Thanks for reading the Colette blog!  This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.


There is always more to buy


Hey there & thank you for reading the Colette blog!

This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

Go to Seamwork


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the cool, beautiful, amazing stuff at your fingertips, courtesy of the internet?

Pinterest especially makes me sort of crazy. I love it for the boundless inspiration, but feel like I can’t spend too much time there because of the constant inundation of pretty must-have products, from gorgeous fair isle socks to fancy cookware.

But here’s the thing: I can’t have it all. And that feeling of wanting all the time actually really bothers me. Sure, online window shopping can be entertaining and pleasant. But when I add it up, it ends up feeling like a lot of wasted time and misdirected energy. Especially since I don’t actually want all that clutter in my life!

Sewing helps a lot with this. I can look at most clothing and redirect my thoughts easily from, “ooh pretty!” to “what do I like about this and how can I use that creatively?”

Another thing that I’ve found helpful is having stricter criteria about what I’ll spend my money on. For some people, that might mean having very high quality standards. For others, it might mean buying only very specific items that perfectly match their style or life.

For me, those are both important aspects, but one thing I’ve been concentrating more and more on is how ethically things are manufactured. Where are they made? How are the workers treated? What is it made from? How transparent is the company selling it? Do I feel comfortable giving them my money?

Not only do I feel better about voting with my dollars, I’m starting to realize how easy it is to bypass 99% of the stuff floating around out there, no matter how cute it is. Being able to sew makes it even easier. That’s a manufacturing process I have considerable control over (though not total control, since I buy fabric).

I am privileged. I live in an incredibly affluent country and can afford comforts, amenities, and even an occasional luxury. I have access to just about every sort of product imaginable. The question for me is, how much do I need and what sort of world does it support?

With so much stuff out there you could be buying, what criteria do you use to decide what to bring into your life? I’m interested to hear from you guys!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 92


For me, pinterest or etsy likes is more of a an endpoint in a collection, not pointing to things to physically buy. I like having a record of things that appeal to me, without having to own the actual things. In a lot of cases, just having the picture is enough!

That said, I do have one pinterest board with things I wouldn’t mind actually owning, it mostly has things like a raincoat and books on it.


“I like having a record of things that appeal to me, without having to own the actual things. In a lot of cases, just having the picture is enough!” – this is how I handle my stuff-lust too – seeing something I like and taking action on it by pinning it or adding it to my online wishlist puts it out of my mind. Then, if I ever do want to treat myself to something I can review my wishlist or my pins – it’s surprising how few things I want to actually part with cash for once I actually think about it.

I struggle more to say no to stuff in physical shops, so I try not to go in them!


Honestly, sometimes I definitely feel this way, that it’s more about interest or inspiration than want.

But I do feel like there are times when I get into a different frame of mind. For example, right now I’m going through a phase of being entranced by Victorian jewelry (lockets and mourning jewelry). I love looking at it, but I do feel that want urge sometimes too.

Hana – Marmota

I can completely relate to your first paragraph: most of the time, just having the picture is enough, and that’s what Pinterest is great for: saving my computer disc from becoming too cluttered. :D


like you, im also in love with pinterest however i hear you regarding the overwhelming feeling of ‘need’ or ‘want’. i think i spend far too much time browsing lovely things on the internet which can sometimes lead to stupid spending!!


This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately. How much more do I need anyway? I’m even planning to try to decrease my possessions with 25% by selling or giving away. Which is a lot.
Also, I want to try to make more of my own clothes. I knit a lot, so that part is covered. Slowly, my sewing abilities get better, so hopefully I’ll be able to have a completely me-made (and vintage) wardrobe in the near future!
The energy you put in making your own clothes (or other things, for that matter – I grow my own food for example) is something I value more and more. I also like the pace of making your own things. It’s completely the opposite of the fast, low quality and dishonest consumer culture we’re living in right now.


I think there are strong correlations between food and fashion, like you mention. To me, sewing is the analog to the slow food movement. More and more, people are interested in cooking at home. Can the same thing happen for fashion?

sophie o.

oh dear!! I’m feeling overwhelmed too and even by my sewing. With 2012 wrap up posts, I’ve been thinking about how many garments I sewed and how much money went into it and I find it scary. It can’t help but thinking that if I continue sewing at this pace for another few decades, my house will be submerged in clothing. Although I like having new clothes, the actual amount of it I already own worries me – and donating what I don’t wear does not stop the guilt: I really feel it’s a waste (of money mainly). I haven’t found a balance yet between the need for sewing and knitting and the fact that I shouldn’t go on like this!

Rachel W.

“With 2012 wrap up posts, I’ve been thinking about how many garments I sewed and how much money went into it and I find it scary. It can’t help but thinking that if I continue sewing at this pace for another few decades, my house will be submerged in clothing.”

This really punched me in the gut with how much I can relate to it. I’ve gone through a LOT of change over the past four years concerning money and finances and supporting hobbies, etc. When I first started sewing I went into a fabric craze and bought an embarassing amount of fabric and spent humiliatingly large sums of money on it. There was no concept of restraint or middle ground in my mind when that was going on. The end result of a few scares finally forced me to get my act together, which I’m still not perfect about, but am trying to make continual baby steps towards.

It’s hard to give advice sometimes because you don’t know if it’s wanted or what works best for someone based on one comment on the blogosphere because we’re all so unique! But there were a few steps along the way that really helped me, and I hope can help you figure something out that works for you.

