Years ago I read The Mountain and The Valley by Ernest Buckler. One of the images that has stayed with me is the one of the grandmother making rugs from carefully saved family clothing. As she hooks each piece into the rug, her mind is inundated by the image of the child or adult wearing it and the emotions connected to the scene.
I’ve been making scarves lately from the bag of cashmere sweaters I have been saving. In my experience, cashmere is not often found in thrift shops–wearers find other uses for this beautiful, warm fibre when it is no longer presentable, either lining the cat’s bed with it or wearing it to bed themselves. So my cashmere fragments are from my own cast-offs and those of generous friends. As I pieced the scarf together this morning, the visceral images brought back by this bag of coloured wool were breathtaking. There was Anne in her beautiful striped pullover and Janet in her orange cardigan. J.A. Wainright, in an essay on Buckler’s Nova Scotia novel, summed up the grandmother’s activity:
When she is alone in this room and “without speech,” Martha is happy because “her tasks are like a kind of conversation” (p. 24); she does not need to talk to others in order to “come alive,” and her mind obviously has its own “shining population”.
So here is to all rug hookers and ‘repurposers’ of woollen garments. Enjoy your conversation with that shining population.