Fabric Stash Reduction

My idea sketchbook is getting well used lately, as I switch from brain-storming about one craft to another. The most recent page is entitled “I need to use some fabric!” and has lots of ideas listed.

I’d already concluded that I should use thicker fabric first to maximise the amount of space made in the time I take. Corduroy, denim and velvet are the thickest fabrics in my stash. But what to make out of it?

I have two big batches of corduroy and four denim pieces of varying size and thickness. The pin cord shirt in my wardrobe is a big favourite and I’ve long thought about making a pattern from it. I bought a pattern for a denim jacket a while back that might work for corduroy.

I also have a straight denim skirt pattern that I bought it a while back for some black denim I have, but what made me hesitate to make it is the stiffness and non-stretchiness of the denim. It not make a comfortable skirt, but the corduroy could be a good alternative.

The thinner denim in the stash would work a 50/50 skirt (a skirt with denim on the back and a print cotton on the front. I don’t have any fabric set aside to use on the front side, but I have a few ideas for making cloth using patchwork or embellishment. The pattern is familiar, but I already have two 50/50 skirts and don’t really need more skirts.

The velvet is leftover from a regency dress I made some years ago. There’s not a lot of it, but it might work in combination with other fabric. Like in a bomber jacket, maybe. Or a 50/50 skirt. Or maybe pillow covers.

While not thick fabric, the three knit fabrics in my stash are worth considering, too, because I want to make the same garments from all of it – leggings and long-sleeved tops – so I’d probably do them all at once. My wardrobe will always welcome more leggings and long-sleeves tops, too. However, I’ll have to make a pattern for both, so it’s a project that has it’s own challenges.

Other projects I’ve considered don’t make a lot of space but the patterns are familiar and quick to make, like shorts and pyjama pants. I also want to make a cotton petticoat, which ought to be an easy piece to do. But my mind keeps returning to the corduroy, so I that’s going to be first on the cutting table.

StaSHHHH!

There are a couple of posts I usually compile at the turn of the year. There’s the yearly summary, the list of books I’ve read, and the stash flash. It’s a bit early for any of these, but I’ve just examined my yarn stash so I thought I might do that post now.

The latter was inspired partly by a friend’s efforts at clearing the estate of a crafter. It’s an overwhelming job even though the deceased’s husband is still in the house so it’s not a full clear-out. The woman must have had no financial limit to the money she could spend on her hobbies, and the belief she would live forever. Yesterday I looked through a box of of beads, all of one size, that together would have cost over $500 to buy new. Most of the bags were bulk size and unopened. And that’s just one box of many. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn the deceased had run a craft shop that closed and she kept the remaining stock, by the sheer scale of what she owned.

It’s had my friend and I thinking about craft and hoarding. I don’t feel bad for the woman for having so much stuff. I hope it brought her joy. But I don’t want to be like her. So my thoughts turned to my stash. Especially to the yarn I picked up at destash sales in the last few years. Most of which is knitting yarn.

Knitting yarn? What was I thinking?

Well, I can answer that too easily. I wanted yarn for my new circular knitting machines. I was also thinking that I could use it on the Bond, or weave with it, and it would be good for teaching rigid heddle weaving. I was thinking that they don’t make yarn like they used to and non-machine washable yarn is getting harder to find. I was thinking that brown may be out of fashion but I like it. I was thinking ‘Oooh! Purty! Soooft!’.

For each and every batch of yarn I bought I could see pictures in my head of what it could become. I still do. It was all entered into my stash spreadsheet, carefully categorised. It all became part of my impossibly long project to-do list.

It’s comforting, though, knowing that if I can’t go out and buy yarn there is enough in my stash to keep me busy. Whenever I thought about it realistically, I had to admit it was unlikely that I’d ever be in that situation. Then this year happened.

But isolation hasn’t validated this reason for having a stash. There was still mail order, even if it was slow unless you paid for express post. Did I use stash instead of buying more yarn? No. I bought more yarn. For workshops. (I have no regrets. I learned so much!)

The other reason I looked at my stash was to consider what to make next. I’m thinking of maybe taking a break from weaving by setting up the Bond and machine knitting a garment or two. Or picking an easy project I can weave when I’m not feeling alert enough for the Echo sampler on the Jane. Rugs. Throws. Scarves. Fast, gratifying weaving that will use up some of the knitting yarns I probably shouldn’t have bought.

