Wednesday, October 22, 2014

One Thing: Handmade Scarf

On a bright day at an outdoor craft fair, the scarf stood out. Hanging up on one side of a booth full of things that were nice but not quite my style, it was the colors that called out, the unexpected combination of bright and soft that held on.

Handmade chenille, the maker explained. She described the multiple layers of fabric laid one over the other, how she sewed them together in long stripes up the length of the material and then cut between the seams—each layer on both sides of the fabric except a single middle layer. Delicate work, such constructing and deconstructing, the softness a result of deliberate fraying. As she spoke it became clear that the colors in my hand were not random; the fabric had been a bright madras plaid. She showed me how different fabrics took on different characters, how each became a slightly different sort of chenille. We touched other scarves, saw and felt both their origins and their new state. I bought the scarf—it would be soft and bright around my neck.

On another bright fall day the scarf finds its way out of my drawer, promising warmth and softness. Brightness, however, is the primary goal. Some days call for colors that give off a little of their own light. Sometimes they are a reflection, sometimes a reminder, but either way it matters, choosing them—wrapping them around yourself and stepping out into the world.

The warmth, it turns out, matters as well. On this particular day I am starting to break loose from the grasp of a cold-turned-sinus-and-bronchial-infection. Wrapping tender exposed parts is a comfort, and brings a certain kind of warmth and freedom to the whole body. I had not thought about this when I put the scarf on, but it is welcome.

There is also, I think, another comfort wrapped into this scarf. It is linked to the way the maker described how she made it, the love she had for both the work and the finished piece. I carried these things home with the scarf. I don’t know exactly what it meant to her to make it, but I know that it meant a lot. And I know that I have made things—in joy, in hurt, in frustration, in excitement, in sorrow—that carry something of me with them out into the world. 

These are things I am sure of: how necessary it is to make something, how a thing slowly becomes more than itself, how a thing carries meaning from person to person—growing in a way, even while it never changes shape. How this works is less important. Seeing is enough.

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