Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I'm Not on a (Stash) Diet

A few days ago, Roni left this comment on my post Enlisted:

I've been thinking a lot about stashing lately. Sometime in the past few months I've become "stash free". I did have some fabric left, mostly scraps and remnants, but no pieces that were big enough to be made into a garment (except for 2, that are still waiting for a pattern to be purchased). While it was liberating it was also demoralizing, because I could no longer take my mind off things by grabbing a piece of fabric and making something nice out of it at the end of a long day of... life. So I did some sewing for my boyfriend (3 pairs of pants and 2 cardigans, from Thread Theory) while taking the time to theoretically build my ideal wardrobe. Ever since, I've been going to the textile district every few weeks or so to buy the supplies I need to make 3 garments out of this idea wardrobe (garments that I need and want in my life) + 2 things that I don't really NEED but want to make. Making stuff I enjoy wearing mostly from patterns that had become my TNT patterns, also mean I can get rid of some of the clothes I don't like and don't fit me anymore (dropped some major kgs in the past few months).  This change has increased my sewing productivity, and also changed my wardrobe for the better.

Perhaps this is a bit of kismet because I have recently come to exactly the same conclusion.

There's nothing more miserable than being blessed by the urge to sew (or knit, though I sense that knitting stuff is a bit easier to purchase on the fly) only to discover that you haven't got object X, right there to support the process.

Doesn't matter what you're missing - though, certainly, fabric is the deal breaker. If you don't have the interfacing, the lining, the zippers, the stabilizing tape, the thread, the tracing paper, the buttons, the snaps (and the list goes on), then you're bound to be distracted by shopping. And we all know, shopping days derail crafting days.

This is one of the ways in which I think the organized stasher has the edge.

Here's the thing: I use a variety of fabrics routinely. Denim (light, heavy, stretch, woven), charmeuse (woven and now stretch), jersey (rayon, wool, cotton, doubleknit), other knits (modal, tencel, cashmere) and woven suitings. Extremely occasionally I make use of a shirt-weight woven.

Why on earth wouldn't I aim to have a few pieces of all of these fabric-types, at my access, in yardage sufficient to make the sort of project each suggests?

I can assure you, having gone through at least 25 yards of denim over the past 4 years, that having 6 yards on hand isn't going to go to waste - esp. as I stash denim with different properties and shades. Really, you can make anything on the planet with knits, so is it stupid to keep 2 yards of each of the major weights and types in a cupboard for when I get the urge?

Now, where things get dicey for me, is when we speak of the shirt-weight wovens. Um, if I go through 5 yards of this in a year, I'd be shocked. So I'm not stashing it methodically. And, in fact, most of what I currently have of it has been gifted to me.

On a parallel point, I stick to the colours I know I'm going to use: deep blue or indigo denim (but never black), stripes, the occasional floral or jewel toned pop of colour. Everything else is neutral (navy, black, grey).


6.5 yards of denim of diff weights and colours
@15 yards of all the knits in the land
@8 yards lining and tailoring materials
1 yard of silk charmeuse
@4.5 yards of shirt-weight wovens (for pockets, trim, bags, tops etc.)

Additionally I keep a reasonable stash of interfacing, muslin and relevant notions - enough that I don't need to run to the store for buttons or zippers, for example.

Is this a ridiculous amount of stuff? I don't think so.

It's adequate so that, any day, I can choose from one of my 85 or so patterns (ok, that's a whole other stash - we can discuss this another time), and make a dozen garments. Sure, I'm not stash-free, but I'm mobilized!

So those are my 2 cents on this topic. But I'd love to know what you think. Thoughts or feelings?

46 comments:

  1. Yes, being really organized is key. And I don't think you have too much stuff. No way.

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  2. Last year I felt like I had an overwhelming amount of stash, but then I organized it and it felt more manageable. And yes, I sometimes struggle to regain the inspiration once I've been thwarted by a lack of supplies, be it fabric or a zipper. Probably because it's usually at least a week before I can get new supplies, and by then I've often lost track of where I was in a project.

    And I hear you on pattern stashing. Mine are out of control, and I need to rein them in. Especially since I'm a sucker for buying dress patterns I'd never actually wear during the $1 sales at the big chain stores. I don't know why I do that either....

