Updated: Mar 9, 2021
As you begin your journey as a costumer, you have probably heard others mention using items from their "stash." A stash is fabric, notions, and other supplies that you own that you can pull from when working on a project. You may have heard of "stash-busting," which is when someone tries to use up items from their stash for their project. But there isn't a lot of information out there on how to build your stash.
Why you should build your stash
Does this sound familiar? You have an idea for a project and you are so excited to get started, but you immediately hit a roadblock- you have no materials! Not only do you have to buy a pattern, but you have to buy outer fabric, lining, interlining, thread, boning, and on, and on, and on. You feel like you are spending hours at the fabric store, or waiting for online orders to arrive. And then....you forgot something! So now what was supposed to be one trip to the store (or one order) becomes two, three, or sometimes even more. And on top of that, you can't even get started because your step one items are tied up in back orders (this may be pulled from personal experience....)
Instead, picture this- you have a really cool idea for a new project. You run to the store and find a pattern that will work for your project. Instead of immediately investing in a fashion fabric, you wait on spending that large amount of money, and head home to start your mock-up. Using items from your stash, you start a mock-up, quickly learning the ins and outs of the pattern, and discover that the fabric you had your eye on would in fact be a terrible choice! You size the mock-up and make alterations to the pattern so that it fits you perfectly, and now you are ready to get started on your REAL attempt, armed with knowledge of how the pattern works, and which materials will work best for the finished project.
Which of the above situations would you rather deal with? Having a well-stocked stash will mean that the second scenario will happen more often than not!
Make a Plan
Generally we think of our stash as leftovers from previous projects, or yards of fabric we saw on sale and just couldn't pass up. While some items of your stash will build naturally over time based on the projects you complete, you can (and SHOULD) plan certain parts of your stash.
Space- where (and how) will you store your stash fabric? How much of your space do you want to designate for storage? When you start purchasing items for your stash, make sure you have the space to store them.
Organization- do you have a system for tracking the items in your stash? You should! It will make your life soooo much easier when you know exactly what you have, and how much. I recommend an electronic system, that way if you are out and see the perfect fabric for an imagined project, you can quickly check to see what else you have that may work (lining fabric, notions, etc.) Many people enjoy an analog system of tracking— hand writing the information on cards and tacking them to samples of the fabric. Choose whichever system you will stick with! For tips on tracking your stash, including both digital and analog templates, click here.
Know your niche- think about the types of projects you enjoy the most. What types of fabrics do you need? As a costumer, I always have cotton muslin on hand for mock-ups and fittings. Also cotton prints that are a little quirky that I can use to add personality to the lining of my projects. As I delve into historical costuming and corsetry, canvas is another go-to that I keep around. I focus on fabrics for linings and interlinings, which allows me to fit patterns before choosing my fashion fabric.
Stock your stash
Once you have a plan, you can start the fun part- buying fabric! Use the information you gathered considering the above questions to guide you in this process. Remember that time is your friend- you don't have to go out and fill your space today. The goal is to make sure your stash works to your advantage, so consider your purchases carefully.
Below are my own personal guidelines and tips when stocking up
Always have muslin- muslin is incredibly versatile. I use muslin to make a mock-up to fit my pattern and often I use the fitted muslin pieces from the mock-up as interlining for the finished piece! Plus, since I always need it, I can order it in bulk, for further discount. I order mine from onlinefabricstore.net for $3.35 (63" wide).
Shop remnants- Many fabric stores sell their leftover bolt remnants for a discount. At Jo-Ann's, all remnants are an additional 50% off. I recently scoured my local store's remnant section and purchased denim, canvas, and cotton prints, all for a steal! Keep in mind that bolt remnants are mostly going to be 1 yd or less, although another fabric store near me sells remnants up to 2 yds. Most corset and stays patterns I've seen use only 1 yd of fabric (and I'm usually a size 22!), so the remnant section is a fantastic place to get these pieces.
Buy a little extra- after you have determined which fabrics you need in your stash, buy a little extra when you choose your fabric for a project. This will help spread cost of stash fabrics out over time, and keep your stash slowly growing. Just make sure you have the space!
It bears repeating... ORGANIZATION!- One of the best ways to ensure that your stash works the best for you is to know what is in it. This will prevent you from buying fabric you think you need, that you already have. On the flip side, it will keep you from needing to make additional trips to the fabric store when you think you have enough of something, and it turns out you don't!
Your stash should work for you. With a little extra effort and by following these tips, you can eliminate snags (pardon the pun) in your project construction.
What is your number one item you must have in your stash? Leave a comment below to share your favorite items!