Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughts On Space & Stash

I wonder...

... do you suppose...

.... that at this time of year there are conversations going on between wood turners about having too many blocks or between chefs about having too many spices or between jewelers about having too many stones or between painters about having too many canvasses or between pianists about having too many sheets of music or between ____ about having too many ____? There are numerous ways to fill in the blank because each form of creative expression comes with its own list of tools and supplies.

It would seem to me that how much is a personal choice influenced by our personality, our finances, our creative goals, our proximity to the nearest store, and the available storage space. The more important questions to me are what do I want to create, what tools and supplies are required, what do I currently have, what do I need, where will I store these supplies, how will I pay for them, and what are my personal boundaries.





Do you have a studio space? How big is not the most critical element. That it exists is - whether it's an entire room, the corner of a room, or a closet. Women especially tend to put the needs of others before themselves and yet it is only by nurturing ourselves that we have enough energy to nurture others. A failure to nurture ourselves de-energizes our environment. Me being creative is essential for our household running well and I believe that's true of all creative people and since all people are creative, all people have some way in which they need to nurture themselves including making time and space and funds available.

How much time, how much space, and how much money we invest in ourselves are individual choices influenced by our circumstances. Our situation and the way  we move through life is unique to each of us but caring for ourselves should not be. I do something for myself - definitely journal writing and usually sewing - every day and see it as not only important for my own health but as a role model for other women.





Where do you sew? I have had a sewing space in every home I've lived in since I was seventeen. When we got married, Howard and I never had a conversation around whether I would or wouldn't have a space. It wasn't a topic that was up for debate. For me to be fully me, a sewing space was part of the mix. It has to exist.

Since I'm a minimalist and since I hate other people's stuff oozing into my space, it has always been important to me that all the ingredients of my art form are contained within my designated space. When I have a small studio, I have a small stash and when I have a larger studio, I have a larger stash but I've always had as big of a stash as there is space to store.

How much fabric I have is determined by the amount of space I've allotted to it as is true of every item in the studio. I want as much fabric, as many patterns, as wide a variety of notions as possible, and as big a collection of books as fit on my shelves so that I can create what I want to create when I want to create it and - should the bottom drop out of our financial situation or an ice storm keep me from the shops - I want enough stashed up supplies to get me safely and sanely to the other side of that issue. LOL - we have a generator!





I don't debate if I have too much or even if I have enough. I debate if I have what I want and need and that depends on what direction I'm exploring. When I'm done with one direction, I move those supplies and ingredients along so that they no longer take up valuable real estate in the studio. Once quilting was my primary creative outlet and quilting fabric took up an entire eight foot closet. Now, the cotton batiks I've kept take up two 36" shelves. The same shift happened with books. Except for a few favourites, the quilting books are gone and in their place are fashion related ones. There's no longer a roll of batting in the closet, just a few pieces in a basket on a shelf. More space can be created in a studio simply by moving along what is no longer needed.

I clean the studio twice a year going through every box, basket, drawer, cupboard, shelf, and closet and analyze do I really need this or that particular item. Do I want it? Does it add to or detract from my goals? In the process, I reacquaint myself with my supplies, look at gaps that need to be filled, and open up empty spaces to create flow and new directions within the studio. Crammed full is not good either. What I no longer need I donate.

AND THEN... because I have a large enough stash of fabric and patterns to get me through for a quite a long time... I can concentrate my designated dollars on finding the fabrics I really want at the prices I'm willing to pay. Right now, I'm concentrating on acquiring both a higher quality of fabric and a higher quality of second hand garments to refashion. That goal, along with my goal to explore surface design, is dictating the majority of my purchases at the start of this year as does what's on sale because I prefer to stock up on certain supplies - like thread and zippers and interfacing - when they're on sale. Why pay full price if you don't have to?





There are times when boundaries are just the push you need. In the past, and again this year, I have limited myself to working with what is already in the studio. This isn't because I have too much or because I can't afford more supplies. It's because it challenges me to come up with solutions I might not otherwise have thought of BUT... I'm not shopping any differently. If there's space in the stash and I find a fabric I love and I have the cash to spend, I buy it.

When I travel, fabric is still my souvenir of choice - high end, quality, the best I can afford. I have three trips planned so far this year to Calgary, Seattle, and Oregon. Knowing I'm going means I'm leaving more gaps in the stash and knowing what's already in stash will limit what I buy. AND... I love a sale, especially in the bargain center but even then I only buy what I can afford and have space to stash which limits the debate for me. I've already made the decision by designating space. My stash is as big as the walk-in closet in my studio and that's the limit.

