2020 started with Stitch Kitchen as a team of 4 trustees, desperately seeking new premises, overwhelmed with just over 4,000 kgs of donated materials, and having never heard of Zoom, but bright eyed and ready for a brand new year and new decade….
We end the year as a team of 6, with at least double the number of regular volunteers, official Charity status, delightedly reveling in our bright and spacious premises (except on sorting days when every space is filled), overwhelmed-but-mostly-on-top-of nearly 5,000 kgs of donated materials, being completely up on our video conferencing etiquette, absolutely exhausted, and desperately hoping we never need to sew face masks again. All together, a good job done!
We closed the year with a fantastic morning tea for our volunteers. It’s incredibly heartwarming to see all the amazing people we have around us who come from all over the world and all walks of life, but who share our passion and compassion for each other, our world, and textiles. We look forward to sharing more creative ‘ah hu!’ moments, and cups of tea (yes, I’m a little obsessed) together in 2021.
For those who came to our wonderful fabric sale last month, you might wonder how we could possible squeeze any more fabric and notions in - even with the new space available in our new studio!
With the help of our amazing volunteers, we have made a LOT of progress over the last month settling in, sorting out and figure out how to best store, and display, our collection.
...and then this happened:
The article in the Weekend Mix magazine, which features our wonderful collection drew the attention of many creatives who are in the midst of downsizing, shifting, or whose health no longer allows for them to work with their treasures.
This publicity, combined with our street-front location, has meant a huge increase in the amount of items we've had donated recently.
It does still feel like Christmas whenever a box is delivered, and with everything being more organised, it's taking us less time to sort and put away.
The most exciting things are when we find tools that have been on our wish list for a while but we've never had the budget for, such as SHARP pinking shears; a pattern notcher; leather punch; and staple gun!
Some items we unpack and immediately start designing projects for, and some we wonder and hope someone will come up with an idea for.
We currently have an abundance of dress making patterns (all styles, eras and sizes); needlework and knitting books and magazines; zips; buttons and embroidery floss. (What you see on display in our studio is roughly 1/3rd of what we have in stock, as we simply cannot fit in everything - so if you're looking for any of these items, please let us know ahead of your visit and we can bring the collection up from the basement for you to look through.)
We have also had an increase in the number of people coming in to browse and adopt items, and it's fantastic to see reactions to our colourful displays! (The 'wow's when we open the filing cabinet drawers really make us smile). Do drop in and check it out for yourselves if it's been a few weeks (things are changing all the time!).
We are also happy to hear from anyone who loves to sort, tidy and generally create order from chaos (or at least, less order), and who would like to join us on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons either regularly or occasionally for sorting and putting away the treasures. We wold also love to hear from you if you have the knack for creating attractive trademe listings, so we can list and sell surplus items further afield than those who can make it to the studio.
As the ‘icing on the cake’, to go with our new space, we applied for and were granted funding from Bendigo Valley Trust towards purchasing a set of new sewing machines! This funding was topped-up through our fabric sale we held in the new studio just after moving in. Thank you to everyone who came along and donated generously!
We have been very grateful for the fabulous sewing machines we have been donated over the years, and they have been great to use. We are keeping some of these machines for use when we do pop-up workshops and when we need extra machines at the studio; or for those times when you simply need a feature not available on the new new ones; or simply for people who prefer something closer to what they are familiar with. Some of the donated machines had reached the age where they really needed a single committed user who understood and appreciated their quirks and who wouldn’t move them about so much. These have now been re-homed with delighted new owners, and the funds have allowed us to buy a few ‘extras’ for the new machines, like invisible zipper feet and twin needles.
We selected Janome’s DC6050 model as having all the features we love from our experience on a range of machines, along with being very ‘beginner friendly’ with simple controls and an option to reduce the speed. This is a popular model for schools, and is known to be reliable and easy to maintain.
We’re still working out which is our favourite feature, but the automatic cut-off is definitely in the top 3, along with automatic button holes and the decorative cross-stitch.
Do come by and we’ll be happy to give you an introduction, and you can find what your favourite feature is :D
This year marks 5 years since Fiona Clements and I (Fiona Jenkin) started Stitch Kitchen. We couldn’t celebrate on the official date we formally established our not-for-profit trust due to COVID-19, but we wanted to wait until we were in our new space and could celebrate not only the work and achievements of the past, but also show what is inspiring us into the future.
