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Carly Palmer and the Magic Carpet

Carly Palmer

By Cameron Walker

Master of Textiles student Carly Palmer will debut her collection, Magic Carpet, at the Threads Senior Collection Fashion Show on Thursday, December 6, 2018. Her eight looks are made of salvaged carpet and a woven jacquard she designed herself, and are inspired by the tale of the Berlin Candy Bombers — American pilots who dropped candy bars for German children while flying missions for the Berlin Airlift.

6 carpet samples laid flat on floor
Palmer’s salvaged carpet samples

In 1948, the newly-formed American Air Force was flying in food, medicine and coal to the people of a blockaded West Berlin; a pilot, then-1st Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen, had the idea to spread hope and goodwill through sweets. He and a few colleagues combined their candy rations and sewed tiny parachutes for him to release from his C-54 Skymaster plane. His small mission grew as other pilots followed suit and American civilians joined the effort, donating chocolate bars and handmade parachutes for what came to be known as “Operation Little Vittles.” By the end of the Berlin Airlift in September 1949, pilots had dropped a total of 250,000 parachutes and 23 pounds of candy, bringing moments of joy to countless war-weary children.

“I read about this story in ‘The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour’ by Andrei Cherny,” said Palmer. “The image of the American cargo planes dropping hundreds of mini parachute goodie bags must have seemed magical to those waiting below the plane. To the children, many who had never tasted candy or chocolate, the planes might have seemed like magic carpets.”  

Palmer’s collection is meant to inspire hope of another kind: breathing new life into discarded textiles, repurposing and upcycling fabrics left behind. In fact, the carpet samples she is using to create her looks were found in good condition in the dumpster behind the brewery where she works.

She enjoys the challenge of creating something unique from thrift store finds; she has created garments from socks and ties, but her Threads collection may be the most demanding test of her creativity and skill so far. She has shared via Instagram the delights and difficulties of building her eight looks, her timeline chronicling a hard-won evolution from rigid rectangles to wearable three-dimensional garments and accessories.

Model Wears Palmer's Top Ten Look from ideation2018 -- a hooded garment woven from socks
Palmer’s Top Ten look from ideation2018 Student FashionTech Competition

“Working with the carpets was a challenge,” she said. “As I worked on my pieces, I had to make changes to adapt to the materials. The carpets are difficult to bend and are too thick to stick pins in. (However), I am pleased that I was able to use so many parts of the carpets in different ways.” In addition to the carpets, she is also using a woven jacquard of her own design, inspired by her hand embroidery.

Palmer plans to graduate with her Master of Textiles in the spring of 2019. She chose to attend  the Wilson College of Textiles in order to delve deeper into the advancing technology of the field. She received her undergraduate degree in Apparel Design and Merchandising with a minor in Marketing from Appalachian State University in 2015. While there, she won first place in 2014 and third place in 2015 in the annual Appalachian State fashion show.

Her work was showcased at the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) fashion show in 2014, and this year she placed in the top 10 at the Gerber ideation 2018 Student FashionTech Competition, in which fashion students were invited to create looks inspired by Pantone’s Color of the Year 2018, Ultra Violet, that also incorporated technology as a major component in the design and development process.

“The sponsors also encouraged innovation and sustainability,” she said. “I made a two-piece jumpsuit handwoven from re-purposed socks with laser etching and an upcycled ultra violet prom dress for the lining. It was an honor to be chosen as one of the top ten designs.”

See Palmer’s collection among the stellar lineup of student designs at the Threads Senior Collection Fashion Show on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.