When life hands you scraps, make Scrapiana
My real name is obscure and Welsh (and I get tired of explaining it) so I’ve adopted an obscure English one instead: Scrapiana, a late eighteenth century term for a miscellaneous collection of literary scraps or cuttings. I’m a professional writer, but sandwich this blog in between assignments. It’s my shabby-chic notebook, also taking scraps as its subject – mostly how to recycle textile scraps, and how to make lovely new things from old, with silk purses from sows’ ears a speciality. I like to explore how to enjoy beautiful things without deep pockets. I’m calling this type of lifestyle alchemy ‘thriftluxe’.
As a self-confessed sewing nerd, I love everything from the tools to the techniques, the history, the cultural differences, and the startling global continuity of one person plying a needle and thread – from the caveman bent over his sinew-threaded thorn to the embroiderer seaming silk in a Paris atelier. I collect sewing equipment, and loosely refer to the results of this extensive magpie activity as ‘the Museum of Haberdashery’.
I’ve been interested in re-making for as long as I can remember, long before the word ‘upcycling’ came into general use. It probably has something to do with my Pennsylvania grandmother carefully making the most of things, sewing clothes and quilts from feedsacks in the Great Depression. That and watching too much of ‘The Good Life’ as a child, when I’d also pore over the delicately sprigged, ice-cream-coloured fabrics in the quilt my grandmother had made for me. It was crafted from fabrics that my mother remembered vividly from her own childhood dresses, and it struck me then how resonant such modest little pieces of textile could be. I’ve been trying not to overlook even the humblest of materials ever since, and making it my mission to find a worthwhile project for almost every scrap.
Which leads me to the environment. I spent several years campaigning on waste, trying to persuade the British to throw less away. I’m not sure it worked; we Brits still bin a worryingly vast (and growing) quantity of textiles. My latest quest is to get the nation mending, darning and patching again. But not just for the good of the planet. I feel strongly that making things with our hands is a natural, healthy human impulse that we all need to meet – and that learning to mend our own clothing offers sampler-sized projects to develop new stitching skills and boost self-esteem and confidence. I see this all the time when I’m teaching beginners how to sew, and if you’ve had a go at mending then you’ll understand how satisfying the process can be. I should probably mention that for my efforts to promote mending to my local community (through the Big Mend which I founded in 2012) I was honoured (and incredibly surprised) to be included in the Independent on Sunday‘s 2014 Happy List.
Feel free to get in touch about writing commissions, speaker events, textile upcycling/mending workshops and parties, or just to say hello at eirlys_AT_scrapiana_DOT_com . I’m also tweeting and posting images on Instagram and (occasionally) Flickr and Pinterest, so we may cross paths there. Thanks for stopping by!
*roughly rhymes with ‘tireless’ (minus the ‘t’) but means ‘snowdrop’