Mask making (and wearing) has become a ‘hot topic’ which we’ve been carefully following to make sure we can offer sensible advice on ‘to sew or not to sew’.
It is clear that masks alone are not the full solution, but that they could be part of it, and it’s great to be able to take an active and creative part in your own and your communities wellbeing.
It’s good to use skills and materials on hand in ways which are useful and potentially beneficial to community health and wellbeing - acts of kindness etc. - even if you’re just wearing one yourself to be considerate of others. There’s also the social connectivity of so many people sharing and encouraging one another, and seeing the strength of sewing as a shared experience that helps us connect with friends and strangers alike.
Masks make the invisible (and therefore subconscious) visible (and very conscious). It impacts our awareness of the pandemic in a much more tangible way than regular hand washing, and social distancing, and even staying home full time has done so far. Perhaps that’s how they are effective?
Here are some good links to learn more:
There are also a lot of patterns, tutorials, and related resources available on the Masks 4 All Otago facebook page.
We are working (within our current capacity) with other groups to develop a coordinated approach, so materials and information are available as needed.
If you know of someone who would appreciate receiving handmade masks, or if you are keen to make more masks for (non-medical) essential workers in your community, please connect with the facebook group, or email Ling Ansell (email@example.com), or you are welcome to email us at Stitch Kitchen.
A couple of days before lockdown commenced, I took my car to the studio to pack up ‘a month’s worth of projects’ so that during the lock-down I would have access to opportunities to be creative and achieve some goals. (I’m sure lots of teachers can relate to the idea that it’s hard to get time to work on your own projects!) I took quite a lot of pleasure in tidying our compact living room, rearranging tables so I could set my machines up on the dining table, and we could use a vintage card table for when we still needed a table to sit at (because eating well is still a thing to be cherished). I set up my sewing machine and overlocker and my dress form. I sighed a contented sigh and enjoyed the vision of a well-ordered space.
I have 3 banana boxes of projects, including some very small ‘easy win’ UFOs (Un-Finished Objects - a term patchworkers in my life introduced me to), such as sorting out my tangled embroidery threads used in a workshop over a month ago, or sewing eyes onto a small herd of elephants; and some ‘stretch’ UFOs, such as recreating a jacket I tried to make about 7 (or 8?!) years ago which I had endless issues with, and in the end gave up on and put away in The Cupboard (dun dun daaaa). I still don’t know what I will recreate from the ashes of the project-which-didn’t, but unpicking is the first logical step. I still want to make a jacket, and brought home some patterns to play with and fabric to make a toile from. (Lesson learned! Make a mock-up BEFORE cutting into your $25m wool gabardine!)
I realised in looking through this selection, that they are all ‘no pressure’ projects (or maybe that’s just how I’m choosing to see them). Things I can do mindfully, almost meditatively: looking at colours and organising them; stitching and shaping the small eyes, and seeing the semi-spontaneous way the eyelashes sit; unpicking the MANY seams of jacket and lining. All things I can achieve with little thought or energy while listening to my favourite music, or an audio book, or just the birds (or lawnmowers) and enjoying the calm of almost no traffic.
I also added some ‘loose end’ fabrics which I had no specific plans for but could become all sorts of things (from the ‘when inspiration strikes' stash), so I could play and make something possibly useless but fun. Creating things for creation’s sake is good - it’s playing and learning. Plus the physical movement of sewing, especially getting up and down to press seams etc. regularly, is a nice change from other indoor pursuits of reading, working on the computer, and watching tv.
It’s been amazingly encouraging to receive emails and facebook messages with updates on what other people are creating at home! Beautiful, inspiring, and fun to see and share in a little of the pride.
If you’d like to share your projects with the Stitch Kitchen community, or just with me personally, I’d love to share your joy in what you’re making. (You can tag us in your photo @stitchkitchendunedin on facebook or @stitch_kitchen on instagram, or email us.)
And if you’re not making just now, that’s ok.
