red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

aiming for divestment nirvana

Like many of our friends, my husband and I are trying to help elderly parents downsize both their home and possessions. This on-going experience, in turn, has made us more aware of our own belongings. We now ask ourselves often, “Why are we holding onto that?”

I have begun to make a deliberate effort to ask that question when I am in my sewing room and to be open to ways to divest. As someone who has been sewing and creating for over 35 years, I have an embarrassingly large amount of unfinished projects, underutilized supplies and extra material. Rather than throw anything away, my aim is to gift it to someone who truly wants it and can use it. For the recipient, it’s free; for me, it’s freeing.

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A few months ago I sorted through my fabric, pulling out what I knew I would never use. I contacted the home economics teacher at the middle school, who said she would be delighted to have it. I am happy that the fabric is being used to help teach a new generation to sew. My plan is to make this culling a yearly exercise–hopefully it will make me more mindful in terms of future purchases and remind me of what I already have.

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Several years ago, an interior designer friend, knowing that I sew, asked if I would like some outdated upholstery fabric samples. I sorted them by color, stashed them in bins, and used them from time to time. However, these bins were taking up precious storage space and I was not using the material like I thought I would. I was loath to throw it away, so I hung onto it. Then a few weeks ago I read a story in our local paper about a young woman with special needs who sews pillows from upholstery sample fabric and sells them on Etsy–yippee! I contacted her mother who was thrilled to receive “new” fabric for her daughter to use. (You can see Holly’s Etsy website here.)

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with Jean, an old college roommate. She’s a talented, creative sort, and like me she was plagued with unfinished projects that she could not bear to discard but knew she would never return to. Jean shared with me her guilt-free divestment technique: in a large Ziploc bag, she packs up each unfinished project along with the remaining coordinated supplies, directions, and a note explaining the history of the project, what has been completed, and what remains to be done to finish it. She then donates it to Goodwill, with the idea that someone might find it interesting and “new” enough to take it on as their own and complete it. Brilliant! I follow Tim Latimer’s blog, and I get a vicarious thrill when he rescues an old quilt top via e-Bay or a flea market, repairs it, and brings it to life.

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And then this week, Daughter #1 told me how one evening a week she is hanging out with the knitting group at her college despite not knowing how to knit herself (knitters do make awfully good company!). I have tried to learn to knit through the years and have made valiant efforts under the guidance of patient and loving friends/teachers. Although I am a capable crocheter (in my teens I learned to crochet right handed), alas, I have never been able to master knitting. It could be my left-handedness or perhaps my desire is just not strong enough. At any rate, the lovely needles, yarn and half-finished projects have taunted me long enough–I have packed them up with a care package for D#1. Perhaps this is her chance to learn to knit–as a right-hander and a creative soul, maybe she’ll have better luck.

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2 thoughts on “aiming for divestment nirvana

  1. Culling your fabric stash is a great exercise to focus your creativity I think. I did it a couple of years ago and took my unwanted stash to my local Project Linus chapter. You have reminded me that I need to do it again.

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