Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Operation: Stash the Stash

Though I'm very eager to get started on all the things that have been percolating in my mind while I was away, I realized over the weekend that before I could embark on that project, I first had to tackle the monstrosity: I had to go in to my closet, and pull out the Stash. It was essential, because a lot of the supplies I need to do cross stitch design (like all my DMC thread) were in the boxes of the Stash. I've needed to do it anyway, though.

Background: I own a lot of stuff. I've lived in some decently big places in the past, and have had room to spread out. But now, I live in a very small apartment - I'd guess 500 square feet, much of which is the kitchen and bathroom - which has very limited storage space. I have so many things in my closets that I can hardly use them for clothes, which is a pain in the butt! Now, a full third of the space in my closet was occupied by my craft and craft related items (like my sewing machine). So to begin this process, I was confronted by this:

Three big crates of craft stuff, plus a small crate of patterns, plus all the bits and pieces of the materials left from recent projects, plus a bag of yarn. This doesn't include my storage drawers or sewing machines, which were elsewhere (some in another part of the closet, the rest in a stack by a bookcase). And thus, at 1600 yesterday, I commenced Operation: Stash the Stash.

1. Go through everything in the crates.
2. Sort things in some kind of fashion that makes sense - at minimum, by craft.
3. Get it to the Stash to the point that I'm no longer deterred from embarking on projects because the idea of going in to the crates is too intimidating to ponder.
4. Find all my cross stitch design supplies from the last time I attempted to design patterns.
5. See what fabric I have that might make some kind of Halloween costume.

Step 1: Pull it all out of the closet.

Step 1 took about 20 minutes of pulling stuff out and gathering it all in one place. It took up pretty much the entire floor in my living room. My dog was trapped on one side and kept looking at me sadly, though once I let her by all she did was lie down on the other side (but she stopped looking at me sadly...).

Step 2: Go through it all.
Step 2 is about as far as I got. I worked on the stash until just after 9 PM (with breaks for dinner and dog walking). I got through all the contents of two of the crates, sorting things by type as I went - a pile of cross stitch, a mound of cloth, a heap of yarn - with the intention of making one crate of JUST cloth, one of JUST yarn, the cross stitch back into the drawers that were originally meant for it, my drawers re-sorted so that I could get at the trim and see what thread I have instead of being a tangle of bobbins all part-way unwound over a bed of loose grommets, that kind of things. There were a few surprises, though - I had thought I'd gone through this right when I left Indiana, but I clearly haven't done so in considerably longer than that. I can tell because of the clear presence of completely unusable scraps from sewing projects I did in early 2007. So I'm not sure WHEN I last did this, but it's been much, much too long. As a result, I was able to get rid of a surprisingly large amount of stuff, which is good. When I saw how much I was throwing away, I had distant hopes that I might even be able to get it down by a crate, but that's not seeming too likely anymore. But one crate will have room, and if I can keep making things, I might get it down yet.

This also revealed a clear need for Operation: Go Through the Papers in the Filing Cabinet. I knew I had to do this - if I can reduce the papers in the Cabinet, I can take a crate that was in the closet that contains mostly papers and get rid of it, thus clearing up space, but this is an even more intimidating and time consuming project, so it's gonna have to wait at least a little bit.

Many of the things in the Stash were items that I knew were in there, but there were some surprises, like a couple bags of things that I know are my mothers. I think I must have grabbed them when I visited my grand father's in December, 2007, and went through all the craft stuff my mom had stored in his basement. Then, there was the fact that, in all the different moves of the past, I had used the small amount of empty space for non-craft things, like a towel, and some dish clothes, clearly in a "must use every inch of available space!" philosophy. I also seem to have a lot of little, self-contained projects that I'd managed to forget about, like a couple pin ornaments to make, and some little foam Halloween decorations. The presence of these is what started to overwhelm me, as I think I won't keep all of them, but as I got more tired it got more and more difficult to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid off.

Step 3: Organize the patterns.
I keep accidentally double-buying patterns (for a dollar or two) which is no big deal but annoying. So I started to organize the patterns, only to encounter what I always forget: that I've got like, three costumes worth of loose scraps of brown paper just folded and stuffed in the pattern box. I've also got random bits of pattern mixed in with the cloth, from things like pockets I cut but then decided not to make. Often, these are still pinned to the fabric! So I made a pile on the table of the random loose bits, and organized the rest of the patterns. I didn't have the energy to sort the loose bits by which pattern they went to and try to get them organized; that'll be one of today's tasks, if I have the time (today is looking VERY busy in other regards). So this is a part that is only somewhat finished.

