The cupboard of shame

I am justifiably proud of how tidy my small sewing space usually is. I am normally a neat and organised person. That is just how I work. My house is tidy, albeit covered in cat fur and dog toys. I cannot think or get anything done in a mess. My fabric scraps are organised, and my fabric stash is folded and stored in boxes in the cupboard near my sewing table, sorted by colour.

However, this only tells you part of the story. My recent decision to go on a fabric diet has made me look more closely at what I have collected over the years. In particular, I have had to examine the Cupboard of Shame, also known as the spare bedroom’s wardrobe. The spare bedroom is where my crafty overflow goes when it will not fit in my sewing space, a workroom I share with my husband.

The Cupboard of Shame merits initial capital letters as it is frightening and seems to have developed a life of its own. I have unilaterally declared it a proper noun.

This is what I found behind those closed cupboard doors:

  1. a collection of containers bought at op shops for pincushions. I made up some here (update: and here) but others are still waiting
  2. two doonas, one feather and one silk, which I planned to recycle into cushion inserts (see below)
  3. three journals that have windows for photos. I bought them on sale intending to insert cross-stitched designs in the windows but instead forgot all about them (update: cross-stitch completed)
  4. a bag of leftover fabric from my husband’s shirts, which I intended to make into a second shirt quilt (update: quilt, two cushions and two pouches made)
  5. a bag of men’s silk ties, which were going to become … something
  6. a box of op-shop woollen jumpers. I used some to make a blanket, and I planned to use the rest in a second blanket
  7. some polystyrene balls I planned to make into knitted Christmas ornaments
  8. some padded coathangers I need to cover
  9. some wooden coathangers for more peg bags
  10. a pile of vintage sheets that I have collected from op shops. I was collecting them to use in a quilt, but there is probably enough fabric for six quilts
  11. a completely untouched pile of coordinating fabric that I bought for a quilt. It has sat there so long I think I have fallen out of love with the idea and the fabric
  12. a bag of Japanese silks collected for an ambitious appliqué project I plan to start one day (but not before I have finished Dear Jane)
  13. a beautiful large piece of Marimekko fabric, given to me a decade ago by a Finnish friend. It just needed hemming to become a tablecloth, but now I think it might make a nice quilt back
  14. a box of charm squares
  15. a dress-length piece of silk I still adore (I simply cannot decide which pattern as the design I bought it for will not work)
  16. a half-finished dress I started 7 years ago in another city
  17. a half-finished crazy quilt, made from a recycled mattress protector (update: donated).

This list is not a complete UFO list; it does not include the contents of my ‘official’ sewing space and my knitting basket. I have other piles of works in progress there too. These are just the projects that have drifted out of sight and out of mind.

Other than the craft supplies, the Cupboard of Shame also contains an assortment of fancy dress costumes (including a Native American costume, two Indian saris, a flapper dress, a Regency-period dress and a pith helmet), a dressmaker’s dummy, giftwrap rolls, two small lampshades and some old photo albums that are too large to fit on the living room bookcase with the others. However, it is the project-based bundles I need to manage. I have already donated or thrown away a handful of items from the cupboard. I do not mind keeping a few bags of hobby fill, crushed walnuts (pincushion stuffing) or spare yarn ready for when I need it, but I do need to better manage the rest. Let’s see whether I can tame it enough that guests have some space to hang a few clothes.

I am not going to promise anything rash or set myself a goal I will never achieve, but I can at least admit to what I have collected and start chipping away at some of these projects. I completely cleaned up all of my craft stash more than a decade ago, when I either finished, refashioned or donated everything I found in my craft box. (At the time, all my craft supplies fit into and lived in my childhood toy box.) For example, the beautiful yarn from a knitted top, complete except for the seams but a hideous and unwearable fashion disaster that would have exposed my scrawny boobs, was unravelled and crocheted into a stylish cushion. I think it is time to do this sort of a clean-up again.

The cupboard’s contents are a symptom of my flickering focus. If I start a project, it usually gets finished. If I do not start work on the idea I am so enthusiastic about, the stuff I collect sits untouched as a newer, more exciting idea pops into my little head. Apart from the last two items on the list, these are not so much unfinished objects or works in progress as unstarted projects!

Now is as good a time to start as any. I have already made progress: I have dissected and repurposed the two doonas into cushion inserts.

Recycling doonas into cushion inserts

These two doonas have now become three cushion inserts.

Our old feather doona came back from its regular visit to the drycleaner without stitching to hold any of the feathers in place. It was just a giant sack of feathers that all clumped in one corner. It was not the fault of the cleaner; the doona was old and the stitching had gradually worn away. Putting the stitches back might have been easy … if I could get the feathers to stay put as I sewed! Nope! Too hard!

