That's a question indeed! I know most of us have a bunch of fabric in some state of organization in a closet, box, bag, or pile somewhere. And we probably add to it regularly. But when you pull out this stash of fabric to select pieces for a project, does it have what you need?
Sadly, I must say mine doesn't always. Through the years I have collected both large and small cuts of many fabrics, as leftovers from former projects or purchased to augment my selection. I seldom buy large portions of any one fabric unless it is for a specific purpose. Money and storage capacity are the limiting factors. So, when a pattern requires more than a yard or so cut, I may not have enough of any one fabric to fulfill the demand.
I also seem to never have exactly the colors in need. Tonight I pulled fabrics for the Golden Autumn pattern from the current issue of McCall's Quilting magazine. The border and blocks called for 1 7/8 yards of a green texture print. Unfortunately, the only green I had in near that quantity is rather too light a shade to complement the remaining selections. So, I will probably visit my local quilt shop with fabric samples in hand to select a better option.
If I were to start a truly scrappy quilt design I would probably have many, many possible fabrics to use. However, when I approach my stash closet with a particular planned design in mind, almost always I find that I am lacking in at least one of the required colors or patterns. This is true whether I've been frequenting the shops or not. I find that when faced with the bounty in the average quilt shop, I can never remember the particular weaknesses in my collection to supplement the selection so this doesn't happen. I may be seduced by a new fabric line, but I can't guarantee that my reaction may be subconsciously provoked by its similarity to other fabrics that I have known and favored in the past - maybe I just repeat my selections without expanding the options. No matter how imaginative I am in selecting augmentations for my stash they always fall short.
So, is it even wise to keep a stash at all? Why not purchase fabric as required - it would certainly save closet space! That's a question I don't have an answer for. For every project that began with a design idea or a store display quilt or a magazine photograph, there is the quilt that came into being because a fabric called to you to be coordinated and cut and combined into a thing of beauty. And sometimes those very vocal fabrics have been living in your stash closet, waiting patiently until they spoke just the right words to your creative side.
So I put it to you - to stash or not to stash?