Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Fabric of Life

All week we’ve been writing about what we’d do with our craft stuff if we were moving. It wouldn’t be a problem for me to let go of all my yarn. It’s just regular stuff from Michael’s and Joann’s and easily replaceable. There are no stories or memories connected with any of it.

It’s not like the basket of fabric pieces and scraps I left home when I got married. The scraps were all left over from things I’d sewed, or is it sewn? Whatever. All those scraps bring back memories and there are stories connected with all of them. The royal blue raw silk is left from my mother’s dress for my wedding – the dress I was still finishing hours before she had to wear it. Looking back I can see why she was a little nervous, though I did finish the dress in time.

Then there’s the blue paisley material. It’s wool, but so fine it was light enough to wear in summer. The dress I made from it is what I’m wearing in the photo of me standing in Jerusalem. It’s 1967. I’m a volunteer farm worker on a side trip from the kibbutz tucked between Lebanon and Syria. My boyfriend was supposed to have come to Israel with me, but he chickened out and got a job as a camp counselor in Michigan and I went alone. Lots of scary stuff, think land mines, scorpions and runaway lawn mowers.

Along with the scraps are a bunch of ½ yard pieces of fabric. They’re left over from the shoulder bags I made when I was in college. I planned to sell them at the 57th Street Art Fair, but the head of the art fair told me they weren’t art unless I wove the fabric myself and she wouldn’t let me take part in the art fair. I had the purses and I was broke, so I made a display case out of a dress box and stood on the street just outside the fair. The woman who had kept me out came by and seemed annoyed, telling me I could be arrested as a street peddler. The cops drove by several times and paid no attention to me, though I wondered if she’d sent them over. In the end I sold all my bags and the area where I stood is now a community art fair as opposed to the official art fair. The community art fair is open to everyone - no judgements made on what is art or isn’t.

The 2 ½ yard piece with the orange and green pattern isn’t my taste anymore. Actually looking at it now, I can’t imagine I ever thought it was pretty. But that’s isn’t why I keep it. It reminds me of the serendipity of things. I was getting ready for a trip from Chicago to Boston and my mother was reading the New York Times. On the outside of the page she was reading, I saw an ad for a fabric sale at Macy’s. That’s when Macy’s was only in New York and I remembering laughing at myself for looking at the ad, as if it had any relevance to me. Well, I went to Boston and by chance my brother’s college roommate offered me a ride to New York and the chance to stay with his family. I was walking down the street in New York and remembered the ad. I couldn’t get over how amazing it was that I actually ended up at that fabric sale.

And it goes on. Whatever I look at has a story to go with it. So, if I had to move, the basket of fabric goes with.


Terri Thayer said...

Betty, what a lovely piece. How come I didn't know you sewed? It's amazing what can carry our memories. I collect fabric when I travel instead of souvenirs, and while most of it is new, it's still significant to me. I can
conjure up the quilt shop in Harvard Square or the antique store in Alexandria where I bought the piece. And the people I was with.

I never knew Macy's carried fabric. I guess I bought most of mine at Sears because my father worked for them.


Betty Hechtman said...

Terri, I bought fabric in Cambridge, too. Do you remember Marimeko (I'm not sure of the spelling)? I think it was a fabric designer's name. I just remember it was expensive for what I usually spent, and gorgeous. Oh, how I loved the dress I made out of that piece. I think it's still in my closet

Linda O. Johnston said...

How delightful, Betty. I used to sew most of my clothes but never saved any of the fabric. After reading your post, I wish I had!

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, I didn't you know you sewed. I still have a number of the dresses I made. I'm afraid to try them on.

Terri Thayer said...

I sewed all my own clothes for years and years. Didn't save any of the fabric or the clothes. Just my wedding dress and my sister's bridesmaid dress. Those clothes wouldn't wear out, either.

Marimeko is still in Seattle, right outside Pike's Market. Expensive! Your dress might be worth a mint.

Camille Minichino said...

Marimeko used to be in SF at the Galleria, but is no more.

I LOVED the stories, Betty.