How to Reduce Your Fabric Stash

Has fabric taken over your house? Take these simple steps to reduce your fabric stash with no regret and reclaim your home.

If your overflowing stash is causing you anxiety instead of joy it’s time to downsize.

What’s the point of having so much amazing fabric if you forget what you have, can’t find what you want and end up going to the fabric store because of it? Your fabric collection should be a thing of joy, not something that leaves you feeling suffocated and overwhelmed.

Minimizing my fabric stash has made me a better, happier and more productive sewist and you can do it too! Read on to see how I did it and take these simple steps to find joy in your fabric collection once again.

Step One: Divide it all into Three Piles

Separate into: Love It, It’s OK & What Was I Thinking. All the fabrics in the “what was I thinking” pile can get bagged and donated. Sayonara.

What’s the point in spending your time making something in a fabric that makes you go “ugh”?

Dated fabrics that are not your taste anymore don’t deserve a spot in your fabric collection.

If you’ve had some fabrics for over 15 years and never sewn them, are you really going to ever make something with them?

Say goodbye to cheap fabrics that aren’t worth the time to sew.

If you can get all your fabrics together when you do this that’s ideal, but not necessary. Some fabric stashes are on the verge of actual hoarding and are in every room. If that’s you don’t worry, just take your time and go room by room.

Commit to the process, it will take a while, but once you start it will get easier to let go.

Now, you’ll obviously want to keep the “Love It” piles of fabric, but the “it’s OK” piles will need to be re-evaluated down the line. For now, keep them, but put them to the side.

Step Two: Sort Remaining Fabrics

Sort your “love it” fabric pile by fabric type, end-use, prints/ solids, and approximate yardage.

Exactly how you sort your fabric will depend on what you like to sew. Ideally, you want to be able to easily match your fabrics to your projects.

I quilt and sew apparel mostly so I first separated my quilting cottons from my apparel fabrics. Then I divided apparel into woven and knits. My woven apparel fabrics were then sorted into bottom weights, denim, shirting, and lightweight wovens appropriate for dresses or blouses. Knits I divided according to fabric content and weave: cotton lycra jersey together, double brushed poly, etc.

Keep them sorted and separated, but don’t commit to any final organization system yet. We still have to decide if we are keeping any fabrics from the “just OK” pile.

Step Three: Critically Examine What Remains

After sorting there will inevitably be a couple fabric types that comprise a huge amount of your stash and some types that you don’t have much of. Now is the time to reexamine if you want to hold onto the “just OK” fabrics in these categories.

Again, ask yourself if it’s worth your time sewing something that’s just “meh” when you have tons of other fabrics that you LOVE.

I know my time is more valuable than that.

Let those unneeded “meh” fabrics go to a home that appreciates them and reclaim a little more space to showcase your truly amazing pieces.

Don’t let go of all your OK fabrics though! You may need fabric for muslins (practice garments/ toiles) and linings. If you draft your own patterns or like to experiment with new pattern looks it’s a good idea to keep some extra fabric.

Make sure it’s enough yardage and from different fabric categories. Ideally, you always want to test your pattern on a fabric that is the same weight, stretch, drape as your final fabric. If your “love it” piles were overflowing then you can probably use your good fabric for your test muslins and donate all your OK fabric.

Think about your goals now. Do you want your fabric to fit into a certain space in your home? Is your goal to be able to shop your stash effectively for any project?

If you have a sewing friend invite them over to help you in this stage. They can help you be ruthless with fabric. Remember, if your collection is causing anxiety, less is more.

Zero Regret Strategy to Reduce Your Fabric Stash

Are you clutching your blah fabrics in a white-knuckled grip because you’re scared of letting them go? If so, I recommend you quarantine them in a big tote bag for a month or so before donating.

In a month it will be easier to say goodbye to them and if you want to reintroduce something into your stash then you can do so.

Managing your stash is an ongoing process.

Give yourself permission to keep some stuff you think you “should” get rid of if you’re not ready. During this period go on a fabric buying hiatus and sew from your stash. Continue organizing the fabric you have. As your stash gets more manageable you’ll enjoy it more and it will get easier to let go of mediocre fabrics you don’t need.

You’ll Notice Gaps in Your Stash

Perhaps you have 50 cuts of knit prints but only two coordinating solids? My stash had almost no large cuts for dresses because I had the tendency to buy three 1 yard cuts of three different fabrics instead of 3 yards of one fabric.

These gaps can keep us from sewing and using our stash! Take note of your buying tendencies and if they align with what you want to make. This awareness will help you avoid impulse buys. You will make more thoughtful purchases going forward and be able to actually use your stash.

Take Inventory of Interfacing & Other Materials

Now is also the time to see if you have enough interfacing, zippers, snaps, thread, needles, etc.

The beauty of having a huge stash is being able to walk into your sewing room, pull an amazing piece of fabric from your shelf and start sewing right away. However, your sewing will get stalled if you are missing the necessary materials. Make sure you are well stocked.

If you have a major overstock of zippers, thread or other materials consider donating them along with the fabric.

If you have vintage threads and notions that are no longer usable you can use them in tons of craft projects. Have fun decorating your room!

