Juliet Kemp’s story “Scraps” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 7 April 2017.
I sew myself, and when I had the idea for this story, I’d just been working on a patchwork quilt.
There’s a myth that patchwork quilts were always made from worn clothing and other scraps from dressmaking — undoubtedly sometimes they were, but people have also always bought fabric specifically for making quilts. But when I make scrap quilts (quilts made using lots of different fabrics, usually fairly small pieces, chosen more-or-less at random), I do tend to use up leftover bits of fabric. I enjoy making something beautiful — or at least functional! — from fabric that would otherwise be thrown away.
While I was making my scrappy quilt, as is inevitable, I wound up with more, smaller, scraps left over. I found myself wondering — just how small does a piece of fabric have to be before it’s too small to use? And then I wondered whether that calculation would change if fabric was more expensive? Would I save that one-inch strip rather than binning it? And when I thought about valuable fabric, the image that came to mind was of someone patching together tiny scraps of magical fabric. That, together with a discussion I’d had with a friend about sumptuary laws — laws restricting what clothes, food, or furniture people were allowed based on their social class, which have shown up in societies across the world throughout history — gave rise to Emmeline and her city. And once you have a restrictive society, who pushes at those restrictions, and what happens when they do? I’ve always been fond of a revolution story…
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