What I wound up with was a list of projects I could make, with notes on whether I’d keep or gift the item or learn something from making it. Then I culled the stash based on that, with 2 1/2 kilos of yarn going out. It’s in a giant bag with some of the yarn I culled last time, mid-year, but couldn’t find homes for most of it because of lockdown.

Craft Room Purge

Last week the urge to purge came over me like a roaring tornado and I turned my attention to the Craft Room. I was tired of having an unused floor loom taking up so much floor space. I was sure the cupboards were full of tools and materials I didn’t use or need. And I wanted to make it a sanctuary for making art. 

My easel and painting stuff have been in Paul’s studio for some years now. They’ve moved from one end to the other, but aside from a few sessions and the Art Nights I used to hold, mostly it was just a convenient place to stow my art class paraphernalia. 

When Paul expressed relief at the end of Art Nights I was surprised. It seemed he resented a little the intrusion into his space. I thought my urge to bring the art stuff inside had to do with it being winter and not wanting to heat the studio to use it. But to be honest, I didn’t feel like it was my space. And when I considered how I’d feel if I had a studio and Paul wanted a corner… I wouldn’t like it but I’d tolerate it. 

So the loom and the art stuff exchanged locations. Hopefully the loom will find an owner once the lockdown is over, and Paul can have all the studio to himself. 

The big bookcase went into the office and then the purging began. I went through almost everything, including some containers I hadn’t cleaned out since we moved. Most of what I purged went into the rubbish or recycling. I have such a habit of collecting little containers and other junk that “might come in handy one day”. I also had an old laptop I thought I might put Fibreworks on, but when I charged the battery the hard drive made an awful groan and died. 

In the end, I didn’t get rid of as much as I thought I would. I really ought to get rid of two mini sewing machines, the Passap knitting machine, the Lincraft circular knitting machine, a cutting machine, some books and lots of decorative paper. But I have the space so they’re staying for now. It’s reassuring to know I could cut back more if, say, my Dad had to live with us or Paul wanted all the cupboards in the laundry for his photo processing gear. 

And as an inevitable side effect… I’ve now got the urge to do a bit of jewellery-making. And calligraphy. And bookbinding. And machine knitting…

Five Years

That’s how long we have lived in this house. I still love it, though the garden is waaaay more work than I need. I’d be very sad if I had to move out – and Paul would certainly have a lot of trouble downsizing.

I wouldn’t have thought much would change in five years, other than the renovations we’d planned. We’ve both discovered new interests since we moved here. My back has deteriorated and the frozen shoulder I had for the first half of the year (nearly healed) made me realise I need to store my yarn somewhere lower than the top shelves of a wardrobe. And the way we use the house has changed.

When we first inspected it house, the idea of me using the entertainment room as my studio was considered, but it was such a great space for gatherings ite became known as the Party House. Over the last couple of years, however, our main circle of friends has fragmented due to various reasons and I started to find all the partying exhausting. We’ve used the entertainment room less and less and I began considering the studio idea again. The problem is where to put the sofas. And bar. And guests, the rare times we have them.

Last Sunday the solution hit me: I’ve been looking at the wrong room! The guest room also isn’t used much any more. One of the smaller bedrooms, it has a sofa bed for people staying over and a tv with dvd player for the children of visitors. It also stores bed linen and party costumes, and my Passap knitting machine. And the clothes airer.

So I did a mental reshuffle. Where could the sofa bed and chest of drawers go? The entertainment room would work just as well for overnight visitors. Linen? Cull and move to the entertainment room too, and make space for it by culling party supplies we no longer use. Costumes? Cull and move what we keep into our wardrobe. That leaves some shelving that came from my workroom at the last house. The tubs I keep my yarn in were bought to fit it, so that solves the yarn storage accessibility problem.

I ran the idea past Paul. He saw no problems with it. So we got stuck in, culling and moving things. And then, as if making space finally made it happen: I bought a floor loom.

But that’s another story.

A Bath for Birds

Funny how the mosaic project that involved using a hammer to smash the tiles unsuitable for the swimmers clock was finished first. It really was quite therapeutic! And it fixed the problem of the bath’s mysteriously pitted inner surface.

I’d set up a folding table in Paul’s studio to do the swimmers clock, and then this one took over the space. Once I’d grouted the bath I moved it into the garage for sealing when I got back from Fibrearts. Then I cleaned off the folding table and asked Paul to vaccume the studio while I was away. (Having a sore shoulder, I wasn’t keen to do that bit myself.

I kinda hoped the vacuuming would lead to some cleaning up, and it did. I also hoped it might lead to some photography-related activity in there. It didn’t. Instead, Paul spread his diorama-making out onto the folding table. This meant I going to have to tell him to remove it or resume my mosaic-making elsewhere. Probably back to my area of the garage, where I used to do it. Which isn’t a big problem except when it’s really hot or really cold. Which seems to be most of the year, these days.

Could I possibly set up in our laundry? Paul has not entirely satisfactory ways of using it as a darkroom. Perhaps we could build a darkroom into the back of the studio. I raised it with him one morning. He didn’t like the idea. He said: “Do you really think you’ll continue with mosaics?”

After a shower and a think, I asked pointedly: “Do you really think you’ll continue making dioramas?” He conceded that his question – or rather, the way it had been phrased – hadn’t been very fair.

Because it was a relevant question for both of us. We’ve both have adopted a new hobby since moving to this house and modifying it to suit the hobbies we’d had at the time. We need to consider how to most sensibly incorporate our new hobbies into the space we have, and consider how much time we actually spend on each of our hobbies, not how much time we wish we did.

And perhaps even more importantly, how much stuff we store that relates to them.

A Stranglehold of Scarves

When I started entering clothing into the Stylebook app I figured I might put in scarves, gloves and beanies eventually, but I was in no rush to. When I started, I thought I’d only use the app to put together new combinations of clothing, and I figured I didn’t need any help matching accessories to outfits – they would only be an addition to any look anyway.

But I didn’t know then how useful the app would be for getting an overview of what I own. Once I did well… I still put off tackling scarves, gloves and beanies. Why? Because they come with baggage. Well, to be honest, not the gloves and beanies. The scarves.

Gosh, did I have a lot of scarves.

Some I’d made, some were gifts and some were souvenirs. Two were given to me by a secret admirer when I was a teen (and only found out years later who sent them). Ten I’d bought on trips overseas. Nine were from my silk painting days of my twenties and, in my eyes now, are irreplaceable works of art. Ten or so I knitted or crocheted before RSI set in. Some were made from yarns spun by me and by friends. Some were made from yarn I’d bought on holidays. A few were made with luxurious, expensive yarn. A couple had been from garments I’d loved and refashioned into scarves.

More than 80 scarves in total.

How many scarves is too many? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having lots of scarves, especially when they’re handmade or have a personal story. But I’ve had this thought, itching at the back of my mind, that I didn’t actually like quite a few of mine. So lots of quick phone snaps and some photo tweaking in Stylebook followed, then sorting them into categories. One for the artistic silk-painted ones, one for keepers, one for outs.

I told myself to be ruthless but mostly I didn’t have to be. You see, I didn’t really like the scarves my mystery admirer had given to me, though I liked the guy. Some of the ones I’d bought on holidays were nasty polyester, and I have other, better souvenirs from the same trip. I usually buy more than one batch of yarn on a trip so I don’t need to keep all the objects made with all the yarn. The scarf made from my first ever handspun and another using a friend’s handspun could be frogged and unwoven and used again.

Of the scarves I’ve made… well, the rule for all handmade items applies: I tend to keep what I love, and what turns out so badly I can’t really sell or gift it. I decided the latter had to go.

I got my collection down to 50 scarves, including 5 shawls. I was hoping to halve it, but didn’t really expect to get there. I could be more ruthless, but I decided to wear every scarf once this winter and see whether any aren’t comfortable or practical. I’m also thinking of framing some of the better silk-painted ones.

What to do with the ‘out’ scarves? Well, I’m going to wash everything then do the usual round of clothing adoption prospects – friends, acquaintances, op shop – or else frog/unweave and make something new. Maybe even more scarves.

Memories Rya Rug

Done!

(Actually, I finished it a week or two ago, but I’ve been a bit too busy to blog.)

I love it! It’s cushy and attractive and was inexpensive to make. The fabric strips don’t seem to stay pressed down when it’s walked on. It’s big enough for the room without costing a fortune.

One of the unexpected, but in retrospect kinda obvious, benefits of a rya rug is that the tufty nature of hides seams. I’ve learned a great deal while making it, most significantly that this method uses a LOT of fabric. If I was to make another I’d have to find a source of free rags, because if I’d used $7 mens shirts from the op shop this would have cost around $700 in fabric alone.

