The problem as it presents itself
I knew this was going to be difficult. I have lots of patterns – over 100, and then maybe 40 self drafted ones too. Some are old and “valuable”, some are new and never used. Many I got for £1 or so on eBay. However my patterns, just like my fabrics, are pretty important to me. Maybe they even get into the “sentimental” category. They represent quite alot of thought. They bring me joy. Some are rather beautiful. Many are nearly as old as I am, and some are older than me. They smell a bit funny; they have a history; they tell a story. Therefore I have been avoiding this job for weeks.
Here they all are, pulled down and placed on the floor.
What does Kondo tell us about sentimental items?
She says they are the most difficult, so leave them until the end. I guess I am getting to the end of sorting out my home (and office), so I have finally to face this.
I have some genuinely sentimental items. A card my mother sent me when I got my job saying some lovely things. The funeral Order of Service from when my brother died. Photos from weddings and christenings of family members, and lots from when the children were babies. A letter to my father about some boots from the war. A couple of very genuine Mothers’ day, or birthday cards, mainly from my children (when they say thank you, it means so much). I will hang on to these consciously and store them in a special place. Vintage patterns and books are not in the same category. But….
Kondo also has a strong view on “storage solutions”. I agree with her that these items (think Ikea, Lakeland, Muji – boxes, cartons, things that live under the bed) are such an attractive notion, but are actually excuse for hoarding! You put your items n the storage solution and feel in control. But it is not true! I have nearly all my patterns in storage solutions, designed or purchased by my husband (who is a little bit of a hoarder himself, if I tell the truth). I guess he was feeling overwhelmed by the patterns and wanted them to look tidy.
So here Nick’s storage solution. He ordered matching wooden “magazine boxes” on-line and assembled them. They normally live on the top of the cupboard, where they are slightly out of sight. I have to use a step ladder to reach them. I can often, but not always, find what I want because I have labelled them fairly well eg 1950s coats, Menswear, Lingerie, DVF, etc. In fact I always slightly surprise myself when I retrieve exactly what I want. But I managed to misplace the pattern for Gus’s jacket for about a year, meaning I couldn’t line and complete it.
I decided to stick with this method of storage because I just don’t have another one available.
I found one box labelled “won’t fit back in the packet”. This is one of my bugbears. If I make alterations, introducing strips of paper to lengthen or enlarge a pattern, it is often impossible to get the pattern back into the packet. These, after all, are my TNT patterns that I have altered to fit, generally rely on and will go back to. What do you do about this problem? I have been known to remove all the alterations and stick the pattern back together, but that seems stupid. Generally I shove what I can into the envelope, making it look like an ice-cream cornet, plus any overspill, into a large white envelope on to which I write a brief description (“1950s SWAP coat”, in this case). Not very pretty and not that good for immediate identification. Also in time the original pattern envelope splits. A better solution (for my more valuable patterns) is to put the pattern envelope, and the pieces separately into a clear plastic envelope with a press stud or zip (another “storage solution”).
Discarding is the key part of the Kondo process and I am pleased I made progress. All those Sew Today magazines (I took out a subscription to buy modern patterns more cheaply, thought some of the articles looked interesting, but I can get similar stuff on the internet if I want to produce an embellished Peter Pan collar, for example.) I also discarded a few patterns I will never use – 1960s pinafore for a 12-year-old girl (I have one female grandchild, but she is two. What is the chance of Maia wanting such an item in 10 years, and what is the chance that I will actually feel motivated to make it? This maybe a more difficult calculation than the recent GCSE puzzle of Hannah and the orange M&Ms). I chucked out the messy, self drafted patterns that didn’t work. I also discarded
- 1970s double-breasted jacket (DB doesn’t suit me)
- modern Buttrick trousers
- a poofy-skirted 1950s dress that I made up and found it made my hips look huge
- A Betty Draper suit, size 18, and more….
Obviously libraries use a classification system in order to ensure that anyone can find a particular book. I need a classification system for my patterns, and this has troubled me. Patterns can be defined by a range of issues eg.
- Pattern Company
- Item type eg shorts
In the end I adopted a hybrid approach.
I have two broad categories – Vintage and Modern. Modern includes all the new patterns (post 1980s), self drafted, etc. These are broadly broken down by item type, designer (DVF, Geoffrey Beene) or pattern company. These live on the top of my cupboard. Vintage patterns are arranged basically by date, subdivided by item type. However a few are arranged by pattern company – I have about 15 Vogue Pattern Originals, and a few similar patterns from other ears. These are the “valuable” patterns in my collection that I treat with a bit more respect, so I have segregated them. My boxes have pencil descriptions on them – tellingly provisional, as if the collection would keep expanding. I decided today that I don’t need any more patterns. Consequently I committed to the categories by using a black felt tip to write on the boxes.
When I Kondoed my fabric collection, I concluded that I had bought enough. When I Kondoed my dressmaking patterns, I felt the same. There are enough here to last a life time. Most dress, coat, trouser etc styles that suit me are represented here. I have lots of suit patterns, lots from the 1960s and 1970s, especially dresses. I can say that I would wear every pattern I have (I kept three maternity patterns in case of further grandbabies).
However I could discard all my patterns. It wouldn’t stop me sewing. Maybe it would be refreshing to start each project anew. Buying, downloading or even drafting a pattern is not the most difficult thing in the world. The downloading approach is quite handy. I already feel free to discard my Burdas as they can be downloaded again, free of charge. In fact in my ideal world all patterns would be digital, especially if we could find an easy way of saving alterations. I own very few novels precisely because I can always down load one or buy second hand on Amazon. Personally I look forward to the day when dress making patterns are all downloadable.