I am not very good at clothes shopping in malls or chain stores. The serried ranks of different sizes of garments, cunningly orchestrated ensembles on the walls, the canned music, and both the eagerness or indifference of salesclerks inevitably all leave me confused and defensive.

I like bargains. I like to dig for cool finds. I like to be left alone to pluck something out of a bunch of stuff and consider it, in and of itself. So when Sandii and Sharon and I hit the Folk Festival’s Marketplace for a preview last night, I was in heaven.

The Marketplace is a long corridor lined with stuff: Clothes, jewelry, art, cosmetics, gewgaws, knickknacks, crystals, instruments, accessories, and everything else under the sun. All of it made by local people who have green, sustainable ideas, and who know that sometimes a shopper does not want to have her hand held as she shops.

There are several ‘best’ vendors I love, but by far my favourite is Alchemy, an outfit that recycles used saris into wrap skirts and tops. Because this is the West Coast, they also do lovely, comfortable, stretchy yoga wear.

But. BUT! Alchemy has the best way to suck ragpickers like me in. They have a $5 pile of clearance stuff. Things with tiny imperfections: A stitch loose on a two-tiered silk sari skirt in crimson and peony. A seam that doesn’t meet up on a teal wraparound yoga jersey cover up. This pile? It is 20 feet long and about two feet high. It is a paradise for ragpickers.

Seriously, Sandii and Sharon and I were on a recon mission yesterday, but we got sucked into the Alchemy booth for a half an hour or so. Searching and poking and pulling and sifting through the pile, I was in my element: Aqua, tangerine, cinnamon, mint, cobalt, eggplant, peony, emerald, lilac, lapis, fuchsia, indigo, ultramarine, pomegranate, mango, watermelon, candy apple, peach. Every colour in the whole wide world was in that giant mound of clothes.

I am totally going back tomorrow.

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