remembering what I have. As long as I have (or can find) room for my fabrics, what is the harm in keeping it around?

    I have a huge list of projects that I want to make and I too don't want to invest time into projects that I'm not interested in or don't have a place for. I have so little physical energy for sewing, I want my sewing to have a reason. I have plenty of tote bags and throw pillows and when I make more throw pillows it will be in fabrics that coordinate with my home.

    If sewing is our hobby, why encourage us to get rid of the necessities of our hobby? When I got rid of some stuff a few months ago I learned my lessons when I had to go rebuy what I had donated. Someone else can donate my stuff when I'm dead.


    1. GailAnn | | #10

      A very loud rousing chorus of "AMEN" to you, sister.  Gail

  5. lou19 | | #8


    From 25 years of working as a dressmaker I have a huge collection of fabrics and patterns. Yes I wish they didn't take up so much space , but they are a precious resource and inspiration. My lovely fabrics want to be bought to life in quality projects not merely "used up"

    It annoys me why mens model trains or coins qualify as a collection but my treasured vintage fabrics,  sewing and crochet patterns are just "hoarding"

    1. Tatsy | | #9

      That's like my definition of lazy: you're not doing what somebody else wants you to.

      1. GailAnn | | #12

        Oh, my, all of you are deserving of praise today!  And yet another LOUD "AMEN", sister.  Gail

      2. gailete | | #13

        >>That's like my definition of lazy: you're not doing what somebody else wants you to.<<

        I LOVE it!


        1. Tatsy | | #14

          I used to think of myself as lazy until I said that to one of my friends and she fell over laughing. When she got through listing all of the things I did and said I was the least lazy person she knew, I realized that I had internalized my MOL's harangues about the way I kept house. My kids were fed and well-dressed. My husband was happy. I was working and getting a Master's degree. There was no reason for me to beat up on myself about not being able to find counter surfaces. Nobody ever got sick at our house and we generally had a lot of fun.Now, if we're having picky company I lock the sewing room door and hide the key. My kids know to give me two hours' notice if they're coming for the weekend so I can cart the fabric stash out of the spare bedroom onto the sewing room floor. I've got it all in those pop-up laundry bags so it takes me 15 minutes to move it. The rest of the time is to make up the bed, etc. and get my jewelry supplies put away. I'm too old to think I'm going to change now.

          1. gailete | | #15

            This isn't actually meant to be funny but it kind of sounds like it. I used to have a lot of angst with the thought of people visiting and my house being messy especially if my mom was coming. Hubby and I had a serious prayer session about it and now if the house is a disaster so what! Right after that point in time (of the praying) I became very ill with arthritis and its fun friends and so cleaning is bottom of my priorities any more. I'm so glad the angst is gone about a clean house. Anyone wants to complain about my house I will be happy to point them to the vacuum or whatever.


          2. Tatsy | | #16

            I try not to say out loud, "If you came to see my house, please go home," but I'm usually thinking it.

          3. Palady | | #17

            >> ... If you came to see my house ... <<   My conclusion to this is "- ask - if you want to gossip, I can tell you and save you the time.  If you're visiting to see me, come anytime." 

            I've long learned there are those who judge only by their standards.  Maybe one day I'll come to know how house keeping became the measure for acknowledging someone.  Male or female.

            Enjoyed your post about your MIL.  Dare say there are members who can identify.   How the health & joy in your husband & children could be overlooked is beyond understanding. 


          4. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #18

            When I was a young woman with no children, my oldest sister and her husband had four children in less than 4 years. They were struggling financially and had no washer nor dryer, among other amenities. Sis washed diapers by hand and sewed all their clothes as well as put meals on the table, loved her husband, and raised their children. I was often critical, snide and judgmental of her housekeeping skills. In retrospect, I saw the error of my ways and apologized to her. Her children had perfect manners, were happy, well-behaved, and everyone of them was extremely bright, and she and her husband were ecstatically happy. I think I learned some bit of tolerance from that experience. If the people living in a particular home are happy, it would behoove the rest of us to be happy for them. That not only applies to housekeeping habits but to choices of mates and behaviors of family members. It's just not any of our business. It was humbling when I finally realized the truth of my arrogance.

            Edited 5/13/2009 4:13 pm by JunkQueen

          5. Palady | | #19

            You are to be commended for your growth.  As well as you having the humblness to apologize to your sister.  Bein open in expressing your feelings so well in a public forum is notable.

            Thank you for being you.


          6. Tatsy | | #20

            Thanks. I finally learned the difference between discernment and judgment. Discernment is "I wouldn't do that." Judgment is "You shouldn't do that." It's made life a whole lot easier.

          7. Palady | | #23

            Some might reference - "wouldn't & shouldn't" as symantics.  Your approach is far more enlightening.


          8. KharminJ | | #24

            >> Discernment is "I wouldn't do that." Judgment is "You shouldn't do that."