My dad brought the silk quilt back from one of his many business trips to China. It was beautiful, warm and light. However, worried about ruining it by hand washing it in the bath in shampoo as I should have done, I took it to the drycleaner instead. The silk shrank. A lot. I felt like an idiot: I was trying to be careful by not trusting myself to wash it!

The silk was easy to work with. The feathers took a bit of wrangling.

Recycling a feather doona into cushion inserts

I locked myself in the (dry) shower recess to stop the feathers from finding their way all about my house. A few escaped, but cleaning them up was manageable. Even so, I had feathers in my hair, on my clothes …
The doona was clipped to the top of the shower screen with bulldog clips, and I scooped the feathers out from a hole I cut in the bottom.

Recycling a feather doona into cushion inserts

In the shower recess, I felt like a contestant on an old-fashioned game show – in one of those money-blowing machines trying to catch bills!

Both doonas are now cushion inserts. I made one insert from the silk doona and two from the feather doona, and the feather inserts will be perfect for our new sofa when it arrives in a few weeks. Unfortunately, this means I now have another project: to make the cushion covers!

I have ticked one item off the list, but there are lots still to do.

I will manage the Cupboard of Shame.

I never want to end up featuring on an episode of Hoarders.

My fabric diet might have to continue a bit longer.

Do you have a Cupboard of Shame? What does it contain?

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53 thoughts on “The cupboard of shame

  1. Oh, I love this! It’s a laugh out loud post, and I bet every quilter reading it is nodding away, if not at every line, then at every other one. I particularly like the intelligent feather-wrangling solution. Personally I don’t hide my shame tidily in a cupboard, it sprawls around the periphery of my sewing room in assorted bags and boxes, and I’m pretty sure it’s breeding…. certainly it’s a lot larger than it used to be!

    • I deliberately leave must-finish projects dotted about the house in sight so I don’t forget them behind cupboard doors. I never let all my WIPs gather in one place, however, as that would be too large and frightening a pile to confront at once!

  2. You make me laugh! That pic of you in the shower!! I was thinking that it looked like you were on one of those game shows – then I read further to see you thought the same thing! I have a suitcase of shame if that helps? It’s full of half sewn dresses for my girls who have probably outgrown them by two sizes by now!

  3. I can sympathize! I too have far more unstarted projects than WiPs. My husband calls where I store them my ___________ (it moves around, so closet, dresser, room) of good intentions. I fall in love with the idea, gather the supplies, then something more pressing or shinier comes up and it never happens.

  4. I am going through the necessary process of re-designing my sewing space to accommodate the new sewing machine I bought over the weekend. It is definitely going to force me to look at the fabric bins that I have kept tucked away in a separate room for a few years. While tidy, my stash has grown to a size I did not fully comprehend until last night…

  5. Yes, the shower experience would have been more fun if it was money not feathers. It looks like you have 2015 sorted already – just pull projects from the cupboard, and work on those until they are all done or ditched. Good on you for being honest and making a list.

  6. Rest assured many of us have a Cupboard of Shame! I probably don’t have as many half planned projects as you do Carla, but they are definitely there! Maybe the vintage sheets could become quilt backs. That’s what I use mine for!

  7. Haha, you made me laugh!! I always had a cupboard of shame, I normally call it “The messy cupboard”. I only move to NZ a year ago with two luggages but I already managed to have one.

  8. My cupboard mostly contains Christmas ornaments and empty shoe boxes I discovered. What am I saving them for? I plan on purging soon ; )
    Clever you in the shower….

    • I know that feeling! I had a pile of tea boxes I was saving for EPP templates. (Tea boxes are very clean, good-quality card.) I put them in the recycling bin. I drink so much tea that if I do need template card, I just have to wait a few days.

  9. A feather shower — you are so clever. I was in my Cupboard of Shame today, looking for Christmas ornaments while wading through three large containers of Barbie dolls, a Big Buddy heater, a sled and a laundry bag of golf tees and balls. I pulled out the ornaments and threw everything else back in the closet.

  10. At least making cushion covers is more fun and pretty than feather catching !

    We have a room of a shame, which is the bedroom with no purpose (we have 4, one’s ours, another the guest room, the third my sewing room) and it’s full of that stuff we couldn’t figure out what to do with when we moved in. Most of it is my husband’s but I know stuff of mine is in there, and there’s lots of paperwork that should be in the filing cabinet but I’ve never gotten around to it because that’s one of the worst jobs ever. We keep talking about tidying it up. We even have shelves in there with nothing on them because everything is everywhere else!!

  11. I’m impressed you have it down to just one cupboard! Mine might have to be entitled “Apartment, storage unit, and car of shame”. The things I have held onto, but never use, nor need, frighten me a little…. But if the plan holds, and we buy a house next year, I definitely need to exert a little control over the clutter and mess. Thank you for setting a good example. 😀 Oh, also, you could use the vintage sheets to make several whole cloth quilts, either to keep or giveaway, as the mood strikes. If you don’t want to put too much effort into them.

    • Moving house is a great incentive to declutter. I have lived in this house for the longest time in one place so stuff has built up, but I don’t need to overflow into the car (yet! 🙂 ) as the house is far too big for just two of us.
      I think I do want to make something special with the sheets, but I am not yet sure what. They will be low on the list until inspiration hits. One sheet will definitely be the backing, but the problem is that vintage sheets are just so pastel. I need contrast somehow.
      Good luck with the house-buying plans, Sarah!

  12. Oh goodness! My house is more like the house of shame, sadly. Well, it’s not THAT bad, but I do tend to hold onto anything with creative potential, and in my mind, that is just about anything. I recently reorganized my craft space, but it needs another good purging. I have supplies for all of my hobbies over the years, from mosaic, to jewelry making, to polymer clay, to paper crafts, to felt and fleece puppet-making, and of course quilting. Yeep! Time (or lack thereof) is my enemy. I’d rather be crafting than cleaning, so until it’s unmanageable, I put off the organization as long as I can. Please don’t hate me! 😉

    • You made me wonder where I had put my mosaics stuff. So I looked, and I found it!

      I was sitting next to a contemporary quilter at a sewing day recently, and I learned she keeps all sorts of stuff for its ‘€˜creative potential€’ in her quilts -€“ from the small pieces of string that attach new clothing tags to toilet paper wrappings. I had visions of a chaotic house full to the rafters. I am sure most of us are not that bad!

      • Haha! To be honest, for a while i was saving empty toilet paper rolls for potential crafting–I blame Pinterest! 🙂 I’m fortunately not nearly that bad anymore. Im glad you found your mosaic stuff 😀

  13. I have some fabric bins that haven’t been opened once in over a year…so I think it must be time to purge them. It’s amazing the things we collect and store in the name of using someday…maybe…if I remember I have it…

  14. ha ha ha You are hilarious. I figured out what a doona is, and see that you are as crazy as I am. Salvaging a feather comforter in the shower. My sewing loft is like your craft room: full to overflowing with collections of epic proportions, good intentions, bad follow through. My 12 large plastic bins of fabric are mostly scraps that I need to purge, but I love them and I use them. Or, I might use them because they are still good.

    Looking forward to our Stash Bee Hive 2015 connection. I see that we are kindred spirits.

    • I know that everyone has a different word for doona, but I also knew that whichever word I chose, I would confuse someone! Better to stick with what I know and add an explanatory photo, eh?
      I like Heather’s suggestion that the cupboard should be called the cupboard of good intentions. We all simply have more things we want to make than time in which to make them, right? My scrap bins are one thing I can claim to have controlled. Yippee!

  15. Ah yes, it does sound like you have found some more work for yourself! I have been purging so many UFO’s this year, and while more work it does feel good to get them done! The image of you in the shower covered in feathers did make me laugh!

  16. My personal cupboard of shame got a thorough cleaning out just this past week – I’d decided I needed to set my quilting frame back up, so that I could actually complete some projects. That meant sorting and cleaning and rearranging. Glad I did it – I’m ready and energized to tackle some of my oldest WIPs, and can make a dent in the EIGHT quilt tops that I have waiting.

    • So you too decided you needed something from the cupboard and then upended the cupboard’s contents? I am hovering between keen to work on these projects and slightly frightened by the number of them. You too?

      • Exactly that, lol! I knew there was a lot, but hadn’t faced the shameful truth. Now, it’s all out, and I’m eager to get some of them to a finished stage, though not sure where to begin. I’m pretty sure the projects bred while they were out of sight…

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  19. Have you been to my place? I have a whole room of shame. I think I need to go on a fabric/wool/paper diet – thanks for the idea.
    I came to your site as my husband has a pile of men’s shirts and I was looking for ideas. Thanks

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  24. When you mentioned the cupboard in the spare room, I immediately thought, “Spare Oom?” Be careful you don’t wander into Narnia in there! My third bedroom is my craft room (or “crap” room as my boyfriend affectionately calls it – why is it that men can take over the garage, but women can’t take over a room without it becoming an joke? ;P ), but I have my stash and projects organized in bins, boxes, and over the door holders. I do need to pull things out and realize how much I have sometimes. It really helps curb the fabric purchasing!

    • It is a good thing I let my hubby store his stuff in the garage, the shed and a walk-in cupboard under the stairs that we call his ‘man cave’ as I really have taken over a good chunk of the house. The upstairs sitting room (hand-sewing lair), half our shared workroom and the Cupboard of Shame in the spare bedroom are mine.
      Oh, goodness. I hope I am not surprised by a lion and a witch in that cupboard. I haven’t read those books in ages!

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