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    1. You know, even in a large city, it's tough to go and get the things you need. I used to have a FabricLand (like Joann's) walking distance from my office. But now it's gone and the garment district is just a bit too out of the way and it gets complicated. I had some fabric posted from there yesterday cuz I need it and I don't have time to get there.

      I try not to be crazy with the patterns. I've given them away (discovering I don't love them, after the fact), and I feel like I don't buy them often. Bu, unlike fabric, they stick around :-)

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  3. Sounds very reasonable to me. I am on a stash diet for mostly budgetary reasons, and also because while I agree that having access to supplies fuels creativity, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by too many options. My stash is not huge (could probably make 10 garments from it), but I would like to cull it down a little and then work on thoughtful stashing. Especially of linings, because I frequently find myself without that.

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    1. Oh, budget is a great reason to diet, of course. And too many options can be so tricky. I agree. But do get yourself some lining honey :-)

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  4. Mmm, my stash is way more than being able to make 10 garments but in my defense, JoAnn's was having a moving sale a year ago. There were some unbelievable bargains in fabric that I know will get used. I have big plans for this year and intend to see a lot of it get sewn up and go into my closet.

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    1. OK, well, that's an extenuating circumstance, isn't it!?

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  5. your stash sounds pretty reasonable to me. it does make sense to keep those frequently needed fabrics on hand, and doing so can actually be a money saver. how many times do we head to the fabric store for lining and end up also picking up extra fabric (destined to become more stash...) on a whim? that said, i don't have much extra fabric on hand but i think one can stash within reason and without guilt.

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    1. You're so right. I go to the shops to get a zipper and I end up with 4 yards of fabric. That's why I really try not to go often. I try to keep the fabric buying times to a quarterly thing. Time enough to use that fabric before I buy more.

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    2. I think that it can be cured. The simple rule I was taught years ago when I was learning how to sew was "always buy everything for the garment in on shopping session" ). So if you are buying shirting than you should buy buttons and thread, if you don't have exactly the same number you need at home, and if you are going to make collar more stiff than stuff for that too (interlining? interfacing?), if it's a coating, than lining should be bought immediately, as well as all the buttons, thread, belt buckle etc.

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    3. I do aim to do that. Amazingly, I still manage to forget something half the time - and I write a list!

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  6. I like your theory! I have no desire to stashbust because I just don't have enough of what i use regularly! I like to have more than one option for each type of fabric I like - Stresses me out when I don't have at least enough for a practice run on a new pattern, and a good version once I know the pattern fits!

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    1. Thanks G! And you're so right about having enough fabric to make a practice garment. I learned that, mostly painlessly, with the Janet Jacket last week. Thank goodness I have enough yardage of the shell (all sold out) and the ability to get another yard of the lining (if expensive).

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  7. Okay I'm the elephant in the room...the person with the enormous fabric collection (not stash never stash!) an overwhelming notions collection and every tool that you need to sew with...but this makes me happy. When I walk into my sewing cave, I know that I can make anything I want. When my nieces or nephews or grandchildren need anything on the fly, we can usually find something in the collection to make up for them.

    I always compare sewing to painting. An artist needs canvases in an assortment of sizes, a multitude of colors of paints and an plethora of paintbrushes to create a masterpiece. I think we sewists sell our talent and creativity short when we box it in by setting limits on how much we own especially if it's not dictated by monetary concerns or storage needs.

    So I'm going to be the one with the amazing fabric collection that makes people think they walked into a fabric store so that when the sky falls I will be able to still sew and share with those around me who want to sew too!

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    1. I actually think your stash is totally inspirational. Like the Houses of the Rich and Famous version of mine :-) I completely agree that you've got the creative canvas covered. If I had more space to myself, and more time!, I might go your route. Who knows, it might be in my future, Carolyn :-)

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    2. You are too funny! Love the Houses of the Rich and Famous quote. I have to remember that!

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  8. This sounds like a very reasonable stash and this is what I maintained for quite awhile. Unfortunately my fabric shopping far outweighed my sewing in the least 9-10 months so it's time to cull it a little. I also have fabrics that I bought before I really figured out what I love so we'll see what I do with these! Maybe you and Andrea will have some suggestions or maybe I will add them to the swap.

