What one year without buying fabric taught me

You read that title right... I managed to go one whole year without fabric shopping. Let's start with WHY. 

But first a little story about nail polish! I have a clear container where my polishes sit. Once upon a time that container was overflowing with nail polishes in all the colours of the rainbow. My first thought was "I have to get another container!" False. That thought I've realized is a dangerous one. It can lead to clutter like nothing else... And that's not really what I wanted when I thought about it. So instead of getting another container I went through all of the nail polishes and got rid of old dry ones. Then I gave away all the colours that I didn't use. Obvious and simple you might think. But very powerful. I fit the nail polishes to my container. Not the other way around. This is a simple principle that I want to apply on other areas of my home and life as well. My sewing space for example. And that brings us to today's topic! My one year without buying any new fabric. If you're still with me - let's go! :) Like many other sewers I have a quite large collection of fabrics. I have bought fabrics regularly since I was around 14 and when people know that you like to sew - they give you fabrics. Funny how that works. I have been given fabric collections from people many times. Let's just say all those fabrics add up! I found myself at the beginning of 2018 not being able to find places to put my piles of fabric anymore. And to be honest I had enough fabric to last me for years of sewing. And yet I didn't sew that much. I only made a few pieces in 2018. I had a huge fabric clear out at the beginning of the year. I gave away fabrics that I knew I didn't want to make clothes out of and I sold some nicer pieces that were not right for me but maybe for someone else. That felt great! If you've ever had a huge clear out of any kind you know what I'm talking about! I decided to try this year long experiment to pair down my fabric collection and actually use the fabrics I already had, instead of adding and adding. I also thought it would be a good financial decision. And a sustainable one (use what you have)! Now that that's out of the way.

Here's what I learned:

1. I don't love all the fabrics I own.

I realized I didn't really like a lot of the fabrics I had in my collection. Even though I had a lot of fabrics some of them have been there for years and years without being used. I don't see myself wearing a garment made of them. That didn't feel right. Conclusion: I need to apply the same principles to my fabric collection as I do to my wardrobe. I'm diligent about keeping a small, almost minimal collection of clothes for myself. I want to love my clothes and only keep what I actually wear. I need to start thinking like that when it comes to my fabrics. I often follow the 1 in 1 out rule when it comes to garments. I will try that when it comes to fabrics, too! 1 fabric sewn - 1 fabric bought. Or one fabric bought - 1 fabric donated to find a better home. Maybe it sounds boring and it's not for everyone. But I have a small space compared to how many fabrics I own so I think this is a reasonable idea to adapt. 

fabric stack by fabric worm

2. I didn't manage to pair down my collection, at all. 

As I mentioned before, when you sew - you will receive fabrics! That is a very true statement when you look at my 2018 in review. I started a new job at a small brand in April of 2018. Sometimes we have overstock fabrics. It can be sample fabrics for example. Every once in a while all of the employees can pick and choose from that pile of fabrics. Well my rule for 2018 was to not BUY any fabrics. But receiving for free? Hard to say no. And it really is a good thing to make use out of overstock fabric in a sustainable way. I made this dress with one of those fabrics - it's one of my favourite makes of 2018 so that's a win. But relating to my goal of pairing my stash down? Not a win. 

3. Not buying fabric is not enough. 

So I added to my collection during the year instead of pairing it down. Even though I had that big clear out at the beginning of the year I still had a hard time finding spaces to put my fabrics in. I have drawers that were meant for clothes filled with fabrics. And a suitcase in the closet... I didn't sew enough to keep up with the accumulation of fabrics either. I might need a different approach? Yeah, no kidding.  I want to have a fabric collection that inspires me to create! Not one that weight me down and feels like I need to make something out of all the fabrics that some random lovely lady gifted to me. The challenge for 2019 will be to clear out the fabrics that I won't use. I need to be honest with myself and not keep fabrics just to keep them. Cluttered space, cluttered mind. 

4. I love fabric shopping. 

I felt a bit deprived towards the end of the year. I found myself scrolling through online shops for hours on end, drooling over all the fabrics I could't buy... And I started this year off by buying fabrics that I absolutely LOVE. And it makes me so happy! Now I will choose some fabrics that I want to get rid of to make space for these new ones. I don't want to start buying fabrics excessively because of finances, sustainability and lack of space. I will however allow myself to buy more conscious fabrics in moderation this year. And make use of what I have. I will go through my collection and plan out what I want to make. If I can't think of a project for a fabric or if I don't like the print/colour enough that I would want to wear it - I will not keep it! 

I have started my own fabric shop, focusing on overstock fabrics (leftover from the fashion industry). You can find the collection here. By taking care of the fabric that already exists and doesn't get used up we make a lower impact on the climate than buying new fabrics. It's a great way to be creative and keep sewing but a little bit better than buying freshly mass produced fabrics. Instead of ending up in a landfill these fabrics can have a new life in the hands of talented seamstresses like yourself :) 

Have you tried anything similar to this? Do you have a big collection or do you buy fabrics for each project you start so you don't have to keep a stash? Did you think this post was helpful at all or maybe you want to give me the phone number to a fabric hoarder clinic...? XD 

Do you think twice before buying fabric? Do you try to find more sustainable alternatives? 

Let me know if any of you are in a similar position with your fabric collections

This experiment was interesting, but I don't think I will do it again :) But I am determined to keep my fabric collection smaller and my sewing space decluttered. 

Maybe my space can look as dreamy as this one day...? <3 

Click on any photos to get to the sources. 

That's it for today 

♥   ♥   


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  • Nelleke – That’s a great goal! I totally get you on wanting to finish all the projects. That was a huge issue for me in my earlier years of sewing. I would start so many projects and then quit when it got hard… Then I took care of it. Sorted out the failed projects and finished the unfinished ones. I didn’t allow myself to start new projects until everything was either finished or recycled/donated. Now I’m mindful of finishing what I start because that gives me so much less anxiety about my sewing space and sewing projects. It’s a great feeling to actually finish, too :)
    I wish you the best of luck with your destash and sewing for grandchildren <3

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    Josefine Ploen Patterns
  • Gretchen – That’s awesome! Great that you found a solution that seems to be working :) The accumulation of fabric is so much faster and easier than sewing from the stash hehe… Good luck going forward!

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    Josefine - Ploen Patterns
  • Like many sewists, I have a stash that is mindblowingly large. The problem I’ve faced, like you, is that regardless of how much I sew, in the past, I’ve always accumulated more. This year, I have set a goal to sew twice as much as I buy. There’s a stash-shrinking spreadsheet that you can get from SewJourners that lets you set your shrinking goal, and then input your yards-sewn and tells you when you can buy fabric. It has been very helpful for me and is a concrete method to calculate yardage-in vs. yardage sewn. Here’s the link if you or any of your readers are interested: https://sewjourners.net/2018/01/02/stash-shrinker/

  • My stash (bought and given) is scattered around 3 rooms and a garage (about 30 bananaboxes in the garage alone) I am just starting to destash, but it takes a while. Bought some lovely fabrics for my children, made lovely outfits for them but have about 3 boxes full I never used. My children are 28,25, 20. I try to make clothes for my grandchildren now. More important for me is finishing all the projects I once started but never ended, because of other projects like theater-, operaproductions and weddingdresses (for other people mostly) that interfered. That’s my goal for 2019. I hope I will succeed.

  • Hi Claire
    Glad you enjoyed it! I totally understand the struggle. When you receive fabric from someone special it’s much harder. But remember that the fabric itself is not the memory or the feelings. You can part with a fabric/garment/anything and still have fond memories of it. Using for lining is a great idea! I think I will do that more. I have a Kelly Anorak in my sewing queue and I want to use a fabric from my stash for the lining. Let’s see what I can find! :) Good luck with your fabric stash!

    Josefine - Ploen Patterns

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