A few days after this last new year I came up with some goals with which I wanted to challenge myself. I am not a big proponent of inventing New Year’s Resolutions just for the hell of it, but after a busy holiday season spent creating elaborate homemade gifts for every single person on our Christmas list, I was left feeling overwhelmed and depleted when the new year rolled around. I had to ask myself why I had done so much. Why was I investing so much of my time and effort when no one expected that much of me? I had come up with a simple, manageable idea for homemade presents, but at some point I kept adding more, more, more to the packages til plastic tubs and tins and cardboard boxes covered the floor of our office and required an assembly line to get everything ready to mail out.
I recognized that this “more more more” mentality had seeped into my life in other ways, too, and I wasn’t proud of it, so I decided to challenge myself to stop spending money on what I referred to as “non-essential items” in an attempt to dissect this weird shopping habit I had acquired over the past several years. My wife joined me in the challenge, and for the month of January, we limited our spending only to necessary items like food, toiletries, bills and gas. I was interested to see how much I actually needed in my life, and interested to see when the urge would hit me to start my daily perusal of searching on amazon prime for…any and everything. I had a feeling that my spending, though unconscious, was probably an attempt to occupy my time and brain space; it was filler. It was buying into the notion that things could make me happy and satisfy me, even though that “satisfaction” was temporary and not very fulfilling. January’s goal was achieved successfully, so we set another, more long term goal: to give our personal spending a budget that would allow us the space to purchase the things we wanted, while also giving us the opportunity to be more mindful of how and why we spent.
And it was at this point that I realized how big a presence fabric was in my life.
It’s weird- in all my years of knitting, I have never been a yarn hoarder. I only go to yarn stores when I have a specific project in mind to make. I don’t fall in love with a skein of yarn and then buy it to keep in my stash just to have it, and I never buy several skeins of yarn in the hopes that it will be perfect for some future project I have yet to choose. If I don’t know exactly how many skeins I am gonna be needing for a project, then I wont spend my money on it. In fact, my yarn stash is only comprised of leftovers from projects I have already completed, or single skeins I have gotten as gifts (which I have never used because there aren’t any one-skein projects I am interested in knitting up). I would have expected this yarn-purchasing mentality to carry over into my sewing with fabric, but somehow it didn’t. And I blame it all on sewing blogs!
Okay, not really, but I think that in my excitement to become a part of the online sewing community, I started taking on some of the habits that everyone would write about in their blogs; visiting their favorite fabric stores a few times a month to see what new items had been stocked, falling in love with a beautiful fabric and buying a few yards of it just in case they found the perfect project for it later on, purchasing the last few yards of a textile that they new they would never come across again, even though they had no idea what they would use it for. There is something so romantic about this relationship between sewers and fabric, and reading about it in blogger’s posts, it seemed like a love affair. People would be drawn to a particular textile, and whether or not they knew if the fabric was going to work out, they would succumb to it anyways, in the hopes that love would prevail and they would create something beautiful. In all honesty I think the majority of these bloggers do find love with the fabric they store in their stash, keeping a mental count of all the fabric they have purchased and cross referencing it with every new (or old) pattern they come across. For many, this is a very efficient way to sew. But I don’t think it works for me. I followed the lead of all these amazing sewing bloggers and found myself waist-deep in so much fabric that I didn’t know which way was up. I would go to my favorite local fabric store frequently, sometimes twice in one week if they announced a last minute sale, and I would buy a couple of yards of everything that caught my eye, with only a hazy strategy of how I would use the fabric. Maybe this might make a cute blouse for that perfect pattern I have yet to find? Or, this would be great for that dream skirt I want to learn to drape! And my favorite, surely two yards of this will be enough for something beautiful, which it almost never is. My intentions are good, and occasionally I have created a successful garment with a fabric that I bought on a whim, but generally my sewing projects come out best when I know exactly what I am shopping for and I have a pattern in my hand of precisely the thing I want to make. I wish I was more flexible like the bloggers I admire so much who make gorgeous garments with fabric they bought five years ago and patterns they stumbled across at flea markets. But I can’t make myself into the kind of seamster I want to be, I can only embrace the kind of seamster I actually am, which is the kind who is tired of being wasteful on merchandise that meets only some of her criteria.
