December 27, 2011
When was the last time you truly WORE OUT a piece of clothing? As in absolutely could not mend, darn, nor patch the thing?
This comes to my mind because, since I started the heavy-lifting seasonal job, I’ve demolished two pair of socks, two bras (don’t ask…) and – best of all – I took off a tee shirt after work one evening and it completely fell to pieces in my hands. It was as if every piece of thread in every seam decided simultaneously to just give up the ghost and quit. It was almost magical…
But I don’t remember this happening all that often in my adult life. But when I was a child, I clearly remember wearing clothes until they were either passed on to someone else, or they went through the triage of fabric salvage.
1. Really heavy things, like work pants or jeans, were cut and stitched into long ropes, to be made into rag rugs. These were the heaviest, most durable rugs in the history of floor-covering.
2. Printed fabrics, or pretty colors, of medium weight were cut for quilt pieces. I remember at least one quilt (made by women in my teeny little 500-person home town) which contained a variety of swatches from remembered garments. And we had a few wool quilts! Sleeping under them was sort of like sleeping under the mattress – but they were really warm.
3. Light colored, lightweight fabrics (tee shirts, undershirts, sheets) were cut into squares, and put in the rag bag. We had a heavy canvas drawstring bag, hanging in the basement, where we kept rags. We washed them, and reused them, for most of the functions for which people now use paper towels.
Fabric really had to perform in my childhood… What ever happened to this kind of thinking? Since fabric manufacturing is one of the primary sources of water pollution worldwide, maybe we need to be a bit more conservative with it, and make sure that it is used for its full lifetime.