Monday, October 8, 2012

Re-Purposing The Swatches

Long before it was called re-purposing, creatively finding a use for recycled items was just common sense. My grandmother was the queen of using up leftovers, saving miscellaneous strings, rubber bands, jars, cans, bags and otherwise disposable crap. Since she lived through the great depression, she understood the meaning of getting the most for your money and not being wasteful.

Grandma's unique talent at being a thrifty saver, was obvious in her home. There were gobs of extra buttons organized in old prescription bottles, rubber bands attached to the inside doorknobs of closets, and mini hotel and motel soaps piled high in the linen closet. These are all examples of her "recycling." Open an issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine today, and you would see that re-purposing has its own section. Clearly, Grandma was ahead of her time.

One of the most memorable re-purposing projects included the sample fabric swatches from Grandpa's wholesale Men's Clothing line. When Grandpa would meet with the retail store buyers,
he would show the suits and together they would select fabrics from the sample swatch cards. At the end of the season the squares of suiting fabrics were useless, except to my Grandmother. Instead of tossing them in the trash, she had them sewn into a large patchwork like quilt. When finished it was a huge blanket of checkerboard fabrics lined with soft cotton flannel and decorated at the seams with a satin ribbon.

These winter blankets were heavy, warm and designed to last a lifetime. These were aptly called the swatch blankets and they were an exclusive production. You could save money on natural gas by turning the thermostat down at night and hovering under one of these blankets. I am sure this is what Grandma did. I, on the other hand, sleep with a window cracked open because I am always roasting.

To this day at Saks Fifth Avenue, Men's suits can be custom ordered
from sample swatches. Imagine my delight when I attended a product training session this week with the representative from Giorgio Armani and saw the swatch cards sitting on the table. I smiled knowing that if Grandma had been there, she would have snagged those suckers for future blanket making.

I told the manager of the department about the re-purposing and he thought it was awesome. Later in the day he brought me an enormous bag full of previous season swatches from Armani, Hickey Freeman and a host of other vendors. The piles of swatches had been in the stockroom and since the fabrics were discontinued, they were mine to take home. I was a bit giddy at the thought of making my own swatch blanket.

Given that I have been working crazy hours at the store, then coming home and crafting condom corsages, the swatch project is on the back burner until after Condom Couture. I can't wait to create a heavy wool blankie for Jeff. He is freezing at night and I am always hot. This could be the blanket that saves our master bedroom heating and cooling dilemma.

Re-purposing is like retail- it is in my blood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like yours, my grandma wasted NOTHING! I inherited one of those quilts except some of the crazy quilt swatches were corduroy and some were wool like suit material. It was so lovely, heavy and warm like you described. I put it away for my sons that I didn't have yet, except the moths somehow found it first. Darn it. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.

The older crowd

The older crowd
Amanda and Mitchell

A blast from the past...makes it all so real now