On a trip to visit my folks (I won’t say home because they tragically (for me) sold it some years ago) earlier this summer, I finally found this little fabric picture that used to hang in my bedroom.
The scene is one I drew, and drew quite often as a slightly obsessive little sh*t, and at the dumbsh*t age when I didn’t comprehend that the sky wasn’t just up there and therefore depicted it as a stripe. So let’s say I was four, or should four-year-olds understand how the sky works? So maybe I’ll say three… Regardless, my mother deemed my “Bird In Flight to Nest” precious and decided to turn it into a sewing lesson. I’ll say that it was my first, but I really don’t know. She cut out the pieces, sewed the margins on the machine, and gave it to me to applique. I do clearly remember getting somewhat bored or frustrated with it, and it is also quite clear that she finished it for me and then added a few embroidered embellishments. I don’t know if this took place in the span of a day or I abandoned it for some time and she got tired of having it only partially completed for weeks or months. I also don’t remember if it was during the one truly massive blizzard of my youth (though I think I was down with the chicken pox then) or in the leisurely long days before I had to go to school. Either way, it was something I did as a child wherein my hands and mind were engaged (and it wasn’t so traumatic that I didn’t want to do it again).
This was before the recent cringe-worthy days of fashionable “upcycling.” Smack in the 1970s when fuel crises, a renewal of the back to the earth movement, thoughts of Silent Spring, and the birth of Earth Day were kicking around. My parents left their urban home to escape air pollution, overcrowding, and to grow wholesome organic food on a few idyllic acres. We were also broke-ass poor, so recycling old clothes into craft projects was both a necessity and entirely practical – how many thousands of years have we just used what we have and then used it some more? Why should this now be a trendy buzzword to help sell our crafty stuff? Convince the buyer that her materialism is ok because it’s upcycled and therefore she is a conscientious fabulous person?
Fabric is fabric is fabric… and is infinitely re-usable. Sometimes the perfect print is on a bolt, sometimes it’s a pair of pants… you’re not special for using or buying either one.
But back to the picture.
The components are:
Sun: I assumed the terrycloth sun was salvaged from a much abused towel, but my mom said it was leftover fabric from some shorts she made for my brothers as small children in the 1960s… I’m not sure I’d like terrycloth shorts… they seem so, absorbent?
Tree trunk: Yep, that’s my dad’s old tie – gotta love plaid neck wear…
Sky: Leftovers from a quilt my mother made for me of yellow, green, and blue gingham to match my wallpaper of the same colors (only the wallpaper also had puke tones in it too).
Flowers, eggs, bird parts: Felt scraps – who didn’t have random felt scraps lying around?
Nest: Burlap feed sack – we lived on a little farm with little animals and a pony. Food for them came in burlap bags.
Bird: This is an odd denim/oxford cloth hybrid that was probably clothing in its former life.
Grass, leaves: We can’t remember what these scraps are from, but I wore various homemade calico skirts, shorts, halter tops (remember, 1970s over here) and dresses.
Background: This could have been leftover paining canvas or material for rustic curtains.
And even though this turned into a rage against the preciousness of upcycling, it was originally meant to be a rage against not teaching children how to sew or make bread or brush animals or do anything constructive with their hands. Yeah, there are a few schools that teach such things, but as a whole we’re becoming such boring dumb-asses with our iSh*t.