Thoughts on Fabric, Ethics & Consumption

We all know that high street fashion is not a good thing. It's bad for the people who sew the clothes in poor conditions for low pay and bad for the environment due to the vast amounts of clothing ending up in landfill and the environmentally unsustainable methods used to produce cotton.

In recent months I've noticed the trend for cult, limited edition dressmaking fabric collections - Cotton & Steel is the perfect example. It seems that companies who traditionally made quilting cotton have suddenly become aware of garment sewers and are branching out to other types of fabrics like voile, rayon (viscose) or knits, but with the same 'limited edition' aspect. Of course, this is exciting for sewers who want to sew with prints but don't want to sew with quilting cotton. Fabric collections with limited runs are the norm for quilters but increasingly, dressmakers are being seen as a target market for special fabric collections.

Have you bought any fabric from a limited edition collection of dressmaking fabric? Do you think these limited edition collections encourage sewists to buy what we don't need? Or maybe these collections are actually a better investment because they hold their value if stashed away?

It feels like with the increased popularity of dressmaking there is more and more fabric around. Many fabric shops are active on social media, providing easy access to their latest wares. An invaluable tool for them, but things became almost too easy for the consumer - with a few clicks on a smartphone, fabric can be purchased. And there are always more and more patterns to buy - the inspiration can be overwhelming.

It seems more and more accepted that we sewers amass large stashes of fabric. Of course, it's an idea that has spawned many humorous memes.
Image from here

But this makes me uneasy. Is home sewing adopting some of the undesirable traits of fast fashion? If we don't have to worry about the labour being used to produce our clothes, we still need to be concerned about environmental and etchical issues.

Having seen photos of sewers with shelves of fabric, I would not have said I have a massive stash. But I have begun to measure and label it and can tell you that I have around 70 metres of dress and top fabric in my stash. That is a lot. A lot. The rolled up pieces fit neatly into a wicker hamper so it doesn't look as much as it sounds, but it's more than I can sew in a year, that's for sure. (I also have jerseys and thicker fabrics like wool, but much less of that.)

Personally, I've found that decreasing time to sew has led to an increase in my stash. Online shopping takes much less time than sewing and provides some of the same excitement, allowing you to make a connection with sewing and with your creative side, planning projects and talking to fellow sewers on Instagram.

I'm focussing on sewing with fabrics in my stash at the minute, and it's really nice to have a selection of potential projects at hand. I'm not suggesting 'less sewing' or 'no stash', just that I need to be aware of what I have and not keep buying more. It's the same with patterns. I've written about my sewing pattern collection here and goodness knows, with nearly 200 patterns already, it's hard to justify any more.

So there you have it - some thoughts on sewing, etchics and consumption. What do you think? How do you feel about your consumption of fabric and acquisition of patterns?

K x

78 comments:

  1. I've often felt much the same way! Hmm I wonder how many yards of fabric I have in my 'small' stash...

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    1. You might be shocked if you count it up - I was!

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  2. I think your totally spot on! I've recently fallen in love with cloud 9 fabric . Which is because of social media and online shopping! So I fell striaght in that trap!
    I have a small stash but try to keep it minimal as I have a guilt about it not being used. I wear new clothes straight away and had the same hunger to sew fabric upstriaght away.
    But I agree there is a danger of becoming addicted to the buying of new and exciting things rather then the love of sewing, which is sometimes harder to find time for. I think your post is a well timed reminder of avoiding the pitfalls that we might be trying to avoid by making our own clothes. Somthing I need to be reminded of!
    Jx

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    1. There are so many lovely fabric ranges and it's hard to avoid temptation when you look at blogs because it's so easy to buy that fabric

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  3. I completely agree. I kind of realised it during Stash Diet 2014 and while I no longer buy as much fabric, I've still got probably around 70 metres of fabric too. I think as sewists that we like to think we're exempt from fast fashion, but I do think there are many parallels between the two.

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    1. It's good to be aware of slipping into bad habits, isn't it?

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  4. Brilliant post- i'm not bad on the pattern front, although I do scour charity shops for vintage bargains and buy burdastyle each month- I thibk i'be only ever bought three patterns full price directly from a sewing retailer. Pattern stash is manageable. However, having come into a small amount of money recently and not having to rely on aforementioned charity shops for my fabric supply, has meant that my fabric hoard has got a little out of hand recently. You've inspired me to place a moratorium on sewing purchases (excluding fastenings etc required to make garments that I am lacking) for at least the next month and see how I go :-)

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    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the post. I've also found that when I've got a bit of money (usually in my Paypal from selling something on eBay) it so easily gets sucked back in to buying fabric

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  5. It took me a long time to get out of the habit of buying patterns and fabric just because they were flavour of the month. Often they weren't my style at all but I had to have them because everybody else was sewing them! I'm much more thoughtful about what I buy (and sew) these days, but it did take a while, I just got carried away with sewing madness! One of the great things about meeting up with other sewing bloggers is the opportunity for fabric and pattern swaps. I've picked up some real gems in both categories as well as sending my surplus ones to much better homes than I could give them. x

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    1. Oh me too Jane - I used to get much more caught up in the excitement of the latest pattern but now I try to be more selective about what I'm buying. Plus I just couldn't even try to keep up now, everything moves at such a fast pace, from one hot pattern to the next. As you say though, swaps are a great way of passing on fabric and patterns to new homes

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  6. I am one of those sewists with shelves of fabric. And, it doesn't bother me at all. Here's why: I buy almost ALL of my fabric second hand. I shop estate sales and thrift shops. I get insanely good bargains on the materials I'm purchasing, and I know that I'm keeping them out of a landfill by snagging them up when I have the chance. I accumulate fabric, zippers, trim, etc... at a rate much faster than I can sew; however, I always shop my stash first when I'm ready to start a new project.

    I'm not naive to think that those fabrics were produced without cost to the environment and/or human lives; however, I feel better knowing that I'm not perpetuating the cycle of waste and feel that this is a more sustainable and conscientious method of sewing.

    Also, in terms of limited edition, I feel like I have access to a very exclusive selection of materials. Everything is (and has been) out of print for ages. :-D

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    1. I'm very jealous of you North Americans and your estate sales - it's really not a thing in the UK, I don't know about elsewhere in the world. I always keep an eye open in charity shops and now and again get some fab bargains - this year so far I've made a wool skirt and knitted a wool cardigan from materials found in a charity shop

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  7. I don't get it that people have that much fabric! I never have more fabric than for 10 projects. Every time I go shopping for fabric I find at least one fabric that I like, so why would you stash fabric? I don't get the point. I buy what I will use and I will buy more before I run out of fabric completely. I'm not willing to spend money on fabric if I won't have the time (in the near future) to make something from it. I often buy fabric in coupons but I never have the need to buy them all just because it is the last chance. And I don't think I have ever bought limited edition fabric. And the most important of all I'm really trying to only make items that I actually wear, that is something that doesn't always work. (it would be so nice to only wear summer dresses)

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    1. I think there are lots of reasons that contribute to a stash - some people have more room and so have space to store it. It's nice to have a selection of fabrics at hand, but you're right, none of us really needs tens of metres of fabric when it is getting easier to buy fabrics.

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    2. I stash fabric because I find good (really really good) sales. I'm not willing to spend full price, or even spend full price minus a 40% coupon, for most fabric. I want bargain basement deals, and those don't come around very often, so I have to take advantage when they do.

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  8. Interesting post. I have more fabric than I am totally comfortable with, although I would say that 90% was bought with something in mind. My plans change than I can't decide which thing to make! I am currently working through some of my stash and actually making the things I bought it for instead of *thinking* about making the things I bought it for!

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    1. Thanks Tamsin. I would have said I'm usually a 'pattern then fabric' sewer but I think my stash disagrees! Though I feel that I know what I would like to make with most of it, it's just a matter of finding time

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  9. All my fabric is second hand. Even my notions are usually picked up from charity shops and car boot sales. The only thing I do buy new is pom pom braiding and as its from a local market stall, owned by a chap who is now my friend on Facebook I don't feel too bad! xxx

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  10. Great post! I've been thinking of the same thing. I was never much of a RTW shopper, but it's the opposite since I've been sewing. I've accumulated a lot of fabric. Too much fabric. I've been working on a big project, I realized that it didn't stop me from buying more fabric. I reorganized it the other day and I'm embarrassed. I, too, plan on shopping in my stash from now on. Especially after reorganizing my fabric. I do have an awesome stash. I don't want to get older and have a beautiful stash and that's it.