Those are - a few - of my thoughts on space and stash. I could probably go on because I feel quite strongly about how important it is for those of us who sew to feed our creative souls HOWEVER... as you can see, my friend Patti took some pictures of me in the Koos skirt including a headless shot because it really wasn't pretty. I love the way I feel in this skirt. It makes me feel confident and flirty, feminine and pretty. I'm not so sure about the way I look. The pictures surprised me. They don't match the feeling. LOL - I just won't look.

Definitely, I'll go down a couple sizes next time and shorten it another two inches. LOVE this sweater from the second hand store, never worn, complete with Asian tags I can't read for only $9.99. The back detail is especially lovely and it goes perfectly with the skirt.

Tomorrow, I'm leaving bright and early to visit my daughter and her family. I'll be there for two weeks painting their new home, helping with the move, and snuggling my grandson. Since the household is in an upheaval and phone and internet connections are shifting locations, I'm not taking my computer with me. There won't be any blog posting again until February and I'll reply to any comments and emails sent after today at that time. Enjoy the rest of the month. I have had a fabulous beginning to 2014. I'm determined - come inevitable ebb and flow - to have a great year.  YES YES ! ! !

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - Howard had a long awaited appointment yesterday with the surgeon and they (the system) are - finally - going to do something about the excruciating pain he's been in with his legs. The doctor was amazed he was still standing and walking. I'd love to see him pain free for a change. What a blessing that would be.

29 comments:

  1. I have a sewing studio - absolutely non-negotiable, no matter where we move. I can do without a dining or living room if need be (have done, in fact) but will not go without a sewing studio. My stash is as large as space and frequent moves allow.
    I really like the sweater you're wearing in these pictures. Interesting texture and back detail.

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    1. I've done without a master bedroom at one point. We moved to the family room. It didn't have a closet but it did have a lovely fireplace and it worked just fine. With all your moves, I know you totally understand the evolution of the space.

      I have a detail image of the back of the sweater if you want me to email it to you. It's really quite gorgeous.

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    2. Myrna, yes, please, I would like that.
      Bedroom in the family room - love it.
      Have fun on your busy holiday!

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  2. Well, I agree with everything you've said!

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  3. I love this post! It says all of the things that I want to say about fabric, fabric collections, notions and storing them. I'm always befuddled by the fact that sewists want to limit their creativity especially if it isn't related to monetary or storage issues. Thanks for a wonderful and thoughtful post.

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    1. You're welcome. I love looking at the pictures of your stash. I'm hoping - eventually - one day - to actually see it in person but it's delightful all the fabric you have arranged. Shelves of possibility.

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  4. Not until February?! Ahh fine. Enjoy the family :)

    I do have a sewing room and I have freely purchased fabric this past year that I've been sewing. I limit myself because at times petting my stash makes me sad! Like, I want these CLOTHES not fabric!

    But then when I get an inkling to "make something", I'm excited to rummage.

    I do not understand those who buy completely on a per project basis. I RESPECT it but sheesh...if I had to shop for fabric, thread and notions whenever I wanted to sew, I'd never sew!

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    1. I think it's going to be a busy "holiday". I'll probably come home and collapse. I know what you mean about petting the stash. The great thing about virtual sewing though is that the same yardage becomes so many things in your mind and now that I refashion, it even becomes several actual things depending on how the first version goes.

      LOL - I can't remember the last time I bought all the ingredients for a project and made it right away. I don't think I know how to do that anymore but like you, I admire those who do.

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  5. First thing, have a great time. At the end of the two weeks, you will be tired, but will come home with a great sense of accomplishment and lasting memories for you and your family.

    Second, I love this post and agree with everything that you wrote. We moved our bedroom to a smaller room so I could have a bigger sewing room. My family is glad that I have my own space instead of getting on their nerves. Guilt is not an emotion that I associate with sewing. Feeling guilty about something you enjoy is a wasted emotion.

    I have a sizeable stash that I'm glad that I own. It is a great thing to have an idea and to be able to start sewing without having to leave the house. I will never refrain from buying fabric. I deserve to buy what I want. I'm shopping my stash only because I have some fabric that deserves to be used instead of sitting on the shelf. I'm happy everyday that I wear my own clothes. When I look at my stash, I think and dream about what I can make.

