The Rag Lady

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

Sometimes you meet someone and it’s love at first sight. Or at least it’s love at first conversation. That what happened when I met the Rag Lady. She was in a crowd at a workshop and she wore a coat out of fabric I couldn't identify. I was curious but it was the grace and confidence with which both she and the coat carried themselves that drew me in.

She said that people tell her not to call herself the Rag Lady and I understand why. She is one of the most elegant women I have met. But she says, “Please feel free to call me the Rag Lady. That’s who I am.” 

It’s a well-deserved title because there just may not be another woman who makes more out of rags than Catherine Micks. She works in her hilltop condominium, nestled in a garry oak grove in Victoria. It is large enough to have several looms and spinners, a wool studio with work tables and yarn and sewing gear--everywhere. Catherine is proud to be ninety. She still dances and intends to live until 110. Why not, she says, people have been living to 100 for some time now. So why not push it another decade? 

                      Catherine frays and spins strips of silk to make beautiful yarn

Pushing the edges of what can be created with fibre, yarn, sheepskins, rope, leather, you name it, is what Catherine does. She shreds it, strips it, twists it, frays the ends to make unusual yarns … then she weaves it, knits it, crochets it, makes buttons out of it...and more.


              Fabric made from frayed denim and wool blankets

When she didn’t want fabric buttons she asked the butcher to cut her soup bones into buttons shapes. First, of course she boiled them and made broth for lunch. Catherine does not just recycle she recreates. She is not only a designer she is an engineer—making corners and gussets and joints and hinges. She is an architect—creating structure and function and beauty.

And there is more. After all the technical work of making her garments is done she becomes a model. She has exquisite style. Catherine wears her creations when she travels around the world. She has brought her unique style of weaving and yarn-making to eager learners from North American to Australia to Europe.

I had an hour. I stayed for two and I cannot wait to go back. I have so many things to learn. Thank you Catherine for being an inspiration.

My sister Heather is the Rag Lady in our family. After about 25 years, 4 children, 3 step children and 8 grandchildren her rag rug is still beautiful.

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