Use What You Have

I am often heard saying “Use what you have.”  I am pretty good at practicing what I preach. I design new garden beds with easy to move perennials in mind, those already in other beds and ready to thin. I take pleasure in finding a wonderful way to use three leftovers in the refrigerator. At the end of the week, when the refrigerator and pantry are nearly bare, I love figuring out something to make with what I DO have. I even have a policy of using most perishable food before going to the store again. I don’t want to waste anything.

This “use what you have” approach is strongly aligned with the quilting tradition. As an art quilter I ask myself how I can say what I want to say AND use what I have. I have many ways of altering and reusing fabrics.  I usually add textile paints, pastels or markers, and sometimes embroidery floss or thread.

Flame Chair
Hot Seat, sold

Every so often someone else is cleaning out a closet and offers their bags and boxes of fabric to me. I recently was given a small mountain of stuff – notions & novelties, shears & fleece, and lots of non cotton fabric. My challenge was to use what I inherited rather than what I selected. I was very surprised that the small mountain had almost nothing that I liked!  There was one thing that felt like a gift – a 60″ wide bolt of upholstery fabric. I liked it. This gave me a four day project of making slip covers in the sweet week between Christmas and New Years. There is also some novelty flame fabric that I will use to cover a child’s chair (Hot Seat) that will be auctioned for a good cause. Last week I  used an embroidered shear fabric in combination with old fashioned quilt fabrics to create a layered piece I titled Genealogy.

This piece was inspired by a shear fabric donated to me.
Genealogy 36.5 X 15 sold

I have cleaned the dusty book case and given many magazines and journals to friends. Recycled goods that flow, take on a new life. Tomorrow a friend will remove the last of the fabric pile that three other artists did not want. Use what you have, unless you will never use it. Best to weed the closet and really look at what is left. It might make an excellent meal.

Written by Joan Sowada Art

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