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SALVAGING SELVAGES
by Peggy Hannum - Lancaster, PA
McGown Newsletter, Vol. 35 #3, Autumn 2006.
 

The advent of a new year always inspires us to make a few resolutions about what we hope to accomplish in the coming year, or at least, to cast a wary eye on what is still hanging around in the recesses of last year.

Our Conestoga Hooking Group was no exception. In preparing for our January class, I decided it was time for a few “reclamation projects,” ie. what to do with some of the ‘stuff still lurking in the dark comers of the hooking studio. Of course, what came to mind first were all of the “great unfinished,” bags of projects begun in workshops and rug camps. So, first on the list of “Reclamation Resolutions” was to have everyone decide upon two unfinished or want-to-do projects that before one and all we declared publically that we would really try to do this year. These projects and ideas were duly listed and presented at the February meeting.

The vows to finish projects were a good beginning. However, as I worked in my dye room, I, as usual, tripped on, bumped into, and groaned over the huge trash bag of selvages I had accumulated over the years from many hours of dyeing. I have trouble throwing away a rubber band, never mind a selvage.

I’ve seen clever proddy rugs, one by Michelle Micarelli, that I recall, but she had dyed her wool with the selvages on and then tore them off. Not wanting to waste dye, I always tear mine off first. I often regretted not having a huge hoard of dyed selvages on hand, but not enough to change my ways! So instead I began to use up dyes left over from projects on the selvages. Whenever I had leftover dye, I’d put it into a pan with water, salt and vinegar, pick up a handful of unsoaked selvages, throw them in, boil a while and let them cool ‘til morning. I then rinsed them and threw them in the dryer with some old towels. Each dryed batch I just scooped up and tied in a bunch with one of the selvages to keep the colors separate. They were interesting bunches as all different colors of wool were overdyed in each dye batch.

Well, the opportunity arrived: a reclamation project and a way to get rid of the growing mound of selvages which I finally admitted to myself I wasn’t going to do anything with in the foreseeable future!

The challenge was presented to my January classes. I put all of the bunches of selvages on a large beach towel in the middle of the floor. Everyone could take as many as they wanted, the only caveat being that they had to do something creative with them and bring it to the February class. What a great free for all - not many bits and pieces left!

I never cease to be amazed by people’s creativity. Completed projects ranged from a wonderful array of handbags to baskets, a doll’s head, knitted and braided pieces and a hooked project for a charity auction.

A prodded flag appeared on a denim purse purchased inexpensively at a craft store. Another handbag sported prodded flowers and yet another a delightful lattice of hooking with prodding that looked like a spring garden. Two wonderful baskets arrived. Susie Seyler used a plastic container as a mold and wove a delightful basket which she filled with punch needle eggs. Margaret Wenger produced a laced and woven basket that would rival any basketweaver’s work.

A knock at the front door one morning resulted in a quick trip to the basement studio to retrieve a few more selvages: Sharron Nelson was on a secret mission. Come February she appeared with a delightful bunny pillow for her granddaughter for Easter. A fluffy prodded brown bunny sat in a bed of green selvages and bright flowers. She had needed just a few more of just the right brown selvages to finish the bunny!

France Couillard modeled the ‘funky’ shawl or belt, whichever turned your fancy, as well as the huge knitting needles she’d used to knit the knotted lengths of selvages into the delightful belt/scarf replete with wooden beads and clasp.

There were braided mats and a woven tray cover, and Cindy Irwin, using a #6 cut, hooked a flower shaped piece that with a mirror placed in the center became a unique wall mirror. Susie Seyler had wide- cut some of the selvages to fashion the hair and hook the head for an ‘antique’ doll.

Last but not least, Mary Margaret Kuhn, looking at the pieces she had picked up said they reminded her of the color of the hills in Adams County which gave her the idea to create a wall hanging using narrow cut pieces of the selvages and to hook in the logo: LCAC, Land Conservancy of Adams County. She presented this lovely piece for their fund raising auction this spring, although it was rather hard to part with it.

And, there are more. Each month some new finished ‘salvaged selvages’ make a surprise appearance. Also, there is still at least half a trash bag of selvages waiting to be dyed and by next New Year to become another “Reclamation Project.” Stay tuned!

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Peggy Hannum
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
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