-One was my husband’s comment of trying to seek ‘depth, not width.’ Meaning, instead of shallowly getting to know several hobbies, choose a couple and get to know them deeply. This was something more personal for me because I was trying out somewhere between 10-15 hobbies…talk about a LOT of money!

-Another was a general rule that everything made/bought has to replace something else in the house. Meaning, bring in one thing, take out one thing, and they don’t necessarily have to be the same. There are some exceptions to this, but they need to be far and few between and well thought out. They can’t be spur of the moment.

-Some of the more miscellaneous ones were: plan out all cost in advance for all projects (this also helps to keep the focus on just one project at a time), take three days before buying something (this helped with my fabric accumulation), go to the stash to see if you have what you need before buying new fabric for a project…just to name a few.

I hope this helps!

Sophie o.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one :) you just gave brilliant advice I especially like the one about letting a few days go by before buying stuff and planning a budget! It will really prevent me from impulsively buying stuff I might not even use once I have it!


I have a huge inspiration folder on my computer where I save images of everything I like and want. So instead of using my spirit of collecting to buy a lot of stuff I collect inspiration, which I in turn turn to when I want to sew something. I feel it help me a lot to deal with the urge to consume and also make up for a great mood board base.

annette tirette

I understand what you mean… The good thing for me is that I don’t have a credit card (they don’t give them to students who don’t have a steady income here) so I have to physically transfer the money from my bank account into my Paypal before I can buy anything. It takes a day or two as well, and making a list of things I want to get, adding the numbers and doing the transfers really gives a good view of how much I’m spending, and often makes me scratch out nice things I don’t actually need.

As for clothing, I’ve sort of stopped buying clothes in general (with the exception of a few things I can’t make myself) because the clothes I see online (or in real life) are either too expensive or not entirely right. I try treating the internet as a massive source of inspiration and ideas to make my own version of it, even though it can be very overwhelming as well. The key for me is to keep saving images and sketching things, but waiting to execute them. After a while the sketches change or sort of merge together, and I find a project I’ll truly love and make.


If I could AND would make it, then I don’t buy it. I figure I’ll come around to making it if and when I really need it.

Maddie Flanigan

I use fit as a criteria. When I look at the things that I wear day in and day out / over and over again, it’s the garments that fit me to a tee. Because 99% of RTW clothing does not fit me correctly, it stops me from waisting my money on garments that are pretty and fashion forward but will sit in my closet unworn. This same thing has helped me develop my sewing skills as I undertake projects that help me achieve the perfect fit.

Sew Little Time

i find pinterest is worse for “look at all the things i can make”! i constantly have to rein myself in from picking up another hobby i don’t have time for (hello lino printing and glass painting!). i tend to find it’s great for collecting inspiration type pics for things like home decorating.

i share a lot of your ethical concerns about clothing. but i find sewing makes me want to buy less. if i go clothes shopping, i see very little that i want to buy as I am fussier about fabric and fit than i used to be before i sewed. a lot of the time i tend to think about how much more cheaply (and nicer) i could make something. even if i never get around to it, I clearly didn’t “need” the garment that much in the first place! i try to buy a lot more of the “new” clothing i buy (jeans and a good winter coat are probably the exceptions) second hand. i have recently charity shopped a lot of clothing as I lost quite a lot of weight, and that’s kind of unavoidable, but i do have a pile of stuff for alteration or reuse of fabric.

now if someone can find any info on the ethical purchase of fabric, that would be great!


I’ve had the exact experience – since my sewing has become better, I have a really hard time buying clothes. Part of it is noticing cheap construction, but a lot of it is knowing I can make something better in a nicer fabric for about the same price. I’ve added very little to my wardrobe in the last few years because of it.

Also, I read Overdressed last year and that, combined with news of the factory fires in Bangladesh, has made me weary of buying mass-produced garments.


I really want to research fabrics more, so maybe I will dive into this here as I learn! And if anyone has expertise in this area, please let me know!

Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of transparency when buying fabric off the bolt most of the time, but there is still a lot to know, particularly about environmental impact.


I wrote a reply to this earlier but it seems to be lost – sorry if it’s here somewhere and I’m repeating myself… I got (more) into sewing because I started learning about the horrors of conventional cotton farming and wanted more choice of clothing than was available from ‘ethical’ retailers at the time. So in the past decade all my fabric choices have been guided by ethics to some extent. I mostly use certified organic cotton (a lot of it’s fair-traded too), and I occasionally buy ‘vintage’ fabrics – especially wool, because there’s very little organic woollen fabric around and it’s way beyond my budget. I have a bit of a cheat, too, in that my grandmother has a stash of beautiful fabrics (mostly bought by HER mother) that she’s gradually giving to me. But there’s now so much really lovely organic cotton fabric available (wovens and knits) that I think it’s easy enough to give up new conventionally grown cotton – and here’s a link about why you might choose to do that: .


So agreed! I hit pinterest when i need inspiration for an auntie sleepover or something like that… but otherwise know that it’s a fun way to escape-not for regular consumption. I just found that it was making me feel like my home wasn’t beautiful, i wasn’t skinny enough or my wardrobe isn’t large enough.

I traveled with my sister who does international relief and development to a village this past christmas to see some of their partners and have a renewed commitment to not taking in too much that makes me think Gimme thoughts vs gratitude for all I have.


I agree with everything you say. Pinterest has taken some heat for “thinspiration” type images, which are quite obviously unsettling and potentially damaging, especially to young women, especially when they have shades of disordered thinking and body shaming.

But isn’t all this “consumption porn” damaging in its own way? Isn’t it encouraging a disordered mindset around acquisitiveness?