    Even worse, I used to be this way with patterns. I had to have the latest pattern. I was being a thoughtless consumer and I don't want to be. After a year I realized that this has to stop. I feel that this was even worse then buying fabric because I wanted the latest and greatest pattern. It's very similar to RTW shopping. It's no different. I was spending too much money on patterns that is similar to the ones I already have or I can redraft one pattern to get something similar.

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    1. Your phrase a 'thoughtless consumer' is really key, that's obviously what suits the companies who seek to make money out of us. I've been guilty of buying the latest pattern too but I have become more discerning (despite my weakness for vintage patterns!)

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  11. I have a MASSIVE stash, and I had no problem with adding more and more to it, until I realised that, seeing how slow I sew, a lifetime might literally not be enough to sew its entirety. This stressed me out big time, so now I am more conscious about how much/why I buy. I won't impose myself a fabric buying ban, because I've tried it about a year ago and, like all diets, when I let go, I really let go and it kind of backfired, but I try being more reasonable (less compulsive?).
    And you're spot on with the idea that the less time you have to sew, the more fabric you buy. I've found that to be very true: when I can sew, it's like I don't even want to fabric shop, while when I don't have the time, fabric shopping is all I long to do and I really have to restrain myself from clicking the “buy” button…
    The irony is that I used to see having a stash as a way of saving, since I bought quality fabrics on sale and other deals, but then, as a friend made me realise, think of how much money I spent amassing all of that fabric, and wouldn’t it be easier, and way cheaper in the long run, to just buy what I need, when I need it?
    It’s nice having a stash from which you can pick any kind of fabric any time, but was/is it really worth all that money and space? Isn’t it actually kind of oppressing?
    I won’t get rid of my stash, because that would be a real waste, but if I could go back in time, I would definitely have more of a buy for each project approach.

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    1. It's stressful when you realise how much fabric you have - everyone is probably different as to their 'limit' but when it feels like a burden, that's too much

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  12. Great post, I have been thinking about posting something similar! As a family we decided to try and be ethical consumers where possible which has meant extensive research on all brands and shops we use. Almost all my clothes and 50% of husbands are 2nd hand and the kids are a mix of secondhand and M&S (not great but not horrendous ethics). This has hugely limited my fabric buying as I want to try and buy ethical /organic/fairtrade but that comes at a cost that I just can't afford at this point. I do have a large stash though. My Mother in law, Aunt and best friend's Mum all got rid of their stashes to me and my Dad bought me some gorgeous cotton prints when he was in Oman... Great in some respects as I don't need to buy much but equally when I do have to buy for a project I feel guilty! Any fabric I do buy gets used almost immediately as it is bought for a specific project. I don't feel bad about my stash, as TresBienEnsemble said it has saved the fabric from either being recycled or ending up in landfill, both which have environmental consequences.

    As for patterns I have a fair number, not counted, but I have made up almost all of them at least once so feel like I don't have too many!

    I love the look of the limited edition prints but can't justify the cost when they are not fairtrade. It is easy to forget that there are extremely poor working conditions for cotton farmers and weavers as well, not just those who make the garments. Non Organic cotton uses so many pesticides the farmers have huge health issues...

    Sorry for the epic reply :)

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    1. Thanks Alison, it sounds like you're a thoughful consumer - I hadn't even thought about cotton using pesticides and the health effects of those

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  13. This is a very thought provoking post. In years gone bye I would compulsively buy fabric just because I could. Nowadays I am a bit more discerning only buying stuff I really want or vintage that I fancy. Really don't care if a fabric is limited edition or not and I am sure that I am not the target consumer anyway. I do have a stash problem. Mine is so big that it outgrew the house and I have to rent a studio to work in although it has all my corset stuff in too so is mostly business. I have stopped buying new patterns as I have tons and there is not much that I couldn't copy from the ones I do have. I do still buy vintage ones, eBay is a great enabler. Ì have been using leftover and gifted fabrics for quilting and small projects and was going to reuse some old clothes for the fabric. I am very concerned about the amount of textiles going to landfill so try not to bin anything, reusing fabric or sending stuff to the charity shop. I also get a lot gifted so like to think of that as recycling :) xx

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    1. I've been given fabric too and sometimes it's a burden because you don't know what to make with it but don't want to get rid of it!

