Making

Stash Less Challenge #4 – No shopping

The ongoing Stash Less Challenge on the Craft Sessions blog has inspired me to rethink my approach to crafting. The challenge invites us, as makers, to be mindful of how and why we accumulate the materials – fabric, yarn, fibre, books and supplies – that feed our crafting.

 

#4: Stop shopping

The challenge is to stop shopping. Or rather, as Felicia of the Craft Sessions explains, it means no window shopping. No popping in to your favourite shop just to have a look, no looking in on a sale, no browsing through the latest lookbooks or new releases, no drooling over items you want to get some day. It means only buying for specific needs or projects you have on the go now.

At first I thought not shopping, as in no thoughtless purchases, should be fairly easy. Mentally, at least, I’ve already started down that path. For me the Stash Less Challenge has evolved into an ethical wardrobe pledge, exploring whether I can in fact make and mend enough to avoid those thoughtless last-minute purchases. Resisting the temptation to buy things instantly and instead waiting till I actually have the time, space or need for them, is something I’m already continually practicing.

But shopping sits deep in us. Why is it so hard to stop shopping? What is that temptation for the new and beautiful about?


Shopping as a cultural default

Shopping and buying are not necessarily the same things. While buying is trading goods for money, shopping is an activity and mentality deeply ingrained in our society.

Shopping involves a longing for things we don’t have. Shopping means looking around for the best available option. Shopping means constantly comparing – comparing items against each other, but also our own bodies, life-styles and surroundings with those presented to us through the imagery of advertising and product displays.

And yet the lure of the new quickly wears off. There is often no lasting satisfaction in what we buy because at the end of the day we are still just our own imperfect selves living our regular lives.

The self is empty, wrote psychologist Philip Cushman in 1990: we are continually seeking to fill up that emptiness through consuming goods and experiences. He describes the post world-war II era as one where individual’s enjoyment and fulfilment became the single most valued aspect of life. At the same time the American economy became one dependent on the continual production and consumption of nonessential goods.

Economist Robert Reich’s documentary Inequality for All backs up this claim: 2/3 of the US economy is driven by consumer spending. (You can watch it here.)

That is the dark side of shopping. It is a paradox: shopping feeds our economy but ruins our planet through over-consumption. It appeals to our emotional needs but leaves no lasting satisfaction.


Shifting from shopping to purposefully buying

You may find, like me, you actually spend more time shopping than you think. Whether or not you in fact buy that much is a slightly different question.

I thought I was hardly shopping at all, but if I include the time I spend absentmindedly browsing for things I’d like some day – well, there lies a gold mine of time and energy which could be spent elsewhere.

In not shopping there is potential to shift from dreaming to doing, from the lure and anticipation of some day to getting real about where you are now. If that is a challenge you want to take on, stop shopping and celebrate the perfectly imperfect instead. That’s where you are now.

Don’t let a shopping mentality distract you from your core purpose: having enough and enjoying what you have. But remember, the aim isn’t necessarily to stop buying. It is about being mindful of how you shop and why. It is a question of how you spend your time and what you spend your money on. And, in a way, who you choose to give your money to.

 

Previous posts in the Stash Less Challenge series:

Stash Less Challenge #3 – My making list

The ongoing Stash Less Challenge on the Craft Sessions blog has inspired me to rethink my approach to crafting. The challenge invites us, as makers, to be mindful of how and why we accumulate the materials – fabric, yarn, fibre, books and supplies – that feed our crafting.

 

#3: Create a making list

I have a vision of a beautifully curated wardrobe, with clothes I can trust were produced under decent working conditions without devastating the natural environment. Clothes made to last, that fit me well and suit my everyday life style. Just exactly enough items and no more.

In reality, this is where I am: Most of my clothes are not made to last, many do not really fit me well and I generally don’t have a clue where or how they were made. I don’t have much money to spend, but I do have an assortment of fabrics and yarns in varying qualities and amounts.

Right. Where to start?

 

Balancing needs and wants, utility and joy

There are things I need which I could make, like tops and shirts. I have materials I’d love to make use of, like the fabrics from my Grandma. How can I use as much as possible of what I’ve already got to make things I need and will love using?

Making is also about enjoying the process. I love learning new crafty skills, though when my brain is tired and my thinking slow I’d rather wind down with some mindless knitting than be scratching my head over pattern construction.

So, I’m looking for a balance: skill-stretching, creative meditation and utility.

My making list

Mend

  • Patch jeans (need + creative learning)
  • Jacket pocket (need + just get it done)
  • Skirt lining (need + just get it done)
  • Darn tights (need + just get it done)
  • Darn socks (need + creative meditation)
  • Cuffs on wool mittens (need + creative learning)

Make

 

  • Summer dresses for the Little One (need + creative learning). Pattern: Straightgrain’s Tinny dress. Fabric: from Grandma.
  • Wool cardigan for the Little One (need + creative meditation). Pattern: do it myself. Assortment of wool from my yarn basket.
  • Woolly socks for the Little One (need + creative meditation). Pattern: as above, Sandnes garn’s free sock pattern. Wool from my yarn basket.

 

  • Cover for the ironing board (need + just get it done). Don't need a pattern. Fabric: from my stash.
  • Curtains (need + just get it done). Don't need a pattern. Fabric: ?

 

Back to reality

Can I make all the things on my list in one year?

Ha ha! I doubt it.

The interesting question is whether I can make and mend enough to fill some of the gaps in my wardrobe and avoid those last minute thoughtless purchases from some cheap chain store. Thoughtful purchases are okay (if I can afford them), it's the thoughtless ones I want to avoid on this slow journey towards a sustainable wardrobe.

 

Previous posts in the Stash Less Challenge series:

Stash Less Challenge #2 – Ethical Wardrobe Pledge

Stash Less Challenge 2.jpg

The ongoing Stash Less Challenge on the Craft Sessions blog has inspired me to rethink my approach to crafting. The challenge invites us, as makers, to be mindful of how and why we accumulate the materials – fabric, yarn, fibre, books and supplies – that feed our crafting.


#2: Making a plan

After taking stock, in my first post in this series, I realise that my crafting practice needs to balance creative play with purpose. Piling up fabric I should make use of just because I could doesn’t feed my creativity. Yet, I still want to hold on to a thoughtful, non-wasteful approach in my crafting.

 

Crafting as a means to a more ethical wardrobe

My aims for the Stash Less Challenge are simple enough. I hope to use as much as possible of the fabrics and yarns I’ve already got, creatively and mindfully transitioning towards a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe. That means, first:

  • Simply, make use of it!

A regular practice of crafting and creative learning – yes please, more of that. But to actually do it, to make it work in my everyday life, I need to respect the limits of my storage space and be realistic about my time. A balance, then: Contain my fabrics and yarns in their designated spaces, no more. But also set aside dedicated time for making, so those piles of possibility don’t become creative dead ends.

Most of my yarns and fabrics aren’t ethically sourced or sustainably produced. Still, I’m not going to throw them out and start from scratch. That’s just wasteful. Instead, my second goal is to:

  • Let my fabrics and yarns support the journey towards an ethical wardrobe.

Sustainable and ethical fashion is expensive and hard to come by, compared to all the readily available fast fashion brands. It requires a little more thought and research, a little harder priorities. As I figure things out, my fabric and yarn stash can work as an enabler: cushioning the extra cost of investing in ethically produced garments with what I save by making and repairing my own. It means I can save money and put more time into research by slowing down new purchases. In the process, I get to grow creatively as I learn more about clothes construction and what suits my everyday wardrobe needs.

Purchasing ground rules: Less shopping, more thinking

I want to shop as little as possible, but do so as thoughtfully and ethically as I can. That’s my ethical wardrobe pledge. A slow transition towards slow fashion. Simple. Gentle. One step at the time.

Purchasing ground rules:

  1. Start with my own actual wardrobe needs, not this season’s fashion trends, the latest pattern releases or all the gorgeous-looking yarns calling for my attention. There’s so much enticing beauty out there, but my clothes need to work for me – in my everyday life, on my body.
  2. Make creative use of what I’ve got when I can, but don’t use fabrics and yarns just for the sake of using them up. I want to make things I will love and use.
  3. Commit to darning and repairing, and buy proper materials for that.
  4. Take the time to educate myself as a consumer, one purchase at the time.
  5. No more cheap impulse purchases, but instead work towards a few planned investment pieces. Prioritise, as far as possible, natural fibres, organic cotton instead of conventionally grown cotton, minimally processed yarns over super wash yarns, local production and brands that focus on transparency, over brands that don’t.

 

Budget

I have no idea on what level to set my making budget. However, Felicia of the Craft Sessions insists it is crucial. Here goes.

As my making is meant to support my transition towards a more ethical wardrobe, it makes sense to see it as part of my clothes budget, which might be 12,000 Norwegian kroner a year (about £1,010 or $1,475). Balancing the facts that I don’t make all my clothes, I don’t make things only for myself and I basically have no money to spend at the moment, I will settle for the uncomfortable compromise of 5,000kr (£420, $615) a year as my making budget. That's both far too large and way too restrictive, I think, to be realistic. We’ll see.

 

Time is money

For me, though, this challenge is as much about time as it is about money. My aim is to make use of my fabric and yarn in a meaningful way. I am going to take the time to make, mend, think, question and research. It is a time commitment, more than anything. The idea of setting a budget opens up so many questions about how we measure value. For, is it not just as interesting to track the time I spent knitting a sweater or sewing a shirt, as the price I paid for the wool or fabric?

 

Previously in the Stash Less Challenge series: Stash Less Challenge #1 – Making room for intentional crafting