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Sutra Cover
Sutra cover (detail), made from rank badge. China, 1500-1644. The Textile Museum 51.3. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1932.

Second Lives

Panel. Uzbekistan, second half of the 19th century. TM 2005.36.39. The Megalli Collection.

Second Lives: the Age-Old Art of Recycling Textiles
February 4 - January 8, 2012

Throughout the world, textiles were historically so valuable that threadbare fabrics were seldom completely discarded. Drawn from The Textile Museum's permanent collection, this exhibition highlights the ways people in various cultures have ingeniously repurposed worn but precious fabrics to create beautiful new textile forms. Examples include a rare sutra cover made from a 15th-century Chinese rank badge, a vest fashioned from a Pacific Northwest coast Chilkat blanket, and a large patchwork hanging from Central Asia stitched together from small scraps of silk ikat and other fabrics. Also featured are a pictorial kantha from India embroidered with threads recycled from old saris, a coat from 19th-century Japan painstakingly woven from rags, and other recycled textiles. Second Lives complements the major spring exhibition, Green: the Color and the Cause, on view April 16 through September 11, 2011.

Second Lives

This vest was created from a covering used at an Islamic holy site. Textiles were often used to cover sacred scriptures and shrines - including the Kaaba at Mecca, possibly the most impressive example of such use.

Left: Mecca, ca. 1910. Library of Congress, LC-M32-13774.
Right: Fragments, used as a vest, Turkey or Egypt, Ottoman, 18th century.
TM 3.158a. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1930.

 

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