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  14. I've had thoughts like that often lately. I admit to having a pretty large stash, but at the moment there are only fabrics I really love and can't wait to sew with, so I don't feel bad about them... When I started sewing I was often overwhelmed by the choice and sometimes bought stuff I didn't love 100%, but those pieces have been handed down over the years. What I do notice (especially since I started working in a chain store with a haberdashery department) is how people seem to treat creating things in the same manner as fast fashion. Right now there's a certain handknit cardigan being sold for around 400 euros, and since it turned into a bit of a hype a lot of people want to make one themselves. So now I'm selling loads of wool for a project that is basically the equivalent of crop tops. There's a lot of demand for projects that are quick and easy, and people buy super chunky yarn to whip up a scarf in a day, without considering the quality. Same with sewing: I see people sewing the same super easy skirt over and over again in the latest quirky fabric. Sewing and DIY has gotten trendy, but it's trendy in a fast fashion way, and the focus has shifted from acquiring new skills and maybe building up to bigger projects to an almost instant gratification.

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    1. That's an interesting point about fast fashion style projects. It seems to be how a lot of people get into crafting but it's obviously just a fad/trial for some. I've found that although my sewing skill level hasn't increased much recently, a big issue is fit and becoming more aware of what good fit is. Generally we don't know what that is and it is through sewing that we can become more aware of that (sorry, slight tangent!)

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    2. I could not agree more with Anneke. I fee like many people not only use the same super easy pattern (which is totally valid), but they make a skirt a day! If people take on sewing as eco-friendly activity, I don't see the point of producing fast fashion at home. This approach has put me off reading/following some bloggers.

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  15. This is something I often think of when I see people online promoting sewing as a way to get away from fast fashion. The whole campaign about where do your clothes come from, and then Me Made May following right on the tail. But where is all the fabric and supplies coming from that everyone is using to make their own fashions? I keep thinking about that.

    I've always been someone who was into clothing, shoes, fashion and accessories in general, not going to lie. I like pretty shiny things. lol I didn't get into sewing as a way to get away from fast fashion, as I was already primarily wearing a large part secondhand clothing, or items made by small repro brands. I feel good about those choices. And I do sew and knit a lot of things, which means I'm consuming a lot of materials. I often hunt for vintage supplies and fabric, but won't at all pretend I don't use a lot of modern stuff, too. And while I feel like I probably do (somewhat ashamedly) consume more than I should, I have a very good idea of what I like and will actually wear/use, so I get a LOT of mileage out of most things I buy or wear. I'm not rotating through my closet constantly and sewing up things just because they're trendy, only to get rid of them 6 months later. And in one way I'd say that's not participating in fast "maker" fashion, at least. If I make something, I INTEND TO WEAR IT. I don't make it to blog about, or to be trendy. I don't say yes to test or review something unless I know it's going to be rotated into my wardrobe regularly. I mean yeah, there are instances when that doesn't happen, but that's rare. So that's how I approach both knitting and sewing. (Not as much when I was new to them both; perhaps that's something that comes with years spent honing skills and learning your tastes and getting into a rhythm.)

    I do have a few pieces of Cotton & Steel fabric stashed (in fact, just finished a top in some). And while I've hunted down good deals on out-of-print fabrics on Etsy and eBay, in general I don't like the concept of limited edition things that do encourage you to buy more than what you need. I've sometimes historically fallen into that trap with yarn, since I've sometimes fallen for dyers who if you don't buy now, you're likely to never get it. Though I've been much better about either buying yarn for a specific project that I then make, or using stash yarn (which I've been doing a lot lately). That being said, I definitely have more yarn stash than fabric, but I'm really trying to think about what I can make from my stash unless it's something super specific... i.e. I need a pair of denim pants and thus need to buy denim; I tend to stash prints, not basics. So I don't feel like either stash is out of control.

    At the end of the day, do any of us need the amount of things we sew or knit? No. Perhaps that's part of the struggle of being someone who "makes" things... you're not just going to suddenly stop and say, "I'm good now. Never need to sew or knit anything ever again." So in a couple of years, even if you're not all that speedy, you could amass more things than you reasonably could need. And then what after 10 years in your hobby, 15, 20...? All things I periodically reflect on. And it makes me uneasy sometimes thinking about that.

