Last week I shared some mini video tutorials for common quilting techniques. One that I shared was how to square your fabric before you start cutting out pieces for a project. This week, I am going to talk about fabric stash building for scrap quilting and how to store fabric as you accumulate it. Before I had a system, I would often come home from the quilt shop with fabric I already owned. Now we all know how expensive quilt fabric is, so I don’t like to make that mistake… unless I really like the fabric. I also have another mini video tutorial this week. So, let’s get started!
Fabric – Wash or not?
Once you get your fabric home, the first decision is …. do I wash it or not? There are some pros and cons to both schools of thought. I do not pre-wash my fabrics because I think the fabric is easier to cut because of it’s “crispness” from the sizing. Here are some pros & cons to help you decide what is best for you:
• All the fabrics that are going to shrink will shrink so the finished quilt pattern is not ruined by fabrics shrinking differently.
• Certain fabrics might bleed, like purples and reds, and transfer to other parts of a quilt when the finished item is washed.
• Chemicals used in the processing of the fabric are removed in pre-washing. Some people are allergic to these chemicals so this is a benefit to them.
• It takes time. The extra steps of washing and ironing adds time to the prep when getting ready to make a quilt.
• It washes out the sizing. Some quilters like this sizing which tends to make the fabric easier to cut. I like the “stiffer” fabric that, for me, seems to cut easier.
• Most of the quality fabrics today do not shrink much and the fabric dyes are much more stable to prevent bleeding. There’s also laundry products, like Shout® Color Catchers, that prevent color transfer.
• Fabric edges fray which can distort the fabric. This will require you to waste more fabric when squaring up.
If you decide to pre-wash your fabric, you can prevent most of the fraying by cutting a corner off the fabric or cutting the non-selvedge edges with pinking shears.
This also works well for fat quarters and fat eighths. For these smaller pieces of fabric, in addition to above, I put them in lingerie bags. This keeps them from getting tangled up with each other.
Be sure to separate lights from darks and wash on a gentle cycle in cold water. I toss the fabrics in the dryer on “air fluff” only for about 10 minutes and then hang the pieces on a drying rack to finish the drying. This cuts down on the wrinkles a bit, that way you can save ironing for when you are ready to cut.
Building the Stash
Tip#1 – Cutting up Fabric:
One of the fun parts about scrap quilting is building a stash. Since scrap quilting can require fabrics from 1/2 yards down to fat eighths and strips, building the stash also requires you to find a good way to store it!
First I’ll share my stash building secret: If I like a piece of fabric, I buy a yard of that fabric and cut it into the smaller pieces so I have that fabric in every size! Here’s a mini video tutorial I filmed to demonstrate how I do this:
See how easy it is?
Tip #2 – Storing the Stash:
So now I have these stacks of fabric and rolled fat eights and maybe some strips. So how do I store these? For the half yards and fat quarters, I use plastic tubs and separate the fabrics by colors. Here are some of my tubs:
And here is how I label the tubs and store them:
Now what do I do with all of these?
Well, you can store them in the tubs I use above. Or you can store them in drawers like I do. I found some old card catalog drawers at an antique store and that’s where I store mine. If you are using something like I do, make sure to line the drawers with acid free paper or fabric so the fat eighths are not damaged.
Finally onto the strips. I like to save 1 1/2 and 2 1/2″ strips because I use them the most. I used to just throw them into a basket and try to fish out the ones I wanted from there, but I ended up with a jumbled, frayed mess. So now, here is how I store them:
These are the same tubs I use for the 1/2 yards and fat quarters, but I fashioned separators using acid free cardboard. I simply cut the cardboard into strips that fit inside the tubs and secure them with packing tape. Now I have separate slots to put colored strips. It’s so easy to make a log cabin block now!
Now you are ready to scrap quilt, right? That’s all for this week. Leave me a comment below and ask any questions you have. I will draw a winner from the comments for my scrappy quilt, Seaside Cottage, that will put your stash to good use!
The drawing will be on Monday, January 25th. **We have a winner! Congrats, Kathy Brown!**
Happy Quilting & Stash Building!