Having a goal, and knowing you do have the resources for when you’re ready, is great. So is noticing the smallest achievements and ways you can be creative… the way you cook, or dress, or brush your teeth. (Well, maybe not much creative potential in teeth brushing, but who knows!?) Hopefully you’ll be finding ways (however small, like a smile) to look after others, and to keep your mind and hands active.
Some ‘additional reading’ for those who’d like to:
This is not an article giving good advice, or inspiration. I realised when I sat down to write that I just didn’t have that in me right now.
Fiona J here. Honestly, I’m still getting my balance after being tossed around by this COVID-19 whirlwind. Just when I think I’m okay, something else hits me seemingly out of nowhere (even if I’ve known and expected it for some days), and I have to crawl back into my blanket fort and watch Call the Midwife (heartwarming), or Katy Keene (silliness), or Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (a bit of both) episodes on TVNZ-on-demand and look hopefully at my husband to make me another cup of milky tea.
I’m learning yet another interpretation of ‘being kind’: that it’s ok not being ok. Lots of us are not ok. That’s ok right now, because there is hope that, like all grief and periods of rapid change, we will regain our balance and be able to adapt and move on with our lives.
I’m used to working from home, spending 2-3 days a week doing the ‘behind the scenes’ work of managing the adminny stuff that goes along with any organisation; planning events and workshops; marketing and networking etc. But although the physical space is the same, the ‘head space’ is quite different.
I’m not great at dealing with sudden change, or with working to deadlines, and the first week was tough as I threw out all the plans I had for the next two months and had to start over, with the knowledge that for the next while we’ll only be able to plan ahead about a week or two at a time, meaning lots of tight timeframes.
I’m exceptionally grateful for my husband’s support. He is also used to working from home, and we have good at working side by side, being patient, and keeping half an eye out for how the other is doing and opportunities for small acts of kindness. (And only bugging each other slightly - thank goodness for headphones!)
His work sent this in an email, and it’s a very helpful reminder:
Sometimes the idea of fitting ‘self care’ into the schedule too (ANOTHER thing to do/person you have to listen to/ look after?) can feel tough - but perhaps it’s easier to think of ‘self-kindness’?
Learning that it’s ok to simplify expectations, to put plans and goals aside for another time, to say ‘good enough’.
Not necessarily easy lessons to learn, and it’s ok to find the lesson difficult. (I’ve been learning for 39 years so far, so no rush.) But every now and then, it’s nice to imagine coming up to myself and saying ‘it’s ok, you don’t have to do that right now. What can you easily achieve so as to feel ok about crossing that item off your list? Well done, that’s enough. Go cuddle your blankie’.
If you’re working from home now, and especially if you have others in your household you’re caring for, I hope you have others around you who can be kind to you and remind you how to be kind to yourself. It’s ok to not be ok. But this time will pass and at some point we will be ok again. You are not alone.
I’ve found a lot of online info and resources on self care (procrastination is another issue entirely!), and these have been my favourites. I hope you’ll enjoy something in these too:
With love, hugs and lollipops (or should that be Easter eggs?) - oh, and sunshine, sunshine helps...
I’m incredibly grateful for every donation, and adore going through and finding homes for pieces of bias binding, elastic, pieces of patchwork, dress fabrics and patterns. I feel honoured and humbled that someone is willing to give us this special piece of their lives.
After 3 years of gradually putting up shelves and making storage baskets, and finding homes for each little trim, scrap and meter of fabric, we finally felt truly like curators rather than simply hoarders… and then word spread that we accept donations of textiles... and suddenly our ‘swap shop’ has become more like a ‘swamped shop’. If not for the help of our dedicated volunteers, especially my mother Alison, and students from the university language school, and the clever ideas for turning banana boxes into tiny tardises, we would indeed be inundated.
We recently borrowed the commercial scales from the waste management team at the DCC to do a full stock take of the amount of textiles (and related sewing items) we have in our collection. The total?
A couple of our thoughts on this:
It’s not uncommon for people to say that they realised they had collected more fabric than they were ever likely to have the time to sew… and we can strongly relate! People are donating to us because they realise that they don’t have to be the ones who use it - it can be used by others!
That’s the key for us too; making sure as many people as possible can access our collection so that it’s not up to us alone to bring these wonderful materials to life.
Word is also spreading that we are a great place to look for inspiration and materials for sewing projects, for themselves or for community groups they’re a part of. From schools making bunting for anniversary celebrations, to service agencies looking for materials to make fundraising craft projects, to student upcycling op-shop buys, to patchworkers, crocheters and more…
It’s exciting to think how our networks will continue to grow, and we will be able to track how much more fabric we not only save from landfill, but redistribute around the city to those who can use it.
In the meantime, there are ways you can help us keep fabric out of landfill, and from swamping us!
Now I think it's time for a well deserved cup of tea...
The 30th October 2019 was our second Annual General Meeting, to share with volunteers, supporters and friends the 'behind the scenes' work we do to keep Stitch Kitchen open, and to share some of our ideas to continue adding new items to our 'menu' in 2020.
It was heartwarming to have such a good turnout, and to read messages from those who sent in apologies. There are times when we feel like a very small number, and our passion for this work can seem like a very large burden; so knowing we are not alone, and that even from a distance people see us, understand, and wish to encourage us means a great deal!
I (Fiona Jenkin) chaired the meeting, and shared the Chairperson's report, as Fiona Clements was unfortunately unavailable. There were many highlights from the year to share including:
I put together some nifty tables for our 'key performance indicators' (KPIs) to show how our work has grown this year compared to last...
There were also a couple of 'lowlights' of things which we learned from:
Also, looking ahead, plenty of opportunities:
Click here for full Chairperson's report.
I also shared my report as treasurer, which you can click here to read
Below is our general ledger showing previous years figures, current year-to -date, and our budgeted projection for the remainder of this year:
As a not-for-profit, we always aim to reinvest our income back into programs and resources, and our increased growth in income will put us in excellent foundation for stretching towards our goals in 2020 which include increasing our rent outgoings with new space, and increasing our wages (contracting) by creating new paid positions to spread the workload.
An important part of any AGM is the election of officers, and we were delighted to have two new members join our board:
We welcome anyone else who wishes to join us for our regular planning meetings to get in touch. New perspectives and ideas are always useful. Or you can simply get in touch via email, or facebook message.
Full minutes from the meeting are available by clicking here. If you have any questions about any of the above, please get in touch via email and we'll be happy to respond.
To everyone who attended, sent their encouragment, and in the hundreds of small ways helps make what we achieve possible, THANK YOU!
One highlight of this year (and there have been many!) was taking part in the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand national symposium in Nelson, in September, hosted by the Suter Art Gallery.
Desi and I (Fiona Jenkin), along with her partner Jason as our driver, spent an enjoyable 2 days driving each way (stopping regularly at op shops, naturally). We are enormously grateful to everyone who supported our fundraising efforts to cover the expenses of travel, accommodation, and registration. (See our blog post about our fabric sale fundraiser here.)
The theme for the symposium was ‘A Common Thread’, incorporating ideas that textiles are familiar, widespread, and involve the whole community. This was well represented by the wide range of papers presented which demonstrated how textiles are part of our personal and cultural experience and are connected to our ideas of self-expression, modesty, ethics, communication, community, environmental engagement… and much more!
In that mix, Desi and I presented our story about how Stitch Kitchen is working to solve local issues of textile waste, loss of skills, and social isolation, through community workshops to repurpose textile waste.
Our presentation was very well received, with many comments about how much our passion and energy highlighted how rewarding it is to involve the community in creative projects (including a representitive from our 4KT Project :) ).
We made many new connections, as well as strengthening relationships with people we knew only through media.
A great number of the presenters shared ideas related to sustainability and ethics in their field.
Yasmeen Maria Jones-Chollet was the keynote speaker, sharing her work to highlight the unethical conditions of production, and the waste created by fast fashion. Yasmeen’s presentation ‘Enslaved by Demand’ was about her campaign on the main street of Nelson during Fashion Revolution weeks in April 2018 and 2019 to raise awareness of the conditions our clothing is made under in order to meet consumer demand for low prices.
