The Frugal Fabric Challenge

Two words:  heat wave.  Whew!  It has been scorching hot in Los Angeles and I am very behind on my sewing projects now.  My new home is a townhouse with two levels.  It was built in the 1960s (totally retro!) and over the years has been outfitted with air conditioning on the first level, but not on the second.  Heat rises and despite a (usually) effective cross breeze from the ocean air, it has just been too stuffy to work in my sewing studio until after 10pm.  All this idle time with my hands helped me find some much needed clarity.  Prepare yourselves for another philosophical round of rumination, Moxie Style.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my recent mentors in the journey towards my dream of sewing & writing full time.  In one of the more complicated networking threads, I briefly mentioned Shannyn of Frugal Beautiful who I met in the blogosphere via our mutual friend Sarah.  (I am convinced Sarah is going to be a very famous producer in the not too distant future at the rate she’s rising.  Connections and introductions to successful people like Shannyn are the types of things powerful producers do in Tinseltown, but now I’m off topic.)  Shannyn’s frugal lessons have been incredibly inspirational for me because they affirm that my own frugal habits are not “cheap” and that there is also a joyous beauty in being creative with what we already have under our very noses.

Then, while tagging vast amounts of tedious metadata last week at my day job, I got into my productive zone by donning my headphones and listening to TED talks.  Last week’s TED blog featured a curated selection of talks about vegetables.  One of these talks I had seen previously and it heavily impacted my own food choices all for the better.  A couple talks were totally new to me and they got me thinking!

You are probably wondering at this point what vegetables have to do with sewing and I’m so glad you asked!  You see, I find parallels in life all over the place.  This week the parallel was between environmental sustainability through growing vegetables and the combined environmental/social responsibility I feel through my sewing choices.  It occurred to me while watching these TED talks about vegetables that I was very fortunate to grow up with a bountiful organic garden of vegetables and fruit planted by my parents in our Michigan backyard.  We made so much with our own hands and we knew where at least 50% of the food on our table came from.  If our family had team T-shirts, they would have said, “Waste not!”

So then I realized that I owe it to the environment, my wallet, and creative inspiration to use up every last scrap in my existing fabric stash.  Oh, yes.  You read that correctly!  I had already put myself on a fabric buying diet, but now I’m enforcing it.  Unless I need something like lining, I am challenging myself to use up every bit of fabric in my stash.  Some of the smaller scraps may become stuffing for pillows, stuffed animals, and catnip mice for Mr. Giles, but much of it can be made into entire garments.  Sarah’s mom gifted to me three boxes of fabric during the 2011 Holiday Season and she gave me some amazing yards!  I owe it to the fabric gods and Mama Bauer to Sew. It. All.

fabric stash

My mind then went down another thought path and I started to wonder where all of my fabric comes from.  Who weaves it?  I know there is a growing movement towards organic textiles and fair trade textiles.  But the fact is, most of what we all put on our bodies each day does not fall into either of those environmentally or socially responsible categories.  When you walk into a store, do you know where your clothes came from?  How do you know that what you’re putting on your body is good for your SOUL?  I can’t say that I will always have the monetary resources to purchase organic and fair trade, but I will certainly slow down to really examine my chosen materials and make the best choices I can afford.

fabric stash   fabric stash

As I begin to produce more garments for my new wardrobe, I am getting lots of compliments.  These compliments are usually followed by, “Where did you buy your dress?”  And as you know, I always respond, “What a lovely compliment!  I actually sewed my own dress.”  The conversation then branches one of two ways.  Either they tell me how they’ve always wanted to learn how to sew or they own a sewing machine but have regrets that they never really learned to use it.  In more rare instances, they are lapsed seamstresses who have amazing stories of work they made long ago.  (An even smaller minority are active seamstresses far beyond my current skill level and to them I bow down in reverence!)  That train of thought then took me down another path of eternal pondering…

fabric stash   fabric stash

What if, like the vegetable TED talks, all of us took up the charge to take control of our fashion choices?  Let’s say you’re reading this and you want to learn how to sew a dress.  Why not try?  What’s the worst that could happen?  Maybe you sew a crooked seam or two.  Maybe your first few zipper installations kind of suck.  That’s ok… it gets better.  You know, that is why they invented the seam ripper–my mantra while sewing is, “I can always rip it out and try again.”  I recently read about how much impact textile production has on the environment–can you imagine what it would be like if more of us knew how how to creatively upcycle existing garments into new garments, accessories, or home decor projects?  How much less waste would fill landfills each year?  How much easier would it be for organic and free trade textiles to break into the mainstream market?

fabric stash   fabric stash

With that in mind, I have a few projects in action at present:

  • The Sassy Librarian Blouse from the Christine Haynes course on Craftsy.com.  (For myself.)
  • The Naughty Secretary Skirt from the Diana Rupp course on Craftsy.com.  (For myself.)
  • Upcycled fragrant herb filled pillows using the pillow tutorial from Diana Rupp’s course on Craftsy.com. (Housewarming gifts for a few different friends.)

I am so tempted to source new fabrics for each of these projects!  But I am not going to do it.  I have the perfect textiles in my fabric closet already and it is time to breathe new life into them.  Even though we are in the middle of the annual summer heat wave in Los Angeles, I’m already looking ahead to the Holiday Season.  Guess what?  I have a veritable fabric store in my sewing studio!  I have left over emerald green taffeta AND satin backed midnight blue taffeta.

fabric stash

Choices abound and no additional purchasing is necessary.  If anything, I will have to decide if I will make just one dress or go all out and make two dresses for all of my holiday events.  I can’t wait to find out!

fabric stash   fabric stash

Tonight I need to make a tailor’s ham and seam roll… the only question is, which fabrics will I choose?   Now THAT might take longer than the act of sewing.  (For the record, all of these pictures only cover about 75% of my existing fabric stash.  Stay tuned for unearthed treasures!)

fabric stash   fabric stash

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