Potholder Rugs came about when I began buying ‘wool knits’ in bulk. While a college student at Massachusetts College of Art, in Boston, I began using wool sweaters from the thrift shop to make Ragamuffins that I developed as schoolwork and sold at The Cambridge Artist Cooperative. (Ragamuffins are stuffed toys and the first product that I made and sold.) The raw material was completely awesome to me. I loved the colors, textures, sourcing, and price; and felt as though a magical mine of possibility had been discovered. Soon, mittens, then blankets and reconstructed sweaters were being compiled by a bevvy of amazing hand sewers under my employ. My penchant for material was married to the calling I still feel, to creatively inspire an alternative to excessive consumption. My work was in high demand and finding enough material was becoming difficult. Paul Petrescu, and old and dear friend of my father, had recently defected from Romania, and, was living with my parents, in Stockbridge MA. He was an Eastern European Folk Art Scholar and was intrigued by my work. When he learned of my material conundrum, Paul told me, with his perfect, albeit accented, English, of a wholesale used clothing place called The Garment District in Cambridge, MA. I never learned how he, having been in the country for only a matter of months at the time, knew this key to launching my creative and environmental process to the next realm. ~ He was one of the angels along the way.
So off I went with a beat up old van to check The Garment District out – I came home with the van stuffed full of garbage bags brimming with the most amazing wool sweaters and a head whirring with ideas and inspiration. Within a few weeks my treasure trove of material had turned into a pile of sweaters, mittens, and Ragamuffins, which, were turning into a pocket full of money. Back I went to my new-found fellow recyclers at The Garment District, this time returning with a 1000 lb. bale of sweaters. Bruce Cohen, proprietor of the place let me and my sidekick, Charlie sort through 8 or 10 1000lb bales of ‘wool knits’ to gather the most suitable material for my production needs. AMAZING~
As I was rummaging through the mountains of material in the100 year old family business housed in an awesomely dingy warehouse, I thought a lot about all the material there. What was the process? Where did it all come from? Who else used this sort of raw material, and, for what purpose? An education far beyond the formal BFA I had recently fixed under my belt, ensued.
A full bale of unsorted wool knits was purchased as an experiment to see what could be designed with all the materials we had previously sorted out. Low and behold, Potholder Rugs came to be. They can be made from sweaters with holes and stains, ones that were not really wool at all, kind of the bottom of the barrel materials work just fine.
Potholder Rugs use a lot of material with very little waste. The average 2.5x3.5ft rug made on our standard sized Potholder Rug loom, weighs 7lbs. Figure there is a 30% waste factor so you will need about 10 lbs of raw material garments to make your first rug. (Keep in mind that different kinds of fiber weigh substantially differing amounts – a XXL Fleece weighs a lot less than an XXL Cotton Sweatshirt)
Oh and did you know I teach workshops on how to make your own stuff? You can learn all about the 2014 Workshop Schedule by following the links listed below:
See additional listings at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ where you can purchase a whole host of useful hand and machine sewing tools and materials used in the processes I have developed to turn old clothing into wonderful new things! You can even buy the teaching book I wrote to learn the ropes!
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And pinch me in person on the first Saturday of most months in my studio in the heart of Pittsfield MA. from 10-5pm. The address is 40 Melville Street in the lower level of the MOST AMAZING former RC church turned Makerspace that my hubby and I own called Shire City Sanctuary. Call ahead 413-236-9600.
Jul 25, 2017 by Lorraine Johme
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Returns & exchanges
refunds, returns, and exchanges are graciously handled free of charge if there is a flaw in quality. If you are just not crazy about some aspect of your purchase there is a 20% restocking fee to cover my expenses and return shipping is the customer's expense.