Based on my experiences, it really is damaging. I grew up in a very poor middle-class family (we had a house, and enough for basics, but never really much of anything leftover). My mom taught me that window-shopping is just an exercise in frustration.

If I need pants, I go to the store, to the pants section, figure out what I’m going to get, and then proceed to the cash register. My boyfriend however, must look at ALL THE THINGS. When I go shopping with him, not only are my trips twice as long, but I frequently emerge depressed. I usually find several great things that I think would make life better/prettier/more comfortable. However, I don’t have the resources (either in purchasing or making) to obtain these items. I find myself thinking back to the things I’ve found and fantasizing about how they’d fit into my life, if only I had them.

Lest you think I’m some sort of ascetic monk, I’ll point out that I currently have a list of projects as long as my arm to make with materials that I already have, and a list twice as long of things that I want to make, but have yet to get things.


I have also started thinking more about where things come from, which really does limit my appetite for the new.
On another topic, for some reason I was inspired by your resolution to knit more to consider a pattern for you! Since you love little details on sewn clothes, what about the classic Schiaparelli sweater with a bow knitted into the design. Here’s the pattern on Ravelry:


I love that one and I love Schiap!


Great post…I thoroughly agree with you on the overwhelming nature of Pinterest. However, I think it can go beyond overwhelming to feelings of inadequacy. That, somehow, my life is not pretty, cute, crafty, sassy, sexy, whatever enough. There is a huge disconnect between “real” life and the fantasy presented on Pinterest. You’re right, you can’t have it all. I think if you use Pinterest as inspiration for your own style/creative persuits it’s fine, but can become damaging if it is turned into a shrine of desire. We’re all OK just the way we are and how we are; the more we realize that, the more the consumerist walls come down.


Kat, I think you put it beautifully, particularly your phrase “shrine of desire.”


I use pinterest and can spend hours just looking at stuff! But I try to limit it to what I actually need and eventually purchase. I am much more aware of the quality of goods than I used to be since I started sewing more.


I have to admit that internet has the same effect in me. In fact my new year resolution for 2013 is buy – or sew – more things I really need and less things that catch my attention, for example, to buy a good down coat for commuting early in the morning instead of some whimsical piece seen in Pinterest.

Lisa G.

I also am trying to ask myself, what do I like about this, will it look good on me, do I really have a use for it.

I recently bought a nice cable pullover from Loft – a sixty dollar item for twenty dollars. When it came I looked at the fabric content. Five percent angora rabbit hair. I suddenly wondered if they were killing rabbits. I had to spend a lot of time online trying to figure out what goes on, to help me decided if I should keep it. I don’t want to be killing rabbits or even encouraging rabbit-hair farming, if they aren’t treated humanely. Something I hadn’t been thinking about previously!


Excellent points, Lisa. I’ve been thinking of doing a fiber or fabric profile series to unravel some of the mysteries around fabric production. Again, anyone with expertise on these subjects would be welcome to contact me and contribute! I’ve read a bit, but will need to do deeper research.


It’s not true for all angora, but some is crueltyfree. When I worked at a shelter we had a super fluffy rabbit surrendered. After petting the rabbit and realizing I now had a pile of long fur, our vet tech explained they sold the fur from her rabbit as a kid. They naturally blow their coats so it apparently is common for pet parents to collect and sell the fur.

However, not all angora is humanely gathered — it’s like wool or cashmere. Some places collect by hand and are gentle. Others just rush through mechanically to get as muchas quickly as possible.


I love pinterest, but as someone mentioned it’s mostly fantasy rather than things I would really buy. A lot of the clothing there is really cute but not stuff that I’d wear in every day life. I also like it for ideas in keeping my sewing room and the rest of my home organized. In my real life, I am much simpler and I tend to buy what I need. I’m planning on sewing many garments this year so my spending money is mostly on fabric and comfortable heels for work. I don’t really shop at the stores anymore unless it’s for undergarments. On the weekends, I like to wear loose dresses and sandals – so easy and easy on the pocket when I make my own dresses.


I needed to read this today. I am feeling guilty as I went on a huge spending binge, buying amounts of yarn and fabric I didn’t think possible. Now I feel the longing to purge myself of things I don’t use. So, this post was talking to me today. There is ALWAYS going to be another Madeline Tosh yarn colorway, another Anna Maria Horner collection. I find that going forward, looking to the next one is ignoring the fact that you (me) already bought the last one and aren’t doing a thing with it. This is the way toward hoarding and I know that people who sew or knit have a hoarding tendency…This year I vow to use everything I have or put it on Ebay to sell.


Great article! My goal this year is to buy nothing new…I have so many clothes and over 130 yards of fabric many bought with a project in mind (I catalogued my stash yesterday), not to mention over 400 patterns. Then I went into the JC Penney to buy a bra and almost walked out with an armful of new clothes. I had totally forgotten my pledge! I caught myself just before I made my way to the register and I’m glad I did!
My big problem is buying sewing things with the idea that I’ll make them “someday”. I need to make what I’ve got and then I can move forward. I’m also trying my best to vote with my dollars, as you say, by buying mainly organic, local and fair trade groceries and cosmetics this year. So far so good!


If I REALLY want something, I wait two months before I get it. That way I have had time to think about how I will use that item and if I still remember it after two months I probably need it or really really want it. I find by waiting and thinking about it, I either find that I already have something just like it, I forget about it, or I actually wanted it and I use it/wear often.

