Scrapping Scraps

In September I posted photos of the fabric scraps I still have from my childhood. The inspiration for ruminating on what to do with them came from a couple of sources. One was Dawn Raffel’s book The Secret Life of Objects.  The other was Swedish death cleaning–getting rid of stuff so my kids are not one day burdened with it.

I promised I would do something with the scraps, and I have not forgotten. I am far from the point of actually getting rid of the fabric, but did start a project that was suggested by sarahsouthwest.

I’m making a scrapbook of scraps! For each page I plan to include a fabric remnant, a story or description of the memory it stirs up, and, if possible, a photograph of the garment made of the fabric. So far I’ve only made the cover and one page, but thought you might want to follow along with the process. I’m not very good at crafts, but hey, it’s mine, baby, all mine.



First, I chose an ugly on-sale scrapbook and then padded it and covered it. I selected a print corduroy from the late 1960s for the front cover and a gingham from the early 1960s for the back.

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You can see what my first page looks like in the slideshow above. I decided to keep the page very plain and even left the raw edge of fabric visible. In the photograph you can see me wearing the sleeveless tent dress that my grandmother made for me. It has a high yoke decorated with large embroidered white daisy appliques. I loved that dress. It was so comfy and very pretty. The type of fabric was called “whipped cream,” and was lightweight, airy, with a little texture to it. My mom’s cotton or cotton/poly fitted dress, also sewn by Grandma, was very Barbie-style.

This is the story I wrote about what the dress and the photo remind me of:


In this photo, my parents and I are in Canada, seated at a restaurant in the 1967 International and Universal Exposition.


The summer I turned 12 is the one I will always remember as a peaceful and memorable week with my parents. We left my 4-year-old brother with my grandparents in Kalamazoo and drove to Montreal for Expo ’67, the World’s Fair.


We stayed in Montreal at the winter (city) home of my grandfather’s 2nd cousin, Harold Remine, the Chief Engineer of Quebec Hydroelectric. It was a beautiful and elegant brown brick row house. The dining room was complete with all the requisite china, crystal, and silver. But the house was not large, and I had to share a bedroom with my parents.


Harold and Lillian also had a lovely lake home, which we visited. Harold introduced me to curling, a sport I had never heard about before, by taking us to a curling club.


The Expo itself excited and exhausted me. It had some elements in common with a state fair or Disneyland, a place I had not yet visited. There were snow cone and cotton candy booths, hot dog and burger stands. A caricaturist drew my likeness holding a book. I was disappointed afterward that I hadn’t given him a better hobby. Reading seemed so nerdy. But the truth was that I read more than I did anything else.


Each participating country sponsored a magnificent pavilion that was supposed to reflect the national personality. The U.S. pavilion was a huge geodesic dome—this is a sphere that is built of short struts that follow geodesic lines (the shortest line between two points on a sphere) and form an open framework of triangles or polygons. There were very, very long escalators that seemed to hang in “thin air,” and the park’s elevated minirail ran through the structure. The effect of being inside the pavilion was of being suspended in space. I believe I saw a doll collection and space race memorabilia, but since I was afraid of heights, I mainly remember my fear.


My favorite pavilion was the Burmese one. Under its appealing multi-roofed pagoda design, a gigantic golden Buddha dominated the interior lobby. I suspect that the restaurant in the photo is the Burmese one. To this day, it is my favorite type of food. If you haven’t been lucky enough to eat it, it is a cross between Thai and Indian food.


Habitat 67, a futuristic housing development, was situated near the edge of the fairgrounds. It reminded me of photos of Anasazi dwellings for some reason. I was both repelled by the makeshift quality and fascinated by a new way to conceptualize living quarters.


I guess my parents had decided not to bring my brother because he was too young to appreciate the cultural opportunity or even to go on the fair rides. But when we got home to Kalamazoo and stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s to pick him up, he was flushed with a high fever. He sat on someone’s lap, and somebody else snapped a pic a second before he leaned over and threw up on the floor. That’s when I started to feel guilty that we had left him behind.


