Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The three “Rs” of the green movement are not new. My mother was one of the queens of recycling in her day.

To set the stage for our story, it is important to remember that the Sugar Loaf area is crisscrossed with mining claims. Each claim had a shaft or tunnel. The shafts came in handy for the frugal mountain folk who used them as dumps for their trash.  No expensive trip to the dump in town.

One such dump was located at the top of Primos Hill and was used by many families because of its easy access off the main road.  Mom referred to it as the “thrift store.” We would drop off our trash and then rummage through what others had tossed, looking for usable items. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—or in this case woman’s. Sometimes we would score a bag of scraps from one of the women who sewed garments. I often wondered if they put the fabric in a separate bag just for Mom.

By the mid-1970s, Mom had amassed enough corduroy from the “thrift store” and from our used clothing that it was time to put it all to use. She painstakingly cut squares for two full-size quilts. The first quilt was for me. I decided it needed two layers of batting to be nice and fluffy, which meant it couldn’t be hand-quilted so we tied it all together. The second she made for her first granddaughter, April.

I recently redid April’s quilt with a new flannel backing and thin batting so I could actually machine-quilt it. I had fun picking out the blocks that were made from our old clothing. Some blocks even sport the non-faded shape of a pocket or hem.

Mom didn’t have the rulers and rotary cutters we take for granted today. She would cut a square out of a cereal box and draw around it for her pattern. If you do that enough times, the corners of the cardboard get rounded and the edges worn. Without realizing it, you soon have blocks of all sizes. While redoing April’s quilt, I found as much as a half-inch difference in the blocks. That can make for a few lumps and bumps when you try to quilt.

As careful as I tried to be, I did have a few funky places in the end. To fix them, I ripped out seams and then overlapped blocks, smoothing the excess fabric underneath, and then hand-stitched the seam together.

Once again the recycled fabric from the dump will be keeping a body warm at night.