Diaries and Work of Norma Collins

Norma (Carr) Collins (1912-2005). Norma was no stranger to the creative arts of stitchery and fabrics. She was always creating something new and useful from items ready to be thrown away. During the Depression, she created new outfits for her daughters from scraps of leftover materials given to her by others. She made clothes from patterned feed sacks of the 30s and 40s. Today we call this Upcycling.

Norma (Carr) Collins
June 1986

In 1971, Norma began to crochet plastic bread wrappers starting with small rugs, small change purses and covers for waste baskets. She did this while she was also actively crocheting afghans and making quilts. Her work with bread wrappers expanded and soon she was adding other items to her repertoire such as tote bags, beach bags, doilies, hats, slippers and even curtains. She gave most of these items as gifts to family members and friends. A few were sold. Many people brought her the plastic bread wrappers and she was thankful because she could make more gifts with them. She taught others how to crochet with plastic including members of Home Bureau. Her busiest years for crocheting with plastic bread wrappers were between 1972 and 1973.

Left: Quilt made with scrap material from a clothing factory in Staten Island, NY. Designed and quilted by Norma Collins. Early 1980s.
Right: Crocheted afghan created by Norma Collins.

Within a five-year period her work evolved and she began to focus again on her other creative ventures and write less about the plastic bags. She continued to crochet afghans from various fabrics and was busy making a quilt for each of her children and grandchildren. She carried out these creative projects within the time frame of her ongoing activities of gardening, caring for children, participating in church activities, and managing a busy household.

I finished tote bag for Ginny Bartz all except cord which I need to buy & started one for Pat Daniels. They both saved bags for me so I was able to make so many things for Christmas presents.
- Norma Collins, January 6, 1972

I really didn't do much but rest & crochet waste basket cover for ice-cream tub.
- Norma Collins, May 12, 1972

Each day she recorded her life in her diary. During the period between 1971 and 1975 she made 118 entries relating to this particular work. Today we learn about her crocheting, her daily life and that of our local communities from her entries over the years. And again today, we are interested in uses for plastic bags as we are concerned with our environment and ways to recycle or Upcycle materials in our everyday lives.

Exhibit panels created by Jody Isaacson & Jessica Farrell in 2018

Norma Collins, second daughter of William T. Carr and Nellie (Converse) Carr grew up in Gilbertsville, New York. She married Neil Leonard in 1928 and they raised their two daughters, Alicia and Rita, in Unadilla. In 1950 she married George Collins, and together they cared for his four boys, Walter, Loren, Bob, and Fred. They lived a productive and happy life in the community around Sidney Center. She is known throughout the community for her kind care of people, animals, plants, and all in her world.

Left: Robert & Loren Collins, Alicia Pagano & Fred Collins, c. 1955
Center: Collins home, front view. Sidney Center, NY, 1950
Right: Norma (Carr) Collins

Left: Norma Collins on her 90th birthday. Her crocheted afghan on chair. 2012
Right: Crocheted afghan created by Norma Collins.

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