Back to My Quilting and Fabric Stash Roots

Last weekend, my husband and I took our nephew, a high school senior, to Syracuse University for a college tour and interview. It was special for me, as Syracuse is my alma mater, and where I learned to quilt.

Me, in 2002, with a quilt my group made.

During my junior year, I tagged along with my roommate to a meeting of the Hendricks Chapel Quiltmakers, a group of students, community members, and faculty and staff, who meet once a week to make crib quilts for organizations that aid sick infants and their families.

Working in small groups, we picked quilt patterns out of a notebook, and went through the process of fabric selection and cutting, piecing, sewing, and quilting. The inexperienced were guided by the experienced, and it was a fun and fulfilling weekly ritual.

I still think of the women, both young and older, who I met during the four years I was part of the group (including two years post-graduation).

They imparted so much sewing and quilting knowledge, which remains with me today. They also introduced me to the world of having a fabric stash. One meeting, a few of the women brought in plastic bins filled with fabric they purged from their own stashes.

We replenished the shelves in the quilting storage room, then us students were encouraged to take some leftover fabrics for ourselves. I remember the feeling of awe and excitement to be going home with an eclectic armload of fabric. Pieces from that original stash make it into my projects to this day. 

If you have a fabric stash you're looking to put to use, there are hundreds of patterns and projects available in the Stitch Ultimate Collection, which includes 13 magazines in CD or digital format.

Did you get your quilting or sewing start in an interesting place? How did your fabric stash begin? What kind of impact has hand-me-down fabrics, or handing down fabrics, had in your quilting and sewing world? I can't wait to hear. 


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:


Abby Kaufman

About Abby Kaufman

Abby Kaufman is assistant editor of Stitch magazine. When she's not scoping out new fabrics for her collection, Abby enjoys outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. 

7 thoughts on “Back to My Quilting and Fabric Stash Roots

  1. Abby, I enjoyed this post so much, because this is exactly how I got into quilting. I wanted to write a magazine story about a group of quilters in Corvallis, Oregon, who make quilts for agencies that supply them to kids who need them most. Their workroom (in a church) was so filled with laughter, friendship, color and cotton comfort, that after I finished the article I returned to sew with them each week. The group is called Quilts From Caring Hands. I no longer live in Oregon, but I still make quilts and remember the ladies I met at QCH, and I still use the skills they taught me. Thank you for bringing back great memories!

  2. Hooray for Syracuse University! I was there from 1989 – 1993. At the time I probably didn’t know I would like to sew so much, so if the group existed then, who knows whether I would have checked it out. It makes me happy to hear that this happens on college campuses and lures in young fiber artists! I was in the marching band at SU and made so many great friends with whom I keep in touch to this day, so I know what you mean about having those connections and roots. My current church in Melrose, MA has a quilting group much like the one you describe. Unfortunately they meet on Friday mornings which doesn’t mesh with my full time work schedule. Right now I only dream of one day being able to join a cackling group of fun sewists and make things together, but that hasn’t stopped me from having a fabric stash. I love to look through it for inspiration on a new project. Maybe someday I or my stash will become part of someone’s sewing roots.

  3. Hey, Abby, I have 3 closet fulls of fabric and yarn stash. I’m 61 and have been sewing since I was 8. Collecting fabric (and yarn) is quite like a photo album. I will purchase fabric at unique and everyday places, because i like them, and I want to “visit” the fabric over and over, to remind me of a special time, visit, etc. Now in the later season of my life, I have decided to use up my stash making clothing, quilts, and such for needy or hurting people. I currently have 2 girls dresses on my sewing table for an orphanage in Jamaica. To use up all my stashes, I will need to live to be 150 years old. I can’t think of a more enjoyable way to pass the time. Rosiedoodle

  4. I remember sewing my doll clothes by hand, before I was allowed to use my mother’s Singer machine. Then years later I stood to sew because I was too short to sit and reach the treadle. We lived in the country and my mother had a big walk in closet with her stash that was my “fabric store”. Years later when I wanted to start quilting my “own stash” was the first thing I worked on. I had a stash but not material for quilting. I can honestly say “I love the feel of material”. It brings back memories of my mother’s closet/stash.

  5. I started sewing after my mum had taken a soft toy making class. I wanted a lion another student made so much I begged her to make me one. But she’d had enough of making toys by then so she said that if I wanted it so badly I had to make it myself…and so I did!! I was only 7 and stitched the lion by hand. Sadly the lion is no longer with me, I lost him many house moves ago, but the sewing bug is still with me. My stash now fills two huge wardrobes and is all kinds of fabric from quilting cotton to pure silk…I’m a fabric addict!

  6. My maternal grandmother was one of those women who could look at a picture in a magazine, or see a garment in a movie or real life, and just make it. Sewing skill had been a necessity raising 3 children on a farm during the Depression (Mom said, “We never went hungry, but there was never money for _anything_ store-bought.”), and Grandma’s were outstanding. She would make doll clothes to sell at school bazaars, most of my clothes, and costumes for my kid brother so that he could change to match whichever of his favorite TV shows was on. Everything she made was exquisitely crafted and meticulously detailed and (as long as the skirt wasn’t too short – she simply wouldn’t go there) right in fashion. So I learned early that ‘homemade’ didn’t necessarily mean ‘inferior’. She even made the dress my mother wore the year my father, a motion picture costumer, was nominated for the award.

    The gene skipped a generation – Mom was extremely crafty in other ways and _could_ sew, but didn’t unless she absolutely had to. But I was allowed to play in the costume warehouse at the studio, so I guess I picked up the gene from Dad, too, and so am homozygous. I remember racks and racks of stored costumes, and the tall shelves of button-boxes, so high they had rolling library ladders, full of period buttons, uniform insignia from all times and places, and embellishments with serious bling potential.

    I stitched a hand-embroidered pillow at eight, and started sewing seriously in college, when I found I could not buy stylish clothes in my size. (_Nobody_ made plus sizes back then, except Lane Bryant in Beverly Hills, and that was were Dad took actors who were going to be in drag – ordinary people didn’t shop there!)

    Nowadays, I still sew for myself, costumes for the summer youth musical theater program I work with, banners and scenery, church linens, and all sorts of other stuff: my current project is a basket for my bike. I seldom actually make _quilts_ (although my church has a group that will hand-quilt your top for you, and donate their fee to Good Works), but I frequently use quilting techniques and adore quilting fabrics, especially batiks.