Quilters have "a stash." That term may have many meanings, but for most it refers to the fabrics in the quilter's possession that are not earmarked for a specific project.
Now, the size of a quilter's stash varies tremendously! Some have very little (they claim that they don't have a stash, but let's face it...that's just too hard to believe!). Some have a stash so massive that they could literally open a small quilt shop! Most are somewhere in the middle with their stash amount. For years, I didn't have much of a stash (two small Rubbermaid containers maximum). I just didn't see the point. If I wanted to start a new project, I went to the store, bought what I needed, and made that project. It wasn't until I began doing more scrap-type quilting that I started to see the value of collecting a stash.
Most recently, I dug through my stash to find fabrics for a new "sew along" on my Facebook group. My Sewing with Sandi Facebook group is something I started in order to connect with other quilters and to encourage the art of quilting. Through sew alongs, tips, sharing works in progress, and encouraging participation in activities like mystery quilts, I hope to provide a forum for sharing our work and encouraging one another.
Before I begin any project these days, I start by going first to my stash. After I have chosen a pattern, I go to the stash and start pulling fabrics that I think will work for that particular pattern. I have found that it really is the only way to actually use what I have. Once I have pulled everything I think I could use for the pattern, I measure it all out and see where I am at and if I need to buy anything more to have what I need. I find that I often need to buy just background, borders, and maybe a couple of pieces to have what I need. This method allows me to be creative with color and to modify the pattern to fit what I have on hand. For example, my recent Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt, On Ringo Lake, became teal, brown, and mauve rather than aqua, brown, and coral. I didn't have those exact colors that Bonnie suggested in my stash...but I had colors that were close, and they worked! I was glad to use up that yardage from my stash.
If you have a stash, and you want to actually use it, I encourage you to pick a pattern you love first, then go to the stash and pull anything that might work. You can narrow your choices later. Sometimes, you have to decide who plays well together! It doesn't work well for me to go to the stash first and pick out fabrics that I want to use. I have found that it is nearly impossible to find a pattern based on the pulled fabrics. It's much easier to pull fabrics with a pattern already in mind.
Finally, don't be afraid to "scrap it up" in order to use that stash. Do you need 2 yards of dark purple? It doesn't have to be 2 yards of the exact same fabric! All you need is a total of two yards that "READS" dark purple. Quilts become so much more interesting when the colors used are very similar but not exact. From a distance, the colors may look like the same fabric, but when you get up close, you are delighted to find a variety. Super Fun! I encourage you to try it :)