Need Ideas for Where to Donate?

First, sort according to fabric type and donate quilting cotton to charity groups like Project Linus, or Days for Girls. Contact local churches to see if they have any groups that sew for local charities.

Apparel fabric can go to the costume department of a high school where beginning sewists can learn and experiment with it.

You may also want to consider selling the bundle on Facebook Marketplace. I sold a huge box of my unwanted fabric for $20 (a phenomenal deal for the buyer) and I was happy it went to a home where it was appreciated.

If you are getting rid of higher-end fabrics or custom fabrics then you may want to spend time destashing in FB groups to recoup some money.

Donating fabric is a great way to feel good about minimizing. You are making a positive impact on someones life by letting go of fabric you don’t need anymore. It’s a win-win all around!

Step Four: Organization

I wrote a whole blog post on How to Organize Your Stash. How you choose to group fabrics depends on what you usually sew. Check out the blog post: Here.

In general, make it so that you can see all your fabrics at a glance. Don’t hide any fabrics by putting them behind others.

Roll fabrics and stack them on top of each other on shelves. Or have them standing up in plastic bins. Do what works for you now with the space and resources you have.

rolled knit fabrics

When you reduce your fabric stash you can appreciate the fabrics you have.

If it’s important for you to keep your fabric contained to certain space make sure you keep minimizing your stash by donating and sewing stash-busting patterns.

Step Five: Self Reflection

Ask yourself how your fabric stash became overwhelming.

Some common reasons might be:

Gifts

Over the years I have been fortunate to have people donate bags full of fabric. As a new sewist, it was great, however, most of these random poly satins and novelty prints stayed unused and lurking in my stash for years. Lots of these were the first to go into the “Adios” pile in the beginning. (And so the cycle continues, haha!)

Discount Bargain Shopping Gone Wild

In the beginning, I made a lot of mistakes so I was always scared to splurge on fabric and bought tons of $1/yard Walmart fabric. (Now, sometimes you can luck out and find some decent fabrics in the dollar section there, but you need to understand fabrics to know if it’s good and in the beginning, I definitely didn’t.)

I also went wild with clearance sales at Joanne’s, buying tons of questionable prints just because they were a good deal. If I wouldn’t buy the print in RTW, it doesn’t deserve a spot on my shelf. Bye bye clearance buys!

Buying without a Plan

Analyzing my stash revealed I would also only buy 1 or 2 yards at a time of multiple fabrics without having a plan. Now, I much prefer to only buy 1 or 2 fabrics but to make sure I have adequate yardage for a project in mind.

Saving The Good Fabric

Lots of us have fabric that is “too good to cut into”. We are scared to make something that is a “wadder” and ruin that gorgeous fabric. I challenge myself (and you) to use that fabric already! What good does it do in the plastic bin? Use a “meh” fabric and make a muslin first to work out any fitting issues and then make something fabulous.

Waiting Until You’ve Lost Weight

Let’s celebrate our bodies as they are and sew up something great using the “good” fabric. Don’t wait! Besides, we sew, we can always take it in later if we need to. Or you know, buy more fabric! 😉

Inheriting Fabric

If you were lucky enough to have a close family member who loved sewing chances are you may have inherited their stash when they passed. This is the hardest type of stash to minimize.

It’s helpful to lovingly choose the best pieces from the collection and save them for a special project. Sew yourself something they would have loved. Sew family or friends something special as a keepsake. Make an art project with their notions.

Let go of the rest if you don’t see yourself using it. Be brutally honest with yourself. Donate it to a charity they would have appreciated or bless a newbie sewist with supplies.

Emotional Fabric Addiction

If you are having severe anxiety about your fabric stash, beyond the regular stress of seeing messy fabric piles everywhere, then please consider going to a therapist. If you are buying fabric to fulfill an emotional need then simply de-stashing won’t address the root cause of the problem. You know best if you need help. Just know there is nothing wrong in seeking help if you need it. Just the opposite- it takes strength.

Final Reflection

Sorting through my stash and pulling out the fabrics that I always passed over (or downright disliked) was satisfying. It was a way of saying:I value my time and skill enough to use “my good fabric” on a project.

Critically examining my stash helped me change my purchasing habits. I still buy new fabrics, but I am much more mindful in my selection.

I resist clearance sales. If I don’t LOVE it, it’s not coming home with me. I now know which favorite fabric types are low in my stash. I look for coordinating solids and interfacing when there’s a good fabric sale.

Seeing how many amazing pieces I have has made it easier to commit to sewing more from my stash and buying less. It’s hard, but it’s worth it to have a functional, shared sewing and playroom space.

I love being able to look at my curated collection and rediscover a piece that I love. The guilt for having an unmanaged mess is gone.

This process took me months to complete, but I’ve fallen in love with my stash again. It’s organized and accessible. I find my sewing itself is more purposeful. Now when I start a new project I can truly “shop my stash” with joy.

Don’t wait- start opening those plastic bins and get sorting! I promise you it’s worth it!

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Christine from That Sewing Life

Hi, I’m Christine!  My goal is to help you sew something awesome- even if you have no time.  Just one step at a time and anything is possible!