Chicken or egg?

They say ‘make hay while the sun shines’, well in my case it’s ‘ignore the mess’ while the sunshines….this is my sewing room, and believe me it looks just as bad viewed from all angles…


As a result of valuable advice from Mrs C regarding sewing on rickety tables and how that can do nasty things to the internal workings of our precious machines, I beat a retreat and reinstalled machines back upstairs….and was confronted with the mess I’d left  behind me. Well, of course I realised it was messy, it just became in my face again, not to be ignored  at my peril….(I’ve slovenly transferred one pile to the floor & put a few patterns away.  The table is now clear ….hey, tidying takes a back seat when the sun’s out)

Also sunshine eats into my computer on-line time because my G-ifi (ie my garden wifi) is non existent.  And that’s hard, being outside, all of the gardening done, reading time a plenty, yet it has to be old fashioned offline books (kindle) & newspapers.  I have so much blog catching up to do….but then the sun will not be here for long as well we know & I will be able to catch up again.
So, do you want to see what my latest fabric pile consists of? A few of my purchases from Abakhan the other weekend when I was in Manchester?
Ok. Apart from some flannel destined for PJ pressies for the men in my life I can reveal….


This is a length of some kind of matt poly satin festooned with polka dots and has amazing drape. It’s not overly synthetic feeling which is important as I’ve chosen it to make a summer dressing gown (mustn’t therefore feel as if it would be like wearing a bin bag if I got warm) . I had wanted to make an ‘heirloom’ gown, in fabulous floaty Liberty lawn, the type that evokes 1920s and could be seen to be worn by Lady Mary perhaps in Downton as she is getting her hair brushed….but funds have not stretched and this is a compromise. I see some red with it, the belt at least, but maybe also the collar….
Next, this cotton shouts day dress


Maybe a shirt dress, maybe a Darling Ranges, maybe an Elisalex with a full skirt….(PS the dots are quite small actually.)

And then there is this scoop I am truly delighted with…

It’s swimwear Lycra! Oo ooh I hear you utter. Yes, it can only be for the retro style swimsuit I’ve promised to make this year….and could have done with this weekend since a spot of sunning on the lounger has been undertaken….. I also bought some white lining for it.

So, this makes me ask the question. You know, that question that we all ask at some time. It can be rhetorical, but we ask it none the less. What comes first? Purchase of fabric or the dressmaking pattern? Does inspiration strike you in the fabric shop, or by seeing the pattern? For me, I think you can guess that it veers strongly in favour of fabric first and foremost. With the exception of knit fabrics, but that’s interesting in itself. But back to wovens for now. I am a sucker for a beautiful print. Take my peacock fabric, recently transformed into the Colette Ginger skirt. I bought it as a result of a fabric magnetism. My iron filings all converged at north and I could not get out of that shop without a length within my clutches.

Take this fabric too


Now in an inspired but exceedingly cheapskate moment I think I bought 0.8m. What possessed me? Did I think I could just make it into a simple gathered or pleated skirt? I think so. So I cut it roughly into a pleated skirt at the end of our dismal summer last year. It stayed in a basket, hungrily holding onto a set of pins that I could have usefully put into gainful employment. But then I had a thought. Why not combine it with some yellow pinstriped shirting and make it into a dress? Bodice plain, skirt stripey seaside? So that is what I’m attempting to do now. I’m using the Elisalex bodice as this will be a good ‘test bodice’ as preparation for other fabric destined to the Elisalex cause. But, still, do you see what I’m showing? That I buy fabric first and think about the outcomes much later. In this way my fabric stash, surprise surprise, tends to contain patterned fabric, and very little plain solids. I would say that I generally make specific purchases of solid coloured fabric once I have the pattern…the opposite of my usual buying behaviour.

And just to mess this up a tad, catch a glimpse of compelling inspiration from another blogger & that has me reaching for my pattern buying clicking finger.  That way I end up with patterns that bear no relation to the fabric in my stash …

And then knits? It’s the other way around too. I am always planning my knit sewing from the pattern first, and largely buy solid coloured knits.  (Or solids, stripes and dots if I am honest).  I do have a knit stash, however, but that is because they are hard to come by locally and I buy them when I see an adorable colour or feel a swoonworthy drape.  I’d say I have a high turnover of my knit fabric stash, which justifies keeping a range to hand as I expand and extend my knit sewing adventures.

So, I know it’s an old one, but what would you say you are? A pattern first buyer, or fabric junkie?  And is it possible to be a fabric junkie and not to have a stash?  If you can manage this one, tell us your secret!!

35 thoughts on “Chicken or egg?

  1. Allison

    the sea-side fabric is adorable.

    For patterns and fabric – I tend to hoard both and mix and match, however my first stop in the fabric store is the pattern books, so I guess I’m pattern first.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Interesting Allison! I would say that you appear to be someone who thoroughly thinks through your makes (far more than I do) so I can see how the pattern could come first.

