I took a quick run through the new books section of the library the other day (I am a voracious reader) and picked up Clara Parkes newest book, A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living with, and Letting Go of Yarn. The book is an anthology written by many of the major figures in the knitting world. As I was reading it through and enjoying it immensely, it got me thinking, as sewists, do we feel the same way about our fabric stashes? As I read chapter after chapter, I was struck by how often for the writers, emotions were attached to yarn. The yarn represented possibility, a history of their lives, a comfort that got them through rough times, and sometimes, a security blanket that could be turned to. I must admit as much as I love fabric, and I do LOVE fabric, I don’t often think of it this way. Many of the knitters’ stashes included small balls of leftover yarn that represented a project they had completed. I may keep my scraps of fabric after a project is completed because I think that I can put them to good use, but there is no emotional attachment to the scraps; to the garment, yes, but to the scraps, no.
I know many of my fellow sewists have large stashes of fabric, and with fabric shops becoming fewer and fewer, I understand the drive to stock up when you have a chance. But I don’t have a stash, or at least not much of one. Of course, I have an online shop so you could argue that I have a HUGE stash. What is the difference? Fabric and yarn that is sitting there waiting for me to make into something makes me feel responsible. There is money tied up in it and I feel an obligation to be responsible and make it into something. Having a lot of fabric to sew (or yarn to knit) actually makes me nervous. (Yes, I am a responsible first born). Fabric that is part of my shop is inventory. I am not supposed to make it into something; I am supposed to sell it. Of course, anytime I want to make something, I can just remove it from inventory, so maybe I have the best of both worlds.
My last child is in college, my oldest two have moved out and I have been SLOWLY working through items from their childhood and cleaning out. What to keep and what to let go of is such a challenge. More than one of the writers mentioned Marie Kondo of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, and of course, for many, their stashes do “spark joy.” Does a 3 yard cut of a Liberty print do the same for you? For many it just might! I have always maintained that our creations are art, and I especially think of smocking that way. As busy creators, we need our tools and materials at hand, ready to go when the stars align, inspiration and 10 minutes of free time coincide, and we can dash to our needles or machines, if only for a brief time.
I think I resonated best with Amy Herzog who stated that “bits of me and my loved ones couldn’t be blended into hanks of yarn on a shelf. They needed to be blended into my creations instead…The things I’ve made since I stopped stashing make an authentic, beautiful story of the women I’ve been, the people I’ve loved, and the life I’ve led.” So as I have been sorting through and cleaning out, the top I made myself two years ago may well end up in the donation pile, but the outfit that I made my child is lovingly stored, hopefully to be used by the next generation. So, maybe, I do have a stash after all, not of fabric, but of creations, and yes, it represents possibility, a history of our lives, a comfort that sometimes got us through rough times, and a security blanket that can be turned to…