Taking Stock and Weeding my Stash

Here’s a question for all you sewers (or sewists, or seamstresses, or tailors, or whatever you choose to call yourselves) out there –

How big does your (fabric) stash get before you deem it too big?

big pile-o-knits

For me, that time came a couple of months ago. My big plastic bins of fabric had overflowed, and I had extra fabric piled on top of the bins and stuffed in bags under my sewing table. My ‘sewing room’ is in our finished basement, shared space with The Husband’s ‘office’, our ‘laundry room’, and our ‘storage room’. Needless to say, space is limited and the chaos was driving me crazy.

What do you do when your fabric stash gets too big?

When I finally decided that it really was too big (and yes, this was a long time coming) and I really didn’t want to work among all that chaos, I knew I had to do something about it.

I declared a fabric embargo.

Sad, but inevitable. No more buying new fabric until I had somewhere to put it. This was surprisingly freeing. I stopped going to fabric stores (online and brick and mortar) – no more coveting beautiful fabrics and trying to think up ways to use them.

I took stock of my stash and re-organized it – knits in one tub, quilting cottons in another, garment wovens in another, canvas and home-dec fabrics in another.

tub label

I made more space.

Ok, this feels a bit like cheating, but I found a couple of boxes of old files (in the ‘storage’ section of our space) and spent a couple of hours sorting and shredding. Seriously, I had bank and credit card statements from like 15 or 20 years ago. And pay stubs. I found my savings book from the account I opened when I had a camp counselor job in high school (ahem, more than 20 years ago). Somehow, these things had followed me around through college, from apartment to apartment, and finally into our house. You know how it goes…when you’re moving, you think – oh, I need to sort that stuff, but I don’t have time right now, easier just to move it. And next thing you know, 10 years go by, and those boxes just sit and wait, and maybe even grow.

Now that space is put to much better use – holding my stash!

I got rid of fabric I didn’t want.

When I was taking stock of my stash I came across fabric that I really had no use for. Like some tiger-striped fleece leftover from making a Halloween costume for The Boy and some green with white polka-dots spandexy stuff (what I was thinking!).

I couldn’t bring myself to just dump it in the trash (landfill! waste! oh no!), but I found a place that takes fabric donations in San Francisco called SCRAP. It’s a non-profit organization that collects all sorts of materials (paper, fabric, art supplies of all kinds – you can see a full list here) and makes them available at low cost to the community, and schools in particular, for “creative re-use”. My son’s preschool teachers have shopped there for project materials (like giant cardboard tubes that were used to build a race car track, and a digiridoo, and a rocket ship, and a castle). I can get rid of stuff I don’t want, make space for stuff I do want, and schools and local artists get materials they need – win, win!

Are you looking for a place to donate your fabric? Check out a comprehensive international list of creative re-use centers here or take a look at this post for some other suggestions.

I started to sew my stash!

This is the fun part. Re-discovering all the fabric already in my stash that I really do love and coming up with plans for how to use it. Restricting myself to fabric on-hand seemed to really get my sewing mojo flowing. I made a spring Renfrew tee from my stash (hasn’t made it to the blog yet). I made a new bag from my stash. I have plans for some more comfy pants for The Boy. I think I get bonus points for using patterns I already own:)

What are your favorite scrap-busting projects?

I’m all ears. I gave away the big pieces of fabric I don’t want, but still have a box full of scraps. Zippered pouches? A quilt? What’s your favorite way to get rid of scraps? It seems that most scrappy projects tend to be appropriate for quilting or home-dec fabrics, not garment fabrics. What to do with little scraps of knits? Or stretch twill?

How long will the embargo last?

I suspect it won’t be too long. Once I make a good dent in my stash I think I will let myself shop again (after all, I have a couple of gift certificates, generous birthday gifts from my family, burning a hole in my pocket). But I’m hoping that my shopping will be more focused – fewer impulse buys, and more project-oriented buying. That should keep things in check for a while at least. And if not, there’s always more boxes of files that could be sorted:)

5 thoughts on “Taking Stock and Weeding my Stash

  1. Well, I am glad to know you’re getting your addiction under control. When I sewed ( a hundred years ago) I never had money to accumulate much fabric. I would buy a pattern and fabric and then run home and make it up in the next few days. But my mother, during WWII worked as a seamstress and I remember her telling me that she would buy a dress length from the factory on Friday night and run home and design and sew a little number to wear out dancing on Saturday night.


  2. Gerry and I have a rule which works pretty well for us.
    When we buy something new, we’re supposed to get rid of something.
    It works for t-shirts, but electronics are a bit tougher to follow the rule.


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