Yaseen set up a representation of a production sweetshop making simple fabric bags, and imposed conditions on herself that represented conditions for workers in fast fashion, including 16hr days for 7 days straight, with only three ten-minute breaks each day.
She received many comments from the public, which shows growing support for ethical fashion… and how far we still have to go before we reach the level of cooperation, education, activism, and shift in consumption that it will take for every employee in the fashion industry to experience the goal of seeing all workers treated according to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.
For media articles on Yasmeen’s work, see these links:
Other highlights for me from the three days of presentations included two papers on historical dress:
Kate Douglas and Ellen Doyle from National Gallery of Victoria shared their experience of combining modern technology and traditional crafts to replicate a missing stomacher, the decorative triangular panel used to cover the corset, from an English 18th century woman’s open robe.
Kate and Ellen worked in collaboration with the gallery’s photographic services department to use digital scanning and printing to recreate the colour and pattern onto new fabric, and then painstakingly re-designed and handcrafted a new stomacher based on their research of what the original may have looked like.
The purpose of creating the stomacher was to be able to display the gown as part of exhibition, and to understand the context of how undergarments were used to add versatility to robes, similarly to how we might change the shirt worn with a suit.
It was a fascinating look into how we can continue to learn more about historical fashion, and skills used in creating it, through modern technology.
A different perspective was given by Chantelle Garrard, HOD of Wardrobe and Design for the Pop-Up Globe, where historical dress was not produced as costume for display only, but as ‘fashion’ worn by actors on a modern stage.
Chantelle heavily researches historical dress from the Elizabethen period for each play, and trains her wardrobe team to treat the designs not as ‘replicas’ or ‘costumes’ but as clothing, worn by real people in daily context of their lives. Her team employ techniques which range from using hot pokers to press open the ruffs, to tailoring garments with a minimal amount of cutting, and finding uses for every scrap of trim and material - in what we now would consider zero waste production - as part of maximising every investment in materials on what Chantelle commented as ‘film quality’ costumes on a ‘stage’ budget.
Early productions were made using her extensive hoarded collection of natural fibre fabrics, with wool and linen dominant in all their garments, for the comfort of the actors, longevity, as well as for historical accuracy.
Garments are treated with vodka to clean, and hung to air and dry after each performance (a trick I plan to employ in my wardrobe!). Actors and dressers share responsibility for the costumes, and help with repairs.
Actors are given a greater appreciation of their characters through understanding each fabric, colour, and trim choice, and surprised as how comfortable and practical the garments are, and the ability to cope with quick changes with no velcro or domes! In the Pop-Up theatre, the audience is given full opportunity to appreciate this detail, as they may be standing very close to the stage, and actors regularly perform in the midst of the audience.
I certainly appreciated the spectacular effect when the company came to Dunedin earlier this year, and I hope the company continues to tour for many years to come.
As part of the conference, we had the opportunity to visit the WOW museum. Many of the incredible designs represented issues of gender and social equality, mental health, cultural identity, observation of nature, and the destruction of the environment. All highly complex ideas which took shape by adorning the body.
There were many other papers, and exhibitions, which explored the historical and contemporary place textiles (weaving, patchwork, textile painting, embroidery, sculpture, and wearable art and fashion) hold in our lives; socially, personally, aesthetically, and practically (this article would be a thesis if I covered them all). The symposium highlighted for me why I love being part of this industry (for the want of a better word).
If you ever have the opportunity to attend a CTANZ symposium, or their regional talks, I highly recommend it. Especially if you can fit in some opshopping on the way :)
Thanks to the estimated 400 or so people who have been inspired to make an elephant as part of our project, we have now reached out first milestone: 1 thousand elephants!
To celebrate, we've made a very special elephant to be the bearer of our '1000th tag'.
'Ele' took 7 hours to make, layering small commercial fabric samples of lightweight crepe, onto a background of curtain fabric (an off-cut).
(As a personal note, the hardest part was the crochet tail... as I have great difficulty getting my hands to understand what they're doing. But with great support from Desi, I got there in the end. I'm now even more grateful to our volunteers who crochet/plait/twist tails for our regular elephants for us!)
