Reducing the fabric stash

When your trashcan looks like this,

and your desk looks like this,

it means some quilting is in the works!

Lately I’ve been quite good at controlling my yarn stash, but all hell breaks loose when I go shopping for fabric. If I need 1 yard of cotton for a new ironing board cover, I walk away with no fewer than 5 yards of various fabrics, plus some thread, and sewing machine needles.

But I hardly ever use my fabric! I make little things: some clothes, little toys, accessories… the input into the fabric stash is definitely higher than the sewn output!

So I decided it was time to make something BIG. Something that would actually put a dent in my stash! My very first quilt! Only one (self-imposed) rule: all fabric comes from the stash*.

I decided to make String Quilt Set on Point from Gwen Marston’s Liberated String Quilts:

Gwen is an advocate of “doing whatever feels right,” which doesn’t entirely jive with my personality :). But in this book, the instructions are quite precise and the quilt has a structure that I find very pleasing.

I was also very much inspired by the Lopsided Logs Quilt in the sadly out-of-print Liberated Quiltmaking:

You can see that it’s the same idea: patchwork squares set in a diamond-like arrangement, except here the squares are log cabin rather than string.

Gwen Marston’s books are inspiring for many reasons: (1) the quilt blocks are constructed beautifully and creatively, (2) the sheer volume of work is striking – “Oh, look, this book has 50 quilts all made and hand quilted by Gwen herself!” and (3) the author’s color sense is amazing.

When we’re instructed to work with 8 or 10 or 15 different fabrics, and they are all cut up into little strips, the colors can become overwhelming. How do we make it look colorful, but not garish? Interesting, but not discordant?

Gwen has no problem in this area, and all her quilts are marvelous. She’s a pro, after all! Me? Not so much. I’m constantly concerned about the combination of colors, especially because it’s sometimes hard to tell what the end product will look like until… the end! It’s quite nail-biting!

Take a look at some of the squares I whipped up for my quilt.


As you can see, I went with greens and blues for the string block, and yellows and oranges for the borders. I actually wanted something a bit more subdued for the borders – similar to the gently-patterned white and yellow in the original – but didn’t have anything quite like that in my stash. So, I made do with what I had. I just hope the finished quilt won’t make me want to poke my eyes out! Aye caramba!

(The fabrics? Yup, you’ve seen some of them before, here, here, here, and here.)

*Now that I’m well into the project, I’ve amended this resolution to allow buying some fabric for the back of the quilt: I’m running out of complementary colors!


40 thoughts on “Reducing the fabric stash

  1. Juliana

    I really do admire people who can create quilts like that… I’d love to learn it someday. But I’m a stubborn knitter. And have a 24h job.

  2. anne

    Gwen Marston so totally rocks! Liberated Quiltmaking is one of my all-time favorite quilting books. I go back to it again and again.

  3. yaiAnn

    “I’m constantly concerned about the combination of colors, especially because it’s sometimes hard to tell what the end product will look like until… the end! It’s quite nail-biting!

    That’s why I’m scared of prints! But one day I will bite the bullet. Hopefully it’s one day soon. But so far I’m loving your blocks!

  4. T

    Good on ya for taking on a quilt! I agree, Marston rocks!

    Here’s a hint (or permission if you need it) – if one side of your fabric is overwhelming, check out the back side. You know, you DID pay for both sides… 🙂

  5. Sarah R

    Beautiful. I love the colors. I’m another one who loves the look of quilts but don’t think I could do one. I’ll have to quilt vicariously.

  6. mari

    What a great idea to use up some fabric stash…i have the same problem with stashing, going out for one thing and come back with 10. Have you seen the last minute fabric gifts from Purl as well? or the Bend the Rules Sewing book…two more great ways to make a dent in the stash and have some fun at it too! Enjoy your color strips

  7. jessie

    String piecing is my favorite! It always turns out looking beautiful and well-placed, even though it’s very fly by the seat of your pants approach to quilting. Your blocks look beautiful – excellent color choices.

  8. janna

    I love that your quilt is made up (at least in part) of fabrics from other projects. I’ve got a few quilts my grandma made, but my favorite is the one where I can see clothes she made for herself, for me, even for my Barbie doll.

  9. Lisa

    Looks great!

    If the border fabrics feel like they’ll be too much for you, you might consider setting it up so that each block will have a few different colors on the border, but when put together, you’ll have blocks of similar colors between the string blocks. (make sense?)

    I’m a reformed quilter who has moved over into knitting. (Want to trade stashes? I’ve still got tons of fabric!) I love the “just go with it” attitude of quilts like this – that’s kind of how all of my quilts are/were. My knitting is turning out sort of similar, though I really do have to plan it out a bit more before I start.

