The murky depths of my fabric stash…

After last year’s stash diet, I’m pleased to say that my fabric collection is back under control. I’ve set myself a rule, which is that I must not buy more fabric than I can manage to sew! I make an average of just over one garment a month, so I’ve restricted myself to buying just one new length of fabric a month. That leaves me some slack to work through my stash, and to do a bit of scrapbusting on the side.

Yesterday, I got the whole pile out and and tried to work out what’s been in there the longest. I pulled out three pieces that I’m calling the lurkers – fabric from the murky depths I’ve had for more than two years, and that I haven’t yet decided what to do with. I’m hoping you can help me with some suggestions!

Lurker number one


This is my oldest piece – it’s from my Grannie’s stash, which I acquired in 2012, but she probably picked it up decades ago in a remnant sale at a woollen mill. It’s a heavy navy blue wool tweed, and astoundingly, it was even made in England. There’s not enough for a coat, so I’m wondering about a jacket of some kind?

Width: 140cm

Length: 1.46m

Lurker number two


I bought this embroidered border denim in a pile-it-high fabric shop in Cheltenham two years ago, and it’s been there ever since. It’s not the best quality denim, but the main worry is that I’ve never worked with a border print/embroidered border before – how do I deal with the grainline? And how do I stop a garment made from this looking too, ummm… cowgirl?

With 150cm

Length: 1.5m

Lurker number three


This one has definite possibilities. It’s a heavy-ish wool crepe (yup, I did the burn test) of some kind that I bought at the Worcester Resource Exchange. I’d originally planned to make a Hollyburn skirt, but I don’t think there’s quite enough for my favourite knee-length version. Can you recommend a less fabric-hungry skirt pattern?

Width 146cm

Length: 1.4m

So there they are. How would you use any of these? And what’s lurking in the Mariana Trench of your stash?


The end of my stash diet


Back in September, I decided my fabric stash was beginning to get out of control, and that it was time to take action. I was accumulating fabric faster than I was sewing it up and it was making a very definite hole in my wallet.

So I began a stash diet, and I made myself a promise:

  • I wouldn’t buy any more fashion fabric in 2016
  • I would sew the garments for which I already had both the fabric and the pattern.

The first thing that happened after that was that I went to #sewbrum – a sewing meet up of over 100 fabric-hungry sewists, complete with a tour of Birmimgham’s best fabric shops. Nightmare. But I stood firm and (possibly for the first time ever) didn’t succumb to the delights of Guthrie & Ghani’s shelves.

What’s surprised me is that I’ve actually enjoyed it.

Working through my stash and completing some of the projects I’d had planned for a long time (Fifi pyjamas, Fairfield shirt, Christmas pudding pyjama bottoms) has been really satisfying. And because it’s so long since I bought some of these fabrics it feels a bit like getting free clothes.

It’s forced me to confront the stuff at the bottom of my stash and assess whether or not I’m ever going to use it. One or two pieces have made their way to charity shops, and I’ve spent time thinking about how I’m going to use the rest.

There’s been a psychological change too. It felt liberating to just delete all those emails that tried to tempt me with 20% off Liberty prints or 15% off wool coating. Once I’d said I wasn’t buying any more fabric , I no longer had an excuse to browse for it online. My fear of missing out began to lessen, and I stopped trying to examine and assess all the possibilities.

And this week I came across (courtesy of the Oliver + S blog) something else that struck a chord. Deep in an article about ways to save money painlessly, was the following advice:

When you’re passionate about a particular hobby, it’s easy to fall into the trap of accumulating stuff related to that hobby rather than actually doing things within that hobby.

That hit home. I often say I’d like more time to sew. So why am I spending all this time buying fabric and browsing fabric rather than actually sewing?

So my 2017 stash resolutions are:

  1. Not to buy fabric faster than I can use it – for me, that’s one piece a month.
  2. To start thinking about my pattern purchases in the same way. Half price patterns, or the latest indie sensation is definitely not a bargain if I never get around to sewing it. Unless it’s a rare vintage pattern, it WILL be there in six months when I actually have time to sew it.
  3. To spend less time browsing fabrics online and use that time to actually sew things!

Have you resolved to sew your stash this year? What’s the best approach for you?

The stash diet: progress update

p1130982After it dawned on me that my stash was gradually expanding I decided in late September to sew up some of the £200 or so of fabric that’s languishing in my sewing space. Critically, I also pledged not to buy any more fabric until at least January 2017.

So how’s it working out at the halfway point?

So far, so good. I think. I’ve completed the Fifi pyjama set for which I’ve had both fabric and pattern since July. Next, I’m going to tackle a Fairfield shirt for Mr Wardrobe using the gorgeous dark grey/blue chambray pictured above that I bought from Eme in Ilkley back in August.

The hardest part has been not snapping up new fabric. To grow my sewing shop map, I try to visit a fabric shop each time I go to anther town. So since September I’ve visited Guthrie & Ghani, Barry’s and Birmingham Rag Market at #sewbrum; and the luxe-denim fest that is Cloth House in Soho, London. My inbox is also regularly deluged with new stock from online stores and, most tempting of all, info on sales and discount codes.

The news this week that the cost of imported goods, including fabric, is likely to rise in the UK next year almost tipped me over the edge into some impulse purchases. But for now at least, I’m staying strong, and well away from the remnants bin.

How about you? Are you trying to reduce your stash, or does it keep on growing?

The stash diet: use it or lose it

At #sewbrum this weekend, I didn’t buy a single piece of fabric. I know. It was painful.

We visited the Rag Market, Fancy Silk Store, Barry’s and Guthrie & Ghani, plus there was a fabric swap, so it wasn’t because I wasn’t tempted.

I very nearly came home with some of this gorgeous textured wool – perfect for a new coat, don’t you think?

It’s that over the past year I’ve slowly amassed more fabric than I’ve sewn. Some of it was on sale; some was perfect for a pattern I already had; some was too beautiful to leave on the shelf. But whatever the reason for the purchase, most of it is still on the shelf. So I’ve set myself a challenge.

I won’t buy any more fashion fabric this year. (Interfacings, linings, trims and calico are all permitted if I need them for a current project.)

I will sew up all the fabric I bought to go with a specific pattern before buying any more. That means tackling the following projects: Fifi by Tilly and the Buttons, The Ginger jeans by Closet Case Files (eek), some Christmas PJ bottoms for my son, and the final version of the Fairfield shirt from Thread Theory.

This one is all ready to cut out.

If that doesn’t take me up to Christmas, then I’ll sew some of the rest of my stash too. I have cuts of border-print denim, flecked sweatshirting, striped single jersey and red wool crepe that are all crying out to make it into my wardrobe.

Denim border stitch and white jersey drying on the washing line
The border print denim has been languishing unused for over a year now.

Let’s see how it goes.

Is your stash growing or shrinking? And how do you make sure your house doesn’t gradually fill up with enough fabric to bury your partner, children and pets underneath it all?

Summer sewing plans

coloured threads in a box

The weather’s finally starting to warm up after some freak snow last weekend and my thoughts are turning to summer clothes. I don’t have any weddings to go to this year, so I can concentrate on the clothes I wear day-to-day. I’m determined to make more clothes I’ll wear regularly – more cake and less frosting, if you like. Here are some ideas I’ve been pinning.

I started by listing the things I do each week and the kind of clothes they demand:

  1. Walking the dog. I do three or four long hilly walks over the Malvern Hills each week, so I need some lightweight trousers or shorts and knit tops, or possibly sportswear to wear with my hiking boots or walking shoes.
  2. Childcare. Summer days mean lots of playing in the garden, trips to the park, and generally crawling around on hands and knees with a side order of chores. Everything has to be machine-washable, and surprisingly warm – where I’d walk faster or move more to keep warm, a two-year old often can’t keep up or is too tired. So good options are T-shirts,and other non-iron tops, jeans and trousers, lightweight jumpers, plus the odd relaxed-feel skirt or dress. Usual footwear: trainers. And there are to be no delicate fabrics in this category…
  3. Working from home and weekends. These categories are virtually the same. So for summer that’s lightweight skirts and trousers, the odd woven top, along with yet more knit tops and jumpers.
  4. Child-free days (and the odd evening out). There really aren’t many of these! But when I do break out of my usual routine, it might involve lunch with friends, an evening at the cinema with Mr Wardrobe, or a day trip for shopping or culture. I’m not a high heels kinda person, so a skirt or trousers with a smart top that will go with flats is probably the order of the day. And it’s time to upgrade from my childcare-appropriate hiking waterproof to a more grown-up summer jacket or raincoat.
  5. Nightwear. A very neglected catgeory! I badly need a dressing gown that won’t make me too hot in warmer weather – as well as something to sleep in on warm nights.

These are the clothes I reach for every day; and they’re currently the RTW clothes I grumble about every day because they don’t fit properly, or they’ve faded or shrunk or fallen apart.

Translating all that into patterns and fabrics, my ideal summer wardrobe probably needs:

Hmm. That’s way more than I’ll manage to make this year.

I suppose it gives me a longlist to work from. Stay tuned to find out which ones make it to the cutting table before October…

A space to sew, and everything in that space


Fabric stacked on open shelves
The built-in shelving in the office is great for fabric, patterns and notions

Sewing room envy. Which of us hasn’t spent a Tuesday night gradually turning green looking at pictures of perfectly stacked fabric and beautifully arranged ribbons on Pinterest?

No? Then this post isn’t for you.

Unless Mr Wardrobe and I win the lottery, we’re not about to gain an extra room in our house any time soon, so my sewing space will always have to share with another function. For the past three years or so that’s been the dining room. It seemed like time for a change.

We’ve moved my sewing space into our home office and replaced our old seated desks with a standing desk that’s also the ideal height for a cutting table.

It’s an IKEA workbench made from the Finnvard base and a Klimpen top (so I don’t have to worry too much about scratching it with pins). This does mean that Mr Wardrobe and I (we both work from home, together1!) will have to using our computers and my sewing machine standing up, so we’ll see how that goes.

The existing built-in shelving in the office is ideal for fabric and notions and we’ve moved the shelves around to make room to stash my sewing machine and overlocker.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, do you have any tips on storage containers for thread or patterns? And have you ever used your machine standing up?


Decisions, decisions: my next make

I’m in a bit of a quandary as to what to make next.

After the School Days Jacket, I’m in the mood for something quick and simple – and for me.

The contenders so far are: pyjama trousers, an A-line wool skirt, and a sweatshirt.

I have the pattern but no fabric for two of them, and the fabric but no pattern for the other. IMG_1078.JPG

Swither, dither… What are you making at the moment?