Susie’s Home Ec
>> Susie Bright is an amateur dressmaker and a professional writer.
She blogs at
Stash: Confessions of a
Before I started sewing, I thought a
“stash” was a secret bag of illicit drugs.
An ounce of pot, two tabs of something
psychedelic, the hash oil lint from a Navajo rug ...
that’s a stash.
Now that I have an attic, a closet, and the entire
floor under two beds crammed with my guiltiest
pleasure, I know differently. Fabric, not weed, is
the devil’s worst temptation: those silks, crushed
velvets, buttermilk knits, and bouclé remnants, the
cashmere lengths, the chiffon waves. I’m helpless.
I have enough patterns and fabric to clothe the
world, open a retail emporium, hoist a circus tent.
It’s still not enough for me: “My name is Susie and
I’m a stashoholic.” My hoard of yardage makes my
entire lifetime of prescription, over-the-counter,
and recreational drugs look like a pitiful bump.
This is how it started: it was all my daughter
Aretha’s fault. We took our first sewing class
together when she was 10. I knew no more than
she did; I couldn’t have told you where to plug the
sewing machine into the wall.
Aretha took an in-depth look at the pattern books
our teacher offered us. “Let’s make mommy and
daughter dresses that match!” she said. She was
mesmerized with one of those McCall’s Stepford
duo photographs of a mother clutching the hand
of her daughter, both in identical pink shifts, like
Balthus meets Barbie. What empty-eyed phonies!
But when your child asks you, with stars in her
eyes, if the two of you can make matching costumes, to parade through the streets as perfectly
synchronized beloveds, you know what happens?
You tear up, you clap your hands with joy, your voice
scales up a full octave: “Oh goodie, let’s do it!”
We started combing through the color-fields of
cotton prints at our local fabric shop. Aretha pulled
out a bolt of tropical and dark green forest leaves,
against a black background — a jungle print with a
hint of abstraction. I loved those colors, too. “Let’s
get six yards!”
But then, shouldn’t we also have a Plan B, in case
we screw up our first pattern? Or what if we change
our minds in the middle of the night?
After all, there was a whimsically Eloise at the
Plaza print of pink poodles and Eiffel Towers that
caught my eye, which I immediately dubbed French
Bitch. I can’t resist a fabric with a sense of humor
— one of my favorite dresses is made from something called Rocket Rascals: an Apollo-11-era design
of little boys and girls running around the ether in
naughty space suits.
The two of us took no chances; we got everything:
the fabrics for Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. My teacher
applauded our choices, as did all the other students.
It’s like being in a bar at 6 a.m. with all your friends.
Have another one!
Now there are sensible reasons why serious sewers have to accumulate fabric faster than they can
sew it. First off, you are dealing with limited quantities of unique designs that often cost a small fortune.
If you can get lightweight sky-blue linen that feels
like heaven in your hands for under $10 a yard, you
have to buy it, even if your sewing machine hours
are booked up until the Rapture. You are quite right
to think you will never see a deal like that again.
Then, there’s the serious sewer’s tool chest.
You’re going to need silk, cotton, and rayon linings
in neutral colors — there’s no escape from it. If you
buy a pattern simply because it has a unique scalloped collar on an otherwise plain bodice, you’re
saving yourself many hours from drafting that collar
yourself. And it’s uncanny how scallops work their
way into your life! You do need tulle — you can’t get
through the holidays without it. You’d better grab it
in turquoise, as well as the ivory and black. You need