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The Great Purge (or Cleaning Out the Sewing Space as another year's New Years Resolution. Again.)

So here it is. I've been meaning to do this for some time but couldn't decide if I had anything to say someone else would want to read.

But I'm pretty sure there are plenty of sewing/quilting folk out there who have cluttered and/or messy sewing spaces. Things you've piled "over there" until you can get to them, or "just put in here" until you find the right project for them. (Don't get me started on the "I could probably use this someday for..."!) I have an old laundry basket that has pieces of "nostalgia" that I'm going to use someday to make something to give to someone, somewhere....

I'll start with the "nostalgia" bits first. Those special pieces of something that you have that you may have some idea what to do with, but just haven't found the time to work on?

I have several of those. I have a piece of home-made linen fabric that my Mother-in-law gave me and that she had gotten from the home farm in Finland who-knows-when. They actually grew the flax and wove their own cloth from the fibers they derived (if that's the right word) from their crop. One end of the fabric has frayed badly and I did salvage some of it to make a simple table runner. It really can't be used for too much else as it's a rough sort of texture and does not hold it's shape well. Maybe an iron-on interfacing....but I digress!

I have a piece of fabric that my mother saved for me. Actually, it's this amazing robe that my sister Barb made for me when I was a skinny teen-ager way back in the 1960s. She wasn't a "sewer" like our oldest sister who could actually fashion her own things from scratch. Therefore, the gift was more special because she did it in secret, on my Mom's Singer, whenever I was out of the house. She even put short zippers in the sleeves so I could get my hands into the long narrow sleeves. She found washable velvet ribbon to use to trim the empire waist band and had hand-sewn it in place. There is no way on earth I would ever fit this robe again! BUT....There is this amazing amount of fabric (quilted, brown, with a tiny floral print of yellow flowers all over, so popular in the late 60s) because the robe was floor length. My plan is to someday make a teddy bear out of the fabric and give it to my sister.

And then I laugh, because NO-one saves things like people who grew up during the Great Depression. I think it may be that whole "waste not, want not" thing. Then there's the fact that the person I'm talking about is my Mom and a seamstress, so if it's fabric and useable for something else, the years you've saved it really don't count, right?

When I was a kid, my oldest sister was a fashionista before the term was ever coined. She not only made herself tailored clothing, she bought "modern" apparel, things you might see on a model somewhere. That does not mean some of it wasn't ugly. Like the red, knee-length, shaggy faux fur coat with the three very large wooden buttons. My mother inherited it when my sister got tired of it and she loved that coat. Unfortunately, I inherited it when I was in 6th grade and absolutely hated the thing. That would have been in 1961. This was NOT a fashion statement a 12 year old want's to make. It was a necessity, it was winter, I needed a coat, and this was a coat. I know I never wore it after that year, but one year was bad enough!  Jump ahead to the 1980s. I walk into my parent's house and there, sitting on a chair in the living room is a red Teddy bear my mother had made. I laughed 'til I cried. My kids didn't really understand until I explained about the coat. This is my message to you: Some of that nostalgia is so worth saving if the end product is worth the joy it generates.

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Comment by Barbara Graham on January 14, 2015 at 1:43pm

I love your stories. The red fabric makes a great bear but I can imagine the coat was overwhelming. I turned an old yellow terry cloth bathrobe into a Winnie the Pooh. In college, anyone who needed a good cry companion borrowed him.

Comment by Cornwoman on January 13, 2015 at 9:23am

Like BJ, I thinkk the 2 pieces of special fabric deserve to be preserved in perhaps a small shadowbox or framed and matted.  Despite the memories from all of the things, I think the trick to it all is that if it's special enough to do something else...stop long enough and DO that something else with it!  Then enjoy it's new life and move on, with no "anchors" holding you down while you enjoy looking at the red bears they've become.  

Comment by Carol Ann Hinton on January 12, 2015 at 9:35pm

Great story!  I have actually had some success with cleaning out the sewing room this new year (to heck with the rest of the house!), making space in a closet, and ordering special quilt hangers to finally clear off the PILE of quilts in the corner of my bedroom, which was threatening to smother us in our sleep!  Road trip to shop-hop tomorrow with my buds, so what am I thinking!!!

Comment by Sharon Reeves on January 12, 2015 at 6:51pm

Char, I do relate with the saving things from long ago. I have a panda bear that my dad gave me in '53 (now 61 yrs old, sitting on my cedar chest covered with a plastic cover)) and other great mementos. Thanks for sharing your story and giving me another chance to relive mine. I also save clothes that I love and still wear them. You have a great week!!!!

Comment by Ally Bryant on January 12, 2015 at 5:16pm
Char- I have enjoyed your blog, especially as I am clearing my sewing room and I am finding things I had completely forgot about. Love the coat story reincarnate to Red furry bear!
Hope I will be able to be ruthless and size down clutter!!LOL.
Comment by Roxann on January 12, 2015 at 4:41pm

Love this blog! I am one of those that might have been reincarnated from the depression because I save everything, and actually say to myself as I'm putting in my already stuffed closet, waste not want not. I feel sorry for whoever has to try and figure out why in the neck I kept the things I did. I have attachments to things of my dad's that most people don't understand, even he didn't when I told him I wanted this blue radiator fan that was on one of his hot rods he built, and honestly one of my first memories. I spent hours in the garage with him while he built it. He dug it out (ok maybe I got my hoarding from him) and gave it to me before he passed. It's hanging in our garage and makes me smile every time I look at it. 

I love the bear and the chair, thanks for sharing!

Comment by B J Elder/WA on January 12, 2015 at 3:28pm

Oh Char - you have a great way with words. The bear is priceless, and to think you lost a coat so a bear could come to life! LOL   How about putting that linen in a frame, maybe with some old notions/buttons/pictures?  

The offer is still there.... for a plane ticket I'll come out and help play with you!

Comment by Shannon, ON on January 12, 2015 at 2:49pm

what a great story (or 2!). and a magnificent red bear out of a sad red coat!!

Comment by Pam/NY on January 12, 2015 at 2:37pm

That must have been some coat! lol We all have those fashion nightmare stories. Some the hairdos my mother had were scary!

Comment by linda harriott/UK on January 12, 2015 at 1:01pm

I start with good intentions but relive all the original reasons why I should keep stuff and end up saying, well it eats no meat and back it goes. Great blog.

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