August 9, 2013

Repost - On Fabric Stashes: a Cautionary Tale

I did this post back in May for Christine Haynes and for those of you who didn't read it, I decided, why not repost it here today? Truth be told, this is one of the hardest things about sewing for me to keep under control. I keep finding that I just purchase and carefully stow away more and more fabric. Sure I have something in mind for it, but when in the world am I ever going to use this much fabric? Additionally, I have found that having so much fabric, kind of gets me unhinged, meaning that I start thinking of all the projects that I want to sew and I start getting overwhelmed just thinking about it and I've taken all these items out of their place and disaster strikes and I don't get anything done, least of all sewing. So, here goes! Let me know what you think.

One of the great things about sewing is finding fabric. Don’t you think so too? Its fun to get together with other sewing friends and blab on and on about this fabric and that fabric in our stash and what brought us to purchase it or how it came to be in our possession. Its really great until you start, finally, noticing that the fabrics that you love so much, you never use and never wear because you are afraid you’ll ruin them.


Last year, I attended a sewing conference where one of the guest speakers waxed poetic about her love of vintage fabric and patterns. She was funny and captivating to listen to and she said something that’s really stuck with me ever since. She talked about how she had acquired some amazing vintage rayons – like authentic 40s rayons – that she knew she would never use because she was too afraid she would ruin them. Its funny to joke about, but I think many of us that sew often end up thinking and doing the same thing as the cute girl I described above.  I know I do! My personal fabric stash is truly something to behold. Ultimately though, unless you just decide that you are going to use the fabric in your stash, it will end up becoming the stuff of legend where you’ll talk until you’re blue in the face about how much you love this or that fabric…..that you’ve never been able to wear but you think is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever owned.  Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Today I wanted to share some tips with you about how to avoid becoming a fabric hoarder and how to become a fabric user. So let’s get started!

Tip #1 – Before you start, just know that you’ll ruin gobs of fabric anyway. I’ve ruined tons of fabric, but one of the key things about becoming a better sewer is learning how to fix what you think at the time is an unfixable mistake. Before you decide to trash a project, try getting another person’s take on the situation. If you’ve got a sewing friend, definitely invite them over for a cup of tea and a little brainstorming. Or take your project to a local sewing shop and ask if you can just get a second opinion about what to do. You might be very surprised at what other sewers’ come up with – many have experienced the same thing and found a creative way to fix their problem. Instead of letting the idea that you’ll ruin fabric get in the way, just know that most problems are actually, quite fixable. So, go ahead and cut out your favorite blouse pattern in your favorite fabric. You’re one step closer to wearing your favorite fabric rather than just looking at it!


Tip #2 – Use tried and true patterns! Instead of always reaching for a brand new sewing pattern to try out on your favorite piece of fabric, reach for a pattern you’ve made before. This will help to eliminate much of your anxiety in using some of your favorite fabric pieces and thinking that you’ll just end up ruining them. Plus you’ll have a better handle on fit and who doesn’t need that?


Tip #3 – Impose a self fabric buying ban. Try to work your way through your stash (also known as stash busting! Yay!) and only purchase items that you need to complete a project ie: thread, notions, trim type fabrics or ribbons. Instead of acquiring more fabric, you’ll find that doing this can give you a very different perspective on purchasing new fabrics, which brings me to Tip #4…..

Tip #4 – Purchase or acquire only those fabrics that you know you’ll use. It might be really hard to pass on that amazing crepe back satin you just saw, but really stop for a second and determine whether it’s a fabric that actually has a place in your life. I’m totally serious too! You might be surprised at how impractical some fabrics are if you really stop to think about it about. I for one have found that silk chiffon truly does not have a place in my wardrobe – its one of those fabrics that is completely impractical for me to have. I don’t have anywhere to wear it and I definitely don’t want to maintain it either. Its delicate nature doesn’t do well in my not so delicate life. Also, consider whether or not its fabric that would ultimately become to “sacred” to use. For instance a piece of Liberty of London Tana Lawn that is so beautiful you must have it, but yet, in your heart of hearts you know you’ll never use because it would become too precious to ruin ie, sew it! Don’t buy it if you feel that way. Work your way up to purchasing a fabric like that or purchase that kind of a fabric with a pattern you’ve already made in mind.

On a final note, I’ve come to realize the importance of that old adage, “work with what you’ve got.” I work in a fabric shop and a customer came through and talked about how much her grandmother would have loved a shop like the one I work in. The grandmother’s true love was for purchasing fabric and many a time her granddaughters (like the one whose story I’m relating) would get into her fabric stash and find a true gem that they begged for a dress to be made out of. The grandmother would always say “no” and explain that she was saving that fabric for something else. Sadly, even as the granddaughters all grew up, the grandmother had never yet used much of the fabric that many of the granddaughters had wanted years before. Instead more purchasing and acquiring of fabric was had and when the grandmother passed on several years later, there was a huge fabric stash that was divided up among daughters and granddaughters. Acres and acres of fabric that the grandmother had been saving for “other projects” were never realized and instead of being able to enjoy the fabric on her body or even as something else, the fabric was left to become yet another stash piece for someone else. I don’t know about you, but personally I feel sad about the prospect of my fabric stash becoming another stash piece for someone else – I want to enjoy it myself! I purchased it and I want to enjoy it as something rather than a folded up piece of fabric.

What do you think about fabric stashes? Do you have a giant stash that you need to work through? How would you feel about never being able to use your favorite fabric pieces and instead having them passed on to someone else?
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