Monday, January 12, 2009

The Stash

I read an amazing post this week by a woman named Liz, over on Crossroads Knits. Since I can't seem to link to it, if it isn't on top, scroll down to the post named Resolved.
It's equally applicable, whether you sew, knit, or create with fiber in any way, so all my sewing friends who've just tuned out, you can tune back in.

It got me to thinking. I've been experiencing a paradigm shift in my attitude lately.

It's a new year. That time when we all resolve to finish our ongoing projects, to shop our own stash (be it fabric, yarn or whatever). I feel a bit like Oprah; I read last week in a rag mag that Oprah said "I can't believe I'm sitting here talking about weight again" (yeah, that too....)

I can't believe I'm talking about finishing up the UFO's... (and Carolyn's talking about not buying more fabric....and hell is about to freeze over. LOL)

But somehow I'm feeling as if I've undergone a sea change in my approach to my projects.
I want to finish up what's in the hopper. I want to limit my production, and finish what's on the table before casting on / cutting out.

Which brings me to the topic of the stash.
Most everyone who sews or knits accumulates stash. It's that difference between what we want to accomplish and buy the materials for, and what we really have time to make. Amazingly, some people actually start out deliberately to build a stash! It's as if they've read about so much stash that they feel it's a necessary accoutrement.

At some point most people who've developed a stash vow to use it first, to use it up, to not add to it.
And at the new year, prompted by Stash contests and KAL's, people get into "stash busting" projects.

I confess, I'm baffled by Stash Busting.
Sewing up the stash I understand. Using what is in inventory instead of buying new, sure.
Knitting with yarn already purchased before hitting the *Buy* button on the internet or venturing out to the LYS; that I get.

But what is with "stash busting" projects. That I don't get at all.
I read about people making pet blankets using yarn double stranded in order to use more of it...of people sewing up projects that use a lot of fabric just to run up the numbers. People choosing projects based upon the amount of yardage a project will consume rather than by the desirability of the finished item.

What is with that?
I mean, if you bought the yarn in the first place, isn't it yarn you love? If you don't love it anymore, why bother knitting it up in "stash busting" projects. Isn't the time involved in knitting a project at least as important as the materials that go into it?

I understand the concept of a stash Sewing contest that prompts you to use fabric that is aging in your closet - fabric you may consider "the good stuff" that you've been reluctant to cut into. Maybe you need the prompt to go ahead and Use it.

But what I don't understand is the desire to use it just for the sake of Using it.
Do you get it?

Regarding the size of the stash:
Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's the end of the era of conspicuous consumption. I hope so.

Personally, I really really don't feel the need to add to either my fabric or my yarn stash. I also don't feel the need to use it just to use it.

I finally just got my yarn stash totally cataloged. Yup, I've got more than I need. And if I had it to do now, there are more than a few yarns I would not own.
But, I've got 30 (yeah, count 'em, 30) major sweater projects stashed that I'd really still like to make. Here's to hoping that I get them made before I no longer want to make them.
If you're on Ravelry you can see the awful awesomeness of my stash, catalogued. If you're not, you're spared that experience. But it's all there.
I'd like to do it for my fabric too, but it's not happening, because there just isnt' a reason yet.

What I'm working on right now - that Dickinson pullover from the last post - I'm on the top of the second raglan sleeve; The Marijke scarf using stashed Blue Sky alpaca silk yarn (I'm halfway done with that), and the black Drops cardi that I'm going to finish even though it won't fit me (there's that weight thing again).

What else I'm working on: The cashmere jacket that just doesn't want to get finished. And the class samples.
oh, and a few pair of pants that'll actually make the circumference of my butt.

I do indeed need to get moving too.

So, do you get this whole Stash busting thing?
How do you feel about your stash?


ACorgiHouse said...

No, I don't get it. I don't just buy fabric and yarn to buy it, I buy pieces I really like that I want to use. Yes, my life is such right now that I don't have the time for all the projects I want, but I know that I will eventually get many of them done although realistically not all. At this point, however, I'm not ready to say I won't do them, I have dreams. If the day comes that I decide I won't be able to make these up, I will try to bestow these fabrics and yarns onto people who will treat them as I would. Pet blankets? I love my pets, but no. They're happy without sleeping on double stranded alpaca! K

Rosemary aka fabricfan said...

I have the same thoughts as you do Marji, I would like to use my current stash but I want to love what I make and not just do stuff for doing's sake.

AllisonC said...

I definitely agree that there is no point in making tent dresses or giant blankets just to use up fabric. However it does seem that people often feel guilty about their stash and I suppose this is one way of alleviating the guilt!! But to answer your question, no I don't really get it.

