Refuse, reuse, recycle… Remember

Storyteller Rachel Welsh wears an outfit and holds a journal recycled from her flower-embroidered vest (inset). Photograph Alana Hall

Refuse, reuse, recycle… Remember

Rachel Welsh

rlwelsh@hotmail.com

1 February 2014

I’m sitting in the chai tent at the inaugural Boomerang Festival held last October in Byron Bay, Australia. I am dressed for comfort wearing a favourite pair of well-worn, pre-loved jeans, appliqued with some bright, magenta pink-embroidered flowers. I had cut the flowers from an old vest I couldn’t completely let go of when it became ragged from so much loving wear.

Two women sitting next to me comment on how much they like the flowers. I tell them what I’ve just told you and from worlds apart through a few words exchanged, we realise we have a mutual friend in eARTh emag, and talk about the next issue’s theme of eco-fashion. Being a storyteller, I naturally share this story...

Once, a very long time ago, there lived a Jewish tailor named Joseph. Joseph had learned the trade of a tailor whilst sitting by his father’s side. He worked very hard and he made beautiful, fine clothing for all the rich people in his town, but he never had quite enough money to make himself a coat. Joseph dreamed of the day when he had saved enough money to create his own coat from beautiful, fine fabrics.

Many years passed and finally Joseph had enough money to go to the market and buy some beautiful fabric. He returned to his shop and laying the fabric out on his workbench, he measured and he cut and he stitched and he stitched and he made himself a wonderful coat.

Joseph loved that coat and he wore it everywhere. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it until it was all worn out with holes and threads coming loose everywhere. Joseph looked at himself in the mirror and he felt sad. Oh, how he loved that coat. He slowly took the coat off and prepared to throw it in the bin. As he turned the coat in his hands he thought, “There is enough, just enough, just enough...” He layed the coat out on his workbench and he measured and he cut and he stitched and he stitched and he made himself a vest.

Joseph loved that vest and he wore it and he wore it and he wore until it was all worn out. That was a sad day as Joseph looked at his old worn out vest. He took off the vest and was about to throw it in the bin when... “There is enough, just enough, just enough...” He layed the coat out on his workbench and he measured and he cut and he stitched and he stitched and he made himself a beautiful cap.

Joseph loved that cap and he wore it and he wore it and he wore it until it was all worn out. That was a sad day as Joseph took off his old, worn out cap. He took off the cap and was about to throw it in the bin when he had a thought. “There is enough, just enough, just enough...” He placed the cap out on his workbench and he measured and he cut and he stitched and he stitched and he made himself a beautiful bow tie.

Joseph loved his bow tie and he wore it and he wore it and he wore it until it was all worn out. That was a sad day for Joseph as he remembered all the fun times he had wearing it and how youthful it made him feel. He was about to throw the bow tie away when he stopped. “There is enough, just enough, just enough...” He put the bow tie on his workbench and he measured and he cut and he stitched and he stitched and he made himself a fine cloth button.

It was a beautiful button and he sewed it onto his shirt and he wore it and he wore it until it was all worn out. Now that, was a very sad day for old Joseph. “Old button, you have meant so much to me, first you were my coat, then my vest, then my cap and my bow tie. Now, there really is nothing left. It is all gone.” Tears flowed freely down Joseph’s cheeks and fell into the bottom of the rag bin along with the button. “Wait!” Joseph cried. “There is something left! There is just enough, just enough, just enough... to make a STORY of all the things I have made and all the experiences we have had together and I will tell it to everyone I meet.”

Joseph kept the button his pocket, he carried it everywhere so he could show it to his listeners and his family. “You see, he would say, there is always just enough for a Story!

I bought my pink and green flower embroidered vest when I had moved to Brisbane in 1988. I wore it and I wore it and I wore until it was all worn out. The body of the vest was faded and becoming threadbare, but the flowers were still as bright and vibrant as ever. I cut the flowers from the vest and my daughter Darcie sewed them to an old, but comfy pair of opportunity shop jeans. Recently, I was preparing to go to the Woodford Folk Festival and I needed a pair of comfy shorts. I couldn’t find a pair I liked and I couldn’t justify spending $40 for a pair I might like. I rang my daughter, “I’m going to cut my flower jeans into a pair of shorts.” “Don’t do it mum! You’ll regret it.” I didn’t regret it and walked with a spring in my step and a swagger in my hips as I arrived at Woodford in my flower appliqued shorts and converse boots.

When Sandi and Alana asked me to contribute to this edition of eARTh emag, I went looking for photos of me and my vest. It was only when I began looking through the photos that I realised why this vest meant so much to me.

I wore it at my son’s first birthday, I wore it the day his father and I took him to his first Brisbane Ekka and we bought him a harmonica. I wore it on one of our few family holidays to Sydney. I was wearing it on the ferry ride to Taronga Zoo as I held my three year old son in my arms and he planted a big smiling kiss on my waiting lips. I wore it as I helped to decorate the vehicle for his kindergarten entry in the Nambour Sugar Festival Parade.

As I explored the photos, I was reminded of the clothes I made him; hand painted, tie-dyed overalls and t-shirts, leaf-printed overalls in all the colours of the rainbow. Clothes that were handed down to other mothers and their sons.

My son turns 24 soon. There was just enough left over from the vest and the jeans and the shorts to make a book cover. I’ll give it to him for his birthday and tell him how much I love him and we can remember our stories.

Do you have of a piece of clothing or belonging that means a lot to you? Has it worn out? What did you do with it? Do you still have it? Even if you no longer have a once favourite piece of clothing you can RE-MEMBER them through sharing those stories.

 

 

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