  2. Jo

    Oh you have nailed it all on the head – I’m exactly the same! But would never have have formulated my thoughts so well 🙂

    I too have a stash full of printed wovens and am beginning to despair of ever using them. Many of them I can hardly imagine wearing. Whereas the solids that I actually wear most (both knit and woven) get bought and used promptly for specific purposes. And yes, I have a whole ton of blogger-inspired pattern purchases collecting dust too.

    Still, at least we’re not alone. That makes it all entirely ok!

  3. Kerry

    I generally go for the pattern first as I try (TRY!) not to have too much of a stash plus I am stingy by nature and buy too little fabric unless I know what it’s for, then have lots of bits of fabric I can’t make much with 🙂

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I would aspire to being more like you – to feel more pragmatic about a stash, although I am similar in that I also never buy swathes of fabric & therefore what I have in my stash also tends to be shorter lengths – unless I have the foresight to realise I need dress lengths (which is rare!)

  4. Béa

    The fabric, every time! And I can totally understand why you went for the beach print! I totally would too!

    I’ve been thinking about my own tendency to go for patterned fabrics, and mostly I think I get seduced by the cuteness or the beauty of the print. I’m very easily seduced, and much of the rest of my wardrobe is plain colours, so I’m obviously sensing some sort of gap there. For me patterns are much more attention-grabbing in a fabric shop than the plains.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      The patterned fabric really does attract most of the attention, doesn’t it? I think if you’ve got a wardrobe of plain colours then it’s definitely time for some pretty prints! You’ve got it sorted! Often us sewers find that we’ve got a wardrobe full of prints with nothing to wear them with!

  5. Lizzy

    I try not to buy fabric unless I have a vision for what it will become. Unfortunately I have lots of visions and then little time to sew them!

  6. Ginny

    Fabric junkie, definitely. I have no fabric shops near to home, so I have a shopping trip every time I visit my mum every couple of months. I went last week and came away with about 18m of fabric. I always take a rough list of things I want and try to shop for it, but I go with a very open mind and come away with lots of unplanned purchases. I generally know instantly what I’m likely to want to make from any given fabric though, so I buy accordingly (and generously, just to make sure). My daughter, who’s nearly 3, also generally picks out a couple of things for herself while we’re at it. This week her choices were some white polycotton with tiny strawberries for a dress, and some brushed cotton with cartoon pirates.for PJs.

    The exception is with my vintage patterns: quite often I buy specifically for the pattern then.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Ginny I have similar buying traits as you (although no little girl who gives me the excuse of buying pirate cartoons unfortunately!!) I find that I cannot always get what I want locally so when I go places with bumper fabric buying emporia I too stock up. I also try to be methodical and have some sort of plan (otherwise I either go crazy and regret it, or am overwhelmed and get depressed for missing the opportunity!)

      1. Ginny

        In that case, if your travels up north ever take you near Burnley, allow yourself a few hours to visit Immanuel Fabrics on Bright Street. It’s an old church stuffed (and I mean STUFFED) full of fabric. I never pay more than £3/m for dress fabric in there, most are only £1 or £2, and I did curtains for the whole house for under 20 quid. My nearest fabric shop is about 40 miles away from where I live now and I don’t drive, so it’s no wonder I splurge when I get there really, lol.

  7. Liz

    Normally fabric first, but I tend to have something in mind, like “ohh this will make a good dress/skirt/top”. Only problem is when I change my mind 🙁
    I hoard patterns too though so when I see fabric, I think “I have just the pattern for this”

  8. Shar

    I’m a pattern hoarder who buys my fabric after. I think every piece of fabric in my small stash is ‘assigned’, but I do change my mind sometimes. I’m probably too logic-minded: buy pattern, determine exact yardage and allowable fabric content, then purchase. Maybe I need to think outside of the box a little more!

  9. susan wright

    Oh where di you get that lovely seaside fabric from?
    I buy fabric and then decide what to do with it unfortunately I am quite under confident about my sewing skills.

  10. Clare

    My name is Clare and I am a fabric addict!
    I have an enormous stash (a large part of it from when I worked in a famous fabric shop in Shipley over 6 years ago!) and i still keep buying the stuff! I’ve never got quite the right fabric, or what I’ve got is too good to cut into – I’ll save it for a good dress when I’ve lost a bit of weight! I love linens but my real fabric porn is patterned jersey! I really have got to start using it and stop stroking it…..!
    I do have a wide range of patterns but luckily all the trendy patterns from the small independents don’t come in my size or I’d be stashing them too……..!

  11. sewlittletime

    pattern first usually, unless the fabric is either from a charity shop, remnant or extremely cheap. i don’t really have much of a stash and most things are earmarked for something in particular (although the order of sewing often changes depdinging on weather, new pattern releases and seeing things other bloggers have made!). i do love your beach fabric – it’ll make a fab elisalex!