After the epic work preparing the new studio, it was amazing to create a special event to welcome everyone and let it shine.
We were still restricted by COVID-19 protocols and had to limit attendees, but we still had a wonderful mix of people from throughout the city.
Enormous thanks go to everyone who helped prepare the food, and serve the drinks; to those who helped us rearrange the studio including clearing all the sewing machines and even our cutting tables to make room, and setting up the former restaurant dining tables found in the back shed; to the bands who provided fantastic music; and to Roger Mangai for a formal blessing on the space and the community who will be part of it.
After a year-long hunt, and a 3 month delay due to COVID-19 lockdown, we finally had a lease and keys to our brand new studio space, on the ground floor of the Prince of Wales Hotel at 474 Princes Street.
Early in July we closed for 2 weeks during the term break to do our very own 'dream kitchen renovation' :D This included cleaning a decades worth of dust and repainting.
In the end, it took nearly 6 weeks to finish the painting (and there are still a few areas to finish), and work through a myriad of other complications, but it was well worth it. The Valspa paints, in all our fabulous colours, were purchased with the generous help of Mitre 10 Mega.
Very special thanks go to Ken, Christine, Jaquitta, Oliver, Fienie, Lz, Paul, Alison, Ian, Matthew, and Sam for the many hours they volunteered and helped to keep me sane.
As this new studio is roughly twice the size of our old space, we needed a considerable amount of new furniture and fittings. In keeping with our re-use policy, we sourced almost everything second-hand, and in some cases, on its way to become landfill! We are very grateful to the University of Otago Property Services team for allowing us to give a bright new home to old lab and office furniture. Also the DCC Waste Management department with access to the storage warehouse for extra filing cabinets, and ironing boards. Our amazing carpet tiles for our mosaic floor were given by Millers Studio’s and Tak flooring. A few special pieces, such as our tea cabinet and reception desk were sourced from op shops.
It was fabulous fun dreaming of, designing and creating the new studio, and it’s heartwarming to hear responses from people who come into our space and say how ‘light’ ‘spacious’ ‘bright’ ‘cheerful’ ‘inspiring’ and ‘beautifully organised’ everything looks :D
There are (and probably always will be) a few projects still in progress, but our ‘dream kitchen’ is already a joy to welcome people to, teach and be creative.
Who doesn’t love comfy underwear! Better still is comfy undies that are affordable, good quality, and give peace-of-mind that they’re not made in a sweat-shop from materials that destroy ecosystems to create (small things with big issues attached).
For quite a while, each of us at Stitch Kitchen have expressed the intention to make our own underwear. During the lockdown we set it as a fun group challenge to make this intention a reality!
Between us we used a variety of methods to get our pattern. Taking a pattern from an existing pair of comfortable undies; using a paper pattern; and draping a customised mannequin.
For fabric, we used old t-shirts and offcuts from previous projects - a great practice to use up whatever we had to hand when there was no chance to dash out to the fabric store! As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and we certainly came up with some highly creative fabric and color combinations.
It was great fun working on this project independently, but together; sharing challenges, tips and triumphs along the way.
Have you ever had a go at making your own underwear? We’d love to hear any tips - be it great ideas or things to avoid!
If you haven’t yet, but always wanted to, we will be running a workshop on how to make your own underpants at Stitch Kitchen on Saturday 3rd October. We’ll be demonstrating a few style options, suited for children, women and men. We hope to run this again in the future :)
Happy National Volunteer Week!
We are super aware of the theme for this year: Te Hua o te Mahi Tahi - The benefit of working together. We wouldn't be able to do any of what we do without the awesome generosity of our volunteers!
As volunteers ourselves, we know how working together lightens the spirit and keeps us inspired to learn, grow and create.
Every week we have opportunities for anyone who is interested in the work we do, and this week we welcome back the regular Thursday morning time slot for working on community projects, such as Bags For Good or 4KT Elephants.
We also regularly have groups of volunteers from University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic as well as corporate 'team building' excersizes.
