Sunday, 25 January 2015

Garment 9: Fancy

This fabulous skirt is made of a pillow I happened to come across for free* on Boxing Day, 2014, at the Prophouse, a now defunct restaurant on Venables, near Commercial. The keys had to be turned in at 6, and everything was being given away. At noon the place was still swimming in partly-broken pole lamps, mostly-broken chairs, dirty dishes, a whole roomful of records, and, inexplicably, piles of clothing from the late '60s/early '70s, including several pairs of polyester trousers with the hems hacked off too short. There were lidless cookie tins and boxes filled randomly with odd stuff: pins, casino paraphernalia, pennies, junk and more junk, dirty, crammed together, jumbled-up bits of old and not-old stuff, interesting and not. Also, several bolts of fabric, a few pairs of god-awful harvest gold '70s curtains, broken glass, prescription bottles... and treasure hunters. It was a lot to take in.
*You didn't imagine I'd pay for one, right?

Couldn't wait long enough to take a picture before gutting
Way in the back, and up some steep stairs to a make-shift loft, I spied the hideous, bulbous, somewhat matted, hand-crocheted, acrylic pillow - brown and yellow and orange, with a big green, yarn-covered button on each side holding it together. Visions of the Brady Bunch, rumpus rooms and cheap wood panelling, it sat upon an honest-to-goodness original, filthy shag carpet, strewn with dirty t-shirts, men's shoes - size huge - and antiquated video game system parts. Hideous. I almost couldn't believe I was taking it home with me... along with 5 or 6 boxes of treasures, including an incomplete set of cafe dishes said to have come from Astorino's when it closed, and an orange, flowered, sleeve board that cleaned up very nicely. And the too-short polyester pants.

The pillow put me in mind of those crazy toilet roll holders crocheters churned out in the early '70s. They were intended for selling at church bazaars, but that seems overly optimistic. My suspicion is they were secretly fun to make.

My sister and I had dogs like this. Yep.
I have childhood memories of them associated with my paternal grandmother. If she didn't have one on her toilet, I'm sure her neighbours did. I was a little confused by them as a kid, and spent a fair bit of time transfixed in strange bathrooms. They were dolls, yet not for playing with. Some had baby faces. All were a little scary looking, and their eyelids clacked when they closed. And there's toilet paper under there! Does that seem reasonable? In my teens I recall silently scoffing at more than a few. But really, I was more than a little drawn to them. I mean, haven't you always wanted an outfit like that: a crocheted hoop skirt and matching bonnet? I sure did.

Took the pillow apart and chucked the disgusting, 40 year-old, yellowed, foam pillow form.  Couldn't get that thing out of the house fast enough. Threw the pillow cover in the washer with some Nature's Ultimate, and lo! Out came a skirt! And look! It's ripple patterned, just like this toilet girl's skirt! Dreams do come true. 

The tie that forms the waist band showed up shortly after the pillow, in a donation to OSF. It's a little worn along the edge, as though having passed many times through a snug belt-carrier. I imagine it once hung out with a pink, floor-length, quilted, nylon housecoat. It's been useless since they parted - until now. Haven't found a reason for the buttons yet, but that may come.

Put on my x-ray eyes (took off my glasses!) and trimmed away the pills, fluff and long fibres. I love this skirt! Hideous hand-crocheted afghan pillows are now on my list of things to look out for at yard sales and in "free" boxes in alleys, along with metal bread boxes, old Phentex yarn, and cashmere shawls with moth holes. We all need love.

Now, just think what kind of useful, new purpose a toilet roll doll could serve! Actually, nothing's coming to mind, but maybe one day I'll get my hands on one and see what happens...

Size S-M. For sale by appointment. Enquiries at
Photography by Jeff Minuk

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