Saturday, July 10, 2021

Boro-inspired drawstring bag: reliquary or rag?

One of the projects we worked on in Doug Baulos's book arts workshop, Retracing Nature: Folio, Book, Installation, revolved around the concepts of "reliquary" vs "rag." Either can evoke a sense of reverence, preciousness, history, culture, a passage of time... and other emotions.

Scraps of fabrics, patched and stitched to a base cloth and indigo dyed.


Project: Rag

This is the beginning of my "rag" project. Inspired by boro, patching, the act of using precious small pieces of fabric, mending, preserving and renewing, I began to create my piece. Scraps and trimmings from other projects were patched (machine appliqu├ęd) onto a base fabric. 

Elevating the Rag

The patchwork "rag" was then dyed in an indigo vat. Different fabrics took the indigo dye in varying degrees of color and value. Once the overdyed patchwork was dry, I began to hand stitch with cotton sashiko threads. 

Fabric patches overdyed in indigo.


There was no predetermined plan or design for the stitching or color placement—just the mindfulness of running the needle and thread through the fabric layers. Adding to the texture, the knots were left on the "right side"—the "raggy" side. A new thread was started wherever the previous length ran out. 

Running stitches with cotton sashiko threads.

The running stitches both strengthened the patches and added color to the piece. Cross stitches were added to hold down the random, loose or unruly bits.

Cross stitches hold down unruly and frayed edges.


The metamorphosis to a functional object

My hand stitched rag needed to become something functional... something useful... so it would be frequently touched, held and admired. The flat rag metamorphosed into a three-dimensional small bag (approximately 9.5" x 8" x 2"). The boxed bottom was hand stitched and the tabs were left on the outside.

Boro-inspired drawstring bag.

The bag's inside is smooth and beautiful... with colored rows of stitching on a background of sky blue indigo.

The bag's inside with rows of colorful stitching.

Keeping with the suppleness of the hand-stitched piece, I did not use a zipper or other mechanical or machine-made closure. I think the simple drawstring closure is appropriate.

Boro-inspired drawstring bag.

Reliquary or Rag?

I have not yet decided what to keep in this bag: small balls of yarn, a travel project, handwork? For now, it is holding the memory of an enriching workshop experience with Doug Baulos, memories of new friends with whom I shared that experience, thoughts of the previous projects from which the patches came, and the relaxation and mindfulness that came with the creation and stitching processes. 

That is enough. It is full.

Is it reliquary or rag? 

The answer lies in the eyes and heart of the beholder.

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After writing this blog post about the story of this piece, I realized that it certainly identifies with my Make Nine 2021 "Mindfulness" prompt. I'm counting it as my 7th Make Nine finish.


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