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    1. Thank you. I will definitely be ready for some down time in the studio when I get back.

      YES YES - I'm so glad you moved your room. What a fabulous thing. I agree. We should not feel guilty about something we enjoy... because of course then you're not really enjoying. Dreaming in the stash - what fun!

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  6. Have a nice time!!!
    In the spring, summer and fall my sewing space is a 3 season porch. In the winter I move my machines and cutting table into the guest bedroom.

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    1. Thank you. I will. I'm a bit nervous about the drive because my last major winter driving experience was about six years ago and it was such a nightmare that I swore I'd never do that again. A six hour drive became 9 1/2 with every kind of ugly winter driving you could experience. This will be better. I'm sure of it. As my friend said, when you've done the worst, there's no where to go but up.

      A porch - what a lovely space to sew in. We had a covered but open porch at our last home. I did hand work out there but didn't move the sewing machines. It's a calm peaceful feeling.

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  7. Wishing you well on your travels and looking forward to reading about your thoughts and ideas when you return. How excellent that your husband will be getting some helpful medical attention as well, ongoing pain is so exhausting!

    I am rather in agreement with you here, both on the importance of a dedicated space for creative work, and in having dedicated supplies available. I was reading Carolyns blog tonight and realised I had forgotten to comment here this morning (I read your writings as part of my own morning routine) In my mind a fabric/sewing supply stash is the textile equivalent of my own workroom shelves of enamel powder (I am a cloisonne enameling artist by profession) I need to have a LOT of different colors of powdered glass available, to have just the right ones for any particular artwork/commission. As designing women, we need to have enough fabric to have just the right piece for any particular garment we want to make. If I were to have no stashed fabric I would be dependent on the marketplace having what I wanted at any particular time. I am so often extremely frustrated when I try and go out and shop either locally or online, when I have an idea that requires "just the right thing" and I can't find it, that it is much preferable to acquire suitable supplies when they are available and keep them on hand for use as needed.

    As far as dedicated space to work in, after years of doing all my creative work in the bedroom because that was the only place available, I now have the luxury of having two workspaces: one for "clean work" like sewing is the sewing room/guest bedroom (since we rarely host guests, it mostly is my sewing room; and one room for metalwork and enameling which is also suitable for "messy work" like fabric printing and dyeing. Makes up for the decades with both the sewing machine and the workbench in the bedroom...

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    1. After two weeks of treatment, Howard is feeling quite a bit better and - more importantly - is hopeful that things will continue to improve. This is FABULOUS.

      Your experience with powdered glass if similar to mine with textile art. I had a large stash to have a full spectrum of colors since I didn't dye and paint. With fashions, I don't need as much fabric and it is closer to the same range but I definitely want what I want when I want it and have had the same frustration trying to find what I want when it's not "in". Lately, I've been thinking about the power of the compliment and adding that in to my pieces more. That would mean some expansion to the range of the stash.

      How fabulous to have two dedicated spaces. All my fabric dyeing and painting supplies are in the laundry room only I need to get better lighting and some working space to make it go better. Soon.

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  8. This was a nice article to read. I am glad that I am the only one who totally fills up the space I have for fabric, notions, patterns and whatever to create when the mood strikes. It's so much easier than shopping before a project, especially now when there are no decent fabric stores close by. Also, I think part of the fun is figuring out how to make what I need with what I have and coming up with some interesting solutions. And, for what it is worth, I'm not fond of pictures of myself now that I'm over 60 as they rarely seem to match what I think I look like and what I feel. Like you, I think not looking is better! Kay

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    1. LOVE making do with what I have because it really does challenge me to come up with solutions and I learn so much from the process. I need to find a way to store the bits and pieces of left overs because I think they have the potential to make some really interesting pieces but I haven't found a process that works for me yet. Any suggestions?

      I was shocked by how different I looked from how I felt in that skirt. It feels amazing on. I'll definitely try again. My daughter thought the lighter line across my behind didn't help so I'm thinking more along the lines of one fabric with a point of interest at the front.

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  9. My mom's "sewing room" was half the closet in the spare bedroom, behind a sliding door. I used to use the dining room table -- until a traumatic event involving a sewing machine left out overnight and a cat chasing what may or may not have been a mouse. (Which would have been worse if the cat was the injured party.) Since then I've followed my mother's lead and made sure my sewing areas could be closed off behind closed doors. Now a have a real workroom with cabinets and shelves that used to hold my stash nicely, but I can't escape the lure of an interesting fabric...