    No answers here, probably just more questions than anything else. :/ But definitely a great subject matter to think about. I think we all need the reminder. Thanks for bringing it up!

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    1. OMG, sorry my reply was probably longer than your post, Kerry...!!

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    2. Thanks for your comment Tasha, you raise a lot of great points. I also like to sew to make things that are my style because I don't follow fashion or make things because they are like something ;in fashion'. And that is really empowering because you aren't subject to what's in fashion, in the shops. I hadn't thought about limited edition yarn either - I can imagine that there are real cult followings for some small yarn producers!

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  16. Interesting part. Ever since not buying clothes for over a year (just to see if I could - turns out it's not that hard) my feelings towards consumption in general have changed. Moving house recently also made me come face to face with how much stuff we actually have. Can't hide when it's all boxed up, waiting to be moved! I definitely have an urge to buy fabric/patterns when I'm busy at work/stressed; but I've realised that if I made all my fabric into clothes I would have more than I want. This, in turn, is making me less interested in reading some blogs because I just don't want the inspiration of multiple new things a month (let alone week)... Haha I sound like such a judgmental Puritan.... but really, I'm struggling with not wanting to own heaps whilst loving all the pretty new things.

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    1. It's a hard balance to strike, when everything around you tells you to 'CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME, BUY MORE!' I do want to make sure that I own and wear things that I love, so need to make sure I use fabric I love and take care over the making

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  17. Great post. I've written recently about my all consuming need to buy all the fabrics immediately, but then also about the time I didn't, and actually wasn't that bothered in the end. I am absolutely a magpie for pretty things.

    I didn't get into sewing as an alternative to fast fashion, I got into it as a hobby. And, with a couple of exceptions, I am not a huge "cake" sewer. In fact I was contemplating that the other day, in that there's not a lot that I have sewn that I don't wear. So,from that point of view, I don't think I'm too bad. Yes, I have bought some cotton and steel recently. However the price prohibits me from stockpiling it, and makes me much more careful about how much I do purchase. Having bought and sewn with it, I think the quality is excellent, and so is worth the money, I Will buy more, but I still will be careful with what and how much I buy. Interestingly, I have never considered them to be limited edition. I just thought all fabrics were like that, and once they were gone, they were gone.

    Sorry, this is turning into a rambling comment, but with the increasing popularity of anything, you are always going to get the moneymakers trying to gain out of it. It's not always in a greedy, money grabbing way, it's just the nature of modern retail, regardless of whether it's clothes, fabric, white goods or cars. It does feel in some ways that it's tainting our little world, but really it's just modern life. Rightly or wrongly.

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    1. It's true that sewing is no different from other areas and that companies will want to capitalise on it and of course there are advantages in terms of an large range of products readily available. You're right that most fabrics are produced in limited batches as per the season, but with C&S I think the difference is the marketing and branding around it and all the associated fawning and excitement on blogs. That feels like a new thing to me. It's good to know that it is good quality though, and I do very much like your top! :-)

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  18. Ha! Just realised that I am wearing C&S in my wee picture beside my comment!!! 😊

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  19. Agreed, very interesting post! My solution is simple: I'm a poor grad student and simply don't have enough disposable income to stash fabric or patterns. I buy 1-2 patterns a year, make multiples of every pattern that I do buy, and only buy fabric for 1-2 projects at a time. Being broke sucks, but it's a great way to avoid the overwhelming feeling of a huge stash and the guilt of overconsumption. :)

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    1. Good point, as much as being broke isn't fun, I think those boundaries of not having any cash do fuel creativity and encourage an appreciation of what you do have

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  20. Absolutely spot on. I'm guilty of quick online purchases of lovely fabric, but I just have not got the time to sew it all at the moment! I decided this weekend that I need to take a break from any fabric purchases, and I need to go through my stash and do a cull. I probably have enough to set up a pop-up shop!

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    1. I know you have great taste so I'm sure it would be a lovely shop - but as established, I need to stay away from fabric temptation! Glad you enjoyed the post

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  21. I know what you mean. I have a pretty big stash but a lot of it was bought before I did much sewing and although I'm mainly trying to sew from my stash now I find I often don't have good fabrics for practical garments.

    I also have massive guilt about how bad I have been about repairing and refashioning clothes recently which was a big part of my motivation when I first started sewing.

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    1. I think when you have the temptation of making a shiny new thing, repairing and refashioning become much less interesting. I'm the same, but have vowed to tackle my mending pile this month

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  22. 70m! Gosh when you count it out, you realise eh! I'm not sure how much I have, I've been trying to avoid spending too much time in fabric shops (other than getting lining, notions etc) recently because I'm trying to work my way through some stashed stuff first. I've never counted it out though.. a little scared to now ;)

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    1. Ha, you should do it! You might be surprised/shocked. I'm working my way through stash now too

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  23. Only 70 meters? I laugh at your tiny stash! (I have well over 300 yards in mine!)

    In all seriousness, though, I do feel bad about that, even though a lot of what I have isn't even necessarily stuff I've bought--several pieces are ones that were given to me either as gifts or from other destashing. And I have been making a concentrated effort this year to use things I already have, rather than buy new fabric. (Which is challenging when being pregnant means all you can sew is knits, but I'm mostly making it work!) I'm sure I'll end up buying things here and there as the need arises, like I'll need new black pants once I'm more confident in fitting again and don't have anything on hand that would work well. But my ultimate goal is to get to the point where all of my fabric, including scraps and the stuff I use for muslins, can fit on my designated fabric shelves, and then I won't feel guilty about the occasional purchase.

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    1. I think when you get to outgrowing your storage area, that's where a problem lies and your stash feels more of a burden than exciting. I would feel happier if my fabric drawers were less full too!

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  24. I have sewn for a long time here and there over the years. Now I am aiming to have a hand made wardrobe only to stay away from fast fashion. I was buying fabric on-line and having a great time doing it. Then a thought struck me that heh where does my fabric come from. Who makes my fabric and under what conditions is it made. It was quite an eye opener for me that I was contributing to unethical fabric buying. I am now in the process of sewing up my stash, and I now only buy vintage fabric or fabric from the op shop and adjust and change my staple patterns that I have. I now feel like I am actually staying away from fast fashion completely. I don't buy brand new in every other aspect in my life why should I for my sewing/knitting ect

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    1. It's great to be aware of your behaviour as a consumer, bravo Sharon

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  25. I've felt the same way for a time now. I'm in a position where I don't have spare cash to buy stash fabric so I don't have masses. But I do have lots of smallish bits inherited from clearing my mum's stash and from giveaways from blogging friends. I have little storage space so I'm slowly selling some off and planning to use the funds to buy project specific fabric. I just got out the pieces from fellow bloggers and am trying to link each one to a pattern. I stopped buying new clothes four years ago as I was so fed up with being caught up in a cycle of buying new, but then I did come to wonder if that consumerism was replaced by sewing consumption. But personally my lack of funds has made me stop any endless buying! I do get tired of seeing the cycle of the latest must-have pattern, the latest must have fabric....but I do think many I'm just old and cynical now.I feel slightly removed from it all. Conversely I also feel that if someone is working hard, earning their money and want to spend it all on fabric, then good for them...but having had to clear out two people's lifetime stashes after they passed away has made me want to steer away from fabric hoarding! Phew...sorry for Lon comments t, you touched a nerve I guess. X

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    1. Thanks Minnado. I do feel an element of cynicism in my behaviour too, or maybe it's pragmatism - I can't make all the new sewing patterns so I give them a more critical eye to assess if I really think they offer anything different to what I have, and often not. Part of that view comes from having less time to sew but also from having a sewing blog for nearly 5 years now, I've seen the online sewing world change

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  26. Agreed. Most of the issues that apply to RTW also apply to fabric production - fibre production, processing, and dyeing are all processes that can be problematic in terms of environmental & human rights issues. I think that - in the same way we need to questions how RTW clothing is made - we need to question how fabric is made. It can be harder with fabric as, depending on where it's purchased, it can be hard to associate it with a specific brand, but I think it's important to give it consideration & not just to assume that fabric is exempt from those concerns.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, I think we can definitely not afford to rest on our laurels as home sewers

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  27. Really interesting post Kerry!
    I wanted to take up your point on the "investment value" of your stash. I think as responsible sewists and consumers, we ought to only be buying things we know we will use, and within a realistic timeframe. "Limited Edition" fabrics are a marketing ploy, just like those Limited Edition commemorative coins you see advertised, but hopefully would never buy. Unless you love them and want to wear them, they are no better than any other fabric and they attract moths / carpet beetles / mould in just the same way! I only have a suitcase-full of fabric and even that includes impulse buys that I don't see myself wanting to wear. What a waste!

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    1. Thank you Roo :-)
      You're right, we buy fabric to make clothes we love to wear and it's sad for it not to be used. I definitely don't want to die with a big fabric stash. I forgot to include in my post that awful acronym - SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) That should not be a thing!

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  28. This has been playing a lot on my mind recently. I started sewing again 5 years ago not long after my daughter was born for two reasons: 1. I wasn't keen on the choice of baby clothes available (too much pink, and too much second hand pink) 2. I wanted to make as much as I can to try and avoid the disposable nature of children's clothing. I eventually branched out into making my own clothes and felt good that I was taking at least one process out of the system i.e while I was still buying fabric at least I was the labour used in making it. I could buy everything my whole family needs second hand and not need to sew at all, but sewing (and knitting) is my hobby and relaxation so I don't want to deprive myself of that. My stash has grown a lot in the last year, mostly due to internet purchases (and comfort buying!!) and I worry about how much fabric I have now. Admittedly I have only bought things I know I will use (lots and lots of chambray or striped jerseys) and some of my buying was as a result of suddenly there being more choice on the internet in terms of the fabric I wanted to buy. I very rarely buy the limited edition types of fabric. I won't put myself on a strict fabric buying ban, I would fail at the first hurdle, but I have cut down and am trying to keep track of how much fabric comes in and out of my house. Thank you for a very thought provoking post!

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    1. I think a strict buying ban is pretty harsh too, but monitoring purchases is more realistic. I had a big splurge of Liberty and that was because it was a rare opportunity to visit the factory shop with Liberty seconds so I couldn't pass that up! But now I am concentrating on sewing from stash. Glad you enjoyed the post

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  29. I think that as sewists we can be just as susceptible to fast-fashion. Think about how many Indie pattern companies make patterns for easy to digest, easy to produce clothes! I am relatively new to sewing (2 years) during which time I have lived in New Zealand, the States, and Switzerland. This forced me to have a very small stash - only of fabrics which I adore, but don't feel ready to sew into anything specific- my stash is a size small North Face travel bag, for reference : ) Generally I only buy fabric when I have a project in mind for it, and I only buy a pattern when I feel like making that specific pattern fits into my style scheme now. I definitely change my plans afterwards though!

    I think another element of sewing fast fashion is the desire to sew up projects quickly in order to get that rush of having a new thing. I definitely still sew that way and excuse myself calling it the learning process, but I am lucky to have friends who absorb about 80% of my sewing projects right now. Fighting our instincts to make higher quality and well thought out projects is more environmentally conscious and I suspect is what most sewists aim for, even though we often fall short.

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    1. Great point about the 'rush of having a new thing' - that must be why sewing something new is infinitely more exciting than mending something! I think the more we learn about sewing, often the better quality we want to make things, partly because they will last but also because the process of working with the materials is more enjoyable. I find this with knitting - I only use real wool because i don't like working with acrylic. That way I enjoy the process and get a nice quality result too

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  30. I've also got much more fabric stashed than I shall need. I also find that what's stashed isn't what I want/need for a project I have in mind. Then, you guessed it, I buy more. Perhaps we should consider a stash swap? Move that stash around so it looks like less ;-)

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    1. Ha! I love the idea of a stash swap. I think something similar was started by bloggers previously using Flickr (?) but I wasn't involved. But if anyone can think of a way to make it work, let me know!

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  31. This is a hard thing for me-I used to buy a lot of fast fashion because I like to have new things OFTEN- now I stopped the shopping For loathes, but I have to restrain my 'must have The pretties' and it's just replacing one bad habit for another!?

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    1. This - I very much agree with this.

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    2. It's a difficult balance isn't it?

