Oh, Fabric, Why Can’t I Quit You?

by Erin on September 26, 2007

Have you all visited alittlegoodness's Etsy site yet? I desperately need this fabric. (If by 'desperately', you mean 'after sewing up the 15 yards I desperately needed *last* week.')


japanese alphabet fabric

Included in that 15 yards was a good chunk of this fabric, which I posted about yonks ago, and which is now back in stock at Fashion Fabrics Club:


fishes fabric

I also bought (no pictures … yet) a soft, heavy loden green fabric that is possibly a cotton/wool blend, some lightweight teal denim, and a really nice Liz Claiborne browny-gray ombre-ish stripe. Very somber; I'm thinking I'll try another version of the Why Not Plaid dress with that last fabric. You know, Real Soon Now.

I have come to a sort of d├ętente with my fabric stash: I have an enormous amount of fabric, and yet never seem to have anything I can actually sew with. The fabric I want to sew with has to hit that sweet spot: it has to be something I want to wear, yet not so incredibly gorgeous that I am too cowed to cut into it. (Have you ever tried shopping for "good enough" fabric? It's very difficult.*) So my arrangement is this: I simply buy gorgeous fabric and then wait for OTHER gorgeous fabric to arrive and push slightly-less gorgeous fabrics down the ladder of gorgeousness until they are at a low enough rung to be cut into. Some fabrics, it is sad to say, fall rather rapidly; others have maintained an immunity to scissors and pins for years. The worst is when fabric goes from too-gorgeous to too-NOT-gorgeous and misses the scissor-able stage altogether.

*This may be a business model: a site that only sells mediocre-plus fabrics. "Perfect for semi-wearable muslins!" would be its tagline. Or maybe "Fabrics you'll be 'in like' with!"

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

patsijean September 26, 2007 at 9:15 am

Yes, Erin, you do need that fabric, in a big way. Let’s see: lots of letters; games you can play with the letters while in a looonngg, boring meeting; games children can play with those letters while walking in the park-gentle breeze, birds singing; its blue, a good color for you-guys like blue and will pay lots of attention to you when you are speaking at a conference. So, yes, you definitely need that fabric……. Did that help?

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whoanelliewonders? September 26, 2007 at 9:16 am

Congratulations – and thank you – for describing so well that peculiar relationship that we share with our fabric. I, too, have a tremendous quantity of fabric, most of it too gorgeous to use. Every time I think of something that I want to make, I look through my stash and generally find several pieces that would be lovely for the project but, oh, wouldn’t each one be even better as something else? Or, do I really want to risk such a gorgeous, irreplaceable treasure on an, as yet, unperfected concept? Well, if I don’t want to risk falling short of optimal use of THAT piece, how about the next one? Same issues – and so it goes.Yes, I believe you are on to a great market plan. “Likeable Fabrics-R-Us”!

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xstpenguin September 26, 2007 at 9:23 am

I get told off for “rationalising” my fabric purchases. But lets face it, when a piece of fabric calls your name, it would be cruel to deny it refuge in your home. :-DYou have described so well (as ever) the solid REASON why *that* piece of fabric won’t do for *this* project. Now I understand myself!I often buy fabric in sales for just those “likeable” reasons – if it turns out nice I’ll be happy to wear it, but if it doesn’t, I can comfort myself with the lack of money laid out.Now… do you have an explanation for the proliferation of UFOs?

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fae September 26, 2007 at 9:26 am

It’s funny because it’s true.

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Anonymous September 26, 2007 at 9:45 am

I love you! Thank you for the link to Fashion Fabrics Club! I have been trying to find wool fabric and, of course, none of my local fabric stores have wool. Just “wool like” fabrics. What is a “wool like” fabric? Most of it has never been in the same continent with a sheep, much less in close personal contact with one.Linda

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MadeByAmanda September 26, 2007 at 9:59 am

I will hardly ever buy a truly gorgeous piece of fabric that I love, because then I would have to make a muslin first, and then by the time I’m done, maybe I won’t want to do the same thing all over again. But I wouldn’t want to make it without a muslin in a gorgeous fabric, because what if it turned out badly?

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Jonquil September 26, 2007 at 10:11 am

The goldfish one is glorious.I have an Inverness cape — I think you saw it when you visited — and the original lining is shattered.I have just decided to throw caution to the winds and reline the upper cape with this.Life is too short not to be flamboyant.

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tea September 26, 2007 at 12:39 pm

jonquil – WHERE ddid you get that delicious poppy fabric?erin – I’m dying to know the texture of the goldfish fabric. And how big are the fishies? I made a skirt and matching shirt (so I don’t have to wear all of it at one, giant overkill moment) out of some photographically-accurate koi fabric, which I love, but upon the fabric’s arrival, I was disappointed that the fish were much smaller than I expected, and after I prewashed it, the texture was closer to flannel than broadcloth.

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Heather September 26, 2007 at 1:17 pm

someone needs to create a graphic/visual of your “gorgeousness fabric ladder” right quick…i can’t get over at how true that is. i am soooo guilty.

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Andrea September 26, 2007 at 1:38 pm

wow! you have explained it so well! I think I’ll show this post to my husband so that he’ll understand all those big plastic tubs in my sewing room.

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. September 26, 2007 at 2:22 pm

$575 a yard fabric…so gorgeous I weep to see it and wonder who is able to slice it asunder with even the most elegant of shears.

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TransplantedOkie September 26, 2007 at 3:19 pm

You have hit the nail perfectly on its head!

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smonster September 26, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Oh, how I love that koi fabric. One motivation to take sewing lessons (besides your blog, of course) is a gorgeous skirt in this fabric in a local boutique that runs for well over $100. Simple A-line skirt, lined.Maybe some day I’ll have my koi pond skirt. For now I shall simply lust.

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Fuggles September 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm

How true the comments about the fabric stash – I’ve just been hunting through mine this evening, and found some beautiful liberty prints I’ve had for nearly 20 years, but still can’t bring myself to cut into! I’ve now got 4 different stashes each secreted in a different room of the house, but still can’t resist shopping for something that will be ‘ok’to make a muslin, but having spent all that time and effort in making a muslin, surely I want a fabric I love, rather than one that is just merely ‘ok’….

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La BellaDonna September 26, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Ladies, please listen to me. Like most of you, I have happily accumulated yards and yards (actually, hundreds of yards) of fabric after more than three decades of fabric collecting. Due to a divorce, my fabric and I had to move, and most of the fabric, carefully stored in tubs (but some in plastic bags), was stored in a garage, for which I paid an extra hundred dollars a month, for seven years, just to keep it safe.Then I had to move again, suddenly, unexpectedly. Guess what? That leak that the landlord said was fixed? Wasn’t fixed.Yes. Yard after yard of irreplaceable fabric, some of it made for museums, utterly and completely destroyed. Years of happy dreaming and planning, reduced to shreds of garbage. I can’t begin to tell you of the wretched unhappiness it’s caused me.Better you should make kitchen aprons of your $500 fabric, because at least then you’d get some pleasure out of it.

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Jonquil September 26, 2007 at 4:35 pm

The poppy fabric is from Thai Silks, and comparatively cheap.Thai silksOh, damn. They’ve got a matching charmeuse and georgette. You could make SUCH a fabulous ’30s dress with the capelet in the georgette…

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Anonymous September 26, 2007 at 5:25 pm

You all will laugh with me . . .My DH has the informed opinion that I should only purchase fabric one project at a time and that I should not have any fabric stash at all, whatsoever.I told him that when I make quilts I need a large selection to find the best shade, texture, color, etc. (I made one watercolor quilt, thank goodness!)And another good thing for my stash that he does not know the difference between quilting fabrics and apparel fabrics. ;-D

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Pamela September 26, 2007 at 5:52 pm