As volunteers, you can 'bank' your time with us or with Dunedin Timebank to exchange for services in kind, including use of our studio for your own projects, any of our great sewing classes and even items from our Swap Shop. It's all part of our idea of 'equal value exchange'. <3
Other benefits are knowing your skills and time are valued, and connecting with other caring, creative people.
If you would like to learn more about projects you could help with, or time banking in general, we would love to hear from you.
After over 5 years of gradually filling every nook and cranny in our studio with boxes of fabrics, and after a solid 6 months of searching, we are thrilled to say we have finally found a new studio location!
It’s been a tough search finding somewhere accessible, open plan and within budget!
The search is now happily over, and all going well, we will be able to open in our new space in late July, ready for term 3 classes.
The new space is in a great area with creative businesses all around, it has a distinct frontage and is easy to find, and has level street access!
We've been dreaming of our new setup and it's very exciting to see the jigsaw pieces come together to make this dream a reality. The new space will have lots of features which make sewing and working in classes easier and more enjoyable, with easier access, and more space to work.
If you’re interested in helping us in any way, we would love to hear from you. Send us a message and we will be packing, cleaning, painting, building fixtures and of course lugging boxes and relaxing in our new suroundings before we know it!
To officially open the new space, and mark our 5th Birthday, we will be holding a celebration in August, and we cannot wait! Your invitation will be on it’s way to you as soon as we’ve recovered from the shift :)
Our recent nation-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a great opportunity for some to take stock of their sewing stash, and set goals for the projects they really want to make time to sew up… and those projects which even if they had all the time in the world they’d never get around to, and could comfortably let go to another good home.
It was also a time when projects were dreamed of and couldn’t be created because something was missing from their supplies.
As we moved down levels and restrictions lifted, at Stitch Kitchen we looked for ways we could make it easier for people to access the amazing collection of haberdashery items that have been generously given to us to rehome. While not yet able to have a fully fledged online shop, our efforts to share our ‘Swap Shop’ has certainly went up a level; creating an easy form you can fill in to request items, and taking more time to share our finds on social media.
It’s hard to capture the extent of our amazing collection of patterns, fabrics, trims and notions in a few photos at a time, but it’s exciting to see the level of interest grow, and to hear about what projects people are working on!
Our fabrics have been posted away to sewists beyond Dunedin too, with people from throughout NZ, from Waihiki Island to Riverton loving the ability to access items beyond what local fabric shops and second hand stores have available.
Many requests came from people wanting to sew items for their community, from face masks to baby wear to pet beds for animal shelters.
Very soon our physical swap shop will soon go up another level, with better visibility and access - with less stuff hidden in boxes and more on display within easy reach :).
Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to transform items that might have once gone to waste into beautiful, useful items that haven’t cost the earth!
Our ‘swap shop’ concept makes it easy to access these resources, as you can swap what you would like to adopt for a cash donation (swapping items for money) - which helps to pay for the rent and time it takes to sort and manage the materials…
Or you can swap items from our collection with items from your own - which helps us keep up our excellent supply of fresh stock)…
Or you can swap your time - volunteering to help us sort donations (or help with other projects) which keeps everything ticking along.
We will be continuing to develop this new online request service, so if you’re not within easy reach of our studio, or would like to save time and have a selection of top picks put aside for you, you can easily get in touch.
During COVID-19 level 4 lockdown, while most of NZ was keen on bear hunts, we went on elephant adventures! To add some humour to our days, we had fun creating stories with our favourite 4KT elephants.
We have had a great response as we shared these on our social media, and many people telling us since how much they enjoyed seeing our regular updates.
Here are some of the highlights:
I enjoyed the added incentive to leave the house and go exploring, to see what interesting things I could find to photograph with my elephant, and then share with friends who follow us on social media. It was as if by taking my elephant with me, I was sharing the experience with those I couldn’t spend time with in person.
Did you have any adventures with an elephant in your household? Would love to hear about your experiences, and what you took comfort or encouragement from.
If you don't have an elephant, or would like to have one to give to a friend or loved one; you can download the pattern and sewing instructions from our website, or order a pre-cut elephant ready to sew and stuff. You can also custom order an elephant to be made for you, or someone you want to give a special gift to. Contact us for more info.
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen