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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Would the Pioneers Have Done?

After a blogging hiatus and wonderfully relaxing long weekend in Canmore, I am back and ready to rant!  Today's topic is courtesy of my beautiful mother and her funny little ways.  I recently bought a book (using my gift certificate remember) that takes me through how to make my own clothes and includes over 20 different patterns for some really cute dresses, jackets, skirts, and shirts; all for the beginner seamstress.  Cool right?  Well, on the way to Canmore I shared this book with my parents and husband stating that I was very excited to start on some of these projects, however I was really going to be limited by the scarcity of cool fabrics at the thrift stores.  My mom immediately piped up and said that she didn't think that it should count to buy new materials for projects/gifts that I was going to make.  My gut instinct was to disagree with her but then she blurted out, "Just think, what would the pioneers do?"  She said it with such passion that I couldn't help but laugh initially.  After I got thinking about it though, this question seems to me like a good guideline to help me clear up any 'muddy' areas of this project.  Of course, I would prefer to buy all of my materials second hand, but is it really cheating to buy some of the materials new?

I still can't decide about this one, so I am again putting it to a reader poll.  The choices for this one are as follows:

1. Buy new materials (mostly wool & fabric) to my heart's content
2. Buy new materials but only those that are discounted from regular price
3. A combination of the above; buy some new materials, but continue to buy some used
4. No buying of new materials: rules are rules

I am also planning on doing some 'trading' for fabrics: my mom wants me to make her some gifts for example, so I told her that I would if she bought the material along with a bit extra so that I could make a few extras for gifts of my own.  This feels like the best scenario to me, but it doesn't work for all situations.

"Pioneers may be picturesque figures, but they are often rather lonely ones." - Nancy Astor

I am curious to hear from you so get your vote on!
Marebare :)


  1. This post has me laughing out loud, because when I first decided to simplify, many years ago, the first thing I decided to do was to make a quilt. I dutifully cut up squares of fabric (all from discarded pieces of clothing) and set about making a pattern. I contacted a friend who was a quilter and got advice. I even planned to use an old blanket as the batting so I could use as few new materials as possible.

    20 years later, all of my little pieces of fabric still sit in a box in the basement. At some point I realized that I didn't need a quilt! Furtheremore, if I did decide that I needed one, I could get one for about $2 at the thrift store - and aovid any quandry over buying new thread. I finally came to the conclusion that the only purpose the project was serving for me was to make me feel like I was "doing" something.

    I guess there was a larger lesson in this one for me too. Part of simplifying meant slowing down... not filling my life with things to possess, or things to do. But slowing down meant that there was now time to think and feel all of those uncomfortable things that I had studiously avoided feeling or thinking about for most of my life. On some level it was so much easier to grab onto a new "project" so I could continue to avoid dealing with my feelings, but it sorta seemed that I was defeating my purpose.

    I'm not saying that's where you are - If you want to sew, sew! But I would challenge you to look at your motivation for taking on a new project. Is this something you really want to do? Will it fill a need in your life, or will it just fill emotional space?

    Just thoughts to ponder...

  2. Rebecca,

    Safe to say that you do indeed have me pondering!

    If I am honest, I am not sure if you are right about me avoiding my feelings or not... I have always been a ridiculously busy person, no matter what situation I find myself in... I always seem to have something on the go. You are making me wonder if this 'business' is actually avoidance behaviour as yours was. At this point, I am not sure of the answer.

    One thing that I do know, is that since I have started the Marebare Necessities project, I am consistently much happier (and saner) than I have been in a long, long time. Maybe even ever. For me, I think that it comes down to replacing previously unhealthy behaviors (shopping for example, or pining for 'stuff', or being jealous of what others have) to ones that are a lot healthier (making bread, growing my own food, knitting, and yes, learning to sew). This project makes me feel 'in charge' again, or in control. Previously, I really felt like I had very little control over all of the 'bad' things that were affecting my family in this crazy world. This project makes me feel like I do have a say in some things, and I find it very comforting. That being said, control is one of my big issues, and always has been. So, yes, I guess in a way, I am feeding my 'control issues' with this project.

    Today, I am thinking about it like this: I feel like it is more efficient to focus on the things that I can control than those that I can't (as I previously was). Living this way, I find that I appreciate the things that I do have, instead of worrying about the things that I don't. For me, it is a much healthier way of looking at the world.

    Given that I am 20 years behind you in this process, I am sure that you are right about me hiding behind 'my projects' (this blog being one of them) to avoid seeing who I really am. I am curious about exactly when this revelation will hit me.

    Thanks for making me think... as you can tell, it has left me quite muddled!


  3. There's a huge discount fabric store near us in Edmonton. Let me know if you want more info. I don't buy anywhere but there if I can avoid doing so.

  4. Hey Maren,

    I didn't mean to muddle you, and I'm pretty sure I wrote those words as much for myself as for you. I've been a little bit crazed lately with lots of new "projects" and I know from experience that I'm entering the danger zone when I start to fall back on my old friend "the frenzy".

    In truth, I think it's just part of how our culture works. The whole consumerism thing feeds right into it... work more, spend more ad infinitum. But I think on some level most people are happy to play along because it's so much more comfortable to just stay on the treadmill and never really be confronted with yourself. And the giant marketing machine most certainly does NOT want us to slow down, because if we did, we might realize that we don't need 90 percent of the junk they're pedaling!

    I'm a fellow control freak myself, and I totally share your feeling of helplessness in the face of all of the "bad" things out there in this crazy world. I think for me it's even more frightening that I can't control my own feelings. I guess I'm sorta like my cats, I only like it if it was MY idea in the first place!

    Anyhow, I never meant to imply that your whole project was just an avoidance technique, I think it's quite the opposite in fact. You are one of the few people out there who have the courage to try out a different path. At the same time, I read your posts and think to myself "Holy Moly! When does this woman sleep?" I just wanted to encourage you (and to remind myself) to leave some time for experiencing yourself as a human being, not just a human doing.


  5. I grew up with my mother sewing most of our family's clothes to save money. Something my she always believed was that it was not a $ saver if you used inferior quality fabrics or fabrics that no one liked just because it was cheap/free. You have to remember that your time is worth something AND you have to like what you wear! Even when we are saving money we still like to look nice (or at least think we look nice!) That is why you sometimes just have to buy new fabric.