Sensible sewing: destashing and tangible planning

I dream of a clutter-free life. My husband is the same. In our home, we are constantly aiming to make as little mess as possible and get rid of things we don’t use. I am not a person who gets emotionally attached to “things” so this is usually easy for me.

This year I have made a conscious effort to apply that to my sewing space as well. I remember last year during the #bpsewvember photo tag on Instagram, someone’s photo for the “stash” prompt was simply the fabric and associated notions required for their next project. That was it. I remember being in awe – I was stumped. I never realised that was actually possible! What is sewing, if not messy? How do you not collect tonnes of fabric? What about your leftover scraps from that project three years ago? What about the scraps from your mum’s project 30 years ago? You might want to use them one day! What about that stuff you just had to buy in the shop that time, and then you never really decided what to do with it so it just sits there? What about bits of fabric and things that other people have given you? And all those unfinished projects that you never really loved in the first place? But sure, you’ll finish them one day? I’m sure this is all too familiar to most people who sew. Before you know it you have a big old stash of different bits and pieces, half of which you’d forgotten about, taking up space and gathering dust.

Enough! Since I saw that Instagram post of one piece of fabric, I have been yearning for something similar. How refreshing and organised and easy, to only have one project to worry about at a time?

So I set about organising my fabrics. First I took swatches of the stuff I wanted to keep, but only if I had a tangible plan for that fabric. I gave HEAPS away to fellow sewers on Facebook, donated the rest of the big pieces to Vinnies and got ruthless and chucked away the little scraps. Ahh. It was so cleansing. I ended up with a small shelf of fabrics, each of which has a plan, and here’s my goal: I intend to sew them all up before buying any more fabric and starting any more projects. Hopefully writing it down like this will encourage me to stick to it!

I stuck my swatches in a big book, where I keep all my notes and things for each project in one place. This visual tool really helps me stay on track and kick goals.

So here is a quick summary of these plans:


  1. Red/white polycotton: summer picnic dress, Simplicity 1803
  2. Black/white and pink/white striped Thailand cottons: business shirts for Ben
  3. Stretch floral: short summer skirt, possibly a Hollyburn
  4. Confetti crepe: Tania culottes
  5. Aqua jersey: Agnes top
  6. Red/white striped satin: pleated party skirt
  7. White textured NZ jacquard: pattern mash of S1873, S1803, and Burda Young 7308
  8. Lace and ivory cotton: Burda Young 7308 again – I do love this pattern
  9. Red linen: winter dress, possibly another S1873
  10. Orange/purple textured weave: Cordova jacket
  11. Grey/white houndstooth: winter skirt, possibly self drafted??
  12. Polkadot and chevron cottons: Fifi pajamas

Phew, that’s a lot of work.

It’s a bummer, in a way, because I have other things I am really itching to sew (like an amazing pair of Ginger jeans, this Vogue winter coat (*swoon), a silk Pussy Bow blouse and sooo many other ideas that keep adding to my list)… but I figure if I get through the list above then I can reward myself with fabrics and patterns for these next projects. Let’s see how I go anyway – I know I will need to make one exception for a bridesmaid dress in July, but other than that I don’t really have an excuse to buy more stuff!

I have already made a start on this list and have actually ticked a couple off, but the challenge is to keep going and use up all of these fabrics. The sooner I do that, the sooner I can start new projects :D!

I’d love to know how any of you organise your sewing plans and your fabric stashes! Am I just the weird one who makes lists and draws piccies, or do some others do this too?

Katy x


16 thoughts on “Sensible sewing: destashing and tangible planning

  1. but…but…but…What about those unexpected things that crop up?
    “I have just the thing! There’s a little scrap I just knew would come in handy one day… oh. Sorry.”

  2. Good mindset Katy, we need your influence, It rather balances my mindset which does stash- but what fun to use up the scraps from a cot quilt 5 years later on a doll’s cot quilt!
    I think it probably also reflects on an age difference. Having parents who really did do it hard with all sort of materials and fabrics, and grandma who famously made amazing things out of eg dyed army blankets and dyed slik scraps from war time, I am always happy to stash what may come in handy.Space saving and tidiness, and a planned life are great, but I have to put in a word for Economy and Ingenuity learned by necessity for us oldies!

    1. And I certainly won’t argue with that. I’m lucky that sewing can be a hobby and time filler (and money maker!) rather than a necessity. Until I have a permanent place to store my stuff, instead of always moving house, I’m better off with less stuff anyway!

  3. Love that Vogue coat! I have a clean out about once a year and get rid of quite a few lengths that I don’t love any more and get rid of scraps that seem too small to be useful. I still have far too much stash! I’m no good at drawing so I’ve been using trello. Then each garment has a pic of the line drawing from the pattern, a photograph of the fabric and some notes about notions or modifications etc.

    1. Isn’t the coat to die for!? Pity I really don’t ever need it where I currently live but it’s just so beautiful… Nice organising technique, I’d love to see piccies! And I think a yearly clean out is very reasonable. If you haven’t used it within a year, it goes. Hmm, something to consider for myself!

  4. I seeeeeriously need to do this! My stash is enormous and chaotic and I don’t need it all but I too like to keep things for ‘just in case’ :/ haha I don’t hoard much though so I don’t feel too guilty!

    1. Haha I know, it’s so easy to keep things “just in case”! Well, consider it your guilty pleasure! (Or clean it out and feel amazing 😉 )

  5. This is so organised of you!! I am really impressed by your book. I always have so many plans in my head, I really should write them down like you do!

  6. Wow that’s so inspirational… I’m unfortunately a hoarder by nature but I am fighting it as much as I can!! I also move a lot so getting rid of things is always good!

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