Friday, February 29, 2008

Salvage Fabric: A Biography

OK, so it's 1995, and I just learned to quilt last year, and I'm a graduate student living in the university ghetto of Lawrence, Kansas. Most of the other students have just left town for the summer, and my girlfriend and I know that there will be rich pickings in the dumpsters that line the alley behind my house. And we're right -- in a few hours of mildly unseemly scavaging, we're going to score several pieces of furniture, some wearable clothing, office supplies, a couple of CDs, and other miscellaneous low-budget treasures that light-travelling students have shed rather than haul with them to the next adventure.

In my take is a dress that someone, or someone's mom, has made by hand. It's nothing that my girlfriend would wear, but I've learned to know quilting-weight fabric when I see it, and I'm thrilled to have something new for my little stash. I disassemble the dress into its component pieces, and wonder what uses I might find in the future for my big score...



1997: Bits of the fabric find their way into the pieced border of my first full-sized quilt.



1998: I use the fabric in a very scrappy "Around the World." The piece ends up winning a blue ribbon at the county fair when a error in the published rules creates a category that only it fits into. I feel famous!


1999: A single square of the fabric shows up in a little wall hanging, the last piece I make in Kansas.



2005: Several pieces of the fabric find their way into the big Log Cabin.


2007: Squares of the fabric show up in a child's blanket.



I sometimes wonder if the woman who used to wear that dress still remembers it at all. I've still got plenty of fabric from it left. I'm sure I will find at least a few more uses for it before it runs out....

11 comments:

jovaliquilts said...

Once upon a time I was a graduate student studying history, and I well remember those lucky finds! I even picked up change I'd find lying on the sidewalk. And the historian in my just loves your retracing the path of that fabric.

You were a bold beginner, doing a slanted pieced border! Wow!

The Calico Cat said...

A. Love that border.
B. Do tell us about that quilt show error.
C. I am so impressed with how well you have spread that fabric!

Bridget B. said...

This is a marvelous history! There are certainly some items I've "let go of" and wondered where they ended up . . .

gl. said...

oh, i love tracking the fabric like this! it's almost like organ donation. :)

Elaine Adair said...

Clever guy! The Trip Around the World and the Log Cabin are REALLY nice! Great job.

Sherri said...

That's fantastic, Micheal. Funny how wonderfully a piece of fabric weaves its way through our work over the span of years. I love fabric with stories.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post. Since I read it, I have thought about it several times, just like I have on occassion, wondered what happens to the clothes I donate to Goodwill. As always I look forward to your entires. -Canadian Gail

Rebel said...

We call that "Dumpster Diving" and it's a treasured year-end activity on college campuses everywhere!

Glad to see you put the fabric to such good use!

Libby said...

That's a great part of "good old fashioned" quilting, huh? The scrap of fabric that shows up in quilt after quilt and always reminds you of that one time... When I first started quilting I thought it would be cool to always use one fabric from the "previous" quilt in the "next" quilt, but then I discovered that my process isn't quite that linear...

Michael5000 said...

@Calico: Not much to tell about the quilt show error. I never figured out what had "gone wrong." You could tell it killed them to give me the blue ribbon, though! : )


Thanks for the nice comments, everyone!

Kristina said...

This is great info to know.