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    1. Your traumatic event sounds like it would make a good scene in a movie. My space can be closed off and that's important to me but more because I need a clearly defined, this is mine, sanctuary. I love your phrase a real workroom. It makes me want to see pictures. I have a walk-in closet with shelves for the fabric. When I was at Ikea with my daughter, I saw some units that would be fabulous for storage and books. They were a combination of drawers below and shelves with glass doors above. I'm dreaming about them.

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  10. mmmmm....stash!! For someone who gets so little sewing done (other than mending :-( ) I have a great wack 'o stash. I do not feel bad about having it. What I do feel a bit down about that it's not well coordinated. Too many "oooo pretty!" purchases.

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    1. I bought a LOT of fashion fabric in the years when I was predominately quilting or making textile art. It was rather surprising to note when I started making the shift. My taste hasn't changed too much. I'd say it's become more refined - higher quality - over the years. This is good. "ooo pretty!" can be good. You can challenge yourself to find ways to merge and blend. That's fun too. It's nice to have things that co-ordinate but one of the great benefits of sewing is that we don't have to. We're not trying to make do with RTW.

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  11. I got interupted and forgot to add - I hope whatever the surgeon is going to do for Howard and your trip go well. To be in constant pain is so wearing on a person, physically and mentally. Winter driving gets old faster every year I have to do it daily, plus every year there are more cars on the road to watch out for. On the bright side - I no longer feel guilty if I don't make it in to work, and the road crews seem to have much improved the snow removal process over the years.

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    1. Constant pain is wearing on the person and the partner. VERY difficult. Howard is doing better and hopeful of further improvement.

      The drive both ways went really well. I chose good days to travel on. The day after I came back was a snow storm and I was happy to have missed that. My car is AWD which I love and would never be without at this point.

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  12. First, I am happy to hear that Howard is getting medical attention. Being in constant pain is such a pain.
    My garment sewing stash is small compared to some. It hasn't bothered me at all as I spent a lot of time picking out fabrics in colours and materials that I really wanted. I am now going to sew it up prior to buying more. I have started the journey to getting some TNT patterns and will be using up the stash to sew them. I will have to buy more fabric and make more TNT patterns as I am now having to loose weight due to health issues (pre diabetic). That is fine with me as I can have fun buying new material for new clothes.
    I still love my sewing space and hope to remove one piece of furniture so I can put in a bigger bookshelf. My ultimate goal is to have all the garment, craft, and quilting fabrics in the one room. That means I will be doing some careful planning on what I want to make and to buy. I am fine with that at this time. That may change down the road.

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    1. Having a stash you really love is fabulous. Make sure you have a few "muslin" pieces as well so you can cut it up and figure it out without having to wait to go shopping... especially as that's not so easy to do always.

      I'm really enjoying the fun of TNT patterns. I think they open up a whole new way of working that is both interesting and challenging and creative. This is good. Good luck with your goal of migrating everything to one space. I have two - the studio and the laundry room for dyeing and painting and that seems to be a good mix. Occasionally if it's a small project, I'll bring "wet" things into the studio but not typically.

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  13. I agree with everything in your latest posting-space dictates amount, vacation fabric purchasing! We all love validation-have a great time with your grandson.

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    1. LOL - thanks for sharing my opinion. I had a fabulous time with my grandson. Lots of grandbaby snuggles and such a delight to see how he's growing and how his brain works. I know I watched the same things with my children but I'm older now and I can really appreciate what an amazing miracle that is.

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  14. I'm happy to hear about Howard. Pain absorbs so much energy and carries so much tension And your comment about going through supplies a couple of times a year really resonated. I've found it hard in the past to let go of things that no longer inspire (for me, basket-making supplies). it seems easier now that I'm older and I like your idea of intentionally reviewing things on a regular basis. Elle

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    1. Yes. Pain is a pain. It definitely creates issues.

      I'm so glad my comments about reviewing things and letting go resonated it. I find it opens up possibilities and creates flow and sends generosity around and this is all good AND... if I really wanted to do something again, I'd buy new supplies because things are always changing - like my early quilting books look like relics and the methods are antiquated compared to what's available today.

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Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.