Friday, 22 May 2015

Summary of my stash coping ideas

Where my blog posts are concerned, I often apply a lot of voluble outpouring in the verbal department.  I just can't seem to shut up.  Can't be a bit more concise. Not happy with that.

The very length of my posts threatens to bury the points I wrote about.  I am even less happy with that.  It took quite a bit of rereading of my previous blog post about stash busting (this one) to figure out just what my conclusions were that I had come to about how to manage my stash.

So I want to do a summary.  What did I learn, what ideas did I come up with?

  • I don't fear cutting into fabric but cutting out feels like it needs lots of effort
  • I don't have enough tried and tested patterns I can whip up
  • My stash is badly organised. As in not organised at all (gah)
  • I don't know my fabric fibres well enough to know what fabric is good for what kinds of garments
  • I bought several versions of the same thing because I forget what I have
  • I don't have enough colours or patterned fabrics in my stash

This leads me to the conclusions I came to:

  • I want to organise my stash lots better: put similar fabrics together
  • Use my stash app Clothio for lots more fabrics than so far
  • Measure the lengths of my fabrics properly
  • Put remnants and odd pieces aside
  • Examine each fabric thoroughly to get rid of tat
  • Put aside fabrics I can use for toiles/muslins
  • Look over my project ideas list to check my earmarked fabrics
  • Keep going on developing TnT patterns
  • Keep my self-drafted patterns in better order
  • Go through the fabric fibre bible I bought at the V&A
  • Chuck non-viable UFOs to lighten the load
  • Resign myself that I won't use most of my fabrics (sneef)
  • Use a specific fabric as starting point for the project
  • Get on with it: I can only learn from doing, even if badly. More sewing is the answer to so many different problems!

Ooh, I've had more ideas on practical ways of doing something with and about my stash. That feels very helpful. I want to really take hold of that last point: just get on with it!

I shall report back about how it's going.

PS: There is perhaps one more insight that just occurred to me: I don't want to use up a very special fabric on a pattern that I'm not sure of. I would rather sew that pattern with a less special fabric (it also reduces a bit of my stash) and perhaps make it a second time, than 'waste' the special length. I would be too heart-broken to find the pattern/fabric combo was awful. And you get more of a feeling of achievement out of a successful project even if the material used wasn't the most loved one.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

There's a deadline to my plan

Ah, I only just realised: there is a deadline I can aim for - if I want to achieve a certain planned project.  People, this could be good news!

I made a toile of Simplicity 1462 out of an old bed sheet that fit pretty well. It just needs a thin sliver taking out at the top of the front princess seam, then it should be good.


It actually fit so well that I almost wish I had used a dressmaking fabric. But it would have heart-breaking if I had messed up, again.  I just can't cope with yet another project that doesn't quite pan out. I've had enough of those, can't deal with it already again. So it's a good thing I found a great pattern, never mind that it won't be a wearable toile, that's just too bad. Phew.  Glad that's off my chest.

I want to make two of these blouses at pretty much the same time.  A bit like a conveyor belt process: just get both fabrics cut out, transfer markings and then sew 'em up.  One of those urges of: 'let's just go for it, churn it out, no double guessing: just do it'.

Imagine my horror when I found only one (plain blue) fabric in my stash that seemed suitable. And no second. Oh God. This is really bad.

Since then I located another one that will do, at a pinch. I don't have the photo to hand, but its very similar to this black and white cotton, just the other way round of the dominant colour:

Just like 'that dress': this is black and white, not blue. I swear.

I'm not sure how princess seams and raglan sleeves will look in this.  Whether the checks will be a complete pain in the butt to try and match or if I'll go for an obvious mismatch?  I haven't decided yet.  I might just change my mind and try to find a third fabric to use instead.

Why is this so hard?  I have hundreds of fabrics and surely there have to be several that I can use to make blouses with?  I thought I had everything and that all the fabrics I own had so much potential.  I am finding the uselessness of my stash quite upsetting to tell the truth.  How can I not have the fabrics that I want to use?  Why did I buy all of these and what for?


Anyway, back to my headline: I do have a deadline.

I just realised that there is a fabric shopping trip organised for 13 June.  If I haven't made these two blouses by then with whatever fabrics I can find in my stash, then I know what I'll be unable to resist: more fabric shopping.  Obviously.  For a fabric that I want for this blouse.

