Leave Quilts, Not Fabric

Ruby's ShootI consider myself a Professional Fabric Enabler.  But I want to share another side.  This is one of the saddest stories from my days working in a quilting store.

A woman came in and asked if we accepted charitable donations.

“Yes, we can always find a place.”

“Well, I have a LOT, two big tubs.  Is that still ok?”

“Sure, bring them in.”

Fabric Tubs

Tubs of Fabric



She went to her car and returned with two huge tubs, bulging with fabric. Feeling the need to explain the bounty, she said, “My mom passed away and we are cleaning out her stuff.  I don’t sew and my brothers have no interest so we just want to pass them along.”

Wow, how sad, I thought.

“Oh, and I need to tubs back, so can you empty then now?” she asked.

“Of course.  We will be right back.”

Another staffer and I hefted the tubs to the back, found boxes which looked large enough to hold everything and began transferring the fabric.

As we shifted layer by layer, we found yards, fat quarters and scraps. Perfectly normal, I thought.  Soon we found bags from quilt shops with all the fabric and receipts still in them.  Yep, I have a few of those myself… Then we began to find pieces and patches, pinned and ready to sew.  And patterns started but not finished.  Abandoned blocks and units, sorted into baggies and labeled 1, 2 and 3.

Sorting Fabric.jpg

Sorting the fabric donation.

I was surprised at the grief I felt, unpacking this woman’s legacy of un-quilted dreams.   It was sad she had no quilting friends who would welcome this treasure.  It was sad her children had no love for what their mother loved.

Sadness Falling

Image of Sadness from Inside Out by Pixar

Who knows what happened in this woman’s life.  Maybe she finished 100’s of quilts.  Maybe she became ill or other life events kept her from finishing everything she started or wanted to start.  Maybe that is the sadness, we want to start but it is harder to finish.  We want to collect, not execute. We want to dream and not push the reality.

Fabric Storage

My stash and UFO’s. Ugh.

Do I have UFO’s? Enough to make me a little nauseous!  When I finish them, I cross them off the list.  But now I have a new focus – leave quilts, not fabric.  I want to leave completed projects for others to love, even if it is not relatives.

That is my encouragement to you, whatever stage you are in, if you need to purge, sort, plan or sew – leave quilts, not fabric.


Leave gifts for future family and for those in need.

Leave completed treasures for your quilting friends.

Leave proof of your creativity, passion, ingenuity and persistence.

Leave quilts, not fabric.

Thanks for reading this.  I hope it is a blessing.

Jenny Kae


65 thoughts on “Leave Quilts, Not Fabric

  1. 😕 thanks for sharing this story.. I have received boxes of fabric and unfinished quilt from several people whose mom’s have passed. I’ll work on the leaving quilts not fabric concept. But hey, guess who gets my stash!!!

  2. My policy is anything I start and do not like ultimately gets pieced into some other quilts backing.

  3. And that is why I am making 16 quilts; 1 for each family member attending a family reunion later this year. I’m going to let them each pick one. And I am making them all from my stash. Not buying any fabric.

  4. A wonderful reminder to us all. We should all pick a time each day or each week and work at getting things done. I know I am guilty of letting everyday life interfere. Thanks again.

  5. I loved your post. This is my story.
    My mother made literally 1000s of items-she sewed, knitted, crocheted, did long stitch, and embroidery and more crafts than I can list. During the last 20 or so years she took up quilting at about 70. She made dozens of baby quilts, memory quilts, and many full size bed quilts for family , friends and charity. However, with all this accomplishment, she left two quilts begun but not finished. This really saddened me, so I have taken up quilting and I have completed one and will soon begin to work on the second.

    • Oh Susan, what a wonderful story! What a blessing she was to you and others with her gifts.And it is an honor to finish her last two quilts. I am sure they have beauty and meaning beyond the fabric. ❤

      • After reading your post about unfinished projects and fabrics left behind, I’m realizing that maybe my mother left those quilts unfinished as a gift to bring me to quilting. Again thank you for your post on this topic. ❤️

  6. Im trying my best to use up all my fabric in beautiful quilts, bags, and other items. I’ ve reduced the amount of fabric purchased. Ive also gather organizations i can donate to.

  7. I have to agree, I have made all my family members enough quilts that they don’t want anymore so I have been making for teenagers with cancer to go to the hospital here in Brisbane Australia, they put out a call for the quilts i have 18 ready to go and then i am making a few to send to farmers suffering the drought, there is always someone who needs a quilt to put a smile in their heart.

  8. I hear you. My grandmother made us many quilts from so many different and unusual fabrics. Some were beautifully and others simply utilitarian. We loved them all to death. Sometimes the pleasure is just in the doing and giving. thanks for the reminder.

  9. I love this! I’m not a big stash collector but I do have several unfinished projects. I need to get them done so they can be used. I would like to share this on my IG page if that is ok.

  10. I just got a friend’s stash. She’s 79 and said, I’ll never finish them. I was so excited. There’s a couple that can be finished quickly for our charity quilts for Hospice. I picked through for things I like and will use, then I put a box for my quilting friends to pick through and the rest is going to our guild’s yard sale. Stash should be used or recycled.

  11. You wrote a lovely post. I’m afraid that I will be leaving fabric to be donated after I die because I like to work out of my stash. When I started quilting I worked project by project, purchasing fabrics as I went. Then I discovered controlled scrappy and my interest in quilting grew along with my fabric stash. Now no matter the time of day, I can go to my fabric wall and create something. It’s not a sadness to me if having all the possibilities of a generous fabric stash means that I won’t use it all before I die. Nor does having projects which I started but didn’t get around to finishing because I lost interest or put them aside to work on wedding and baby quilts which I wanted to gift.

    • Thank you, Karen. And I agree with you as well. I have a huge stash and use it as a resource often. It will out-live me, I am sure. I also plan to move things to those who will appreciate them. Part of what made me sad in this situation was that no one in this woman’s life appreciated what she left behind.

      • I can relate to Karen’s thoughts. I think my husband knows which of my fabric-loving friends to call if I get run over by a bus.
        I have cleared out two older relatives’ homes in recent years and know the challenge it can be to find homes for everything from furniture to books.

  12. Why am I selling fabric at less than retail? Why am i donating fabric to seniors just learning to quilt? Why do I give discounts to quilters making charity pieces? What kind of business person am I?
    I explain, over and over, that I have already earned my living, having taught for thirty years and having earned a pension that will sustain me. My dream of running my quilt/fabric/notions shop into our eighties with Rick by my side was shattered when he died suddenly in our sixties, unexpectedly, heartbreakingly, and all I want to do now is make sure that the inventory he and I carefully chose, invested in (and graciously accepted from others) will reach the people who will enjoy making the best use of it. This woman’s story tells part of my own; I, too, have had many people bring fabrics and notions and even sewing machines with cabinets of filled drawers holding years of treasures forgotten or unrecognized … I’ll share her story here… I long to share these donated treasures with others …
    Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Finished is better than perfect. I’m making quilts and donating them to local Seniors. I’ve been the recipient of someone’s stash also. Really does make you think!

  14. Your story is touching and inspiring! I’d like to share it with my quilting and sewing friends.

  15. What a moving story and so true of most quilters stash. May i have permission to put this story in my guild newsletter? Full credit to you and links back to your blog naturally.

  16. Thank you for the article. I am endeavouring to do just that, but have wondered if my thinking was on the right track. I quilt because it’s something I just love to do and dont have a large family to give to. I do donate quilts to charity but my pile of completed quilts just seems to continue to grow. So your post was most welcome.

  17. I oved this story as I too am in the same situation sons not interested nor even daughters in law they don’t even sew. Margaret

  18. Jenny, your post was reposted to the Stashbusters Yahoo group. (Nice to meet you!) I, too, have SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy). “Leave quilts, not fabric” is a wonderfully pithy statement. (Hmm. Wouldn’t it look great in applique as a wall hanging in one’s studio?)

  19. The other side of the story is that the stash availability probably made that woman happy! She shopped for things she liked, she began patterns she liked, and she never ran out of ideas or fabric to play with. Good for her!

  20. I now have a new mantra: Leave Quilts, Not Fabric!
    My daughter will be thrilled to hear it, too!
    Thank you so very much for sharing her story to get us all thinking… pj stitches!

  21. I am the newsletter editor for the Midland Quilters Guild. May I have your permission to put this article in our next newsletter? We could all benefit from your wise words.

  22. Great post!! I just shared a link to it on my own blog. For the past decade, I’ve been working with a group of friends to finish quilts and make quilts for donation. It started as a way to purge my retired teaching and shop models, but we’ve taken on the cast-offs of others as well. Saddest story for me was selling a set of beautiful Baltimore Album blocks as a yard sale — I often think of them and hope the new owner finished them into a quilt!!

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