It was so well worn from a bygone era of worldly travels on ocean liners I expected to find something rare and exotic inside. Sadly, this lovely old steamer trunk could only offer a dense assortment of small fabric scraps. Within hours of jettisoning the mishmash to the charity shop pile I started getting flashbacks of everything I had just rapid fired into bags. I was seeing connections between those bits of fabric and other things we had discovered during my parents’ downsizing. Over the next few days, I came to realize that trunk held a textile record of everything my mother had ever sewn. The fabric bits spanned decades and included swatches from square dancing outfits when they were Tartan Twirlers to cozy flannel pyjamas I remember wearing as a kid. There were memories and feelings embedded in these scraps and there was an unusual beauty to the random mix. It was a palette of colours, patterns and textures that could only come together over time. They haunted me and by week’s end I was back in the garage digging to find the bags and snag a small sampling for my own stash. Crazy I know but it was a lightbulb moment.
There are textile traditions from every part of the world that are solely based on the use of scraps: crazy quilts, hit and miss hooked rugs, Kantha cloth made from old saris to name a few. Scraps have a former life and when brought together their random associations can bring something new and fresh, as well as, connect to a history. After finding Mum’s collection I reflected on a few on my own experiences using scraps and leftovers.
I used leftovers from two very different rug projects to make these pillows. I created colour combinations and designs by responding to a sense of randomness and limitation. Even before I brought materials( and memories) from different projects together many of them had a life as a wool shirt or skirt. All those layers of history were with me when I made these pillows.
Using the “standing wool rug” technique I dove into a six month pile of leftover wool strings to create this piece in progress. There were lots of colours and widths that seemed incompatible but I played with them like a game of improv. I’m fascinated by the endless combinations and permutations that can come from this fixed group of materials collected by circumstance.
I have a new appreciation for a pile of scraps these days. Using scraps and leftovers can be more than just a practical gesture. A pile of textile scraps is unpredictable and pregnant with creative possibility. They are like maps encoded with our experiences and the life of our material choices. It’s a magical confluence when they are combined into something new. When I think back to that well traveled steamer trunk it did indeed hold something rare and beautiful and I’m glad I recognized the treasure in time to keep a little bit of it for myself.
Thanks for stopping in!
P.S. In my last month’s post I gave you the head’s up on my workshops for Newfoundland’s Fibre Art Conference this October. There was a computer glitch with their website. A few workshops including mine were showing as completely full when in fact they weren’t. So for anyone who tried to register and couldn’t there are actually a few spots still available.