I must make both blouses before that day comes round. Once I've got them done, then I'll know if I still want to make a third blouse.  If I don't get them done, then I will add yet another fabric to my stash because I think that it'll be the solution to my "can't find a suitable fabric for this pattern" issue.  Which isn't even true - I should just use whatever is big enough as long as it's half way the right kind of weight. I really shouldn't um and err about this!  But I do want to be able to visualise the blouse and I can only do that when I find the fabric appealing {sticks lower lip out}

This stash-eroding business is stupidly tough. Grumble.

Update 1: I did cut out the sleeves in the plain blue fabric. That's how far I got. I'll post a photo of this soon.
I want to add some more on this point, but it's a bit involved. Enough for half a blog post! Oh well...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A skirt in a day

I made a skirt in a day from a £1 fabric remnant that I pulled out of the bargain bin at Simply Fabrics in Brixton.

I went fabric shopping on Saturday a week ago because I was still looking for a present. Which I had been looking for for a very long time. And I've been everywhere!  Goldhawk Road, Walthamstow, Berwick Street, Lavender Hill, Tooting and even Kensington to name just the London locations; and also Brighton, Worthing and even Paris!

What I wanted was not to be found. Grrrh.  Not happy.

So I went back to Simply Fabrics and also checked the stall on Market Row, and did come away with a few likely prospects.  But still not what I was looking for, darn.  We'll see if my friend likes the fruits of my labours.

But all that meant that the temptation for buying more and more fabric for myself was huge.  I have way too much fabric, and being in all these shops didn't exactly help.  And to go through the bargain bins and end up buying nine lots from there!  Oh dear, I got the whole lot home and then just wanted to despair: what on earth am I going to do with all of it?

There was this one fairly square-ish piece of grey jersey. Lovely and firm, just the sort of fabric that I haven't sewn with and that looks like a good prospect for learning to sew with jersey.  So of course I had to buy it.

It then turned out that I didn't have enough width to go around my hips - so I used lots of difficult maths to figure out how wide the side panels had to be to make a wide enough tube to slip over my hips... and then I threw out that calculation when I remembered that jersey stretches and I wanted at least a bit of negative ease.

I just went with a guesstimated inch taken off my hip measurement and that turned out quite well I must say!

I chopped off two panels from the bottom of my piece and cut the remaining rectangle in half for the front and back panel.  The jersey is a two-way stretch so the side panels look distinctly different to the centre panels.  But I like it!

Here's the result:

I should probably put an elastic through the top because the skirt is rather loose without it. If I really wanted to be bothered (I'm not) then I could top-stitch the panels at both sides of each seam, but as I said: I can't be bothered.

I am really quite pleased with the result!

In contrast to the result, the process was ulcer inducing.

I am still finding sewing with jersey really difficult.  The straight stitching was tough enough and I had to go slow, but using the twin needle on the bottom and top hem was almost impossible.  I had to stop numerous times and sew really, really slow - my problems was skipped stitches, the thread wrapping itself round one needle tip, it kept coming out of the machine guides and once the thread shredded.

It was good G├╝termann thread so I don't understand why my machine ate it, nor any of the other problems. I did notice though that the thread came off its spool in quite tight curls because I only have a little left of this. It was the best colour match for this skirt.

Friends felt that all this sounds like tension problems, I will have to fiddle some more with that. I am wondering if the thread was a bit too old. Is that a thing, can thread get too old?

Here's some more closer up photos, showing some of the skipped stitches:

But having to sew at the slowest speed my machine offers did mean that I could keep the stitching line very nice and even.  It looks perfectly parallel to the edge.

Don't look at the inside, there are lots of knots because the thread broke several times in stitching the top and the bottom hems but I managed to line up any new starts quite well.

The problems I had last time was that I didn't use the twin needle setting of my machine (oh dear), but at least I used the right foot. I will try a different thread next time and see if that makes a difference.

I just hope that it's not my machine that just doesn't like jersey - I do like the result of this a lot, but I still heartily loathe sewing with the blooming stuff.  It is just too annoying for words.

Update: I wore the skirt once and the thread of the twin stitched hems broke in some places. I bought another 2.5mm twin needle, this time not Ball Point but Stretch and used that one. It was a bit better. I also used a different, new thread, again that seemed to go quite a bit better.  Unfortunately things went very wrong on the wrong side: the thread from both top needles looped on the wrong side.  It was so bad that I had huge trouble ripping the seam out even after I removed the bottom thread.


It did it twice. I couldn't believe it. I finally succeeded after rethreading the whole machine and yanking the tension of both top and bottom threads up a bit. But it was still a complete pain in the butt to sew with. I hate jersey, I really, really, really hate jersey...  It is lovely to wear but I just can't sew with it. Something always goes wrong. I just hate it.

