It seems like there has been a lot of "philosophical thinking" going on in blogland lately. People are asking themselves lots of questions. The most recent being (pardon me taking liberties with the Bard) "To stash or not to stash, that is the question". Shopping habits, buying habits, hoarding habits, living habits. Someone wondered if this type of thinking is stemming from the wars and uncertainty we are seeing these days. I don't know about that - there have been very few years in the history of the country that we weren't in some war or experiencing some type of unrest. I'm sure all of our minds' wheels are turning whether we've posted or not posted about the subject.
So here is your warning - I'm going to express my opinions in this post. They are my opinions and they work for me. I'm not suggesting they would work for you also - I do not want to try to sway anyone else's way of thinking. We are all different - which is a wonderful thing! If you think you might dislike some of the things I say then stop reading now. I promise my next post will be back on the subject of quilting.
On the question of stashing - I have a very large stash bordering on the obscene, and I'm not at ashamed of it. Have I bought fabric in the past that no longer appeals to me? Absolutely! Have I given a lot of it away? Most definitely! Do I think that's a bad thing? Not at all! I've given it to new quilters who haven't been able to buy fabric of their own, and that's a good thing. I've tried to do my part to pass quilting down to the next generations. I've given yards and yards and yards to the charity committee at our guild. Until I retire I don't have time to sew many charity quilts, so this is my contribution to the cause. My unused fabric is being put into quilts that are warming and cuddling children and adults in need, and that makes me feel good. Do I wish I had back the money I spent on that fabric? Not at all. I'm very happy to think about what is being done with it. Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I were charging the fabric, paying interest on the charges, lying about the buying to my husband, hiding the fabric, and spending money on fabric instead of necessities - but I'm doing none of those things. I am blessed to have a good paying job and can afford to buy the fabric I want to use, so why shouldn't I? None of the fabric is going to waste. I'm helping keep a valuable resource - our local quilt shops - in business. And my kids don't have to deal with it if something happens to me - I've willed it to my quilting buddies first, then anything they don't want goes to the guild for charity quilts.
Here are the reasons I think it's important for me to have a stash:
1. I'm very impatient. When I'm in the middle of the "throes of creativity" I don't want to stop to run to the quilt shop. Especially when I often work at night and on the weekend when quilt shops aren't open. Especially when my favorite shops are a hour drive in any direction. If my shelves look like I'm running a little quilt shop it's because I am. I do a huge amount of "shopping" in my own stash - much more "shopping" than I do at a quilt shop. My friends shop in my stash also, and I shop in theirs - we love to share that way.
2. I don't make quilts that are "matchy matchy" and are from a limited number of fabrics. They may not all be scrap quilts, but almost all of them have at least 40 to 50 fabrics and usually many more. Can you imagine how a quilt shop would hate me if I always came in, lined 40 or 50 or 100 bolts on their counter and said "give me an eighth of a yard of every one of these? It would take forever to cut, and I'd feel obligated to help them put all the bolts away. It would probably take at least 4-5 hours for one shopping trip for fabric for a scrap quilt. I'd rather be sewing!
3. I love to have a huge palette of colors, shades, values, textures and prints from which to work. Fabrics change from year to year, and what's available one year isn't available the next. All through the late 80's and early 90's the palette in the shops was cool. You couldn't find a warm, buttery yellow, vibrant gold or pulsing orange to save your life. Sometime during the 90's the fashion changed from cool to warm. For a long time you couldn't find cool ice blues, forest greens, or blue reds. At that time I was thrilled to have them available in my stash. I also bought lots of the warm colors, because my maturing stash was primarily cool because that's all that was available. Medium tones are what's usually around. When the watercolor craze started pale florals were almost impossible to find. Right now it's the deep darks that I can't find easily. I love to use navy and midnight blue in my quilts, and have to search everywhere for it. When I find it I buy at least 6-8 yards or more. What I used for the border on my Broken Dishes took almost all I had left, and it took me over 6 months to find that piece. Now I'll have to start looking again. Dark black prints are very hard to find also. When I see one I grab it, and it never goes to waste.
Do I want to control my shopping? Absolutely, for several reasons. I want to retire soon. My shelves are full. I have more than enough fabric to last me the rest of my life. Does this mean I'll stop buying fabric? No. I need to keep track of what I need and what I don't need. This is one reason I like to sort by color - it's easy to see what I'm getting low on. I know I don't need to buy medium blues for another 10 years, but I have very few purples and oranges. Will I buy those colors without knowing what I'll use them for? You bet - because I know they'll be used eventually. I estimate I don't know the final purpose of 95% of the fabric I buy, and for me that is just fine. When something new comes out - like all the Civil War fabrics that have been coming the last 2-3 years - will I buy it if I absolutely love it? Yes, because I won't have anything else like that in my stash.
I consider my stash to be like an artist's paint box full of tubes of paint. Would anyone ever dare tell a painter that he can't buy any more paint until he or she uses what is there? Not at all. If I don't have the "fabric paint" that I need to create the wonderful quilt that is singing in my mind and heart, then I won't hesitate to buy the fabric I need to bring it into the real world.
The beauty of quilting is that there is something for all of us. Whether we are a quilt artist, a quilt artisan, or someone who creates quilts simply for the joy of creating them - there is a place for each of us. We are all of equal importance in building the heritage of this wonderful art of quilting. I shudder every time I hear someone say "she isn't a real quilter because she doesn't ______." Or "she doesn't make real quilts because ______." Fill in the blanks yourself - you know all the different things we hear. The quilt police don't exist, and all that matters is that you make quilts that you yourself love no matter what anyone else thinks.
To me living simply doesn't mean cooking everything from scratch, growing our own food, or anything like that. To me, living simply is a state of mind. Being comfortable in the shoes you are wearing whatever they are. Not buying things to try to find happiness, but at the same time (if you want) collecting possessions you love that give you joy, bring a smile to your face whenever you see them and/or use them, and just being content with life. Whatever life you choose. My life is right for me, but I'd never expect it to be right for someone else. Each person must choose what is right for them, while at the same time never judging others for the life they choose. I have no right to judge anyone else because I have not walked in their shoes nor do I know what it is really like to be them.
I don't know whether growing older makes it easier to be comfortable and happy with one's life, but that's how it's worked for me. It's taken me almost 60 years to get to this place, and it feels so good to have "arrived". I wish the same comfort and happiness for each of you, whatever that means to you.