It’s time to sort through my sewing supplies.
Marie Kondo doesn’t have much nice to say about sewing supplies. She urges you to consider whether you really use your sewing kit at all. And she says nobody ever sews on the extra buttons that come with clothes. Excuse me, I do! You know what I also do? I use the bits of thread that come with sweaters to darn the sweaters. I also have three darning eggs for darning socks, because I darn socks sometimes.
So sewing supplies is a huge category for me. I had to break it down into subcategories, because pulling everything out all at once was too overwhelming. However, I made a mistake: I should have gone through and categorised everything before I started, i.e. even just making piles or putting stuff in boxes together. As it was, I kept finding certain things mixed with other things. After sorting and neatly folding all my fabric, I kept finding fabric amongst other sewing supplies, and then having to cram it into my already neat drawers.
Learn from my mistake, and if you have to do a category in parts, at least sort everything before you begin.
First up was sewing tools. I was a good girl. I literally went through every pin and needle. My old gingerbread man pincushion had about 20 needles embedded in him, i.e. they had gone all the way in and had to be surgically extracted. No wonder I could never find a needle. I think he is ready for a well-earned retirement.
These supplies were stored in several places before, but after sorting I fit them all into my sewing chest.
I also went through my thread, culling a lot of colours I would never use (much of my thread I inherited from elsewhere) and anything that was just…icky. You know, some colours or textures just sit wrong with me. This is the kind of personal predilection that the KonMari method allows you to indulge without justifying. So, I did away with the icky colours. Now all my thread fits on my thread holder, with room to spare. A few spools I didn’t want to use were wooden (this kind of old thread doesn’t work well in my sewing machine, I find), but they were beautiful so I put them in a jar for decor. Take that, Pinterest! Actually, I love that the KonMari method also encourages this, that anything which you love but don’t use should be shamelessly repurposed as decor.
Going through my fabric, spread out on the bedroom floor, was exhausting. I kept getting sidetracked, either with mundane positivity, saying, ‘I like this,’ (duh, it’s fabric, of course I like it) or with pragmatism, ‘This is useful to have’. I really had to keep reminding myself that the criterion was not mere liking, but joy. However, fabrics are also somewhat a practical category of stuff for me, so some things I kept because I know they will be used in a way I will appreciate – like the waterproof fabric I used for making cloth diapers and which is useful for wet bags and the like. The fabric itself isn’t joy-giving (plasticky, meh), but it does give me joy to be able to make the things I can make with it. I think this is still honouring the KonMari method.
In the end, though, everything was refolded and fit precisely into my two designated fabric drawers.
I also went through my newish collection of lingerie making supplies: slinky fabrics, lace, elastics, sliders and hooks, etc. (I learned to make bras over the summer and it rocked my world!) Among these supplies I had a lot of scrappy bits, and a few charity shop slips and such that I had cut up for pieces, back when I was still practicing and wanted cheap materials to play with. Now I feel more competent, and I realised that if I’m going to the trouble of making my own underwear, it’s because I want something nice! Not something grubby made with old stretched elastic from a torn-up slip. So my collection is cleaned out and contains only good things for my next project.
Finally, I went through my sewing notions: buttons, zippers, trims, fastenings, etc. This was rather fun. The final category was buttons, and with some hesitation I decided to go through them all, dumping them out of their jars and digging through. I was worried about it, but it turned out to be wonderful.
How could I choose from among so many buttons? Why not just keep them all? By this time it was 8:30 at night and I was tired. But to my surprise, when each jar was dumped and spread out, I could quickly select buttons that leapt out at me, and I put these aside to keep. As I ran my fingers through, I realised that among this motley collection of plastic buttons were quite a few old shell and mother of pearl buttons. I started learning to identify them by their weight, texture and the sound they made when dropped against each other. Had I kept the whole jar without looking through it, I wouldn’t have realised that I had some full sets of these vintage buttons.
So there I was, sorting buttons. When I chose that as the name for my blog, I took it as a metaphor: ‘sorting buttons is like sorting your thoughts’. But doing the KonMari method has made me see that the relationship between the two activities, physical and mental, is closer than that. Marie Kondo says repeatedly that when you put your stuff in order, you put your life (your self, your past) in order too. The very act of physically ordering your belongings is the act of sorting your self. I think it is not too farfetched to say that sorting buttons is sorting thoughts.
This whole exercise of organising my sewing supplies was tiring, and gave me a back ache for days, but was particularly rewarding. My sewing collection is not only my own stuff, but things inherited from my mom, my grandmother, and Mike’s grandmother. As I was sorting, it was the first time I’d gone through them all, together, as equal members of my collection, rather than as ‘Pins that are mine’ and ‘Pins from my grandmother’, etc. Because sewing has been important in several generations of women in my family, my hand-me-down collection makes me feel part of a tradition, and having it so thoroughly integrated now feels like the best way of honouring that tradition, bringing all the inherited items to life again as useful members of the group.
I also went through knitting, embroidery and beading supplies, as well as all my patterns. With my beads, I took hint from my button experience and went through them all by pouring them onto a tray (something with edges to avoid a huge mess!) and picking out the ones I really loved. Here you can see the final results of these other subcategories: my neat and tidy pattern collection, drawers of yarn, and some joy-giving mending wool.
A few tips for those of you who have crafty collections like this:
- Like I said, pre-sort things into subcategories before you start.
- Although it takes time, do go through individual items like pins, buttons, threads and beads; in every case, I was glad I did this.
- Stay on task with identifying which items give you joy – not which you could use, might use, are good quality, useful to have… You may end up keeping some useful items, but it’s worth investigating the joy question first. If you let yourself ignore it, it’s easy to get waaaaaay off track.
I haven’t decided which category to do next. I’m still in Komono, which is household stuff, so it will be something from that vast array!