Purging Yvonne’s Fabric Stash

Even though Yvonne had barely sewn a stitch for nearly 20 years, that didn’t stop her from buying fabric.  Sound familiar anyone?  Now that a lifestyle change has her focused on using her sewing skills toward a wardrobe update, one big question is “which fabrics  do I tackle first”.  Take a look at how we narrowed down to her first 30 – yes thirty! – pieces to add to her closet.

First we took a look at Yvonne’s original color information – a 4-season analysis circa 1980-something.  You can see the overly-bright original and our more nuanced update HERE.

Now as we searched through her extensive fabric collection she knew what to look for:

  • Rich, moderately warm colors like teals and dusty aquas, brick-y reds and corals, warm sage greens, chocolate browns, caramel and camel for example.
  • Colors and prints with a visual “weight” to balance her dark-ish eyes and hair – creating a vertical flow between the garments and her personal coloring.
  • Some light/dark contrast – either within a print or among solids in an outfit –  for visual interest, but never more contrast than we see in her personal coloring.

Here are the 30-ish pieces we chose to work on first — easily a year’s worth of sewing projects with a BIG wardrobe payoff – the Everything-Goes-With-Everything effect!

  • Top right corner – just a few of the cartons of fabric we had to evaluate.
  • Top left – that vibrant lime green is a favorite color, but extremely overpowering.  It is much more wearable mixed with browns in the print by the table leg.
  • Center-left (about 9 o’clock, if you will) the three prints in brown/teal mixes could be interesting as a print-mix garment or work solo with the solids.
  • Dot print at 8 o’clock is discussed below.
  • Circular motif in the bottom left corner is the area rug – Yvonne’s love of patterns carries through in her decor as well.
  • The whole group of prints from 1-6 o’clock are candidates for over-tinting with camel dye to soften up the bright white areas and warm the reds and pinks toward brick and coral – much more compatible with her coloring.
  • Nine solid color jerseys are included so those great prints have a base against which to be showcased – teal blues, warm reds, sage greens, camels and browns plus a deep aubergine you can barely see in the top left corner on a chair.

Here are some additonal prints that are absolutely mountain-top, but were in the other room when we snapped the pic above:

Both the feathers and the floral repeat colors we see in Yvonne  – her auburn hair and eyes that can read as dusty blue or sage green.  They also repeat the somewhat angular lines in her facial features and hairstyle.  Just the right visual weight for balance, and enough contrast to add interest without overwhelming.  And they go with dozens of solids in her wardrobe plan.

These are second-tier choices, but only by a smidge.  The lighter one one the left would be paired with a darker/stronger over-layer garment to keep it from reading too pale.  The the right-hand one has so many of her optimal accent colors that it’s a great way to increase the flattery of black garments she already owns.

She also owned some gorgeous heavier weights that make fabulous coordinates with her A+ prints:

This stunning black sweater knit has coral and dusty aqua striping that exactly echoes the color combos in these 2 prints. 

And this caramel and cream wool is an amazing mix with the floral and the feather print.  Hopefully Yvonne will share pics of projects and outfits as she completes them.

Meanwhile, how can you apply these same guidelines to prioritizing your own fabric stash and sewing projects?  Will you share pictures as well?

Or maybe we should meet up at one of this year’s sewing expos and do a similar consultation for you – using swatches of your fabric collection, of course!  What do you think?

About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Sue C Beach - Holm on February 17, 2020 at 9:42 am

    So delighted to see your most recent postings! You have such an “eye” for color and design, I find your writings fascinating. May I be looking forward to another book soon?

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 17, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      Glad you found these posts helplful. No new book on the horizon – I’m assuming you have the updated version already – but watch for my articles in THREADS magazine – a fun new way to share this wardrobe planning info in smaller bites!

  2. Gloria Allendder on February 17, 2020 at 10:12 am

    This is amazing! I can see doing this with my own fabric stash. Fabric stashed can be overwhelming but this is a great way to figure out how to use the fabric and have a wonderfully coordinated closet.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 17, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      You’ll laugh – I just today cut out a jacket from a beautiful cream/black tweed wool you gifted to me ater realizing it wasn’t great colors for you. We’re not even going to comment on how long ago that was …

  3. Isabel Leininger on February 17, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I found this article on narrowing down fabric selections to prioritize sewing projects to be extremely helpful. Like Yvonne, I have MUCH more fabric than I have had time to sew, so this is exactly what I need to do with my sewing closet: pair up fabrics that coordinate, and also pair up fabrics with clothes I already have, so I can focus on making the most useful and appealing things first. (I’d love to get my hands on a few pieces of Yvonne’s fabric, too! She has some beauties.) You offer a great service to sewers.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 17, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      So glad you found this useful Isabel. When we accumulate more fabric than we could sew up in a lifetime it does make sense to prioritize. And things – clothes, fabrics, accessories, etc – all look so much more appealing in combinations than they look on their own. I’m sure you have just as much latent excitement in your closet and sewing room as Yvonne had. I’d love to see pics of what you come up with when you screen the options thru the lens of your Color Fan.

