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i mentioned my minimalism recently, but i wasn’t always this way.  my childhood bedroom is full of assorted collections, trinkets, photos, books, and general clutter.  i was always a collector and a bit of a packrat, actually.  once i got to college and had some independence, i was constantly buying strange things because the price was right, or i might need them someday (electric orange juicer?  i don’t eat oranges or drink orange juice with any regularity).  my home and trunk were full of piles of clutter devoid of both sentimental value and utility.  i have always been a big bargain shopper, which is economical, but also made me somewhat inefficient, since my inability to resist a bargain led to several useless purchases.  which is actually not economical.

when we moved from our spacious ann arbor duplex to a one bedroom highrise in downtown chicago, i unknowingly entered into clutter rehab.  we were married shortly before this move, so many junky items were replaced with higher quality goods, and i officially adopted the maxim, less is more.  i love this quote by william morris:  “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

i’m not an inherently tidy person, but i quickly learned how much easier cleaning and organization is when there aren’t piles of useless crap all over the place.  add one baby and then another to this tiny space, and i became an expert in efficiency and keeping only what is totally necessary.  the consumerism in this country is wild–the things we’re led to believe we “need” (especially for babies!  the gadgets!  crazy!).  throwing things away becomes addictive and is always so liberating.  and so, we have now moved to a much larger space that continues to have several empty drawers, walls, and cabinets.  people visit and i see them fighting the urge to fill those empty spaces.  but i like them this way.  we plan to be in this house forever, and between the four of us, i get the feeling those spaces will be filled over time.

but i have discovered one area in which i wish i was more of a collector, and that is fabric.  all the time, i hear seamstresses talking about their stashes.  “oh, i just found this in my stash.  grabbed this fabric from my stash.  i have yards and yards of this in my stash.”  yards and yards?!  how big are these stashes?!  my utilitarian approach to life mandates that i purchase fabric, like all other sundries, because a use for them has already been determined.  and there’s something very satisfying about sewing in this way.  i shop for fabric mostly online, so i am always browsing and making notes about what i like, or what might be fitting for future projects.  then, every few months or so, i make a big purchase, and work rumplestiltsken-style until i’ve reached the bottom of it.  i think only twice in my life i have bought fabric without  a clear purpose already in mind, once in a major sale, and the other because it was an old line i’d been stalking for months, sold out everywhere, and then suddenly it popped up (on sale!), so i stocked up (and still haven’t found the right use for it).  but generally, i have major stash envy.  and i find myself wishing i could just peek into my stash when inspiration strikes and find the perfect fabric for my project.  this can only happen, of course, if i revise the way i view my stash, and sometimes buy fabrics just because i like them for some reason, but don’t have a specific use in mind.

as i mentioned in my last post, i just made one of my major sewing purchases last week–a really healthy portion of both patterns and fabric.  you probably know by now of my love/hate relationship with joann’s, but it’s my only source locally for necessary notions like thread and interfacing, even buttons.  so every few weeks, coinciding with a good coupon, i make a trip to stock up.  david is out of town for a few days, so yesterday, i loaded the kids into the van for a family trip to the fabric store.  normally this would spell disaster, but i recently discovered if i let bean walk, she turns into a stereotypical middle aged long island shopper, pulling at bolt after bolt of fabric saying, “OH! oh WUUUUV this one!”  “MOM!  this one is SO PWETTY!”  “oh, i WUV this!”  this is very entertaining to me, and incidentally, her little brother also.  it’s actually become an outing we enjoy together.

as it so happened, i think seriously the entire stock of fabric was 40% off yesterday.  and so, the three of us went on a major shopping spree, up and down every row, filling our cart to the brim with colorful bolts of fabric.  hey, when the cat’s away, right?  it’s becoming more difficult to justify my recent expenditures, but that i don’t spend money on anything else except food.  since this money goes toward all gifts and child clothing in addition to my hobby, maybe i’m actually saving us money?  there, i’ve justified it.  anyhow, the cutting counter proved a bit boring for them, and button shopping with toddlers is always a minor disaster.  but for TWO HOURS, these kids were perfect angels as they carefully selected fabrics i might not have thought to pick for them myself (notice, not many stripes!) to add to their summer wardrobes.  it should be said that i’m fully aware my children are better behaved than most, and that such a marathon would be impossible with almost any other set of toddlers.

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and so, we got all the fabric pictured above, as well as this stack, entirely composed of linen!  they look very similar above, but that top one is purplish, and the bottom one has tiny silver metallic threads woven in.  i just love linen for its breathable quality and natural appearance.  i ordered two yards of neutral linen online a few weeks ago, and it sadly was delivered to me feeling like burlap.  i’m sure it will find a happy fate in table linens of some sort, but unlike quilting cottons, linen is something apparently you really need to touch in person, as it varies between brands and composition.

and let’s not forget my shot cottons, that are still hanging over the chair just as they are in this photo, like a textile installation in my craft room.  i love how bright and cheerful they are; i hardly want to cut into them!

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and so, my stash got a MAJOR boost this week!  the utilitarian side of me is feeling some definite stress to use it all up so it’s not wasteful or inefficient.  but the creative side of me is excited for the new resources, to have them catalogued in my brain so that when inspiration strikes, materials are ready and waiting.  surely, there’s a happy medium.

i promise promise that more projects are coming soon.  i’ve actually been sewing like a total maniac (without adult supervision the past few nights, i just turn on this american life and sew into the wee hours night after night).  i have a small series rolling around in my mind, and with kids clothes week and a few birthdays just around the corner, i have to sit and get a little organized about what i need to accomplish.  currently, i’m working on a baby gift like nothing i’ve ever made before!  so, lots forthcoming!  stay tuned!

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