Monday, April 11, 2016

Supplies not stash

Update: Carolyn wrote about pattern collecting today!
I also added an addendum about SABLE at the bottom of the post.

Fabrikated asked, Are you a Hoarder?
in response to Bunny's Wednesday Words
quoting Mimi
When I was employed by a major pattern company years ago, I learned a very important piece of information that I never forgot. Pattern companies don't sell patterns; they sell dreams. 75% of patterns purchased never even get opened by the person who purchased them. Look in your own storage, and tell me I'm not wrong on this... right?
I've read perennial discussions about whether sewing supplies are a stash (which implies something secretive and shameful) or a collection or a resource center. I don't like the connotation of stash, but was looking for a shorter name.

I think I'll just call it all supplies.

a stock of a resource from which a person or place can be provided with the necessary amount of that resource.

a secret store of something.

I don't make a secret of my sewing supplies.  I've shown my pattern collection.  I gave a tour of my sewing space in LA.  I keep a lot of supplies and inspiration for making stuff around.

It reminds me of something an anthropology grad student in my PhD dissertation support group taught me.  (Yes, I went to one the last 6+ months of grad school and found it useful.)  PhD dissertations often have vernacular titles, either as the primary title or as a subtitle.

[Aside:  My favorite subtitle was for a computer science dissertation about how to manage computer memory, subtitled "Big and Dumb is Better".  I begged for a t-shirt, which the author's friends made up like a concert tour t-shirt, and then wore mine to rags.]

The anthro student's subtitle was "Life on the Res" (short for reservation).  He unpacked the meaning of what outsiders see on the res and what the people who live there see.  He gave me an example of how he needed a part for his very old domestic car.  The part was no longer made and he didn't have the money for a new (used) car.

His uncle told him not to stress too much over it.  Most people on the res kept old, inoperable cars scattered around their homes.  To outsiders, they look like trashy eyesores.

His uncle took the student on a tour of the res, visiting with people, and asking if they had, or knew of anyone who might have the part he needed.  In one day, they had the crucial part and some other parts that could also be useful.

Those old cars are not eyesores.  They are supplies.

If you follow my link above to the tour of my LA sewing space, you will see how I save old clothing and scraps of fabric bought by the pound from odd jobbers.  When I want to make something, like this coordinated set of spring clothes for my daughter, I peruse the collection and pull supplies.

When you become known as someone who makes new clothes from old, old textiles potential finds you. I have a couple of bins of potential in both homes. ;-)  You can see more of these projects under the Wardrobe Refashion tag.

I also have bins of new fabric in both places.  Most of my books and all of my patterns reside in Boulder.

As I wrote in a comment to Bunny's post:
I open and read all my patterns. I've sewn with less than 25% of them. However, I have made more than 25% as many items as the pattern count because of repeated use of TNTs. I customize TNTs, informed by what I learned from reading other patterns.
I like to read pattern directions and look at the shape of the pattern pieces. Sometimes, I measure and compare it to other patterns that I have sewn or RTW.  I don't sew the vast majority of my patterns. But, I may take an element or technique from one pattern and use it on another.

Do you have to sew an item using a pattern's pieces to make use of it?
Pattern drawer for large Vogue designer pattern envelopes.
I buy a few patterns every season.  I'm haunted by an Issey Miyake pattern that I did not buy (in the 1980s) before it was discontinued.  I can't find it for less than $$$ on eBay (and not even in my size).  Also, if I don't support the people who put out patterns that I like today, how will they stay in business?

In 2010, I catalogued my patterns and also kept spreadsheets of how much I buy/spend on my knitting/sewing/dyeing hobbies.  The sum seems quite reasonable for something that I enjoy, that teaches me new things, and that clothes my family and furnishes our homes.

The same goes for fabric and yarn.  Local independent fabric and yarn shops are in constant peril of going out of business.   Fabric and yarn stores are businesses, not petting zoos.  They need to pay rent, staff salaries, and turn over their stock so that they can bring in new stuff.

The limiting factor is space.  I follow the technique of a sewing mentor.  I have a fixed amount of space I am willing to devote to my hobbies.  When supplies exceed the space, deaccessioning is required.  Over time, her collections of sewing supplies, artwork and furniture evolved so that it now contains only very high quality items.

I sort my supplies into bins that I really like and things that I will not be sad to part with.  I'm happy to give the latter away to friends (or my daughter's friends) who sew and knit.  My collection is evolving, too.

YMMV.  Everyone has different space and budget constraints.  But, let's stop feeling bad about something that should make us feel good, making things with our mens et manus.

I don't like the term SABLE for the reason that the S stands for Stash.  I expect to be less mobile toward the end of my life, so I want to have plenty of supplies at home when that happens.

But, I think it is good to think through how much you can reasonably use in a lifetime and who will take care of the surplus after you are gone.

The South Bay Quilters' Guild (southern coastal LA) accepts donations of quilting supplies.  Quilt fabrics and battings are used to make charity quilts.  Books and notions are sold and the $ from the proceeds are used for purchasing other supplies for charity quilts.

SBQG was discovered by funeral directors, who have been referring quilters' survivors.  When quilters' survivors reach out to the guild, we accept pretty much the entire collection, sort through it for what we can use, and then forward the apparel fabric to other charitable organizations that can use them.

Churches, schools, scout troops and other service groups can all use art and craft supplies.  Looking around your local area and leaving a list of places who accept donations of the type of supplies you have, is good estate planning.

I've also heard good things about Freecycle.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A fascinating post, full of wit and wisdom (I know that is a chiche but I not one I have ever used before). Thank you for mentioning me. I personally hate and avoid the stash word. I am not secretive about sewing, but I do feel a little embarrassed about how much of the house I have grabbed for storage.

    I saw an IM pattern for tops and skirts last night on eBay (£45 - which I thought was too much). Yet I was tempted.

  3. Anonymous03:47

    Was the IM pattern you missed for a coat perhaps? I was looking at my coat pattern collection the other day and thinking that some of them are just never happening - so if that's the one you are seeking I could send it along as pay back for the fun I get from your writing!


    1. I'm looking for an IM dress pattern that wraps around the body with an asymmetric strap. It reminds me of a mythical monk's robe that has no beginning nor end. I just want to take a look at it and see how it is shaped and constructed.

      You can see the pix bottom center here:

      Vogue 1575

  4. As you know I HATE/ABHOR the stash word! I think it belittles our craft. Loved the glimpse into your sewing room in LA & Boulder and of course I agree with you on collecting. My collection has to fit into the sewing cave. When it no longer can then I either have to give away (horrors of horrors) or stop buying until I have more space. I have chosen to stop buying for now and explore the goodies I presently have!

    1. I think you have done enough to support your LFSs. I also appreciate that you publicize businesses when you are on fabric fasts.

  5. I really enjoyed this and agree with your description of "supplies." I like that. I've never been embarrassed about how many supplies I have, but I have been worried that I won't use all my supplies in my lifetime and my family will have to figure out how to dispose of it all. -LindaC

    1. That's a good point. I wrote an addendum at the bottom of the post.

  6. I see your point. I use the word "stash" since that's what is colloquially used, but I've never attached judgement to it or feel the need to put myself on any restrictive purchasing plan. Like you, I love learning from patterns, even the ones I'll never sew. I read ALL the patterns I buy.

    Anyway, I think re-branding stash as supplies is terrific.

  7. Anonymous11:38

    Love "mens et manus" and your elevating and respectful word "supplies".
    Vancouver Barbara


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.