Soon after my previous post in which I mentioned progress with my stash of ties, I popped into a favourite charity shop and came away with more. I couldn't resist it. I look at the colours, textures and patterns rather than the fabric type. Most of them were silk, including another Liberty print. I wondered whether someone well-off had recently decluttered their wardrobe. As I added the details to my stock inventory, I saw that it took the total to 150. That's right, I had just purchased my 150th tie. Not only that, but it is an Ermenegildo Zegna. Recognising it as a 'designer' tie, I looked it up. The cheapest I could find for sale was over £50, as they tend to be in quite a heavy silk. This one is black with diagonals of different textures, beige lines and white dots. I had to go an have a lie down to boggle at the fact that I had reached 150 ties, and ponder whether it might be better to sell the EZ to someone who will give it a good home (considering that I do not have a significant other to give it to) rather than use it. I'm still thinking about it.
I felt pleased that I had started processing them with a view to making some articles which will hopefully sell and allow me to feel that I'm not just an obsessive hoarder. I noticed when I was going through them that I had several which had no labels showing their fabric type. I settled down the other evening to unpick them and take fibres or a small snippet of fabric to burn test. Of them all, only two looked like silk. The rest, including one which had a brand label 'La Seta Italiana' (meaning Italian Silk) formed the shiny black beads which indicated synthetic fibres.
Since then, I have unpicked and washed all of my synthetic fabric ties (just over half the total). If I thought the interlinings were dirty, the tippings and tie fabrics themselves were even dirtier. There are some stains which will not come out, including a yellow mark from the degraded glue on a sticky price label from an pink tie which looked as though it had been left in the shop window too long. In between hand-washing batches of them, I had a little Google for items made with recycled ties. There were a few tutorials for making things such as rolled and folded roses or pouches for phones or iPods. I'd already played with making a rose from a whole tie and decided that it was too bulky with the interlining. Most of the ideas seemed to involve using the ties just as they were. Having seen the colour of the water as I was washing them, all I have to say to that is, Eeew, yuk! There is only one tie in my set where I could see that someone had tried to clean it - and the scrubbing had pulled threads and created a fuzzy, frayed patch right on the main part of the tie. Judging by the smell of socks and old after-shave, most of the ties came straight from cupboard to shop. Now the idea of using a second hand tie without taking it apart and washing it is unthinkable.
It is certainly not the easy or cost-effective option. By the time that I have unpicked, separated, washed, dried, pressed, selected for use, fussy-cut and finally created the article, I cannot charge enough to repay fully the time spent doing all this, as well as the time spent visiting the shops in the first place. No wonder many craft-makers prefer new materials, but I like the idea of recycling these fabrics into something new or different. There's the thing with arts and crafts. The time spent by the artist in learning their craft, acquiring tools and techniques, researching, designing, experimenting, failing, practising and creating is never truly paid for by the buyer. Whether it's a performer, writer or creative artist working with any medium you can think of, they are working at least partly for love. It is said that money can't buy love, but it seems to me that if you watch a performance or buy something handmade, not mass produced and possibly one of a kind, then perhaps you are buying some of the love that the artist put into their creation.