Like a lot of you, my biggest sewing goal this year is to buy less fabric. This means spending more time looking at what I already have and figuring out what to do with it.
Lucky for me, I have a lot of great fabric. On the day Caitlin snapped the photos of me above, I was poring through boxes of fabric and found some gorgeous things I’d completely forgotten about! Why hadn’t I ever made anything with it?
My vintage fabrics are especially neglected. I guess I’m a little afraid to cut into them, because they’re so special. I have yard after yard of rayon prints from the 40s, and I love them, but they just sit in boxes.
So I jotted down a few ideas to help me. These are tips for myself, as well as you guys. I’m not an expert in fabric efficiency, by any means. If you have any more tips, add them in!
- Shop your stash.
- Start with fabric.
- Don’t feel (too) guilty.
- Keep a projects list.
- Keep sketches and swatches together.
- Get rid of stuff.
- Ask a friend.
Time after time, when I want to make a new dress, I immediately turn to the fabric store to find the perfect materials. Why don’t I first look at what I already own?
I think another good way to use what you have is to start with the fabric, and let that give you an idea of what to make. Sometimes a particular fabric will really call out what it wants to be. Often times, I buy a fabric thinking, “this will make a great pair of shorts / button up blouse / shirtdress / whatever,” but it goes into a drawer to languish until I’ve forgotten about it completely.
Ok, I admit, I sometimes feel really bad looking at all the fabric I have and never did anything with. Sometimes, it even makes me a bit anxious and overwhelmed, like I cannot possibly make all of the things that I want to make. That can be weirdly upsetting.
However, I notice that if I look at a fabric and feel guilty about it, it’s really hard to let it inspire me. Instead, I think it helps to approach the stash with a feeling of possibility and excitement.
It really helps me to keep a list of upcoming sewing projects I need to work on. If I have a list to stick to, I’m much less likely to buy an awesome new fabric, because I know it has to go at the bottom of the projects list.
Another thing I find helpful is sketching out some rough drawings of what I want to make with a particular fabric, attaching a swatch, and filing it somewhere. Even if I don’t have time to make something with a fabric right now, when I’m done with my current projects, I can pull out my binder of sketches and swatches and get inspired again.
I will admit it. I hold on to things way more than I’d like to. Luckily, I have Caitlin, who is amazing at weeding out stuff we’ll never use. She just recently cleaned out my lace stash, which was enormous. I will squirrel away scraps and fabric until my shelves overflow. I have fabric I bought when I was in my teens. Really, am I ever going to use it if I haven’t cut into it in 10 or 15 YEARS? So… yeah. Needs improvement.
If I’m stumped about what to do with a particular fabric I have, getting someone else’s input is invaluable. Sometimes they’ll see a completely different sort of potential in something.
Do you guys have any other thoughts on how to best utilize the fabric you have?