What to Do with Awful Fabric


Wagon Wheel rug that I’m thinking of making….

Christine here:  Recently, I went to my mom’s place and she’s good friends with this woman down the street. The woman is a bit older than my mom, who at 80 is only early-middle-aged for her retirement community. I’m not sure how old Ada is, but she was friendly with my grandmother before she died – mom’s mom – so Ada must be up there in years.

Ada is a quilter and she is also a quilt historian. She looks forward to my mother’s visits because mom is also a quilter and can appreciate her work, and mom enjoys hearing about the history of the pattern and what Ada had to do to recreate a historical quilt. To someone who doesn’t braid rugs, for example, they would look at our work and have no idea of the time and love that went into a rug’s creation. They’d have no idea about the search for wool, the picking apart seams, washing and stripping wool, the long hours braiding until you get the finger movements to be effortless, and the frustration of learning how to butt braids. It’s the same with quilters: you have to be a quilter to have an inkling of how truly amazing any quilt really is.

So Ada makes a fuss over my mother when she goes to visit, and mom makes the expected fuss over Ada’s latest quilt.

Mom has shown Ada the book that Kris and Dianne and I wrote a few years ago, and one of my first braided rugs in my parents’ foyer. So Ada knows that I braid rugs and hunt for wool.

Thus, I was gifted with 3 boxes of cut-apart men’s suits and pants, collected lovingly by a dear friend of Ada’s who always meant to get around to braiding a rug before she passed away and gave all this fabric to Ada. Ada says she spent two days going through it all and whittling it down to 3 big boxes of the “good stuff. “

Of course I was most appreciative, and I did look through it once I got home. Unfortunately, most of it is either pretty polyester-y or else it’s that really, really thin wool that just won’t thicken up. Then, the longest pieces are pants and sleeves… and I think Ada’s friend’s husband must have been a short guy from his inseam, so the length of these pant pieces is not great.

We’ve all been there. We all have friends who save up the worst kind of wool for us out of the best of impulses. But what do you do with it?

I know, I know, there are those of you who can easily and comfortably just throw the stuff out. And I did throw out some of it: some of that really crappy stuff that is about 5% wool at most. But I feel guilty about throwing it out.

The stories that come with the wool mean something to me. I still have my friend Suzanne’s hot pink wool power suit from the 1990’s when that color was fashionable, because Suzanne wore it when she was breaking into her business’ all-male hierarchy…I keep it because she gave it to me, even though the wool is whisper thin and would braid up to be a tweaky and wrinkly mess. I have the purple wool that my friend Wanda gave me because she knew I needed purple and she found it at the thrift store, even though it’s awfully polyester-y, but I can’t get rid of it because I associate it with Wanda. It’s the same with the new batch from Ada (who was friends with my grandmother, doesn’t that count for something??  And what about her friend the fabric-collector with the short husband?)

Before you know it your good wool is being crowded out by the awful stuff that is spilling off one entire set of shelving. You let that stuff in your house and it’s like the cats: it sneaks out at night and gets pregnant. The polyester in it is a fabric sex hormone and makes it have a tendency to multiply.

So what am I going to do with the awful stuff from Ada??

I’ve decided on an out: I’m going to use it, but I’m not going to braid with it. I’m going to use it to make one of those twined rugs on a frame. Either that or the wagon wheel rugs… not sure which kind just yet. More than a year ago I had my father make a rug twining frame, about 24 X 48”, and I have yet to start on a rug with it. As a frame for a wagon wheel rug, I would just have to go buy a large hula hoop. Either way, twined rug or wagon wheel, I’m going to use up the awful wool that I keep ending up with and make a fabric-eating rug. No one’s feelings will be hurt, I won’t have to feel guilty, and I also won’t have to braid with sub-standard wool. I do have my standards.

(PS: You might not hear from me for awhile: my husband and his cousin, who is coming to visit, are going to upgrade my several-generations-out-of-date computer operating system, which apparently means several days of work, and cross your fingers that my Illustrator program still works after the upgrade.)

4 thoughts on “What to Do with Awful Fabric

  1. I love the connections that all of us make with our art/craft especially the stories. True often the wool is not maybe what we use today or the perfect color or weight. I know I am way more fussy than I was when I started. But when I look at older braided rugs or older wool, I realize they have seen a lot of life, been part of people’s lives and homes and brought comfort and warmth. I am about to start repairing another older braided rug and will be reminded again of who went before me, how excited they were when making a rug, choosing what was available then, and thinking about where it will go. Great Christine that you are using the old and I think Ada is smiling especially when she sees what you have done.

  2. Such a cute post. I can totally relate. And I love the wagonwheel. Hope to see your finished product.

  3. Some of that “awful” fabric makes very serviceable strip rugs. Do not worry about being matchy matchy, just braid strips and join them. It’s interesting how all those grays and browns and late fall colors (dead leaves, if you will!) come together. Leave short fringe on ends, if desired.

  4. Mary here: Christine, I loved your piece on ‘awful fabric’ so much! BEEN THERE! Too thin, too poly, too dark – does not speak to my braider’s heart – just yuk! Can’t bring my self to toss it out, but I recently delivered a few big pieces to charity. I hope someone can use them.

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