You know, women were the original recyclers -- for centuries past. I think of this today because, in between writing stints (book I'm trying like h___ to finish), I am taking the final steps toward remaking a half-dozen wonderful, old wool jackets. I bought them at a thrift shop for prices like 1.50, 2.00, 2.50. Wonderful wool. One of them is Ralph Lauren and I STILL bought it (I hate this preoccupation we have with Fancy Brands). I had a tailor take the sleeves out and serge the edges to prevent raveling, and to keep lining and fabric together. This kind of broke my heart, because I'm a pretty good wool tailor myself, lacking only the time, I'm afraid. But then, tailors have to earn a living too. So I gave her the work (I won't do it again -- she charged me a very steep price...I need to be less trusting about things like price and get it all battened down first). So now I will refashion the sleeves, using the old sleeve cap as a template. I think I'll make the sleeves for the first one in modified trellis (crochet) and make 'em long and wide enough so that I can draw the bottoms together into a big ruffle with a crocheted drawstring (edged of course with something nice). But I think now that I'll also add some free-form crochet motifs here and there on the trellis fabric, and perhaps over the old pockets. The buttons will be changed to mismatched vintage. The question is: What to call this line of jacket? Not Second Hand Rose -- too hackneyed. Take Two? All ideas are welcome. The next one will be knitted. It's a boxier jacket -- nubbier fabric. Looks like some kind of wonderful drop-stitch sleeve to me.
But as I think about all of this, I'm remembering my mother, and her mother. Mum was a great church bazaar (and Eastern Star bazaar) person -- made things out of nothing, which is what women have always done. Amazing enough that she could make dinner happen with nothing in the cupboard. She also could transform refuse into cute, sometimes beautiful objects. Sometimes we laugh at all of this. She made crocheted and skirted dolls for teapots and toilet paper rolls. She covered Quaker Oats boxes with all kinds of decorative things and used them for storage and sometimes for gift-giving. She made old curtains into clothing. She created such astonishingly beautiful Christmas stockings from scrap felt that people told her to start a small company -- which she did. She called it VanBee Originals. She actually SOLD quite a few stockings, and then kits made up of all of the materials needed to make stockings and picnic tray covers.............on and on. It was brilliant. It was what poor people have done for as long as there has been poverty. Women have yard sales. It's all recycling, creating wealth where other people see only trash.
If I live 100 years, I'll never be as resourceful as that woman was. Her name was Gladyce Bessie Beedle. She lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, ended up an executive secretary for the president of 3M and then Continental Telephone, and STILL had time for all of those charitable works and creative refashionings -- and she had only an 11th grade education. We should remember women like that as the embodiment of everything that's good in human society.