Building Your Fabric Stash - Where to Start

Building Your Fabric Stash - Where to Start

The Tessa Quilt - Charley Harper Version - Kitchen Table Quilting
Over the past decade, I have developed a rather large fabric problem stash. Whenever I post a photo of my fabric, I get asked questions like - how much should I buy? How do you know what to buy? etc. so I thought it would be fun to do a few posts about one of my favorite things - buying fabric.

Building Your Fabric Stash (where to start) - Kitchen Table Quilting
I don't buy as much fabric as I used to because . . . well, I have a lot, but I do think I have gotten better at buying what is useful to me. This post is going to focus on WHAT to buy and I will write subsequent posts about where, how much, etc. If you have any further questions, ask them in the comments and I will do my best to answer!

Fabric Stash - Kitchen Table Quilting

Note: I had to turn on comment moderation because I was getting inundated with spam comments. It might take me a day or two for your comment to appear, but I promise that I am working as quickly as I can!

Buy what you love

This is a little bit tricky because if you are like me, you might think that you love ALL of the fabric. And it's true - there are a lot of fabrics out there that I love - more than I could ever buy or use. Here are some guidelines that have worked for me.

  • Find fabric designers whose fabrics you enjoy sewing with. I love to sew with Anna Maria Horner's fabrics, and this is true even of the individual fabrics that I don't love. She does a phenomenal job of making her fabrics elevate each other and her fabrics from different collections can generally be used together. 
  • Find styles of fabrics that you enjoy working with. For a while, I thought I really liked striped fabrics. If I am using them for a binding, I do like them. But I don't like using them in quilts! I find them to be visually distracting and they really bother me if they aren't cut perfectly straight. Because of this, I have almost zero striped fabrics in my stash.
  • Figure out which colors you like to work with. In my day to day life, I almost always wear black, navy, dark gray, and sometimes dark green. I am not a colorful person when it comes to clothes. But when it comes to quilting fabric, I LOVE COLOR. I have found that I rarely use reds or pinks, but I love corals and mauve-ish purples. I don't really care for lime greens or yellows, but I go through a ton of turquoise and navy. Figure out what you like.

Buy mostly basics

While it's true that there are some amazing florals and really fun novelty fabrics out there, these are the least useful types of fabrics to keep in your stash. If you love them, buy them, but I am much more likely to use a fabric like this for the quilt backing than to use it in the actual quilt. 

If you stick to fabrics that have limited colors (just 1-2 colors) you will be able to use these in all kinds of projects. At least 90% of the fabrics that I buy these days are basics. Here are my favorites.

  • Ruby Star Society Basics. You knew this was coming, Speckled and Add it Up are magical to me. They have a variety of great colors and can be used in a quilt without being too distracting. They work with lots of different fabric collections. They are just great. 
  • Riley Blake Swiss Dots. I don't like larger dots because I feel like they can be distracting, but the swiss dots are just the right size and I really like the colors that Riley Blake has available. This gray is my absolute favorite and I like to use the low volume dots as background fabrics. 
  • Carolyn Friedlander prints. Carolyn makes beautiful fabric that works really well in quilts - her Architextures prints are amazing, but even her fabrics that are released in collections tend to have limited colors and work as basics. 

Have a good stash of solids

In almost every quilt, I like to use a solid. Sometimes that is just white/light gray, but I also find that mixing in 1-2 solids helps keep fabric combinations from becoming too crazy. Sometimes I will have a really particular color in mind and it is not something that I have in my stash as a print, but I do have it as a solid. You don't have to use ALL solids or ALL prints in a quilt - mix it up!

A great option is to use a Crossweave - I love the ones by Moda but also Peppered Cottons. I have solids from (I think) every manufacturer in my collection, but I particularly love Michael Miller Cotton Couture and Art Gallery Pure Elements because they have some unique shades that are hard to find other places. 

Invest in a backing fabric that you love

Ok, this one may just be my opinion and maybe a tad controversial, but THE BACK OF THE QUILT IS HALF OF THE QUILT! I am a big believer in buying a backing fabric that goes really well with the quilt top and that I love. Sure, it's not cheap, but it's worth it!

Part of the way that I do this is buy purchasing 4 yard backing pieces in advance when I find them on sale. I maintain about 25 different backing options in my stash at any given time. Maybe it's overkill, but it is worthwhile to me. Plus, more and more companies are making 108" wide backing fabrics and usually that is a little more affordable. 

mini quilt swap fabrics?

Hopefully this gives you a little insight into my crazy, fabric-loving brain and I hope it will help you make informed fabric purchases in the future. Have a question? Make sure to ask it in the comments. 

Comment 1

mary on

just new to the site so probably replying to an old blog. hear of you via Quilting podcast
how do you know what backing fabric will match the fronts of the quilts? love your general insight on this thank you

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