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The offcuts of creation

28 May 2021
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Banner Treasure Bowls

With a single piece of yarn and a “stick”, Hilary Jacomb can create a bounty of homewares.

After a dance between her crochet hook and a length of yarn, a plant holder can emerge. It’s quite something – and it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps you’d prefer a treasure bowl for those other things that seem to gather in hordes on benches or a large storage basket that keeps the ruckus of toy blocks to a minimum? While crochet is more commonly associated with those peggy square blankets made with lots of love but highly questionable in taste, homewares are less usual. But it certainly works.

Hilary’s Boa Handmade homewares offer elegant choices that effortlessly add a softness and earthiness to a room. It is also a sustainable choice as Hilary uses a byproduct of fast fashion. “I definitely didn’t want to go out to a shop and pick out new materials. I really felt I had to use something that already existed – there are so many resources already out there waiting to be used.” She has experimented with different mediums. In the beginning, Hilary used torn-up sheets and curtains sourced from second-hand shops, friends and family. “Then I discovered I could get my hands on precut fabric T-shirt yarn that was the offcuts from fast fashion and that seemed perfect,” she says.

Hilary has calculated that she has recreated the equivalent of 910 T-shirts into her unique homewares. A 2018 audit for waste in Christchurch says the amount of fashion and textile waste was 6397 tonnes for that year, while a 2017 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that each second, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of clothes is burnt or buried in landfill around the world. It was a whim that saw Hilary, then a first-year ecology student at the University of Canterbury, ask her mother to get her a crochet book, some hooks and yarn for her birthday. As she studied, she kept crocheting things for her friends – scarves, beanies and little toys. Then, she decided to go big. “It was probably a hat turned inside out or something like that which brought it on – that I could make a basket. “I tried making one by holding several strands of wool together. It was OK, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for – it was flimsy and soft. Actually, I think mum might still use it as a sewing basket or something. Then I tried cutting up old T-shirts and sheets and stuff and that worked a lot better.”

Like many creators, Hilary’s hands are always itching to crochet – a bit of a challenge when she travelled around Asia with her partner and their carry-on luggage in 2017. Crochet hooks aren’t always the easiest thing to get past security, so she didn’t take any. “But then when we were in Malaysia, about two months in, my partner was sick and I was walking around a town by myself and I saw this craft shop and I went in. I got myself some wool and a hook and went off and made myself some little things. I had to do it!” It is the possibilities at the start of the process that fascinate her. “There is something magic about a single little thread, or thick piece of fabric, that flimsy nothing thing, and how you can create a fabric with it with just a stick. Like it is such a simple thing.”

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