Reinterpretations of Cherished Clothing

Recently, I saw an article in the New York Times that brought to mind the Fabric of Cultures project. In the article, titled The Joy of Old Clothes, the artist Leann Shapton tells the author that she has been rethinking her approach to dressing in a lockdown. Shapton has chosen the reuse approach, tearing up garments and using the fabric.

Instead of my unworn beloved clothes, I have a 40-pound knotted rug of them.

When I mentioned this to Professor Paulicelli, she reminded me of the work of Lexi McCrady Axon featured in the Fabric of Cultures Systems in the Making exhibit and catalog.


 My rugs are made of formerly worn clothes that moved and pressed and surrounded bodies of people I know, and from scraps left from cutting clothing shapes. These textiles are saved for numbers of years because they are ‘valuable’ and are due the respect of being made into something significant.

McCrady Axon got her inspiration from her grandmother who was a foreman at a dress factory. Her grandmother took home scraps of fabric and used the skills she learned to make a rag rug, perfecting the concept with detailed patterns.

I was taught to knit by my grandmother. She knitted simple garter stitch blankets using yarn left over from other projects. Yarn from my sister’s projects were added to the pastiche. Many years later, when I was crafting my project for a Fabric of Cultures class in 2016, I turned to what remained of that yarn, conjuring up memories of my sister and the sweaters she made.

T Shirt Project, Iris Finkel

To me, the connection between clothing, memories, and reinterpretation through craft is sublime. I have much loved garments that have become a little too well worn to wear as is, but I’m not ready to make rugs out of them. Instead, inspired by The Golden Joinery, I have started doing repairs that call out the flaws with contrasting color darning. The Golden Joinery is a fashion movement of a sort, inspired by the Japanese art, Kintsugi. Instead of using bonding with gold to repair pottery, drawing attention to the fractures of a treasured cup or bowl, The Golden Joinery translates that to gold thread and fabric swatches to repair much loved clothing. I didn’t let my lack of gold thread stop me from co-opting this aesthetic.

Iris Finkel

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