Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shmata and Boro

  Here's a blog post that maybe didn't get posted back when I wrote it.   I'm going to hit "Publish" and see what happens. I am so un-tech. Sigh...

   Greetings one and all. It occurs to me, as I examine the above photo taken a few minutes ago that without my lovely layers of clothing I only look half as big. But I like my clothes and am unlikely to join the ranks of spandex wearers just to appear slimmer.      This particular pinny is from 'Ember (*waves-Hi Ember!-*) who is apparently rather taller than I, so it was necessary to shorten it. (This is the story of my entire short-legged life.) For several months I have toyed with the idea of dying it purple, to make it a little more smut-hiding, but haven't decided whether or not to go ahead with it, as it is so charming just as it is. I try not to do messy things in it. Most likely I will dye it after I spill something dreadful on it. Until then I can enjoy its sweetness.

  I was thinking the other day that Shmata-Boro is an odd blog name and perhaps I might explain it.

 Shmata is Yiddish for rags.  Boro is Japanese for rags.  Back before I met the Manimal and moved to the middle of the forest I had joined a synagogue and was studying for conversion to Judaism and studying Yiddish at university. I also was doing some freelance work for an artist doing sewing on indigo dyed Japanese style doorway hangings. (Rowland Ricketts and his wife Chinami, Google them, their work is amazing.)  Consequently my head was full of Yiddish and Japanese terms and as my home life and artistic life is pretty much rag oriented I called the blog Shmata Boro.

    My dear Manimal is hard on clothes. That is what is known as an understatement. When we first became "an item" I took it upon myself to mend his tatty jeans. I quickly found we were kindred spirits in this way: we neither one believe a patch shouldn't look like it's there.  So I patched his jeans in an unhidden way.  This kept them out of the rag bag and in active circulation, so they got more and more worn places which each got patched in their turn.

 Over a few months they became less like jeans and more like a little walking art gallery.
 Which is enormous fun for me, but unlikely to make me a fortune as an artist.
 Happily money and I have a comfortable relationship, It arrives when I need it and I am usually not too freaked out if I don't have any. So becoming a rich and famous artist is not my top priority. I think I have one of those art-for-art's sake mentalities. Or perhaps I am just a gifted slacker.

When the Manimal's favorite shirt began to come apart I was called in with my scrap basket to make a rescue attempt.  As I wasn't keen on this particular shirt I didn't bother looking for matching scraps to mend with, which would have been impossible. I patched it with scraps from doll clothes making. I "knew" it was no longer worthy of public display and he'd only be wearing it here in the valley to chop wood and garden in.  Boy oh boy was I ever wrong about that. He quite happily wears it to work.
Also this one, which has bits of cottons from a good forty years of sewing projects:

Now here is a puzzlement. 
 I have been wearing my plain dresses ever since I made them in the summer of 2007.   So far not one of them has needed a single patch. They are less bright in color than they were nearly six years ago, but they have not worn out.  Why is this?  The dresses are made of plaid homespun from India. Good stuff, but not something fancy or expensive. I did not expect them to last this long. 
The Manimal's jeans are denim, which is supposedly very strong, right? The light blue shirt is a denim-like twill, also seemingly very sturdy cloth. All I can think of is the difference in care.
 When I came out to the valley I brought a bag of clothespins a reel of good sturdy clothesline,and began tying clotheslines to the trees and porch posts.  Until then the Manimal's laundry was all tossed in the washer with commercial detergent, then tossed into the dryer. He still does it this way if I'm not around.  It's quick and efficient. 
        I've always washed my dresses with homemade soap and hung my them up to dry. I've even put lines up in the loft to hang my clothes in bad weather, and I've got sturdy wooden clothes racks that  can sit nicely in front of the woodstove for quicker drying.
Are modern detergents and clothes dryers really THAT BAD for clothes? It certainly looks like it.

Lest you think I spend all my time mending, awhile back I made some petticoats, with tucks in the bottom to make my skirts stand out a bit more. Not stand out for "fashion", but rather stand out enough to keep my skirts from wrapping around my legs.

 It was a thrifty project, as I made both from a sheet that was here at the house. The Manimal has no rememberance of where the sheet originated, but it had some paint on it and seemed like something no one would miss so I repurposed it. The paint doesn't bother me or the Manimal, and no one else is likely to be seeing me in my petticoat.

I've done a bit of what I call Extreme Mending the last few weeks. The first full sized quilt I ever made was on its last legs, so the scrap basket was call upon for help.

The blue flowers, upper left corner, are from Grandma Pat's bed comforter. Bright turquoise left center from a smock I made in high school (which caused highly dubous rumors I might be preggers, haha.) Pink and white stripe, doll clothes Grandma made in the 50's. Blue and pink stripes at bottom, grandpa shirt and also some of it became Middle Child's quilt binding.

 Pink plaid, center, another of Grandma Pat's comforters. Black plaids from a skirt I shortened. Beige and goldish odd print with squares in it was from Grandma's square dancing skirt which she wore when I was four years old, and which I adopted and frequently wore in high school. Yes, I wore a mid-calf length very full gathered square dancing skirt whilst my trendy classmates were wearing mini skirts and hot pants. Never have given a flying fig what anyone else thinks of what I wear. Had a wonderful grey cashmere full length coat from the 40's too.

