Repairing things isn’t a new idea. Anyone who has made anything, understands the vested interest in not having to make it again without good reason, as it’s far easier and cheaper to repair, adjust, refine, repurpose than it is to recreate from scratch.
“The early Dorcas Societies established in girls’ schools taught mending as part of the wider sewing curriculum,” says Rose Sinclair, design education lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. “[The] culture of sewing and… making crafts intrinsically meant that you learnt how to care for cloth, textiles, and clothes.” Image: Edwin Long‘s “A Dorcas Meeting in the 6th Century,” painted 1873–1877, public domain. Source: https://craftsmanship.net/blog/mending-an-ancient-craft-for-modern-times/
In the 19th Century industrial revolution, it became comparatively easier to make things from scratch - machines could take a lot of the manual labour out of agriculture to make the fibre, processing, dying, spinning, weaving, cutting, sewing… followed by the 20th Century technological revolutions in electricity and electronics, including computer systems that automate design, production and international shipping between each point in the process.
All of which meant labour behind the production became less valued, and so too the items produced. If you’ve seen documentaries such as The True Cost, or seen reports from Green Peace, you’ll now that clothing is never cheap: someone somewhere is paying for it.
Thankfully, many of us have moved on from the mindset of disposable fashion (as a progress check, remember the 1960’s Paper Dress movement? Wearing your ‘wastebasket dress’ with pride - after all, washing it made it flammable so you dare not wear it twice!).
The 1960s was an era of exploration and pushing boundaries. It was the space age--people envisioned an exciting future where everything was conveniently automated. New materials and disposability were in. Paper apparel promised convenience--you could simply discard it after one wearing. Altering the hemline was a snap--all it took was a pair of scissors and a steady hand. A tear? You could do a quick repair with sticky tape. Source: https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/pulp-fashion-paper-dresses-of-the-1960s
Covid-19 has taught us a little about slowing down, using what we have, and appreciating that going out and buying something new is a luxury that we can, incredibly, survive without.
But we are the generation that did not learn to mend things at our parent’s knee. Knitting, crochet, embroidery and even machine sewing have almost vanished from our schools. Traditional ‘good housekeeping’ style guides to mending are… a tad intimidating to say the least. So the solution is to throw away the traditional rulebooks and make mending our own.
We are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution, sometimes known as the Social [Media] Revolution, or the Information Age.
The socialization of content creation [in the Information Revolution], consumption and participation, is hastening the metamorphosis that transforms everyday people into participants of a powerful and valuable media literate society. Source: https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/articles/internet-changed-everyday-life/
The internet, especially social media, allows self-taught sewists and artists such as Tom van Deijnen to inspire new ideas about acknowledging and celebrating that we do have vested interests in our clothing, and can add value while honouring the labour of everyone who worked hard to bring an individual item into our lives (from the farmers who grew the seed to the underpaid shop assistant who smiled as they wrapped our purchase; ...perhaps even the ancient tree or dinosaur who produced the oil for it to be transported to where we could buy it…?).
International Repair Day is an annual event on the 3rd Saturday in October which celebrates our united efforts as a world-wide community to ‘visibly mend’ some of the damage created by industrialisation of production - not only in textiles, but in all manufactured goods.
At Stitch Kitchen we run monthly ‘Mend and Make Awesome’ workshops, on the 2nd Saturday of each month. This month falls on October 9th, the week before the international event, so we thought we’d go ahead and put on an extra, special mending workshop and give people double the opportunity to explore and enjoy mending their favourite clothes.
The Visible Mending workshop will focus on hand sewing, with patching and darning inspired by Boro, Kantha and other traditional examples of textile repair, but in a very beginner-friendly, creative, (and probably messy) new way.
Plus we're joining forces with the Our Seas, Our Future group from the University of Otago to engage to host an energetic and interactive discussion about the hidden problems of clothing and consumerism, and share more proactive solutions.
Remember that you don’t have to wait for our mending workshops, you are always welcome to pop in to us at Stitch Kitchen with your mending, be it for some company and a good cup of tea while you mend, need to borrow a darning mushroom, or need some help with a neat trick you saw on you-tube but cannot quite figure out how to do. Our hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 10:30-4pm, with late close on Fridays. Do send us a text/email or message us on social media to check out what’s happening at the studio and book a time.
Some great resources for further mending inspiration:
Also, check out some of the treasures in our own local Dunedin Public Library (which is still my favourite place to research - regardless of what revolution we’re in).
Are we all '=' now?
Are we still '/' on issues of gender in work, sport, business, politics and family?
What are the '+'s of exploring gender equality creatively together?
Introducing textile artist Arati Kushwhah and The Quilt Project!
Arati Kushwaha is a visual artist has exhibited widely in India and abroad, including Prague, New York City, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Argentina, London UK, Austria and USA.
Her work explores themes of identity, gender, sexuality, femininity and sex selective self-induced abortion and destruction executed through sculptures, installations, video and waxwork which represent diverse and critical ideas and raise awareness of these issues.
Arati's latest work: The Quilt project, is a socially engaged and ongoing project involving communities. The Quilt Project will create a large-scale patchwork quilt with individual blocks featuring applique of math symbols to share participants views on gender inequality.
The aim of the project is collecting as many blocks as possible that will represent the number of community views on inequality. The Quilt Project enable people to share their experiences, thoughts, feelings, and imaginations collaboratively. It sustains the engagement with textile processes that address the gender disparity issues women and gender diverse people around the world and gender diverse people around the world are facing.
Stitch Kitchen is partnering with Arati and her Quilt Project by providing equipment, materials and workshop support.
This project is made possible by funding support from DCC Arts Grants, Community and Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS).
Thanks also go out to the many community organisations who are hosting the workshops throughout the city!
Join in at any of our workshop coming soon:
Sun August 1st, 11am - 2pm @ Otago Museum - completed
Sat August 14th, 11am - 3pm @ Toitu Otago Settlers Museum - completed
Wed September 29th 11am- 1pm @ Stitch Kitchen
Fri October 1st, 11am - 1pm @ Stitch Kitchen
Tues, October 19th, 11am - 1pm @ The Valley Project
Fri October 29th, 11am - 1pm @ Stitch Kitchen.
Sat November 6th , 11am - 2pm @Dunningham Suit, Dunedin Public Library
Fri November 12th, 11am - 1pm @ Stitch Kitchen
Tue November 23rd, 11am-1pm @The Valley Project
Sat December 4th, 11am - 2pm @Dunningham Suit, Dunedin Public Library
Once the individual blocks have been created, Arati will patchwork these together into quilts, and hold a public exhibition which will also feature photos from the workshops and the stories shared by participants.
Arati is also planning to write a paper for publication by the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand, and the Surface Design Association.
If you would like to know more about the project, or help sponsor Arati, please get in touch with her directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact Stitch Kitchen at email@example.com <3
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Creativity is many things: Joyful, surprising, fulfilling, often hard, and nearly always challenging.
Creativity is looking at what is in front of you, and seeing it from a new perspective to imagine what it could be. It’s a process of growth and learning. Often that process is uncomfortable; challenging not only our current knowledge and skills, but occasionally our understanding of ourselves, our backgrounds, and the world around us.
Being part of a creative community means benefiting from each others’ perspectives and working together to achieve more than we can on our own. But communities can also be challenging too.
New perspectives can be surprising, and rearranging our assumptions about ourselves and the world around us can be uncomfortable. Being the person who presents a new perspective can be incredibly hard, especially when you’ve experienced rejection in the past.
But on the other side of that discomfort can be increasing your joy, fun, excitement, and empathy, stronger relationships, and a richer society.
June is ‘Pride Month’ in NZ, celebrating the diversity and creativity that comes from breaking down the traditional social boxes of ‘either/or’, and seeing people not for the single role they play in society (e.g. the provider OR the nurturer), but as people - unique individuals each capable of amazing things.
LGBTQI+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex. The + includes those who identify as pansexual, asexual, agender and genderqueer. Those who identify with the gender and sex they were given at birth are known as cisgender persons (sometimes cissexual, informally abbreviated cis).
Pride Month is both positive and problematic: Positive as it represents the move away from illegality, and towards greater acceptance by most of society. Problematic because having a month is a signal that LGBTQI+ is still not normalised. There is still a sense of ‘us and them’. It is also too easy for organisations to rainbow wash for a month, while making no meaningful changes to policies or systems which create barriers for non cisgender people to feel free to be themselves and fully participate and share their perspectives to add to the richness of the community.
At Stitch Kitchen we believe strongly in equality and equity for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, ability, and ethnicity. (Our rainbow-esque colour scheme is not by accident.)
We want everyone who visits us to be safe and keep others safe; physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. We work to provide a safe space for everyone to feel like they belong, that they are seen, accepted, and appreciated for their authentic and creative selves.
Respect is key. We constantly strive to do better, and welcome feedback. We urge all cisgender people to do the same.
We stand for these things, not only for June, but for each day and every month of the year.
You are seen. You are loved.
If, like us, you’re keen to learn more, here are a couple of great resources to learn more:
We'd love to hear from you about resourses you've found helpful.
There is currently a proposal to create a rainbow crossing in Lower Stuart Street on the corner of Moray Place. A rainbow crossing is a powerful way of giving the rainbow community greater visibility, and adding life and colour to our central city. We're definitely in favour <3
You can sign the petition to move this proposal forward at Dunedin's brilliant Woof bar and cocktail lounge. You can conveniently sign on while enjoying an excellent meal and/or cocktail. Opening hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 4pm-late. @woof_dunedin #woofdunedin #woof!
Last year we were delighted to help Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women's Refuge by making toiletry bags in our weekly Community Sewing Bee workshops.
Their brief was for a simple drawstring bag, about A4 size. After a bit of research and playing, Fiona adapted the drawstring bag design she’s been using for net storage bags; using colourful cotton curtaining offcuts and adding a nylon waterproof lining (both of which we have in abundance!) so the bags could hold any small spills and be cleaned easily.
It took 4 weeks to complete 80 bags, and we were even able to pack these with items given to us for the project, from one of the volunteer's daughters - thanks Sarah Lilly!
The team at the refuge were thrilled with the bags, and passed on the delight of the families who received them.
This year we have started a new project to brighten the lives of those who need the help of the refuge.
There are three meeting rooms which serve as important locations for women and families to meet, share, learn, heal, and be equipped to face the daunting challenges of rebuilding their lives. These rooms are currently very dull, generic offices, sadly lacking in colour, or even natural light.
The couches in the rooms are perfectly serviceable, but the cushion covers are dated, dull, and very corporate. They don’t create the inviting, warm, comforting, and inspirational place the refuge is aiming for.
We have begun changing the covers on the cushions to add colour and creativity, suitable to the purposes of each room, starting with the Tamariki room.
Finding fabrics that were bright and fun, with appealing textures, was the easy part with a collection like ours :). We came up with a template to be able to fit the new covers over the existing cushions, and got to work!
A bonus of these workshops is getting to learn new skills! It was great to see that several of the volunteers had never sewn in a zip, or made a cushion cover before, but with a little help, were soon zipping through them ;).
In total we plan to make 23 large cushion covers with gussets, 23 throw pillows, and 5 large floor cushions. We’re about halfway through, with the Tamariki Room nearly completed, and the Women’s Room next on the list :)
Cannot wait to show you the 'After' photos!!
If you’d like to join us for our lovely social Community Sewing Bees, they’re on every Thursday from 10:30am-1pm. No previous sewing experience needed. We work as a team so you can pick the tasks you’d like to do, all while enjoying great conversation and cups of tea (and usually a gingernut ;) ).
Please get in touch if you have any questions, or if you know of a local community group with a simple project that we might be able to help with.
Winter is here: the time when we take out our winter clothing and bring out last years yarn to finish that project. Also the time when we spot the damage that these little winged blighters have caused! Not only do they munch copious amounts of wool, but they love any protein fibre, including silk, fur, feathers, and even leather if they're really hungry. I’d wager that when unpacking your winter things, you have also unpacked some very unwelcome holes surrounded by wool. Moths seem to particularly enjoy merino skivvies, the finer the better.
Clothes moths are more active in warmer temperatures, traditionally spring and summer (when woolens are in storage), but now that houses are warmer, they often start their nibbling much sooner.
Sadly, we are very familiar with moth damage in fabrics donated to us at Stitch Kitchen, which have often been tucked away in quiet dark spaces (moth's favourite hang out) for several months. Avoiding inviting moths in; getting them out if they have gatecrashed; and dealing with the damage are regular battles we face.
Here are a few strategies to help you win your battle and save your woolens!
1. Avoiding bad dinner guests
2. Turning the tables
If you find evidence of moths, in traps, or on your clothes, or find holes they're left behind, it's time for further action:
3. Turning a flaw into a favourite feature
Don't be deterred from keeping and wearing a moth damaged item with pride. Yes, it has holes in its character - don't we all. But that's what makes us interesting.
How we can help
We'd love to hear from you about things you've tried and found effective! And if you don't find any of these effective, at least we might see you at one of our Stitch Kitchen workshops or at Mend & Make Awesome :)
What an awesome autumn adventure we had! Massive thank you to Nina from tikki studio for inviting us and organising the workshops in collaboration with Wastefree Queenstown and Wanaka Wastebusters, and to everyone who came along and joined in and added to our much loved 4KT herd of wastebusting elephants <3.
It was brillient seeing the enthusiasm of young people for upcycling and their delight in completing their unique elephants <3.
We took the 'scenic route' there and back, and the autumn weather was perfect for some spectacular views!
For the last 5 years we have organised and run significant events in April, coinciding with the international Fashion Revolution movement to push for accountability and sustainability in the fashion industry. With our 2020 event being canceled due to lockdown, we took the upcycling idea to another level, with plans being repurposed and reimagined for 2021.
Firstly, it's quite amazing how far we've come, from April 2020 being in full nationwide lockdown, to April 2021 being free to run events and run almost as usual. This is something unique to NZ, with much of the world still in crisis where getting to the supermarket is a major challenge, let alone getting to attend creative workshops. This is certainly something we don't take for granted, and deeply appreciate!
We called our program 'Restitched', and for 2021 spread the event out over several events including two public talks and practical workshops by local fashion and arts practitioners as well as national and international innovators. This has provided opportunities for the artists involved to develop their work and engage the public in the ‘slow fashion’ movement. This movement aims to transition from commerce driven consumerism, to innovation and creativity at all levels of fashion - from producer to end user.
This was a fantastic opportunity for us to engage artists from the community, including Anna Nicola Hansby and Anna Perry, Amber Bridgman, Kate Watts, to introduce new disciplines and creative processes, as well as new participants, to our network.
We also hosted talks from two leading figures in fashion innovation: Jane Milburn of Textile Beat in Brisbane who presented a talk via Zoom; and Bernadette Casey from The Formery and the Textile Reuse Programme in Wellington, who will speak in a public presentation in Dunedin via Zoom. Both women are mentors and connecting with them through this project has strengthened our direction for our organisational goals. These talks highlight the broader context of the direction fashion and textile design will go in the future, reinforcing that conscious shift towards a more sustainable textile conversation for Aotearoa and our global fashion community.
You can watch Jane Milburns talk: Permaculture Your Wardrobe, by clicking here, and entering the passcode *9r12kYQ
You can also see more resources from Jane on her website: https://textilebeat.com/
We weren't able to record Bernadettes talk, but you can watch this you tube recording of Bernadette sharing the important research and development work in the fashion industry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEcm5AoQxN4
For more more information about UsedFully and creating a circular use economy in New Zealand,
In total we had over 100 attendees, and strengthened important connections to local, national and international innovators, which made the series a fantastic success!
Massive thank you to DCC Arts Grant for funding us for these events, to Dunedin Libraries for hosting our talk with Bernadette, and to Anna, Nicola, Amber, and Kate for running workshops and sharing your passion for making fashion a more creative, more ethical industry <3
New Year holidays are often great for finishing off left over projects from the year before, or starting new ones that give you a feeling of fresh start for the new year. At Stitch Kitchen, we made the most of this time to complete the 'finishing touches' of our (still feels new) studio: finishing off painting in the front hall gallery space and bathroom; revitalising and putting up posters and upcycling old picture frames to add our signature colours to blank spaces. All features which continue to make the space feel warm, bright, welcoming and above all, creative!
MASSIVE thank you to all the volunteers who came and helped, especially to Jeremy and Oliver who helped enourmously with all the painting <3. Our amazing space would not be nearly as beautiful without you!
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.
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen