During the war against the Japanese invasion, the life in China was poverty-stricken. Clothing for example; usually they altered the adult clothe to fit the older child. The older child’s to the younger one. There for after several time’s recycle the cloth was almost totally worn out. But they were still usable!
Those cut out parts and cloth waste from each alternation, were carefully saved. After the collection came to a certain amount, people will wash them clean and store- them away. When the weather was good, people will dig them out to make their own cloth leather. They make their own glue with flour, alum and wax. The alum in the glue will keep the clothes moth away. The wax will make the needle go through the heavy cloth leather more smooth and easier. In Chinese we call the cloth made leather: “Bu Ge Bei” which means cloth made leather..
You may be interested to know how to make cloth leather. You may never need to make one, but it’s easy and fun!
- You have to have a big piece of wooden board, such as a retired wooden door.
- Put the wooden door on the ground. Brush a thin layer of glue evenly on it.
- Look for bigger pieces of cloths such as an old curtain, stretch it out and lay on the glue. If it is not big enough to cover the whole door, patch it up.
- Use a big brush to brush out the air from underneath the cloth. Until every single air bubble was gone. Sometimes you may have to use the brush to beat those air bubbles to get the air out to make sure every where is well glued.
- Then coated with another layer of glue and cloths. By now, you come to a very artistic job and fun. Because you may not always use those big piece of cloth layer after layer. Therefore you have to chose the right sides and the same thickness, as playing with puzzles, those ragged cloths’ size must be matched to each other. After you patched up the whole board, you can work on to the next layer.
- When it come to the right thickness, put the board in the sun. It may need several sunny days to dry it up. Wait until you see the corners of the cloth leather peeled off by itself, then you know it may need one or two more sunny day till the whole sheet of cloth leather ready to be peeled off the board. Thus a piece of beautiful cloth leather is ready for you to make shoes.
Most of the families make the cloth leather themselves. Some may hire people to do the work for them.
Each year when it was time to make cloth leather, is the best time for the kids at Ho’s. They thought their mother was a magician. She brought out bags of colorful cloths from nowhere. She dumped them out on a big straw mate. Yu Wen would let Syau Wen and Syau Yun to pick out some pieces of cloth for themselves to make clothing for their handmade dolls. They were also permitted to help their mother to cut off the ragged edges from those clouts. Then Yu Wen would start to play puzzle and musical work on the old wooden door which was borrowed from the neighborhood. The kids loved to help to beat those air bubbles out with the brush. Each time when the brush beat on the board it make different noise, soft or loud sounded like music. Sometime they may splash some glue up in the air while they beating. The glue may flew on to their clothes or even got into their face or hair. They would laugh loudly at each other.
–To be continued–