#bpsewvember has a “Stash Pride” prompt so I thought I would think about fabric shopping and ask – how much fabric is in your stash? When I really got into sewing, I stopped buying clothes and bought fabric instead.
For the past year I have averaged 3 full giant storage boxes (and the wardrobe only gets bigger). They are all nice things and I always have plans, but I massively overestimate my abilities to sew through it. By the time I work through the list, I have often moved on from what I wanted to make previously, and the fabric sits there, unloved, unused, sometimes for years. Does this sound familiar? Am I alone or is my stash unreasonably big?
How different is a big fabric stash to having a big clothing stash?
How different is fabric shopping to RTW clothing shopping?
Besides obviously being more fun, I don’t think fabric shopping is really that different. I have a sneaking suspicion that my environmental footprint is not really better from having made my own clothes. Instead I have probably done fast sewing – all that has happened is that the garment worker is out of the equation (but someone still had to make the fabric). Here’s my little analysis and why I have hit the slow button for now.
2016: I really believed I was running out of sewing time. Baby TimetoSew was being born late summer, so I went mad and made 4 winter coats, 1 bomber jacket, 1 fully tailored men’s jacket and some maternity / baby stuff. Because, you know, I had this fear that I would never have time to touch my sewing machine again.
Spring / summer 2017: The stocktake for the 5 months to this September is even more of a shocker – I made 12 dresses, 3 skirts, 10 tops, 1 jacket and some men’s and baby stuff. In around 152 days I have made more than 27 garments.
That is1 garment every 6 days on average.
Here’s the list:
- Dresses: Grainline Willow; SOI Alex Shirtdress; Stylish party dress book (x2 linen dresses); Named Kielo dress; Named Helmi Tunic; SOI Zoe dress x2; SOI Penny dress; Seamwork Mesa; Inari tee dress x2 (one for a friend)
- Skirts: SOI Ultimate skirt; Liesl and Co everyday skirt; Valentine & Stitch Margarita skirt
- Tops: SOI Susie blouse; SOI Ella blouse; SOI Kimono jacket x2 (one for a friend); Named Inari Tee; SOI Molly Top; Louis Antoinette Garance top x2; Louis Antoinette La Parisienne top; Tilly Buttons Agnes Top; Marilla Walker Maya Top (still never worn)
- Other stuff: Named Lourdes jacket; Liesl & Co Mens Metro Tee with matching baby tee; La Maison Victor Mens Swim Shorts with matching baby shorts; and too many baby clothes to mention for Mr Baby and gifts for other friends.
So why did I do this?
Because I had to sew through the stash, so I could justify buying more fabric and make more stuff.
Because sewing is my hobby and it made me happy to plan and make things.
… and the one thing I hate to admit, self imposed social media pressure. As well as feeling inspired by all Instagram makes, my 30 year old silly self felt like I couldn’t post old things or in progress things or it would be boring. I didn’t feel confident enough to be a part of the sewing community without working hard to make the latest indie patterns to keep up with everyone else.
Have you ever done a stocktake or think you shop too much? Has sewing ever had a negative effect on your mental health as well as being the positive creative outlet? Do you ever feel any self imposed pressure or am I just a teenage stresshead?
For those who are interested in the fabrics in the image by the way, here are the details from top to bottom
- Poly crepe from Paris – gifted. Possibly a SOI shift dress
- Viscose crepe – the endlessly popular dragonflies one that used to be stocked at Cotton Reel Studio. Possibly SOI Susie Blouse
- Art Gallery cotton from the Lagom collection. Orsola skirt
- Liberty silk – used for lining in a coat but too much left.
- Unknown polyester watercolour type – gifted. No idea yet on what to make, 2 years later
- Stretch cotton available from Fabric Godmother and Sew Over it. Camber dress? I made an SOI Ultimate Pencil Skirt already.
- Watermelons jersey by W Collection from Jersey Jollies. No idea, I only bought 1m because it was so expensive but I LOVED the print.
- Broderie Anglaise from a shop I can’t remember – possibly an A line raglan dress from a Japanese pattern book
- Grey wool from Crescent Trading in Shoreditch, London – a thick winter coat, probably SOI 1960’s one.
I hear you on this one! I have definitely had many a mental crisis relating to my sewing!
Great post. I completely hear you on the sewing to post on social media thing. It is a reason I haven’t touched my blog for ages and since then I have actually slowed down and been much more contemplative of my sewing and am making more me appropriate things. I do still feel the pressure on Instagram but it isn’t as bad as blogging to keep up with posts. I basically do it when I feel like it. I have one day a week to sew so I generally make two to three items a month and that for now sits well with me but I still find myself occasionally getting caught up by the amazing inspiration on other peoples posts, new patterns or offers on fabrics etc… and go crazy fabric or pattern buying. Stash wise it’s what makes you happy and you can always sell on, thrift or gift items you don’t want to someone who will love the again. Sorry long reply there!
