The Hoard

My fabric stash and I recently had a chat about the Meaning of Life. It was impromptu–all right, it was an intervention. She cornered me in my den and threatened me with death by asphyxiation under a mountain of cotton.

An early Purge Pile
An early Purge Pile, plus a Frances

She is not enormous by First World standards, which is to say that if it were all sewn up, I could clothe an extended family, but not a village. Still, when seen in those terms, it is clearly excessive.


Stash: Please tell me you are not adding to me today.

Me: What? No, no … just these two fat quarters for that quilt I’m planning, and this metre of cream bamboo jersey Frances has been asking for.

Stash. You are adding to me today.

Me: Well, ok, but such a small purchase hardly counts.

Stash: Look at me.

Me: I am looking at you. I’m trying to find a place to put these.

Stash: Get your hands off me, back up a few paces, and look.

I did.

The three large storage bins in the closet were full: of scraps for muslins, large pieces of specialty fabrics like faux fur and chennille, and various kinds of battings. The three hanging storage units were also full: of quilting cottons, shirtings, wools, corduroy, silks. Pieces of suede and leather covered the top of the dresser. The green storage bin for Christmas fabrics was not entirely full, but close. The closet shelf was stacked with linings.

The spare office chair was piled high with impulse summer purchases. And worse, the floor–Dear Readers, the floor had three large fabric piles; pieces that there was no closet, bin or chair room for.

Me: Well, I admit that this is a little bigger than it needs to be.

Stash: A little?

Me: But I have plans for all of it. It’ll all get used.

Stash: I’m sure by sometime in 2043, most of it will have been used for something. But you have pieces of fabric in me that you have been keeping for  particular projects for fifteen years.

These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together.
These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together. The reverse is scraps from a cotton robe project.

Me: I’ll get to it!

It sighed. I swear to god. Large piles of fabric can be remarkably expressive when they want to be.

Stash: Listen–you have a problem. It’s like you’re a dragon or something …

Me: This will be interesting.

Stash: … only you hoard fabric instead of gold and gems. Like one of those survivalists who turns their bank accounts into gold bars, only you’re fixated on fabric.  If the global economy collapses next year, at least you and your daughter will be well-clothed! Or like you are anticipating the zombie apocalypse and you think you are going to beat them off with homemade shirts. The world is going to hell, but that’s all right, because you’re equipped to construct a 20-foot-high wall of security blankets.

Me: Are you done?

Stash. Yes. I am done. I am DONE. Done with endless growth at the expense of other goals and priorities. Where the hell are you going to put your daughter’s new desk with this mess? Hmm? And you want to add more?

Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don't even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white--I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.
Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don’t even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white–I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.

Me: I think you’re catastrophizing a little bit.

Stash: You have no need for new clothes and enough clothing fabric to construct an entire new wardrobe for all four seasons. You’ve needed to replace your bicycle for three years, but you can’t because your money ends up all being invested in the fibres market.

Me: I see your point. A stash diet may be in order.

Stash: This goes beyond the need for a minor diet. It’s time to stop. Just stop.

[pause]

Me, meekly: Until when?

Stash: Until I can fit comfortably in the closet with room to add new fabrics.

The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought--to make bags with--two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead.
The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought–to make bags with–two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead. The cotton on top of the bag was bought to coordinate with a pink-and-green print I have since given away.

Me: But what if there’s a really good sale and I …

Stash: NO!


So here we are. I’m a little frightened of what she might do to me if I fail to comply.

I pulled enough fabric out of the stash to get rid of the floor piles, and moved it down to the dining table. I then started a list of things that could be made out of it:

  • Heavy-duty tote bags (at least two, pictured above)
  • Outdoor seating cushions
  • Book tote bags (at least one)
  • Mid-weight patchwork tote bags (at least two, pictured below)
  • Approximately 8 appliqued tea towels (some pictured above)
  • Quilted coasters in a quantity yet to be specified but sure to be terrifying (12 so far, pictured above)
  • Regular coasters, in potentially an even greater quantity
  • A dish cloth
  • Little stuffed christmas trees (not that I need more xmas decorations–but anyway)
  • At least one tea cozy, and probably more (pictured below)
  • Zippered pouches
  • Storage boxes/baskets
  • Patchwork and applique cushion covers (at least two)
  • Yet Another Button Up Shirt
  • Yet Another Drapey Jersey Shirt (you haven’t seen the first one yet, but just take my word for it)
  • Fleece pants muslin for Frances
  • Potentially some dolls or stuffed toys
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what's a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what’s a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.