Habitat 67 from Wikipedia


Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, travel, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing prompt

73 responses to “Scrapping Scraps

  1. What is scrap to some, is solid memory to another.

  2. I love your scrap project. I have a few things that I don’t know what to do with. I have my baptism outfit that my mother made out of a very soft satin and a doll’s dress she made too. I have a crocheted door hanging she made framed in my dining room. She was so good at any hand craft. I’m not sure who will want all the doilies and what not after I go.

    • Eventually give them away to various people you are close to because they will be mementos of you. Can you frame the baptism outfit?

      • I could but only I would be interested in it.

        • Does that matter? I would like to have something like that to look at on my wall, you know? But it’s an issue about what to do with stuff when we’re gone. Since so many heirlooms, photos, documents have come my way, the truth is my kids aren’t all that interested. For one thing, only my DIL really has that kind of interest in the “old days.” And for another my kids are adopted so how many photos of people who don’t look like them are of interest? Same thing with my brother and his kids since he’s adopted. I’m looking to my cousins’ kids, but I really don’t know. Maybe the best I can do is make digital copies of everything for ALL of them and donate the rest to an archives if they want it.

  3. What a great memory Luanne. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. What a wonderful idea! So much better to leave tangible memories than fabric scraps. And a great writing prompt for each piece of fabric. Brava!

    • Yes, those scraps wouldn’t have any meaning outside their own “identity” haha without my memories or stories of those memories. Thanks, Cheryl!

  5. This is a great idea, Luanne. Looking forward to more.

  6. Ok, Luanne…now you’re making me feel like a sloth.
    I can get on board with your extensive genealogical research, poetry goals for 2020 even – all of which have me teetering on the brink of feeling lazy. But this latest addition of scrap booking your scraps with stories is a bridge too far. I know if I don’t get busy setting writing goals for 2020, I am truly a sloth. 🙂
    Rock on, girl, Loved this story, btw.

    • You have this tendency to crack me up–and this comment is no exception! LOL! Notice that I first wrote about the scraps in September and we are now in January. That’s how long it’s taken me. I had to dry all the scraps because they smelled like moth balls. Then I folded the little pieces up. Then I found a cheap scrapbook, some batting, and a new glue gun. Then I sat there and looked at it all for a few months.
      You are NOT a sloth!!! Look at how many books you’ve written!!!! And blogging for years! And living life.

  7. And now for something completely different……. You never cease to amaze me Luanne, this is a fabulous project! And such a memory as the one you have written here has a wider future audience I think. You could even consider a pocket or something similar to hold a copy of this post which holds additional photos – or just the additional photos. Make sure you use archival quality glues and papers for your scrapbook so nothing deteriorates as time goes by. This project could very well end up in the Smithsonian. <3

    • Pauline, you cracked me up here with your Smithsonian comment! LOL! A pocket is a great idea. I LOVE that idea, in fact. OK. So here’s my thing with the archival quality. I am using acid-free everything except two things: one is the computer ink. I’ve never figured out if it is acid-free or not. I am careful to use archival quality cardstock, but what about the ink? The other thing is the fabric itself, of course. I considered putting each scrap inside an acid-free plastic sleeve, but it diminished the tactile quality of the fabric and ended up deciding not to do it. Am I making a mistake?

      • Good question about the printing ink – I have no idea is the short answer. It’s like pens, some are lightfast and some aren’t and they don’t say unless you ask the right questions – or the right person. Over the years I’ve winnowed and still it’s a bit hit and miss. When I take prints of my art work I get it professionally done in the hopeful belief they use best quality inks.
        I think you have made a good call about the fabric. Fabric is made of tougher stuff, its meant to be worn and handled and washed ….. Let the Smithsonian worry about that in the future 🙂

        • Haha, yes, we will let the Smithsonian worry about it! Oh, I got a special package yesterday. My cousin sent me his parents’ wedding cake topper, his mom’s wedding dress and veil (designed and sewn by my grandmother), her bridal hankie (again by grandma), her bridal garter, photos, and this amazing crocheted apron with tiny plastic baby dolls hanging all around it. Have you ever heard of such a thing?! I don’t know I will do with all this stuff, but it breaks my heart my cousin’s kids don’t want their grandparents stuff especially that sewn by their great-grandmother! So more decisions about what to do with things. But good writing fodder . . . . Speaking of your art and achival quality materials, my MIL did not use acid-free for a lot of her painting because she couldn’t afford it. It’s so horrifying to see some of the art being eaten away.

          • When I first started paper crafting (maybe 25 – 30 years ago) I used whatever I could lay my hands on and most of it fell apart within a year or two. I was gutted as I was making scrapbooks for my kids and thinking they would have them forever. It was a slow process to understand what worked and what didn’t. Now the information is more freely available – plus supplies are not so expensive as they once were (relatively speaking) You still have to be careful with some new fads though. I love alcohol inks for example and made some huge paintings for my daughter which all leached their colours and in two years have faded away to nothing. So they sadly are a no-go for anything other than cards.

            • It breaks my heart to think of all that work you done completely ruined. How very sad. I have noticed that supplies are less expensive for scrapbooking now that there are less expensive companies producing items. But there is also not the variety that there was for awhile when scrapbooking was so popular.

          • Plus those great pieces from your cousin. It’s good he could find someone to send them to – and if you write poems out of it even better. I can’t even picture that apron with the dolls hanging off – please take a photo for your blog. I wonder if it was some kind of lucky charm ………….

            • I found out about the apron!!! The gardener said maybe it’s Polish or Catholic. Because my aunt was Polish, both her parents. So I asked a friend of mine who has Polish heritage in her background. It’s an apron for the wedding, put on the bride just before the so-called dollar dance. It’s a fertility ritual. I can JUST SEE my daughter if I try to tie that on her at her wedding next year hahahahahahah! I took a photo, but not sure if I’ll post it on the blog this week as I am working on a book review of blogger Joy Neal Kidney’s book. But I hope to remember to post it later! Or I will put it on Instagram. You don’t have Instagram, do you?

  8. Amy

    I love that you have these scraps and even more so that you have such vivid memories associated with them. I never thought to keep fabric scraps.

    • Well, my grandmother, as you might recall, was a seamstress/tailor and left many remnants behind. And during her last years of sewing (before it became too difficult for her to sew and she switched to crocheting) I was a teen and sewing myself. So I ended up saying both her scraps and mine. What I never did was take favorite clothing and cut out a scrap to keep. Now I sort of wish I had done it. But, ya know, we can’t save everything LOL.

  9. Val

    That’s lovely.

    I had intended to do something very similar, a scrapbook with scraps of memorable fabric (I have more actual, complete clothes than scraps), but when I started cutting up garments, I couldn’t do it as they somehow lost something in the process. That said, when I do let go of something (usually to a charity shop), that I want to remember, what I usually do is photograph it. That way, if I want to look at it again, I can. But this only works for things I don’t actually want to hold.

    Your kids – adopted or not – may change their minds after you’re gone. There were loads of things belonging to my parents and to my grandparents I had absolutely no interest in when I was younger that I wish I had now (and loads more that I have and wish I didn’t! 😉 ) I think the important thing is to make clear what you want to have done with things. But it definitely is a problem. My sister and I have all our mother’s sculpture and paintings (she was an artist) and haven’t a clue what will happen to them after we’re gone.

    • I was just writing above about how I never cut up clothing to save scraps. I think I would have liked to have saved pieces of a few items, but I never did. Just the scraps from sewing clothes. I agree about the taking photographs of stuff to get rid of.
      I hope my kids will become interested. They certainly are not the types to like history, etc., although my son and DIL would be better candidates than daughter and future SIL, I think.
      Oh, I hear you on the art! Since the gardener’s mother was an artist we have a lot of her paintings. But what will the kids do with them?

