You CAN Have Too Much of a Good Thing

I love to sew. It’s cheap therapy. When my oldest son was a toddler I made all of his clothes except for socks and underwear. I have made the window coverings for the four homes that my husband and I have purchased. There is something about running my hands across fabric that I find soothing and relaxing. Unfortunately, there came a point a few years ago when my simple little hobby got out of hand. I began quilting. The curious thing about quilting is that quilters seem to never have enough fabric. Quilters compare notes about the size of their ‘stash’ and appear to measure their commitment to their craft in the number of yards of cotton fabric that they own. Another interesting quality of many quilters is their generosity. They love to help the new quilter and give her a few ‘stash builders’ to give her collection a boost. Add to all of this the fact that many quilters produce goods for charity so the giving spirit is unstoppable.

Good Intentions

This is where I come in. Back in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, we had just moved from Louisiana to upstate New York. Had we still been in Baton Rouge when the hurricane hit, we knew that we would be very involved with the relief effort. Having just missed the devastating natural disaster by just a few months, we felt obligated to help in some way. We told our story about being recent transplants from Louisiana wishing to help our former friends and neighbors. Our new neighbors, friends and co-workers immediately jumped in with offers to help us help others. Our dining room became a drop-off location for nonperishable food, clothing, books, toys, etc. Then, it happened. The word got out that I was a quilter and that many people in New Orleans were without even a blanket to call their own. Suddenly, the donations went through the roof (almost literally)! We would come home at night and find huge bags and boxes of quilting supplies left on our front porch. Once, we received several garbage bags worth of donations. Fortunately, something told me to look through them before bringing them into our home. The bags were filled with musty fabric and crawling with roaches! It seemed that many people in the area were seeing this as an opportunity to empty out their garages. Of course, I could never use all of the fabric that I was given. Plus, the vast majority of the people didn’t expect me to. They simply wanted to give me gifts in appreciation for all that we had done for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I don’t remember anymore how many times we loaded up our trusty minivan full of donated items and delivered them to a local trucker who had agreed to transport our collection to the needy. It was a labor of love for a part of the country that meant so much to us.

The Sad Excuses

In 2007 we left New York. The move was considerably more difficult because of me. My sewing obsession had taken over our basement. My sweet husband had even installed shelving to house the many yards of fabric that I had neatly organized by color. What was worse was that I had augmented the collection with a number of vintage sewing machines that I had purchased on eBay. I believe that I owned somewhere around 15 machines when we began preparing for the move. Realizing this, my husband put his foot down. “We
can’t take all of this with us” he said. I reluctantly agreed but due to the urgency of the situation had no time to resell my prized possessions on eBay. I watched in horror as my husband loaded more than half of my collection in our van and delivered them to the local Salvation Army store. “They are my babies!” I cried. “They each have a purpose! How could you do this to me?!” It was not pretty. I’m embarrassed as I recount the ugly scene. I did get to keep a few. I got to keep the foot-powered model built in 1887. “It’s for when I need to sew when the power goes out” I argued. I also got to keep the workhorse that we drove two hours to pick up and rented a trailer to bring home. “It has so many memories!” I told my husband. I slipped a tiny machine in a case so that I could smuggle it onto the moving truck unnoticed. Then there was the fancy one with all of the bells and whistles. “We just finished paying for that one!” I yelped. Finally worn down, I convinced my husband that I should be allowed to keep three more portable machines but would give up all of the other bulky ones. Yes, I still own seven sewing machines, but look how far I’ve come!!

Drowning in Fabric

After cutting the sewing machine collection in half we still had the fabric dilemma. The trouble is that no one would take it. A few charitable groups were willing to take a yard or two but what about a hundred yards or two? What about a thousand? We ended up packing and moving a LOT of fabric. We bought about 20 of those 14 gallon plastic totes. I estimate that I can get at least 100 yards of fabric in each tote. That makes 2,000 yards. Then there are the 20 or so full bolts of fabric with about 15 yards on each bolt. That’s another 300 yards. Then there was the lady who gave me 20 rolls of knit so that I could make the boys pajamas. With 300 yards of cotton knit, I could make pajamas for the boys, their boys and THEIR boys! Sadly, that probably isn’t even all of it. All totaled, I would guess that I currently own 3,000 to 5,000 yards of fabric (and seven sewing machines). I purchased some of it and I was given some of it but I’ll never EVER use it all! We now have an Etsy store that we are using to try to sell off all of this excess. We will take whatever doesn’t sell and drive it down to Gee’s Bend – a little town near Selma, Alabama. We’ll likely donate most of the fabric to the quilters there. They are an amazing group of ladies who are able to make artistic masterpieces with discarded scraps.

So have I learned anything from all of this? Sure. Hobbies are a necessary distraction from the stresses of everyday life, but left unchecked, hobbies can become an additional stressor. Just as with my collection of ceramic Bavarian houses, you CAN have too much of a good thing!

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