Also, on the short term, when I go shopping anywhere I take a good 10 to 15 mins once my cart or arms are full and literally talk to myself about how I am going to use/wear this. I find that 90% of the time I can talk myself out of a purchase. If I really needed or wanted it, there would be no way to talk me out of buying it.

I have learned that impulse buying can be beat, if you just THINK about what you are buying. Take the time to think and you will end up having more money, a good purchase and peace of mind about the clothes in your closet or items in your home.

Joy Nevels

I have come to the point where I can appreciate (admire) things without the need to buy it. Currently my criteria is am I going to use it for an upcoming project. (It could be the 10 months of unemployment last year or just my general disgust of obsessive consumerism these days). I just don’t feel the need to have everything. Lately I have a better sense of finances and actually save for the “treats”. I get much more excited about the quality items that I have purchased lately (ie, actually use) than letting my eyes get the better of me.


This is a great topic! Like Joy Nevels said above, I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t feel like I need to buy everything. It took a lot of work! Over the past few years, I’ve developed a purchasing decision tree for myself. I ask myself if I really need something and how an item would fit into my life. Then I ask myself, could I borrow it from somebody, can I find it second-hand, can I make it myself. If I feel like I do need something, and can’t find it second-hand, make it or borrowing is unfeasible, then I start looking for the best-fitting, best-constructed, and most ethically made option. It didn’t happen overnight and I still have a couple of impulse purchases a year, but this strategy has really helped me avoid most extraneous retail purchases as well as the mental/physical clutter that comes along with constant wanting/shopping.

Sewing, on the other hand, is a slightly different story! I ‘m a little less thoughtful when it comes to sale patterns and cute fabric, and when I’m bored I start fantasizing about all the things I could make whether I need them or not. This year I’m hoping to use more thrifted and ethically sourced fabrics, refashion more unwanted garments, and continue sewing slowly/deliberately so I make things I want to wear!


I must admit, your post reflected exactly how I am feeling right now!
I went on a shopping trip yesterday but found it impossible to find something I liked – ever since I began making my own clothes (at the ripe old age of 15!), I have become SO much fussier about the quality of the clothing I buy and the fit of the clothing.
I love charity shops but do they do require patience to find something special – I was thrilled to find an as-good-as-new Hollister cardigan in one last week! X


I went through just about the same thing when I learned to sew at 16. It’s a real change to the way you look at material things, isn’t it?


I’m starting the new year pondering needs vs. wants myself, so I really enjoyed reading this. As a visually-oriented person, I probably spend more time on Pinterest than any other social media site… but the majority of what I pin is either not available to me (I LOVE Japanese “natural” fashion, but am a mere mortal who can’t afford overseas shipping and the weak dollar/yen conversion) or is strictly for inspiration (interiors, where it turns out that perfect bookshelf was a “curbside find in Brooklyn” or something like that). In the end, it serves as inspiration for what can I make or repurpose, rather than what can I buy.


Oh, and cats. Lots, and lots of pins of cats :)


Haha. Instagram is my cat social media platform of choice, but Pinterest is pretty good too. My instagram feed is at least 30% cats.


Mine too! I’ve added you to my IG contacts :)

Jordan Lawless

Here’s what I did;
I made a huge board on my wall in my sewing corne, originally meant as a huge calendar. After months of fantasizing over all the cool stuff I saw online, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the products that I wanted (especially from Pinterest), it was more the eye candy I was addicted to. So now I just gather all the pictures of stuff I loved and tacked then on my board. Now I get to see all,I love, and draw inspiration from it for sewing projects. Even better, since the pictures arent going anywhere, I can choose one project at a time instead of stocking up for a million at once.


I totally agree with you about how you must consider how ethically things are manufactured. I cannot believe that you can go into Walmart and buy a men’s long sleeve flannel shirt for $7.00! Everyone loves to find a bargin but that is so questionable. My husband was disgusted at the thought of wearing a shirt that was produced by what might be considered overseas “slave” labor. My solution was simple – I could sew him those shirts – and it turned out for the best. We did not support sweatshop labor, I could sharpen my sewing skills, and it made me a proud and more comfident sewer. At first it was hard to find a pattern because no one was producing a simple flannel shirt pattern so I went to eBay and bought a vintage shirt pattern (Simplicity1025) This was in 2009. I bought flannel fabric, sewed him 4 shirts. Happily, he wore them – and wore them out. In 2012 I sewed him 7 new flannel shirts again which is his everyday wear. I am so happy I did this. I found your Negroni pattern and bought it. I plan to try it out and sew him a few lighter weight shirts with your pattern. I feel like things worked out for the better here.


Kenn adores the shirts I’ve made him (with Negroni, but of course)!

We don’t see the real costs of these cheap clothing items, they are hidden from us. If we stop to think about those $7 flannel shirts, we quickly realize that someone along that chain is not making a living wage.


I have to say, I do not enjoy Pinterest and many blogs (mostly design-centric ones) that just post endless images of things to consume, whether it is things to buy and have sit on your shelf, or things make and eat, or throwaway crafts to use once and toss. I try really really really hard to shut out all the noise and inviting this into my home is not healthy for me. Visual clutter stresses me out, and frankly, so does clutter that I cannot see, like if I know that my cabinets are full of things I don’t use or need.

Yes, I own a lot of dresses (99% handmade by me) but for me it is the epitome of simplicity, as I can just put on one garment and be done. Carrying this level of simplicity in my life as a whole is my best peace of mind. It helps me think about what I buy and where it goes and what I support. This also helped me give up meat, as it supported something I didn’t believe in. I try to relate the cost of things in direct correlation to how many hours I’d have to work to pay for it. If you’re willing to work a week or a day for the object, then do it. If you’d rather enjoy the time off and can live without said object, then you’ve answered it for yourself. Use your dollars, energy, and time wisely!


I have a real problem with these aspirational blogs too. It often seems to me to be the worst elements of mainstream women’s media boiled down to its bare essentials: an endless stream of “must-haves.” I prefer blogs with a voice, a personality, opinions, good writing, or a focus on small or ethical designers… even if they DO feature products.

ETA: Have you read Your Money or Your Life? That’s sort of the main point of the book, that spending money = spending hours of your life that you will never get back.


Ooh, no, I haven’t heard of that book, but it sounds perfect! Thanks for sharing that Sarai!

And yes, all those “must have” cool of-the-moment design things that all those blogs post about just seriously do not interest me. I have enough things in my home and they are all full of family or personal stories, which are much better things to have around :)


I haven’t read that book, but the idea behind it is similar to my thinking on purchases. I once had a job that paid extremely well, working with lovely people, but I hated the job itself. I started spending my wages on things I couldn’t previously afford, but now could.
Then one day before I went to the till, I asked myself if the item was worth the days work that would pay for it. I knew it wasn’t and that I would be happier with less money to spend ,as long as I could do work I loved…. I now sew for a living (but buy very little! ) and yep I’m happier too:)

Rachel W.

I COMPLETELY agree with you when it comes to the blogs you’re drawn to. I’m like you in that I’m very particular to blogs where the personality of the individual is a prominently featured element to the blog, faults and all. It makes them more relatable and real. That whole ‘strong voice’ thing in writing really pays off in blogs.

Tiffany Simmons

Yay! I’m so happy I stumbled on this blog! I feel much the same way and it’s so great to see other people who do, too. This kind of thinking is what inspired me to start my own blog just a few days ago.
It’s fun to go out and buy new clothes, but often they don’t fit right and/or don’t last very long. Plus, I have a dresser and closet full of clothes – why do I feel a need to buy more?! Now, I use Pinterest for ideas on what to make myself and not what to buy.
In the past, I was always upset with the quality and fit of the clothing I buy. It’s a lot like other things, though. I mean, I once bought a blender that didn’t blend! We are surrounded my mass produced crap and it’s sad to think that someone else in the world is getting paid poorly to make it.


Welcome, Tiffany! Glad you found us too. :)

Rachel W.

I find it interesting how struggles like this are understood and felt by so many people. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone and aren’t the only one. I also find it interesting that so many people do the same thing of inspiration collecting, which I do too. I tend to inspiration shop around etsy and google images as I’m still getting to know pinterest.

I never have (and still haven’t) really gotten addicted to pinterest, and am just now finally fiddling with it. Part of the reason being the fact that it IS so overwhelming, and I just didn’t want to deal with it. I can be sensitive to sensory overloads. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own sources of inspiration gorging, but it’s just something specific to pinterest.

My husband and I made the decision to not have cable early on in our marriage. This was in part to save money, and in part because we knew it would be easy for us to just sit in front of the TV all day. I began to notice an enormous decrease in my desire for stuff as a result of not having a constant stream of advertisements in our home. The other things I’ve noticed is that with sewing I don’t have blanket desires to just go shopping. When I finally do break down to get a new pair of jeans because my 10 yr. old pair has finally bitten the dust, I become so overwhelmed by the mall or places where ‘BUY, BUY, BUY!’ is shouted everywhere that I just want to get out as quickly as possible. It’s like being in a pressure cooker.

All of this resulted in me really taking a look at our ‘buy’ culture, and how it’s affected me over time. I went from barely getting by because I was spending all my money on stuff to now saving everything and trying to make a conscious effort to buy smart. Another rule I’ve begun to implement is that each object I make or buy needs to replace something so that that way there isn’t a constant stream of more and more stuff coming into the house, but it either stays the same or decreases. I particularly like this rule when it comes to my wardrobe. However, some things are exceptions to the rule in that I make something my wardrobe needs versus another version of something I already have 10 of…and then there’s my book collection…… :-)


It’s interesting that you mention television, because I think for a lot of us, the internet is the new TV. It’s something people use to just decompress and zone out a lot of the time. I think a lot of sites that are oriented toward passive consumption play into that. Sometimes people just want to sit back and look at pretty things, and it’s hard to blame them for that.


Ooh, interesting discussion! I joined Pinterest a while back, but didn’t really get very interested in it, mainly because I already have an astronomical to-do list for projects as it is. But I go through phases where I spend lots of time on Etsy and buy things that I really don’t need. I’ve figured out that I’m more prone to do that when I’m bored or dissatisfied, so I’m trying to channel that restless energy into things like reorganizing or brainstorming instead of mindless consumerism.

I try to buy things that are made or imported ethically and in a cruelty-free way. It’s also important to me to support indie designers– I can’t make everything myself, and I love that there are so many people out there trying to design clothing/jewelry/etc in a responsible, creative way, so I’m happy to hand over my cash to them.


Good points Ginger! I also find that if I’m really getting that “want” feeling, it usually means that there’s something else I’m dissatisfied with, and if I can deal with whatever that is, then I feel good about my life again and the wanting goes away.

I also agree about looking for indie makers to get the things you aren’t making yourself. One awesome thing about the maker culture movement is that there’s probably someone in your own country making what you need using great ethical practices, and these days they are probably on Etsy.

I try to look for things only when I need something. I’m sure I miss a lot of beautiful stuff by not spending much time browsing, but I already have more ideas for things to make than I can ever make in one lifetime, so I figure adding more would only make me feel overwhelmed! When I do feel the need for eye-candy, I can always find some.


