Scrappy Happy Hollyhocks-1-1My parents came of age during the Depression, an event that had great influence on what was saved and stored away for some rainy day need-it-now occasion rather than scrapped. My brother and I fussed and fumed and laughed our way through cleaning out their home after our mother passed away. A hundred empty gift boxes crammed into bedroom cupboards. A thousand empty coat hangers. A complete set of Reader’s Digests in the garage rafters bookended with complete sets of National Geographic and Family Circle. Empty Mason jars which hadn’t held homemade jelly in decades. After the industrial size dumpster was filled to over flowing a couple of times, we swore we’d never do that to our children!

My brother is by nature a minimalist. I, on the other hand, am…well, an artist. Our home isn’t teeming with empty anything, but there are art and sewing supplies which my children might possibly fuss and fume and laugh about at some point in the distant future. Especially since I can’t bear to throw away fabric scraps. Particularly those that are created in the process of making a Lil Twister pinwheel quilt for a baby shower recently. A significant pile of scraps – 3″ tall triangles, 2 1/4″ squares, and 1/4″ raggedy bits were left behind…too big a pile of precious sewing possibilities to be scrapped. I just knew there was a rainy day need-it-now moment right around the sewing room corner.

Tumbling Pinwheel Baby QuiltWhile the complicated looking but easy baby quilt looked like this, I especially love the improv quilt that emerged out of the pile of scraps. The black fabric, batting, improvised quilt backing, and a few buttons were all leftovers from other sewing projects…scraps too good to scrap. The two crocheted doilies were a gift years ago from a West Coast friend who was sure I “could find something to do with them.” She was right. Another one found its way into the embellishments added to a fabric collage included in the recent art installation In Clothing We Remember at the Cary Arts Center.

This pile of colorful scraps got me to thinking about the ladies at the Lighthouse, a year-long, faith-based, residential treatment program for women recovering from substance abuse, and their willingness…to begin with…to believe that their lives were a pile of filthy rags that needed to be scrapped. Little by little, as they progressed in their recovery, learning of God’s love for them, they began to see the potential for making something beautiful out of the scraps of their lives. Sometimes, those rainy day need-it-now scraps are more important to keep than we thought possible. The original pattern was beautiful. But sometimes, what we courageously, creatively do with the leftover, throwaway scraps is far more engaging and inspiring.

If you’ve cleaned out an ancestral home, what are some of the favorite hordes you discovered…and threw away? What are the beloved scraps you’ve saved that will make your children fuss, fume and laugh? Are there interesting projects you’ve created from scraps that others might have thrown away? If you were to describe the “wholecloth” made from the scraps of your life, what would you say? What would it look like? And what would you title your creation?

4 comments to Scrapped

  • Carl McDonald

    I so can relate to this posting. My mother is a hoarder and also grew up during the Depression era. She has boxes filled with recipes, coupons, family history research, and remnants of many unfinished or never started craft projects. I try not to be like her, but can’t seem to part with any type of container. She sometimes packs up unfinished craft projects and gives them to her children for Christmas as “craft kits”.
    Keep encouraging all of us to be artists.

  • Norrene


  • Deanna Bowling

    My mom was born in the Depression era. I remember as a 40 year old, seeing shoe boxes in her closet with the shoes that she could no longer walk in but was determined not to give up. Also in her trasures were the hand prints in fired clay that my brother and I gave her, as well as many Christmas and Birthday cards.

    I know for her that the “things” weren’t why she kept them, but the memories attached to them that she wanted to hold on to.

  • Dana Thompson

    I can relate to all of you, especially after moving out of a large house of 48 years into a small house. My mother was of German decent (very frugal) and had experienced the depression. Her collections seem to pass from generation to generation. I have my own art and sewing projects to save. I don’t think the next generation will want to deal with them.

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