Friday, May 20, 2011

Rag of the Day Special Edition: Working with Ecodye, Shibori and Found Cloth

I'm getting back to work on a long cloth that I started in Jude's Contemporary Woven Boro class over the winter. I'm drawn more and more to working with the found cloths I've collected, and looking at the similarities between the ecodyed bits I've been doing with found cloth, and the found cloths themselves. This is a little walnut dyed shibori ah, 'moon'?

The ecodyed bits I have been making remind me in so many ways of the marks on the found cloths. Wear, age, fading and staining all create marks that are like those on ecodyed fabrics.

But it is the undeliberate nature of the ecodyed marks that makes me want to match them with the found cloths. Each is unique, a product of processes that aren't controlled. Each of the found cloths bears marks that tell something of its past. These are all cloths that have fallen out of use, and spent considerable amounts of time outside before I found them. The sheet at the top is heavily mildewed, to the point that I thought it was ink-stained.

This faded and abraded velvet and the red below are from a Crazy Quilt- a beautifully stitched, mesmerizingly composed Crazy Quilt- that has spent the entire winter crumpled under a tree in a strip of brush beside the train tracks.

Part of the story of almost all of the found cloths I have is that they have been left behind by a homeless person, someone who likely has a bed for a night in a shelter, but who spends some part of the day seeking some privacy away from an institution. Some place they can kind of make their own.

There is so much grievously wrong about this. It sometimes keeps me from wanting to work with these cloths, keeps me from wanting to see them as beautiful. They aren't just 'lost things with nice marks'. They each are part of a difficult life.

This is a sun-faded shirt- I know it looks like sun and shadows, but these are permanent marks on the cloth. The marks on these cloths are more than just 'wear' or 'age' or 'stains', the kinds of things that normally happen to cloths. I think I want these marks to be information, to be the specific stories of how they were lost.

This little scrap came out of the Crazy Quilt too. You can just make out what I think is one Dragon claw holding on to a pearl.

Finding this familiar and beloved symbol under the mud, well, sharpened my resolve to keep working with these bits. In part it is that there is something to them that I can't replicate with my dyeing experiments- their singular beauty reminds me what I'm striving for.

And maybe it is just a fact that the information they carry around is just there- I can't add to it or subtract it. I can just take them as I find them and see what to do next.


  1. "can't add to it or subtract from it"

    Witness it's integrity

  2. Its a homage to the homeless in its own way
    I think our homelss use plastic carrier bags and cardboard more than fabric from what ive seen them carrying and leaving behind.
    Its so lovely what your doing, very touching

  3. Thanks, Grace; I like both of those words 'witness' and 'integrity' very much. Maybe that's it. I often think about one of your comments on your blog one day, you asked 'what if all I had was a needle and thread'. I think about that a lot when I'm wondering whether or not I should keep working with these found cloths.

  4. Liniecat! Thank you for stopping by and your comment, which I thought about this morning while out walking. I wonder, too, about how much cloth I find, but think it relates to the volume of cloth waste that is so normal here- charities can barely keep up with the volume of donations. It is easy enough for it to go to homeless people. Add to this that homeless people have no place, really, to store the stuff they get, so they end up needing to replace it. You have given me some new ideas Lyn, as always, thank you.

  5. I'm trying to put myself in the shoes of a homeless person discovering that something I had used to keep me warm and sheltered was being transformed into a thing of beauty, and that I, even though anonymous, was being remembered, thought of, as it was being created. I would consider it, as Liniecat said, a homage.