Always a dilemma…

I’m going to wager a guess that everyone of you dear readers says at least a couple of times a day, “Is this the best use of my time?”  (Especially when sitting for hours on social media…)

I have a large block of studio time available to me, with teaching venues completed for the year (except a last minute entry in Delaware in November) and my hope was to make wonderful use of this gift and produce some great new work.  I also wanted to explore video options, play around with recording some of my lectures.  I also wanted to rip the wallpaper off three rooms and redecorate.  Ok, just writing this sentence is a prescription for failure, because I know that most of this isn’t going to happen.

In my wanderings recently, through my vast archives of old work, scraps, drawers of buttons, findings, frogs (the closure kind) trims and furs and I could go on and on, I am faced with the dilemma that realistically I’ll never make a dent, and is it really realistic to believe that I’m going to rework all that old stuff, the handwoven fabric is horribly undersett, and there are a number of pieces that had occasional threads of chenille that just worm right out of the surface, this of course was before we knew how problematic chenille can be if horribly undersett, and truth be told, the colors just aren’t that exciting, considering what I do now in my work and the gorgeous handwoven fabrics that are sitting in my closet waiting to be turned into “great new work”.

PileOfOldGarmentsMy guild has it’s annual show and sale in November.  With no immediate income, I only get paid when I go teach at a venue and get a check at the end, there is the desire to maximize my earning capacity by heavily investing time in converting this lifetime of accumulation into work that I can offer cheap and move out.  Many of the old actual garments aren’t salable because they fit no one.  Smalls in the 1980’s would probably fit three adult females on the planet at this point, so putting them out with a price tag would be just silly.  Not worth the ironing time.   Cutting up the garments is a lot of work, and there is the dilemma, how much effort to I put into recycling work that is old, inferior and is that the best use of my time, to go backwards instead of forward, just for the sake of a few hundred dollars.

I wouldn’t really care so much if I wasn’t paying tuition and living expenses for my daughter, whom I adore of course and am committed to putting through college, and feel like I need to continue to produce something salable until the teaching starts up again.  I gave up craft fairs, and churning out work on speculation, back in 1989, two months before the birth of my son, who is now almost 24.  I swore I’d never sell another piece again.  I was reminded this past weekend, of how much I don’t miss doing craft fairs, helping Peters Valley at their annual craft fair fundraising weekend.  And I have absolutely no desire to go there again.  And yet, I’ve spent most of the week with piles of scraps, and old work, recutting and restyling to produce a couple of garments that may or may not sell at the guild sale, and realistically how much could I get for them anyway.

Here is what I’ve got to show for a week’s worth of work…

I had a couple of these in the bin, the top half is mohair which sheds like crazy.


I deconstructed them, cutting off the bottoms and removing shoulder pads, and partial linings.  I cut them up the center front.


I added fine linen front bands to make them a little wider, and bias trim. I added frogs for closures largely because I have a bin full in the attic.


I cut up an additional rayon, cotton and silk top version of the above batwing dress.  I added silk noil accents.


And I made a vest from pieces of a mohair bias vest and skirt that again, would fit no one.


I’m going to stop for the day and head off to the kitchen to cook stuff, zucchini bread (Yep I’m still getting stuff from the garden), taboulleh, pickled cucumbers, and maybe coleslaw.  My organic produce delivery was just full of cool stuff.  I’m going to really think about how important recycling all this scrap is in the broader scheme of life, and if I decide to just move on and pay attention to where I’m going and not where I’ve been, do I really need to hold onto all these bins of old work and scraps.  At what point do I just start heading to the dump?

Stay tuned…

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October 4, 2013 1:21 pm

Daryl, my strong opinion is life is too short to work on projects that don’t thrill you. You’ve earned the right to feed your creative soul during this time. However, I wouldn’t take them to the dump. I’m sure that there are people around who might want your older materials. Take them to some creative upcyclers and free yourself!

Katie Lacewell
October 4, 2013 1:29 pm

What about cutting them into yardage for sale? It won’t be even widths, and your Guild sale may or may not be the best venue, but there surely is a venue somewhere for Daryl Lancaster handwoven fabric at a really sweet price.

