Friday, May 25, 2012

Rag Bag

When I was five or six years old, I'd stay with my grandmother at Diamond Lake. It's a small lake north of Spokane where my grandparents lived year around. My grandma kept a laundry bag full of rags, hanging on the back of the door by the kitchen. This was called the rag bag. Inside of it were worn items, like grandpa's thin cotton pajamas, purple, dark blue and light blue striped. We cut from these pajamas a little jacket to sew for my doll. I still have that jacket with tiny trimmed neckline and sleeve cuffs. Little pockets on the flared front for doll coins. It's beautiful in so many ways. That was a good time for me...when I wasn't homesick, spending time sitting on my grandmother's lap sewing. The sewing machine was set up on the kitchen table. It was a big country kitchen with windows looking out on the lake and on the front yard facing the road. We sewed together. Her fingers and mine pushing the fabric along, the needle moving up and down, once catching the tip of my index finger. How easy it is to cry and give up. As children, you can drop something and never go back...because of an injury or some other injustice. I think with writing and art, this happenes frequently. Giving up because it is too hard, you can't work out the story, the sentences just won't mold to your liking. I give up occasionally on paintings. I used to feel badly about this, but now I think, move on if they're challenging me too much. Well, this isn't entirely true with writing. Lately, in the writing practice I teach and practice, I've noticed that sometimes it's really getting interesting when I jump ship. I'm off on a new thought. The other day while writing I stuck with's usually happens (jumping ship) when I begin to bore myself. I think I'm becoming redundant...or what more is there to say about such an making doll clothes from grandpa's pajamas? More! My friend Susan Erickson went to Ellen Bass's poetry workshop at the Skagit Valley Poetry Festival. They worked with opening up poems, learning to say more where you think there isn't more to say. I liked this idea. What more is there to say about that rag bag. Well, it has come back to me through the years. I don't keep a rag bag. Nor does anyone I know. Also, grandpa padding around the house in his PJs, a memory for me, sweet and soft. And grandma, sitting there behind me as we sewed. She'd put the threads in her mouth after clipping them. I thought she was eating them...which I didn't understand. She was gathering them so they didn't end up on the floor. She threw them away when we were finished. I hope your writing goes well this week. What will you mend in your life?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories, Nancy. Have not thought about the rag bag in decades, but we had several -- one in the 'cleaning' closet, one in my mom's art studio, another in my dad's shop. Cotton clothing, worn and washed to the very brink of shreds, made wonderful soft rags. Plus I had a huge sack of gorgeous fabric scraps -- silks and wools and even leather -- that my grandmother brought to me from her dressmaker and that I used for doll clothing and, later, a patchwork quilt.

Needlework and Adornments by Janice said...

I use old cotton tablecloths for dishrags. A red checkered one and a blue and white with flowers woven in. They're so soft. I love them and they work great and can be bleached over and over again.

Flower Power said...

Thanks fir tge cinnebts. I wish I had room for a rag bag. The truth is, I rarely sew now. Mostly I mend, etiher by hand or on my Singer. And my worn clothing...the cotton sheets that have worn thin on the edges...some make it to rags, others go into the give-away bag.