The End of the Stash

I wore my Driftless Cardigan–photograph below from Instagram, and yet another garment I have yet to blog about because I’m too busy wearing it–this morning, and a friend asked if I had made it.  And what I told her is this weird revelation that I’ve been having over and over, and that feels so obvious that I keep doing a double-take, because how have I failed to see the truth of this so many times?  It is this: I wear the clothes most that I like most.

navy Driftless Cardigan | Whipstitch

I mean, FOR REAL.  Like it’s possible to have a more banal epiphany, a more lame realization.  I WEAR THE STUFF I LIKE BECAUSE THAT’S THE STUFF I LIKE.  This is, perhaps, not the deepest thought I’ve ever had.  And yet!  It feels so pivotal!

Plus, see, there’s a little more to it than that.  Honest, there really is, particularly if you’re someone who sews.  The point of my comment to my friend this morning wasn’t that I wear stuff I like–it was that I have made a LOT of stuff in the past, with my very own two hands, that I didn’t really wear that often.  And it was because I didn’t like it as much–certainly not MORE–than things I already had in my closet.  I wasn’t making those garments because I needed them, or even because I wanted the actual finished product.  It was because I wanted to do the sewing, but not because I wanted the sewn item.  Do you see how that can lead to a lot of back-of-closet pieces?

racerback shift in frock rayon h

I think more and more of us are aware of the ways in which consumption affects our lives, and how easy it is as someone who Makes, capital M, to fall into this trap of accumulation.  We call it “stashing” but I think we all recognize that it’s really hoarding.  I have said multiple times recently that I’m working through some uncomfortable feelings about my own greed.  I don’t like feeling that I’ve bought a ton of stuff that I didn’t really need, I just wanted to HAVE it.  But then I never use it?  It just sits there?  What IS that?


Let’s put those two ideas together, two ideas that don’t seem to relate to one another, but gimme a minute and I’ll show you how they’re actually two puzzle pieces that fit in a way that makes it obvious that this one’s the corner and that one’s the bottom edge and we’re finally getting the borders done so we can start to work on the inside.  ONE: I keep sewing things I don’t really want.  TWO:  I keep accumulating fabrics that I ONLY want.

Good grief, are we all just a bunch of sad bunnies lost in a snowy forest, or what?  WHY AREN’T WE SEWING THINGS WITH THAT FABRIC WE’VE BEEN HOARDING?

navy Demi Pant | Whipstitch

Because then, I would have lots of items I am really excited about, and a much smaller trove of neatly stacked “precious” fabrics that will molder and become dust before I can possibly get to them.  It isn’t so much about not stashing fabric, it’s more about making things I really love and love to use.  I don’t want to address the greed of having lots of fabrics I don’t need by replacing it with the greed of having a lot of GARMENTS I don’t need–I want to use the two categories to build the DNA of good sewing practices, deliberate acts of creation, the double-helix of satisfaction and beauty, without waste or gluttony.

The thing is, having more fabric stashed is not the same as using less or consuming less.  We’ve still spent money on it; if we ordered it we’ve still used fossil fuels to have it shipped to us; we’re still giving up space in our homes–and in our chi–to keep it folded up and put away (and heated and cooled!).  It may be stashed, but that doesn’t make it LESS.  And all those same observations apply equally to anything we make from that fabric!  That’s the kicker.  The trick isn’t to sew through it mindlessly, just to say, “Hey!  I’m using up my stash!!”  The trick is to find the balance that sews through it mindFULLy, leaving us with less in the stash and more things we WANT TO WEAR EVERY DAY.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.46.45 AM

