Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rag of the Day December 25 2011

 -December 25 2011CN tracks between Ridout and the station; cotton fabric woven in Austria according to the tag and shirt sewn in Canada; the front breast side is quite torn up; sun faded in parts, tears easily but quite sturdy. It is almost like a polished cotton.

I used some of the back to make this.

It is a gift for a young photographer and former student who made us the most beautiful gifts last year (a book of her photos and a flock of Chestnut Animals!). All of the silk is recycled Fair Trade sari strips except for the turquoise from an old embroidered robe I bought at the Buck a Pound a few years ago. The backing is a former rag of the day too, the thread is bamboo and second-hand embroidery floss. I'm not quite finished with it; I know she will like to know where the cloth came from. And that it is made just for her!

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Feature: Cloth and the Elements

I'm still thinking about these things. It's all cloth out in the elements, being used somehow or recently used, wearing away. These are each how we found them, though we did noodle a bit with the 'GAP' tag so it appeared a bit better. I just like to see cloth outside like this somehow.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rag of the Day Special Edition: Neckties

-December 8 2011 Fishing Beach; the tan dot is silk, I don't know yet about the brown one.

Late this summer I found one necktie at the same spot on the river where I found these two today; that one is still 'in process' as librarians say, in a bucket on the back porch. It is is so tightly packed with sand that I can't get it out without tearing the cloth. So I'm waiting on that one for now.

But this evening I found the two above on the same little stretch of beach where I found the first one. I've already cleaned them and taken out the linings. Oddly they were tied to each other in big double knots, and around a bundle of brush. Odder still is that we have just finished a major flood here, and so these and the bundle they were tied to washed up sometime earlier this week. And it was such an extreme flood, the bundle could have come from anywhere up river. I'll have to start calling this necktie beach I guess.

When I find a cloth in a state like this- when it is an obvious effort by someone else- I usually leave it if it is as clearly a spontaneous expression as the figure below was:

This appeared by the train tracks last summer. Whoever made it found all their materials beside the train tracks, the same places we go to find stuff. The head, as I recall, was a purse, and the mouth was the purse's zipper.

I'm certain the necktie bundle washed up on shore as I found it, and had floated far away from wherever it was made. And maybe it was just somebody bundling their cut brush with whatever was at hand. And maybe that was just old ties.

I am still amazed at the sheer variety of cloth we find since I started down this path of using it in my sewing last year. I have thought a lot about why there is so much cloth discarded 'in plain sight', and about how much of it seems 'ruined' by being out in the elements- it becomes dirty, but really more symbolically I think 'contaminated' because it has been outside. But, as I'm discovering, a lot of cloth can go through an awful lot and still be perfectly beautifully fine.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rag of the Day November 18 2011

-cotton-polyester blend; hospital sheet; November 18 in Weekend Park.

-detail of mold stains; cleaned with vinegar, laundry detergent, hot water and finally a bit of bleach to get the smell out, but these lovely marks are permanent.

This had washed up onto the floodplain at some point this fall. It was tied to a fragment of a nylon tent, one corner worked through two d-rings at one tip of the tent. Both were partly covered in sand and dirt that had been deposited by the water flowing over them. Given its association with the tent, I suppose this was part of some improvised shelter over this past summer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Studying Little Decisions

I have been thinking a lot about how slightly I plan things as I'm sewing, and a little about how I decide what to do next. How did I learn to sew? Not 'what did I learn', but how did I learn to sew the way I do? I'm looking at the cloth suspended all over the house every day asking what these makers learned to do next once the cloth and the needle were in their hands.

Here are patches on a dress- I notice the patches are big, anchored far outside the hole being mended, and overlapped.

And the stripes on the patch are carefully matched to the stripes on the garment, even though the patch and the garment are different colours- the dress is faded, the patch is not.

The edges of the hole are slightly turned and overcast. The patches are magnificent, spontaneous. The stitches aren't hidden, they are part of the patch.

The stiches on the top around the outisde of the patch are guided by the stripes. A decision.

Lines of straigh stitch on the boro cloths I have to look at here are similar in some ways; the lines wander to conform to the shape of the seam. But the construction overall is distinctly different; this is a composition of smaller cloths, not a reconstruction.

The flap here, on the left hand side, is a loose tail. The whole piece it is part of is applied here on top of other cloth. It is kind of a reverse patch, a hole added over another cloth. Maybe yet to be finished? Or maybe whoever was composing this cloth wanted it like that. I don't know.

And on every Mayan textile I have, the embroidered details are applied on one surface and the tails of the thread are woven into the base cloth.

Barely a stitch of the the thread appears on the other side. The tails leave tracks under the base cloth on the embroidered side, but not a trail on the other side.

This is a South Asian textile, a wool shawl with a heavily embroidered border and all-around edging. Here is the front:

And what I presume to be the back.

And the edging detail, from one side or the other, I presume 'the back'. The difference here with the Mayan textile is intriguing; certainly this is in part a function of the base cloths themselves; a fine wool doesn't have so many places to hide stitches I guess. But the stitcher's decisions are here; even a bit of that person's  process is here. I think the orange was sewed last?

