The Sewcialists’ year-long challenge to #SewThePrecious (that special fabric you’re apprehensive about cutting into) got me thinking about the fabric in my stash and how my attitude to it changes over time.
I’ve been garment sewing in earnest for nine years, but my fabric stash started before that; the very first additions to my fabric stash were made while I was at university, when I would tackle the occasional sewing project.
The oldest fabric in my stash is a remnant of the fabric I used for my first garment sewing project outside of textiles class at school. It’s a grey spotted cotton which I bought from either the local market or fabric shop, and one of these days I will (probably) get around to using it.
More recent fabric purchases will often sit in my stash for a few years, even when I know exactly what I plan to sew with them. I find that fabric I purchase without a clear purpose is just as likely to sit in my stash as fabric I buy with a pattern in mind – as it will often take me years to get around to that particular pattern, and in the meantime I’ll be saving the fabric for that moment.
The fabrics I am most likely to defer cutting into are those that are already earmarked for a project I just haven’t gotten around to yet. The longer fabric stays in my stash, and the woollier my memory of how much it cost and what it was purchased to become gets, the more likely I am to stop deferring and to reach for it when it meets the bill as suitable fabric for my next project.
I’m sure there are lots of sewcialists with stashes with much greater pedigree. What’s the oldest fabric in your stash, and does length of time in your stash affect how you feel about your fabric?
Charlotte is a Sewcialists Guest Editor. She is based in the UK and blogs at English Girl at Home.
All over the years, I have accumulated a lot of fabrics in my stash and I have the same relationship as you with my oldest acquisitions. Projects may change as my needs or aspiration at that particular period are no longer the same as when I bought the fabrics. During the lockdown, I revisited my stash and (re)discovered some marvelous pieces : I made the ‘big decision’ to stop ‘just look at them’ and started to cut them into cherished but procrastinated projects. I selected some very bright colors and prints coupons and was happy to sew a special ‘anti-capsule’ collection, with makes completely unmatched together but finally fitting well with my existing wardrobe. Sometimes it’s good to have a ‘non-intellectual’ approach of sewing : I’m a very self-organized person, loving planning and to-do listing and it was a revolution for me to be more instinctive. I don’t regret, be sure !
Some doesn’t make it to stash, others have been there for 30+ years. A few pieces I got from Mom’s stash when she passed and I recall her making things from it in the 1960s(?). And absolutely, sometimes time changes my thoughts about fabrics. Sometimes a change of plans or needs decides what a piece of fabric will be used for, or if it’s used at all. Sometimes a piece becomes a “what was I thinking!?” item and is re-homed, mostly fabrics that now feel plasticy and not nice to wear, or colors that I don’t love, bought because they were cheap.
Time in my stash mostly just changes my plan of what to do with it, and a big part of that has just been lifestyle/ body changes over the last several years due to becoming a mom. It generally doesn’t change how much I like a fabric, at least not the ones that I chose myself (or that my mom picked for me as Christmas gifts, since she knows my taste well.) I am thinking it’s time to let go of some things that others have offloaded onto me, though.
Early on in my garment sewing journey, time in my stash meant I grew into the ability and confidence to sew and potentially drape with tricky fabrics (I’m looking at you chiffon) which changed my mind on some that were just too pretty to get rid of, but also scared me. Nowadays, time mostly has changed my plans, not my interest, like Becky said above, which I think also relates to me not typically buying fabric that I won’t use anymore. I know my interests and style, so I rarely buy fabric for stash that won’t be useful later on. (Not that I should be buying for stash, but……….)
On the other hand, one of my first and most cherished dresses was made with fabric that was neither my nor my mother’s style, but it came out of her fabric stash where it had languished for probably 40 years… or more.
Stash can be a millstone around the neck and it can also be a treasure trove. I just finished two jean jackets and had fabric left that I had used for lining. Try as I might I could not stretch the leftovers to another jacket lining so I went in search of a suitable replacement. I found a scrap of chintz curtain fabric from a purchase thirty years ago. It’s perfect. The jacket body also came out of the stash from a purchase made when my local JoAnn’s was moving down the street. I’m determined to work my way through the stash and use up my precious fabric for me or for others. Deciding to make jackets, skirts and blouses for others has been freeing. I’m no longer waiting to use my fabric, I’m just doing it. I’m also having fun trying out new patterns and putting in the fun details; dragons inside a boy’s jacket, a zip pocket for a phone on the inside, a waistband that can be adjusted smaller or larger and so on.
The best thing about a “collection” * of fabric is the resulting candy store effect. When I’m interested in a pattern I can often picture it made up in a lovely fabric I once purchased… because it was so…beautiful. And fun to pet. (Just me?)
*I have a collection not a stash. (stash = “secret” and mine is no secret, hehe…)
Yes, time changes the way you feel about it
20 years ago, I was intent on pursuing a promotion and since I believe you should dress for the position you want, bought several lengths of linen for suits and dresses. Then I had 2 children in less than 2 years and because a SAHM. The linen was stashed. About 10 years ago, I pulled it out and decided I really didn’t like it (dated print). Stashed again
It turns out that 2020 was the year to use it.. One of the hottest fashion statements of the year has been the “House” dress. It turns out those linen prints made great easy wearing dresses for a summer of Zoom.
Oldest piece in my stash come from the late 40s. My grandmother didn’t stash much-couldn’t afford to-but in the late 40s she bought fabric to make curtains. She worked full time and squeezed in her sewing time. She had finished the most of the curtains but moved before she was able to get to the ones for the boys bedroom (my uncles). I inherited that length of fabric….Another interesting piece is a small piece left over from the jacket my mother made to go with her going away dress at her wedding-A piece of silk linen weave…Just this summer, as rummaging through the stash, I realized that it is the exact color as a piece of the linen I bought 20 years ago (see above story) or rather the remnants of it …I had made a maternity dress out of it…The 2 remnants are now together and slated to become a Susan Eastman style top.
Most of my stash is older than I am–I got it second hand from my grandmother, garage sales, or friends who also have one box too many of fabric in their garage. Of the fabrics I personally bought, I only started doing that with any regularity two years ago, so yeah, still got some stuff that’s two years old. I’ve found it’s much easier to buy fabric than sew it up.
Fabrics sit in my stash for sooo long after I acquire them (save for the rare instance where I bought something to make it on a deadline right away). I think it’s interesting to watch it change over time, sometimes my plans for it shifts into something new and more interesting, sometimes the big moment when I finally sew what I planned is everything I dreamed it, and some stash fabrics never get made because my style or preferences have changed. It’s fun to go digging every once in a while and see what I can uncover.