Clearing Out My Sewing Room for Fabric-a-brac!

This is the state of my sewing room right now.  I say sewing room, though for the past few weeks the mess has forced me to sew at the dining room table.  I’ve been telling myself for a year or so to clear out the cupboards and pass on the proceeds to someone who would put to use the fabric remnants, scraps, and the 15 or so Amy Butler patterns I acquired the year I taught a once-a-month Amy Butler bag class… It’s so easy to pile up fabrics and patterns when you work in a sewing shop!  My needs as a sewist have changed, yet I’m still hoarding all this stuff. Which means I don’t have any room for the stuff I do use.

Today, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work.  I’d love to tell you that everything is ship-shape and in good order, but I think this is a task that might take a little while.  I uncovered piece after piece of leftover fabric, remembering the sewing and the blogging and the life those garments live.

Some of my “wasted space” is taken up by projects I haven’t yet finished.  I have two deep drawers full of pieces of this medallion quilt– all of it in one place with the paper piecing templates and extra fabric pieces.  It’s nowhere nearer completion than it was last year this time.  I think I don’t love the tamarind color.  What can I possibly do with this?

Fabric-a-brac is an annual stash-busting and social event that takes place all over New Zealand and more recently in Sydney and Brisbane!  It provides crafters and sewists with a chance to de-stash, socialize, and score a few bargains.  I’m very, very pleased to organize the second-ever Brisbane Fabric-a-brac at the State Library Queensland as part of Brisbane Fashion Week.  Fashion Week in Brisbane is a chance to check out all the latest collections from local and international designers, but also features a range of events and discussions to enhance our understanding of clothing and textiles and the roles they play in our everyday lives.

Fabric-a-brac Brisbane will be held in conjunction with a fascinating panel discussion on Fashion and Cultural Identity, presented by women from the Romero Center– a local refugee-aid community center.  If you’re interested, do follow the link and RSVP– it’s free!  I am *very* intrigued (I’m an immigrant, too!) and look forward to hearing what these ladies have to say.

A portion of the proceeds from Fabric-a-brac Brisbane will go to benefit the good work at Karuna Hospice.  Karuna are also accepting fabric and notions donations for their own fabric-a-brac table, and they’ll be selling tea and coffee and baked goods!

This event has really come together in the past two weeks, I’m almost out of space for stallholders.  If you’d like to buy a stall space to de-stash and help Karuna Hospice, please email me at or at my regular email address.  I don’t expect to have space for much longer, so do drop me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

If you’d like to help out and donate fabric or baked goods for Karuna Hospice, email me at or and I’ll take good care of you.

If you’d like to drop by Fabric-a-brac to check out the finds, then mark your calendar for August 25th, 12-5pm, State Library Queensland, Level 2 Terrace.  You can RSVP via the Fabric-a-brac Facebook page.

Meanwhile, I have quilting and crafting scraps to sort into neat little bundles for the sale… Silks, wools, lace, velvet, quilting fabrics, bags I cut out and labeled but never stitched- I’m clearing out as much as I can while I have the chance!

How does that sound, Brisbane?  Also- if you’d like a tamarind and lime and black and while quilt that is 75% pieced, let me know!

And if you’re not in Brisbane– I’d love to hear of some great ways to get rid of extra sewing and crafting stuff.  Do you hang on to remnants like me, or do you get rid of them?  How do you tame your sewing room?


  1. Well I can help out with those Amy Butler patterns. I have just started making bags and would love to get my hands on those.Also things like feet for bags.Lets talk.

  2. I am trying to tame/keep a lid on things sewing related, but it seems to be a constant struggle.

    I do actually have a system although my husband is rather sceptical about it. I keep scraps of quilting fabric (not tinsy tiny pieces, because I will never ever do a postage stap quilt), but only larger pieces of garment fabric (the pieces have to be large enough to serve as a tier in a girls skirt). Having said that, my favourite part about sewing so far is buying fabric, so as of this week I am on a fabric and yarn diet and I will not buy anything until September or should I actually have used up every last piece of fabric I have before (unlikely judging by the state of my bedroom).

    These great plans however rely on my having enough will power to say no, and I do struggle with that. In fact I have a fabric that I absolutely love already picked out in Spotlight and I am just waiting for a coupon. AND I’ll definitly go to the fabric-a-brac, so really, what hope have I got :-)

    • Well- All things in moderation, right? ;)

      Those Spotlight coupons give SUCH good prices for fabric… It’s really amazing..

      I look forward to seeing you! Don’t be shy about saying Hi, I’ll be the one dressed like a lunatic and running around… :)

  3. Good for you for cleaning up and moving on, and it’s a shame you don’t like that quilt anymore, I think it’s lovely! But I know how things can go. Good luck with the Bric-a-brac show and hope lots of money is raised for the hospice.

    • Well– I learned a LOT on that quilt, and I haven’t completely decided to pass her on.. I just don’t ever see having a house with those colors in it. Maybe a guest room that’s all blacks and whites with bright green plants and touches of tamarind. But I doubt it. I let someone else tell me what colors to pick, I should have gone with my gut. Lesson learned!

      Thanks, Denise. :) It should be a really fun afternoon.

  4. That sounds like such a fun event. Shame I’m a bit far away!

    I recycle my teeny scraps and the bigger ones I put in a basket, to one day hopefully do something with. Maybe a quilt, when I get myself organised! I was thinking of doing something on my blog about ways to use scraps, to inspire myself!