  12. meggameuf

    Fabric! If I choose the pattern first I can never find my minds-eye fabric. I let my inner magpie choose some fabric and then I deliberate for the next few years whilst it sits in my stash.

  13. Jenni

    most of my ‘stash’ fabrics are things I’ve inherited or had since my last sewing foray 20 years ago! however on the lomdon blogger meet up in april I brought knits for patterns I already had after impulse buying them after blog reading! so pattern 1st for me I think, as the ‘stash’ remains untouched :o(

  14. zora read

    I’m definitely tending towards fabric junkie, I usually have an idea of what I want to buy, though, but usually end up buying that plus anything else that catches my eye. Never seem to have time to do the make up though. I love the seaside print by the way. Trouble is I would want to frame it and put it on the wall so I could see it always. I love the coast.

  15. coco

    Oh, I loooove fabric – I am forced to buy patterns just to keep up! And lots of both are unused as yet, but loved all the same 🙂

  16. Joy

    Ugh, definitely the fabric first. And it seems when I buy fabric for a particular purpose, it often ends up as something else anyway.

    Looking forward to seeing your beachside dress!

  17. Christine Burns

    I have noticed that if I buy a fabric without any idea of what I will make then it generally doesn’t get used and becomes a kind of wart in the box.

    Thinking about it I buy with a garment in mind, then look for aspecific pattern or turn to my tiny hoard to see what would suit the fabric

  18. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Hiya, I am so pleased you saved your lovely machines from Shakatory (ask me how I know about this :/) I know what oyu mean about moving though – I have a huge studio upstairs yet I sewed at the dining room table in our living/dining/kitchen/everything but sleeping and bathroom space, because in Summer, it gets too hot upstairs. And now I can’t face going up there because I know it is a big mess! And a friend is comng to stay for a while up there so I won’t be able to anyway. Hrmph.
    As for fabric or pattern, I don’t do patterns much, but the principle is the same. I start with the fabric, but mostly I buy with an idea in mind – jacket, skirt, dress, coat etc. Sometimes I know exactly what I want to make, sometimes it’s jut a category. And when I finally do make it, sometimes it ends up being a completely different garment. Like the navy woven stripe linen I bought to make a Regency overdress out of, but it became a work skirt!
    I LOVE the seaside fabric, one of the ladies in my quilt class last year made a quilt with it. I became quite besotted with it too, but never had a clear idea what to do with it so I didn’t get any. I am so tickled that you have it!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I hear you too- on both fronts!
      My loft room is …passable…. now.
      And I think at least the fabric usually gives some clues as to what it will be ….a skirt or a dress for example due to its weight and drape.
      As for the seaside fabric…just wish I’d bought more! It’s going to be a patchwork dress of sorts – turning into rather an experiment!

  19. Barb

    Strangely enough, for a non-sewer, I do have a little stash of fabric tucked away. I can’t do anything with it but just had to buy a couple of pieces that caught my eye in case I ever actually learn to sew! Nothing as fabulous as that seaside material though, that is stunning. Also love the blue dotty fabric, will look forward to seeing the final dress x

  20. LinB

    I think I’d have to come down finally on the side of “pattern first.” Since I rarely am able to locate for purchase the exact fabric in the exact fiber content, weight, color that my addled brain envisions, I tend to hoard shapes for garments. Then, as I lurk at the bottom of the Great Fabric River, whatever falls into my maw gets analyzed to see which pattern/style will suit it best. Too, over the past three years especially, friends have gifted me with their dead relatives’ fabric stashes. I mostly sew from my own stash now, what with trying to avoid being featured on one of the many reality t.v. shows about hoarders, and slender bank account because of the on-going worldwide recession, etc., etc.

    When I DO shop for fabric, I am a sucker for cotton broadcloth novelty prints. My sister is a sucker for anything with monkeys printed on it — you’d be surprised at how many upholstery fabrics have featured monkeys dressed up as humans, over the past five years. There are only so many jackets with monkeys on them that a grown woman should be allowed to wear, imo. Elephants, now … elephants are different.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I chuckled reading this Lin! As always! Just imagine the reality show for sewsters – revealed – their very own fabric mountains!!
      And I laughed again at the thought of monkeys festooning your sister’s apparel, but clearly elephants are a totally different kettle of fish – I am right there with you on that one!!

  21. Alessa

    Oh, lovely fabrics!
    I admit I’m mostly a “fabric first” type, too. As in “ooh, what a lovely fabric, and wouldn’t it make the most amazin (insert pattern or garment type of your choice)!”. 😉
    Only occasionally does the pattern come first, but mostly only when I see a particularly nice garment (in a shop or on someone else’s blog) and want to copy it. 😉

  22. Shelly

    Oooooh, lovely fabrics! The seaside one is so cool – can’t wait to see what you do with it.

    At first I thought you were talking about me, but then I realized no, not me as I have a large stash of knit fabrics as well. I tend to buy mindlessly and definitely gravitate towards prints with very few solids, which I often buy with a purpose/pattern in mind first.


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