Blog,  Sewing Tips

Fabric Fasting? A Fabric Diet maybe?

Every year around income-tax season, I start to panic: this is when I have to face reality and see exactly how much money I spent on fabric (and patterns, and trims) during the previous year.  I’m blessed to have a brilliant husband who does all of the pre-accountant paperwork for our income taxes (which includes the income from my little Etsy shop), however there’s a downside: he sees each penny I spend. Ouch.

Every evening before April 15th that my sweetie spends “working on our taxes” makes me cringe a bit.  I know rationally that I would feel better if I spent less on materials….you know the poster that says “Nothing tastes as good as being slim feels”?   Well I need one that says “No fabric purchase brings as much pleasure as staying on budget feels”.

The trouble is, I don’t have a fabric budget.   I’ve moved into a phase of life where I sort of know what I’m comfortable spending…the key words here being “sort of”.  Like treating yourself with a fancy coffee, or getting take-out pizza as a relief from a week of cooking, it’s so easy to say “It’s just a couple of yards, not a big deal”.


Plus, I sew to sell! So fabric is an investment, right? I’m not spending money, I’m making money!  Well at least that’s what I tell myself, until tax time comes around and it’s pretty clear that the relationship between what I “invest” in and what I sell is a bit off-kilter.

In a perfect world, there would be no surprises at tax time: I’d be completely up-to-date at all times with a detailed budget, and business plan, and profit-and-loss statement for each month. But in reality, my Etsy shop is (like for many craftspeople) more of a “hobby that pays for itself”.  (Of course, the government says it’s a business, and I have no problem sending them the taxes on the income.)


Well what about a fabric-buying fast?   I think t least a fabric diet is in order. I think it would make me feel better. So today I will write down the reasons why it would be helpful to go on a fabric-purchase hiatus.  The ladies at Jo-Ann Fabrics will wonder why I’m MIA but it has to happen. Here goes. NOT buying fabric will allow me to:

  1. Make sewing project decisions faster. Too many choices can be paralyzing.
  2. Find the fabric I need faster. Even though my Rubbermid tubs are labelled, it still takes time to locate that special piece.
  3. Save time spent at the fabric shops….yes, they are my happy-place, I get a rush of adrenaline there, but I can find a substitute. Less time shopping = more time sewing.

Hmmmm I see a trend here: having too much fabric is wasting my time. I could get more projects done if I spent less time fabric shopping, labeling, storing, searching, choosing.  In fact, maybe in addition to a fabric-shopping diet, I need to jump-start with fabric-reduction…the equivalent of adding exercising to a food diet!  I should clear out the excess fabric that gets in the way of streamlined sewing.


I already donate end-pieces to a quilting group.  I sold all the licensed-character design yardage (leftover from my daughter’s childhood) on eBay, since you can’t sell apparel made from them. But I can go further….I can:

  • Be ruthless in what I no longer sew with (kids dress-ups? swim fabric?) , and donate fabric to the thrift shop.
  • Cut up end-of-bolts to make outfits for Dress-A-Girl or Little Dresses for Africa (or one of hundreds of charities)
  • Donate to our Boys and Girls Club : they have sewing classes and those kids are amazingly creative but low on supplies
  • Give some away to you all!  After all, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure“.  I’ll be posting all of the photographed fabrics randomly on my Instagram page ….I will only charge for shipping (you’ll need a Paypal account for invoicing) .


I welcome any tips and advice.  Who has gone on a fabric fast? How long did it last and was it successful? Or did it just lead to binge-shopping?



  • Marsha

    My biggest problem isn’t due to retail fabric stores (although there’s a JoAnn’s only a mile away) or online fabric shopping (less than 5% of the total). It’s the thrift stores nearby–even one that specializes in crafting supplies. It’s so hard when you see one-of-a-kind, sometimes seriously vintage fabrics at a steal of a price. I’m very fortunate to have a large sewing/crafting room on the lower level of my house, but at this point it’s so packed with fabric and supplies that I barely have room to sew anymore! So I feel your pain. I donate frequently to charities or clubs, but the stash has still grown. I’m definitely a contender in the contest of “She who dies with the most fabric, wins.”

  • Karen

    Desperately need a fabric fast. I live in the Philippines and there is one market which sells garment factory left overs, not designer quality unfortunately but still nice, for around a dollar a yard… I find it impossible to go there and not come back with more fabric…… so I am now keeping a tally: x yards in, y yards out and I hope to keep the balance firmly in the yards out field!

  • JustGail

    No fabric fast for me! I have sort of been on a fabric/pattern diet though. Currently, I’m working on using up some of what I have as there. is. no. more. room. But if a great piece of fabric/pattern crosses my path, It’s Mine! In the past, I have gone through and donated some to thrift shop, I think it might be time to do that again. This time, I should add the trims, notions and cheap interfacings.

    What I really need more than a fast or diet, is a shopping plan to reduce the chances of ending up with too many fabrics that don’t work together, or don’t work for my real world life. Or with too many poor quality fabrics that don’t last or are a royal PITA to sew.

    Besides, if too many of us go on a fabric fast, what happens when even more fabric stores disappear? Especially the lovely local-owned independents that carry fabrics we’ll never see in chain stores?

  • [email protected]

    Yes! A fabric stylist would be great! You’ve seen those shows where a fashion stylist comes in and reviews your closet, helps you figure out the winners and the never-worns, then puts together new outfits for you, and helps figure out what you need to fill in? We need that for FABRIC. PS: I definitely would support local indie fabric shops….if there were any near me. Sadly the one family-owned fabric store within 2 hours of me in Massachusetts has closed. Whenever we travel, I’m always on the look-out for fabric shops!

  • [email protected]

    Oh wow, we were watching the Miss Universe contest last night, and husband was joking that we should retire in the Philippines, it’s so beautiful! There’s nothing more fun than factory end-lots…that was the best part of living in New York City. I do like your plan of balancing “yards in, yards out”, that is exactly what I need to do, thanks for the great idea!

  • [email protected]

    Wait, what? A thrift store with craft supplies? Where?? I would be is such serious trouble! That’s way more tempting than Jo-Anns! At Jo-Anns (or Hobby Lobby, etc) you know that you could usually come back later and get what you “need”…but thrift shops are like flea markets: better buy it right now! The reason my “fabric diet” will be temporary is that once flea market season starts in spring, all bets are off. (But really, where is your thrift shop?)

  • Theresa in Tucson

    I am sort of on a fabric diet. Since I’m the one who does the taxes, DH has no idea what I’ve spent on sewing, but the little voice in my head says, “It’s plenty!” My local JoAnn’s moved up the street about three years ago and I bought a lot at the moving sale and then again this past year when Hancock’s was closing. I’m just starting to make a dent in the JoAnn’s haul. This year is the year to keep track of what goes under the needle and also what comes in. I have vowed I will buy only if it is for a specific project. To that effect, I have my eye on some super nice hot rod fabric that just showed up in the Nancy’s Notions catalog for a camp shirt for a specific cousin of my Dad’s. Keep Calm and Sew On.

  • Marsha

    Craft Bits and Pieces, Fairport, New York (near Rochester). The Savers and Goodwills in the area frequently have fabric and craft supplies too. We also still have independent fabric stores around, although they tend to specialize in quilting fabrics.

  • Diane S

    I live in a rural area and there are 2 senior citizen thrift shops, both have a sewing section. I have found attachments for my vintage singers, bobbins for my featherweight, tailor boards and hams , and of course fabric, all for a dollar or 2.

  • [email protected]

    I am so jealous! Whenever I visit my sister in Buffalo NY we go thrifting, there are HUGE shops there. Everything from furniture to home furnishings to yes, craft supplies. While I love the bargains, and upcycling, I’m still running out of roooooooom. Help!

  • [email protected]

    Is this an upstate New York thing? My sister lives in Buffalo (her son is a teacher in Rochester), and my daughter attends college in Utica……so whenever I’m up there I go thrifting. Your shops are HUGE compared to the ones down here in Massachusetts. I’ll put Craft Bits and Pieces on my list, THANKS!!

  • [email protected]

    I’m jealous of your moving sale finds….but admire your current restraint. That’s exactly what I need to work on: buy only for very specific projects. No more “ooooh that’s pretty!”. Thanks for the inspiration and support!

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