I bought the elastic but I haven't put it in yet. That'll be a nice job at a sewing group meeting.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Don’t buy three years’ worth of fabric at once

I have not used up any of these completely. Oh dear.

This is my new motto!  Why would anyone buy three years' worth of fabric in one go?  Where is the fun in that and how heavy is that to lug home?

It sounds awful!  Back-breaking.

I have done this before, I'm sure. When I just couldn't resist this beautiful fabric or that... Usually with no idea what to make with it, just the urge to carry it home, to own it, not to leave it behind.

This blog post about excessive fabric stashes is rather good: On Fabric Stashes - A Cautionary Tale by Sunni. The comments are pretty darn fantastic too!  The quotation I am using as this post's title is from one of the comments, by a very wise lady called Helen C. Peemoeller (thank you Helen! We don't know each other but thank you. I shall take your words to heart).

My trouble with my stash seems even worse than described by these wonderful sewing ladies - in the last few months I have taken to going through my stash again and again, with the goal of pulling out several suitable fabrics to use for a) a mini dress/tunic type garment, and b) a raglan sleeved blouse.  I have yet to get the tunic pattern to my satisfaction, but I found a great blouse pattern (Simplicity 1462) that I love and that didn't need too many adjustments (yes! This is such a welcome discovery).

I found a blue fabric that I want the 1462 blouse in (great) but no second one. What? That's not possible: I have way too much fabric, surely there is a second suitable fabric for a blouse in there? What's going on?

And I have a relatively new fabric which reminds me of Art Deco (it's nothing of the sort, not really) that I desperately want to use for the mini dress because I want to wear it really, really soon (my pattern drafting skills are not keeping up with my ambition on this one) - but I want to keep this one until I can be fairly certain that I won't stuff it up because I already used up three other fabrics that would have been nice wearable muslins, alas they didn't work out at all.  I really must figure out where I'm going wrong with this pattern (I misplaced the RTW mini dress that should serve as model)

I don't think I have that much of a problem cutting into fabric.  I used to find that first cut into a fresh piece of fabric more difficult but I have so much of the blooming stuff now that I got over that particular problem. If I don't cut into it when I know what to make with it and have everything else to hand, then I won't get to wear it. And if I don't sew it then the chances are getting higher by the month that this fabric will be one of those that I will give away. Because I can't cope with the overload, I just really can't. It's wearing me down.

That's something a second commenter said on the linked thread. June said: "I was struck by how a large stash can weigh a soul down" - that's such a good way of putting it.  Too much of a good thing can feel like it is grinding you down while wiping out your joy in sewing.

An excessive stash can also diminish the joy of fabric shopping: when I start to think about what kinds of lovely fabrics might be out there... before I realise that I can't go to take a look because that would make things just so much worse. I have not yet gone fabric shopping and come back with nothing, so I really can't go.  And I feel rather hard done by on that point, even though I've only got myself to blame.

I bought too many fabrics without a clear idea of what it should become once it's sewn. I have too much stuff in fibres that are unfamiliar to me so the main problem becomes not knowing what type of garment the fabric is suited to.  I often pull out a fabric that would be perfect! ...only to find that it is too thin, or too stiff, or too saggy... or whatever, and I can't use it. Damn.

Helen also describes a great method of cataloguing all new fabric and pattern purchases: write it all down with dates and as many details as you can muster (an app is great for that too; a notebook has the advantage that you can attach a snippet of the fabric).  I can imagine that when your list gets too long, your enthusiasm for buying more might get less.  An app can show just how many blue fabrics you already own, and how many blue cottons or blue crepes and that might put you off from buying a third one.

I bought a nice tweedy fashion fabric once and it took me ages to realise that I already owned another two. Very similar. I don't want three tweedy skirts!  What the hell was I thinking?  Problem of course is that I was thinking ("That'll make a lovely skirt!") but it was my memory that let me down.

Another issue is that I don't have my stash well organised. Which is how the three tweeds problem happened. I don't have all lining fabrics in one place, not all chunky material, or all chiffons.  This is my next main task: pull EVERYTHING (and I mean: literally every fabric that I own) out and sort it into categories that make sense.

Wish me luck!

What kind of stash do you have? Do you like the fabrics you own, have you earmarked each one for a specific project or type of garment?  Do you have any insights or ideas of how to manage a stash so it becomes less overwhelming and paralysing?  Please comment.

PS: This got rather long and rambling - so I pulled the ideas together in a summary: click here.