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    1. Thanks S! And you're right about keeping things at the sweet spot. It's great if I can keep things at this level, from my perspective. Do I want much more, not really. I'll just struggle to find a place to store it. And with the time I've got, this is the most I can work with. I also hear you about the fabrics you bought before you understood your needs as you do now. I went through that about a year ago. I'm happy to say, I learned what I use and I haven't been tempted to buy any more plaid! Have you ever seen me use plaid??

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  9. I'm with you. I like to keep the stash manageable (it needs to fit in the two drawers allocated for it), but it's good to have it on hand. This is particularity true if you don't live right next to a fabric store.

    In London, I had to brave rush hour tube to get too fabric shops, which meant I only went rarely. In Zurich, it will be even more difficult since there are no fabric shops of the same caliber one can find in London.

    Some stash is good!

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    1. OK, can we talk about the fact that you're moving to Zurich?!?! Who cares about fabric.

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  10. I think we should probably all try and avoid deep stash. That is if you haven't used it in a year (so a full change of seasons). I tend to mainly buy with a pattern in mind. I don't have a huge stash (but as it's not all in one place it's probably more than I think). I have bought a few bargain knits recently for the same reason as you - I'll always use them as they are in colours i like and were too cheap to pass up. I think your plan sounds perfectly sensible. Although as Carolyn says above - if you aren't restricted by money or storage space and it makes you happy then stash away!

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    1. I agree about using the stuff within a year - as long as it's not a legacy piece that you're waiting to use when the perfect thing comes along. Mind you, that can be a slippery slope :-)

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  11. I love this approach.
    I've been struggling with the concept of stash recently :
    - I'm minimalist and hate having "stuff" around so try to minimize the stash
    but
    - in my neck of the wood, nice fabric is a rarity, and you can never be sure you'll find the fabric you need *when* you need it. So having no stash is "dangerous".

    Your solution totally makes sense : identify what I sew the most of, and then trimming the stash around that. It's more an issue of composition than of quantity.
    Thanks !

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    1. It is all about the composition. Well said. And I hear you about being a minimalist. Alas, I live with others and that really cuts into my minimalist lifestyle :-)

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  12. My Granma always had a stash of bits in her sewing room when we were growing up. Although, working out what we did need and getting ready to go "up the street" to Aunty Floss's haberdashery (not our Aunty, we just called all grown ups Aunty/Uncle) was an event. We would run around and hide amongst the rolls of fabric and play with the buttons and then wait while Granma completed the purchase of what would be ours when finished. And yes, going "up the street" always involved putting on lipstick. xx

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    1. I love this anecdote! I can completely imagine the scene. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Thanks for your post, it´s really good ! That saying, I think having a nicely controlled stash is fantastic for an organized person. I am not that person unfortunately and my stash when it was biggish, was all over the place (even on the kitchen counter !) , with a lot of started ideas and projects and UFO everywhere. The only system I found to not live in a permanent hoarder's mess was to have less stuff around. So 2014 like 2013 will be a stash busting year again. But, if I were a little bit more organized I would follow Carolyn 's route .

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    1. Eurielle: Good to know yourself. And I agree, once your kitchen gets involved, you've gotta pull it back from the edge :-)

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  14. Your stash is at a size I would like to wrangle mine into. I have to be honest, I've got A LOT of fabric. About 250 metres not counting linings. It makes me feel like a hoarder because I keep buying and not sewing, so that is my problem. I don't want to go stash-less, I just want to use some of my pretty fabrics before I buy more. Hopefully this is the year I do so!

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    1. I am SO excited to see this stash, I can't tell you. I want to look at the colour coding and the nice folding and the pretty way it's stored. You just need to find a bit of time for the sewing and you'll be very happy with the quantity you've got. Because, it's very well organized and knowable.

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  15. Do you think there are discussion going on over if there are too many screws and nails in a garage? Or if there are too many staples in the kitchen pantry? The way I look at it - if I can afford the fabric and I have a place to store it, then good enough. That way, I can explore not only what I want to create but shopping the sales to my heart's content. I can stash up and always have something at hand. I have no idea how much fabric I have. A lot - a walk-in closet's worth plus a basket of zippers plus a basket of elastic plus a shelf of thread, plus a filing cabinet of patterns, plus... plus... plus. It's a life time collection and I have what I need and what's comfortable for me. I don't think this is a level that someone else can set for you. I think it's a personal choice. My level is one that allows possibilities and variety and can amuse me for a good long time.

