Monday, December 28, 2009

When Does Fabric Acquisition Become Outta Control?

I've been thinking a lot about the good and bad of stashing over the past week.
-- When do you cross the line?
-- Do you  recognize when you've crossed the line?
-- Is it when you must start making jokes about your stash to deal with it?
-- Defend your stash against comments from other people?
-- Don't even want other people to see it?
I don't know the answers, other than causing financial hardship is clearly indication of a problem. No fabric is important enough to sacrifice financial health. Maybe we need a diagnosis quiz.

My fabric stash as of summer '08 fit in 24 bankers boxes. Here you see some of the boxes above a layout of coordinating fabrics. The boxes are all lined up on shelves and colors are identified with scrapbook papers. It makes a nice neat appearance. You can see in upper left corner that I started spray-painting the boxes beige for uniform look. But it's a pain in the butt so I gave up. Since this photo was taken, all scrapbook papers have been cut to fit the boxes and taped down properly.

The hairy-scary of stashing
Since summer '08, the stash has grown even more. Fabric has now overtaken the cutting table, the ironing board, a big recliner chair. I tried to keep the floor space clear but you know how stashes can grow:

So I now sew on an itsy-bitsy corner of the cutting table, and cut on the floor. I run up two flights of stairs to iron instead of using the ironing board conveniently located two steps from the sewing machine. Why? Because fabric is piled and balanced on the ironing board in Dr. Seuss-like towering stacks. If you touch them, they will fall over.

Image from Dr Seuss Art.

And no, I am not a hoarder, the rest of my house is not like this. Plus I have stopped at two cats despite a yearning for three, or three dozen if it means saving lives (I write donation checks to help with that). It's fabric that I love the most.

For the good of stashing
The stash saved me numerous times last week while sewing Christmas gifts:

1. I pulled nearly all fabrics for gifts from the stash. Each was chosen with the recipient specifically in mind, because the fabric just "looked" like them.
2. Including for one reversible vest gift, three perfectly coordinating fabrics! Bonanza!
3. Silk thread was on hand when Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy book recommended using it to avoid puckers in silk chiffon seams. This was appreciated, as there is no silk thread available within driving distance of my home.
4. Rattail was available to make skinny piping.
5. And so was a lightweight black lycra knit to make the piping.
6. Numerous choices of twin needles were available to make ribbing. That helped me avoid driving in a snowstorm and visiting stores among holiday crowds. Stashing habit MUCH appreciated.

Six "saves" in one week!! That's the value of a stash. But dangerously, these saves can perpetuate stashing by delivering convenient "see, I told you so's."

Nevertheless, I suspect I'm toeing "the line." The line is in different places for each of us, although there may be common criteria to help us figure when it's time to be more disciplined about purchases.

I admit I despise discipline
But I had to self-impose discipline this weekend. Every Christmas when I visit family in Detroit, my mom, sister and I go to Haberman's in Royal Oak and have great fun fondling fabric and imagining the possibilities. We always buy. Sometimes, lots. Well, at least I do.

This year, no. I have enough. I gave all credit and debit cards to my husband and left for Haberman's with $96 cash. Believe me, it was counted. Thrice. Oh, and a substantial number of quarters in my purse in case they were needed. They add up to dollars pretty fast, you know.

It hurt. HURT!!! Physically, ow, mild headache bothering me HURT. Oh the tension.

I have crossed the line.

Think purchases through
Due to the cash limit, I walked out of Haberman's with one careful fabic choice. Despite the enticing 20-40% sales on silk jerseys, wool doubleknits, camelhair and cashmere coatings. YES! OH YES!

But no. Instead I acquired 3 yards of a green fabric -- Pantone 5615 -- quilted in small 1/2" squares. This fabric acquisition was well thought-out before the purchase and chosen because:
-- It's lightweight and drapey, and would fashion well into an "indoor anorak." Like a jacket to wear at the office with anorak detailing like drawstring waist and snaps.
-- I have stashed antique gold drawstring stoppers that I'd be proud to see swinging visibly at the end of drawstrings.
-- I already have matching antique gold snaps.
-- Green is variety for my closet.
-- I'll build skill matching the squares at seams.
-- And build skill sewing the detail of an anorak jacket.

I also stash buttons. So I got a buttonhole cutter. Because my fifth grade teacher told me that I needed to be more careful when cutting, so that the cuts are nice and straight. That memory came back while cutting silk chiffon last week. Over 30 years later, I am still too impatient to cut perfectly. Not just silk chiffon, which you'd expect, but any fabric. Funny for a seamstress, huh? But when is preciseness in cutting needed more, than when cutting buttonholes? So this notion is useful, another well-considered purchase. Even my fifth grade teacher would approve. What other justification needed?

I will survive
So what do you think? When is it enough? When do you cross the line? When you think you have crossed it, how do you stop?

By the way, the tension headache at Haberman DID evaporate as we had fun there, and I WILL survive. No matter how much I still think about all the fabric passed over, I WILL survive, I WILL survive, I WILL survive ...

I leave you with this because I remember years ago hearing the LOL'ing cascading down the office hallway as female after female opened their email and saw this:

Now I feel bad about using these words to complain about fabric buying. Geez. There are much bigger problems people face in the world, I do know. And I have faced much bigger problems in life previously. And surely will again. But in between the big problems, we must keep a sense of humor about the small stuff. Few things make me laugh like funny replays of songs. And, song lyrics gone wrong, hilariously wrong until you cry and your stomache hurts from laughing so hard ...


Mary said...

Actually, I'd say if you can sew presents from your stash, it's a sign that it's totally out of control. Since when you should have fabrics that are perfect for other people on hand?
I understand stashing basic notions and stuff like thin black lycra if you live far from good stores. But stashing fabric just takes all the fun and spontaneity out of sewing.

pammalamma said...

Oh, I've crossed the line, alright! My stepmom was talking about how she needed to get sewing, because she has a trunk full of fabric, so I bragged that I have TWO trunks of fabric! However, after sewing all the costumes for the Christmas pageant from my stash, (about 150 yards, according to my calculations) I was feeling sort of low on fabric (had only ONE trunk of fabric :o( ), so I waaaaaaay overdid the re-stocking. I like to sew decor, mostly, so that's what I have: so much it fills up two large garment racks filled with yardage on hangers, and the entire back of my closet is filled with rolls of fabric. That does not include the garment fabric, which takes up about 4 large trash bags' worth of space on some shelves in the garage, not to mention all the trims in boxes, and the muslin quilt backs, small samples in boxes, and so on. [Sigh.] So, anyway, if you ever feel like you have "too much" fabric, just think of me!! :oD

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