The Evolving Stash:
Notes on making a stash more useful

By Addy Harkavy (

My stash represents years of collecting fabric, and in recent years I have tended to buy more different fabrics in smaller quantities. I shudder to think how many different pieces of fabric are actually on my shelves!

Over the past couple of years, my use of color and value had evolved, but my stash's organization had not evolved accordingly. Thus, because I was on the threshold of making a couple of ambitious designs "work" in fabric, it was time to get my stash to reflect the way I think about color.

As encountered when I began the reorganization, the blues were together, the greens were together, and all other colors were loosely grouped but not in the ways I think of color today. The neutrals, though, spanned too many different nuances, and the reds-to-brick-to-burgundy were too muddled to be truly useful.

Folding for maximum use of shelf space and for a "readable" edge was my first concern. What I came up with is a forward-facing fold of the following size: If you have a fat quarter, fold it in thirds the long way, then fold that in half so it is half its previous length. This gives a visible fold that is easy to "read," yet the piece of fabric is comparatively flat so you can get more pieces in each pile. (The piles run "deep" on the shelves.) This fold applies to larger yardage, too. I simply make certain to fold so that the end product approximates this shape. Sometimes I'd have to refold a couple of times, but the effort was worth it.

So. I started with the black and grey area. Greys got divided by value, then by type of grey. Grey-with-brown or brown overtones; grey-with-pinks; grey with bluish cast, etc. These were all stacked on shelves in an area for grey. Blacks got resorted into black-with-white, black-with-brown, black-on-black, black-with-grey, and so forth. Browns were somewhat complex, so I sorted them into brown-with-black, warm browns, cool browns, medium values, brown-with-grey tones, and the like. This set the tone (pardon the pun) for rearranging the rest of my stash and buying some more shelving.

As I worked, I discovered that some fabrics had been "misfiled." And I discovered that some previously unclassified fabrics went into the green-with-neutrals pile, for example. The true neutrals pile shrank, as some of the neutrals went into the golds area at the pale end, others to apricot/peach area, others to browns. The ivory/cream area got divided into warmer and cooler ranges, and I wound up with a new section of neutrals that were more ivory than grey but had grey overtones. The reds and burgundies are now far more usable, and the browns and rusts have been differentiated. I still have large areas with multicolor prints that don't read any particular color, but the black backgrounds are separate from the light backgrounds, which are separate from the white backgrounds. Other prints have gone into the areas of the colors they "read."

With anything large enough to fold in its appropriate color area, I was then faced with how to handle long, narrow strips of fabric. There, I made no change. Any strip long enough to hang on a plastic coat hanger hangs that way. I just tinkered a bit with the colors that went onto each hanger.

The job took more than the couple of hours I envisioned. In fact, it took time on and off throughout a weekend and a few stolen minutes here and there during the following week. The end result is worth it.

Copyright 1996 by Addy Harkavy ( Addy is co-owner of Pinetree Quiltworks, a mail order quilting supply company. Her company was one of the first of its kind to establish a catalogue on the World Wide Web.


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