Let’s talk about the size of our fabric stash today! I know – being honest about the amount of fabric and patterns you have might induce a certain amount of embarrassment and guilt. I for one seem to have an alter ego that takes over when looking at fabric. This other version of me has all the time in the world, the wildest ideas and never loses her mojo. Unfortunately this alter ego is not much connected with reality. I buy that fabric or pattern and then find I have no time at all. Thus my stash accumulates and with it my guilt about purchases.
Besides feeling guilty and inadequate, I also found my stash didn’t help my creativity. I knew I had good pieces of fabric but too many to keep all in my head when trying to think of what to sew next. And the same goes for patterns, I had forgotten about most of them. When I was thinking about making something the other day, I wasn’t sure what I had and how much of it. I found this made me uncertain and indecisive. My large stash was inhibiting my creativity, not fueling it.
I think facing your stash will not only empower you to do something about feelings of guilt, it will also fuel your creativity. You need a system to help you be less wasteful. You need to stop buying fabric and patterns, and make an inventory of what you already have. Chances are there are fabrics and patterns just waiting to be paired up without you even knowing about it. In this post and the next I’ll show you how make this happen.
Step 1: Eliminate temptation
To call a halt to spending more, you need to take away the temptation. Try to find all the ways you are exposed to shiny new things, and cut yourself off from them. That means:
- No visits to the fabric shop
- Don’t follow fabric shops on social media
- Unsubscribe from shops’ newsletters
- Unsubscribe from pattern companies newsletters
This is just temporary. Once you’ve reached the goals you’ll set for yourself you can resubscribe if you want. You can’t completely shut out any new stuff that comes by, but this will make it easier.
Step 2: Catalogue your fabric
To be able to work through your stash, you need to be able to pair fabrics with patterns in an easy manner. Start with your fabric. It might be a daunting task, but just take it one box or shelf at a time. You don’t need to complete it all at once. The easiest way is to use swatch cards. There are free templates available like this one at Colette Patterns. The most important three things to note down are a description, the size, and the swatch itself. You can add other info, like where you got it, what it cost and if it’s pre-washed. Take out a piece of fabric, measure the length and width and note the type. Cut off a small square and tape or staple it to the swatch card. Sort the cards per type or per fabric location.
It took me almost a day to catalogue 80 pieces of fabric. I admit, I didn’t know I had that much. At first, it made me feel wasteful – I had spent money on all of these and now it was just sitting there. I also felt a bit stressed – all these pieces had an idea attached to them and I had failed to execute those ideas. But it also made me feel relieved – I was doing something about it, and thinking of my stash no longer made me indecisive.
Step 3: Catalogue your patterns
To catalogue my patterns, I made an .excel sheet where I listed the following:
- Pattern name
- Type (top, skirt, etc)
- Type of fabric needed
- Amount of fabric needed
I listed both my PDF and paper patterns. You can add other information like notions, and what state the pattern is in: whether you have you already traced or cut it. Save the .excel to your desktop for easy acces.
If you have a large amount of paper patterns, find a way to store them in a way so you can easily reference them from your list. Sarai shows how she did that here. I have mostly PDF patterns, my paper ones fit into one box.
If you have magazines like Burda, you can copy the overview page and bundle them. This way you can get an easy overview of all the styles. I always forget about the patterns in magazines.
Doesn’t that feel better already? All this organising may be a bit of a hurdle, but it will really be worth it in the end. Read part 2 on how to go about choosing your projects for your new to-sew list, and part 3 to read how this system has worked for me a few months in.