Vicki said...

I want to sew up my stash so I can have more to wear and to fulfill all my dreams of projects over the years. So I don't want to just sew up the stash for the sake of it. But like you, I have lost any desire to add to the stash.

Claudine said...

I don't get it, either. A real pet peeve of mine is when people keep track of "yards sewn". How is this number significant in any way?

Thanks for the link to the blog entry in the beginning. Interesting post.

Marina said...

I think Allison is on to something. People change their minds. What they absolutely had to buy years ago is now unloved or they were impulse buys to start with, etc.

With the economy the way it is, there are those who would sell these unloved yarn & look at it as money coming in and there are the others, who only see how much money they will lose by selling it and so they knit it up.

Lisette M said...

I enjoy the process of knitting and sewing but at the end I would like to end up with a product I love. If I won't enjoy the process because I don't like the material anymore there is no point in starting; I will donate the fabric or the yarn after all there will be someone out there that can make good use of it. Yeah I don't get it.

Susan said...

Yes I agree. The stash is there to knit or sew up. If I don't love it after a while, I gift it to people who knit for charity.

I would use projects that use up scraps. I have odds and ends balls of yarn from projects that I've finished. Some projects that use multiple colors would work well. My mother knit a huge afghan out of 1 foot square stockinet blocks that were five or six strands of yarn held together. She made these giant balls of yarn to use for that blanket. I'll do the same with my scraps.

Nancy (nanflan) said...

I don't get it either. I don't see the point of making up a fabric or yarn just to be rid of it. What does that solve? Instead of yardage you have stockpiled, you have a bunch of completed projects you don't love that you're stuck with. It seems like a very punitive way of thinking.

I also don't understand the compulsion to find some use for every last square inch of a remnant and not throw anything away. Again, it seems self-punishing.

Sewing (and knitting) should be about enjoying the creative process, not making another chore for yourself.

Mardel said...

I don't get it either, and I agree with claudine that I don't understand the "yards sewn" or "yards out" kind of thing. I love my stash because i buy things I love that intend to make. I still intend to make them. Yes I like using stash yarn, but I don't kid myself that I am not going to buy more yarn or fabric. Even in the most extensive stash, and mine certainly qualifies, there are still gaps.

I think sewing and knitting is about the process of creating, and having something to wear, or having something you love is just the icing on the cake.

Lori said...

The only heartache I have about my stash (both fabric and yarn) is that there are so many projects I want to work on. Particularly with knitting, it's not the finished product I'm after but the enjoyment of the process, so I'm not in any hurry to reduce the stash. My stashes are huge but they're full of fabric and yarn I really do like. The only reasons I try not to add to the stash are a) lack of space and b) anxiety that having more projects causes me.

Elizabeth said...

That term has always bothered me, too. It seems like such a non-descriptor, too. People call small projects that use up odds and ends of partial skeins as "stash-busting", but if my stash was limited to just that, I wouldn't feel it was such a problem that I had to "bust" it. If people mean making a granny square afghan with a zillion different odd balls kind of thing, well, ok, you get a useful thing, but it may or may not (probably not) actually be something you like when you're done. As you say, Marji, if you're going to spend the time to work with yarn you (presumably) love, why not make a finished project that you love. If you no longer love the yarn, sell it or give it away to a charity or some other knitter. Knitting from stash or reducing stash through attrition are great goals. But I agree: using just to say you used it? Not so much.

Birgitte said...

All I know is that stash busting is not for me :) The process of creating is what's important and for that I need to be inspired. I believe this is the reason for my minimum stash. The fact that I live minutes away from fabulous resources could also have something to do with it :)) I usually don't venture out to buy unless I have a very specific project in mind.

As for the "yard sewn", which Claudine mentioned... I don't even keep track of "projects sewn". It's all about the process for me.

Shannon said...

I love my stash - I loved buying it, I love dreaming about it, I love looking at it and touching it, I love working and creating with it. I just love fabric!

I don't really understand stash busting in the sense of using up as much fabric/yarn/etc as possible just to get it out of the stash cupboard. It seems wasteful, but I figure to each her own - it's not hurting me, so if it makes that person feel happy or content, good on 'em.

I am, however, a person that keeps track of 'yards sewn' and the number of projects completed. First off, I'm completely anal and I keep track of everything, so it's just something that I do naturally. Secondly, I find that keeping track of my sewing inspires me to sew more - I like knowing that I have been productive in the past. Then if I suffer a loss of mojo, it often motivates me to get back in the saddle.

Sew Passionista said...

I love my stash too. I love almost every fabric in there. Occasionnaly, I do weed it out and donate to the local craft and design school but it's really only to make myself feel virtuous.Well no, it's also out of kindness, but every piece of fabric I part with is a little stab at my heart.
having said that, I do need to stop bringing fabric home. I work in a fabric store and it's really hard to resist silk dupionni that is almost free because there are only two metres left on the bolt......and the excuses go on.
But, I'll just go on sewing and creating till I can't anymore.

Jacqui said...

Too much of the fabric I don't like and not enough of the fabric I do. I'm not fast enough or proficient enough to sew just for the sake of stash busting. I'd like everything I do sew to be usable. With that said, I think it's time for me to let go of the clutter stash. I do, however, want to finish the UFO's. (Whether I keep them or not, that's a different story.)

Kai Jones said...

To some stashbusting is a way of saying "I can't really afford new raw materials, so I'm going to make a virtue out of shopping in my stash." To others there seems to some kind of shame attached to owning that much stuff (the shame of being wealthy? overconsumption?), a shame that can only be worked off by using it. I'm sure there are other reasons, too.

But none of them are for me. I like having a lot of raw material around for when inspiration hits, or when the perfect pattern comes out. I feel no obligation to use it up; my kids can give it to charity when I die if need be.

Tamara said...

Right now I am in "stash busting" mode. I am going on a trip at the end of Feb. and want to buy more fabric. I don't have much access to great fabric here. I have to make room for all that new fabric so I have to use up some of what I already have. Some of the fabric is flannel and I am going to make blankets to donate. Other stuff I plan to use up is for garments that I had already planned and hadn't sewn up yet. My "stash busting" consists of me consistently and quickly sewing the garments I already planned instead of doing it much more slowly. These are things I have been wanting to do and now I have the motivation to get it done. I love having a stash and always will. I love always having the ability to make something at any moment.

Dana said...

I don't even think about my stash. I have room for it (it's small) and I know what I intend to make out of each piece. But it wasn't always like this. When I worked at a fabric store it got BIG. But one of the girls that was there came in one day (during her senior year of high school!) and said she wasn't going buy any more fabric until her stash was gone.....and she did it! This is when I started to think about what I bought. I've never, and hope I don't ever, completely sew up my stash. But I figure if the drawers are full, I don't need to buy anymore.

Never heard of the stash busting till I read this. Sounds pretty silly to me. Why don't you just donate the fabric to someone?

Nancy K said...

Stash busting! Wow, is that like ghost busters? No, I don't understand it either. Quantity over quality is not the type of sewing I want to or like to do. Sewing just to get rid of fabric isn't my idea of enjoyment, or good sewing either.

Elisabeth said...

I would never make something just to use up fabric. If I no longer love a piece I bought in 1984, then it gets used to make a test garment.

That said, I was very pleased to be able to put together an 11-piece SWAP without buying anything new. One piece of fabric I did buy probably around 1984, but it's an off-white suiting weight cotton/linen, which I would never have tossed either. It's not like it was going to go out of style, like a few others which have become test garments!


Bunny said...

The appeal as well as the logic of stash busting sewing is beyond my comprehension. It just doesn't work for me on any level. Why would I sew something just to get rid of it? My time is far too precious for that and I sure that most of you feel the same. Besides, I don't have any fabrics I want to get rid of. I do have lots of fabrics that spur me on creatively and bring me joy, sewn or not. Just don't get it.

Keely said...

I don't get the sewing something just to use the fabric either. If I sew something it's got to have been something that was already percolating in the to-do pile. However, I do keep track of how much I've sewn for two reasons: I have an embarassingly large stash that is outgrowing (ok, outgrown) the allocated storage space and I want to get that cut down - when I go and buy fabric for a new project when I already have something suitable but it's too hard to get to, it really does need cutting back!. I also like to be able to look and see that I have managed to sew something when I'm feeling snowed under timewise. I get a kick out of having the numbers go the right way and it slows down the impulse buying.

kbenco said...

I am one of those people who deliberately set out to create a "stash". I do not live near good fabric shops, and I want a good selection of fabrics I like inside my house, ready for when I want to sew.
I did enjoy the stash sewing contest at pattern review last year. I sewed up several things that I had been wanting to sew, but had not got around to yet. I did not choose them by yardage, and I was not sewing to "win", but it was fun to sew along with other people for a while. I don't think I would bother to make something just to use up fabric. On the other hand, it feels wasteful to throw away fabric that might be useful one day.

Christy Sews said...

