Made in Newport ... with Vintage Stuff

Vintage Kitten, made from 1960s fabric found in her grandmother’s attic. (Jenni Field photos)

Vintage Kitten, made from 1960s fabric found in her grandmother’s attic. (Jenni Field photos)

Repurposed and used textiles transformed into colorful creations

By CHRISTINE PEMBERTON/ecoRI News contributor

NEWPORT, R.I. — New doesn’t always have to be “new.” Jenni Field regularly proves there is no need to waste resources to make, and sell, new stuff. Instead, she employs her craftiness and sewing talents to give new life to all kinds of used and vintage fabrics.

Through her online store Fruition she sells one-of-a-kind aprons, bags and home décor, handmade and created entirely from textiles that are either vintage, recycled or both. With the exception of a single magnetic snap closure on one bag, nothing actually new goes into anything she makes — a fact that might be hard to believe when looking at the colorful compositions.

For some the words “old” or “used” might bring to mind images of subdued tones, dark colors or outdated aesthetics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Field’s designs are fun and upbeat. There are plenty of floral themes and brightly colored abstract patterns, as well as some more quirky pieces, such as an apron showing a 1975 monthly calendar or a cloth napkin set depicting a plethora of strawberries.

As the daughter and granddaughter of seamstresses, Field grew up hunting yard and estate sales for used fabrics. One might say the passion for sewing new designs from old materials runs in her blood. In 2012, she turned that passion into a business. “It started by chance,” she said.

A friend asked her to make a tote bag for a baby shower. The bag was a hit, shower guests called and asked for more. Eventually, Field extended her line and started Fruition. Clutches, potholders, cloth napkins and different kinds of tote bags are just some of the items now in Fruition’s collection.

Materials are obtained locally, but come from all kinds of places. “I will Dumpster dive,” she admitted.

An upcycled apron made from vintage tablecloth.

An upcycled apron made from vintage tablecloth.

One item, a cosmetic bag/zipper clutch, sporting two endearing kittens on its exterior, is made from a 1960s fabric Field found in her grandmother’s attic. The artisan’s personal favorite, a baby-blue tote bag with a patch depicting somewhat abstracted dandelion seed heads, was crafted from an old swing coat and a vintage bark cloth. The bark cloth — a type of fabric usually made of densely woven cotton fibers and historically used in home furnishings — was a surprise find in a bag of scrap fabric bought at Saver’s. Upon some research, it turned out to be from the 1930s.

Field doesn’t even have to hunt for all the fabrics herself. Members of the community, who know about her work, occasionally bring her old textiles that they believe to be useful.

“I will come home and there will be old pieces of textiles on my porch,”  Field said. These donations could include, for example, a tablecloth that has a stain somewhere but is otherwise unscathed, so most of the material would still be usable.

Field works with what she finds and considers that part of the fun. Often the old fabrics are the inspiration for her new designs.

In a busy month, she uses up to 50 yards of fabric. Leftovers are either kept for possible use later or passed on to crafty friends who might be able to utilize them in their respective artistries.

Only, if all else fails, fabric scraps make their way back into the recycling stream.

Fruition doesn’t have a storefront. During most of the year, Field’s creations are available online only. In the pre-holiday season, however, Field sets up booths at crafts markets, holiday bazaars, artisan festivals and other area events, and that’s actually where most of her sales happen.

Fruition crafts, though, have been noticed beyond the Oceans State. Requests for these little pieces of Rhode Island have come from as far as Sydney and Helsinki.