I agree with you, Ginger. Limiting my purchases to more ethical and environmentally conscious items makes it much easier to curb the I WANT syndrome. Sometimes I feel like a snob scouring department store labels for “Made in USA,” “Fair Trade” and other ethical indicators, but I’ve come to terms with being that picky customer :)

As with making the choice to eat healthier food, choosing to buy ethical clothing helps you develop a more refined pallet. Once you have a keener eye for quality and ethical practices, (sewing helps tremendously in this), it’s much easier to walk into a store, look at a cheaper (albiet very cute) shirt and think, “nah, don’t want it.”


What a great post. I agree so much – I recently moved from New Zealand to California and thought I would have a great time shopping here but honestly the greater abundance of available consumer goods and the lower prices has had the opposite effect! I enjoy the thrift stores though! Pinterest drives me crazy because I leap from picture to picture feeling more and more indequate.


This is something I struggle with. I see it, I want it, I must have it. I am training myself to be more discerning, thinking about it. Not making impulse buys. If I see something I want, I have to wait at least 24 hours before I can buy it. This has helped me see things differently. When I stop and think about it like would I really use it, where would I keep it, etc., I usually decide against purchasing it. Besides, there are always better ways to use our money — like saving.


This is a really interesting post and discussion. I definitely used to be a lover of “stuff” in my 20’s, clothes, homewares, books etc etc. As I entered my 30’s that has seemed to decline. A big part of that was related to having a mortgage! But also I realised (slowly) that more stuff wasn’t making me happier. I do find I am a little out of control with fabric buying at times especially as I have a fabulous fabric shop at the end of my street that has awesome fabrics at amazing prices, but definitely RTW clothing purchases have dwindled as my sewing skills have improved. I find myself being uber critical of the quality of manufacturing (knits and stretchy things not cut on grain completely do my head in!!) . I also find I walk in to some shops and find the masses of cheap clothing almost vulgar in their ‘disposability’ if that is even a word. Sometimes I find the instant gratification of online shopping a bit overwhelming too, and I feel that because one doesn’t actually hand over cash for the item it can seem like the transaction wasn’t real which is not good for the bank balance as it reduces accountability. I don’t use Pinterest much at all so cant comment much on that. Basically my partner and I now have the attitude that we buy the best quality we can afford, and we buy only if needed. We did Buy Nothing New in October, and I’m considering doing a similar thing every quarter of the year (sort of like a retail fast!).


I totally get this. I come from a family where a bargain was best and the more I could get for my money the better. As I’ve grown I’ve come to realise that the desire for a bargain is ingrained in me BUT I think it’s about only buying what I LOVE and surrounding myself with only things that make me happy. I started doing that a while ago and it does help to say no to the bargain staring me in the face. Do I need it? No. Do I love it? No. Walk away.

I haven’t gone too much into ethics but my husband read a great book on it that I should read too. I feel that sewing allows me to indulge a little because No I really don’t need 25 dresses! But, when I’m learning a skill and saving myself money (if I got bargain fabric) then I seem to be able to justify it.

When I used to sew, I would make a garment and it would go to my wardrobe to lie in wait and then pretty much be donated to charity. I never wore what I made because I didn’t particularly like it. Now, with my skills upgraded I’m finding that I only wear what I make. They are my go-to dresses and noone asks me if I made them. I love that!


I’ve been feeling like I need to pay more attention to ethical manufacturing. It becomes a little overwhelming to think about, but it’s better to take some small steps than to do nothing at all. I really like the idea of considering what sort of world my purchases support.

And on another side of these thoughts, I was thinking, is this part of the reason we’re so afraid of garments looking “homemade”? I think sometimes we’re worried people will know we didn’t buy something, we didn’t add to that consumerist routine of buying new clothes, but we don’t know or realize what would even be so bad about that. I’m sure there are myriad reasons why we get these feelings, but I think this mindset of buying more and more stuff feeds into it at least a little bit.


I was just thinking last night that I need to limit my Pinterest time! (Seriously.)

First I was obsessed with certain blogs; now I’ve transferred that obsession to Pinterest. I feel like a hypocrite because while I tout that I’ve changed my attitude towards consumption (per my last blog post!) I still find myself seriously wanting stuff I don’t need. Initially Pinterest seemed very useful to me, allowing me to curate my style board with looks and “uniforms” that I loved so that I would stop filling my closet with impractical fantasy pieces and orphans that don’t go with anything. But it has evolved into something that has made me want (and “need”) items to complete said uniforms and fill those imaginary holes in my wardrobe.

A couple of questions that I try to keep in mind if I find myself wanting something:
1. The William Morris quote “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Do I truly love this? Do I really need it?
2. “Will buying this really make me a happier person?” Oftentimes the answer is No.

The above usually helps but is not foolproof. :)

Betty Jordan Wester

I love that William Morris quote! I’m in the process of doing just that, to the point of making cozies for appliances ;D

Tiffany Simmons

I love that you quoted William Morris!

Betty Jordan Wester

I spent years ripping out magazine pages and glue sticking them into cheap spiral bound notebooks as “inspiration books” (anything from poses, color schemes, clothing styles, housewares), but it was hard to keep them organized.
I use pinterest not as a shopping guide, but as inspiration books for everything and anything.

Betty Jordan Wester

I’d like to add that pinterest has gotten me really jazzed to start sewing again. After the birth of my son I just didn’t have the time for both drawing/painting AND sewing. But I see so many pretty things that would be so easy to sew that’s it’s made me step back and look at where my time goes. I’m this/close to finishing a Colette Licorice blouse.

