Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Talk to a sewist, and you will talk about THE STASH. It is a strange topic really, as it is both an emblem of pride, of identity, of potential, but also of failure, guilt and waste. On one hand, we collect fabric to give ourselves options, to express ourselves. We see endless options and dreams and we get all excited. On the other hand however, we often collect more fabric than we use, so it sits there, reminding us of all the dreams we had, all the plans we made. Now don't get me wrong, not all sewists build up stashes at all (you efficient people slightly terrify me!) and many others love their stashes, viewing them as a fabric shop in their own home. I don't though, and based on my wanderings on the interwebs, a lot of other sewists don't either.
If I see some fabric I love, I want to own it. It eats at me, "BUY ME , BUY ME! I would be so perfect for a .....". Sometimes I buy it, sometimes I don't. But the stash grows. I don't sew nearly as much as I think I do, and so the stash keeps creeping up, overflowing another box in my spare wardrobe, another bag on the floor of my sewing room. Drip, by drip, by drip. Even when I have used a piece, there's some left, a bit too big to throw away,; so into another bag it goes.. I might need to repair it, I might want to contrast line a pocket, or make a cushion cover...
I love the pieces of fabric in my stash, I have a plan for each, touching them thrills my fingers and looking at the colours and patterns makes my eyes happy. I love the potential of it all, that I could whip up anything I wanted in a weekend - screw shopping! I feel like a sewist in my room, looking at it all, it is evidence of this aspect of my identity, of the community I belong to.
It troubles me though. It sits there, taking up space, requiring organisation, gathering dust. And I can see the money invested in it. The ideas I had that I haven't put into practice. As you go further back, the identities I had that no longer really apply, but which I am still attached to. It is full of memories, and not necessarily pleasant ones, memories of enthusiasm for things that never ended up happening.
The trouble is that I approach buying fabric the way I buy clothes - I see that, I want it, I possibly buy it. And clothes also costs money, and take up space, and you get weirdly nostalgic about them. But the key difference is that you can at least wear the clothes. I actually have to use the fabric for it to help me. It is like I am thirsty, so I keep buying drinks, but instead of drinking them and feeling relieved, I just put them in a cupboard, and keep being thirsty.
I had a moment of realisation earlier (and hence this post). I was looking at my fabric options form the stash on Trello (this has been a very useful app for me btw), thinking of some things I could make over Christmas. And I realised that the idea of making things with my stash bothered me. I was worried about using the fabric. Worried that I would waste it, that I wouldn't have it later in case I needed it then. Which is utterly ludicrous. What is the point of having it if I don't use it? That's what it is for! What weird fabric emergency am I an anticipating that I need to keep half a fabric shop in reserve?!
So I am going to use it. Make things with it as quickly as I can, experiment, give bits away, sell some. Make it an active thing again, not just a museum.
How though? so I have some plans:
1) Make some stuff. Motivation is a muscle they say, the more you sew, the more you want to. I am going to make some stuff over Christmas, some new stuff that is making me excited now, and some old stuff that got me excited before.
2) Tear up old plans. This is a big one for me. When I look at pieces of fabric I have had for YEARS, I still see the original plan for it. That might be a great plan, but frankly often it isn't. Who I am, what I wear, has moved on, and my understanding of what fabric would be good for (based on quality, fabric type etc) has drastically changed. So I look at some soft cotton and think: "I should make this into a lovely pencil skirt -why have I not done this yet. I am a failure, I should place it here in this pile where I will see it and make the skirt soon." But I don't make it, because I know really that it wont make a good pencil skirt, it will be see-through, and crease, and annoy me. So I don't make it. But I still remember the plan, the dream, so it stays in the stash. It is time to stop this. I am going to look at every piece I have, and really think about that dream plan. If it is rubbish, I abandon it. I shall abandon it by either making a new plan that might actually work, or getting rid of it. I need to write over all my old plans. It is bad enough having good ideas you haven't yet got round to, it's ridiculous to beat myself up over stupid plans!
3) Get rid of fear. Probably easier said than done this one! When I started sewing I sewed more. I had no idea what was hard, or shouldn't be attempted. I consequently sewed all kinds of stuff, with mixed results. Now I am scared, I know slippery fabrics are hard to work with, I know wool is expensive and can shrink weird. About a quarter of my stash is fabrics I am too scared to use - put away for "when I am a better sewist". I am probably never going to be much better. And when I am I will just know more things I can be scared of - that is the nature of knowledge. The only thing that makes you braver is trying. So I am going to try. I am going to commit to ruining fabric and making wonky things again. Because I probably wont. And if I do, it is no more a waste than them waiting forever.