I’d like to try making one out of t-shirt rags. It’d have a different texture, I reckon. More spongy, not as soft, I reckon.

Next project on the floor loom will probably be a very long table runner using a combination of methods I’ve not seen before: weft rep and clasped weft. I’ve done a bit of test weaving, and I think it’ll work. Well, I hope so, anyway!

The Big Craft Room Tidy of 2019

It’s been hot in Melbourne for several days now. Dry hot then humid hot. Too hot to go outside. Too hot to even work on mosaics, as the studio is the warmest room in the house and I only run the aircon unit out there if I really have to – say, we have visitors.

Somehow my brain decided that this meant a big clean out of the craft room would be a good idea.

My aim was to get everything but looms, furniture and the rubbish bin off the floor and into the wardrobe or bookcase. Not only was I sick of the clutter, but I also know that if I do get another floor loom I’ll have to do this anyway.

First I dragged everything on the floor into the kitchen. Baskets, tubs and felt storage buckets covered the dining table. Most of the contents were t-shirt material, jeans, cotton fabric to be repurposed. One basket was overflowing with sewing and refashioning projects. On top of that: three square pillow inserts waiting to be given pillowcases.

Looking in the wardrobe, I mentally added all this to all my sewing supplies and a question immediately sprang to mind:

Why the heck do I have so much sewing stuff when I’m really not that keen on sewing?

So I culled.

And I culled HARD. At least a third of my sewing stuff went into a pile to get rid of, including the mini sewing machine and a quarter of my fabric stash. I then culled some embroidery yarns, stretchers and books, keeping supplies for kinds of embroidery I reckon my eyes can cope with.

The jewellery-making supplies were reduced next. I culled most of my seed beads since they’re hard to see now. I removed beads I didn’t love. (Then I got distracted and lost half a day trying to make a bracelet… but once I realised my mistake I decided there would be NO MORE GETTING DISTRACTED!)

Lots of swapping of plastic tube contents followed to make best use of the wardrobe shelving. I was determined to avoid buying more plastic stuff. The only container I wound up needing to buy was a replacement sewing box – the lid had finally broken off the one I’ve been using since I was a teenager and though I’d duck-taped it back on it was only strong enough to store sewing patterns. I took a morning off and visited several op shops until I found an old cane picnic basket that was the exact dimensions to fit the space for the sewing basket in my wardrobe. A cane document tray I already had fitted inside. I did end up buying two small plastic boxes to hold my sewing threads, as the tray only sits loosely and I could see myself being a clutz and spilling spools everywhere.

Headway had been made, but much more work lay ahead. I hardly ever touch my paper and card stash, so it needed to be culled too. The space dedicated to it needed to be more efficiently arranged, too. A trip to Bunnings and Officeworks sorted that.

The bookcase was scrutinised, too. Knitting books, macrame books and art books went OUT. This gave me two shelves spare to put weaving and drawing tools on.

Finally, a week after I began, I’m finished. There are still some areas that need work. I have bags of yarn that won’t fit in the stash in bags hanging from door handles, and the sack of cotton fabric for a rya rug has nowhere to go but the floor, so I haven’t achieved 100% of my aim. But it’s a LOT less cluttered in the craft room now.

And all I have to do to get to 100% is tackle couple of big projects: a couple of recycled denim patchwork pillowcases and a giant rya rug.

All I need to do for the latter is work out if I can do it on the floor loom, or if I’ll need to make or buy a rug loom.

Buy Nothing New Decorating

Having volunteered to host the extended family Christmas bbq and tackling the lack of tree by whipping up this…

I set myself the challenge to buy nothing new when decorating for the event. A friend had made a whole lot of wrapping paper cones to decorate an op shop window, and when she heard about my challenge she asked if I wanted them. I said an eager ‘yes, please!’.

When I got them I realised that they would blow away if I didn’t find a way to anchor them. I used a circle cutter to make lots of small discs of card, then speared those with bamboo sticks from the kitchen. That gave the cones something to sit on. Then we rescued some scrap wood from the ‘stuff for the tip’ pile and Paul drilled holes in them. That got me two long rows of trees that happened to fit perfectly along the kitchen windows:

And four small ones for the tables:

The rest I stuck into the ground of the shade garden next to the deck to make two little forests:

A few days before it had occurred to me that the trees, large and small, still would make for a rather sparse amount of decoration. I brought out the ‘chalkboard’ bunting I’d bought for another party, which you can see in one of the pics above. More bunting would be good, but I didn’t have much fabric or time. Then I remembered that I had some leftover drop cloth fabric from when I’d made a canopy for our pergola-ish-thing. It was lined with plastic and wouldn’t fray, so I only needed a seam on the top to thread string through. Draggin it out, I realised I had just enough to make flags to put around the other three sides of our deck. So I cut it into two strips, sewed three more seams, made a flag template and marked out the shapes on the back:

Then I painted the fabric red, blue, green and yellow:

When I was done I cut up the flags and threaded them onto some craft string. Immediately there was something not quite right. The bunting reminded me of car yards. I asked Paul and he said it did the same thing for him. Looking at it critically, I realised two things: the yellow flags made the colour combination too ‘primary school’ and all the colours were too flat.

So I got out my printing supplies and used white paint and a plastic lace drawer-liner to add a bit of pattern to the flags:

Re-threading the flags without the yellow fit better with the colours in the Christmas paper trees, too:

So I grabbed the red, green and blue lanterns from a party I had a few years back and hung those up too:

Now we were ready to party.

The party went well and one of the first guest to arrive was heard to say “awesome Christmas tree!”. We used reusable plastic plates and cutlery, provided cans and bottles of soft drink to reduce plastic, everyone separated their waste into the ‘recycling’, ‘compost’ and ‘rubbish’ bins I’d set out, and nobody expressed any surprise, let alone a grumble, at it all. Some guests brought gifts in reusable bags, so maybe they are already on board with low-waste.

The bunting will definitely be used again – maybe a different colour combination next time – and maybe the Christmas wrapping trees. But the hose and stakes tree will be dismantled after New Year. If I need one again, I’m sure I’ll find another creative way around buying something new. I had too much fun not to try again!

Non-fiction Meanderings

When I’m working on a book I tend to avoid reading fiction. Instead I stick to non-fiction – usually books about the history of something. This year it’s been books about waste.

The first was Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle, who wrote the wonderful ethical fashion book, To Die For. It was clear and interesting, covering much of the same territory as The War on Waste tv show.

That led me to review my (then unpublished) post on maximalism, and deciding I needed to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. The book repelled and intrigued me as much as I expected, which is to say lot of repelling and a little bit of intriguing. As I suspected, the minimalist lifestyle she advocates ignores the problem of our throwaway culture – and possibly encourages it.

Next I started How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett, which I think was referred to in Lucy’s book. I only got halfway through, however, finding it a bit too repetitive though I liked the idea of gentle crafty protest.

After that I found Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. Though I don’t have an itch to go zero waste, I read it for ideas and motivation on reducing waste. She moved from a gigantic house to a modestly-sized one so a lot of her family’s belongings would have had to go, and she talks about disposing of things responsibly, but there’s a Kondoishness to her minimising – her wardrobe in particular – that didn’t appeal to me. However, she’s nowhere near as neurotic as Marie Kondo comes across and is honest about failures in a way that is humble and appealing.

In the following book, I went back to ethical fashion with Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan. In the ethical fashion books I’ve read so far ‘fashion’ was an umbrella term for ‘clothing and accessories’. This one uses the term as it relates to designer clothing. It focusses on shifts in designer fashion, and how it filters down to fast fashion. I really enjoyed it, especially her accessible system for choosing what clothes to buy. Not long after I read it I bought two pieces of new clothing using her system, and it worked very well.

I came away from all this reading thinking that keeping stuff is perhaps the most beneficial and weirdly subversive decision you can make. Maybe it’s not so much about owning stuff, but owning up to it. Would people stop buying crap indiscriminately and then cull it over and over if they couldn’t easily toss it out? Would manufacturers stop making products that don’t last if customers started taking things back and asking for a refund? How can people learn to make good shopping decisions when prices are so low they can easily throw mistakes away? My little reading binge certainly had me thinking.

Recently I read A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button. Written by the founder of BuyMeOnce, a website containing a curated list of products made to last, it is a guide to avoiding overspending, valuing what you have, ditching the trend treadmill and living ‘a more fulfilled life’. While it did have the usual chapter on culling your wardrobe and preaching the ‘capsule’ wardrobe nonsense (I skipped that bit) I found lots of interesting factual nuggets and tips for resisting spontaneous purchase regret.

Now I’m reading a book I picked up at a sale about human hair, so off onto another tangent. I wanted to read a book about the psychology of fashion, but it isn’t available on iBooks.