I have outgrown what was once a lovely and tidy sewing room. The reason: I refuse to store my ever-expanding fabric stash in a part of the house with no HVAC. No basement storage for my treasures! The result is plastic bins stacked 4 high and a delightful maze to go through in order to work my way into the room.I have Liberty fabrics from 1984, the year the British pound was $1.04 to the U.S. dollar, fabulous wools from living in NYC in the 70s, Linton tweeds (these are the UK tweeds used by Chanel) given to me by my FIL, my mother’s small stash and everything from other people’s stashes which I manage to buy on ebay. I love it all!Like Erin, I must have the perfect usage for each fabric. I keep notebooks full of plans and drawings, which change over the years. Isn’t it great that good fabric never seems to go out of style? I do eventually cut into most of my fabrics, sometimes decades after purchase. The mohair coat I made in ’02 – bought at B&J in ’78. The wool jersey dress in ’02, fabric from The Fabric Place in ’87. The duck print Viyella baby blouse & bloomers made in ’81 – fabric bought by my MIL in ’52. The Liberty fabrics? Those can take a generation of thinking and planning. I am now in the process of moving my sewing room to the 2nd largest bedroom in the house. I do expect to sell on Ebay some fabrics which have lost their immediacy after decades of indecision.I ask, where else can you buy a dream so cheaply?

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Karen September 26, 2007 at 5:59 pm

oh, oh, how do you stand to not cut into your best fabrics? I admit I have that special stash I’m afraid to touch, but mostly I’ve learned that if I don’t sew with something within a year of buying it, I won’t like it anymore (my special put-off stash is primarily just really expensive solids). Anyway, I have to sew while I’m in love, because that’s so much sweeter than sewing while being ‘in like’. The ‘in like’ dresses are so hard to finish. Also, is there really some fear that you won’t find something fantastic next week?I just don’t know how you, of all people, can possibly have a fear of cutting into something. I feel like I just found out that Superman gets afraid of flying sometimes. I’m trying to be understandable, but Erin, you are a goddess with your dressmaking skills, and you have the fans to prove it. so :PLife is too short to have such a stash!!

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Pink September 26, 2007 at 10:12 pm

this post title really gave me a good chuckle. :)

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Cat September 26, 2007 at 11:06 pm

Erin, as usual, you are absolutely correct. I too am terrified of cutting that expensive fabric I really love and usually make things out of fabric I like so if it works I’ll wear it if it doesn’t I won’t cry.I must admit the terror I have in cutting comes from the thought that if you make a mistake cutting, the project is doomed from the start and the dream is shattered from the outset. Daft? Yes, and not really true it just feels like that. My non sewing friends think I am insane, so I’m glad I’m not alone.Love your blog as usual.

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Anonymous September 27, 2007 at 5:46 am

I used to have that fear of cutting into the good stuff. Now I tell myself: “It’s only fabric, there will always be more.” Making a test fit garment out of cheap stuff first, then doing the good one within a week or two of finishing is the best way to jump in.Part of getting over it was finding some really beautiful stuff in a rummage sale that I used to volunteer for (the charity no longer holds it, unfortunately). Although it was silk, it was $5 for two meters, so I took the plunge.-Rhoda in Calgary

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anthrok8 September 27, 2007 at 2:05 pm

On first glance, I thought the koi fabric was an interpretation of menstrual blood. In a good artistic way, rather than a Damien Hirst or “uh-oh… oh no” way. There. Now do you feel like cutting right into that fabric?

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Marion September 28, 2007 at 6:37 am

Erin,Have you seen this Alphabet print?

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Nancy W. September 28, 2007 at 7:08 pm

As far as the business plan goes, I think JoAnns already got the corner on that one!

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Anonymous October 2, 2007 at 8:08 am

If you used the “Alphabet print” as suggested by marion, this material has a “nap”, in other words it is a “one way material” like the “Why Not Plaid” dress: so all pattern pieces have to be cut with the top of each pattern pointing in the same direction. It is easy to actually see with alphabet letters but obviously John, who commented on the “Why Not Plaid” dress couldn’t work it out with the one way plaid!!

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AuntieShel January 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Thank you, thank you. I had found her store on etsy a while back and then couldn’t find it again/forgot the correct name.

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