I don’t know if it is the start of spring (well in the UK at least) but lots of bloggers are getting just a bit introspective. Why do we keep buying fabric and patterns when we already have enough? First up was Bunny with this provocative quotation from Mimi.
“When I was employed by a major pattern company years ago, I learned a very important piece of information…Pattern companies don’t sell patterns; they sell dreams. 75% of patterns purchased never even get opened by the person who purchased them. Look in your own storage, and tell me I’m not wrong on this…right?”
I cringed, recognising myself.
Then Kim from The Material Lady wrote a thoughtful piece about sticking to certain styles which suit us, but does that mean we are in a rut? Again I (who have bought the same pattern more than once and had about 20 light grey T shirts) could relate.
And finally Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic posted an article where she describes her fabric collection (I too refuse to call it stash like it is an illegal drug). She has a tremendous amount of fabric put aside, but then she makes lots of clothes, not just for herself. She says her large stock is to take her through retirement when money will be short.
So – what do you think?
My immediate reaction was somewhat defensive.
I admit I have something like;
- 150 patterns
- 100 pieces of fashion fabrics plus
- 10m calico for muslins
- 20m silk organza
- 10m lining fabric
- 10m various interfacings
- 100 zips
- 50 reels of thread
- 500 buttons
- and a drawer full of scraps
I swore that I will make up all my remaining patterns, post Kondo. But of course Mimi is right. Most of my (second hand) patterns have never been made up – they are in their pristine factory folds 50 or so years after they were manufactured.
What is true of my patterns is also true of my fabrics. I literally have so many pieces of cloth that I don’t know where to store what I already have. I have a basket under the bed, as well as the official place. Last weekend, in Brussels I succumbed and bought three metres of dark navy fabric with tufts of white, red and blue. I like the fabric, and will probably make up a Chanel type jacket. Excuse: my husband egged me on and paid for it (birthday present).
Do you Dream, Stash or Plan?
The basic reason I have so much stuff is because of how I sew.
This is most easily explained by describing my cooking method. I have a reasonable repertoire of meals that I cook quite well, and based on my wide experience of eating for many years I can make most things. I don’t have a recipe book and rarely consult the internet. I never pick up those recipe cards in the supermarket and buy all the ingredients. Do you?
I cook my signature dishes, but often I “make do”. Broccoli in the fridge? Soup, stir fry, with pasta or steamed with fish. Fancy a curry? Ginger, garlic and chilli in the fridge, maybe some coriander, dry spices and can of chick peas in my panty. In other words I see what I have before I decide what to make. I use dried, canned, or frozen ingredients to make up the meal and use my creativity and knowledge of cooking to make it taste pretty good. Even though I live within a ten minute walk of a Waitrose, M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury’s I rarely nip out for a lemon. I would rather use what I already have – a lime, orange or tangerine; possibly vinegar or a splash of wine, tamarind or lemon grass? This is partly laziness but also I don’t feel the need to obey a prescription. What is a recipe, but someone else’s opinion, taste and methodology? I have enough confidence in my own approach to vegetables, fish and meat; herbs, spices and dressings; international flavours experienced through travel and good ethnic restaurants. I don’t feel the need for Jamie to hold my hand.
It’s much the same with the sewing. I can walk to some very good fabric shops. McCullough and Wallis, and John Lewis are a short bus hop away ( I now have a free bus pass). But I don’t really want to buy everything listed on the notions list. Sometimes it is necessary, but invariably I have something left over from a previous project. I may have bought a job lot, at a low price, on the internet – say of zips in a variety of colours – that will certainly do. (I mainly buy long zips – 23″ or so and cut them down if they are too long.) It makes a lot of sense to buy interfacing, lining, underlining and calico in 10m pieces rather than bits and bobs.
I feel that buying what the list says is like following a recipe slavishly – something you might do if you were learning to cook, or wanted to create something exactly like someone else. I find that making a garment (if you are reasonably experienced) may require, and even benefit from, many compromises and departures from the plan. I would rather take the risk of this than going out and buying a specified 21″ zip in exactly the right colour and then finding that, post-alterations, I need a 22″ one.
I buy things I know I will need, when I see them. I buy fabrics that suit me, in sufficient proportions to make say a coat, jacket, skirt, dress or blouse. Invariably less than a pattern envelop will specify and sometimes I have to change my plans because I am short of fabric. But I enjoy the challenge and creativity involved here, just as I enjoy it when someone turns up unexpectedly and I manage to make a meal from salad ingredients, dry noodles, a chilli and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
The other main reason I have many patterns and pieces of cloth is that I find them inspirational. I enjoy looking at them. I enjoy putting together fabric and patterns, sometimes in unexpected ways. It is the click of creativity that spurs me on to hours of labour.
When I Kondoed I considered giving away my collection, and it’s not that I have a very strong emotional attachment to it; it’s that I fear I would build it up again. For me the pleasure of thinking about what I might make – with a fashionable, modern pattern; or a beautiful, vintage couture pattern, or one I have made myself – is always seductive. And creativity needs raw material, literally, too. This piece of fabric lends itself to this type of garment. And my mind plays with these unlimited options for days, sometimes years.
Do you hoard stuff or just buy what you need for the current project? Does your method relate to how you do things more generally?