Make or Buy?

Readers,

Being a largely from-scratch cook and baker (I have made my own crackers–not worth it–and bagels–worth it) I bring a DIY approach to food preparation. But when is it worth making something and when is it worth buying readymade in the pursuit of getting things sewn?

2002: Homemade bagels, fresh from the oven!

2002: Homemade bagels, fresh from the oven!

I submit three situations with my decisions.

Situation 1.

Earlier this week I moved my spring-summer clothes out of my small closet to a rolling clothes rack and moved my fall-winter clothes in. I had a big pile of sweaters that in the past I had either hung on padded hangers or folded and stored in makeshift storage cubes (bankers’ boxes turned on their sides, if you must know) on a shelf just beyond easy reach.

The hangers were convenient for me, but hanging is bad for sweater shoulders. The boxes were fine for the sweaters but inconvenient for me.

Ready to be properly folded.

Ready to be properly folded.

Then it occurred to me that I could have the convenience of both storage cubes and proximity. (Imagine!) Don’t ask why but I’d never thought of using those soft-sided collapsible hanging storage units in my own closet for stowing folded clothes .

Q. Make or buy?

A. Buy.

Thrilled by the novelty of defining and solving a problem in the same afternoon, I didn’t even think about sewing my own soft-sided closet storage cubbies. I flew to Target, gladly forked over $7.99 for a sweater storage unit, and had a tidy closet in an hour.

Sweaters (and shoes) are now stowed handily.

Sweaters (and shoes) are now stowed handily.

I went so far as to divide my sweaters into cardigans, pullovers, and turtlenecks and follow directions from Real Simple for properly folding a sweater.

Conclusion: Worth buying. I could imagine, though, enjoying using home decorating fabric remnants to sew custom-sized closet storage pieces.

Situation 2.

I saw an article about a closet makeover that used labeled disc-shaped dividers from the Container Store to organize clothes on a rod. I saw possibilities for my rolling clothes rack, where I store a mix of off-season clothes, clothes awaiting ironing or repairs, and muslins for future sewing projects.

Labeling the dividers made me think about what categories I had.

Labeling the dividers forced me to define categories.

The Container Store’s dividers are 99 cents apiece. And you supply your own labels.

Make or buy?

Make.

A yogurt container lid, a Sharpie, an X-Acto knife, a label maker, and minutes later I had my own clothes rod dividers.

Cut from the hole to the outside edge so the disc can be fitted around the rod.

Cut from the hole to the outside edge so the disc can be fitted around the rod.

Conclusion: Worth it, since I have these things around anyway and the making is quick. But really, I don’t want a wardrobe so large that it needs dividers.

This little divider works!

This little divider works!

On the other hand, naming the reasons why I’d parked clothes on the rolling rack so I could make the labels made me realize I’ve got some decisions to make. “Iron” and “Spring-Summer” are legitimate categories, but “I might take a pattern off this gift dress” is not. Neither is “I inherited this suit. What do I do with it?” (Therein lies another post.)

Situation 3.

For over a year I’ve pondered how to store my burgeoning button collection for easy access and for inspiration.

Closed storage? Open storage?

These buttons are bagged, but still not very organized or accessible

These buttons are bagged, but still not very organized or accessible

Compartmentalized boxes sold at craft stores, or at hardware stores? Resealable bags? Spice jars? Cabinets with tiny drawers?

Organize by color? Size?

Materials for the prototype hanging bag.

Materials for the prototype hanging bag.

What would let me grab buttons to try against a fabric at home or take to a fabric store and also return easily to storage?

Till I figure out a better system,  I’ve been storing my beautiful, mostly vintage buttons in Ziploc snack bags, organized by color–sort of–in shoeboxes.  In a closet. Out of sight. Where there’s not a chance I’ll be inspired.

A couple of days ago, heady from solving my closet storage problem, I tackled the button storage problem anew. How about using bags with holes for hanging on my pegboard hooks or from a ring?

First test passed: the bag hangs.

First test passed: the bag hangs.

Q. Make or buy?

A. Make.

I hauled out my industrial-strength three-hole punch and adjusted the spacing for pegboard hooks. Then I went to work trying to punch holes in those Ziploc snack bags. The holes came out ragged and only half-cut, requiring delicate trimming with embroidery scissors. Then, to protect the holes from being torn open, I affixed those little reinforcements.

Reinforcements are fussy to apply but protect holes from tearing open.

Reinforcements are fussy to apply but protect holes from tearing open.

Voila! My prototype worked. One down, just a couple hundred more to go!

Let’s see..at five minutes per bag that would work out to just…16 1/2 hours of work!

Hmm. Time to reconsider.

Both hole punches left shredded, half-cut holes that had to be trimmed with little scissors. No thanks!

Both hole punches left shredded, half-cut holes that had to be trimmed with little scissors. No thanks!

Q. Make or buy?

A. Buy!

From PaperMart’s warehouse in California a case (the minimum order amount) of “hang tab lip and tape” polypropylene bags is making its way to this sewing space. In plain English, they’re resealable see-through bags about the size of a 3″ by 5″ index card,  with cardboard tops punched with a hole to hang from a hook in a store display.

I learned about these bags almost a year ago but resisted buying a case of a thousand. But my curiosity has gotten the better of me. I’ll give them a try and record my impressions in this space.

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