The Threads of Ordinary Collecting

It can happen while we wait in line for something we want, in the middle of a project, after a long trek. When we anticipated something satisfying or useful, but end up being a little disappointed. "We may ask ourselves" (cue Talking Heads song), "How did I get here?" We question our actions, grand or minuscule. Why did I bother? Same thoughts can occur when we stop throwing something out. The corks in the drawer. The twisty-ties in a jar. The rubber band ball. The bag of bags. Why? What is so special about ordinary objects as a collection?

Why did I save these threads in this jar? I saw a jar online that was called a "thread jar" and it had a pin cushion in the lid. At the time, I didn't see the use for a thread jar. But as I started sewing more, it seemed handy. So I kept a jam jar to carry around with my projects. Potentially useful!

In this thread jar I collected all the loose threads and ends from quilts I've worked on for the past two years. Now what? I don't seem to be able to throw out the threads. I think about solidifying them in acrylic gel medium, embedding the threads in something or using them as collage materials, but the jar and its geological layers seem to be a record. Of projects. Of time. Of life. Odd how we can connect memories to inanimate objects. Memory jogs as ordinary as threads. 

The problem now is that it has become so full I can't add any more threads, and the threads are riding on my clothes, in my journal, and moving about the house on their own. The useful potential is gone. That should be my worst problem, right? It's not really very important, but somehow the question of what to do with this jar and its threads is getting in the way. I can't seem to start a new jar, even though a new jar might be the answer. Then what do I do with this one?

Ultimately, the thread jar stands, almost comically, for something larger, a metaphor for other aspects of our lives. We make choices daily to save or discard, to contact or ignore, to retain or let go, both things and people. Pleasure. Obligation. Potential. There are always things that get in our way, some more dire than others. And it is easy to get obsessed and distracted. A couple years ago, in this post,  I wrote about Marie Kondo and her concept that the things that "spark joy" are the things you keep.

So, because this is such small stuff, I'll probably have to let these threads go, like I do with book pieces leftover from an edition, even though I am tempted to repurpose and make something else out of them. For a maker, that's not easy. All materials "spark joy!" I've already got a bag of scrap cloth and a box of trimmings, although they are boxed up out of sight, and several projects in progress. I'll just cue the Talking Heads music again: "You may ask yourself, 'where does this highway lead to?'" 

On this side of the road, only forward.

Or maybe just a Ziploc baggie…


Anonymous said…
I collect thread strands too ... when spring comes around I take the threads out to the yard and set them free. Birds pick up the threads with grass and twigs to make their nests. Collection is re-duced, re-used, re-cycled, and re-purposed. And its always fun to find a robin's nest in the rhododendron bush with threads woven in!
Jo said…
I and many of my friends have 'ort' jars. They can be handy in many ways. I sometimes use orts when I am Free machining (FME) to add some texture or line. You can sandwich in dissolvable fabric and FME over to make a piece of fabric. They can be sprinkled over fabric before layering with transparent fabrics then FME. Here is some more info:
Alisa said…
Thanks, Anonymous and Jo for your interesting suggestions! Solvy is fun. I wrote about that, too, with fabric scraps: