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Aug 2, 2014

Sewing Uncertainty + Fabric Fun!

Was it Albert Einstein or Marilyn Monroe who originally said, When you can't make up your mind, don't.  Or did I come up with that myself?

Anyway, I find myself not knowing what to make with my wild wool challis fabric (up top) so I'm going to just move on and not worry about making my mind up.  Or rather, I've made up my mind not to make up my mind.  Does that make sense?

Instead of agonizing, yesterday I visited my friend Jamie in Montclair, New Jersey, a beautiful leafy suburb just 1/2 hour from New York City by train.

We spent a lovely afternoon together, and Jamie brought me to see a great independent sewing/fabric/craft store, Rock Paper Scissors, owned and operated by a woman named Beth Rowan.  (I love to visit independent stores like these, don't you?)   In addition to a well-curated selection of fabric (plus books, patterns, notions, etc.), they also offer classes, run a summer craft camp for kids, and host all-day workshops.  AND, you can purchase fabric from their Etsy shop!

Owner Beth Rowan

If you're ever in (or near) the Montclair or Glen Ridge area, check them out!

In other news, today my friend Johanna and I swung by the Chelsea flea market, now a single outdoor lot (which costs $1 to enter; this was waived today on account of the iffy weather, which drew fewer vendors).   Despite being smaller, it's still a lot of fun.

I seriously considered bringing home a large piece of vintage 40's/50's barkcloth (below), but opted to leave it behind.  Once you adopt the vintage barkcloth lifestyle, it tends to take over: first pillows, then drapes and slipcovers, and before you know it, bedspreads, bags, and bowling shirts.   Back home, I checked eBay: rest assured, the world is still full of vintage barkcloth.

Speaking of fabric, I received a box in the mail today, a gift from MPB reader Michael C, who is apparently downsizing his stash.  Being the selfless person I am, I was very happy to help him in that endeavor!

I love these two slightly gauzy striped cottons -- perfect for this time of year.  (The wavy stripes are so much more fun than normal stripes imo.)

I am over the moon about this Hawaiian print.  It has a vintage tiki feel without the kitschy Les Baxter-Yma Sumac Exotica vibe.

And that's it!

In closing, readers, how do you deal with sewing uncertainty?

If you don't know what to do with the fabric in front of you, do you agonize until you come up with something, or are you able to put it aside and move on to something else?

(I fear my tendency is more the former than the latter.)

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Hi Peter,

    I love the fabric that you got, there is so many things that you could do. As for fabric uncertainty...I usually move on to something else and hope that something comes to mind. I guess that's why we have a stash of fabrics, because we are always hoping that "I can make something with it"

  2. i can put fabric aside for years until the right thing hits...but now i will obsess over that barkcloth.

  3. I actually hate being frozen with indecision. I have so many ideas flying around. What has worked for me in the past is to go on to something else and usually the "lightbulb" goes on as I am working on something else. Love free fabric! :)

  4. Omg. Peter, I'm in the midst of organising a trip to NYC in October and have just arranged to stay with a friend in Bloomfield NJ which is just one suburb over from Montclair and Glen Ridge!

  5. Peter - I love your Hawaiian print, except I doubt it's a Hawaiian print no matter what it says. It looks like a take-off on Australian indigenous stuff (eg dreamtime images). Hate to be such a poop about this - but Australians are Australians, Hawaiians are Hawaiians, and Yma Sumac is Peruvian for Heaven's sake.

    Love your blog. All the best to you.

    1. It sounds weird, but in mid-century suburban American culture, cultures deemed "exotic" got blended together into a big multi-culti stew: it started in music but crept into decor too.

      (See also "Tiki culture")

      GMV (G. Von Hamm Textiles) Hawaiiprint is just the company, located in Honolulu.

  6. That was very generous of Michael; that is some nice cloth.

    My advice, fwiw: keep the fabric visible such as on a hanger in a closet you use often or on a bookshelf. Keeping it in on the front burner is like a lightning rod: when inspiration strikes (such as a random photo or someone walking down the street), you'll know exactly what to do with it.

  7. I wait. I take the fabric out of the storage shelves and check to see if perhaps it has grown a half yard. But not. Mostly I wait for the perfect project, which is inevitably the one AFTER the one I cut it out for.
    And I have waaay too much Aboriginal Australian fabric. That's not quite long enough. Yet.

    1. Lol. I have some fabric I wish would grow too!

    2. Me three. The most annoying aspect of it is that they're often fabrics passed on from mom's, or other people's stashes, so I can't even blame myself for the wrong length, and have to make them work to justify taking them from those other people... :D

  8. I have absolutely no problem putting fabric away until the right project calls for it. Mind you, I try not to make it a habit (because shortly one can end up with a cupboard full of fabric for "something in the future" and, once that cupboard is full, I can't buy more). My tendency with things is to purge (not to stash), so I tend to buy for particular projects when I do buy fabric. But as I become more evolved as a sewist (and I understand that I am in this for the long haul), I do think it's a good idea to have some great fabric lying around till the perfect thing comes along.

  9. Love those gauzy striped fabrics. Michael C. Is a great friend. Btw, a little birdie told me the Hawaii print was the inspiration for the movie Sharknado. ;0)

    If I can't decide what to make with a particular fabric I usually set it aside until another time. Sometimes, in the process of sewing other projects with new and or different techniques, I have a better idea of what I want to make with it.

  10. I forgot one to ask. That big green upside down pot looking thing in the picture with your friend at the flea market. Is that an industrial light? I want one for my sewing room!

    1. I suspect that's what it is, Sharon. Not 100% sure though.

  11. I think I tend to throw it aside haphazardly and move to something else. Unless it's the perfect fabric for a challenge that I feel compelled to fulfill...

    Those striped cottons really are lovely. Any ideas what to make from them?

  12. When in doubt, just buy the fabric. the idea will come later. Not practical or space saving I know, excuse have I. Glad I didn't see that barkcloth. I love it.

  13. beautiful fabrics all, I heart barkcloth very much, I color photocopied some fabric and decopauged it to the front and sides of my kitchen cabinets,
    I wish I had the room to have a hanging fabric library, my biggest stash/hoard, subdivided into boxes and bags in different places, is found blue jeans, awaiting new life as blue jean quilts

  14. The fabric looks a lot like the painting. Since you mustered a decision to hang, you no longer had mustering energy to sew.

  15. I tend to save it and wait for the perfect project. The best example of that is the rayon challis that I got in 2000 when I was pregnant, with the thought that I'd use it to make a maternity outfit. I ended up not doing that so the fabric hung around in a rubbermaid tote, through several moves - including to Germany and back - until 2010 when I discovered the Colette Chantilly dress and felt I HAD to make it. When I got the pattern in the mail, I immediately knew that the rayon I'd been saving for 10 years was the perfect fabric.

  16. I think, your question is wide spread among people who sew. You buy a fabric 'cause you like it in the shop. At home you realize it does not coordinate,does not have the right drape etc.
    In that case I stick to the saying:"To decide not to decide is a decision, to fail to decide is a failure."
    From a more "fateful" view, I think, if the time isn't right now, it may be there later. The perfect project will arrive. And if it doesn't I still can use it as a muslin. Or in fact, the muslin turns out that perfect, that it becomes a piece worth finishing ;-). So anyhow, owning and buying fabric is worth it.

    Have a nice sewing day


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