    • Very cool! I have two boxes of scraps I use for quilts; all my reds/pinks go into one (pineapple) and blues/whites go into the other(storm at sea)… I do paper pieced squares, and my quilts (except the one in this post) tend to feature apparel fabrics… that’s how I paper piece… It takes a little effort to learn, but now I can make these stunning blocks using all kinds of random bits and pieces of fabric… It’s really satisfying to turn a box of scraps into a stack of quilt blocks… And if I never make the quilt (or make it ten years from now) that’s cool too…

  5. Such a great idea! It got me thinking about hosting a smaller scale fabric stash/ fund raiser in my area. I know there are many of us here with so much fabric and so many notions just sitting in totes and drawers. It would be nice to send it out into the world where it might just get made into something wonderful and do a good deed at the same time. Thanks for the idea!

    • Yes! Do it! :) If you want any tips or anything, or have questions about how we’re running ours, let me know. I was a little like “????” when I started working on this one, but once I got the ball rolling there was no problem.. It should be good!

  6. My sewing area IS my dining table, so I have to keep it realtively neat or everyone gets cranky. Storing the machines is tricky, but I have a cocktail cabinet I keep my fabric in.. the rule is if theres no room in the cabinet, I can’t buy more fabric… that doesn’t always get stuck too, but fairly close. And much easier than my pre-cocktail-cabinet rule of three grocery bags. In progress/definitively planned projects get put in large ziploc bags with their pattern pieces and thread so nothing gets lost, and they all get put into a large shoe box from a pair of boots.. scraps get shoved into ziploc bags until I find a use for them as seam binding or doll clothes or pockets or whathaveyou – large bag for largish scraps, small bag for small scraps – and anything big enough to still potentially have a Proper Use goes back into the cocktail cabinet. I use honey buckets like those you have too – for threads and ribbons mostly.
    I love the idea of a fabric swap/sell/pass-on like that, but I’m not sure I could stand to part with any of my stuff!!!

    • Sigh… Yes, cranky… My husband and I occasionally have to discuss why I have drafting all over the kitchen counters, all over the floor, all over the dining table and my sewing area looks like a bomb hit it…

      Those honey buckets are so darn useful! I’ve been saving them and yogurt containers for ages and ages, sometimes I make huge batches of laundry soap or yogurt or granola or whatnot, so it’s good to have “throwaway” containers on hand.. And they come in handy for things like packing up scraps to sell off at fabric-a-brac. :)

  7. You know I’ve been homesick for a while and after almost a year down here in Tasmania I think I really do want to come home. You just might see me at the State Library on August 25!

    • Oooh that would be so cool! You have to make sure to grab me and talk to me, I’ll be the person running around like crazy and munching on Lamingtons washed down with black coffee… :)

  8. Your paper-piecing-tutorial makes quilting look easy and I would love to try one day. I once tried quilting but soon gave up. I was not accurate enough. The Fabric-a-brac idea is wonderful and I have seen some advertisements for the ones in NZ. I hope it will come to Perth one day, but I doubt it. One fabric store closes down after the other. We have very few choices for fabric now. The conclusion I am drawing is that there are not many sewers over here in the west. It is almost impossible to find sewing classes. Craft classes yes, but dressmaking, no.

    • It does take a little knack to learn, but once you do it’s my favorite “brainless handwork” type sewing… :)

      Shame about the west… But it seems to me like there’s a wave of change moving through most of the world, people picking up tools and working with their hands.. Maybe sewing will come back to Perth. And the organizer for Fabric-a-brac is an amazing lady, if you want to talk to her about organizing one in Perth, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with her. Sometimes all it takes to make something like this happen in your home city is to put your hand up and say “Yeah, I’ll organize it…”

  9. Awesome to see this event spreading, and fantastic that you are organising! I do rather avoid the Wellington Fabric-a-Brac – I’m a little afraid I’d always come home with more fabric than I took. I’ve been de-stashing scraps lately by having students use them to practice on. It’s a little slower, but it works.

    Tamarind? Tangerine?

    • Nah, it’s browner in real life, the color photographs weird. So does the green, come to think of it.

      Sigh… As quickly as I offload scraps and remnants to students, other people de-stash on me… So I never quite seem to clear out my sewing room as much as I’d like.

  10. There must be something in the air because at the weekend I sorted through the stash and pulled together a crate of fabric and books to send to the charity shop.

  11. This sounds like such a great event! I’ve done small PR fabric swaps but always incidental to the main event. This sounds like a much better way. I pass along my unwanted stash on freecycle. I’ve given away bags and bag and BAGS of it.

    • Freecycle! I don’t think that exists here, but I think I could gut my sewing room in no time on freecycle.. That’s the dream. ;)

    • Cleaning up the sewing room? I actually took that photo before I started working, and everyone knows that for a job like that you have make a big mess before you start getting anywhere… So there’s a small island of sanity surrounding my husband’s desk but the rest is bedlam… :)

  12. Just marked the date down – I’m a Brissie sewer who will pop in on the day! Most of my left-over scraps (or treasures!!!) are used up in my classroom – 25 little Year 1’ers that just love craft afternoon. Looking forward to hunting around at your various stalls on the day – will be a great afternoon…looking, buying, eating Lamingtons…..

  13. A couple of times a year my friend and I hold what we call “Crafters’ Clearout”. It’s a cross between a craft fair and a jumble sale and it allows crafters and designers to sell off what they no longer use. We end up doing a lot of swapping between the different stall holders as well as selling to the public but it’s great fun and we all go home with lovely new things to play with :)

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  15. Some one talked about a fabric diet. I have one of those for wool and books. I may need to start one for fabric but so far I’m doing OK with that.

    If you never finish that quilt…you could make bags out of them. Piece enough of the squares together and you could have a tote bag. Well, several totes. Then you could sell, donate, give, raffle these bags away. I might not do a room in those colors but I would (as many others would) haul my knitting and handwork around in one of those.

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