10 Tips for Building a More Color-Rich Stash, by Color Mastery Author Maria Peagler

Today True Up is hosting the second stop of author/quilter Maria Peagler’s “blog tour.” The tour began yesterday on Whip Up with a video — follow her tomorrow to Quilter’s Buzz. See the rest of the tour stops here. Welcome, Maria!

Color Mastery Blog Tour

Hi Kim and thanks for hosting me at True Up for the second stop in my Color Mastery blog tour, a first for a quilting book author. I’m excited to be here to talk to True Up readers about how to build a more versatile and color-rich stash. I’ve just finished the ultimate stash project: a book on color for quilters, with all 13 quilts in the book made from my stash.

First, why just fabrics from my stash? I gave myself the artistic limitation for two reasons: 1) It was a great creative spark. The worst thing you can do to an artist is to say, “make whatever you want.” Too broad. Limiting yourself actually makes you more creative. 2) I knew if I could achieve stunning results with a limited selection of stash fabrics, any quilter could read the book, do the exercises, and successfully select fabrics in a quilt shop, where the selection was far more diverse. Basically, I had to prove myself.

Round Up Star Quilt by Maria Peagler in Color Mastery Bunkhouse Scraps by Maria Peagler from Color Mastery

Here are two quilts from Color Mastery that started out with the same fabrics, but resulted in quilts with divergent looks. Round Up Star, the quilt on the left, was inspired by an old cowboy sign I saw in a magazine. The colors were dull, dusty hues you would see on the range, so I replicated those in the quilt. I then took the scraps and used a completely different color palette to make Bunkhouse Scraps, the quilt on the right. I added only three brighter fabrics for a scrap quilt with lots of energy.

So how was I able to get stunning results with just my stash fabrics? I shop carefully, not impulsively, filling in the gaps in my stash. I want my stash to be my own color palette, just waiting to be made into my next quilt, whatever it may be. But that requires a strategy. So here are my Top Ten Tips for Building a More Color-Rich Fabric Stash:

  1. Know your stash. Create color wheels from your stash to discover what fabrics are plentiful and those that are missing from your stash. This is a great artistic exercise, and even if you are a traditional quilter, really opens your eyes to the world of color and what you gravitate toward.
  2. Shop for a variety of values and intensities as much as you do for color. Look for lights, darks, brights, and dulls as much as you do for the colors that appeal to your heart. Most of the fabrics available in a shop, whether online or brick and mortar, are medium values. I shop as much for value as I do for hue.
  3. Select fabric you can use in multiple ways. Marbled solids, batiks, checks, plaids, stripes, ethnic prints, and large prints are versatile and can fill many purposes in a quilt. They are equally at home in a pieced quilt, appliqué, borders, and bindings. I love novelty prints as much as any quilter, but find I use them once and the leftovers sit unused in my stash.
  4. Frequent a variety of fabric shops. Certainly be loyal to your favorite quilt shop, but realize no one store has everything. Fill in the gaps in your stash by shopping regionally, by mail-order, when on vacation, and online.
  5. Swap fabrics with friends. Some of the most versatile fabrics I own came from friends’ stashes. They saw the potential in fabrics I would have passed by. And I was happy to own fabrics from quilters who had no idea how to use them. Swapped fabrics can be great rut-busters. Look for fabric swaps online or at your local quilt guild.
  6. Encourage family and friends to wrap birthday and holiday gifts in fabric. My husband and children do this for me and I’m delighted by the bonus of receiving this extra gift on special days in my life. Plus, it really takes yardage to wrap a gift, rather than a tiny fat quarter.
  7. Turn your challenges into opportunities. You don’t need an enormous stash to make stunning quilts if you follow the ten principles outlined in Color Mastery. I live in a rural mountain area with limited fabric shopping venues, yet I still manage to make an eclectic variety of gorgeous quilts with ordinary fabrics. And the additional limitation of using only stash fabrics for the quilt projects in my book forced me to be far more creative than if I had just bought a pre-packaged kit.
  8. Buy long. I heard Mary Ellen Hopkins say this at one of her famously funny lectures, and I’ve never regretted her advice. If you love a fabric, you’ll find multiple ways of using it over and over again.
  9. Discover Fantastic Bolts on the Sale Rack. I can’t stress this tip enough. Many of the unique fabrics I buy at full retail price eventually end up on sale simply because many quilters are unsure of what to do with them. I’ve also snapped up yards of extraordinary fabrics from sale racks. Just because someone else doesn’t see potential in a piece of fabric doesn’t mean it’s not there. Look again, especially after you’ve mastered using the color wheel.
  10. Cultivate a Relationship with Shop Owners. Get to know your favorite shop owner and tell her what you’re looking for and willing to buy. The most profitable shops carry fabrics that move quickly; the key to staying in business is constantly offering a new selection of fabrics that keep quilters coming back. Let shop owners know you want fabrics that span a variety of color elements (lights, darks, brights, and dulls) and then be sure to buy them when the shop begins carrying them.

Use these tips to design your own strategy when you visit your favorite fabric shop – whether online or in person. I didn’t stop buying fabrics to use more of my stash; instead, I identified the areas in my stash where I had gaps and bought those fabrics so I could be more effective in my quilts.

The best place to find Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts, is at your local quilt shop. If they don’t carry it, you can also buy at Atlasbooks.com (my secure distributor) or Amazon. As a special to True Up readers, if you buy from Atlasbooks.com, enter TrueUp in the Special Instructions order field and you’ll get free Priority Mail shipping. Order the book today and you could have it by Thursday!


  1. [...] Two of the Color Mastery blog tour finds me over at Kim Kight’s TrueUp fabric blog. I’m giving my top ten tips for cultivating a more color-rich stash, and you [...]

  2. Anita says:

    This is a good post. I, too, often find gems in the sale area. And I once made a color wheel from my stash. It truly was eye opening to what I tend to buy. Not that I’ve mastered the shopping experience. But it does make me more aware!