As with all things you put time and care into, most people have found that their elephants take on an endearing personality, which makes gifting them to others a significant decision. (The real danger comes when you name them!). We've heard from many people who have received an elephant, and they recognize how special such a gift is.
We had planned to auction/raffle our 1000th elephant to help us raise funds to keep workshops going, as we still have 3000 elephants to make... but it might be much more difficult that anticipated to send Ele (yes, he's been named...) off to any new home!
Over the last year we have hosted monthly casual crafting sessions at fabulous local cafe, Morning Magpie. Numbers have alternated from month to month, sometimes we've been our own company, sometimes the largest table is too small to hold us all.
It's been fantastic to meet like-minded crafters, of all ages and backgrounds, from beginners starting to enjoy the textile crafts, to those who have become masters of knitting, crochet, embroidery, patchwork, quilting, beading, felting, and many others. It's been incredibly inspiring and encouraging.
With the studio becoming busier on Thursdays, we have decided to make some changes, and see if we can make it easier for more people to join us, as well as for us to fit in to our calendars!
From the start of next year, we will be shifting Munch & Make to Wednesday afternoons, and holding them every 3 months, rather than every month (giving us more time to make progress on our projects to show and tell!)
We're looking forward to finishing this year at Stitch Kitchen next Thursday, 19th December, with a special celebration of this year with our volunteers, supporters and friends (that's you!).
Then, what better way to start the new year than crafts, conversation and coffee (sorry, couldn't resist a bit of alliteration)? Join us on WEDNESDAY 15th January ahead of first studio open day on Thursday 16th. See you there!
We receive fabulous stories on a regular basis from people who have made our 4KT Elephants and gifted them to friends and loved ones.
Those who make elephants for us to donate to local children's charities can also feel that they are making a difference now that the first collection of elephants have been recently delivered to Tedz 4 Kidz!
Here's the wonderful letter we received in response:
We will be continuing to run workshops, and encouraging home sewists, to keep the pachyderms coming, as we head towards our goal of four thousand! It is heart warming to think of all the homes and hearts these will help to brighten.
We are always delighted to have people pop in to Stitch Kitchen and access our amazing 'pantry' of fabrics, notions, patterns and assorted textile-related oddments! At our first major FABRIC SALE back in May, we realised there was fun to be had in pulling out ALL the boxes which usually get tucked away in the day-to-day running of the studio, and giving people the full Aladdin-esque experience of our own cave of wonders.
Beside the fun had last time, we have two serious reasons to hold another Studio Sale now:
The first being the abundance of amazing donations we have been receiving; including vintage patterns, wool samplers woven at Roslyn Mill, merino wool knit fabrics, and velvet galore... all of which is taking up room where there wasn't room available to take up (fabricaholics among you will know exactly what I mean)! Plus, there's nothing like inviting people to visit to motivate spring cleaning and getting things in order.
The second reason is an invitation we received to share about our work at this year's Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand national conference, in Nelson, and the need for funds to get there.
Last year's conference was held in Dunedin, and Fiona (Clements), Desi, and I (Fiona Jenkin) greatly enjoyed awakening our inner academics; learning about wide ranging topics of past research and future development; and most of all, meeting and sharing discussions with the other delegates and presenters.
When we learned that the theme for this year's conference was "A Common Thread", we put forward an abstract to present our work: 'Stitch Kitchen: recipe for building community', about our projects, and our vision for enhancing community, through creative textile projects that help to build resilience and reduce waste. It was a great honor to have our abstract accepted, to add our story to the wider discussion on fashion, history, and culture.
Now we just need to book accommodation, and register for the rest of the conference, and get there. A small matter of finding $2000 ish and traveling 1400km.
I imagine it will take us slightly longer than 9 1/2hrs through, as the lure of galleries and op-shops diverts us. We will have to be disciplined, however, so we don't end up coming back with too much found treasure. But then again, we know some good ways to share it.
11am - 4pm
@ Stitch Kitchen Studio
88 Vogel Street, crn Jetty Street
BYO bag/box. Eftpos will be available, but cash preferred
(technical gremlins slow things down considerably).
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen