For all the time I spend making things, very little ever gets made (or mended) for me. I may sew for a living, but my wardrobe is riddled with holes, frayed cuffs, and is frequently held together with safety pins. In what was quite a departure for me, as well as an excercise in discipline, I decided to both knit down my stash and be the beneficiary of the enterprise.
My sweater is off the needles, though yet to be blocked— and it needs it. It is something of a bastardization of the beautiful Hiro pattern. I used inappropriate yarn, lengthened the cuffs and added thumb holes, widened the collar, eliminated any waist shaping. I still plan on adding pockets, but I haven’t decided where or what style yet. I made it ridiculously large to wear cross country skiing over leggings finished just in time for — ummm— spring.
I have recently come to the conclusion that much like good wine, stash is best when it has been given time to age, ferment, breathe. We add to our stashes because we see potential and promise in the materials. Perhaps the sun, the temperatures, the rain were just right for the grapes this year and we buy on speculation, but we don’t drink it right away. We let it develop into its best version of itself. Stash, too. It needs to evolve and interact and be inspired by the amalgam of materials around it. The insides of my studio cupboards are my version of the charred oak wine barrels. All ingredients are waiting for the best versions of themselves to be enticed to blossom. Just as it would be foolish to expect an infant to contribute to the household, it is equally foolish to expect the new aquisition to the stash to be immediately helpful. We just know and love it and see what potential it has. Perhaps, in that way, it is even more like choosing a husband–they too need to time to grow and mature.
As a fiber lover, stash management is always an issue. Everything seems to have such intrinsic value. And that has only been getting worse for me as I’ve been exploring rug hooking and quilting. Every little tiny scrap is suddenly a representative of enormous value. I don’t want to throw anything away. This is especially true when I am working with vintage textiles, rugs, and linens. I love discovering the new life that lies hidden in an old tea towel or tattered rug, repurposing its charm into pillows, purses, and brooches. But what to do with the remains? Those leftover little pieces of antiquity that lie on the cutting table? This has become my personal challenge: find the latent purpose of these remnants of our forebears. They certainly wouldn’t have wasted a scrap, so why should I?
Like many you, I have stash. And, as my husband is an artist, he has stash, too. It is very convenient. As my projects and creations come together, sometimes they are missing that je ne sais quoi. I go shopping at his studio. The only worrisome bit, is that more and more of his stash seems to be moving into my studio lately. Poses a bit of a storage issue, but it is good for the creative juices– and it’s mutual. Lately, I have had some extremely successful foraging expeditions. My recently completed Paisley Purse is the perfect marriage of new and old elements. A beautiful Kravet wool/cotton paisley, luxurious creamy dupioni silk, a gorgeous purse frame with old world charm, and the piece de resistance, a thick vintage silver necklace I absconded with from hubby’s digs. It positively sings as the re-purposed purse chain for this bag. Satisfying through and through.
It seems my bag and purse making projects guiltily hoard the other creative juices and resources at our address. Previously, another favorite purse project was equally successful due to not only my boy’s stash, but his eye as well. My needle felted swirled bag spirals to perfection with a handle created from a spring the sweet guy contributed. I doubt I could have come up with that on my own. But having stuff, yes stash, around you opens up your eyes. That and another’s set of eyes and perspective can allow you to see your work and its artistic need from a whole new point of view.
All this is well and good. Really. But sometimes, yes sometimes, your stash overwhelms, overtakes, and overall seems like such a discordant dust collecting mishmash that you feel no good could ever come from it. Inspiration and projects are failing to matriculate from your head to reality and nothing — nothing! — is of any use. (At these times you are probably also finding that your overstuffed closet offers nothing for you to wear, either.) Due to forces beyond your control, frustration builds and you feel there is no choice but to rid yourself of it all in one big house cleaning swoop with the intent of a clean slate. Yet, I beg you. Please reconsider. There are steps you can take to reach mutually agreeable accord within your artistic self, your stash, and your sanity. Creative block can be overcome. Simple steps. Easy steps. Deep breathes. And (insert favorite relaxing beverage here—coffee, tea, hot cocoa, wine) consumed by a fire.
First: Stop! Walk away. Take a break. If you are like me, you work constantly anyway. No one is going reprimand you for going for a walk or out to lunch or whatever on a Wednesday afternoon. Clear your head. New ideas don’t happen in a pressure cooker.
Second: This is the “working part” of “taking a break” (because after your brief reprieve your little workaholic self is panicking that you aren’t being productive): go reproduce a tried and true pattern or product you already have in your collection. Do paperwork, social media, whatever. Catch up on all the not so much fun stuff that goes along with this crazy business, so at least you feel like you did something. And, honestly, it will probably really help your business anyway. It’s castor oil, baby.
Third: This, I kid you not. GET MORE STASH. Being fiscally responsible is all well and good. Frankly, I encourage it. But stash can be derived from so many things and places. Make it work. Old stash meets new stash and all kinds of illicit liaisons can happen.
Fourth: When all else fails. Go make cookies. It soothes a myriad of creative ills, and as I’ve said before, frankly, I think cookies could save the world.
The challenge of creative people, I think, is staying inspired. And for those of us who may be of not only the sanguine humor, but the choleric as well, well—getting out and just finding good old fashion humor is a darned good thing, too. Thus, I tore myself from the depths of my studio this weekend, re-communed with friends, and dove head long into a whole new craft that I am sure I must create stash for.
I confess, I have a thing for rugs. I love looking at them, shopping for them, walking on them, and napping on them in front of the fire. And I really want to make them. I love a myriad of the techniques, though I excel at none. But joy, indeed. Last summer I stomped a weekend away making felt rugs with Nicole Chazaud Telaar of Festive Fibers. This weekend my friends and I landed at Wool and Goods for adventures in hooking. Not only could you not hope to meet a more welcoming group of women, but great company and skill to draw from, as well. Everyone was so generous with their time and knowledge, which is an attribute that never fails to impress me among artisans.
Suitably inspired and renewed now, after a great escapism weekend outing, I’m armed with gorgeous wools, proper tools, and enthusiasm to fuel my way. My kitchen and front hall are in desperate need of some carpeted personality. Primitive? Painterly? Persian? Who’s to say. As is my modus operandi, I’ll start with an idea that will quickly take on a life of its own and take me where it wants to go. I’m not typically the leader in my creative pursuits. Usually, I’m being dragged along by some wild creative tangent. But I enjoy the surprise and anticipation of what will happen next and day dreaming of where my fibers will lead me.