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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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 :)
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen