Conscious Consumption, One Planet Living

Making Do – Craft Supplies

I’m sneaking in a last post for this Making Do month right at the last minute.
So far this month I’ve written about the importance of Making Do, Making Do and it’s positive impact on mental wellbeing, some tips for Making Do, Making Do with Food and Making Do with Clothes (and there was me thinking I hadn’t posted as much as I had wanted to..!).
When I asked people in my Facebook group what their sustainable New Year’s Resolutions were for 2017, a few people mentioned that they were planning to Make Do with the craft supplies they already had, and would not be adding to them until they had used up all of their fabric/yarn/insert other addictive crafting hobby supplies here stashes. So I figured it might be good to write a post dedicated to that very thing.

First up, a little ‘motivation’ for stash busting.
I know I’ve said it before, like a million times, and I know I bang on about it, but it’s important and it bears repeating: everything we buy has an impact. Everything.
It can be easy to sometimes feel a lot little bit smug when we sew, knit or crochet our own stuff. It’s as if we’ve side-stepped consumerism and plugged into that more meaningful creative bit of ourselves when we make something instead of buying it. And yes, we’ve avoided the issues of fast fashion sweat shops, or hideous factories employing people working long hours in unsafe conditions, so that’s all good, right?
Sadly not.
Everything has an impact.
And that includes the fabric and yarn (I’m going to focus on them, but if your craft crack is something else, please substitute appropriately) that we use to make our own clothes/gifts/lovely other things.
I’ve written about this before (Slow Making – Supplies) so I won’t repeat myself, but suffice it to say that just as ‘fast fashion’ has implications for the planet and for the people involved in the supply chain, so does ‘fast fabric’ and ‘fast yarn’ too.

So it makes total sense to use up what we already have, rather than succumbing to the pretty fabric calling out to us from our favourite online shop, or the strokable yarn in our local yarn store.
I totally get that temptation, I am not immune to it. I have to confess that I probably find it harder to resist new fabric and yarn than I do new clothes. And using up our stashes can feel like a completely insignificant act in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not.
It’s a little thing, but it’s a big thing too.

So…. here’s my tips for getting a handle on your craft stash:

1. Yes, you guessed it, make an inventory.
Empty out your storage crates/drawers/wardrobe shelves/under bed storage/other hiding places where you put stuff so other people don’t notice quite how much you have and suggest that maybe you should curb your buying.
Get it all out in one place, and then start making a list.
Make a note of fabric/yarn type, colour, weight etc. If you’re being super organised you could take a picture of it.
Some of the issue with craft supplies is that they can often be stored out of site, so it’s easy to forget exactly what we have, and then hit the shops whenever we have a new project, rather than root through what we already have.

2. Sort your storage.
Get some kind of system in place so that you know what you have, and where it is, and it’s not all jumbled together in a big heap. If you are crazily organised you could even pre-wash and iron your fabric so it’s ready to sew when the muse hits you. Fabric can be hard to store neatly, especially once you’ve cut it, but there are some great ideas over on Pinterest like using a hanging shoe storage thing, or see through boxes.
Yarn again can be hard to store without getting it all tangled up, and of course it’s important to try and avoid the dreaded moths. Clear see through boxes can work well, so you can see what you have, and you could always have a box of DK, a box of 4 ply etc. Or sort by colour if that’s more your thing.

Gratuitous lovely yarn pic

3. Be ruthless.
Take a Marie Kondo approach when sorting your stash and only keep the stuff that ‘sparks joy’ AND you can every envisage yourself making something from. I have some gorgeous retro fabrics that I picked up second-hand that totally spark joy, but if I’m being brutally honest, I struggle to think what I might practically make from them, so I really should let them go.
You can eBay your fabric and yarn if you have the time/inclination or there are various selling groups of Facebook (I posted some places to find secondhand fabric and yarn here and here, but they would also be good places to sell it too!).
If you’d rather just give it away, then some charity shops will happily take fabric and yarn, or you could see if you can find a local craft group or school that might be grateful to re-home it.

4. Approach your Makes backwards.
So what I mean is instead of seeing something you’d like to make, and then going and buying what you need, take a look at what you already have, and then figure out what you could make from it. Does that make sense (it does in my head).

5. Get inventive with your scraps.
There are loads of great projects for using just one fat quarter of fabric, or one skein of yarn. You can while away the long winter evenings making  a hexie patchwork quilt, or a granny square blanket.