  10. Such a cool project, Luanne. I love how your scraps spark memories.
    Kind of related–we had to throw out so much stuff from my mom’s last week–and it really made me sad.
    I remember going to some World Fair type of exhibitions–I remember we went to one in San Antonio when I was child and one in New York. I loved the exhibits where your seat would glide into the future (as GE or some company imagined it). 🙂

  11. What a wonderful project! It’s a great way to tell parts of your life story that I’m sure your children will enjoy too. I’m awed by your detailed memories. Just WOW 😄

    • Hehe, I admit I do have a great long term memory, just like my grandfather. BUT, lately my short term memory is NOT at all what it was. Very frustrating.
      I think that my daughter will be the one to get this book because she is interested in clothing, etc.

  12. Luanne! Love this post! Love your scrapbook idea – a scrapbook of scraps – perfect! 😀 And every piece, a memory. I can so relate.

    And boy do I relate to your Expo 67 visit here. I was 21 that year and newly married. My (now-ex) husband had a job there, for the summer. It was quite a huge, stupendous project, Expo. Gorgeous architecture etc. Did you know that it was kept on for years, with a name change to “Man and his World (feminism hadn’t caught on yet, apparently!),” and a bit scaled down. We still have La Ronde, the amusement park.

    Re Burmese food – I haven’t had it, but when my daughter, the intrepid traveler, visited that country (now Myanmar) she took a cooking class so she could make the food herself! I must ask her to invite me over!! 😀

    Too bad about your brother when you got home from here. Guilt, guilt! 😬 … I assume he got better!!

    • Does your daughter want to visit Phoenix? She can come cook here. I have a nice kitchen with an old but beautiful gas range. She can cook all the Burmese food she wants. I’ll shop for the ingredients. Is that a deal? HAHAHAHA Maybe I should get off my behind and try making a Burmese dish. Hmm.
      Yes, my brother did get better, thanks ;). He looked so pitiful though.
      What a great age to be for Expo 67!!! It really was a wonderful experience.

  13. What a great project and a special keepsake for your children.

  14. This is a wonderful idea, Luanne. I think I said that in Sept but with my brain a sieve, who knows. I have nothing from childhood nor more than a couple of things from my daughters. As a military brat, we learned to travel with only what was absolutely necessary to sustain life. I have started taking photos of the things I make and I’d like to print out a copy and put it all in an album. Right now the photos are still digital. I understand that no one wants the stuff you leave behind. My kids have already let me know what they keep and what gets auctioned off. Adopted family has an extra element to the inherit dilemma. You just make it for you and let go of the end result. A lot of things I’ve made will end up at the thrift store or maybe as a charitable donation somewhere. I had fun making it so that’s what matters. Looking forward to the progress. See how we set you up to get it done? 😉

    • You really got me thinking about fabric as art. I don’t know why I never thought of it that way before, but it is, and so a focus on the fabric itself is a marvelous way to appreciate an art form we usually ignore.
      You are right about taking photos instead of trying to hang onto everything. You know, I told my husband that I’m giving away the fabric after I finish the project and he couldn’t bear to think of parting with fabric that has nothing to do with his own memories at all. It was so funny. He has such a hoarder’s instinct. I might have to make them disappear HERE first before I give them away. Time for him to forget about it ;).
      Yes, you all did set me up to get it done!!! I couldn’t quit now haha.

  15. You have done well with a great idea

  16. Aren’t you clever! I love this idea, and you’ve made a great start. The Expo reminds me of a visit to Epcot Center in Orlando. I loved that place.

    Amazing to me all the details you can recall from 1967!

    • I was just “telling” Marie that I do have a super good long term memory. My grandfather had one, too, and that is where my interest in family history comes from. But my short term memory is starting to erode, let’s say. Not at all what it was. Very frustrating. How are you feeling, BTW?