I, personally, love my stash. It's rather large, more than I'll ever need, but I have gone through my kid prints, which I find that I don't use that much, to donate to the ASG's sewing project for Ronald McDonald house. Sometimes I feel like I should feel guilty about my fabric stash, but in truth, I don't. I love it. I love the fact that when I'm ready to sew, it's there. I love the fact that if I want to try something new, a new technique, new fabric, etc, the fabric is there. I especially love the fact that if I need a quick gift, I have everything I need at home. I need never run to the store in order to sew when I get the urge. Yes, it takes up a lot of room, and I do plan to use it. The "what was I thinking" fabrics are gone. I also think, in my haste to clean, I gave away fabrics that I would have like to have used, but that's okay. So no, I don't understand stash busting. I've tried it and it doesn't work for me. I'd rather just sew when I want. But I will say this, I do intend to purchase much less. I've made far too many impulse buys!

Marjie said...

Some people collect figurines, or plates, which are a whole lot less useful than textiles. Some collect tools, which may or may not be useful, depending upon the owner's inclination and ability. I buy only fabrics that I like, and can see as a dress, or skirt, or top, or whatever, someday, when I find the right fabric. I like to have the ability to start if the mood moves me at 2AM. As I said to Carolyn, you have to live with whatever you collect. If you find a way to manage it which works for you, then no one else has the right to criticize. (I bought a beautiful dark green satin for a "mother of the groom" dress for some day when my 22 year old son gets married, because it's his favorite color, even though he's not even engaged. How's that for stash planning?)

Karen said...

I'm sewing strictly from stash now, but that by no means puts me in "stash busting" mode. For the last few years I've tried to go on a fabric diet at the beginning of the year, and I also generally use that time to try to take out some stash by making a lot of whatever I need to fill gaps in my wardrobe.

This year, I'm short on knit tops AND acquired a coverstitch machine for Christmas, so by sewing up a lot of easy tops in a short period I'm filling a need, getting comfortable with my new machine and making some sorely needed room on my shelves.

I've gone through the stash pretty thoroughly over the last year and gotten rid of most of the "what was I thinking?" pieces, but there's still way more left than I care to admit to; I try not to think about it as stash because I know what most of the pieces are going to be, so it's simply clothing that's not yet been made.

Sheila said...

Great Post. I do understand the purpose of stash busting, but don’t get me wrong I love having a stash, I love that I can open my closet and just stand there and admire what I have accumulated, I love that I can pull out my fabrics and caress them despite having no intent to sew at that moment, I love talking about my fabric and just loving my fabric just because…hehee At the same time, I know I will always have a stash, but there is a need to stash bust periodically. Firstly, I need to make room for new fabrics, secondly, fabric that was intended for a particular pattern, that moment has come and gone… hence the reason for new fabric, and thirdly, stash busting allows me to sew items for family instead of buying fabric just for their project. This past Christmas, I was able to sew up a dozen hat & scarf sets, which made me super happy that I was able to use fabric that I no longer wanted for a particular garment. So my stash busting is not about sewing something just to use the fabric, but allows me to redirect its purpose for the enjoyment of others.

Cennetta said...

I understand the concept of stash busting, but it is not an approach to sewing that I'll ever take. Like many sewists, I love my stash. And yes I will continue to purchase more fabric as needed and/or desired. I will never start a project just for the sake of using yardage to reduce the stash. Sewing for me is so satisfying on so many levels. I like to create, build skills, and make pretty things that I'm proud of. Sometimes that is a slow process. Stash busting will never be in my future. Now some organizing needs to be, like yesterday. lol
Happy Sewing!

Lorraine said...

Marji- This is a subject that I find fascinating. I've decided that a big part of it is putting the project together- the thrill of finding the perfect thread or buttons, and imagining yourself in the perfect garment and how it will change your life.
Which is total crap, it won't change a thing, but it's what it represents.

Summerset said...

That's strange. I thought I commented yesterday. Oh well, the gist of it is: I don't get stash busting. Why not just donate or give away things you don't want or won't use and enjoy the process with materials you love?

Eme said...

I do not understand "stash busting" projects AT. ALL. It seems designed to turn a hobby into a job! I recently purged a lot of yarn from my stash and was delighted that the person who took it is now making hats for a woman's shelter. BTW I'm mamapicklejuice on ravelry - please feel free to add me to your 'friends' list. :)

Carrie K said...

After taking a good look at my stash this month, I get the stashbusting thing. It's ginormous and I had no idea I had half that yarn.

But to make something willy nilly just to use that yarn? Not for me.

My fabric stash was dramatically reduced when I rearranged the craft room. I'm no longer that enamoured with floral cottons and I had a boatload of 'em.

Sue said...

