Do you have an old, favorite sweater that can no longer be worn because it’s so threadbare, but hate the idea of throwing it out? Then consider my upcoming April 16th all day ‘Chop-Shop’ where I teach how to make Potholder Rugs, made from second hand clothing and turn them into functional heirlooms that you and your family can treasure forever.
My career in recycling clothes into “new” garments and other items started in 1987 while I was still a student at Massachusetts College of Art. Without realizing it, I launched a manufacturing company that turned used wool sweaters into stuffed toys called Ragamuffins. After graduating from college a year later, I attended my first wholesale selling event, and sold more than ever expected. That success pushed me to purchase material in large volume from a network of used clothing wholesalers. When my material acquisition morphed from hand selection at the local thrift shops to buying thousand pound bales, I discovered there was a lot of material not suitable for the items in my burgeoning product line. However, as a passionate environmentalist and upcycler, I saw a way of reusing use this abundant collection of sweaters, t-shirts, and sweatshirts and turn them into a functional home décor item and that’s how my "Chop Shops" workshops and Potholder Rugs were born.
The rugs are made of secondary material, not the high quality lovely felts suitable for any my blankets, sweaters, stuffed toys, mittens, and scarves. Potholder Rugs are woven on giant frame looms using simple hand weaving and materials that can range from used wool sweaters, to t-shirts, sweatshirts or any other stretch fabric found in used clothing.
Until May 2008, my production company, Crispina Design Workshop, supplied over 350 stores, including ABC Carpet and Home in Manhattan, Room and Board, Sundance Catalogue and Crate and Barrel, with Potholder Rugs in more than twenty-two colors and that measured 10x14 feet in size. After May 2008, my attention turned to education and I wrote my first teaching book The Sweater Chop Shop. The book provides ways of recycling, recreating and re-enjoying your old sweaters into new wearables, blankets, pillows, and dolls that are fresh, playful, and captivating. In addition, I offer studio and off site ‘Chop-Shops’ and I do freelance design/empowerment work with large volume retailers paired with Domestic Violence Social Service organizations.
The ‘Chop-Shops’ are offered in my Pittsfield, Massachusetts, studio throughout the year where small groups of students gather and make a finished project in just one day. It’s a friendly and empowering atmosphere that welcomes newbie crafters to try their hand in the creative process with no experience necessary. Students receive complete instruction from start to finish, the use of all tools and materials for the day and as a healthy catered lunch. To supplement the material we have in the workshop, bring your stretched out, worn, and tired old sweaters and t-shirts that you can upcycle and leave with a new rug and keepsake!
Crispina ffrench is available for off-site teaching, empowerment presentations, and business consultation. She sits on the board of The Berkshire Coop Market and Alchemy Initiative and lives in a former rectory, with her husband Chris, and their three kids next door to her studio that is located in a former Roman Catholic Church in the heart of Pittsfield, MA. For more information, please visit www.crispina.com; for more information about the potholder rug making workshop, please visit, www.crispina.com/2011/02/682/