October 4, 2013 1:36 pm

Senior citizen center, girls scouts, textiles department at college, and before the dump, freecycle or Goodwill. Your work is so lovely someone can enjoy and
Learn, even if the sett is under.

October 4, 2013 1:39 pm

I would have to agree with Ginnie. But if no one wants it for free then off to the dump. A clear space frees the mind and allows for more creativity to flow 🙂 And sometimes it just helps to let go 🙂 Good luck!

leilani bennett
leilani bennett
October 4, 2013 1:50 pm

wish we PenWAGers were nearer you (or you were nearer us) as we would love the challenge of working with your discards. I’m sure you’ll find a good use for them that will spur someone’s creative juices.

Teresa Ruch
October 4, 2013 2:32 pm

Leilani has a good idea. Make that a special workshop and have the students rework your old fabric and scraps into a new vest, jacket or something. They learn how to work with handwoven and you get rid of stash.

Helen Hart
Helen Hart
October 4, 2013 2:37 pm

Lots of good comments have been given. I know I have some UFO’s that I could get rid of. I agree with the above comments about donating “stuff” to the different organizations etc. Now, the items you renovated are absolutely wonderful. But I can’t fit into them. I know some of your Guild members would be thrilled to buy some of your things that you have an overstock of. Geez what a sentence, must be the 30 degree temp wind and snow outside here in Cheyenne.

Elizabeth E
Elizabeth E
October 4, 2013 3:42 pm

Oooh, the special workshop idea really appeals to me. Bring it to California? Not happening but I can dream of working with your stuff!

Nancy Hedberg
Nancy Hedberg
October 4, 2013 5:19 pm

Oh, poor Helen in Cheyenne! I’ve been wondering why it is almost 80°F here in Michigan on an October day…you’ve probably pushed that warm weather our way to give us a one-two punch in a couple of days. Daryl, all I could think as I read your post, was for you to not spend your precious, 20-years-down-the-road time on old stuff. If you follow any sewing blogs, you’ll find that MANY sewists out there are “repurposing”, and with lovely, wonderful results. Consider donating and ‘writing off’ your donations with the IRS and hope that those who frequent Good Will (hunting)… Read more »

Nancy Hedberg
Nancy Hedberg
October 4, 2013 5:30 pm

ps I DO like what you’ve done!

October 4, 2013 6:55 pm

I do like what you’ve made, too, and I know you love a challenge, but I hear your ambivalence. Maybe that’s enough now?? You know how hard it is for me to let go. I have a closet full of old muslins for heaven’s sake!

Nancy Weber
Nancy Weber
October 4, 2013 9:54 pm

Great comments from your friends around the US. How about kind of sorting them into colorways and put them on your site and sell a “Daryl’s bag of..” blended colors? The people buying them will know they are pieces and parts and they will pay for the shipping, too! How much better is that? Money in your pocket and not so much of the old stuff laying around and making you feel guilty. Will give you an opportunity to do some of that creative sewing you are so itching to get started on. Go girl!

Ginee Philippy
Ginee Philippy
October 5, 2013 2:04 am

Am remembering some particularly lovely Christmas ornaments (1 was a heart which hangs on my bedroom wall) that were likely made from scraps. Bundle some of those scraps together with ideas for ornaments and as Nancy suggested put them on your site.

October 5, 2013 7:24 am

It sounds like it is time for you to move on. All those items have served their purpose in your fiber history. Pile it all into bags and take to Goodwill. They will sell what is salable and put the rest in the rag bin to be recycled into something useful. I wish you many empty shelves and drawers.

October 5, 2013 6:50 pm

Oh, not the dump! Those heart Christmas ornaments are darling and I would make some. Send me some and I’ll pay shipping. Of course, I also make rag rugs. My son just moved to CA to be a software engineer for Apple (Yay!) and left me with his old clothes. Now some of that is going to the dump as it is not even fit for rag rugs!

Mary Ehrlich
October 5, 2013 9:51 pm

Do you want my address?

October 6, 2013 4:48 am

Mary Meigs Atwater said “never weave on a poor warp.” I could add, never sew with inferior (or less than wonderful) fabric. Your time, and energy, is just too valuable.

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