Useful links
If you’ve got fabric that you’ve had for a while and that no longer has a selvedge edge to help you find the grain line, I wrote a post a while ago about how to do it!
Similarly if you’ve got yarn that doesn’t have a label anymore, this post here will help you work out what it is, and what thickness it is.
If you are like me, and end up keeping anything that looks like it might be vaguely useful one day, including stupidly small yarn scraps, then this post here has loads of ideas for you to use them up.

Phew – I thought this was going to be a really short post, but it’s ended up being a bit of a beast! Well done if you’ve made it to the end.
As ever, if you are in need of inspiration, advice, or just a bunch of kindred spirits, then head over to my Facebook group and join our merry band of change makers, all making baby steps towards living more sustainably.

And lastly, don’t forget you can sign up for the newsletter here, so that you can keep up to date with all the One Planet Living latest 🙂

See you guys tomorrow, for the first day of One Planet Buying – how to buy more deliberately, consciously and sustainably – can’t wait!

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  • Reply Tracy reeve February 5, 2017 at 9:16 am

    This is soooo good to read, right now I’ve such a huge stash of ‘stuff that I might use’ that i can’t use my studio space to make anything!!!!
    I’m going to get started on my inventory and sell off 50% of it all to enable myself to enjoy the space again!
    Thank you for the inspiration! X

    • Reply Jen February 7, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Yay! So pleased to hear this has inspired you to take action 🙂

  • Reply Liz Pearson February 2, 2017 at 3:31 am

    I too have been concentrating on shopping the craft stash before buying anything new, and buying or keeping craft materials is my nemisis. I thought I was doing well recently, when I came up with a sock design that would use up some 4-ply yarn odds and ends. That’s only around 100g but I thought it deserved a pat on the back. Then a friend at work said she had two big sacks of spun Shetland wool to find a home for after her mother-in-law died – would I like them? Uh oh, temptation….Her in-laws had kept a flock of Shetland sheep for years and regularly had the fleece spun into yarn or made into fabric. This was just the sort of stuff I value – pure, soft British wool, from a single source with a story attached. I took some off her hands and have done my level best to find takers for the rest. They say confession is good for the soul, but to recompense for breaking my craft stash diet for the second time since I started, I offer two suggestions to help use up fabric and yarn stash. 1) If you have fabric that is just short of what you need for, say a top or shirt, trying finding another fabric from the stash to use for cuffs/collar/yolk etc that contrasts or compliments the main fabric. 2) Short of one type of yarn in your stash? Try doubling up dk yarn to make aran, or doubling aran to make chunky – good for smaller projects. I’ve successfully used the second suggestion and aim to do the first.

    • Reply Jen February 2, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Love these tips Liz, thank you! And I think I too would have crumbled faced with single source British wool, it’s everything that slow making supplies should be 🙂

      • Reply Liz Pearson February 3, 2017 at 8:28 am

        These opportunities do tend to come up just when we think we’ve nailed it (the not buying stuff), but at least I have a plan for that particular batch of wool.

  • Reply Julie February 1, 2017 at 7:05 am

    I sorted out my stash of fabric the other day and I felt so much better – it was taking over my study where I also do my paid work – so I was feeling like the room was closing in on me… I’ve sorted out a pile of fabric either to give to charity or on Freecycle but I might offer it to the volunteers at my local heritage attraction who run a sewing group. I make stuff out of upcycled fabrics for home and the Oxford ‘Refashion’ event once a year so sometimes I get carried away with buying old curtains etc but I’ve put a stop on it now! I still have 3 boxes full of stuff from when I used to do craft fairs more regularly which need clearing out but at least they’re neatly stacked.

    • Reply Jen February 2, 2017 at 9:56 am

      I totally get that feeling of it ‘closing in on you’ Julie! And it’s amazing how this stuff takes up not just physical space, but mental space too. Having a good old clear-out can make us feel so much lighter and free-er!

  • Reply Andie B January 31, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    “hiding places where you put stuff so other people don’t notice quite how much you have and suggest that maybe you should curb your buying.” (Shiftily looking from side to side) How did you know about *those*??? LOL!!
    Great post, Jen – I did get out my fabric stash a while back and sorted/culled but I stil forget what I have so you’ve inspired me get it out again and this time measure, photograph and log it all in a book!! I love the ‘reverse makes’ idea too…while I do the above I’ll ponder what they could become… thank you! xxx

    • Reply Jen February 2, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Ha! I am only speaking from my own experience Andie..!!
      So pleased you enjoyed the post 🙂

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