    Anyway, looks like you’re having fun with this project, and it almost makes me want to pull out my sewing machine again. Except that there’s so much knitting to do!

  10. Barbara

    I love the pieces you’ve made. But I was just wondering: are you handsewing or using a machine? What do you think about the difference between the two?

    I’ve always wanted to make a quilt but I don’t like sewing by hand. My mother and grandmothers always said a quilt looks much better made by handsewing, so I never really gave it a try.

  11. Kristin

    Oh, quilting. Looks great! I think my favourite square is the middle one – love the contrast between the blue-greens and the orange!

  12. Carole

    Your blocks are beautiful. I’ve always had a hard time “letting go” and making blocks that aren’t perfectly symmetrical.

  13. tina

    I am also having a mad flirtation including heavy petting with quilting. At least it will begin when my sewing machine comes back home from the hospital. Your qip is fabulous!!!!! Woo Hoo!

  14. Heather

    I think there must be something wrong with me… I looked at the first photo of your trash can and wanted to pick through the scraps you threw out!!!

    I think this quilt will look great. Don’t worry about it being garish, so far everything is relatively from the same tone and color family… very blue/green and mellow. I’m also a huge fan of bright colorful scrap quilts, so more is better. Look forward to seeing the finished quilt soon.

  15. dorkyquilts

    Grumperina’s making a quilt! Oh, I am so excited! It’s starting out so pretty. It’ll be so fun to see what a Grumperina quilt is like! Whoo hoo!

  16. Sally

    Your quilt is gorgeous. Isn’t quilting a great alternative outlet for the creative juices? When I saw your trash I also wanted to pick through it for I am making a Cathedral Window quilt which is put together entirely by hand and uses 1.5 inch centers (the rest is muslin). Your trash contents looked big enough in the photo. 🙂

  17. misa

    Yay for quilting and knitting. I’m working on a free form quilt myself right now and it’s a bit terrifying. I’ve tagged you with the you make my day award.

  18. Lisa

    Oh my, quilting brings back such great memories of my mom getting together with her Amish friends (yes, Amish), setting up the huge 6×6′ homemade, wooden frame in the living room, and watching them all sit around a quilt for hours and hours on end. I should pick up my hand-pieced sampler again.. haven’t touched it in a year or so.

  19. Erica

    I love the squares! And, I totally understand the fabric stash issue; it’s actually the reason that I have no problems at all with my yarn stash…I know that if I even start to go there, I’ll get so behind that it will take many moons of projects to catch up. Bravo for making it through on stash bits alone…that’s the hardest part!

  20. Laura Neal

    Ooh very nice. I have my grandmother’s quilt top, I just need to finish it and it is very old. I can’t sew worth a damn but, I have the thing. One of these days, I will have to get it out and finish it.

  21. Margaret

    Gwen Marsden changed my life! I had been quilting for several years, was really bogged down with “do your points show?”, “are your corners square?”, etc. I took a workshop with her in Charlotte produced by the Charlotte Quilters Guild and it was truly LIBERATING. She has the best attitude! Her work is impeccable, and her attitude is just grand. I learned so much from her, especially how to “let it go!”

  22. Chrissie Day

    Hi Kathy

    Clever you, knitter and quilter thought quilting was on its way out have not done any since my children were tots.

    Are you still too busy to pop over the pond and say hello to the english Knittinglady–shame .

    Do try to find a minute and maybe we cam exchange links then folk over here would hear about you too.

    How long have you been quilting ?

    Chrissie Day

    english Knittinglady


  23. sharon

    Gwen is a really down to earth person, she has been doing this stuff for years and years. She came a few years ago (must be 6 or 7 yrs ago now) to our guild and did a workshop and a lecture. i was the program chair at the time and got to take her out to dinner and transport her about. She was real interesting to talk to, she lives on an island in a real out of the way place, and runs workshops there each year. (or did back then) She’s awesome…


  24. Heather

    I love the quilt squares. That is one thing I can’t wait to get back to…quilting. My office/craft room is a bit out of control at the moment, but when I get it back I will be sewing up a storm!!

  25. Debra

    I have loved Gwen since I took a workshop with her about 12 years ago. Liberated Quilting is definately the way for me to go. Yours look charming. I’ve been contemplating a new bed quilt for myself.. hmm…

  26. Ria

    Pretty! Quilting is something I keep meaning to learn, and then somehow never get around to it. I have a fairly formidable cloth stash of my own, and only some of the things have plans for them. Other times I buy material thinking, “Ooh, that’s a pretty colour, and it feels nice,” and my thinking doesn’t go much beyond that. *chuckles* Making a nice quilt might be good for me, really. reduce some stash, and keep me warm on cold nights!

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