As you may have guessed, I am not usually one to hold back when something lovely catches my eye, and of late, what with the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally, a near religious first experience at London’s Goldhawk Road and a few choice selections from the t’internet … well, let’s just say that if there’s a war you are all welcome round at my house – I can pretty much clothe you all!
Anyhow, a couple of weekends ago I decided it was time to have a Big Organise of the fabric stash. At the time, all this delicious yardage was languishing in drawers, so I couldn’t actually see what I already had, something that was proving problemmatic on a couple of different levels. First up, I would constantly think I had nothing I needed to make any of the patterns that took my fancy, then, I would go and buy some more fabric that was pretty much identical to some I already owned! I decided to take affirmative action … and although it took me a whole day, I managed to sort and fold all of my fabric.
It was only then I realised there might be a little problem. There was a helluva lot of fabric … and I mean acres of the stuff. So much, that it wouldn’t fit into the eight hole Ikea unit I got for the express purposes of housing said fabric stash. Ooops. After a cup of tea and some furrowed brow time I decided I really needed to weed out any fabric I wasn’t totally in love with, along with stuff I knew I would just never make up (yes, glittery black knit from the market, I am talking about you). Eventually, I filled a big blue Ikea bag full of all the rejected stuff and loaded it into the car to donate to our local craft resource centre.
It was all immensely therapeutic and I loved that I could now see all the fabric in my stash. Of course, being the control freak that I am, I then reorganised the remainder into colour sets and fabric types. All in all it was a great job. Although I wondered how it was that I had manage to amass so much extra fabric in such a relatively short space of time. Surely there had been warning signs that things were getting out of hand? It was then I came up with the idea of this list. A list to help you recognise the signs I had missed, that maybe would have clued me up to the fact that my stash may be a little on the large size. So, here it is …
5 surefire signs your stash is getting out of control
1 – Your non fabric obsessed friends make a shock and awe face when they come face to face with your stash
All my friends know that I sew, and at work various parcels turn up and we ooohh and ahhh over their lovely contents (I know they are humouring me but that’s fine). I often wear my handmade stuff to the office and we’ll chat about the fabric or pattern and other dressmaking shenanigans. They are very good at feigning interest! 🙂 They also know I am prone to buying fabric to add to my stash, especially in the sales. Anyway, after my massive fabric clear out I invited my business partner back to look at my newly organised stash. “Sure” she said, so we headed out for lunch and swung by my house on the way back to the office. I should point out that I have know Vonny for nearly twenty years. She is a feiry irish redhead, extremely chatty, practical and totally unflappable. Yet, put her in front of my fabric stash as she was strangely … well, quiet. In fact, she didn’t utter a single word, she just made a slightly shocked noise and then stared. Seriously, my fabric stash is so awesome in capacity that it moves an Irish woman to silence. (For those of you who haven’t realised, this is a SIGN).
2 – You develop obvious fabric ‘themes’ in your collection
Before I organised my stash into sections I had no idea that this was one of my issues. Now? Now I think I need to become a fully paid up member of polka dots anonymous. I have polka dot fabric in pretty much every colour of the rainbow, from tiny pinpoint random dots to full on penny sized polka dot goodness. Wowsers. Now I know I have always had a thing for Minnie mouse’s dresses and I drooled over the brown and white polka dot dress Julie Roberts sported in Pretty Woman for many years, but I think my 80s penchant for the dotty stuff hasn’t got any better. In fact, I think it is now a border line print addiction. I am really going to try not to buy any more. (I should probably point out that a week after sorting out my stash I spied some gorgous steel grey polka dot knit in A1 fabrics and somehow it made it home into the polka dot section. Personally, I think it was a stowaway). Apparently, polka dots are my biggest issue (there is also a penguin one brewing, but I’m going to start being strict with the bird prints).
3 – You start to find random pieces of fabric in every room of your house
When I was doing my clear up I realised the only room in the house without its own minature fabric collection was the bathroom. I had wool felt and matching ribbon in a basket in the main bedroom, shelves with patchwork fabric in the spare bedroom, unpacked sale fabric on the bottom shelf of my wardrobe, toiles and WIPs on the side table in the living room and a stack of shirting fabric on the stool in the kitchen. What’s funnier still is that my official sewing space is down at the bottom of the garden. Looks like I have a slight case of overspill! I collected up every piece of cloth from all over the house and added it to my neat stash pile and ongoing project drawers in the sewing room. Feeling mightily pleased with my efforts I headed out to buy some groceries. Loading them into the back of the car on my return I noticed a large carrier bag in the foot well behind the driver’s seat. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be more fabric! (I’ve come to the conclusion that once you reach a certain accumulation of woven fibre, it starts to breed.)
4 – Small children who visit ask if they can go play in your ‘shop’
With grandchildren, godchildren, cousins and other small waifs and strays regularly descending on the cottage we are always pleased to provide crafting fun for the wee ones. But I was somewhat bemused recently when our young visitors asked if they could go and play in “Aunty Ts shop” … it slowly dawned on me what they were talking about. It seems I have such an accumulation of crafty goodness that the younger members of the family really do believe they are stepping into a fabric and crafting emporium once they enter the hallowed space of the sewing room. “Really?,” I thought, casting my eye over the mounds of fabric, drawers full of patterns, haberdashery, button jars, embroidery silks and shelves laden with dressmaking books, fastenings and tissues paper. Then I looked at it again. They are of course, right. All I need is a cash register and I’m set for business!
5 – You are close to reaching S.A.B.L.E.
S.A.B.L.E. is a word I first heard in the world of knitting. It’s an acronym … Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. Basically, it defines that wondrous state you reach when you have such a large stash that even if you were to sew all day and all night for the rest of your life you still wouldn’t be able to use up your stash. No way … was my first thought. But the more I thought about it the more I wondered if it could be true? Realistically, I normally make maybe one to two items a month. This allows for making toiles, fiddling with fit and all the bits I put off for a few days at the end of the process, like handstitching hems and making buttonholes. So, one to two garments every month gives you an average of eighteen items a year … and let’s say I sew til I’m eighty. That’s another 36 and a half years of garments. That’s approximately 657 more items to sew. Phew, even with my dodgy maths I can see that I am a long way off S.A.B.L.E. status, and for that I am very relieved!
What have I learnt from this whole process? A lot. That no one really needs 19 lots of polka dot cotton, that penguins are the next big thing and that sewing is a much safer and only slightly cheaper vice than Class A drugs. Oh, and that I love my stash.