I also have very little disposable income, so there’s less of a temptation to want to buy things when I could make them (either home or clothes), especially since I’m really into spending my money on mini trips around where I live.


Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful post. I wholeheartedly agree! I am very new to the world of sewing. I figure late-thirtysomething is a perfectly respectable age to learn a new hobby.
Through my working life, I have been lucky enough to discover the benefits of understanding and working to one’s strengths (see
Sewing is proving to be a beautiful outlet for my creativity and appreciation of beauty and excellence strengths. It also tames my over-busy mind and brings a huge amount of satisfaction to my life.
I suspect a lot of sewists out there might have similar strengths – I’d be keen to hear from anyone who has undertaken free ‘strengths survey’ at link above.
Thanks again, Sarai. Your site is such a source of delight.


I’m not on pinterest, so take my comments with a grain of salt. But, I’m skeptical of this idea that it’s positive to be fixated on consumption via one’s imagation. In reality, when we are consumers, we have to make all kinds of decisons about the cost and utility of the things we buy. In the imaginary space of pinterest, these barriers and constraints are removed. What we’re left with is the aspirational part of consumerism. The aspirational part of consumerism is what makes it most dehumanizing, I think. We aren’t doing anything when we pin things we desire, we aren’t producing anything, we aren’t getting anything except that feeling of maybe being a better, more interesting, more talented person. It appears to me that that aspect of consumerism is magnified and isolated in most pinterest boards. I understand that lots of people do interesting things with pinterest. But for the most part, I think pinterest de-contextualizes consumption in the same way that Facebook de-contextualizes friendships. And, I see it fatiguing people in a similar way.


Jordan, your perspective is interesting and insightful, and I agree!

All this talk is really prompting me to make some more changes in terms of my relationship with such sites (it’s scary that I just used the word “relationship”). Pinterest is not inherently bad, and I don’t want to poo-poo it too much. But I hear time and time again from friends and folks online that some kind of balance needs to be struck between real life and virtual life.


Jordan, you’ve provided some real insight here. This is the very definition of conspicuous consumption. Today, people form their identities around not just the things they buy, but the things they want to buy.

I think it’s a fine line when you are a creative person, as I imagine most of us here are. We want to be exposed to new ideas and visual stimulation. I know I do. But it can be so easy to fall into a hoarding mentality and not do anything productive or interesting with it all. I have felt that myself many times.


That is a hard balance. “I want some inspiration” but half an hour later and no creative work done can be an enormous waste of time and energy.


I’m so glad someone else feels like this….I am tired of putting so much energy into the “wanting” of things, and I think one of the side effects is not appreciating what I have now……..


Thanks so much for this relevant, refreshing, thoughtful post.. Such an appreciated palate cleanse from the overwhelming feast of stuff constantly in our faces. I’m guilty of the ‘wants’ for sure, but have found increasing peace in using criteria like yours, especially the ethical criteria — the giant elephants in the room that we continue to be unbelievably blind to. Thanks again.. Awesome.


I think I mainly use Pinterest as photo styling inspiration; if someone’s picture is serious eye candy I try to work out what it is that appeals and whether I can adapt it to my pictures. Mostly I think it makes me want to tidy up which is no bad thing!


Ha! That’s what I think when I see photos of other people’s work spaces. How do they keep it so CLEAN?


It’s so funny, most of the people I follow on Pinterest post old photographs or typography things, but I’m the bad seed posting lusty consumerist business. Mostly because I’m a visual person and I have to spend months agonizing over my purchases, so Pinterest makes the whole process easier.

With that said, I haven’t necessarily wanted more stuff because of Pinterest and lifestyle blogs, but rather I’ve become really harshly critical of the stuff I do have, for better or for worse. I think now I feel that people expect homes to look as if they’ve been lifted out of Design Sponge, even though most of my friends and family don’t read blogs or use Pinterest or have more than a passing familiarity with this really intense design-conscious world. Things that I think have been a bit overexposed (like globes or chalkboard walls or ikat) are totally fresh and new to some. Same goes for clothing. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s all kind of drawn a separate world for me, and it’s hard to remember to keep the computerbox separate from everything outside of it.


Brilliant post! Lately I’ve been focusing a lot on natural fibres and it makes a huge impact on buying decisions. There are so many “wool” pieces out there that are not wool, beautiful clothes made from landfill and I’m tired of buying it.
I want a piece of clothing that looks amazing on me, makes me feel great, will wear well for the next 10 years so I don’t have to keep replacing it, and that can be reused or ultimately composted when it is in tatters.
And sewing makes a difference because like you said, you have a lot more control over the process.
Thanks for the great post and happy sewing!


When shopping I find myself considering the usefulness of something I want to buy. Also, the quality plays a big part.

This is most difficult for me with clothing. I still don’t have all the pieces I want in my wardrobe. I find myself always thinking of what I could use. Unfortunately, I have not been successful at getting rid of what I already have, I do use most of it regularly (of course dictated by the season). Then, when I think about making the garments I want in my wardrobe I find that I don’t really have the appropriate fabric I would like to make them in. When it comes to crafting supplies I find myself thinking more in terms of projects, not just buying up pretty things.

Having worked at a fabric store during school I have A LOT of fabric stored away in the basement. Currently we are renovating so there is little time & space to actually do much sewing. I have other hobbies & many supplies for those hobbies. Lately, I have been thinking really hard about buying more supplies. I have also come to the realization that I just don’t have the time to use it all up.

This year I have vowed to knit mainly from my stash of yarn (with a couple exceptions) & will be giving away some of the fabric I have to make the amount of supplies more manageable.


Great post and discussion! So many sparkling phrases to provoke reflection: Shrines of desire… Internet as the new t.v. … making what you’ve got so that you can move forward…

I closed my Pinterest account at the start of the year – it was too draining and I was always swerving back and forth between overuse and no use. I do think it’s a clever concept, a great way to manage the “noise” and chaos of the web, but I found it created its own noise and was in its own way overwhelming, as well as provoking that sense of want (instead of an awareness of need) and even competition. For me, I think it’s better to just keep a list of projects/ideas/resources/supplies on paper or electronically but privately in my journal or my lists (for what it’s worth, I use DayOne and Workflowy). I don’t need to be social about everything, after all.

About the internet as the new t.v. … I grew up without t.v. more or less, as I was in rural area with terrible reception and only two channels, plus my parents strictly limited what we could watch. Didn’t hurt me and yes my childhood was low in consumption. Now, a mom to two in a different country, in a big city, in the cable and internet age, I’m trying to keep them off line AND off tv, or at least to limit access to controlled things that don’t involve commercials or a social aspect. Hoping this helps…

I would also love to read more about fabric production and ethical consumption.


One of the sad things, for me, in the financial collapse and its fall out is that here was an opportunity for the political world to address the fact that the planet cannot support the philosophy of continuing growth based on a ever growing consumerism.

Instead what we have is a drive back to consuming to support our economies. And in the end it doesn’t really matter if we create exploitation or destroy our environment as long as we keep on growing.

That debate may be happening in the fringes of political life but not were it really matters. Plus no major politician seems to be brave enough to take this on.

I try to live a life based on need rather than want. And there is nothing wrong with the pleasure of something new and beautiful. It is the volume of need which seems to feed our dissatisfaction. In the end though, we have to make the changes in our own lives. Which is why I really do like your posts Sarai. They are so thoughtful and challenging.


I totally agree. We have seen incredible economic growth since the industrial revolution and have been conditioned to think that it will go on forever. Now we’re seeing that it’s not sustainable in any sense, but no one wants to address this. Politicians least of all.

Like you, I think real change will only come directly from small personal actions. I believe there are many who are dissatisfied with the way things are going. Some people want a better world, but others are simply tired of the work-consume treadmill.

Some commenters here mention William Morris… wouldn’t an Arts and Crafts style movement be such a breath of fresh air today? A turn to the handcrafted, the beautiful, the natural, and the simple over the mass market garbage?


With RTW, I limit by thinking if I could do it myself. If I can, then it’s easier to walk away. I have a harder time not buying fabric, I have a big stash I haven’t been sewing through. I just don’t go fabric shopping as often. If I’m not there, I can’t buy it.


Absolutely. Valuing the work people do rather than wanting more and more and paying less and less. It is the same with food which never seems to reflect the hard slog and challenges to produce good food. And we accept a level of waste which is staggering.

I also believe we need to consider the speed at which we live our lives and perhaps to consider the need for quiet reflection. Plus a sound value system. I don’t mean religion. If that does it for people that is fine. I mean a set of values which reflect a respect for others and which informs all our actions.


I can completely relate! There’s so much eye candy on the internet that lately I’m having to force myself to distinguish between “needs” versus “wants.” With Pinterest, the trick for me has been honestly assessing whether there’s room in my budget or schedule for something. Strangely, I’m finding blog reading and pinning far more enjoyable now that I’m embracing limitations and working within them.


This is a great post and discussion that hopefully makes us think about our purchasing practices, but I also hope some manufacturers are listening to our desire for more transparency, and more information about the environmental, and (global) economic impacts of their processes.

Pinterest is getting some heat here (not undeservedly), but I also find a lot of craft/sewing blogs promote thriftiness, which is fine, but it’s thriftiness without seeing the big picture (i.e., purchasing something at a big box store, etc.).


I have 2 competing mindsets here– I totally understand the “ooh pretty” feeling of lust that can come over you in a big wave, and have suffered this countless times. Pinterest usually is helpful for me here, because I can drool all I want and not have to find a place to put the thing itself. The other mindset is that, so often, the thing I lust after is some clean minimalist environment that radiates calm and sophistication, which of course would be impossible to have if you fill your environment with a ton of crap. So, Pinterest comes to my rescue again, but I agree that it can feel like a big sucking time void of want.


I often feel that pinterest will be detrimental to my health, surely it is feeding that ‘i want i want’ feeling. but i have found it has done that at all. actually what has happened is i’ve sort of become so overwhelmed by it all i don’t want much any more. or maybe it’s just that because i’ve pinned something i now sort of own it. well i don’t but i can go back and look at it anytime i like, so i kind of do. and i don’t need the physical thing anymore.
a few years back i took a Pledge to myself to only clothe myself ethically. you can read about the Ethical Clothing Pledge on my blog. it has been amazingly helpful, as it cuts out SO much of what i could buy, it makes choosing much easier. some people might feel it limits their choices too much but i’ve found shopping much easier because of it!


*spelling: it hasn’t done that….


I showed my 13 year old kid your pinterest post because she is often looking there and showing me something she wants. I was worried about her becoming overwhelmed by her own desires for material things that we can’t afford and don’t want to buy. When I asked her about looking at pinterest and wanting the stuff she said, “It gets old pretty quickly”. I liked that attitude and decided to stop worrying about her for a few minutes;)

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