I’ve been cutting, sewing and pressing furiously. The stack of in-progress and completed projects is growing. The purge pile, alas, has yet to appear noticeably smaller, and there is a substantial pile of fabric still to be put into a project. It is rather depressing as well as embarrassing. How the hell did it get this out of control?

So questions for you, to further impose of those of you kind enough to have actually read this whole thing:

1. Do you any of you know of any legitimate organizations with legitimate needs for these? I’m not a big fan of the “let’s give our garbage to Deserving Unfortunates and pretend it’s charity” trend. It’s crazy making for me when people try to foist their crap on me and act like they’re doing me a favour, and I can’t imagine that this would be different if I were poor. (Do you want this elliptical machine? It’s totally fine except a ball bearing broke. You’d have to get it fixed. I know you already have an elliptical machine that is better than this one and that works, but still, I think this would be a really great deal for you! No? How about this broken TV?) Please believe me when I say that sick children do not want a handmade teddy bear from a stranger, hospitalized children do not feel better when they put their heads on pillowcases made from quilting cotton, and third-world children probably do not need garish and overly-flounced party dresses made by a well-intentioned lady with an overgrown fabric stash. In all these cases, cash donations to relevant organizations are much more welcome and actually helpful to the populations in question.

Tea Cozy the First
Tea Cozy the First. Tula Pink fabric bought to make an apron for a friend many years ago. I ended up with an extra metre of fabric, and of course I couldn’t let it go…

However, if anyone knows of people actually asking for relevant donations, I’d be happy to do so. (By which I mean, just to be 100% clear, not organizations that are asking for these donations without having consulted with the target populations to get their input on what would be really useful and helpful, but organizations where the targeted population has, of their own accord, asked for the items in question.) (In other words, I don’t want to transform my stash problem into someone else’s problem.)

2. Are there project types I’m overlooking? I can only make so many tote bags and coasters. I mean, I could make hundreds if I had to, but what on earth am I going to do with them all?

3. No, I am not going to sell them.

4. However if any of this sounds like something any of you might like, and you don’t live too far away, I’d happily give you one (or more). And if you actually want part of my godforsaken (and mouthy) stash, that might be arranged. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. It has opinions.

21 thoughts on “The Hoard”

  1. I enjoyed the intervention; your stash has a great sense of humor.

    The sensible reasons why I shouldn’t force any more fabric into my own obese stash, bursting out of it’s cabinet and now piling up on the floor, do not move me much. The thought that I’m substituting shopping for sewing to protect myself from wadders gives me pause.

    On another blog recently, I heard that Goodwill will take bags of fabric scraps to be shredded & recycled into insulation.

    1. I’ll definitely donate scraps to goodwill–I’d hate to do that with the yardage, though. It should have at least some brief life as a finished object before it gets shredded.

      Thank you for the compliment. (Or rather, the Stash thanks you.) I can’t speak for anyone else’s motivations in amassing an ever growing pile of fabric, but I know I shop more when I’m anxious or stressed out. And it’s always fabric or books. Books at least I read in a couple of months, 99% of the time, but the fabric can sit there for years. (sigh)

  2. I just went through this process two weeks ago. In fact, it always seems like I’m going through this process. I spontaneously sewed a baby quilt as soon as I’d finished the big sort because I was so eager to use up some scraps. The best options I’ve found for reducing the stash without actually sewing up the fabric are: 1. donating decent yardage to Goodwill – I’ve noticed the yardage and sewing sections are expanding and I’m not the only one shopping them 2. finding a creative reuse organization near you and 3. finding a textile recycle drop-off for larger scraps. I’ve also seen people do successful instagram de-stash sales. The only real success I’ve had limiting my stash is setting a physical boundary around it and trying to only buy fabrics for my current project. The first one is easier than the second 🙂

    1. I think, given that I had fabric piles multiplying on floors and chairs, that I pretty well failed the “physical boundary” method too. 😉

      But I have to say that the very daunting site of large piles of fabric on my dining table which I must sew up before I buy any more is doing wonders to curb any appetite for new purchases. Maybe the time and effort required to sew through it all will effect a more permanent (or at least long-lasting) change.

