top of page

Introducing Vessels of Love by Cookie Washington

   In October 2022 my  mother passed suddenly. My mother and my grandmother were the ones who taught me to sew, crochet, embroider, even tatt. I was almost immobile with grief, at the time I was still caring for my baby brother who was struggling through what was to be his last bout with cancer. In May of 2022 Tracy lost his right leg at the hip. The Doctors thought it had cut out the cancer. No, it did not and 90 days after losing my Mother my baby brother passed on New Year's week 2023. This double gut punch was more than I could bear. I was full time caregiver to b oth Mother and my brother. What do you do with a lifetime of love and memories? I had to clean out both their closets. I couldn't bring myself to throw anything away. While looking through my mother's photos I found an old very grainy photo of my Grandmother and I sitting on her porch. Beside her in this photo was a big basket full of rags. She was teaching me how to make rag rugs and baskets. I had forgotten this for more than 5 decades...

   Seeing that old photo seemed to me a sign. Instead of trying to give away Mom's and Tracy's clothes, I would make a rag basket or rug for everyone in the family. Taking time to create a piece of art that contains textures, colors, symbols and artifacts that reflect on who I  loved and lost helped me to metabolize my experience of grief through the body. It’s been a pathway to healing. The very process of weaving bits of their cast off clothes, many garments I had made for them myself, started me on the path to healing. I dove into researching cloth basket making in Black communities. I have found no scholarship written about these vessels, but so many of my friends have told me that their granny, or great grandmother had plenty of rag rugs and baskets, fashioned by these women. I am now embarking on reintroducing rag rug/basket making to my students and clients. Working with your hands is soothing and creative. It also has the added bonus of reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfills. Upcycling no longer used or can be repurposed clothing, scraps and yarns encourages you to be creative and use problem-solving skills. I don't think that teaching a few hundred people will make a huge dent in our landfill problems, but it's a start, and the joy of teaching a skill to someone or selling them a basket I have created, I believe also honors my mother and grandmother's teaching.

Braided Rag Basket (cotton, sheets, towels, african shirts)
bottom of page