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How to Destash Your Fabric Collection

London destash fabric swap

December is a great time for going through your fabric stash and deciding what to keep and what to destash. It can be a busy time with social gatherings, shopping for gifts, cooking, preparing for guests…There doesn’t seem to be much time left for sewing. I find it difficult to focus this time of year, instead I like to prepare for when I am ready to start sewing again such as sorting my fabrics into those I want to keep and those I want to destash.

Buying fabric is half the fun of sewing and we all need a stash to tap into when we want to sew at a moments notice. I like Tilly and The Buttons’ tip on washing and ironing fabric when we buy it, so it is ready to sew when we need it. Folding and organising my fabric stash by colour could be a full time hobby (just me?). I completely understand the want of a great fabric stash but sometimes we just need to let some pieces go.

sew sustainable fair olive road vintage fabrics

Why have a fabric destash?

  • You’ve run out of space
  • You’ve fallen out of love with the fabric you bought
  • Someone else can make good use of the fabric
  • Donate the fabric to community and charity groups
  • All ends up with the fabric being saved from landfill

People often ask me where I source my vintage fabric from. Often it is from someone’s individual collection. They might have got to the point where they know they are not going to make use of all the fabric. They have run out of space. Or they have passed away and their family want the fabric to be used as it was intended and not be thrown away. Such as Mario who contacted me about his grandmother Cele’s collection.

Seeing vast collections of fabrics that are still in their original wrappings is exciting but it also makes me sad. The amount of work that has gone into creating the fibres and yarns, weaving or knitting the fabric. Dying and printing and then shipping to the shop or market. The sewist has taken time to visit the shop and chosen the fabric for a reason. It is a joy when a customer makes a garment or soft furnishing from the vintage fabric, bringing it to life after being stored in a cupboard for so many years. If your fabric stash is getting out of control, then it is probably time for a destash!

How to destash your fabric collection

  • Set yourself a size limit for your fabric stash, whether that is one box, draw or cupboard
  • Go through each piece and hold it up in front of the mirror. Does it suit you? Can you imagine making an outfit or other item from it?
  • I’m a huge fan of the Stash Hub app and I’m enjoying shopping from my stash of fabric and patterns and creating deadlines. Follow Stash Hub on Instagram to get tips on how to destash using the app. Such as creating a tag to use for fabrics you want to destash.
  • Listen to Check Your Thread’s podcast episode 117 for sewing goals and make a plan for the fabrics in your stash.
  • Or watch Lisa Bobo Bun’s vlog ‘Creating Capsule Pieces for My Winter Wardrobe‘.
  • If it is a soft furnishing fabric, drape it in the room you had intended it for. Leave it there for a while and see if you still like it.
  • It’s emotional! Destashing anything can bring up emotions we are not aware of. When did you buy the fabric? What does it mean to you? Perhaps it was given to by a friend or family member and holds precious memories?
  • Perhaps you just love the print even though you can’t imagine using it.
  • If this is the case, you could cut off a swatch and place it in a scrap book with some notes about what it means? Or create a frame with an embroidery hoop and hang a collection of fabrics together.
  • Maybe you bought it on a whim or in the sale and it doesn’t mean anything to you and you haven’t got round to getting rid of it.

Where to destash your fabric collection

  • If you live in London or not too far away I’m organising a fabric swap along in collaboration with Stash Hub on 20 January. It is the perfect opportunity to swap fabric and sewing supplies you don’t want for ones that you do. The last event was lots of fun, everyone getting together to talk about sewing. There were some really good quality fabrics swapped.
  • If you can’t make it on the 20 January, how about organising your own swap with your local community or keep it small with some friends?
  • Perhaps you would like to make some cash from your stash? I’ve been selling fabric that isn’t right for my vintage fabric shop on eBay. If you price it right it sells quickly. There is an option to donate a percentage of the sale to your favourite charity directly from eBay, which is really useful.
  • Donate to charity – check that your local charity shop accents fabrics and haberdashery. Or search for a specialist shop in your area. I love visiting the Big C Craft Supply Shop when I’m on holiday in Norfolk. I often take a bag of donations before I buy more in the shop.
  • Community Groups such as The Guildford Refugee Centre run by Melanie Keane accept good quality fabrics, ideally over 2 metres in length so they can be turned into garments.
  • Check your local council recycling site. I live in Tower Hamlets and they have bins for clothes and textiles. But they only take the larger textile pieces, not the small scraps. I’d love to know where to donate very small scraps of fabric for things such as filling for car seats. I know it can be done on an industrial scale but how about a collection for individuals?
London fabric destash swap