Building Stash Without Breaking Your Budget Part 1

I love to buy fabric. Don’t all quilters? It’s hard to say no the this…..

 It’s always hard, isn’t it?  

Stash building is a somewhat serious topic $$, but is also so much fun. I truly believe in Social Responsibility in the business world, and it was a required class when I was in B school. That said, I gonna get the serious part out of the way first.

Suze Orman, who I’m sure most everyone has heard of, taught me how to budget.

I read three books when I was young and followed the rules. I do save, and pay our savings account first. Every year I set up a quilting budget, which includes; 

1. Sewing Machine Maintenance. 

2. Replacement of essential notions; i.e. rotary cutter blades, thread, pins, batting, needles, thimbles, template plastic, books, patterns, rulers, seam rippers, and marking pens. The list is endless. Think of all those little things you need in order to enjoy using your fabric in quilts and other projects, and make a list. Refer to it often. Add to it. some things you won’t have to replace every year, such as a cutting board, which you’ll probably replace every ten year.

3. Embellishment supplies if you use them.

4. Classes, Conferences and Guild dues. 

5. All sewing issues relating to the use of your computer such as the printer, ink cartridges, and paper. And last but not least…. 

6. FABRIC.

If you are new to quilting, this can seem overwhelming. All fabric shops online, or brick and mortar, have sales. For example, the store I used to buy most of my fabric from, which is sadly now out of business due to retirement of the owner, had a huge, blowout sale every February. I spent less during the rest of the year, and saved for that sale, so I could really enjoy it and not walk away with buyer’s remorse, or guilt. 

As you go through your first year of quilting, take note of the stores you like and purchase from, and when they have sales. You can always ask the owner, or send an e-mail to an online store, asking when they have regular sales. Note those dates on next year’s calendar, and set your yearly fabric binging accordingly. I promise, you will look back and feel proud of your fabric purchases, and that you are not in debt. 

Some brick and mortar shops have key tags. 

Each denomination indicates how much you purchased. For example, if I spent $43.00, the cashier would punch a $25, $10, and another $10.  (They round up or down closer to where your purchase falls).  When the tag is filled up, it’s generally worth $25 of free purchasing. And if you save those tags for a sale, those savings will really add up.

I really like those stores, and tend patronize them more than any others that don’t offer that cool discount. They tend to appreciate the repeat customer like myself, and I find that to be good business sense. It builds loyalty and that shopkeeper will get to know you, and be more likely to help you find a “must have out-of-print fabric,” or that exact shade of citrine that you need, or your favorite special sized needle.

Big chain stores such as Michaels, AC Moore and Joanne’s are good for stocking up on notions. They have a lot of fabric and many sales. Sometimes the quality of fabric may not be as good, but if at the end of the bolt there is the name a manufacturer printed there that you know and trust, then you shouldn’t worry. 

I tend to always buy fabric that is always 100% cotton, and sometimes some little linen. I like to know if something spills on it, it can go in the washer and dryer without shrinkage or other misdeeds sometimes caused by household cleaning machinery. Seriously, I don’t buy what I can’t afford to pay off in full each month.

Shopaholics and Fabricholics are the same breed. Pay in cash if that helps you stay within your budget. But set a realistic budget, and stick to it. I know how hard it is to say, “no” and walk away from that pretty rose printed fabric printed on a yellow background, but if you don’t, down the road you won’t be a happy and productive quilter or sewist. Okay, I’ve said enough about this, but return to this post if you find yourself wandering off the fabric spending track. 

So with my very first quilt, I spent my money on the necessary tools and equipment to begin. I didn’t own a sewing machine, and wasn’t positive I was going to fall in love with my new hobby. So I bought a used Kenmore sewing machine for $80. It wasn’t until three years later, that I bought my Bernina 130.

I picked out an easy pattern, and had one of the shopkeepers help me pick out only the fabric I needed to make that first quilt, which was for a beginner’s class. Every week I would come a little early and look around at the amazing bolts of colorful fabrics, engaging prints and soothing batiks. I watched other buyers, and observed their purchases. I began to develop my own sense of style. 

I generally like smaller prints, and have a lot of yellow, purple and green. The first two are my favorite colors, but green seems to be my go-to color blender, and I’ve done a lot of floral applique quilts, including Honoring The Seasons. 
(See in Quilts tab).

I am always short on orange, and not because I don’t like i. It just isn’t what I am drawn to. I am branching out to more modern fabrics that are colorful and bold. My Modern Quilt Guild members are challenging me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing. I am approaching buying modern and contemporary fabrics slowly, and picking and choosing carefully as I add these new treasures to my stash.  The same goes with solids. When i began quilting 20 years ago, solids were not so popular. Today, I am beginning to see and use them in a whole new way. I am collecting them during sales, and mostly as fat quarters. 

One big lesson I’ve learned over the years is that when any shop is having a major sale, I stock up on background fabric, because I will always need lot a of that. 

Part 2 is coming and I will write more about choosing those fabrics that will fill your fabric shelves and bins, that we call stash.

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