To stash or not to stash – that is the question

When I first started quilting I soon realised that I needed to learn a new language – sandwiches, backing, stash, blocks etc all took on a new meaning.

I also became aware that many quilters took great pride in their stash, almost to the extent that it was a competitive sport.  Initially I enthusiastically started buying fabric that caught my eye without having any plan for what to do with it.  As I started making quilts I quickly realised that whilst I might like a fabric, it would not necessarily suit my quilting style which tends to be modern and abstract, and based on my designs.  As a result some of those first fabric purchases were given away or swapped.

I live in an apartment already filled with books and other possessions so my ability to store huge amounts of fabric is limited. I have found that I prefer to buy fabric when I have a specific project in mind.  I do buy lots of solids, as I always use them in my quilts, but tend to buy prints only if I really love them and can also envisage what I might do with them.

One thing about stash discussions that has always irked me is the “humour” about hiding fabric or not admitting to the cost of fabric purchases which seems to permeate blogs and sites like Pinterest.  Admittedly I’m single and have no need to explain myself to anyone, and didn’t even when I had a partner, but I have never seen why grown women feel the need to do this, or to find it amusing. It seems to me that in doing so they are devaluing their skill and creativity which is involved in quilting.2014-11-26 15.53.45Recently when I was searching online for a scholarly article about quilt collections I came across the journal TEXTILE – The Journal of Cloth and Culture and a 2006 article Hiding the (Fabric) Stash: Collecting, Hoarding, and Hiding Strategies of Contemporary Quilters by Marybeth C. Stalp which explores some of these issues.  I was intrigued to discover that hiding and hoarding fabric had been the subject of academic research!

The article is an interesting read. Stalp maintains that quilters are in a unique situation as they are both collectors, and participants, in a serious leisure activity. She suggests that “fabric hoarding” stems from the perceived lack of support quilters receive from outsiders, families and friends. Because of this they feel that they must squeeze in their leisure practices amongst other family and work responsibilities. In her view this is akin to illicit drug users, with quilters engaging in secretly hoarding and hiding fabric to keep their families from knowing the extent to which they are involved in this leisure activity. She suggests that such women may carry a deviant stigma by engaging in secret practices because, in a contemporary life, quilting is a luxury and is not always legitimated as an activity worthy of the time, space and resources which are usually afforded to non-utilitarian collectors and hobbyists.

My take on this is that the longer these practices continue they are self-perpetuating – if we are not upfront and proud of what we do, we can’t expect it to be given the recognition it deserves.

I also wonder how much the impact of the internet and an active blogging community may have changed perceptions since the article was written in 2006.  Perhaps now these activities are less secret because there is an interested audience and a wider community that respects the skill and creativity involved.

I’d love to know your thoughts – are you a hoarder and a hider, if so why?


8 thoughts on “To stash or not to stash – that is the question

  1. I don’t hoard or hide, and never did. Great post, very thought-provoking. To me, the issue is the same as any issue of excess: does it have negative impact on your life? If you are going into debt because you can’t control your fabric-buying impulses, that’s a problem. If you have mice creating nests in your stash closet because it is such a jumbled mess, that’s a problem. If you feel guilty because you know you buy stuff you’ll never use, that’s a problem. If you have space and time and money for your stash and there is no negative effect, there’s no problem. *I* may think your stash is too much, too big, wasteful. But at that point, it’s just my opinion and a pretty meaningless one, at that. The issue isn’t my opinion. It’s the real impact that matters.

  2. I don’t know about quilting ( but I’m very curious) but i sew, and I can tell you that I have the same need of hiding the fabric that I have. I tend to buy every fabric I like, and it is quite expansive… so considering that i live with my boyfriend and the budjet for leiusre is the same… I hide it 😀

  3. I fully admit I have to much fabric but I’ve been playing in fabric for many years and hope to continue to use it as I go along with projects. I agree taste changes over time and project focuses change too. I think it’s all good. I don’t hide my fabric but I admit I have accumulated a bit over the years. Hopefully I’m not a hoarder! Maybe a mini hoarder 🙂

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