Falling (Back) in Love with Your Stash | Part 2 – Fabrics & Yarns

20th November 2020

By Nancy Williams

Last week we admitted to each other how big our stashes were. We then spent a bit of time thinking about how we could reuse and reinvigorate our threads. This week we’re going to move on to yarn and to fabric, the latter of which seems to fill every drawer, corner, spare box and shelf!

Whether dressmaking fabrics, linens, quilting fabrics, aida or any other kind of fabric to sew, piece or embroider upon, it’s probably fair to say we have a lot of it.

Dressmaking/Quilting Fabrics

Many of us are multi-talented. We don’t just embroider, we also sew, quilt and construct using various fabrics. If you are anything like me, you don’t like to throw offcuts away. You never know, they might just come in handy! 

My offcuts often get thrown into a box (OK, that’s a crate as well) with all the best intentions to do something with them at some point.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to neaten your offcuts and sort the pieces into sizes.

This advice came from a quilter who suggested that you use a quilting square to cut regular sizes, taking off all the thin ends and stringy bits and pieces. That way, you don’t experience that sinking feeling of picking up a perfect piece of patterned fabric only to find it has a hole cut out of the middle or just isn’t big enough to do anything with. Decide the smallest size of square or rectangle you’re willing to keep and throw anything smaller away.

It is also a good idea, especially for larger pieces, to attach a swing tag to them with the dimensions written on it. That way you can easily see whether the piece is going to be large enough for a project without having to unfold it each time.

Once your offcuts are tidy, you can sort them into colour, pattern or material – whatever works with your own crafting habits. 

Then, next time you’re starting a project, rather than heading out to buy fabric, you can go to your very own ‘fabric store’ and see what you have.

And even if you don’t have the exact ground fabric, perhaps you could work your project on something from your stash. We were very inspired by Jeannette Roberts (All Stitched Up! issue #259) who worked a Hazel Blomkamp project on an old piece of denim from her husband’s jeans!

As a cross stitcher and counted embroiderer, I have drawers filled with linen and aida. I do try to go through my drawers before I head out to purchase more fabric for a project, but I have to admit, sometimes that inspiration just isn’t there.

As a lover of coloured linen, heading down the path of dying fabric really appeals. However, you don’t have to go to the trouble and mess of dying with commercial dyes. Just as we mentioned last week with threads, tea dying can produce wonderful results.

I have also done a workshop where we were let loose with fabric paint and had a go at painting our own ground fabrics. It didn’t take long before an uninspiring piece of white aida suddenly became something amazing and I could mentally run through all of the thousands of cross stitch patterns I have (I wish I was exaggerating!), working out which one would look fabulous on my hand-painted background.


Finally, a quick word on yarns. Just as we quilt and sew, a lot of us also knit and crochet and for many of us, our yarn stash rivals our embroidery and fabric stashes. I am going to say it one more time – crates – which will give you an idea of how much I have. I also have UFOs which I have lost interest in, as well as old, knitted garments I’ve adopted or found at charity shops, made from gorgeous yarn in a hideous style. 

I’m going to suggest three ideas for yarn, but I know you will have many more.

Firstly, UFOs and pre-knitted garments. They are actually very easy to unravel so you can reuse the yarn. If the item hasn’t been completed, just take it off the needles and pull. If you’ve never done this before, it is incredibly cathartic! Wind the thread into a skein or a ball. It might be all crinkly, but a gentle wash, soak and dry will sort that out in no time.

The same goes for deconstructing garments. You will need to pull it apart first, removing sleeves and collars and undoing seams. But then, unravel, wind, wash and voila! All ready to use again.

Another idea which I loved has to do with bits of yarn.

There is a type of knot called a Russian knot which secures the ends of yarn together firmly.

By choosing yarns of the same ply and material, you can make your own unique ‘yarn cake’ with various odds and ends and knit or crochet something amazing from it.

Finally, going through your stash then matching the yarn you have with a pattern you love is a great idea. I sometimes buy yarn for a particular pattern, other times, just because I adore the yarn. I’ve learnt the best way to maintain inspiration is to attach the pattern to the yarn as soon as I get it. That way I can go to the crate and there is everything I need, without me having to remember what I bought it for in the first place! 

For yarns I purchased on impulse, I go through my pattern collection, or, if that doesn’t bring up anything, I spend a bit of time on ravelry.com and find a pattern I love which works with that yarn. Once again, I attach it.

It does mean I have an unspeakably large number of projects lined up, but at least I know exactly what each one is.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about reusing, reinvigorating and reinspiring. Now we’d love to hear your ideas!

What do you do to fall back in love with your stash? How do you get yourself inspired? And what wonderful techniques have you come up with to reuse what you already have? We can’t wait to hear from you… actually, I can’t wait to hear from you as I think I need as much help as I can get! Email us at news@inspirationsstudios.com

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