Round and round and round she goes…

Brace yourself for a whiny post. I’m resisting, but I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to come out.

I spent a good three or four hours in the sewing room over the weekend, not sewing a single stitch (actually that’s a lie, but anyway).

I was trying to organize my patterns.

Emphasis on trying.

In the last few months my pattern collection has gotten a bit, um, bloated. Bernie’s gift really put it over the top, but seriously, I was in trouble well before that. In particular, I’ve reached the point where I can no longer keep a reasonable mental catalogue of the patterns I have.

Now, in theory I’m prepared for that. I even have a pricey (if somewhat defective) little app on my iPhone for tracking patterns, stash, projects, etc, and I’ve made a half-ass attempt to enter at least the most important patterns into it. I have photos of most of my patterns, somewhere on the computer and somewhere on the blog, so I could potentially make a spreadsheet or database or *something*

The problem is, handy as all that electronic organization might be (and I do much better with electronic organization than with real-life organization), when I’m considering a project, what I really want to do is sit there and dive—through the fabric, of course, but through the patterns, too. Little pictures on a screen (especially a phone-size screen) just aren’t tactile enough. And since I can no longer think “hmm, I’d like to make a dress,” and bring to mind a reasonable list of the dress patterns I have, that means I need to actually sort my physical patterns.

I had started this back in the summer. I got a tall plastic set of drawers for the sewing room, which holds notions in the three top drawers and patterns in the three big bottom drawers. I sorted out the stash of kids’ patterns, too, into a large shoe-box (boot-box, really) and that worked fairly well since when the kids wanted to plan the next project I should make them (eyeroll). But I never made any pretext of sorting the patterns in those three drawers—two held patterns I’d made up, which I generally give a big manilla envelope and, if I’m really organized, print out a photo of the finished project to stick to. This works well because it gives me somewhere to store printed-out patterns, patterns that don’t come with an envelope (like Jalie’s), and holds whatever excess tracings I have, which don’t always fit in the original envelope. But it does take up a lot of space.

So on Saturday, I went through patterns, photographing and adding a whole bunch to my phone app, and beginning the rudiments of sorting. I’m most concerned to sort by type. But I don’t want to lose all my special independent patterns in with the regular ones (currently this is Colette, Sewaholic, and Folkwear. Not sure why I don’t include Jalie in this group…). And then there’s the really old vintage ones (fifties mostly) that I don’t want to get wrecked with too much pawing through. So they need their own place. And I’d really like to keep the jackets and sweaters separate from the other tops. And…

Well, you can see what’s happening. No way are all those categories happening in three drawers (even with dividers), nevermind that the patterns were already overflowing the drawers.

So I co-opted all the shoeboxes I could find, but now I have five shoeboxes kicking around the sewing room floor, which is considerably less than ideal. I can label them, which will help, but they’re still… floating. And in danger of getting stepped on, or buried by fabric.

Which brings me to another issue. The stash is out of control. Or at least, overflowing. I want to sew it down. But the projects in my head keep failing to line up with the fabrics on hand. What is necessary is letting the fabric lead. But how do I pick which fabric? There’s so many luscious and awesome ones to go with. Not to mention all the little bits that I’d like to use up—kids clothes, *something*. I made some of the last remnant of  the Where’s Waldo fabric into another bralette, which was going to be for Tyo but the elastic straps weren’t long enough, so it’s gone to Syo (who’s super happy about it even though I can’t figure out why she would even *want* a bralette), but Tyo still wants one of her own.

And at the crux of it, everything is too messy.

I’m not one of nature’s tidy people. I can generally work just fine surrounded by a complete disaster (and tend to generate such a disaster if one wasn’t present to start with). It’s a constant trial to my husband, whose neat-freak tendencies border on the obsessive. But right now, there isn’t even room to work. Or at least, to work on anything big—hence the bralettes and other mini-projects I’ve been coming out with lately. Add to that the general lack of mental energy to contribute and, well, the situation isn’t quite paralysis, but it’s not far off, either. Can’t clean, too much stuff, it just doesn’t fit in the space. Need to sew it up. Can’t decide what to sew—too much to choose from. Can’t sew anything large—not enough room. Need more room—got to clean up. And round and round I go…

One partial solution would be to buy more organizational stuff—another set of shelves for fabric or drawers for patterns. But with a move on the horizon, I really, really don’t want to add to the furniture in the house, either.

And, just to illustrate the extent of my problem, here’s last week’s thrift store aquisitions (the fabrics and patterns at the local Value Village have recently been reinvigorated after several stagnant months, and I’m relieved to report that the attempt to sell the patterns bagged seems to have lapsed—this last batch were even quite cheap!)

Sweater fabric.

Fabric. I’ve been trying to be good about the thrift store fabrics, only biting when it’s a fabric/colour/quality on “the list”. Both these pieces were. On the left is a very thick sweater-knit with an almost Persian-lamb type texture, in a rich red colour that would be AWESOME… whenever I figure out what kind of a style would work for it.  There’s 2m, so plenty to play with. On the right is a dull purple/grey fleece, also extra-thick. I suspect it will become a housecoat for Syo, although it’s so thick I’m tempted to just get some binding for the edges and call it a blanket.


The patterns are rather more whimsical. I couldn’t resist the Kwik Sew men’s dance wear on the left, even though my husband would probably disown me if I actually made him one (I don’t have a plain men’s tee pattern, though, and this one looks fine if you just lengthen it). I also don’t have any little boys to sew suits for, but cmon—a Vogue little boy’s suit, with single and double breasted options? For less than fifty cents—how could I resist?

The 70s tracksuit in the middle falls into that awkward sizing in between Syo and myself. I currently have sweaters, bunnyhugs, and hoodies on the brain, which may explain why I couldn’t just leave it. The late-70s vibe reminds me so much of things I wore as a small child (I was born in 1980, but grew up in hand-me-downs)… which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but, I dunno. I’m feeling nostalgic, I suppose.

Two-toned printing

It’s also uncut and comes in two sizes, each printed in a different colour. Nifty!

Yup, that was whiny. Sorry. Have a great week!



Filed under Sewing

52 responses to “Round and round and round she goes…

  1. Didn’t sound whiny to me 🙂

    I don’t have any advice to offer, but wanted to say that I sympathize. I have one room to do everything work/recreational in: sewing, yoga, needlework, painting, thesis, gaming, houseplants and it also contains a huge rabbit cage. None of my stashes for my hobbies are very large, but collectively they take up a lot of room.

    That claustrophobic feeling you get when there isn’t enough room to work sucks.

    Since there is a move on the horizon, could you pack of some stuff that you know you wont be using until after the move? Free up some space and start the packing process.

  2. Not whiny at all. Heck, you have to be able to say it to SOMEone! And it just shows you’re a REAL person!! We’ve all been there, similar problems. My sewing room/cave only recently got a partial tidy so I could have enough space on the table to cut out the fabric for my Minoru jacket. But I can hardly move in the room. It’s GOT to be reorganized, and I only need some *cheap* shelves to raise the table and put the chest of drawers underneath … you know. When’s THAT going to happen! OMG, sorry, but I just had to let it out! BTW, Love your blog.

  3. I can relate…my husband says that it looks like spaghetti sauce lost the war when I cook, and my sewing room didn’t use to be much better. I’ve started making myself put things away and tidy up after each project though, and that’s worked really well for me (for the most part). I just use a file cabinet to store my patterns in, maybe you could swap out the drawer thingy for a big 5 drawer one that can double as keeping track of your household receipts and such?

    • LOL @ the cooking. I don’t mind the cooking mess so much—I guess because I know when it’s all washed up it can all be put away. It’s the inability to put things away and create order that’s feeling paralyzing.

      A file cabinet would be great, but again, adding furniture. We already have a small one upstairs for the bills etc. but there’s no extra room in it for patterns…

  4. Can you tell us how many patterns you own? I’ve maxed out the space I have for the 80 odd patterns I own. I should totally get rid of a bunch I don’t like – and don’t know why I bought. Maybe you can use them? 🙂

    • Well, I didn’t do a count (I don’t really want to know, either 😉 )

      I have 95 patterns currently listed on my phone app, which I think is about 3/4 of the actual patterns, not counting the magazines (which have a lot of patterns for the amount of actual space they take up). Don’t offer me patterns! I’ll accept and it’ll just get worse! 😉 Part of my problem (as with my wardrobe) is I have hard time deciding I don’t like something. I always think “but I could use it for this… or I might want it for that…”

  5. No advice on clearing up the sewing room, as my own is a tiny disaster area…my patterns are overflowing out of the drawer, and I have several patterns out and cut and ironed, only to be distracted by something else, and then Walnut goes and sits on them and they are no longer ironed, and the guest bed is covered with thrifted fabric. Which reminds me, we have guests coming this weekend and I’ll need to find a place to put all of it.

    So suffice to say, you have my sincerest sympathies, and yay for no longer bagged patterns!

    • Yeah, at least we don’t have cats roaming around… although I have a bad habit of leaving stuff on the basement floor and then the kids tromp over everything.

      Good luck with the guest-readying. I’m very glad I can at least close the door on the sewing-room disaster (although it’s French doors, so not as effective as if they were solid doors…)

  6. Ha! I posted on pretty much the same theme, different specifics.

    My patterns are a mess. Most are in a plastic three bin shelf, usually put into a comic book bag after using so the traced pieces fit. The bigger ones are in a separate shoe box. Whatever I’ve been using or contemplating are on the desk – that’s where the real problems start.

    All I can say is that it’s a constant battle if you aren’t the kind of person who enjoys organizing.

  7. I totally hear you. I’m drowning in patterns and fabric as I write, with no hope for organization in the future!!!

  8. Not whiny. I’m in the same boat! Especially the pattern storage…right now, I keep winding up with patterns all over my floor because I have to pull them all out to find anything. I also tend to keep more than one copy of well-used patterns, which just adds to the clutter. AND, I have some patterns I tried that didn’t work for me and I need to get them out of there but I can’t donate them. Our local thrift doesn’t take patterns….

    Don’t even get me started on the fabric. Right now, I have more fabric hanging in my closet than clothes. It’s frightening.

    That thick purple fleece looks like it would be too thick for any kind of garment. I’d put a binding on it and call it a blanket. That way, you can at least stick it in the linen closet? I have yet to reach peak blanket capacity myself.

    • Yeah, maybe I should take that route. At least then I could liberate the piece of actual garment fleece that’s currently occupying Syo’s bed and turn it into a sweater for her… she nabbed it a few weeks ago before I could even take a picture.

      But you always have *the best* fabric…

      That’s too bad about thrift not taking patterns. I suppose you could try Freecycle or Kijiji or something… but it’s not as easy as just dropping off at the thrift store. 😦

  9. I’m coming to the conclusion that if I got rid of a lot of stuff and had more space than I could actually sew more and enjoy the process more…it is just deciding which stuff has to go.

  10. Where there is patterns and fabric there’s always a mess of some sort! Having just moved in to my new place, I’ve done some organizing of my own. If you want to see the result of my many, many hours of sorting through tons of patterns, notions and fabric let me know. I’ll send you some photos. 🙂

  11. If you think that was whiny Girl you need lessons and I am just the person to give them! How funny that you and SeraphinaLina both posted about cleaning up your sewing spaces. What is it about them that makes them impossible to keep tidy?

  12. I’m with Cation Designs and share my sewing space with the spare room. We don’t have many house guests so usually its a fabric, book, pattern, notions, kid’s crap, thread ends strewn room.

    I do have a very small and only slowly growing pattern collection and have started using large zip lock bags to store the patterns and tracings for the ones I’ve made or am making. I’m going to get a bunch of binder plastic sleeve thingies and a ring binder, put the pattern envelope into folders, categorized however I like, then put all patterns into zip locks into whatever filing order I like. Those I will stick in drawers (I’ve only got 2 small ones). Drawers are filling up though…..

    No idea what to do about fabric – I can’t buy anymore soon because I have literally no more room.

    PS not that whiny BTW :o)

  13. Amy

    I so sympathize; it doesn’t sound whiny! I’m not a terribly organized person and neither is my other half, which means things are always going lost. But we are trying so hard to get rid of stuff right now. I finally got down to business a couple of months ago and put all my patterns in shoe storage boxes (the bigger kinds with a lid) sorting much the same way… indies in one, vintage in another, etc. And put them on a high shelf. Some days I pull them down just to browse but it was getting so chaotic when they were out and about. I have most of them in Evernote now, which took a while of scanning or photographing, but it all feels so much better now. I also have a ton of 80s patterns that were either given to me or left over from another sewing life and for the life of me can’t figure out what to do with them.

    • Yeah, I wish I had a high shelf to put these on. But I can’t get to the closet in the sewing room because of all the fabric in the way…

      Did I mention I have a problem? 😉

  14. I purge heartlessly when I start feeling like that. Sometimes its a series of purges before the room is the way it should be… But then again, I’m one of those who desperately needs a clean and tidy space in order to work… One of the things I do is severely restrict what I’m “allowed” to buy. No buying something just because it’s cool or interesting. It also has to be useful or extremely beautiful.

    I feel another purge coming on soon… I just gave away a huge box of quilting fabric scraps that don’t go with either of my current scrap quilts and it felt GOOD. I discovered a big box of Amy Butler patterns… I taught a monthly class on her bags two years ago and still have all the patterns… I’m so over AB though.. I need to find someone to take them off my hands and out of my sewing space!

    • An upcoming move is a good excuse to purge, I guess. This is just the first time I’ve really been *overwhelmed* by my stash. Up until the last year or so, I really didn’t have much. /sigh.

  15. I found it semi-useful to sort through my fabrics and pull out anything that I might wear in the next month or two, then file the rest away for later! That whittles it down so I can make some decisions without being distracted by unseasonal stuff.
    I use shoeboxes for patterns too – trouble is they are getting a bit full, might need to buy some new shoes 😉

  16. LinB

    I work in an office that uses a deal of copy paper. I am allowed to take the empty cases (essentially cardboard file boxes) home. I use them to store patterns by category — skirts, dresses, pants, menswear, crafts, etc. Patterns are largely inside plastic zip bags — instructions inside pattern envelope, pieces loose in zip bag behind pattern envelope. I mark the outside of the boxes on all four sides, then stack them atop a long table in my spare room. Difficulty comes when deciding where to put a particular pattern: Do I use this only for the jacket? Put it in “Coats.” Or, will I make the entire suit one day? Then it should go in “Suits.” I have 40 boxes full at present, not counting the two on the cutting table with projects to be made up for this summer. Somebody stop me … .

    • Yeah, the multiple categories are the things that make me wish for a kick-ass pattern database program. My god, that’s a lot of boxes… 😉

      • LinB

        Well, I have been collecting since about 1968, and I rarely throw away/give away patterns! My relatives and friends are free to “shop” my pattern boxes before they head to the fabric store. Most of the patterns have been sewn at least once. Many were gifted to me/picked up off the street at trash day. I put a piece of soap in each box to discourage invasion by animal life. When you’ve settled in to your new place, do let me send you a box or two of 70s memorabilia, lol.

  17. teaweed

    I have a similar tendency with more than just fabric and patterns. I’ve been watching episodes of Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. On one hand, I’m reassured that I’m not too bad. On the other, seeing examples of actual ruined by potential has started to effortlessly change my thinking. I haven’t purged any fabric yet, but there’ve been a couple of purges in other categories. I’m keeping what I really want and disgarding stuff that makes me feel sentimental regret (what could be/have been if only . . .).

