How to Build a Fabric Stash for EPP

The Beginning of My Fabric Stash

I came to quilting for the big, beautiful feature florals. I would browse Etsy, finding fabrics that looked like works of art, and filled my shelves with them. The only problem was, they didn't make quilts I liked! It took making a lot of quilts I didn't like before I started to figure out where I was going wrong. 

Slowly, I taught myself about what colours I liked and how much contrast I wanted to achieve. I learned about using colours I wouldn't naturally buy, to balance all the happy and bright. I learned to buy a mix of print scales to give my quilts interest. I started to buy fat quarter bundles of collections, rather than just my favourites, so that I had basics and complementary prints, and not just the big feature florals I loved. Collection bundles were a great teacher, but also a great shortcut. Soon, even though I knew I loved my own warm, chaotic version of scrappy, I would make quilts out of artist's collections because I trusted their expertise more than my own.

The Evolution of My Fabric Stash for EPP

Then I took up EPP, and I needed to learn about fabric all over again! The pieces were smaller, the blocks often started in the centre and worked out, rather than building squares into bigger blocks. My favourite prints never got used, or were used but didn't look as good as I hoped, and the 'boring' ones that came in fabric collections ran out before anything else! 

In the last couple of years I have become much more intentional about what I buy for my fabric stash, and I think I've finally nailed it! I've cleared out what I know I don't use, stopped buying whole collections, and started to buy half yards of fabrics I know will be useful. I have never loved or used my fabric stash more. And I've never loved the quilts I'm making more! Let me show you how you can have a stash you love too!

My Recipe for the Perfect Fabric Stash

It's much easier to grow a fabric stash you love if you think of it as a meal. A good old fashioned meal with carbs as the base (rice, pasta, potatoes), meat and vegetables as the nutrients, and seasoning for the flavour.

Basics: The Carbs of Your Fabric Stash

My largest and most used type of print is basics. Basics are the carbs of your fabric stash. The bread or rice. The base you add flavour and nutrients to. Usually they have two or three colours in them, but they read as one colour. In fact, prints that are the size of rice make up a good portion of my basics!

I look for basics that are low contrast, have a good cover of the pattern in any one place, and bring other colours into the print. I don't generally don't like colour-and-white prints, but I'll choose them if I like the actual pattern, like the gold and white starry print on the left. I love modern tiny florals, but they're better if they're an all over design rather than a broad scatter. Geometric prints abound, and abstract designs like the paint splatter shown above in pink and white are fun, and bring another element to the mix. I look for as broad a range as possible. Ruby Star Society make so many of these prints in each collection, and have collections of just basics. They make up most of my fabric purchases these days. 

Mid-Scale Prints: The Meat and Veggies of Your Fabric Stash

My next category I look for are mid-scale prints that will still look good cut up small. They're the meat and vegetables of your fabric stash. They're usually florals, usually by Anna Maria Horner, and even though they might have a large repeat (the pattern that's printed over and over across the fabric), you can cut into them anywhere and you're not going to end up with a weird looking nothing in the middle of your shape, or a headless cat. I also like Rifle Paper Co (though her prints have a more wintery colouring, so they don't always fit well in my quilts) and Kathy Doughty for fun, scrappy florals.

Even though I have less of these prints, I don't make quilts without them. It feels a bit flat if I just use basics. (like eating plain toast!) I love how they bring extra colour in, and balance the tiny prints with different scale designs. 

And extra note about mid-scale prints. Some, like that blue fan print on the left, 3rd from the bottom, are going to look funny if you make a whole six point star out of it without cutting from the same part of the design over and over (ie, fussy cutting). It will look fine if it just makes up one print in a scrappy star. That's because it's highly regular, directional, and geometric. Keep that in mind if you're making a quilt in rounds, like Ice-Cream Soda. Floral sprays look good cut up any old how. Geometric prints that aren't tiny require a bit more intention.

Novelty Prints: The Seasoning for Your Fabric Stash

The final category, which I buy the least, but love having on hand, are novelty prints. These are the seasoning for your fabric stash. They can make a quilt if you just sprinkle them here and there. You can see above that I haven't just included little critters in this pile, because there's some florals that I treat like novelty prints also. These are prints that are make the most sense if cut intentionally. There are images that look funny cut in half, or motifs that are spread out and work best if centred in the EPP shape, and there's also butterflies and sheep and tomatoes.

Our eyes just love landing on these prints in quilts! They're like a treasure hunt. Be careful though! These prints are like the huge florals I used to buy. If they fill your whole fabric stash, it will be harder to enjoy looking through and building the palette for your quilt. Another way to think of them is as chocolate. They're 'sometimes' prints.  

My Conclusion

I stopped relying solely on fabric collections, and started to enjoy my fabric stash when I got rid of all the fabrics I wasn't using, and started to shop for fabric in this way. I treated fabric shopping as if I was buying paint, rather than wall art. And now I LOVE the quilts I make. 

Do you enjoy your fabric stash? Are there prints you need to add or take out to make your fabric stash something you love to dig through? 


  • Karen

    Jodi, your posts are like a breath of fresh air and inspire me to think differently. This ice cream soda quilt is my therapy quilt this year!

  • Claudia Jakus

    I am horrible at picking material and just don’t want to make those decisions so I basically purchase kits. I have ALOT of Tula Pink excess fabric that I thought I would use. Your ideas and suggestions for picking fabric I am sure will help me out. I also like your suggestion of just picking out a few fabrics at a time and only making a couple of blocks at a time- soon we shall begin.

  • Dorothy

    Thank you for the fabric advice. I am a fan of large florals much like you, mainly Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jacobs. I realized I have a hard time picking out mid-size prints since I laid out an Around the World in 4” blocks in a Kaffe color workshop. I am hoping this Ice Cream Soda Club 2024 will help with expanding my stash to more mid- size prints. Thanks!

  • SashieGirl

    Very helpful information. Thanks! I can’t wait to get a hera marker. It’s hard to finger press your fabrics when your nails are chewed to the quick. :( Looks like my fabrics also need a good plan. Mine don’t have a plan at all and I never know how much to buy of each type. Consequently I have a LOT of specialty panels and Christmas fabric. Well, DARN!(sewing term), now I will have to buy more fabric. Happy stitching!

  • Leslie

    Thank you for the guide to color and prints. This has been my greatest challenge as a quilter. I can’t wait to apply your principles!

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