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:
- a collection of containers bought at op shops for pincushions. I made up some here (update: and here) but others are still waiting
- two doonas, one feather and one silk, which I planned to recycle into cushion inserts (see below)
- 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)
- 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)
- a bag of men’s silk ties, which were going to become … something
- 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
- some polystyrene balls I planned to make into knitted Christmas ornaments
- some padded coathangers I need to cover
- some wooden coathangers for more peg bags
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- a box of charm squares
- 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)
- a half-finished dress I started 7 years ago in another city
- 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.
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.
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?