Monday, November 24, 2008

The spill has been contained

I used to work with radiation - 32P to be specific. If there was a bad spill or contamination outside the designated "hot" area, Radiation Safety (complete with jumpsuits and Geiger counters) was called in for the cleanup. It was a serious process, and the responsible grad student/postdoc/technician was made to feel like a criminal. Believe it or not, I never actually caused a serious infraction. I was scared of that stuff, and treated it with the greatest of reverence (which I owe entirely to the meticulous people I worked with). I still have nightmares about it, in fact. A recurring one involves me finding vial of neon green stuff in my home freezer and trying to figure out how to dispose of it properly without getting caught.

Anyways, dealing with my awful mess of fabric was the closest thing to a decontamination effort I've experienced in a long time. The sheer volume of "waste" was overwhelming - it was tangled, disorganized, and full of evidence that I have some personality disorders working.

Cleaning always inspires self-reflection, right? Here are my theories on how my fabric mess got so out of control:

1) I am a PACK RAT. This is no new revelation here. I'll hang on to a gum wrapper if it is pretty, shiny, and possibly useful.

2) I used to sew for very tiny dolls, so even the smallest scrap could be enough for a tiny dress. I used to buy 1/8 yard cuts, can you believe???

3) I currently do applique, so even the tiniest scrap could be just the thing I need for a beak or a lug-nut. I still buy 1/8 yard cuts, can you believe???

4) I really do myself I disservice by not "cleaning up" my fabric before releasing it back into a drawer. Those strips hanging off the usuable fabric love to entwine.

5) Without a system, I have to rifle. Rifling causes even more disarray.

It took me a couple of days, but I was able to organize my stash into categories that made sense to me. I then placed the nice, folded pieces back into the clean drawers. I even have room to spare!!!

I learned so much about my stash throughout this process. For one, I don't have as much "folding fabric" as I thought. The bulk of my pile was composed of teeny, tiny scraps. So I had to make some choices - if it was big enough (and the appropriate scale print) for an applique, I saved it. I only allowed myself two drawers of teeny scraps. Stuff that absolutely was too small to use was trashed. This is the resulting bag:

This is probably two drawers worth of stuff. I feel terrible about putting it in the landfill, but is beyond usable. Heck, most people would deem the stuff I saved for applique unusable!

I also learned that the stuff I LOVE and the stuff I HAVE are entirely different things. I thought for sure I would have a drawer full of polka dots and stripes. Nope! I could really stand to bulk up that aspect of my stash. I have a few nice, long cuts of designer fabrics, but the things I am more likely to grab and use up are the good old basics.

The stuff I DO have...many small cuts of homespuns, ginghams and tiny floral calicos (some go back to the 80's, some are relatively modern)! There are lotsa lovely little pieces of fabric in there. I'm sure I would have used them up by now if I had continued sewing for teeny-tiny dollies. As far current usefulness goes, I found TONS of great fabrics for making gifts. I'm not going to have to buy a single fraction of a yard! There is stuff in there that I had completely forgotten about, and it will be absolutely perfect for the projects I have in mind.

My next few days will be filled with cleaning, eating, enjoying family (yay), and shopping (yuck). When the Thanksgiving holiday is over, I will be happy to return to an organized stash and a "scintillatingly" clean sewing room!


Dana said...

I've been reading your blog since the "Thrifty Fifty" but was just now able to take the time to look over all of it.

I have a terribly unorganized stash. In fact, I think my new blog theme for next year is going to be something like "Slash the Stash" and post about using up your stash--starting with organization. The inspiration is, of course, the Thrifty 50 challenge.

Those little scraps are the hardest to organize so you can know what you have. I tend to save little bitty pieces for applique also.

Love your blog. Looking forward to more in the New Year!

Dana in Indiana

designdreamer said...

I used follow your doll creations on ebay religiously. (As a matter of fact, a member of the SAGA guild I belonged to, bought one of your early creations -- after I brought it to her attention)
And then a while back, I realized that something I saw on YCMT(?) was designed/written by you -- and I might add with the same meticulous attention to detail as your doll designs -- They too are fabulous -- and sew cute to boot!
Although I'm an experienced sewist, have taken drafting classes, and have a plethora of patterns, I would buy some of yours if I had anyone that size to sew for anymore, since they're so inspiring!
Although I've been reading blogs for some time now (2 years +?), I'm still now sure of all the ins and outs, so I STILL don't know if I make a comment on a blog post that's over a year old, if You'll ever see it.

I'm SEW happy to find your blog. I'm sure I'll be spending (too much) time in the days to come, reading all your past posts. Can't wait.
PS: I'm a packrat too, so I can relate