I “met” Chrissie on Etsy during one of my foraging episodes for vintage buttons back in 2008. I LOVE vintage buttons! At the time I was seeking large, unusual buttons to embellish felted bags and/or for making funky bead & button jewelry. Our mutual admiration flourished from there. I was further intrigued by her location – in France – since I am a certified francophone (studied in France, taught French for 20+ years, traveled there many times, and have family there!). So naturally, I was very much interested in FRENCH vintage buttons!
When Chrissie asked me to write for her blog, I was honored and excited – and then stumped! What to write? Although my experience includes teaching languages and working in higher education and private practice as a career counselor, my third career has become entirely focused on creating wearable fiber art in knit, crochet, and felt. I am and have always been a recycler, upcycler, repurposer (or whatever the current term is!), thrift shopper, and enamored of making old into new.
My latest ideas – and they do change frequently! – include the use/reuse of old silk scarves that I’ve worn and collected over MANY years, those of my parents, and others that have been recently generously offered by local friends. I wanted to create small, elegant, evening bags from these scarves, adorned with vintage lace, embellishments from other scarves, and vintage buttons. And although I’ve sewn clothing and home décor for many years, sewing is not my forte or passion, although I do understand the basics of construction.
This project, however, became far more complex than I first imagined – and FAR more strenuous and wearing on the hands (planning my next carpal tunnel surgery in May)! Rather like rug hooking, strips of silk and/or ribbon, yarn, or other textiles are pulled through burlap or monk’s cloth on an embroidery hoop using a crochet hook. I collected scarves with a color theme, tore or rotary-cut them into strips – experimenting all the while with width, design, fibers, etc. And once I filled the 6 or 7” square or circle with pulled silk strips (many hours of intense work), I then was confronted with how to construct the back, lining, pocket, strap, and decoration.
In spite of many years of clothing construction for my children and myself, and even a tailoring class - but MANY years ago – and lots of home sewing, I was stymied by how best to proceed. UGH!!! It was much trial and error, and ultimately probably four days in the making, but I finally produced the first Rug Bud Bag, pictured below.
It is all taupes and neutrals, from silk chiffon, silk gauze, charmeuse scarves, then lined and backed with dupioni silk fabric, embellished with vintage lace, Hanna silk ribbon, and a handcrafted silk bow from a remaining scarf and a vintage button. I added a vintage button closure on the back and finished it with a grosgrain ribbon strap. I had no idea what I was doing!
As owner and sole-designer for Scarf It Up!, I do like to sell my work. But this prototype bag with its valuable components and (too) many hours in construction would have to fetch far too much to make it worth my while. I loved the bag immediately, but I hated it for being so painful (yes!), time-consuming, labor-intensive, and so damn cute!
Undaunted and with a few days reprieve, I decided (what was I thinking!) to try another – this time ROUND! OMG!!! Really….WHAT was I thinking. I thought I’d try using some bulky yarns in addition to the silk, thinking it would go faster, fill up the space on the hoop in no time at all. It proved to be even more difficult to pull through the monk’s cloth, and the shape made it all the more impossible to back and line. Too much hand sewing, more trial and error, and about FIVE days later, I finally produced this imperfect Rug Bud Bag II.
This one is backed with black velvet, lined with recycled trouser material, and embellished with burgundy tulle, a jewelry finding from another Etsy artist, Premiera Elements, and a crocheted chain strap.
And finally…..I decided to try just one more – and this one I’m thinking of keeping for myself! Actually I may end up keeping them all, because I doubt I can sell them at a price worth my while for the creation process. This one made use of all the animal print scarves I acquired, plus vintage lace and buttons from my stash. The process took a little less time, but I dawdled hugely since my favorite part is NOT the sewing or particularly all the required hand sewing.
I also have another in the making, but I’m really not sure it will ever be completed!
With very sore fingers and hands – and a studio that had materials from one end to another and required hours to organize and clean up, I think I may lay this idea to rest. What to do with the rest of the scarves – well……not all of them, because many have sentimental value! The next idea: silk and ribbon button earrings! And these – with the proper equipment, which I have since purchased on Etsy and eBay – are a no-brainer. And quite cute! What do YOU think?
Although a limited Etsy seller, Scarf It Up!, I sell mostly in three local boutique/galleries in the Wilmington area of southeastern North Carolina: Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts, aMuse Artisanal Finery, and Artful Living Group. You can find me (Louise Giordano) on Facebook, my blog, and flickr. Please take a look at my OTHER work – in knit, crochet, and felt. Maybe I should stick to those!