- JASIKA’S FABRIC CRITERIA:
- The fabric must be beautiful.
- The fabric must feel good/comfortable to the touch.
- I must know how to sew with the material.
- I must know what I am going to sew with the material.
- The material must be at a price point worthy of the finished garment.
Which brings me to my other goal for 2015: no purchasing of any fabric that doesn’t meet all 5 points of criteria! I have discarded too many beautiful yards of fabric by not adhering to these 5 rules, and although one can’t expand their knowledge in sewing without pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, I still think I can find a balance in the middle, somewhere between more, more, more fabric and the strict scrutinization of every last detail of my sewing process. And to get me prepped for this goal, my current challenge to myself is to not buy any more fabric until all the fabric I have purchased in the past several months is utilized, ensuring that I forge all the way through my sewing queue. When I pulled out all the yards of fabric I had accumulated over the past many months, I was surprisingly enthusiastic about the task. I hadn’t put all that fabric on the back burner because I wasn’t excited to make things with it- I had put it on the back burner because I kept buying new fabric that made me forget about the stuff I had already bought. And I am happy to report that in the short time I have dedicated myself to this challenge, I have gotten SO MUCH ACCOMPLISHED!
I fixed the too-tight sleeves and bottom hems on a Pin-up sweater that I also made her for Christmas, and I sewed two more knit Pin-up Sweaters that were in my queue, one for Claire and one for myself, although her wool sweater (the one in the middle in the right side picture, made of 100% New Zealand wool) accidentally got washed with the rest of the laundry over the weekend and has now morphed into a very wide and unwearable crop top 🙁
I transformed a problematic, frustrating dress I made that weirdly came out too short into a blouse that I will probably never wear…but at least I can make an attempt at it! I also let out the zipper in a pink wool crepe skirt I made that was a teensy bit too tight (not pictured).
I (correctly) made another pair of cigarette pants after I accidentally cut my Jaquard Print fabric on the wrong grain and couldn’t pull them up over my booty cause the stretch was length-wise instead of width-wise.
I sewed a snap into a long silk dress I made last year so that I could wear it for the first time to an art exhibit. It’s not really my normal style preference- I think it’s a little too full and overwhelming for my frame, which tends to get dwarfed by long dresses that aren’t fitted, but it’s nice to step outside your comfort zone sometimes and shake it up a bit. The fabric is breezy and lightweight, and kind of perfect for beach weather.
I fixed the elastic waist band in a pair of pajama pants I made for Claire.
And I made a successful pattern hack of Gertie’s (flared skirt + fitted bodice) out of a gorgeous wax-print-inspired cotton I found at The Fabric Store (one of my only successful impulsive fabric purchases in recent memory). And I have completed these projects all in the last two weeks! And I guess this is the real goal of my attempt to buy less fabric and add less stuff to my queue; without so much piled up fabric to work with, I am forced to deal with the stuff I already have- the piles of projects that were mostly complete but still needed a little altering. The fabric that I loved but hadn’t taken the time to work out what I could actually make with it. The pieces that needed re-working to be wearable. The garments that sat on hangers in my craft room feeling unloved and uncared for til I spent the 30 minutes necessary to bring them to life again. Without taking time out from buying more stuff, who knows when I would have sat down to tie up all these loose ends. And that’s the crux of it, I guess- by buying less, I bought myself time to add more to my wardrobe (and Claire’s, too).
And with the remainder of my pile of unused fabric, I have selected patterns/plans for everything else in my project queue, as seen above. Not pictured is the stretch denim I have on deck to make another pair of Ginger Jeans, but I can’t make those til I replace my broken heavy-duty sewing machine, and in the spirit of no more more more, more, I am making myself wait til my birthday in April for that purchase.
The only fault I have in my stash is a pile of fabrics I bought online that I intended to make yoga pants out of, but the material ended up being more suitable for swimsuits.
I have a swimsuit pattern to use for this fabric, but making swimwear is not really a priority right now since it’s February. Once I get through the pile above, I might consider that to be the end of my queue and will be able to start buying more, more, more fabric again. As thrilled as I am to be whittling away at my current line-up of projects, I have to admit that I cannot WAIT to start planning for new stuff with new fabric again…adhering to my budget and criteria of course 😉