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  32. Hmmm. I would say I've gone from being a huge high street, fast fashion, ready to wear consumer, to being more of a home-sewer as it means I can make things to my specifications rather than having to compromise on anything. I have a fair amount of fabric "stashed" and have bought online in the past, although have no idea whether I've bought things which have been limited editions or anything. I buy prints I like, and that's about it. I am currently having a spend-free year, so have been forced to work my way through my fabric stash, which is steadily depleting. I make maybe three or four garments per week for myself. I guess it's curbed my spending and shopping etc somewhat.

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    1. Wow, 3-4 garments a week is a lot! Do you end up wearing everything you make or giving it away?

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  33. Kerry, thank you. I have a huge stash, always have had, even before there was an internet. J'adore fabric. But in the last seven years, since I moved back to Wellington actually, I discovered sewing blogs and then the concept of social sewing which was all new to me. So now stashes and sewing and makes are all topics of conversation. Previously it was me and my sewing room and that was about it! It hasn't changed my behaviour much, being the larger than life wonder that I am, I can be excited for my friends' love of Cotton and Steel and shirt dresses and all the indy patterns but they are not for me at all.
    As a quilter, I think there is more to it than llimited runs - it is also the need for many fabrics to make one thing, so lots of variety is required. This has us buy half metres and fat quarters "just in case" but like dressmakers, the longer you do it, the less likely you are to go mad.And we don't waste! I have just started cutting tiny hexagons out of the funny shapes left at the end of a row of bunting flags.
    I wish I wasn't the person who buys so much - I come from an era when we never considered provenance, because in a country where our local clothing industry was protected and so clothes were quality, expensive and you bought what you needed and made the rest, it was not necessary. Things change but people are not made aware of the whole picture -of course not as they might not buy if they knew. Why is not legally required for full disclosure of all facts, or better still, the concept of the supplier having to pay for the entire product life cycle so the cost of goods reflected the true cost, then prices would go up, voracious consumption would go down and we would have some kind of global sustainabiltiy. eventually. It's an idea...

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    1. Thanks for commenting MrsC. You make a great point that the many limited edition ranges work well for quilting which requires lower volumes of individual prints. It really is a burden being a responsible consumer today due to having to consider all these aspects and as you say, the information is not readily available

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  34. Thank you for this thoughtful post! It explains more beautifully than I ever could what I have been thinking for a long long time. I am guity of overstashing when I started sewing. Now I am stuck with some pretty crappy fabrics (which I use for toiles), but also with some great ones that I don't even remember I had!

    I need to make a dress for an upcoming event and I was browsing the internet for a nice fabric in the weight I needed, but couldn't find anything. Lo and behold, last time I went to pick up some interfacing there it was: the *perfect* fabric already in my stash! Now I am determined to organise my stash better this summer.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed reading it :-) I've reorganised my stash in a way that makes it easier to see what I have so hopefully it will be harder to forget things

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  35. Very interesting post. I don't have a large stash, but like you, I certainly couldn't sew through it in a year, and I really don't need that many new clothes anyway. When I first started sewing, I basically just lost interest in clothes shopping, and it was exciting to suddenly buy lots of lovely fabric.

    Once I realised that I'd just replaced one kind of consumerism with another, the excitement wore off a bit, and now I only really buy fabric for specific projects, or if I'm on holiday (my souvenir of the trip), or if there's something interesting in a charity shop. I still make some questionable choices in the excitement of the moment, but I'm trying to get better about having a list of things I actually want to make and wear.

    I can see how people develop large stashes, but I do feel a bit uncomfortable about the concept of having so much fabric that you forget about some of it, or just feeling too overwhelmed by it all to actually make anything at all.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Laura. I'm trying to do something similar and only buy if it's for a project I'm going to make right now, or for a special occassion

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  36. very timely. Hope you dont' mind, I quoted you https://prolificprojectstarter.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/fabric-shopping-versus-sewing/

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Rosemary, I'll check out your post

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  37. I've definitely experienced the same thing as you - the less time I have for creative pursuits, the more supplies I want to buy for them. I participated in a stash busting challenge last year, but fell off the wagon about mid-year. This year I've joined a stashbusting group on Facebook, and it's definitely helping (also helpful: finally getting my stash organized and out into the open so I can see what I have). There will always be things that I want to buy, but just being part of that group has helped me become more conscious in my fabric choices. (Even on my last "treat yourself" day, I only bought 3 yards (okay, okay, 3 yards for me. More for a gift.))

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Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say