Two bloggers I follow recently shared mini-tours of their sewing rooms, and another I’m familiar with was featured on Design*Sponge for her sewing nook makeover, all of which reminded me that I am incredibly fortunate to have a spacious apartment with enough room to dedicate to sewing and other crafts. Not only that, but the sunroom is, true to its name, the only room in our apartment that gets any light, and it’s got rather a nice view of the woods behind our building. Unfortunately, it’s severely lacking in the furniture department, which means that for now it’s mostly just a storage corner.
But storage for what, exactly? As a self-proclaimed non-stasher, I shouldn’t have all much beyond my sewing machine and serger, swift and ballwinder, and assorted small tools and notions. Once I get a work table or desk to set up my machines, a small bookcase for my reference books and patterns, and a pegboard or hanging rails for things I reach for most, I shouldn’t really need a storage system for fabric and yarn. It’s not as though I have fiber heaped to the rafters; I’m not tripping over boxes or moving things out of the way to get to other things.
But I do have a couple of bins, and I couldn’t stop thinking about dragging them out into the middle of the floor, dumping them out, and sorting through them with a fresh eye. I have a tendency to keep anything that might possibly be useful for something someday (sidebar: as a member of a generation that can talk meaningfully about post-scarcity economics, where does this Depression-era mentality come from? I really want to know) so I wanted to be sure that I hadn’t squirreled things away that I didn’t actually need or want anymore. I’d like to think this is step one on the road to having the sewing room of my dreams: figure out what the sewing room of my reality actually has in it so I can decide how to make it work best for me. The last thing I need is to go out and buy a bunch of totes or shelves or whatever that I don’t actually have a use for. I mean, I love an IKEA trip as much as the next person, but even I have a limit when it comes to shopping for things to put other things in.
Right, back to the stash. Let’s take a look…
Top row: Utility fabrics (cotton batting, heat-shielding batting, white and black interfacing, clear vinyl, unbleached muslin)
Top-middle row: Apparel fabrics (cotton jersey, drapey cotton blend, brushed cotton twill, polyester charmeuse, rayon bemberg, cotton lawn, novelty cotton)
Bottom-middle row: Craft fabrics (crepe-back satin scraps, quilting cottons)
Bottom row: Craft fabrics (polyester curtain scraps, brown and white vinyl scraps, quilting cottons and bed sheet scraps)
Well then. For someone who doesn’t stash, that’s more than a little bit of fabric. Not a lot, no, and a chunk of it is leftover from completed projects, but there are more than a few pieces of fabric that I had forgotten about buying until I saw them. (I have not yet progressed to the stage where I have acquired fabric with no recollection whatsoever of its origin, thank goodness.) I prefer to buy fabric and yarn with specific projects in mind, because it cuts down on the chance that I won’t have enough material to finish, and because I’m not a designer or improviser, so I don’t really need to have oodles of it on hand for inspiration.
But looking at everything arrayed like this makes me acutely aware of the yardage I bought for specific projects that I never actually started. For instance, I picked up the navy and white quatrefoil with hot pink dots with the goal of making a perfectly fitting pencil skirt with a bit of spunk. Immediately after buying it, I realized that a woven pencil skirt isn’t something I’m likely to wear if given the choice, and that quilting cotton often doesn’t make a very good apparel fabric anyway. Feeling a bit ashamed for making this misstep while buying, I set it aside to “use later,” and promptly forgot about it.
It’s like a sophisticated and stealthy form of self-sabotage and/or denial stashing. If something doesn’t work out, or I think it won’t work out, I set it aside, and then like any other maker I get distracted by my next project idea and off I go. Repeat a few times, and suddenly I’ve grown a stash without realizing it. An accidental stash, if you will.
To prevent this from happening again—or at least slow the rate at which it happens—I decided to swap some bins around so that I could move my fabric out of an opaque container and into a transparent one:
Simple, but effective. It will be a lot harder to forget what I have when I can see most of it at once. Seeing all of it has renewed my interest in many of my original projects, plus sparked ideas for a few new ones. Which leads me to my pattern stash…
This obviously doesn’t include PDF patterns or magazines, though I don’t have many of either. Overall it’s much tamer, but not very practical. Costume patterns take up 40% of my paper pattern collection. (I love costumes, and bought most of them during a sale.) While there’s definitely nothing wrong with having a lot of costume patterns, I only have one “regular” top pattern, and I know already that the Lisette dress pattern is not for me. This is not exactly a firm foundation upon which to build a handmade wardrobe. I’ll definitely be looking for ways to thoughtfully expand this collection to include practical and versatile everyday clothes.
In the meantime, everything will get stowed in a spare IKEA KASSETT box:
With all this talk about fabric, let’s not forget about yarn…
Ravelry tells me this totals about 9,020 yards. I pretty much have plans for all of it, I just can’t knit it up fast enough!
Of course, that’s ignoring a few lingering, unwanted bits and bobs…
I’ve known for a while that I was never going to use these up, but I’d been at a loss about what to do with them. While I was cleaning out my supplies, I discovered some knitting pattern pamphlets and aluminum DPNs that I knew I would never use (my tastes in patterns and tools have changed since I bought them as a knitter just starting out), all of which fit neatly into a little tote bag I’d sewn up out of remnants that really isn’t my style either. So I packed everything together and have set it aside for a day that I meet a knitter that might want them. It’s not exactly a kit to get someone interested in knitting started—I donated those items to an art co-op before I moved here—but more of a goody bag for anyone who likes string. (This is one of those rare occasions when it would be handy to have friends with kids. Free art supplies!) If I can’t find anyone to take it in the next few weeks, I’ll drop it off at The Scrap Exchange.
Even though it was a bit of a surprise to discover that I’ve accumulated a stash, and even though I didn’t do much to thin it beyond a few odd balls of yarn and a couple of small cuts of fabric, it was deeply satisfying to take stock. Things are in better order, I have plans for my next projects, and I walked away feeling pretty sure that I don’t need to buy any white cotton broadcloth in a while (unless I plan to make curtains or something).
What is the state of your stash? How often do you take stock?