    • LinB

      Oh, teaweed, I know! I keep some patterns just to look at and remember when I was young and slender and with all the world in front of me. And I agree with you about the hoarding shows: I can always reassure myself that “at least I’m not as bad as that person.” Have started forcing myself to throw away at least one useless item each week. It’s difficult not to run outside and pull stuff back out of the garbage can some days; some days I feel quite virtuous at ridding my family’s home of trash and dreck.

    • Yeah, there’s definitely hoarder potential in my family. I do try to guard against it in a lot of areas—I fight hard against my knick-knacking tendencies, for example. But I don’t seem to have any defenses in the fabric/pattern department… 😦

  18. Zena

    I get overwhelmed by the number of things I want to make and I have a hard time prioritising.

    If you’re at all likely to get rid of anything from the stash, you might want to do that before you try to organise the rest. The Costco here has nice sturdy archive boxes – $20 for a 10 pack. Much better deal than tote bins, assuming you can live without the waterproof-ness.

    • That’s another possibility. I like that tote-bins can be stacked free-standing, though—archive boxes I would worry about without shelves to put them on. Hmm.

      • Zena

        The boxes I’m talking about are super-sturdy. You should be able to go 5 high without any worries. Just as long as damp floor isn’t a problem.

  19. Well I could tell you to toss anything you have not sewn or used after one year of staring at it but that would be amusingly hypocritical.

  20. After living with an antique wicker trunk, full of fabric, in the bathroom, for almost a year (since the basement developed its moisture problem, now rectified), I finally sorted through and disposed of 3/4 of its contents.Some was decorator fabric, but since the room functions have changed since it was purchased, and I could not think of what I might use it for, it went to Value Village. It was really hard, as I still loved the pattern and colourway.
    If you can survive till after you move, I could donate a 4-drawer filing cabinet, which could be liberated from all the the pre-school and early childhood stuff.

  21. I feel your pain. I find it nigh on impossible to get rid of patterns, there’s always just that ghost of “just in case” hanging over your head…
    On the plus side, I am roaring through my stash lately. Feeling mighty virtuous about that!
    Thanks for your kind comment on my red dress!

  22. I like the way a friend of mine organizes her patterns. Every time she gets a new pattern, she photocopies the front and back of it and puts those copies in a binder, organizing it as she likes (tops, bottoms, dresses, coats/jackets, etc., and then by pattern company). Then she packs the actual pattern away in boxes in her basement, organized by pattern company and number. That way, when she wants to browse through her patterns for inspiration, it’s all in one binder, as opposed to digging through boxes and boxes of patterns. Be easy to grab the sheets to take along with you to the fabric store, too!

    If you can’t easily photocopy them, you could take the pattern out of the envelope and put it in a labeled paper envelope or baggy to pack away, and put the actual pattern envelope in one of those plastic page holders to file away in a binder.

    I like the photocopy idea better because it keeps the pattern and envelope together, but this is a good way too. Might be time consuming to organize initially, but would be simple to add to as you gain more patterns. I’m starting to consider doing something similar, since my patterns are starting to spill off of the shelf I keep them on.

    • As I’ve mentioned before, I’m much more likely to keep on top of organization electronically, and I have been pretty good about photographing patterns as they arrive and even entering many (though not all) into that phone app. But there’s something I just *like* about pawing through the actual envelopes… /sigh.

      • OH yeah, I forgot that part. I’ve tried electronic sorting, and it just doesn’t work for me. I’d prefer to have my grubby hands on them than an electronic picture. But the electronic version would probably be more useful for actual use, i.e. out shopping randomly. 🙂 Hope you figure something out!

  23. Completely off topic: You totally need to get yourself to NY or LA for fabric shopping and “squeeing” one of these days!

Leave a Reply to Tanit-Isis Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s