The new textile exhibition Remaining Remnants features things made with fabric scraps and rags. Back when “reuse-recycle” was a matter of survival, not an article in Real Simple, people around the world made everything from beautiful coats and quilts to shoes and bags, using things that in today’s disposable culture we might not find worth taking to Goodwill, much less creating something new with it.

One of the most striking elements of the show are these tiny children’s shoes from China, where kids’ kicks were often constructed of sturdy scraps and featured the form of a dog, cat, tiger or pig to frighten evil spirits away. The eyes of the animals were designed to help children ‘see’ as they took their first steps in life to keep them from stumbling. Traditionally made by grandmothers, these shoes were a form of protection—both physical and spiritual.

Remaining Remnants is on view through July 13.

Child’s Shoes
China, 20th century
Cotton, silk, pile weave, plain weave, appliqué, hand-stitching, embroidery
Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001