Step 4: Put it all back.
Yeah...not done with this step yet. I have one full crate now of cloth, and one full crate of yarn. On top of the cloth crate is some cloth I found that I had bought for two specific past projects. One is to make a Renaissance-style dress, which is the current contender for Halloween mostly cause nothing else is saying "MAKE ME!" at all, and the other is for an 18th century-style vest and coat, to wear under my awesome leather coat of awesomeness. I also found some absolutely beautiful cloth that I'd forgotten all about that I bought in a fabric store in Hong Kong, and of course I found the bag with the 14 yards of cloth that would have been my wedding dress, along with the main trim I'd gotten to go with it. These materials are currently stacked on top of the cloth crate - I'm gonna pick which is for Halloween, and then see how much of the rest I can get in the crate.

I put as much of the cross stitch stuff as would fit in the two available craft drawers, and there's some left over, so I think I'm going to pull everything back out and look at it all critically and ask myself, am I ever REALLY going to make this? ...and see if I can't reduce it. Haven't yet decided what I'll do with the rejects - probably Goodwill or E-Bay, depending on if I think they have any value. Heck, maybe I can list it under the Vintage part of Etsy or something.

Meanwhile, as I got more tired but was determined not to leave my apartment a COMPLETE mess to greet me when I woke up, I toss pretty much all the random loose stuff into the third crate, and I will tackle that today or tomorrow, depending on when I get the time.

Conclusion: Unsatisfactory.
I'm not done yet. Didn't reckon on how long it would take! And I think there's an entire side project that should be done, but not now: sort the cloth into true "scraps" (a 1/2 yard or less) versus usable chunks, and make a little book of what I have that's usable, with a small swatch and how much of it I have. This will, I think, VASTLY increase the likelihood that I'll ever actually USE it, instead of just buying new fabric every time I want to make something. I must have found 4 or 5 yards of muslin in 1/2 - 1 1/2 yard chunks. There must be a better way!

In the meantime, I found some projects in various states of completion that I thought were interesting enough to share. I also frogged three or four partly crocheted or knitted items, which took a surprisingly large amount of time, and did a number on my back (that's what happens when you work while sitting hunched on a sewing machine case, I guess).

Balthier Cosplay:

This is a pattern I drafted last fall so that I could do cosplay as a character from my favorite video game. The pattern was a ton of work, turned out really well, and is now almost useless because I've lost almost 20 pounds since then. Very frustrating! I'll have to start over if I still want to do it, but at least I can remember the lessons I learned from doing it the first time...

Dragon Cross Stitch:

This is a cross stitch pattern that I undertook with a specific goal: to find out how long it takes me to actually make a big project. Every time I picked up the needle for this one, I've made a note of how long I worked on it, and have taken day-by-day pictures. But it's been "missing" for two years - no idea where I'd put it - turns out it was right-bloody-on-top of one of the crates, which I think says a lot about how long it's been since I've looked in them!! :)

Muslin Pants:

For my Union Soldier Halloween costume last year, I had to make pants for the first time. The material for the pants was quite expensive, and I didn't want to waste it, so I drafted a pair of pants in muslin. I didn't really have the time, but I'm glad I did it anyway, cause I would NEVER have gotten the crotch right in wool if I hadn't had the practice. Of course, now they're useless - who needs cheap muslin pants? - so I tossed them.

Panda Bears!

Embroidery that I bought in Hong Kong (pre-made). Don't know how it ended up here; now it's on the pile of Christmas gifts I accumulated while in Italy.

THE Ball of Ch Crochet:

This kinda sad looking ball of yarn in a crocheted chain is one of my most treasured crafting possessions. When I was a little girl, my mom would lie on the couch and crochet granny squares out of her scraps. Seeing mommy do it, I wanted to do it too, so she taught me how to crochet chains. When she'd use enough of a ball of yarn that there wasn't even enough for a granny square any more, she'd give the little bits to me, and I would add them to my chain. The result was this ball, which I made between the time I was about 5 and 7. The large amount of off-white at the end is a scrap from the granny smith blanket she made me when I asked for one - it's the "main" color in it.

Cross Stitch Sampler:

I have NO idea when this came in to my possession, but this is another of my most important and beloved craft items. My mother taught me to cross stitch on this, when I was maybe 6 or 7. She had done some of it previously, and my grand mother, who died before I was born, is the one who started it. I think I must have taken it from my grandfathers, where my mom used to store things she didn't have room for in her apartment, but it was a real shock to find it in my craft box! Someday, I'll teach my daughter to cross stitch on this sampler.

Anyway, time to get to work on my day! I found some other interesting bits and pieces, but didn't take pictures of them yet, that'll be for another day. :)

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