  3. This was the best post EVER! 🙂

    I DO enjoy having a stash and shop my stash quite often. I was so grateful for my extended stash when I was unemployed. I sewed SO many things!

    But I have a lot. Too much. But I don’t have real storage limitations yet. I want to downsize soon after my kids come of age and I want to get to a point where I have a closet/shelving system/something that contains my stash. And maybe 1 or 2 bins for special stuff.

    Already making caveats…sigh! 🙂

    I have a lot (almost 600) patterns and tried to sell some. It’s too much work. I can’t imagine selling fabric. I know when I destashed yarn it was a headache. People like the price until you add shipping.

    1. Haha. Thanks! 😀

      I enjoy having a stash too, and it is nice to know that there is fabric there for emergencies (ahem), but how many emergencies do I need to stock up for? It got to the point where it was depressing me just thinking about it. Which is a good sign that it’s grown beyond any useful point for me.

      I think I need to just keep reminding myself that there will be nice fabric available in the future. I do not need to stock up against a fabric-apocalypse.

  4. I loved this post. My stash isn’t unmanageable yet, but it’s definitely growing faster than I can keep up with. Thanks for talking about yours!
    In San Francisco we have a charity that creates quilts and other items out of donated fabrics for hospitals, veterans, and anyone that might make use of a handmade blanket. It looks like Project Linus has a similar mandate, and their front page suggests they are happy to accept donated fabric. http://projectlinuscanada.org/
    I really like some of your stash busters. The little coasters and tea cozy are adorable, and it’s always nice to have a few tote/grocery/laundry bags!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I will definitely look them up.

      They are adorable patterns. The only problem is that they don’t bush a whole lot of stash. Maybe a desk cozy. A desk cozy would use a lot of fabric. (j/k, of course)

  5. At least your Stash only threatens to attack, mine literally has – fallen out of the shelves on top of me, and laid waiting on the floor to trip me, laid on top of items I *know* I just saw to make me question my sanity, etc.

    As to organizations – I don’t know of any small ones near you, However I do know of a local church group who takes fabric donations to make quilts to donate to shelters. Perhaps there’s something similar where you live? Also, at one time, someone accepted scraps to make animal beds for shelters – I think I read about her on Pattern Review or Stitcher’s Guild. What about someone who makes Quilts of Valor – perhaps if you have an excess of red/white/blue quilting fabrics? Or the Million Pillowcase charity (again – probably only for quilting fabrics).
    When it comes to garment fabrics, I can only think of perhaps a school with a music/arts department for use in costumes.

    1. I have had parts of the closet stash fall on my head–especially the linings. They’re so slippery that they refuse to stay nicely folded on top of each other.

      Hmm. I’ll have to look into the shelters ideas. That could be a really good fit. Thanks!

  6. Forgot about non-tote bag & coaster projects – hats, garland (the type with triangle flags of fabric sewn to a cord or ribbon), fabric wrapped around all-cotton clothesline and zigzagged into baskets, use fabric to cover & line cardboard boxes to corral stash or supplies, jewelry, embellish hair clips, ….

  7. If you have a lot of red, the Red Scarf Project might be good, if you’d like to do a project.

    But to donate, I was wondering if your local middle school or high school does Home Economics (it’s actually called Family Life Education here, my son is taking it). They tend to need fabrics because they teach sewing.

    1. That’s a good point. I don’t think they do home ec anymore in middle school–I haven’t heard of this happening in Frances’s school at least–but I’ll check out the local high school and see what’s up there.

  8. I’ll always take your quilting cotton. I see you have good stuff in there. 😀 I’m a true patchworker, I rather work with 100 different fabrics than 4.
    I wish you well on the fabric diet. It’s a toughie. It is a habit acquired over years and very hard to break.

    1. Be careful what you wish for! 😉

      It is a toughie. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got an unbelievably huge pile of projects underway which is at least teaching me exactly how much fabric I really had stocked away.

  9. Good luck with reducing! I have been working on this as well. I ended up donating a bunch of fabric to my local puppet theatre. They were thrilled!
    Jill

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