Making Space and Decluttering- part 1

Like most sewers, I do a self-deprecating routine about the terrifying extent of my fabric stash on a regular basis. But, much as I joke, the clutter of fabric, trims, habdash, books and the rest, really does cause me quite a bit of anxiety and frustration. Here’s why:

  • I feel guilty that there is stuff there that I *know* I will never use – why did I buy it? I am such an idiot and so wasteful… blah blah blah (I am specialist at negative self-talk – something else I am working on this year…)
  • I don’t have the space to store loads of stuff I will never get round to using
  • It’s always messy and unmanageable – I am not great at working in untidy surroundings – I find it distracting
  • I can’t find the lovely inspirational fabrics, haberdashery and trims that are definitely there, in amongst all the rest

All of this clutter-related negativity really gets me down. So, working towards my goal of moving forward in the positive, unapologetic pursuit of creativity this year, I’ve given myself permission to spend some money on storage, and I’ve started a big declutter.

Here are some of my larger fabric scraps – mostly sorted by colour, although the top box here is for larger pieces of linen prints. I was delighted to discover that 2 9L Really Useful Boxes fit nicely on my IKEA Kallax shelving.

I started yesterday, working through the contents of one of my big storage baskets. At first I hummed and hawed, dithering about how to sort things in a way that made most sense, and, in a weak moment, almost decided to put it all away again. But, spurred on by spotting lovely fabrics amongst the clutter, rendered unusable by my inability to find them, I reminded myself that done is better good (no, it really is), and got started.

Low volume scraps stored with linen prints, and blues and greens sorted together. I may need to get a few more boxes…!

As I worked through the fabrics, I started to develop a system. I haven’t read Marie Kondō’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I have friends who are very deeply enthusiastic about it, so I know all about her idea of only keeping the things that bring you joy. Although I wouldn’t necessarily choose to apply this idea to the contents of my garage (the car would definitely have to go, and that could be a problem), I really see the value when it comes to sorting through the materials I use for my creative work.

I have been building up a stash of magazines, fabrics, haberdashery, notions and books relating to sewing, crochet and textiles for over ten years now, and a fair proportion of what I have relates to other enthusiasms and interests. They feel irrelevant to me as I move forward, so I am putting them to one side, enthusiastically, choosing to give them away to people who will be inspired by them anew. Hopefully they will bring joy to other people, even though they don’t do it for me any more.

As I was working, I thought more about creativity and how it works for me. The more I read and research, the more I am coming to see that creativity is born out of curiosity – a spirit of ‘what if?’. I have thought of this, with typical negativity, as my butterfly mind, but actually, it’s about me pursuing ideas with interested enthusiasm – and sometimes these ideas (which often involve acquiring materials to work with) go somewhere, sometimes they don’t. There are many failures along the way, and that’s ok, I’m learning all the time.

Tiny scraps that I am going to sort into low volume and high volume for starters. I might sub-divide by colour too at some stage, but done REALLY IS better than good.

So some of the stashed away materials are reminders of those old ideas that didn’t work out and it’s good to get rid of them and just move on. But sometimes, as I work through the boxes and baskets, I find stuff that reminds me of ideas that I wanted to pursue, but didn’t because I didn’t have time. Or I find materials that could be re-purposed, or half-made pieces that could be used in other ways. I find it is really important to have a notebook to hand, to record the ideas as I work.

So I’m going back into the studio tomorrow to do some more sorting. Although I’m not exactly enjoying the process, I am beginning to feel a sense of freedom and clarity that will hopefully increase as I get closer to the top (bottom?) of the fabric mountain. Keep checking back because I’m hopefully going to sort out some fabrics to give away over the next few weeks, in the hopes that dispersing my collection can bring some inspiration elsewhere.


Handmade with love

Not a resolution, but one of my hopes for 2017, was to give myself the time to make more gifts for friends and family  – although only to people who will appreciate them..!

Looking back over the last couple of weeks I seem to have been doing really well so far (perhaps I will pretend it was a resolution). As I haven’t blogged about many finishes so far this year, it seemed appropriate to share a few photos of these gifts, handmade with love, on Valentine’s Day.

Mini-hoop for friends who are having  hard time just now. Nano Iro fabric from years ago, with silver embroidered stars and a bit of appliqué.
A crochet hook pouch for a good friend who’s birthday I missed last year. Featuring fabrics by Melody Miller (View Finder) and Sarah Watts (Tokyo Train Ride) for Cotton+Steel.
A pencil case for a very generous internet friend I have known for 12 years, and met for the first time last summer! Drawn a total blank with the text fabric, but the cute houses are from Sevenberry’s Go Go Vacation collection.
A brooch, made for my sister. I used beautiful wool fabrics from Beyond Measure.

Valentine’s Day is a bit daft really isn’t it, with it’s focus on romance… when that’s such a small aspect of our human relationships. But I will be subversive, and use it as an opportunity to send much love to all of you out there, with thanks for your kindnesses and thoughtful words throughout the year. I am choosing to celebrate love, friendship and community today, so here’s to you all – *raises a big cup of tea* – you’re all fabulous..!

The perils of perfection

Back at the beginning of the year, as part of my Creativity and Well-being Reading Project, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a fun read, and although I rolled my eyes a bit at the quirky cuteness and the ‘aren’t I great’ tone of some of it, there was some really good food for thought. For all you tl:dr people, the message which resonated hugely with me, and that I’ve come back to again and again since finishing the book, is that doing art/creativity is too important to let fear of meeting an impossible standard get in your way.


Scary thought or what? Is done really better than good? Personally, driven by my unhealthy ingrained habit of perfectionism (aka ‘I must not fail’), I flinch at the thought… but take a minute, think about it. Here’s a bit more from Elizabeth Gilbert:

The great American novelist Robert Stone once joked that he possessed the two worst qualities imaginable in a writer: He was lazy, and he was a perfectionist. Indeed, those are the essential ingredients for torpor and misery, right there. If you want to live a contented creative life, you do not want to cultivate either one of those traits, trust me. What you want is to cultivate quite the opposite: You must learn how to become a deeply disciplined half-ass.

It starts by forgetting about perfect. We don’t have time for perfect. In any event, perfection is unachievable: It’s a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death.

We don’t have time for perfect.

Ever give up on a project and consign it to the UFO pile because you were afraid of the next thing that needs to be done or because you can’t make a decision about the next step (which fabric…what colour… what next…)?  I’ve done this so so many times. I have boxes full of the ‘what next’ projects, if you need the evidence.

When I’ve worked on magazine projects I’ve sometimes been paralysed by indecision – afraid I would make a misstep and ‘ruin’ a whole project. The good thing, of course, when you’re writing for a magazine, you have to do something! Reflecting on my completed magazine projects and those awful anxious times, as doing CBT demands of me, I realise that, you know what, they turned out pretty much ok – some of them I really love, and I’m really proud of all of them.

So yes. Done is good.

I can definitely be a deeply-disciplined half-ass. Recently, I’ve adopted that as my aim every morning that I go into the studio… it makes me smile and that weight of ‘it’s got to be good’ lifts from my shoulders.

Here are some more thoughts that whizz round my mind for future reflection…

What if perfectionism is just something to hide behind?

  • What if fear of not being good enough stops me even getting started?
  • Should the process of creating become more important to me than the finished creative work?
  • Does fear of failure prevent risk-taking?
  • Is an obsession with good or perfect an obstacle to learning new skills?

Feel free to join our the Very Berry group for Creativity and Wellbeing – for reading ideas, reviews and a bit of discussion about stuff like this!