Stitching is my passion, or as close to a passion as I've got (I'm a fairly calm person.) Pehaps amusement is a better word.  Occasionally I even sew something that isn't tattered and isn't from old scraps.

 That Blog header up above of the markers,crayons and drawn fabrics is a bit of my craftsy amusement. I am guilty of being a life-long poppet maker. I began in first grade, drawing paper dollies for my classmates, complete with clothes and wee paper sleepingbags to slide them into.  I've been making and/or dressing dolls of one sort or another ever since. Here's a small rag doll I've drawn and stitched up this week.
She came together nicely I think.

Here she's getting some straps for her pinny.

And of course she must have pockets, a pinny is useless without pockets.

Voila! La Belle du Crayone et Boro.

She is much appreciated by our old freind Tatty Quilt Bear, who gets far too little attention.

Bunny and Little Head are glad of a new friend too. Bunny was drawn and stitched like La Belle. Little Head began his current life as a little china head we dug up in the garden in Vincennes. Or was it Loogootee?
 As we never found any more of him it was necessary to make him a new body from Grandpa Dick's old work shirt. He's quite posh now, and a bit smug. He feels it necessary to frequently point out to the others that he "has a history" (although he doesn't quite remember what that history might be.)
Next on our horizon: Some sort of Bear-Fox-Raccoon hybrid.

And quite possibly an end of season snowman, if I can get the carrot part to come out right.

Well there you have it, an explanation of the odd blog name and more scraps than you thought you'd see in one day.  <3


  1. You do more with scraps than thousands of people manage with fresh materials!

    The ol' quilt is almost unrecognizable now.

    I use a modern washer, dryer, and detergent, and do anywhere NEAR the amount of mending the Manimal requires. Drapey clothes don't get holey too often--- no pressure points, no pointy elbows and knees digging through. I can only speculate that the Manimal breakdances in the street between classes. And more power to 'im.

    1. Ah, break-dancing. That must be it. I should make him a special break-dancing costume with chainmail at the knees and elbows.

  2. "Extreme Mending" . . . "Gifted Slacker" . . . Love it!

    I had a friend at school who made those smocks too! Beautiful smocks she made - embroidered, glorious.

    "I wore a mid-calf length very full gathered square dancing skirt whilst my trendy classmates were wearing mini skirts and hot pants"

    I too wore these Clothes of the Revolution from an Early Age. I acquired my mothers 1950s rockabilly dresses, and my great-grandmother's war-time crepe wrap dresses. My mother and sister raided my room when I was out and took my dresses, got rid of them - but undeterred I begged a big black cloak from a theatre and a silver-headed stick, I got a Saturday job and bought dresses from the first wave of Laura Ashley victoriana, and a shawl. When our church youth group went on a camping holiday, they said I shouldn't wear my long dresses, I should wear jeans like everyone else - we'd be climbing hills and rocks. I said, anything you can do in jeans I can do in a long dress - watch me.

    Where does it come from?

    Same with the hats. It's not about subservience or keeping quiet. I guess they're just Thinking Caps.

  3. Ember, I've often wondered where it comes from. I suppose it will look increasingly like I'm getting old and set in my ways, but I was set in my ways as a child. I know what I like, I know what feels like me. What I don't know is why.
    I've had this lifelong sense of not fitting in most places, and at the same time a realization that while I'm aware that I don't fit in I also am aware that I don't want to do what it would take to fit in. Not that I am deliberately trying to stand out, I just cannot bear to do some of the things that would make me more like the people around me.

    An old friend who was a hereditary witch claimed it is because I am "a born witch". He meant this in the nicest possible way, that I'm earthy and elemental, a maker sort of person, one who listens to be guided by the spirit rather than looking for someone to tell me what to do, and therefore am unimpressed with modern trends, the fashion industry in particular, and society in general.
    I think in his imagination he could see me in a cottage at the edge of the forest with a clan of creatures all around. The sort of old lady who keeps to herself, knows how to do useful things, very helpful if you ask but not one to go 'round offering to fix everything for everybody. Oddly enough when he knew me I lived on Main Street, but he could sense that wasn't quite where I belonged.

    It is entirely true you can do anything in a long dress that you can do in jeans, and be more comfortable doing it, too.
    I have to wear jeans to work four days a week (with a polyester company shirt. Ewww.) Jeans are not shaped the way I am shaped. I spend a lot of time pulling them up at the waist, as the radio in my back pocket pulls them down on one side at then back. A larger size would fall off. A smaller size would not zip up.
    Also jeans pockets are not big enough to carry much of anything and I am very much a pocket person.

    I'm quite fond of your hats. Thinking Caps is perfect-they're so symbolic of your thoughtful nature.

  4. Jeans . . .

    "Go clad your lower limbs with pants;
    Yours are the limbs, my sweeting!
    You look divine as you advance -
    Have you seen yourself retreating?"

    (Chesterton? Belloc? Somebody very wise and observant!)

    Apologies if I sent this to you a million times. I'm having trouble with a recalcitrant 'submit' button, which evidently LAUGHS at submission and won't do a thing it's told.

  5. Hahahaha! I am going to copy that verse and post it on the walls of the dormitory ladies room! Thank you!!!

  6. You had me at the title and I am very glad for the explanation. Tatty is always welcome to come and visit. Lots of friends for him to play with.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.