Well, the future is now.
Last weekend, Mrs.5000 and I made our way down to "The Bins," which is formally called something much more diplomatic, "The Portland Goodwill Outlet" or like that. It is where merchandise that can't be sold at a regular Goodwill goes to die. It's great. There's a big, unadorned industrial space with concrete floors and no decoration whatsoever. The stuff on offer is literally heaped in long rows of rolling bins, with next to no organizing principle whatsoever. After a given bin has been literally rummaged through for a few hours, it is rolled back offstage, and a new bin is rolled up to take its place.
No matter what you buy, it's 69 cents a pound, so long as you buy at least fifty pounds of it. Last weekend, I bought fabric.
Six washing machine loads later, I was ready to commence the pressing and folding of, at a rough guess, around 150 yards of salvage fabric. But first, of course, there was some minor disassembly to be done; although I found several yards of whole cloth, most of this haul was in the form of sheets, curtains, futon covers, and clothing. My rule was to avoid anything that would likely attract a buyer -- no matched sets of sheets or wearable clothing allowed. Basically, I was reclaiming waste textiles, in bulk.
This motherlode of cotton and cotton/poly salvage will now join pieces from my existing collection of sub-standard fabric to make up the raw materials for QuiltStorm. The idea is to create a series -- an "edition," as they say in Mrs.5000's bookarts circles -- of very simple, very easy to make, 100% recycled lap blankets. I've prepared about 20 different designs, but they really all just boil down to sewing a lot of strips together. Here, as mocked up on the fabulous MicroSoft quilt design utility "Excel," is a typical example.:
Or maybe this:
Now, you may be wondering "Why? What is the point of all this?" And that's a reasonable question. But I've got answers!
- I've been spending a lot of quilting time lately challenging my precision and my ability to do fairly detailed work on a bunch of labor-intensive projects. It seems like it might be liberating to work very quickly and loosely on projects that have more room for error.
- Having a lot of scrappy quilt tops around means I'll be able to experiment with machine quilting technique without it being a stressful, high-stakes business.
- If it turns out that the finished quilts are really cool, I'll have a lot of really cool little quilts on hand.
- And, the recycling aspect of the project really appeals to me. It's theoretically possible that the raw materials I'm using would have found another buyer if they hadn't found me, but I'm fairly certain that 90% of it would have continued to circle the drain for a short while, or maybe a long while, and then wound up in the landfill. The idea of using them for something useful and interesting, instead, makes me feel connected to the practical roots of the Craft.
One concern I have -- well, "concern" might be overstating the case, but anyway -- is that if these guys are going to be 100% recycled, I'll need to use scrap or salvage batting. I have enough scrap batting and batting-like stuff for about five quilts, but after that I might have to actually go out and buy batting for these things. Does anyone have ideas for alternative salvage batting?