            That's a beautifully succinct way to put it, Tatsy! Far too many people seem to have forgotten (or never learned) the difference. I'm very glad to read (in a different thread) that you're feeling better these days - you were missed around here!

            Bright Spring Blessings!Kharmin

          9. Tatsy | | #25

            That's very kind of you to say. Eleven months of retirement have washed away most of the negativity of the last five years of work and I'm beginning to feel deliriously happy. Bought the book Rapt yesterday and am thoroughly enjoying it. The premise is that we govern the quality of our lives by what we focus on. She goes into some brain studies, and I always find those fascinating, but there probably won't be anything too new in it, just looked at from a different point of view so we see it in more fullness. At any rate, it's relaxing.

          10. GailAnn | | #26

            My husband suffered a severely bad reaction to prescribed medication in November, and hasn't worked since January.  He will probably go ahead and retire.  We are home a lot, now.  Alone, together, a lot, after almost 40 years of marriage.  Our world has become so very much smaller, but strangly, happier. 

            I never expected this!!!

            I mentioned to him, just yesterday that we hadn't watched the TV news in months.  He said, "Yes, isn't it relaxing."  and you know what????  It is.  Gail


          11. Tatsy | | #27

            Absolutely! Although I did watch Chocolate last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. This morning I got up and thought what am I going to wear? Everything's dirty. So I pulled a smelly old set of work clothes out of the hamper and put them on because absolutely nobody else is going to know. Good thing I did because the next thing I knew I was outside working in the yard in almost 90 degree weather. Now I'm ready for my shower and a clean outfit--maybe just my swimsuit and a pareau--and the yard's much cleaner and the flowerbed looks terrific. And I think I figured out how I've been sabotaging my pants' patterns, so that gives me something enjoyable to do the rest of the day.Yesterday I finally got hubby to do a croquis for me, and I'm more jazzed about getting the pants pattern right than ever. In looking at those shapes, I realized I still have a lovely figure, a little bigger than it used to be, but still nicely shaped, and there's absolutely no reason for me to be wearing pants that fall into nasty wrinkles down my back.I'm sorry to hear that your husband had a bad reaction to medicine. That's way too common. My mom lost all feeling in her hands and feet from her bp/cholesterol meds. Now she has a new doctor who's trying some different therapies with her and she seems to be improving. Hope your husband doesn't have to deal with the side effects too long.Happy sewing.

          12. GailAnn | | #28

            Thanks for the encouraging words.  Sorry about your Mom, though.  I don't know what I'd do if I lost the feelings in my hands.  Gail

          13. Tatsy | | #32

            She's taking it a lot better than any of us imagined, but then she went through WWII in Europe and learned early there's no use fighting things you can't change. In Texas she would sit and think and talk to my dad. Now that she lives next to my sister she has a wonderful garden to enjoy and five grandkids next door and two great-grandchildren and their mom in the same town. She and my dad are both perking up.

          14. GailAnn | | #37

            I think, I would enjoy reading her life's story.

          15. gailete | | #33

            >> We are home a lot, now.  Alone, together, a lot, after almost 40 years of marriage.  Our world has become so very much smaller, but strangly, happier. 

            I never expected this!!!<<

            Sounds so much like our life. I got very sick right after we married 7 years ago. And to me my world has become very small. Because of all the meds I'm on, I find myself depressed and given to tears at the slighest things--some of which aren't sad so no real reason to cry, but my heart is rather 'tender' now and things can really affect me.  The good thing is that our marriage was based on friendship to start with and so that is still there--good thing he didn't want me as a sky diving partner!


          16. GailAnn | | #38

            I was raised rather harshly, taught that bleeding was a mere  inconvieniece, and that only, perhaps, unconcious was an emergency.  Taught to "do whatever was necessary", don't stop, don't give up, don't give in.  Thus, I grew up expecting way too much of myself and everybody else.  The years taught me, life was much sweeter when lived with some compassion.  Like you, my emotions are very close to the surface now.  I enjoy my life better, and like myself and everyone else more.  Gail

          17. gailete | | #40

            Sounds like we grew up in similar homes :( Over a year ago my mother stopped talking to my hubby and me (technically she said she would never speak to my hubby or see him again and as we are a matched set that included me). It has been a very rough year with that on top of everything else I go through, but I have realized how little love and warmth was in our home growing up. Work hard, work till you drop, but at the same time have no high expectations or career goals for yourself. It is weird to be living in the freedom to set goals and striving to be the best I can be on my terms! It is wonderful to have a husband that encourages me in everything I do and also tells me to quit and go rest before I get totally exhausted.

            I have a project list about a mile long and it is so nice to know that I have piles of fun, interesting things to do and no boredom is in my foreseeable future. If a person sews, how can you be bored? My MIL was over the other day to see a project I was working on and all she could do was bemoan the fact she isn't creative, yet my hubby says his mom is very creative, but when it comes to the fun sewing, it was never something she got into (just the needful sewing/mending). It is sad as I have offered her use of my machines and books and she just says she can't do it and I know she could, yet she won't try and is bored out of her skull most of the time! It is sad to see.


