Shop Your Stash! In 4 Easy Steps

stash busting

In this post I talked about ways to use up those awkward left over offcuts of fabric in your stash that are too small to make a garment, but too big to just discard. Now let’s get serious and tackle those bigger pieces of fabric in your stash – yes, you know what I mean, those lengths you bought on impulse that are languishing in the bag with the receipt completely forgotten about ……! It’s fine, we’ve all done it, but they’re taking up valuable space, so here’s my four-step plan for tackling them.

stash busting

Tackle the stash head on and prepare to be harsh and brutally honest. Pull out any fabrics that are in colours and prints that don’t coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe and that you’ve never worn before; if you’ve never bought clothes in those colours or prints you’re unlikely to wear anything you make in them. Do this in daylight with a mirror close by – if you’re unsure about a fabric, hold it up to your face, you’ll soon get a feeling for whether you’d be likely to wear it.

Put the fabrics that pass the cull to one side ready for the next steps. Get rid of the fabrics that didn’t make the grade. There are plenty of good things you can do with your rejects:

  • use it for non-dressmaking sewing
  • if you have storage space – keep it for making toiles
  • sell it online – there’s always Ebay, but social media sites like Instagram are becoming popular in the sewing community for regular “Destash Sales”
  • organise a fabric swap with some stitchy friends at a class or sewcial meet-up
  • donate it to a charity or school.

stash busting

Once you have your carefully edited pile of usable fabrics, make sure each piece is washed so that it’s all ready to just unfold and cut. Pre-washing is important and I’ve written more about it here; it removes any loose dye and encourages any shrinkage in the fabric. Natural fibres are most prone to shrinkage (especially cotton and wool), as are regenerated fibres such as viscose and rayon. Knitted fabrics are also more likely to shrink than woven fabrics. 

Here’s a guide to how much different fibres are likely to shrink:

  • wool by up to 15%
  • viscose 8%
  • cotton 10%

By now you probably won’t have a note of the washing instructions for your fabrics, not a problem, what I tend to do is put fabric on the machine cycle that I want to be able to use for my finished clothes. Personally I don’t dry clean, so if a fabric can’t withstand machine washing, I’m unlikely to use it. If you have any fabric in your pile that you know may require more careful cleaning such as silk or wool, put them on a delicate, cool machine wash or hand wash them if they’re very precious.

Dry knitted fabrics flat and woven fabrics on a line, airer or over a shower rail. Never drape any fabric over anything with protruding parts (like the backs of chairs) to dry as they will distort and stretch the area of the fabric that covers them and these stretched areas can be almost impossible to remove once your fabric is dry.

stash busting

Label each piece of fabric with the following information to save time when shopping your stash:

  • fibre content (if you can remember – you can always do a burn test to check)
  • whether the fabric is pre-washed
  • the size of the piece.

Then fold or roll the fabric. There are arguments for and against both folding and rolling fabric; rolling tends to reduce creasing, and although I find rolling takes up more space, rolled lengths of fabric stored on their ends can make it easier to see at a glance what fabrics you have.

The key to storage is visibility; I like to store my fabric in clear plastic boxes. If you’re lucky enough to have the space, fabric stored on shelves is most accessible, but if you’re short on space, vac pack bags like these are great space savers while keeping your fabric visible.vacuum storage bagsIt’s vital to shopping and using your stash to store it in a way that makes it easy to see what you have; if you chuck your stash all together in a box or suitcase under the bed it won’t work, it will never be seen again. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience!

Finally, beware of every fabric stash’s enemy – the moth! I always put moth balls (or similar) in my storage boxes and spray wool and silk with moth proofing spray before putting them into storage.

stash busting

Try and think ahead with your sewing. Unless you’re making lots of really quick-to-sew garments, anticipate your needs and start making in advance. I find it really difficult to sew out of season; I just don’t fancy sewing heavy warm wools in summer and likewise, floaty silks and cotton lawns just don’t appeal in the depths of winter. But, unless you want to wait a whole year to wear your makes, start more challenging seasonal projects ahead of season; for example, plan and make a start on a winter coat project at the end of the summer. You can always keep a few easy quick seasonal makes going alongside your big projects; a cool tank top or t-shirt dress isn’t going to take long to make and will be a welcome instant fix when you get tired of (or overheated by) the coat!

Identify the gaps in your wardrobe (including wardrobe winners that you want to make more of) and make a “to-sew” list. Beth of Sew DIY has a nice little sewing calendar you can download from her blog here.

According to the Craft Industry Alliance Sewing Planners are the next big thing, Colette’s sewing planner has been around for a while and more apps for “organising your stash” have emerged in the past year such as Cora and Sewologie. Personally I’d rather channel the work involved in setting up an app into a physical planner any day, but maybe that’s just the design school training of keeping a sketchbook that’s ingrained in me or maybe it’s the simple fact that fabrics are tactile and you need to touch them….

Whichever method you choose, the key is to keep it manageable – there are only 12 months in a year, so if your list has 25 projects, that’s 2 a month and do you really have that much sewing time? Also try and throw in at least a couple of projects that you know will stretch you and encourage you to learn some new skills.

I’ve written before about planning your sewing rather than rushing into projects to realise halfway through that you don’t like or need them….

  • find my post on thoughtful sewing with a Sewing Planner to download here
  • you can download my guide to making a Home-Sewn Collection here.

MIY March 17: Week 2 Prizes

MIY March sponsors

Hopefully you now have the hang of MIY March and you’re ready for week 2?!

If you’re only just joining us; welcome, all the details for how to join in are in this blog post.

Let me introduce you to the generous sponsors of this second week:

Here is the bundle of prizes from them that will be up for grabs on Saturday…..

MIY March Prizes

  • Ditto – a denim bundle containing 2m of denim, thread and a zip
  • Paddleboat Studio – PDF copies of the Carson and Mitchell patterns
  • Cico – 3 sewing books: my latest book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making  Skirts”, “Sew Scandinavian” by Kajsa Kinsella and “Sewing for Babies & Children” by Laura Strutt.

This week’s Prize Day is open to UK players only.

A Free MIY Collection PDF Pattern

Free PDF sewing pattern

Remember me promising something special for you as part of MIY March? A free pattern that you can use to enter the MIY March MIY Maker sewing challenge?

Here it is; the Pomona Shrug. It’s a pattern I designed 3 years ago, initially for a Love Sewing magazine project that has since been languishing unused. As lots of my students at MIY Workshop seem to love the samples that are in the workshop I thought it was time to give it a 2nd wind!

free pdf sewing pattern

free pdf sewing pattern

Those of you that know me, know that “free” is not a word I use very often. Attach the word free to anything and I feel it’s valued far less by people, so enjoy this while you can. As the Pomona Shrug is a free pattern it’s in one size only, but the shrug is a relaxed, loose fitting garment which can comfortably accommodate bust sizes from 80cm to 101cm (31.5″ to 40″).

free pdf sewing pattern

free pdf sewing pattern

This pattern is suitable for woven and knitted fabrics (although the neckband and optional cuffs must be made from knitted fabric). My samples are made from silk satin and viscose single jersey.

You can download the pattern for free from the MIY Collection website. You will be asked for your email and postal addresses, but these will not be used to contact you unless you sign-up to receive my newsletter. A link to download the files will be emailed to you automatically once you’ve completed your free order. There is a full step-by-step instruction booklet, a full size copy of the pattern which can be printed at professional copy shops (sized to A0 paper width), the tiled pattern sized so that it fits on both A4 and US letter sized paper and a set of instructions to help with printing your tiled pattern.

You don’t have to use this pattern to enter the MIY March MIY Makers challenge (full details on how to enter here) but if you’d like to, I can’t wait to see what you make!

I can’t guarantee how long I’ll have this pattern available for free so get it while you can!

February’s MIY Maker

February MIY Maker

Jackie’s vision in red Fulwood Dress just pipped Abi’s Rusholme A-line Skirt to win this month’s MIY Maker.

Congratulations on a stunner of a frock Jackie!

Don’t forget as it’s now MIY March, the next MIY Maker is an extra special one. More details here.

MIY March 17: Week 1 Prizes

MIY March sponsors

So, are you ready to play MIY March?! If you’re not sure how to join in, have a read of this post which has everything you need to know.

A big thank you to the generous sponsors of this first week:

Here is their fabulous bundle of prizes that will be up for grabs on Saturday…..

MIY March Prizes

  • Faberwood – a £25 voucher to spend in the Faberwood online shop and a goodie bag of t-shirt and badges
  • Marilla Walker – a PDF copy of the popular Roberts Collection pattern
  • Beyond Measure – a £30 voucher to spend in the Beyond Measure online shop.

This week’s Prize Day is open to international players, so get posting your pictures!

Vote for February’s MIY Maker

February MIY Maker

Who gets your vote to be February’s MIY Maker?

Here are your fabulous four to choose from, clockwise from top left:

So, it’s over to you, whose make do you think deserves to be this month’s MIY Maker and win their next MIY Collection pattern for free?

Leave a comment with your favourite and I’ll announce the winner at the end of the day tomorrow (Wednesday 1st March). Voting is also open on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

MIY March 17 – How to Play

MIY March rules

Here’s how to join in with this year’s MIY March:

  • topic lists for the following week will be posted on Sunday evenings via mine and Emma‘s Instagram accounts (for the first week, the topic list will be posted on Tuesday evening, ready for Wednesday 1st March)
  • at the start of each day in March we will post that day’s topic along with ideas / inspiration to get your little grey cells working
  • to join in, everyday in March post a sewing themed photo to your  Instagram account inspired by the daily topic
  • use the hashtag #miymarch17 in the caption of your picture
  • follow me @thatwendyward and Emma @dressmakerssocial so that you know each day’s topic and can check out our daily top 4 and Prizeday winners
  • everyday myself and Emma will choose our favourite 4 pictures from that day to share and repost with you all
  • every Saturday will be a Prizeday (week 5 it will be Friday) and you will also need to FOLLOW THE SPONSORS OF THAT WEEK’S PRIZE BUNDLE TO ENTER
  • Prizeday winners will be announced on Sundays from our top 4 pictures posted on Saturday
  • don’t forget there is also a new making challenge included in this year’s event with a separate prize up for grabs – details here
  • if your account is set to “private” no-one will be able to see your pics so you won’t be able to join in!

Find out more about this year’s additional making challenge and all the fantastic sponsors of this event.

Notes:

  1. all times are GMT
  2. no prizes can be swapped or substituted
  3. by playing you are agreeing to your pictures being shared by me and / or Emma and / or the sponsors involved online via any platform, or in print to promote the event
  4. participation in MIY March will be via Instagram only – entries via other social media platforms will not be included.

So, what’s not to like? Exercise your little grey cells, meet like-minded people from around the world, win prizes and get inspired!

If you’re not already on Instagram there is lots of help for how to set up your account and how to use Instagram here.

Look forward to meeting you!!