And finally, a little mystery that just dawned on me the other day. I have owned this weaving for a few years; I bought it from a weaver from Guatemala who once ran her own weaving stall and workshop just over the border in Honduras. I saw her weaving this a few times as I walked by her workshop until finally I decided to ask if she might sell it.

And I didn't notice the differences between the 'bottom' two rows of bees until I was back in Canada. There are ten rows of the upper row of bees on the cloth, and only one row of the smaller bees. It dawned on me the other day what had happened: she changed her mind. The bottom row is the first row of bees and the one above is the second row. The first and second rows were each an experiment as she figured out how she wanted the bees to look. Even though I had seen her weaving it over a few days, on a backstrap loom, I didn't get it.

So maybe that is what I'm thinking about. About how making something unfolds as a set of decisions, step by step, about how much experience and spontaneity goes into taking each step. That the process unfolds in the making, and not in the planning. That's what I'm thinking about.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rag of the Day October 30 2011 and Arlee Barr's Class

-ladies yellow cotton shirt; hanging on a low sucker branch on a box elder; south side of CN tracks near Wellington.

I washed it this morning with my blue scarf. A piece of the fringe came off the scarf, which appears through the cloth of the shirt:

It looks like a vein- sort of creepy, sort of touching, sort of 'halloweeny'. But I still like how it looks.

Below is where some rags of the day have gone lately, especially some of the really fragile stuff. I'm taking a class with Arlee Barr, who is teaching us about her methods for building up stitched surfaces. It is perfect for how I want to work with some fragile textiles, little bits that are going to wash and wear away pretty quickly. I hope the stitches will make a kind of matrix that stays together as the cloth falls away.

This is my first thing- a pouch, of course. There's a little fragment of a prayer flag there; the Snow Lion, of course.

A lot of the thread here is also second-hand. The pink and the red below are from spools marked 'Artificial Silk' (I think it is rayon) that I bought last summer at the mission store. The label is very old, could be 1920s, could be 1940s. Despite its age, it works well for the built-up stitches that Arlee is teaching us. I think it is for crocheting, but works for sewing.

I'm using Arlee's stitches to make seams between thin strips of cloth. And below to make the two seams on the inside of the bag. I can barely find the seams here, they disappear within the overall stitched effect.

And this is a corner of the pouch, where a sliver of walnut dyed linen is patched on for strength.

I found a smashed mirror a little while ago, and noticed for the first time how all of the fragements were triangular. I put one piece in my pocket, and have it ready to try to add it somehow to the front, kind of a shisha fragment but in a sliver shape. I'll let you know how it works out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Handwork at a Rural Fall Fair

Last year I posted the picture above, of a spectacular mend- a patch on a sheet being used as the background for the cabinets where the annual Fair competition entries are displayed. Like this (note that everyone who entered the Maple Syrup competition has the same last name):

Well, here is the same sheet this year! It must wait in the Agricultural Society barn all year.

And Jude's students might love to see these woven paper entries in the 'paper placemat' competition:

It surprises me how little handwork there is on display, and how little variety there is in the canning and produce competitions. Fifty years ago women and their kids canned a much greater diversity of fruits and vegetables than today. Even ten years ago there were stacks of quilts, though most machine sewn. Fifty years ago women would have displayed much more- tatting, crocheting, even garments. And hand sewn quilts. I talked for a minute with a woman who used to show her "quilts and things".

Things change, of course, and trends to 'saving time' sweep away hand work. But things can also change in response to all of the pressures that force us to 'save time'. Maybe we can just have the time to go slow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Magic Diaries, Big and Little

I was supposed to be setting the table for a Birthday Party under the arbor, and discovered that the Magic Diaries cloth is now just about the same size as the Birthday Party table. It might be the right size, then. It is still two sections made up of four individual panels, each a double woven or mosaiced base. This is the windblown star:

Along one edge there is a long 'continuous nine patch' or checkerboard border.

I see little nine patches in here, and find myself treating them as little parts of the bigger whole.

And, I'm loving where the once separate panels meet. They are nice places to sew- I can use heavy stitches, or make the seams less visible. But it changes everything when they come together.

As Jude has been teaching us in Magic Diaries, when working on a cloth like this, which doesn't have a fixed model, only a modeller, you notice and insert small details. In the space of the cloth you hold in your hands, you find a whole cloth to work. I thought to take some photos of those I like the most. Here are bits of the same old silk sari, part sun faded, part still vibrant, they are patching each other here.

Where a square became a triangle in a funny way.

Where a set of little blocks clustered.

Where a former Rag of Day, a painter's rag, covered in paint, appears to have a print as the colours pop out because of the colour in the base cloth.

And, as Jude has also taught us, when you fold it up, you see other cloths all together. Here, kind of like the pattern I love, 'Flying Geese'.

And the relationships between triangles and squares.

How the shapes travel over the curves when it is bundled.

So that's what I'm noticing about the Magic Diaries cloth today. I think there is one more border to add, a different kind of checkerboard, one that creates rectangles instead of squares.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rag of the Day August 25, 2011

-maybe nylon or rayon? I started pinning it on another cloth before I remembered to take a picture. Found on the beach on the north shore of Lake Erie at Clearville Ontario. About 2" x 6".

Translucent feather found the same day on the same beach.

Dog I take to the beach to swim with.