I can remember when I first starting sewing, when I owned only a few scraps of fabric. I wasn’t taught to sew by a family member and I never inherited someone else’s stash and supplies. I lived in Bristol back then and the only fabric shop I knew of was the much loved fabric land. I was mostly learning to sew cushion covers and book slips, and fabric land cuts lengths in 10cm increments from a quarter of a meter so I’d buy only what I needed for the next project, make it, and have very little leftover – perfect for applique!
When I discovered dressmaking I quickly stumbled upon sewing blogs, and the concept of a fabric stash – a miniature haberdashery in your own home. To begin with I just couldn’t understand it. How could you buy fabric (or notions, or even patterns) without knowing what you’d use it for? How did you know how much you’d need? I thought “Shouldn’t I buy a pattern and then source the perfect fabric?” It turns out that I now believe the answer to that question is yes, but it’s too late for me, I already have a room of fabric. Reader, if it’s not too late for you yet, heed my advice.
- Let’s start with the obvious – how will you know how much to buy? Experience has taught me that I can get most dresses out of 2m, but if I only need 1.4m I’ll be buying, and restashing, that other 0.6m. Depending on your fabric budget and where you shop this could be a good chunk towards (or an upgrade for!) your next project, or even your next sewing machine!
- The space. Oh my goodness the space. I’ve moved house four times since the beginning of my sewing journey, and the last two have required me to make fundamental choices about my next rental based on it having enough room for my enormous stash. There were boxes upon boxes of fabric that I loved when I bought them but deep down know I’ll never love as a garment. Which leads me to…
- Your tastes change. One season I’m all about a pattern or a colour and the next season I’m ogling all the gorgeous new trends and I’m much less interested in what was lust worthy 6 months ago (and is still in fabric form, unconstructed). Your taste changes as you grow older or start a new chapter of your life like a new job. Fashion moves quickly, and you don’t have to follow trends to fall victim to the “I’m tired of looking at this and I want something new” feeling. The same thing happens with fabrics. You’ll rarely be as excited about something you bought a year ago than you will be about something you bought yesterday.
- Hopping back over to finances, if you do have a stash already, how much do you think it cost you? How much money do you have sitting idle in “garment potential?“. Maybe you’re happy to have your hard earned cash in fabric form, but ask yourself if you’d rather have it in your savings account (let’s not even pretend it will fit in your purse!)?
If I could go back in time and send a message to my pre-dressmaking self, I would say “don’t build a stash!”. Be thoughtful, plan a project that excites you, go shopping for the perfect fabric and make it this week or this month and then be excited to wear it. Don’t put it in a box – put it in your wardrobe! Or, go shopping for fabric and see what inspires you – buy enough to make the project you’re picturing, and donate the remaining length if you know you won’t use it. I still struggle to listen to this voice.
Now, I can already hear you saying “but there’s hardly any fabric shops where I live, so I have to stock up when I find a good one”! And yes, perhaps the idea of “zero stash” is a bit extreme, but if I could keep mine down to 5 – 10 lengths of fabric at any time I know I’d have less guilt, less stress, less anxiety, and more space, more money, more freedom to change my mind, and more finished projects with perfectly chosen, high quality fabrics. I’m working on this right now, trying to keep my stash within one box. I still have another 8 boxes downstairs, but they’ll be making their way to eBay shortly as I try to reclaim my home from my self-inflicted fabric-buying curse.
What do you think? Do you also shop faster than you sew? Do you have no space and no money?
Would you rather have a wardrobe full of clothing, or a cupboard full of fabric? Let me know in the comments!