“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose” Kahlil Gibran.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in my current concerns at how much material and how many of the planet’s resources we waste. The materialistic consumer lifestyles we currently lead has given rise to an obscene amount of wastage and use of materials on a very temporary basis, in packaging and disposable items.
Our household operates an enthusiastic policy of recycling and re-using wherever possible and I’m loathed to throw anything away that I think might have some future use. Which is a worthy approach to have, although it does tend to give rise to a house full of junk.
I’m also conscious that as a maker, I too am potentially adding to this mountain of consumer wastage. So I do try and use recycled, or re-purposed materials where practical. I re-use all packing materials that I receive and new items I buy are made from recycled materials. I supplement this by making many of my own marketing materials – hopefully cutting down a little on energy costs during manufacturing and resulting transportation of goods. I try to buy from sources that I know manufacture in the UK, especially locally.
Every scrap of ribbon is saved to wrap jewellery parcels and I make gift envelopes from ends of rolls of nice papers, bought directly from the paper mill that makes them. I like to find old materials and make them into something new. I have old copper from my grandfather’s toolbox that has made its way into many pieces of new jewellery and still use many of his tools.
My other grandparents were manufacturers and importers of fancy goods – long before the public could fill their shopping basket with globally made or grown goods – when such an idea would seem so elusively exotic. They’d buy fancy goods made overseas and package them in Lancashire to sell to department stores. Much of the packaging was cellophane and bows – thankfully no sealed and moulded plastic contraptions available then.
I have a quantity of ribbons left from said venture and have gradually been using them when packing my jewellery. Lovely thick satins and fancy shaded organdie and even some pre-made bows. I have a biscuit tin which is full of what must be at least 100 yards of a basic woven pink ribbon that must have fallen off its spool at some time and was seemingly put aside for future untangling and has remained, shut away in a rather creased and scruffy knot, for what must be close to 50 years. There are several cut ends to it, where someone has used some of it, without wanting to unravel the whole mess. I also have a bag of short ribbon pieces from when I had a haberdashery shop from the ends of rolls, some of these, at least 12 years old, feature below too.
Even once untangled and pressed, the pink vintage ribbon isn’t really good enough to use as flat ribbon, there are grubby patches and snicks and it’s not in very good shape. I’ve kept it on my shelf, determined that some day it will find a use. I hate throwing things away anyway and it had sentimental value too.
As a teenage student (what seems a lifetime ago) I’d first travalled to America and bought some lovely satin ribbon roses in China Town in LA, having watched this tiny old lady making them on the street with the swiftest of tiny movements. I spotted them on my mirror a few days ago and wondered how easy it would be to make something like that myself to decorate my jewellery packages.
A bit of ferreting on-line found various tutorials and I made several roses and rosebuds using different techniques. Some methods were clearly going to be too fiddly to be worth persisting with, but I found one that was quick enough to be worth mastering. The tutorial I found was in itself flawed and my results were variable – I needed to figure out why some were clearly better than others – some had a gorgeous little spiral of petals at the centre, some were a ragged knot. Some systematic trial and error figured out why, the early part of the tutorial was either missing a stage, or mis-drawn. Once I overcame this gap in the method, I found that I could reliably make a decent looking rose in a matter of seconds, which I then wired together to secure and finished with some green florist’s tape to give them a stem.
I’m absolutely delighted that I can at last put that vintage ribbon to good use and that I can add something pretty to my packaging that is genuinely vintage and re-purposed. And I think my grandparents would be pretty tickled to see me make something new from materials that were perhaps thought beyond use by all of us. I hope they’d approve.
I’ll probably put together a new tutorial on my method, if this would be of interest, as an aide memoire for myself if nothing else. Let me know if you’d like to see it here on the blog.