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    1. Ha! I have to say, I have way too many kitchen gadgets. But I know nothing of the nail situation. :-) And I agree with your philosophy - it's all about how it works for you. I think that you and Carolyn probably have a lot in common on the fabric collection front.

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  16. Very reasonable! Although, my philosophy for my own stash (which works for me) is totally different. Since I am lucky enough to have an office near the NY Garment District, I can always buy basics as needed. The only fabrics that I'll buy for stashing are ones that I think are special and totally me, and that I probably won't see again. So, my stash has really beautiful and fun fabrics that I can't wait to sew when the moment strikes, if I have an occasion or the right pattern suggests itself. I do, however, keep a stash of basic notions, interfacings, linings, etc.

    Honestly, I think the best stashing strategy is figuring out what you like to sew and where your inspiration comes from and then making sure you've got the fabrics you need for when the mojo strikes.

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    1. You do have the edge in this respect! I would probably do things exactly as you do, if I had the access you've got.

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  17. If my stash was like your stash than I would not feel the need for a stash diet, but I know my stash well over 400-500 yards and I probably made only 10 things last year….somethings got to give. I buy because it's pretty, but I would like to start thinking more project specific. I know we can all sound bandwagony sometimes, but I for one NEED to be on that wagon lol.

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    1. Wow, that is an impressive stash! I think you've got all the fabrics covered :-) I'm wishing you a year of much sewing and not much buying! One thing's for certain, you won't be at a loss.

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  18. I think the size of any stash is irrelevant. If its making the sewer/knitter/crafter feel overwhelmed/uninspired/restricted then it needs addressing accordingly. It's good that you've identified an ideal stash inventory based on what frequency you sew these things. Just like Andrea, I have a pretty good idea what my ideal stash size and content is... I've just got to get there!

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    1. Absolutely, it's not a one size fits all scenario. And, i guess I have gained an awareness of what works for me because I've been in a situation that doesn't work for me (not enough stash, stash that I'm never going to use etc.) And, btw, I'm sure you will get there since you know what you're aiming for!

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  19. I think you stash works because it is so beautifully curated. Mine is a mish mash of things and I'm planning to hit it soon and shift some of it. There are some pretty fabrics and they deserve to be clothes. That said, a friend of mine has gifted me a beautiful class fronted traditional shop unit for my new sewing room when it's done. It will be perfect for organising my fabrics. Now, just to do the reno!

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  20. Oooh, interesting post! I love the idea of being an organized stasher! My fabric collection is a bit chaotic-- my eyes are way bigger than my stomach! I've weeded it down so that I only have pieces that I really want to use, but it's still too much for my small apartment. The good thing is that I'm unemployed after today, so I won't be able to make any fabric purchases until I find another job, so at least I've got plenty of things to sew with in the meantime!

    I try to keep lots of zippers and thread in the colors that I use the most (navy, grey, chartreuse) as well as basics like interfacing so I can just go when I think of a project.

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  21. My fashion fabric "stash" is larger than yours but I've always thought it too puny to call a stash, interesting!

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  22. I definitely support this mindset! And for a long time I didn't feel guilty buying flexible, useful basic fabrics.

    But. Over the last few years, my rate of acquiring these fabrics (and the more whimsical, less practical ones), has outpaced my USE of the fabrics. I'm cool with a certain amount of stash---I definitely want to be able to sit down and knock out a pair of jeans on a whim---but I'm at the point where I have more potential pairs of jeans than I'm sure I'll ever manage to use. And some of the better pieces have sat untouched so long, I'm starting to feel like I'll never get to them.

    I don't think I'd really want to have zero stash, though. But I don't think there's any danger of that, either. >_<

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  23. I think it's really sensible to think it through this well. I have a lot of printed cottons stashed up but I don't often make anything other than dresses and I like to buy as and when I see things - in charity shops, fabric stores etc and then have enough there to choose from when I want to make something and actually have time to.

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