New Life For A Beloved Textile

In a previous post, “A Packable Souvenir From A Previous Life” , I described a Bima Wear caftan I bought over 45 years ago in Darwin, and which I wore for many years. Eventually I guess caftans went out of fashion, or maybe I just needed to wear something different on the occasions for which it had been so suitable, like informal drinks and BBQ gatherings. (It also doesn’t fit me well any more! )I could never send it to a thrift shop though so I brought it back from Australia last time we were there just months before the pandemic.

Anyway, we have just had a 2-week visit from our daughter Anna, who lives in southern New Jersey, only blocks from the coast, so she’s used coastal colours featuring blues, greys, white, and sandy colours in her living areas. On her last day here, she asked if she could have it, but after trying it on it wasn’t quite the kind of garment she’d ever wear. However, she felt it was iconic and even used that word for it, because she must have seen me in it hundreds of times. After a bit of brainstorming though, we agreed that the fabric, with those screen printed Big Birds / aka jabiru could make wonderful cushions, or better still a table runner! As I unpicked all the seams and hems to get the maximum use of the fabric minus the wear lines, I marvelled at the sturdy hand stitching still intact after all the countless machine washes…. which I’d never noticed, I guess because I’d never had to repair a section of the hem!

Cutting into the beautifully screen printed fabric just as little as possible to maximise the use of the printed area, it worked out really well, I think –

Jabiru table runner, 2023, ~1.8m x ~40cm, recycling the print border of a Bima Wear caftan c.1977.

As I worked on it the quite soft but clearly durable fabric it reminded me of early school uniforms Anna had in Mt. Isa, and the name Prestaline kept coming into my mind – so I checked online, and Prestaline is still being made in Australia, recommended for uniforms dresses tops etc – so I’m pretty sure that’s what the fabric is – a polyester/rayon blend, which fits with the feel and durability of the now former-caftan, and which I used several times for garments for myself back in my dressmaking days. Good to know I’ll be able to visit this beloved piece of re-purposed textile occasionally.

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