What are the garments you’re most happy with? For me, it’s the the ones that are (A) nicest, that mimic expensive clothing, like my Liberty tuxedo tank top, which took such a small bit of fabric but feels so expensive; or (B) classic basics that are building blocks for my everyday life, and that work with every outfit, like that Driftless Cardigan up there, sewn up in a buttery soft navy French terry/fleecy hybrid that looks good no matter how much I wear it.  I don’t wear the novelty pieces, like the zillion skirts I have given to charity over the years made of the cute kawaii fabrics that I love but don’t really know how to use in my wardrobe.  I wear the navy linen cropped pants that are the perfect alternative to shorts, and the black rayon maxi dress that’s cool and comfy and appropriate for a wide range of outings, and the linen checked Tova top that makes me feel casual and chic.  These are the pieces that don’t always make it on the blog–because I’m too busy waiting for them to come out of the dryer so I can photograph them, but as soon as they do, I put them back on and never get the chance.

tova close up

We wait and wait to use fabrics because we don’t want to “waste” them–but instead, we end up wasting our time and energy because we sew things we don’t really desire.  How upside-down is that?  When I read Amy Herzog say of knitting that we ought to knit up big swatches before starting a project to ask ourselves, “Do I want to wear this fabric?” it was this ENORMOUS game-changer for me.  I don’t know why it struck a nerve right when it did, but my brain opened up and birds flew out and around me like a Disney movie as I realized: I am NOT thinking that way about the things I make.  I am not thinking, “DO I want to wear this?”  I am thinking, “Do I want to SEW this?”  And those are different questions that act on different drives.


They will never stop making fabric.  There is no, no, no reason to save up fabric.  It will fall apart and turn to dust over time and you will never get to enjoy it if you leave it sitting on a shelf, un-sewn.  And didn’t you buy it so you could enjoy it?  Didn’t I buy it because I loved it so much that I ignored the contraints of my budget in order to get just a little piece of it?  Aren’t we all preventing that fabric from realizing its DESTINY by leaving it un-sewn??

I know that for some of us, it seems so expensive to cut into our precious prints.  We don’t want to “waste” it.  But if I have learned nothing else in 20+ years of garment-making, I have learned this: use cheap fabric, get cheap clothing.  It’s not that you have to spend a fortune on supplies–it’s just that instead of spreading our budgets out over LOTS of supplies, why not get really good ones and end up with something you love to use, over and over again?  And if we stop asking “Do I want to sew it?” and start asking, “Do I want to WEAR it?” we make different choices in how we invest our resources before sewing.


So, for me, this is the END of The Stash.  I don’t know that I can commit to not buying any fabric for a year, blah, blah.  I’m pretty bad at following through on those kinds of pledges and things, so I won’t bother making you or myself a promise I’m going to forget about later.  But I’m done buying fabric and shoving it in a closet.  And let’s be real: I don’t need to buy ANY fabric for a long, long time unless I have a specific project in mind.  I have a LOT of fabric up in here, y’all.

Anybody else picking up what I’m putting down?  I have felt a definite shift over the past year or so, toward a more thoughtful and deliberate way of approaching our sewing, and it smells GOOD.  Hope some of that is wafting your way and that your sewing is satisfying you today.

Do I Really HAVE to Block My Knitting?

It is finished!  My amazing yellow yellow merino-and-silk sweater is all done.

easy silk knitted cardigan

Well, finished depending on whom you ask.  Seems like nearly all the knitting sites I’ve seen say it isn’t really finished until I block it.  Which appears to involve soaking it and laying it out to dry, and if I understand it right, will make the fibers fluff up and then hold the shape better?

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#aggressivelyambitious and the Handmade Wardrobe

I did a personality profile recently.  Not like an online quiz kind of thing, but like a detailed personality assessment with a 39-page analysis and a person-to-person de-brief with the consultant.

It was so, so fun.birkman pages

I mean that completely un-ironically.  I LOVE test-taking.  LOVE IT.  Always have.  I would get all a-twitter on days when we had standardized testing, I thought it was like a treat, like Christmas coming early and ALL FOR ME.  I thought the PSAT was a PARTY.  (Side note: I am not normal.  I embrace and delight in this.  My personality profile told me so.)

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Supertote Backpack with Leather Handles

super tote

I have never made a bag I liked nearly as much as this bag.  It is possible I have never OWNED a bag I like nearly as much as this bag–and I am deeply emotionally attached to my yellow full-grain pebbled leather Ralph Lauren satchel with brass hardware, so that’s saying something.  This is the Supertote pattern from Anna of Noodlehead, which I originally bought thinking it would be a great shape for a ballet bag for my girls (spoiler: it will be), but then realized would also make a great backpack for me for our upcoming family travels.  BOOM.

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Jen Aniston tailors her tees: Fit is Fabulous

jersey rosettes on bamboo tee

One of the most revolutionary “Hollywood secrets of the stars” I’ve ever read (well, maybe the ONLY one) was the interview where Jennifer Aniston was asked where she gets such flattering tee shirts. Instead of directing people to a $300 tee (like Gwyneth, bless her heart), probably made by an 8yo in China who wasn’t getting an education, Aniston admitted, “The trick to t-shirts is I that I usually tailor them. Which is silly, but it works.”

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Come Sew With Me at QuiltCon in Savannah!


Hooray!!  Yesterday, the schedule for next spring’s QuiltCon was finally released.  Yay, yay!!  I can hardly believe how fast it’s coming at us, and that it’s already time to register!

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Stephanie Kwolek: A Great Woman In Sewing

stephanie kwolek

Stephanie Kwolek isn’t the first name that springs to mind when you think “famous seamstress.”  But her scientific contributions have made more impact on our world that you might think–and it all started with a sewing machine.

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When Making Your Own Clothes Becomes the New Normal

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And then one day you catch yourself thinking, “Well, sure.  Of course I’m going to make my own underwear.  I mean, why didn’t I think of that sooner??”

But let’s back up a bit.

I came to sewing as someone who makes clothing.  I didn’t start out making quilts or bags or even really home decor.  I thought sewing WAS making clothing, for a big chunk of my life.  All the other stuff came later.  But even as someone who came into sewing making clothing, it never occurred to me to make…ALL my clothing.  ALL of it?  Like, ALL all??

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Knitted Ballet Legwarmers and the Magic Loop

handknitted leg warmers

I finished my first sweater and cast on stitches for a second sweater.  I know!  Not only that, but this second one is TO GIVE AWAY.

ballet leg warmers

So the standard is a little higher.  I really, really want this second sweater to be gift-worthy.  When I made the Agnes Sweater, I flew to Pasadena and knitted most of the body along the way.  I was juuuuust about ready to knit the sleeves on the flight home, and didn’t know how to use double-point needles.  I asked Jaime of Fancy Tiger at a knitting-and-coffee session she hosted, and she said she NEVER uses double points since the learned the Magic Loop.

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In the Ring: Rowenta vs the Gravity Feed Iron

For nearly ten years, I have used and strongly endorsed Rowenta irons.  They’re heavy, which is a good thing when you’re sewing and seeking to press rather than iron.  They have a steel sole plate, which heats quickly and evenly for good results on the fabric.  And they have a solid steam function that really shoots steam into your projects.

But in the past two or three years, Rowenta has really been leaving me cold, if you’ll pardon the pun.  The issue: leaks.  Oh, the LEAKS!!  I have absolutely had it with my leaking iron.  That water is HOT, y’all, so not only is it splashing and sputtering all over my project when it’s on the ironing board, but it’s dropping on my feet and scalding me.  My feet!  Unacceptable.

So a couple weeks ago, I’d finally had enough and decided to put the suggestions I’ve received to the test.  Instead of getting another Rowenta to replace my leaky iron, or even another brand of iron, I upgraded to the gravity feed iron, in hopes that I’d never have to carry a pitcher of water from my kitchen to refill my reservoir ever again.

Today, then, in the ring: the Rowenta versus the Gravity Feed Iron.whipstitch asks which iron is best

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