Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stashing with Dorothy and Rochelle

Debra's posts about thrift store shopping have made me think a lot about collecting and recycling. Crafters and artists seem to be drawn to collect things we can't always think up a use for. We recognize the potential in all kinds of seemingly mundane things. For example, I now have a collection of cotton plaid shirts which I'm saving for the day when I'll make them into a quilt. I'm also currently making a quilt from discontinued home dec fabric samples, which I had to pry from their display books. Now that I'm at the embellishing stage of my Madonna quilt, I'm looking through my stash of buttons and doo-dads and remembering that I "inherited" some of my best stash from two women, Dorothy and Rochelle, who are now in Crafting Heaven, and who died, as I guess all crafters and artists must, without using up all the things they had collected.

Dorothy was my sister-in-law Diane's mother. I never knew her, but when she died, my brother and Diane had to clear out the house where she had lived, and sewn for decades. Neither Diane nor her sister sew or craft, so Dorothy's' considerable stash meant nothing to them. However, my mother, who although she is not a crafter nor a sewer, but who hates to see anything go to waste, got the chance to rescue a bunch of stuff, which she saved for me, because she knew I'd think of something to do with these odds and ends (eventually). Dorothy's bark cloth drapes are the source for the outer border of my Madonna quilt. I love the way they locate the quilt in a nostalgic moment in the past. These are exactly the kinds of drapes my maternal grandmother and my aunts would've had in the 50s. I also have Dorothy's collection of thimbles: one looks like its Bakelite and another is a souvenir of the 1939 New York World's Fair (those are the two on their sides). I also have several containers of buttons which she had sorted by kind into bouillon bottles. I have a big collection of metal buttons that were Dorothy's, some look like they came from military or police uniforms.

In addition, I have enough bias and hem tape to last me until the end of time.

Rochelle, the other major source for my stash, and her husband Felix were my parent's neighbors. They never had any children, so when Felix died, my parents kept an eye out for Rochelle until she couldn't manage on her own anymore, and a nephew moved her near him. She died soon after the move. When the nephew cleaned out Rochelle's house to move her, again my mother collected a lot of her crafting supplies that otherwise, would've gone into the dumpster. If this arts and crafts thing were an addiction, my mother would be my connection. Although Rochelle had been blind during her later years, she had a considerable collection of crafting books, yarn, beads, and a ton of suit samples, mostly wool, but also silk, and that indestructible polyester, that she'd gotten from a relative who'd worked in a men's store. I've made two wool quilts, and one polyester and corduroy one (for the car) and I still have two large tubs full of fabric. I also have enough fine wool yarn for a sweater, but it's, unfortunately, an orange-red that should be against the law--so that's put away, ripening for some future unimagined use.

I think these broken pearl necklaces were from both of them.

I hope by using Rochelle and Dorothy's supplies, that some part of them gets wrapped up in my work. I love old things. They seem to carry with them the spirit of people who admired them, and the creative impusle that kept them in the artist's stash. --Barbara


Rian said...

That was a lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

Debra Spincic said...

Just a little while back my mother, who is 71, was packaging up her yarns with tags indicating the value. She called me and was telling me that she had started this project. My mother has yarn like we have fabric. She used to have that much fabric but she gave it to me. aaargh!

Being the "sensitive daughter" that I am, I started laughing & asked her why in the world she was doing that with her yarn.

"When I die I don't want you to sell it in the yard sale for a $1 each. Some of this yarn is pretty expensive."

"Mom, for goodness sake, I know that! I'm not going to sell your yarn at any yard sale."

That was all she needed to hear because she dropped that project like a hot potato.

I have often told Brent to give my fabric to someone who wants it. I would hope that he would keep the quilts. I don't know whether Wes would or not. He is not at all sentimental about his first wife's things. But, she didn't make anything. She just shopped. Big difference there.