      • I seem to have blotted out haha he chunks of my childhood, though certainly not everything. Photos can help jog some things loose – for you, fabric seems a good method, too.

        I am pretty much living from PT workout to workout and trying to get some sleep. No writing, really, but I got my art supplies out to play with. I printed out my 88k word gold rush draft in anticipation of spending the next two months working on a rewrite. But first I have to (cringe) read it!

  17. I absolutely love this project! My mother has saved some of my grandmother’s sewing things…she just could not part with them. There is this amazing box of beautiful antique buttons and some lovely pieces of fabric as well. I remember I had a black velvet dress with a white lace collar, and some of the fabric reminded me of that dress when I saw the material. It is crazy the things we remember with just a scrap of fabric! I do remember being ten years old and wearing that dress…I loved it and it made me feel so grown-up. Thank you for sharing this story. Maybe, I can do something with those antique buttons!

    • That dress sounds beautiful. I love clothes like that, especially for children. They always say that photos and music and smells make good writing prompts, but fabric is just as powerful and as Marlene (above) had mentioned in September, fabric itself is art.
      Yes, I’d love to see what you do with your buttons. I also have very old ones from my grandmother, but most of them are not beautiful, although certainly interesting. Buttons is one of my Pinterest boards because they are so much fun.

  18. What a wonderful way into a Life Writing project. That recollection of the Expo exhibition is wonderful. I recall being awed at the fabulous buildings at the time when the BBC did a programme about it – and wishing I could go…

    • Yes, I was very lucky to be able to go there. My parents really did make an effort to try to give me some good cultural experiences, probably because my dad craved travel so much. When his time came to go and he and my mother worked on his obituary it was all his travel that he really wanted emphasized.

  19. I like your idea of a scrapbook of scraps. I’m too lazy to do it, but I like the idea of remembering and honoring personal history and the objects that recall it. The Secret Life of Objects spoke to me too.

    • That book really cracked open my brain. I knew the power of objects to ME, but for some reason there was a boundary between the objects and my writing. Once I saw what Raffel had done I realized I was not fully realizing their full power, if that makes sense.

  20. Wonderful memory! I like that idea for scrapping the scraps. Clever.
    As an only child, I tend to view time spent with one child quite precious and they seem to enjoy it as well. We split up often — last night he took Moo for sushi and Sassy and I saw a play. It’s more rare that we both take one kid somewhere, and I hope they remember those times fondly. Can’t help but note, the middle kids have far less of that than eldest and youngest.

    • That is probably almost always true for middle children. I was the oldest, as you know, so that was good for me. But also I was an only until I was 7 1/2. That’s a pretty long time to be an only. Then the youngest or younger kid so often has the alone time when the parents have more cash in their wallets LOL. That happened to my brother and to my daughter. I love that you two takes the kids on alone excursions. Special memories for them!

      • Roger that! I think we did a lot more special for the boy, only boy, eldest. Like we knew there were so many things the girls would enjoy, we had to make special plans for him. And then I can see the money thing coming with Moo. There just is more money with three kids out and one in. There just is. Maybe that’s the make-up for hand-me-downs and enduring all the other kids’ events? (Although, she never seems to mind hand-me-downs…) Ah, well, we do what we can.

  21. Oh, I remember sleeveless tent dresses! I loved those dresses. 🙂 Love what you settled one for the scrap scrapbook. It’s also interesting to me how unique childhood experiences with food can shape us for soooooo many years (I still talk about an oyster appetizer I had at my cousin’s wedding, and I’m not even much into food.) Thank you for sharing these great moments of childhood….

    • I did, too. The clothes from that time period were pretty exciting, especially compared with today although you always manage to put together adorable outfits. The dress in this post really was one of my absolute favorites. I’m glad I still have the fabric because you can’t really see how pretty it is in the photo. Color is so bad in the photos from the 60s and 70s.

  22. Such a wonderful project, Luanne!

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