I'm with you. I am coming to the realisation that unless I have a short-term project to use fabric then don't buy it. However the fabrics that are in my 'stash' are wonderful and I won't use them up for the sake of it. It has to be a project that I will love and I will wear/use when completed. If I don't love the fabric, then it needs to be moved on to someone who will.

Alexandra said...

Stash busting? Never!

I love my stash - it's my in-house fabric store. It allows me to sew things when inspiration strikes instead of waiting for the post office to deliver my fabric.

a little sewing on the side said...

yeah, stash busting combines 2 bad things: wasting my energy and wasting my fabric. I only own fabric I love, so I am not going to waste it!

mames said...

it is the oddest thing. i once read tour blog regularly. then along came children (two at once) and i read my bloglines queue. and lost a lot of blogs i once read.

thursday i was at a knit event and i was talking to my friend about alice starmore, i remembered the tudpr knitalong a nd also the sweater i wanted to make from the book and how i could not find a copy to save my life (that i could afford, anyway).

and then someone left a comment on my blog and i saw your name in her queue and remembered how very much i enjoyed your blog. and here i am.

glad to 'meet' you again.

Tany said...

I understand the need of sewing garments using stashed fabric because I need to free space for more fabric! I would never get into that Stash busting thing though; I love my fabric too much to use it like that.

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

You make me feel so much better, Marji, both about the stash and the WIPs. Comforting to know somebody else has 'leventy million sweaters half-finished!

And thanks for the hint on knitting the gansey flaps separately and only then joining them (when there is no risk of a twist). I'm going to try that.

Nancy W. said...

Lots of good comments here. I do love my stash, enjoy using it, looking at it going through it, keeping it organized, etc. However, I feel embarrassed about how much I have - way too much. On the other hand, I have NO desire to "use it up" I am determined to sew as much as I can from my stash, because after doing a little culling, I realized that I love all of the pieces in my stash and need to be wearing them. Yes, I will be sewing a lot out of my stash this year, but I will still buy things I want, although on a much lesser scale. using just to use seems wasteful to me.

Cennetta said...

I'm back! I've nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. See my blog for the details.
Happy Sewing!

RuthieK said...

Very interesting and thought provoking post.
My stash contains some stiff which I now know is bad colours for me, and also stuff I bought for home dec projects and never used.
We moved to a new much larger home 2 months ago and I reckon once it is furnished with enough cushions and curtains in each room, I can release the home dec fabrics to someone else.
I am trying to catalogue my fabric, but not to calculate yardage, rather as an index to my fabrics as they are sadly stored in cardboard boxes in the garage.

Mardel said...

I've nominated you for the Kreative Blogger award too. See I knew someone had to have gotten you already.

Barbara said...

Wise words and a beautiful blog, I've nominated you for a Kreativ Blog award. Thank you for sharing your wonderful projects.

Johanna Lu said...

I have done one stash busting project, and I'll never do it again because my heart wasn't into it. And I want my sewing to be a labor of love and to be able to cherish everything I make. I don't buy much fabric anymore, because I got stressed out by my stash. So I'm slowly sewing through it but I also add a few choice new fabrics when the mood strikes me, since it keeps the fun up.

Gigi said...

The entire concept is lost on me. I LOVE - really LOVE - my fabrics. Pieces that I no longer love are donated in the hope that someone else will love them. True, like many sewers, I've had my share of Internet Mistakes. Rather than Use Them Up I prefer to just pass them along. My sewing time is so limited and precious that I want the pleasure of touching, feeling and falling in love with my fabric all over again. Funny, sometimes I won't use a fabric because I don't want to use it up - as long as it's still yardage there are so many possibilities!

Lisa said...

I just started officially collecting my stash last month (I'm a totally new sewist). I do have a beautiful piece of tapestry I bought 20 years ago, just because I loved the colors. Does one piece of old fabric a stash make? I hope to use it one day to recover a stool - or maybe in a vest (?). I've spent the past few weeks extensively reading sewing blogs (many names of the commentators here are familiar to me from your lovely blogs). Occasionally, someone will tell of a garment sewn using fabric mom or grandma handed down. I LOVE that, especially because my grandpa owned a silk fabric printing company and I have not one scrap of his yardage! Someone else commented recently that sewing is your hobby - enjoy it - enjoy the process instead of rushing through it. I hope to incorporate that into my new hobby - to enjoy the process. To me, that will include enjoying the fabric I'm working with. If I happen to collect a huge stash and have collected something that is no longer a favorite, I won't sweat it. I'll plan on handing it over to someone else, or leaving it for a daughter or granddaughter to enjoy.