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Designing Within Limits While Busting Your Stash
When I started teaching my Intro to Macrame class, my students always ended up with little bits of excess rope and trimmings when they completed their pieces. Working in the textile industry, I’m very aware of the waste that comes from textile production. In my efforts to not contribute to that waste, I would bag up the rope bits and take them home with me. I couldn’t throw them away or give up on them! I kept them in a bag on my shelf that just kept growing and growing. In fact, I now have a whole shelf in my studio dedicated to excess bits from past projects and classes.
Now, before I hear some of you start whispering words like “hoarder”, I know that I’m not alone! I know you’re out there and have your own little-bits-of-rope shelf. You know that shelf. The place where material bits that are too big to trash and too small to really make a full project out of live. Those materials may not be sitting in the landfill (hooray!), but they’re still just taking up space in your home and that’s no good either.
This year, I’ve been working on busting through my stash and reducing the amount of new materials I purchase for projects. This de-stashing includes those little bits from my shelf. I’m happy to share that I’ve finally started going through significant portions of my stash and, oh buddy, does that half empty shelf look goooood!
Through this process, I learned a few design tips and methods to think through as I stash bust and I thought I would share those tips with you. Designing and creating with things in your stash can get a bit challenging, but not to worry. With a little open-mindedness and out of the box thinking, you can do this!
So, my wanna-be stash busters, it’s time to pull out those materials that you’ve been saving and make them into something beautiful! Here are my tips for designing within limits so that you can bust that stash.
Design Tip #1: Konmari Your Materials
I’m sure you know who Marie Kondo is. Her method of organizing and “sparking joy” is so popular now that we use her name as a verb! If you’ve read her book or seen her show, you know that her first step in organizing is pulling out all of the items that you’re looking to de-stash and pile them up in the same room together.
And that’s our first step in stash busting. Pull out all of the yarns, fabrics, bedazzle gems, beads, what have you, and pile them all up in the same place. You can’t bust through your stash if you don’t know the breadth of what you have. Marvel at your pile and then get ready to start planning your next masterpiece!
Design Tip #2: The Materials Are Not What They Seem
Much of this process is thinking creatively and pushing the limits of the materials that you have. When looking at your pile, start to think about all of the ways it could be used or transformed.
Got a crap ton of yarn in your pile. Psh, that’s not just yarn! That can be shredded into stuffing for small toys. Or made into little pom pom decorations for your next shindig. Or used as swatching yarn for knit or crochet patterns you’ve always wanted to try (like my Cable Collection project I’m working on).
This macrame wall hanging I created was made only from excess rope. Some of it did stay in its original rope form, but some of it I shredded up to make those awesome fringe tassels.
Design Tip #3: Designate Materials As Star Roles or Supporting Roles
Not all materials need to be at the forefront of your design. Over time our tastes might change or our color palettes have shifted. Materials that take up space in my stash are those that are colors that I can’t seem to work into my current color palette.
For those materials, I’ve started to use them as fillers-- or supporting roles, if you will-- behind my star role elements. See those tassels. You know what’s behind them? Weird yarn from my stash! To give differing heights in my tassels, I used fillers in between the rows so as not to use up my limited supply of rope. Does the yarn color coordinate with my neutral vibe in this wall hanging? Who cares! You can’t see them! And you’d never know they were there if I hadn’t told you… This opens up a whole new world for stash busting.
Design Tip #4: Embrace the Unusual
Remember Tip #2 about thinking creatively and pushing the limits with your materials? This applies to your design elements too. Don’t be afraid to embrace the unusual and get weird. For me, that’s embracing patchworking. In order to make some serious strides in busting my stash, I’ve had to learn to patchwork and graft materials together. It feels strange in the moment, but exploring new patchwork methods has broadened my creative scope and tastes.
Design Tip #5: Think on Your Feet
There may come a time where you overestimate the amount of materials you have dedicated for your chosen project and you run out.
Firstly-- well done! You’re busting through your stash like a boss!
Now it’s time to think on your feet! Incorporate them into something else or graft more materials in. I overestimated how much soft rope I had for shredding into tassels. When I ran out, I changed directions and grafted those tassels into a larger work with a different rope I had left in my stash. The end result was still within my design aesthetic, but just came about in a way I didn’t expect.
Well friends, those are my tips for designing within limits.
Are you ready to bust into your stash, keep things out of the landfill and broaden your creative scope?
I think so. Let’s do it!
Have your own tips on stash busting? Share yours below!
April 26-May 12
This week is the opening of a project I’ve been helping to curate for many months— a gallery show celebrating community built through a shared hemp fiber supply chain!
In this show, we have gathered together a group of artists (including yours truly), given them Durham-grown hemp fiber and asked them run with it. The show is sure to be diverse in content and show off the amazing possibilities that can come when farmers and artisans are brought together by a shared love.
Participating in conversations and practices around responsibly grown/made textiles is at the heart of my personal studio practice. My connection with the One Acre Exchange crew was kismet and I am beyond thrilled that I get to come alongside this team and navigate the new waters of what it means to grow and use industrial hemp in our county.
The show opens this Friday, April 26 at The Carrack in Durham, NC. We’ll also be hosting a couple of additional events including a Piedmont Fibershed meeutp and a round table meeting for farmers and artists. Head to the Carrack’s website to get all the dets. I hope you can join us!
Featured Fiber Artists:
Artist Talk + Opening Reception:
Friday, Apr. 26 | 6:30-9:30p
Piedmont Fibershed Meetup:
Thursday, May 2 | 7-8:30p
Farmers + Artisans Meeting:
Sunday, May 5 | 5:30-7:30p
Visible Mending 101: How to Extend the Life of Your Wardrobe
For those that know me well, you know that I am passionate about loving my clothes well, making them last and keeping unnecessary textile waste out of our landfills. I was so stoked when Spoonflower invited me to chat about just that on their blog this month! Check out our conversation and a quick tutorial on visible mending. Give your clothes a second (or third or fourth life in my case) with little mending TLC!