Alternate Title: Analysis Paralysis and the Great Big Stash.
I have this problem - you've probably felt it too. Sometimes, when I finish a project, I work myself up so much trying to decide which fresh new thing I want to make that I end up making nothing at all. I have a lot of fabric. I have an insane amount of fabric considering that I came to New Zealand with my whole life in a suitcase a little over two years ago.. I still have the suitcase and I'm pretty sure the fabric alone would overflow if I tried to stuff it all inside.
The problem is not that I have nothing to make, it's that I have too many things. Which of these beautiful pieces of fabric is the most worthy first, which finished thing do I want most right now? How can I possibly be expected to make this decision when I already clearly love the fabric - I brought it home with me, after all! According to the Great Google, I'm not the only one with this problem. Depending on which article you read, it's called Decision Anxiety, Choice Overload, Decision Paralysis, Overthinking, and my personal favorite because it rhymes: Analysis Paralysis. There's a book - The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, which discusses the phenomenon from a consumerist perspective. Although I think we can all agree that too many options can make buying difficult sometimes, I think it's a little different from a stash perspective because I've already chosen to buy all of these fabrics, now I'm choosing which one to devote my time to.
You may point out, at this stage, that it appears I've chosen exactly none of my fabrics for the purpose of this blog post. You're right. I haven't. I've thought about the things that lead to my own analysis paralysis though, and about ways to stop it so that I can just get on with the sewing. One of the awesome things about writing this blog (besides hearing from you guys, because that's still pretty much the coolest) is that by setting myself a fairly arbitrary goal of posting something every Monday morning, I've created a deadline that I feel compelled to keep, and I generally end up completing at least one thing each week. I work better with a deadline, and you guys are it.
I am also a pretty intense list maker, and aside from the lists keeping me organized and providing a place to write down ideas for future projects, there's also something really satisfying about checking off the 'done' things on a list. So, basically, I realized that the best way to create an Analysis Paralysis - proof system for organizing my upcoming projects would be to create a literal list-in-a-box. That way, I can take my time deciding what to work on next, and by the time I'm ready I'll have everything I need all packaged up for me to begin! As an added bonus, each project comes with its own (very satisfying) list so that I can keep track of its stage of completion!
I did a lot of crafty projects with my mom growing up- this was before our particularly rural area had any kind of reliable internet (cue dial-up noises) so mostly we made things from magazines. I might be wrong, but I think the idea of heat-seaming vinyl with a household iron came from Martha Stewart Living. Basically, you place your vinyl to be 'seamed' between two layers of parchment paper to protect everything from melty plastic terror, and then you press the edge, bit by bit, with an iron until the two pieces fuse together - no sewing required!
I was probably about 14 the last time I did this (I still have the cute little makeup bag we made, though!) so it took some experimentation to get the heat settings right. Too hot, and the whole thing discolors, burns, and disintegrates. Too cool and the seam will pull apart. My vinyl is a mid-weight clear crafting vinyl from Spotlight, (in the kitchen section of all places???) and it was best fused with my iron on the wool setting for about 15 to 20 seconds. I did turn it up to the cotton setting to get it to melt a corner where I needed to fuse six layers together, but be so careful if you do that. So careful. The other key to success is making sure the fused seam is absolutely, positively 100% cooled off before you try to manipulate it. Be patient! Otherwise the hot vinyl will stretch out of shape and you'll be one unhappy bunny.
Experimentation done, I decided on an envelope-style organizer that would fit into my new wire basket, and close up with a snap (shhh, don't tell anyone but I'm honing my snap setting skillz for a future Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak ;) ). I created patterns for a set of organizers that are the same width and height to fit my 11"/29cm cube basket, but with different depths to store different sized projects - a small, flat one to keep bra projects neat and tidy, a middle size, all the way up to a jeans- and jacket- sized one with room for my fabric, plus a big, bulky pattern. They all fold down in the front like an envelope, and they have a little flat patch pocket under the flap which contains a list outlining the project's progress.
After cutting out the pattern piece, I used clear monofilament thread to sew the patch pocket to the front panel. After that, the organizer is fused 'right sides together' (not that clear vinyl actually has a right side...) and then flipped inside out so that the seams are neatly enclosed on the inside. Then, all that's left is to mark position and set snaps on the front, and it's all done! By leaps and bounds, the hardest and most time consuming part of the whole process is turning the darn thing inside out after it's been fused! It has a nasty habit of sticking to itself (which is actually helpful during the fusing, but not so much at any other time...) since it's clear it's a bit hard to see what you're doing, and it looks like a hot mess when it's halfway there as well!
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate that I managed to remember to take a photo of every single step of this process? I always get swept up in the project and forget! If you look closely, you may observe that the four photos are not of the same bag's progress.... but it still counts.
I've created diagrams of the three different sizes of envelopes - not everyone's baskets or storage systems are going to be the same size as mine, but the diagrams should give you a good idea of how to create your own patterns, so that your envelopes fit the types of projects you sew the most:
You'll measure your vessel (basket, crate, shelf, etc.) first. This will be the large square (though yours may be a rectangle) in the pattern. Then, figure out how deep you want your envelope to be. My three sizes were flat - for lingerie and small projects, 1.5" for shirts and skirts, and 2.5" for coats, jackets, and jeans. You can see where those widths are added in the diagrams above. Then, add fusing allowances along the edges (marked in the seafoam green color). Cut along the solid lines, and fold along the dotted lines, fuse, and done! The top edge of the front piece has a flap that folds down to give the whole thing a bit of extra stability - this is optional, but definitely recommended.
Now, I can flip through the projects in the basket and easily see which ones are where, if I still need to buy anything before I start, and even whether the fabric's been prewashed! I've had these for a while now and I definitely think they're helping with my next-project decision making process. When I completed the first project envelope, I put its piece of future-shirt fabric inside with the pattern and its to-do list, and I had to try really, really hard not to drop everything mid-fuse and start working on the shirt instead! Apparently there's a pretty strong part of my brain dedicated to making sure that all the items in a list get crossed off ASAP. I don't promise to be sane, guys, it's just the way it is. It's also significantly easier to pack up and switch to another project than it used to be - it's not something I'd previously thought about, but it's an added bonus!