Sunday, August 10, 2008

Waste not, want not

First off, Happy Birthday to my mother!! I hope you read this today! I can't be there to celebrate, but next year we will all be there with bells on.

More and more blogs are publishing patterns for reusable shopping bags (like the green bags in the style of Walmart bags at Feeling Simply Quilty, or the basic morsbags at With Heart and Hands). A few quilters have returned to the original 'waste not, want not' spirit of quilting and have been making quilts of cast offs. Libby at Quilty the Libster made a charming baby quilt out of a sheet, 3 blouses, and a pair of pajama pants! Michael 5000 is in the midst of a Quilt Storm to make twenty salvage quilts. You can scroll through his most recent posts at State of the Craft to see how that project is coming along. (He's on a summer break but truly quilted up a storm right before that.) The Fungly Challenge by Bonnie and Tonya also presents a wonderful opportunity to make use of fabrics we never thought would be any good, anywhere.

It's becoming clearer that we need to be better custodians of our resources, but for many of us, it isn't yet a real imperative. One day soon it probably will be. I think that realization made me far more appreciative of what it was like to be forced to do without when I took a tour of the Churchill War Rooms in London.

Walking through the actual bunkers where Churchill and his cabinet worked during the second world war really gives a sense of what it must have felt like during the Blitz -- cramped, sunless, and frightening. One of the rooms held a temporary exhibit about the fabric shortage during the war.
People were encouraged to use every scrap of fabric and to wear clothing with no fancy extras like pleats that would waste precious yardage. Clothing was rationed.
You can click on the photos above and below to enlarge them so they are legible. (These are photos of posters at the exhibit, and some were behind glass.) They tell some of the suggestions for making the most of the fabric already on hand -- turning old pillowcases into summer shorts, making worn adult clothing into children's wear, etc. Eventually fashion designers started coming up with designs that used the least fabric to the best advantage.
Thrift used to be a necessary virtue. In America, land of plenty, we've gotten away from that -- thrift itself has become expendable. Hopefully, things are starting to change. It would be wonderful if we could take the "waste not, want not" adage to heart before we absolutely have to.

15 comments:

Joyce said...

Maybe that's why I like scrap quilt so much. I was raised to never waste anything and you never get over that. Could be a good thing in this day and age.

Exuberant Color said...

I agree with the waste not. From the era I was brought up in we didn't have anything extra, just the bare necessities. Making quilts that will be dragged around by toddlers and for kids that will use them up, like my kids did, I agree to use whatever is on hand. To make art quilts (wallhangings) I buy fabric.

Cher said...

I was raised in that tradition-buy quality, make it last, use it up.
I always get a thrill when I can use up a fabric to the last little bit.
thanks for the link to Michael5000-what a great quilter to find in my neck of the woods.

jillytacy said...

I love this post! The Fungly challenge sounds great! I love the idea of reusing clothing and bits and pieces to create a quilt. I have a bunch of clothing I picked up at a thrift store for this very reason.
I agree that it's time for Americans to get thrifty and reuse what we already have instead of buying all new items. When it comes to thrifting the thrill of the hunt and a good bargain is addicting! More people should give it a try!

On a Whimsey said...

It's a shame it takes something so drastic as a war story to bring to mind the 'waste not' theme.
Once a necessity and way of life it did us no harm to use and re-use. Something folk today find difficult in our throw away society.
Memories are created from re using old fabrics for quilts and thus become like old friends!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Absolutely marvelous post ~ thanks!!

Pattie said...

Sometimes when I'm buying more new fabric because I HAVE to have it for a quilt one day, I think to myself, "Self, this isn’t what quilts are supposed to be about." Our grandmothers certainly didn’t run out and buy fabric when the urge to quilt hit them. We can bet that this concept was inconceivable to them. Yet, I do it again and again. Hmmm...

I am proud to say that I'm working on a scrappy quit from my stash. My first one - yay!

Great post, Cheri!

paula, the quilter said...

What a great post! Thanks. This adage is a great one for quilters to remember.

Jacquie said...

you hit it! after i made that baby quilt from vintage sheets i kept thinking that maybe what i make should be all about repurposing. there is so much that gets wasted and thrown away with so much use left in it. great post.

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

Bonnie sent me some fabric that she's repurposed from old clothing and I really love it. But I keep thinking about the clothes that just get thrown out because the knees or elbows are gone or a big stain. Clothes that aren't fit to be worn so you wouldn't donate them to Goodwill. There's still good fabric there for a quilter. by the way, did you ever see the beautiful quilts Quilt Word Meg made from recycled clothing? Gorgeous stuff. Her link is in my sidebar.

em's scrapbag said...

Thanks for this post. I loved the fungly blocks. I am going to make some. I am also going to give the bags ago. When my hubby was in school and things were tight I used a thread bare quilt for a batting of a new one. It weighs a ton and my hubby loves it cause it keeps him so toasty.

meggie said...

Great post. As Joyce says, if you are raised with that ethic, it never leaves you.
That is why I am reluctant to throw anything away!

annhovsepian said...

Great post, and it really goes with the comment you left for me today. In the early 50s, back in Greece where my father was born, the grandmother who made the quilt I pictured turned an old wool blanket into a fantastic blazer for my dad (we just have a photo but you can see the excellent work she did). She often took apart my aunt's old dresses and sewed them back together with new bits of fabric to modify the size or style. It is pretty sad how wasteful we've become with "disposable" clothing and material goods. Your post helps us appreciate (and hopefully try to imitate) our grandmas and moms. :)

Norma said...

My idea of quilting comes from this "making due" attitude. I have a old quilt that my mother made that has a old bedspread for batting. I love the idea that women took what they had and made something to keep their loved ones warm. The fact that they did it in a creative way and ended up with something beautiful as well is a plus.

Having new matching fabric is wonderful but I think we quilters could very well go back to using whatever we had on hand and the results would be just as great. Considering the way things are going in this country, that may well be in the future.

Michael5000 said...

Sometimes, when I'm gloating over my vast trove of utility fabric like Scrooge McDuck in his vault, I think, "wow, if there's ever a big fabric shortage, I'll have it MADE!" But then, I realize two things. One, there probably won't be a big fabric shortage. And two, if there was, it wouldn't feel like I "had it made."

Cool post!