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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, January 17, 2009

On stashing

The issue of to stash or not to stash is a burning one in our world, and no doubt the reality check of the recession/depression/slow down is sensibly making us think over the whole fabric collection thing. Two of my favourite bloggers Marji and Carolyn  have written articulately about this, and they have me thinking, and so has the weather.

This week I have been thinking a lot of my background. 

Because it has been so damn cold.

Tuesday I woke up to an email from my sister in Winnipeg who has a 10 year old and a 12 year old (I got married young and had kids young, my sisters did the later marriage and baby thing, but that's another story) that said this:

It's -48 this morning and our Mom is parked outside my door at 5:30 a.m. to take her grandchildren to the pool. Not too many seniors at that age would attempt that without a thought. She lost her husband 16 years ago and look at her now. In some ways and I mean some ways I hope I am just like her.

We grew up when all the winters were like this one and we learned to plan for it. When you grew up in rural Manitoba you have this thing in the back of your mind called "The Big Storm". If the Big Storm came would you have enough in the house to get by? (The fact that half of the family went through the Depression working on the railway, on the farm, or trying to hold on to the one family business really made this part of our culture). So our freezers were always full and there were always cans under the stairs.

I think this has affected the way I look at fabric.

When the Big Storm comes will I have enough to sew?

So I have gone through huge stash collecting stages, regrettable stages of stash busting where I made up totally inappropriate garments from wonderful fabric (some Quick-'n-easy patterns in good silk still haunt me), and back to where I am now.

Collecting with a strategy, because it is so nice when there is a big storm, fiscal, emotional, or just because the local fabric stores have gone down the polyester print drain, to be able to reach out and put your hands on exactly the right thing.

But to be smart you have to do this strategically. To my mind the way a good librarian would build a great book collection.

Here are my rules:

1. Buy large amounts of solids, buy small amounts (one garment only) of prints. AACA (after a certain age) too much print on one body is too much. A top or a skirt, a dress if it's quiet, no more. It is a waste of good money to have 3/4 yard of anything left over and you can't use a print, most prints, twice in different garments without people noticing, most of all yourself.

So 5 meters of black anything for me makes sense (in 3 different garments this same fabric will look like 3 different garments, not repeats). Anything more than 2 yards in a print is just going to make me upset because of the waste.

Distinctive fabrics (this season's colour, print or texture) can and should be purchased only on an as needed basis, i.e. you will be cutting into it this week.

2. Never buy on price. OK, I, and no one else I know, is going to stick with this one because a deal is a deal. However I find this helps : I ask myself how this same fabric will look after 5 washes. That usually does it.

3. Exception to Rule 2. Stock up on notions. I am sure I am not the only one who has been shocked to see how much thread, interfacing, and buttons can add up at the cash, more than the fabric itself in some cases, many cases. If you get a deal on silk lining that you can use in a coat - buy it. Keep the fixings around.

Nothing gets a deferred project on the move faster than having everything you need in the house.

Which brings me to my big revelation of the weekend:

Most of my money-wasting-don't-really-need-it purchases have occurred when I just "ran out to get some thread". Keeping those fevered trips down to a minimum is the best way I have found to cut back on poor stash additions, and to keeping myself under financial control.

So to me the issue is not whether or not to stop stashing, but how to stash smart.

The way the vendor situation is developing, and the way the choices are narrowing, I am not totally convinced that fabric purchasing will soon become more work than it is now. So I better get a start on this.

Am I the only one who doesn't wish she could get into some sort of fabric shopping time machine and go back to the fabric stores of her youth where Egyptian cotton, decent shirting, Swiss dot, and sandwashed silks were there by the bolt?

OK, off I go now. To sew up some nice warm fleece pants and stay inside. I hear we have a big storm coming.