Hello Sarah, thanks for your comment. I hear you on the challenge with keeping up, this is one reason why I wanted to blog about sewing related issues rather than the actual making. It would stress me out too much to have to get photos etc. (much easier for me to write than photograph!). Often I have Instagram-off days else I spend ages scrolling and dreaming and feeling regretful that I don’t have the time to make everything that I see on my feed that looks great. Happy to hear that you have found a balance that you are happy with 🙂
Hi Kate, what a great post. I used to feel exactly this way about my stash – in fact I had a very similar pregnancy-related experience of “I need to buy all the fabric now because I won’t be earning much during maternity leave” and then that pile of fabric sat there while my baby was little, making me feel guilty for all the money I’d spent on it when I didn’t have the time to sew through it! Like you, I think about where the fabric comes from and try to avoid very cheap fabric as there must have been a cost to someone somewhere along the line. And I am sorry (but understand your feelings) to hear about the social media anxiety. I am quite new to social media and like you I think carefully about what I post, but have completely shifted the way I do it: I no longer log on at weekends, and only post when I have something interesting (or what I hope is interesting!) to say. Otherwise I feel I’m missing out on my “real life”. I have noticed that my following has stopped growing at the same time as this shift, so there must be a link, but I’m OK with that. I’d say never feel bad because of what you see on IG – it’s only a curated part of each person’s life. I never show the days when I want to throw my project out of the window or the fatigue that comes from working on something when I should be sleeping, so just remember that behind every feed are those moments and you’re not alone!!
Hi Helen, thanks for reading! So nice to know I’m not the only one out there who worries about these things. I read somewhere that after Facebook, Instagram is the leading social media related cause of teenage depression. I do feel so silly worrying about it. Have decided I won’t commit to any sewing challenges unless they are short (or I can dip in and out) else I’ll get too stressed. Like your way of doing it too 🙂 On the fabric, I am currently writing a series on fabric and clothing waste, but I will get to the fibres and fabric production series next! Love seeing your makes and patterns. Take care and speak soon x
I totally understand what you are writing about as Instagram and the sewing community has really changed the way I feel about sewing and made it such great fun but it is also a pressure. I have also bought far too much fabric and keep seeing new fabrics to buy. Years ago I just bought fabric for each project and didn’t have a stash. It was much better. I’m glad you wrote this as had really made me think about getting carried away with all the ideas I see and fabric sites.
Hi Ruth, thanks for reading and the nice comment, its great to hear I am not alone. I find Instagram quite intense and tend to dip in and out of it, and yes there is always something to buy. Especially when online is so easy! Perhaps we should have minions to help turn our sewing ideas into reality? I also find challenges that sound like fun but then end up panic sewing. Maybe we should have a sewing challenge on sewing from our stash? Let me think about it!
Hi Kate, I’ve just discovered you’re blog and I’m finding it really interesting! I’ve only recently started sewing. I’ve basically started because I wanted to alter clothes I bought second hand. I’ve been concious about the social and evironmental impact of clothes shopping since about 10 years and have had periods of more or less strict following my principles (the most difficult aspect being my mother who loves to take me out shopping). Now I’ve started sewing I notice I have to find this balance all over again. I have a pile of second hand fabric/clothes to work with, but at the same time there’s the draw of big cheap fabric events (again, shopping with my mom!). I also feel this mental pressure to HAVE TO make stuff, to have to be productive and to have to use fabric I bought, which takes away some of the pleasure I had in sewing. And I’m not even that much on social media! I feel like I’m replacing the desire to buy clothes by sewing them, or at least putting them on my to sew list, which is long from my initial reason to start sewing (making second hand shopping easier). The fact that sewing more often leads to “bad buys” (things I won’t wear after all, because the pattern or fabric choice was not ideal) makes it in a way even worse then readymade clothes I would buy, where I choose much more carefully and obviously can immediately see the finished product. On the other hand I tell myself I have to practice to learn and will thus also make “mistakes” I won’t wear, and that the pleasure I have in sewing counts aswell. Complicated 🙂
Hi Evelien, thank you for your comment and happy you found my blog! Even better that you found sewing, but I completely understand the complicated relationship, especially if you have been conscious about shopping etc. for so long. And the self-imposed pressure to HAVE TO make stuff, I felt like if I could make it then I should make it, and keep the stash down. Yes it is all very familiar. Sometimes I find that if I think long and hard about something it was like I already made it in my mind … then after a while I could move on. Maybe that will happen to you too 🙂 Finally, I think everyone has their share of less than perfect makes especially in the early days. My closet still has a few things that I made but don’t wear much but I cannot bring myself to part with them just yet. Now I try and be patient, make toiles and ensure the fit is correct before making something for real. Sometimes that is enough for me to decide NOT to make a project for real. Happy sewing!