          18. sewelegant | | #46

            My heart goes out to you and others who have histories of such stringent, almost abusive upbringing.  It is very difficult to break some of those habits we have been taught at such a young age.  As I've grown older and had to deal with life's problems and learned more about how my parents were raised I think I can understand them better and think they were just repeating a cycle and because their education was cut off even before finishing high school they did not have the advantage of knowlege, but it was years before I could forgive my mother for some of her actions and will probably never forget.  In my nursing education, mental health was stressed and I think it would be wonderful if there could be some psychology classes taught in high school so everyone could learn about human behavior and how we can be responsible for our own well being as well as understand something of why others act as they do.  

            All that aside I do have very good memories of my mother too.  From her I learned how to sew.  She liked all the things I like and could do some of them so much better than I will ever be able to.  She loved to read and one would never know she only completed eighth grade.  She read the paper every day and was always aware of what was going on in the world.  In her later years we had many enjoyable conversations.

          19. GailAnn | | #49

            The only good thing I can say or see, is that I will rip out and redo, again and again until the finished project is so worn out it has to go into the trash ir it is done and done properly.  AND  I even sort of enjoy the journey of it.  Gail

          20. Ceeayche | | #48

            when I first got married, we purchased a house near my inlaws.  they were very proud of us and used to drop by (with friends in tow).  They always called, but they lived about 3 blocks away, so I was always doing the "in-law dash" to get the house presentable for them.  they would actually take their friends on tours of the house!

            One Sunday afternoon, I returned from church and climbed in the bed with a particularly nasty bout of the flu-- one that felt more like the creeping crud.  This time when they called, I just couldn't muster the energy to get the house done.  When they arrived I dragged myself out of the bed greeted them and their friends warmly, mumbled "mi casa su casa" and then retreated back to my bed.  I vaguely remember them wandering around and even opening the door of the bedroom. 

            later my darling mother-in-law showed up at my bedroom dor with homemade chicken soup and apologized for weeks for the incovenience. I later took a good look at myself in the mirror, I must have been frightening when I opened the door-- red nose and crazed hair.  it sort of broke the ice with us and I never fretted about my pet dust-bunnies again.

      3. Ceeayche | | #47

        can i add my amen?

    2. GailAnn | | #11

      And another chorus of 'AMEN' to you too, sister.  Gsil

  6. joellen1946 | | #29

    GailAnn: I just had to go through my mother's stash and my mother-in-law's stash as they both recently passed away. I cannot say there was much heirloom or vintage fabric, but it was fun seeing how the prints have changes since the early 50's. Unfortunately, in the 60 and 70's most went to polyester. I love all the vintage things and I smile because of them! On the other hand, I have started making sure mine is up to date like yours and I won't be ashamed when they clean out mine!My mother-in-law even had Rubbermaid storage sheds full! They were both from the Great American Depression, holy-moldy! They must have loved theirs like we love ours! JoEllen in California

    1. KharminJ | | #30

      Dear JoEllen ~

      Welcome to the wonderful world of Gatherings! We *all* try to be supportive here, among the most wonderful group of "friends we haven't met yet" that I've ever found!

      I'm very sorry to hear of your recent losses, but happy to hear the smiles in your writing. I completely empathize about the "going through" ~ it's never easy, even with the owner's help and cooperation, and once she's gone, every-other-piece can cause an emotional reaction (up and down, sometimes at the same time!).

      I still argue daily with my inherited "But you never know...!" from my Mom's Depression-era farmers' background. Winning more often lately, I'm happy to report.

      Do you have any plans for specific pieces of your new stash? 60's prints do seem to be getting popular again ...

      Bright Blessings!


    2. GailAnn | | #31

      I have some quilt blocks from my mother-in-law, but I don't think she pieced them,  I think HER mother made them.  The quality of the hand stitching is perfect, the quality of the fabric, however, is not. 

      I've thought of lining each block with silk organza and hope they will be stable enough to quilt.

      I've thought of choosing only the prettiest ones and having them framed for each grandchild.

      For now they are lanquishing in my cedar chest.

      Suggestions?????  They really are quite fragile.  Gail

      1. ljb2115 | | #35

        Last spring (2008), I came upon a very tattered crazy quilt and pondered its fate.  I took it to my local quilt guild for some sage advice, (which was not forthcoming) and I decided to take it to my local framing shop to see if I could save at least three little blocks for framing.  I chose the blocks while I was at the shop and had these framed with archival mats, backings, etc. The outcome is beautiful.  I do not know if my grandmother or great-grandmother made these squares, but I certainly treasure them. 


        1. GailAnn | | #39

          Beautiful Answer!

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