    • Kathleen MacDonald on February 29, 2020 at 11:52 am

      I love how you flanked a photo of Yvonne between the pics of fabrics- it really helps me to see how those fabrics complement her so beautifully. It’s easy to sew up separates but taking the time to find fabrics that combine to make a complete, thoughtful, carefully considered outfit takes time but pays off in spades

      • Nancy Nix Rice on March 3, 2020 at 7:27 am

        Isn’t it motivatimg to see what a difference the optimal choices can make for us? Sometimes the actual sewing part is so much fun that it’s easy to lose sight of the value of the filtering process it takes to find the very, very right fabric. Guess we need to remind ourselves that if we didn’t sew we’d have to search out that very, very right fabric made iin the very right style in the very right size with the very right alteratione … not likely to happen very often, right

  4. TC Ferrito on February 17, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    I carry my colors from you in my purse, so I can use them while fabric shopping. What a life saver- and a time saver. Thanks Nancy!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 17, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      You just never know when a fabric-buying situation might pop up, right? Or a clothes-buying situation too!

  5. Jean Gribi on February 17, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    Yvonne has some lovely fabrics that are in her color family. They will look fabulous when she makes them into garments. Sewists have the ultimate control over their designs…how liberating from what we find in the ready to wear stores!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 17, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      And thank goodness for that control – some of the recent trends — both styles and colors — have been almost universally unflattering.

  6. Nancy K Gruber on February 18, 2020 at 8:14 am

    I appreciated your help, Nancy, in weeding out my inappropriate fabrics, although the purge decimated my stash! It has been a challenge to find new fabrics in my new color family, but your recommendations for coordinating fabrics from your online store (in the correct colors!) have been very helpful in getting me started.

  7. Paulette on February 18, 2020 at 9:06 am

    As sewists, we’ve all fallen in love with the wrong fabric from time to time – that “bad boy” we know isn’t right for us but we can’t resist. I applaud Yvonne’s courage to critically look at her stash and part with the “bad boys” and rediscover and embrace those fabrics that flatter her in her stash. I’d love to see how Yvonne turns those flattering fabrics into flattering clothes. Please share more of Yvonne’s story. I can see how editing a fabric stash to only those fabrics that truly flatter could stimulate and energize the next sewing project, knowing that you will love the way the results make you look and feel. I would love to see other wardrobe and stash purge stories. Are you planning any articles or blog posts on how to begin my own stash analysis and purge?

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 18, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      Love your “bad boy” analogy – haven’t we all had those, both in our fabric stash and other places? I’ve aksed Yvonne to share more photos in the future, and I will certainly pass them along. And I have another stash story in the works – a woman whose color consultation pointed her in an entirely new direction. Hoping for additional opportunities to write about this topic.
      For tackling your own “apocalypse” the #1 rule is that the most flattering things for you to wear have characteristics in common with your own appearance. If you look at Yvonne’s example, you’ll see that her keeper pieces are deep, rich and fairly warm colors, worn in relatively strong contrast patterns or combinations (brown/camel level, not black/white level) with some angular elements where possible — all things you see repeated when you look at her. And when anyone is repeating her own characteristics, her clothes and accessories are automatically going to have a visual relationship with each other.
      Of course I’m happy to help out with a personalized color consultation or meet with you at your own closet to guide you on the process.

  8. GenAnn Keller on February 19, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    I share Yvonne’s colors except my red hair is now a really nice silver. Since the rest of me is the warm arena with teals, blues, and greens in the muted shades and dark blue/teal eye color. I am not sure how to incorporate the silver.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 20, 2020 at 10:42 am

      The typical progression is that as our hair loses pigment, so (less noticeably) does our skin – moving overall coloring in a cooler direction. Your teals, blues and greens should stay about the same while your reds and neutrals move cooler — possibly charcoal and pale heather gray replacing browns and camels, for example.

  9. Marguerite H Benko on February 28, 2020 at 7:47 am

    So fun to see such a thoughtful article about incorporating ourselves in our fabric acquisitions. I think we all fall into the trap of buying a lovely fabric, but one that doesn’t necessarily suit us. The great part about this blog is that prints aren’t ignored! And it’s truly amazing how the prints you’ve chosen for Yvonne suit her perfectly. It’s also great to get insight into your thought process in accomplishing this. I’m definitely going to look into dying some of my fabrics. Would love to see more posts like this!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on March 3, 2020 at 7:33 am

      It IS amazing how much diffrent “moutain-top” choices look on Yvonne than even the “good” ones … and for sure the “not-so-goof” ones. I just got back from a big sewing expo where several women had booked time with me to look over swatches from their stash and do a mini-apocolypse (to use Yvonne’s term). Look for a blog post or two from those exercises in the next few days …

  10. Helen Wall on February 29, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    A great post and very informative. I have found that it takes less time now when I go shopping for fabric and in the clothing department as I go straight to the colors that work best for me.
    Congratulations on your “Fabulous Ponte Knits” article in the March issue of Threads magazine! I found it very helpful.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on March 3, 2020 at 7:24 am

      THanks Helen – I’m always so happy when I hear back from a blog reader that the info is really making a difference in her life!

  11. Anne on March 7, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    This was a super post! I loved seeing how well the prints worked for her. The right prints contain so much more information (right colors, contrast levels, shapes, sizes) than do plain fabrics, even those in ideal colors, and underline her individual characteristics and beauty in the best possible way. You’ve worked your magic again!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on March 7, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      Interesting that you framed it that way Anne. In live workshops I always demonstrate color concepts with prints because I’ve learned that an audience can much more easily see the connection when it includes all the other elements you itemized. Of course when we’re working with solids we combine them and accessorize them according to those same principles but that is a lot more complicated to demo (although perfectly easy to do in real life). Isn’t this stuff fun?

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