We all know too much collecting can be hazardous to your health. I read one time about a man who kept an extensive collection of National Geographics in his attic. It got so big that one day it fell through the ceiling, smothering him. My collecting habit has never gotten that bad. But I'm willing to admit I'm a recovering fabric junkie.
Ever since I started sewing, I've been aware I'm taking in more fabric than I'm using. After all, they know me by name at two local fabric stores. But I think it was kind a shock for my husband. He had no idea he'd married such a pack rat. But he kept his cool where a lesser man might have lost it.
We were moving from our little starter house to one where the kids would get their own rooms and I would get the little back bedroom as my sewing room. Two of my husband's buddies were helping us load the rental truck. We'll call them "Scott" and "Mike." Things had been going pretty quickly until they got to my makeshift sewing room in the basement. Besides my sewing table I had a tall cabinet, two sets of shelves, an old dresser, and two trunks. I'm sure the guys thought they'd have it all out in 10 minutes. Then Scott tried lifting the smaller of the two trunks.
"Whoah!" he said as he attempted to straighten up. "What do you have in there?"
I told him it was fabric.
"What's all this?" said Mike after opening the cabinets and seeing every shelf stacked with fabric. I laughed as if he was silly for asking the question. He called up the stairs to my husband, "We're gonna need a bigger hand truck."
My husband came down the stairs to see what the problem was. He opened and shut every single dresser drawer, seeing that each was stuffed with you-know-what. Then he opened the big trunk. I could tell the wheels of his mind were turning as he dug through the stacks of denim, corduroy, gingham, calico, satin, wool, sheer, and cotton prints of every description. If I'd stumbled across a fabric trove like mine, I'd be thinking, "Where did she get all this beautiful fabric?" Evidently that was not what my husband was thinking.
In a quiet voice he said, "What are you doing with all this?" It was like he'd discovered I had a cache of illegal explosives.
I just smiled and gave him a hug as I prayed silently, "Please don't let him look up in the attic."
I'm sure there are psychologists who specialize in textile addictions. You can probably even find scientific case studies. But as someone who's gone through it I can offer a unique perspective. Based on my own behavior, I think fabric addiction arrives in four stages.
Stage One: Normal fabric buying. You have a near-term project in mind. You purchase fabric specifically for that project. And you actually finish that project.
Stage Two: Bargain fabric buying for a some-day project. You go to a fabric sale with a future project in mind. There's no deadline like there would be for a birthday project. But at least on the day you purchased the fabric you are convinced you will finish it.
Stage Three: Bargain fabric buying with no project in mind. You find yourself at a fabric sale buying five yards of designer toile just because it's such a great deal. You're sure you'll need it for some future project.
Stage Four: No pretense whatsoever. You come home from the fabric store or a vintage shop with fabric that was not on sale and that you know you will probably never use. In fact, you're not sure you even like it. You bought the fabric simply because you like to buy fabric. Now is the time to get help.
The guys finally got the sewing furniture moved out. And I swore to my husband that I would cut down on my fabric habit. But it would make the most sense just to put it back where I originally had it until I had the chance to sort through it.
Three or four times, I've rolled up my sleeves to go in there and do just that. But how can you bear to get rid of beautiful fabric? Even the smallest piece would look wonderful in a quilt.
I know, I know, you think I'm in danger of ending up like the National Geographic man. But it's not going to happen. I'm looking into reinforcing our new attic.