Sunday, 5 June 2011

My Stash Amnesty: May 2011

I know that sewing your own clothes and accessories isn't a carbon-neutral activity. I wish it was, but I'm very aware that every time I put the 'pedal to the metal' of my sewing machine or overlocker, I'm contributing to the depletion of fossil fuels. Also, the new zips, thread, elastic, pattern cutting paper and whatever else I use during the process has to be manufactured, often packaged, and then transported and distributed before I get my mitts on it. Arse, I know.

However, I really believe that it is worthwhile to sew with fabric or old garments that have been sourced secondhand, or that we already have in our stash where possible, rather than heading to the fabric shop for every project. I think that can make a big impact on making this passtime of ours a more environmentally friendly activity. I know that can be tricky, particularly if you are just starting out sewing, but I bet that almost every sewer who's been at it for six months or more is sitting on at least 10 metres of fabric they've hoarded. I certainly know I am!

Which is what I wish to come clean about today. I have been sewing from secondhand and pre-hoarded stuff almost exclusively for quite a while now (I've only bought 2 metres of fabric since the start of this year) but I see my stash as a pile of potential, which is just sitting there when it could be turned into fantastic garments giving people joy to wear, or given to other sewers in fabric form for them to have the pleasure of doing with it what they will.

The vast majority of the fabric I own in Brighton (there's also a stash under the bed in my folks' spare room, but I'll deal with that another day) lives on a table at work. It makes more sense to keep it there as there's more space and that's where all my patterns also live. The big table in the studio is better for cutting out on than our little dining table at home, so I tend to start a project in my lunch break then bring it home to work on as pieces waiting to be constructed. The table where my fabric and garment mountain lives is where I'm meant to keep my bag, so every morning I am greeted with a duel pang of love and guilt when I see it all. So, the other night after work I stayed a while sorting and folding so it looks more organised (see above). As you can see, it now consists of three piles.

The vintage prints and patterns (basically fabric porn!):

Plain and modern prints/patterns. Pieces all big enough to form a garment or half a garment:

Odds and sods pile which includes scraps that could be used for contrast pieces, small pieces for undies-making, lace and garments awaiting refashioning inspiration:

Two examples of garments I have awaiting refashioning/fabric harvesting are; this super-pre-loved ratty shirt which has a lovely stripe. When I get round to it I plan to turn it into a Peter Pan collared blouse like this, the process of which I plan to document and make a kind of 'how-to'. Coming to a computer near you soon....

Also, this dowdy dress. the print is a pretty autumnal floral design which looks so 1940's to me. I've got a blouse pattern in mind for this too.

In total, I've got 34 pieces of fabric crying out to be made into something wonderful, but this number is set to rise. Almost every time we get a delivery at work (every two weeks), I usually ended up with a few more bits that aren't appropriate for using in our range. I really want to avoid my stash spiralling out of control. I find it overwhelming and difficult to focus on ideas for new projects when there's so much raw material staring at me. Plus, I know I'm in a very fortunate position to be able to add to my stash with secondhand textiles, so if I can't see myself using something, I want to share the love.

Basically, I'm firmly recommitting myself to my Stash Bustin' pledge. My aim is to log new additions every two weeks if the delivery results in aquistions for myself. Then I plan to use or give away at least that number of pieces until the next time I receive some more stuff, you with me? So if I end up with two refashionable garments and three pieces of fabric one week, I have to use or give away at least five items from my stash before I'm allowed any more. Plus there's the not-so-small matter of that heap of fabric lurking at my folks'. I'm off there next weekend so I'll dig through it whilst I'm there. I'm looking forward to the Me-Made-June '11 celebration meetup/fabric swap to offload some of my long-hoarded treasures. I hope to see you there! I also know some lovely ladies who are starting out sewing, so I plan to flow them some nuggets along the way to hopefully encourage and inspire them further.

So, what are your throughts on your stash? Are you a 'the person with the most fabric, wins' or more of a feng shui'd manageable stash kind of person? Is feeling guilty for owning lots of fabric a commonly felt state, or am I just mental? 'Your thoughts on a postcard...'or in the comments section please!

34 comments:

Mary Collins said...

I have a huge stash, and I feel huge guilt about it. I'm trying to reduce - I'm at that stage where if my daughter admires anything, she can have it - but that just moves it upstairs. I am buying less, and shopping my stash first when I'm thinking about a new project. But I'm pretty sure there's more there than I can sew in a lifetime. So basically, I have too much and I'm dithering about it. The one in, one out rule is a good thing. Good luck.

Sigrid said...

One problem with sewing and refashioning with thrifted/used materials is that you really have to acquire first and then find a use later. So, stash building is almost inevitable. There is no reason to feel guilty about having a nice palette of fabric to work with, but you are so right, sometimes one becomes overwhelmed with the materials and it actually cuts down on sewing. And sometimes it seems that the longer I have something in my stash, the less likely I am to want to use it. I'm trying to sew down my stash too.

Minnado said...

My stash grew dramatically in february when I was given the chance to sort through the fabric collection of a sewing friend of my mums who had passed away the previous year. I have made quite a lot from it. I have had to buy fabric only when I wanted plain fabrics (this lady only seemed to like prints)!

Erin said...

I am just developing a stash due to fabric sales at JoAnn's. Once I got my sewing machine to work I got a bit over-excited and bought fabrics that I haven't even had a chance to pre-wash yet. I'm trying to stop buying new fabrics before I get out of control. I can't make any promises on thrifted finds though. Too much willpower required.

Good Luck.

Scruffybadger said...

I have a growing hillock of fabric & need to find a proper filing system for it. But I will not let it get mountainous. I look at it & feel "Love" & "Guilt" all at the same time. Your intentions are impressive - it's a great idea :-)

Hearthandmade said...

I feel the same. Although the majority of my fabrics are from vintage bedsheets from eBay or fat quarters I got from other people's clear outs. I've only bought new fabrics once and that's for makinga quilt for my mum, but even the backing fabric is one of my old duvets. Trying to work by hand to use little leccy ^_^

Law said...

When i first started sewing, i got a bit over excited and bought loads of fabric. But I pretty much haven't used any of it. My problem is i want to start using it, but i find it easier to start with a garment idea and find fabric to suit, rather than look at a piece of fabric i own and work out what i could do with it. Also as i'm not hugely experienced i am almost too scared to cut into some of the fabric as it's so pretty and i lack the confidence to believe i will do a good job with whatever i'm making.

Alexandra said...

I started sewing a little over a year ago. The only fabric store within reach is Jo-Ann (and even that is out in the suburbs and I don't drive). At first I felt like I had to buy fabric at every opportunity - I snatched up every second hand fabric I came across and bought too much when online retailers had sales. So, uh, my stash is way, way too big for someone who has sewn as little as I have. I do feel guilty. I've forbidden myself from buying any until I've sewn a bunch of garments on my to-do list.

Tilly said...

Good for you, Zoe - your Stash Bustin' pledge is a great idea.

In my first few months of sewing I was so overcome by excitement that I went a bit mad building up my stash, mainly of fabrics with pretty prints but which are maybe a little heavy or which I can't imagine using on a dress or whose colour doesn't really suit me. I can now go into a fabric shop and come out empty handed, which is an advancement!

weriem said...

I completely agree with you about second hand stuff to reuse! I used to accumulate fabrics when I lived in France. Now I'm settled in the US and I didn't bring my collection with me (snif!) so I made a promise to my self: don't buy fabric before knowing what you would like to sew. Not easy but I try my best ;)

badmomgoodmom said...

I've been thinking along the same lines. I mostly sew from staff, second hand clothes or leftovers from LA-area factories, bought by the pound. I have bought only 2.5 yds of new fabric from a store catering to the home sewing market.

But, 2 weekends ago, I bought 50 yds of vintage and factory discard fabrics in one day! I've only sewn 50 yds this year, and typically sew ~100/yr. So I am a bit overwhelmed, like you.

But I love the potential locked up in all the pieces.

The Creative Miss W said...

I have a pretty big stash and am working my way through it now in my Make Do And Mend Wardrobe Refashion. I always worry that I won't have enough fabric so tend to overbuy, particularly when I first started sewing which has led me to have quite a few metres of cheaper fabrics.but they are useful for a mock up as muslin has become a lot more expensive now. I also have quite a few dresses all unpicked ready to made into something lovely. I don't mind unpicking because it's easy to do just about anywhere.I'm trying hard not to buy only what I really need if I really have nothing I can get to work.

Anna said...

I have a massive fabric stash and a metric ton of notions as well. For the last few years I've been trying to sew more than I buy and I've only managed it by a small margin. This year so far I've only bought 1.5 metres of fabric and some Dylon, mainly I think because I don't really have anywhere decent to buy fabric and because I had a few months where I lost my sewing mojo.

I don't feel guilty about my stash. I bought it when I could afford it (and I can't afford to buy fabric now really) and I will use it all one day. When I re-fold every 6 months or so I'm always surprised that I don't find anything that I don't like or that I want to get rid of. I always 'shop' my stash for projects. In fact the way I buy fabric when I do see it is in certain lengths (so much for a dress, so much for a shirt etc) but I very very rarely ever buy fabric with a specific project in mind.

I have never ever found fabric in a charity shop and being a larger size most garments for sale in charity shops don't have enough fabric for me to do anything with. If I could find fabric like our American friends do then I'd probably have stashed it that way rather than from the bargain bins in my ex-local fabric shop (almost all my fabric is mill ends or has a fault in the print so was cheap to buy, if it costs more to make than to buy I don't do it).

I think it is a case of to each their own when it comes to fabric stashes, just like some people prefer minimalism in their decor and others clutter. As long as you're comfortable with what you have then that's what matters!

littlebetty said...

I often get the fabric guilts. It's important to make sure the space you keep your fabric is small, that way if it's full, you can't get anymore without realising. Also, defo important to not pretend this is a carbon nuetral hobby!! There's a lot of consuming and spending to do what we do!

Christina said...

I had to admit to myself that I did actually have a stash last year. Now I'm trying not to buy any fabric exept I really need it for a certain project and not buying anything else. So far this helped slowing the process down a good bit. It didn't stop completely tough, I'm only human ;).

Gail said...

Hi. I only found your blog about 2 months ago and I'm enjoying it very much. I do have a question, however, what kind of work do you do - it seems interesting. I hope I'm not invading your privacy by asking this but if I am, I fully understand if you don't reply.

Vintage Girl said...

I have only been sewing garments since Nov. 2010, but I have a lot of fabric. I have brought most of it from the thrift. This makes it hard to sew pieces that work together. I am trying to use up all my fabric. My plan is to "plan" and only buy what I need, with a small stash. Too much is still just too much.

Rachelle said...

I have a huge stash which I created over quite a few years, I also have a fibre and yarn stash of similar proportions. I don't feel guilty about it, but with the fabric and fibre at least I'm trying not to add to it; I really want to reduce it so that there's some more storage space in our house. Clothes take up less space I've found than fabric and yarn.

Stacy aka Stacybeads said...

I don't know if it's guilt so much as disappointment. I see things that have been in my stash for a while, and I feel sad that I haven't had time for it yet, or that I haven't thought of a good use for it yet. By the way, I like your term "pre-hoarded." :)

Brumby said...

I have a huge, embarrassingly huge stash. But like Anna each time I go through it I can never really find anything I am yet ready to part with. Today's job is to spring clean my studio, perhaps I need a more critical (and realistic eye) as I approach this... I keep hoping that one day I will have the time to sew it, perhaps I am not yet ready to give up on that dream just yet.

Hearth said...

I rarely buy fabric unless I have a firm plan for it, and I still have a huge stash... much of it pieces big enough for quilting or big enough to make a bodice for my daughter, but not big enough to make anything for me.

That said, I also have a sewing backlog of planned projects... and yet I keep buying patterns and cloth! I'm not thin, and I wear long full skirts/dresses, so I might not have a huge variety in that drawer, but it's full anyway - I've 10 yards of fabric for one skirt alone, and let's not talk about my vogue coat. Yikes.

In other words, you're not the only one.

Corrine said...

First off Zoe dear, I commend you for your perspective. You are such a positive advocate for sensibility in use/re-use that if there were an award, it would be yours.

As sewists we all come from different ages, countries and perspectives. When one discovers the absolute passion that sewing can create, we see fabrics differently. We see possibilities, we see creative challenge, we see fashion. I have been sewing a long time and have a nice little stash. Some of the fabric was purchased with a specific project in mind that didn't get done for one reason or another, and now it is "stash." Some fabrics were purchased because they were beautiful. Simple as that.

I have no guilt about my fabrics, I visit them frequently and consider their full potential. I remember that each of these pieces also represent jobs for the manufacturer, the delivery driver, the cutter at the local fabric store. So it's all good as long as it doesn't become wasteful or a hoarding obsession.

Carolyn said...

I definitely try to use up my stash, and old garments too, but I love fabric too much not to buy new every now and again. Plus, I consider it really important to support my local fabric store too, since we've lost several around here over the past few years. I consider this a tragedy, and I would hate to lose the few we have left.

Kara said...

I think I may be in the minority here, but when I get the chance to go fabric shopping, I actively try to build my stash. Granted, I probably have plenty of fabric now to last me quite a while! But I don't have a local fabric store, so I feel the need to "stock up" when I have the opportunity. I do plan on using everything I buy, though! I'm not a "stash-for-stash-sake" type of hoarder.

shivani said...

I go through phases of major guilt over my stash (esp as I'm still a relative newbie). I even went so far as to promise not to add to the stash until I'd worked through some of it and then posted my stash to my blog as a constant reminder to myself of my promise. But it lasted all of two weeks, and I added more to the stash last week (oops).
I have the same concerns as Law - I only buy fabric that I love, but then I love it too much to dare touch it in case I wreck it! I feel I need to make a serious stash-bustin' pledge too.

sewistafashionista said...

Some folks are very comfortable with a huge stash, and for years I they have told me not to worry about it, but for me there is a limit.

I don't buy unless I have a project in mind that could be made soon. Unless the fabric is in the thrift store bin, and it is good, then I buy it. I have a stash, but if it goes over a certain amount I feel guilty. And overwhelmed. I don't have any set yardage that I won't go over. I just adjust my stash according to that feeling of guilt.

Darci said...

Yay for stashbusting! When my stash starts overflowing the LARGE storage area that I've alotted for it, it's time for some stashbustin'! (I feel like there might be a country song in there somewhere...) So that's what I'm doing for the month of June. No buying any new fabric! We're only a week in, but I'm hoping I won't be "jonesin' for new fabric" like a drug addict by the end of the month. LOL Good luck to you, too!

stitchywitch said...

I can't buy nice fabric locally. In addition, I love prints, but I'm picky about what I use. So I tend to buy fabric when I see something I like online. I don't feel bad about it, because I do find that I run through fabric fairly quickly. I have 2 plastic tubs that contain all my fabric, and as long as I don't go over that I figure I'm doing ok!

hapa said...

I like the way you think. Small stash isn't for me, though. In my first years sewing I bought a lot of fabric. I was so empowered by the idea that i could sew my own clothes and the pretty fabrics were so much cheaper than clothing in the store, so I had this idea that I was like in a real store, except I could buy what i wanted. Of course I soon realized that i didn't have the time to use up all that fabric and my stash kept on growing. A few years ago I decided i'd like to sew greener and started to use old clothes we had at home. Fabric or old clothes, it seems impossible not to add to my stash 'cause I can never sew as much as I get new things (the amount of fabric and old clothing I've been given by people who know I sew is amazing). I wish you the best with your pledge.

Octi said...

I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum from most of the people here--I have almost no stash at all. I nearly always buy fabric for specific projects, and then make them right away. All of the fabric I own fits into a box that is maybe one foot cubed. If I came across more fabric or cute sheets at the thrift store, it would probably be bigger, but alas, that doesn't seem to be in the cards for me.

Ally said...

Since I started sewing a year ago I've been known to come back with fabric from shopping trips without any clue what to do with them.
And yes, I do feel very guilty when looking at my stash and then buying some more.

But I've also found that I am almost paralysed when going into fabric stores. I haven't yet experimented enough with the fabrics I have (something my perfectionism won't allow me to do) to know which fabrics would be good for what type of garment. So I end up buying cottons which end up not being quite what I need as my body shape requires some floaty, heavier fabrics.
Paralysis through a million thoughts at once.
Leaving the stores feeling deflated.
Buying the same old type of fabrics out of a sense of security.

Planning to get some advice (at our sewing meeting/stash busting in Brighton and looking at sewing classes) to enable me to sew more and worry less :)
After all, this is a lot of fun for me!

About thrifting, well,... I keep looking around second hand shops (and always have been) but am yet too constrained by my own rules to actually buy something and see what i can make of it...

Too much thinking me thinks...

Needle said...

Loved reading this post as I work exclusively with recycled (or 'upcycled', cough cough) fabrics. Not only is it more environmentally friendly and cheaper (and as a poor postgrad student this matters a lot to me!), it's also kinda fun to think about ways of remaking something with a real past... What can I say, that's the geek in me. I do still have a question though when it comes to stash - while the biggrer pieces are great to work with, what about all the tiny bits and pieces that are left after any cutting stage. I've tried making ribbon out of these pieces - sewing them together and then hemming - but I'd love to think up some other ways of using these odds and ends. Hairbands? Belts? There's got to be something I can do! It's an issue I'm trying to deal with every so often on my blog about sewing - needlepullingthread.wordpress.com - so if you'd like to support the effort, please do take a look. Mona. P.S. Love your blog!

MrsC said...

How interesting reading all the different stories about stashes. I have two huge, quite distinct stashes. One is for quilting, one for clothes and costuming. They occupy two big cupboards each. Plus a couple of big shelves of notions, patterns, scraps, special collections and projects in train.
I still buy fabric - no matter how much I have I don't always have what I want! But mostly my costuming/clothing stash is full of treasures I haven't worked out what to do with but love far too much to ever part with. I can relate to the people who say that when they go through their stash they still love everything in it. And with quilting, absolutely everything is useful so no way can I part with any of that! :) But this year I am trying much harder to use up what I have, mostly so I can enjoy the lovely fabrics, not to get rid. :)

Becky said...

My stash has gotten to the point where it's rather difficult to manage. I gave away a pretty big chunk of it sometime within the last year or so via Freecycle, but there's still a lot left (especially since I was given other free fabric since.) I don't want to get rid of my stash entirely, because I like having things on hand to just pull out and sew on a whim. But I do want to significantly reduce it.

So I've been doing my own personal stashbusting project this year--I measured out and cataloged all of my fabric in a small notebook that I can easily reference when I'm trying to match things to patterns and whatnot. I know it will take more than this year, but my goal is to reduce my stash by at least 2/3. (I had almost 300 yards at the beginning of this year! And that's not including my bins of scraps and refashionables...)

I'm not saying that I won't buy any more fabric, or avoid things at the thrift store that strike my fancy but need some tweaking. But I am trying to only buy fabric when I have a project in mind that I just don't have anything already on hand that will work. So I have added a few things, but so far this year I'm down about 13 yards from where I started, so I think I'm doing pretty well! I'm also getting excited about using up some things that have been in my stash for awhile.

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