In the process I found a craft idea, originally posted by the see kate sew blog, that featured covering a pair of ballet flats with text cut from an old dictionary. I already had a spare pair of ballet flats at home, along with a second-hand copy of Mrs. Dalloway, so I added a Woolfian twist to the dictionary shoe re-do.
Mrs. Dalloway shoe re-do
I cut text from Woolf’s novel that related to Mrs. Dalloway’s walk to the flower shop, Mulberry’s, on the morning of her party so she could “buy the flowers herself.” I then decoupaged the chosen text on a pair of black ballet flats. I made two color copies of the novel’s front cover, cut out the novel’s title on both, and glued the titles inside the shoes to cover the shoe labels.
The project, which I completed as a last-minute entry in the Medina County AAUW Branch’s repurposing book project, was fun — and strangely moving. Cutting Woolf’s lovely phrases apart and rearranging them along the toes, backs and sides of a pair of comfy shoes made me appreciate the wonder of her words in a whole new way. Manipulating her words and using them to create wearable art gave me an entirely new appreciation for the beauty of her writing. Every phrase seemed precious, too precious to end up on the kitchen floor. But the available surfaces were small — size seven to be exact — so space was limited, and the words I pasted had to be carefully chosen.
When I finished the shoes, I decorated a wooden box to contain them. I covered the exterior in a London map and the interior with scrapbook paper featuring Tower Bridge and words about London. I added a silver charm of Big Ben, picked up in London during a 2004 trip, as the finishing touch. It dangled by a ribbon from the metal box clasp, hovering over Mrs. Dalloway’s walk, just as the sound of Big Ben did in the novel.
Mrs. Dalloway’s Walk
When I entered the final project, which I dubbed Mrs. Dalloway’s Walk, in the AAUW competition, I included the following rationale:
Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925), which is set in London, inspired this piece, which tells the story of Clarissa Dalloway’s walk from her home near Westminster to Mulberry’s, a flower shop on Bond Street, to purchase flowers for a party she is giving that evening.
Text from the stream-of-consciousness novel covers a pair of black ballet flats, shoes that would be comfortable enough for walking around London. The text is carefully chosen to include key lines, phrases and words that describe what Clarissa and other characters think as they travel London’s streets on that “day in June” on which the action takes place.
A salvaged map of London covers the used wooden wine box in which the shoes sit. The exterior of the box lid features the area through which Mrs. Dalloway’s walked, while the front features Bloomsbury, the neighborhood where Woolf lived during much of her adult life. The silver Big Ben charm is included because the sounds of this London landmark tie the novel’s characters together and anchor them in time. The paper that lines the box’s interior features words, Woolf’s trademark, along with the Tower Bridge, a sight Woolf mentions in her diaries and her essay “The Docks of London,” published in Good Housekeeping in 1931.
The main elements of this piece are re-purposed. They include a well-used copy of the Penguin Popular Classics edition of the novel purchased at a thrift shop, a map of London pulled from an old issue of National Geographic, a pair of unused ballet flats purchased at the Goodwill, and a wooden wine box donated by a friend. I purchased the charm while on a trip to England in 2004. This is the first it has seen the light of day. It has been waiting for this moment.
- “Mrs. Dalloway” At 88 (theawl.com)
- Student tells digital story of Mrs. Dalloway passage (bloggingwoolf.wordpress.com)
- Happy Birthday, Mrs. Dalloway! (theparisreview.org)
- Shades of Woolf: Mapping the NYC thoughtscape (bloggingwoolf.wordpress.com)