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).
One of our great inspirations, Jane Milburn, will be returning to Dunedin for a brief visit later this month!
Jane is a Sustainability Consultant, Slow Clothing pioneer, TEDx speaker, upcycler, and agricultural scientist. Many of you will remember her fabulous talk and upcycling workshop from when she was here during Fashion Revolution Week and ID Fashion Week in 2017 (see our blog post on her previous visit here).
Jane will be at Stitch Kitchen for our open afternoon on Friday 23rd August. This will be a perfect afternoon for you to bring in your upcycling projects to get inspired.
We will also be hosting a social evening of sharing inspiration for natural fibres and upcycling at the studio, from 5-7pm.
This is a chance for everyone to discus ways to ..."slow down, take stock and consider the substance, not just the style, of the clothes you choose to wear. Become conscious of your wardrobe: buy less, choose natural fibres, mend what you have, value story, love second-hand and vintage, refuse cheap fashion, avoid toxic dyes, read labels, restyle what you have, share and swap, or buy ethical brands. If it suits you to do so, be empowered to sew, restyle and refashion clothing already in circulation. The slow clothing philosophy is summarised in a manifesto of actions and choices: think, natural, quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt and salvage" (from Jane's website Textile Beat)
While visiting NZ, Jane is looking forwarding to gathering a range of new material for another book and her website, including stories of favorite upcycling techniques and what inspires you, particularly around wellbeing and sustainability.
For those who haven't yet read her wonderful first book, 'Slow Clothing: Finding meaning in what we wear', you're welcome to pop in and read our copy, or you can now purchase a copy of your own from us!
We held our first major Studio Sale in May, to showcase our treasure trove of donated items and clear space for new items.
During the week before, we also found a new purpose for holding the studio sale, as both of our overlockers (which were donated to us some time ago) broke down, and we urgently needed to find the money to replace them.
To support our sale, Fi and Desi, our two board members who are also amazing designers, joined us with samples of their work. We also had Lucy from Fabric Drop with a selection of her remnants and notions.
Preparation for the sale was a lot of work, taking over a week to fast-track sorting; pull out items usually buried in the back of cupboards; and pack away our usual studio machines and equipment to make room to display everything.
We had well over 60 people attend, and all left with smiling faces and fresh ideas for projects they wanted to make.
Exciting that after the dust settled, we found we had raised just over $1,300 towards replacing our overlockers!
After researching options, we purchased 2 new singer overlockers from spotlight (yay of 50% off sales!).
We also had enough money to have some of our donated sewing machines fully serviced and repaired - just in time for our pop-up shop where we needed every machine we had in top working order!
To everyone who came and contributed (volunteers and customers), a huge THANK YOU!
Already these machines have been used by many, and will keep being enjoyed for many years to come.
Our 4KT Elephants project had a fantastic launch with our Environment Envoy pop-up... but that's just the beginning! We still have over 3,000 elephants to go to reach our goal.
We have also been contacted by many people and businesses offering fabrics and stuffing (to the point that our storage space is overflowing into every nook and cranny we can find!) .
Our regular group of volunteers on Thursday mornings, who for the last 2 years have been making our amazing Bags For Good bags, are now helping us use this abundance to prepare and sew elephants. It's slightly different (no straight lines for one thing!), but we have new people joining us nearly every week. Everyone chooses what they are comfortable with, and we have some volunteers who don't sew, and some who don't cut out, and it works very well. If you are available any Thursday between 10am-1pm, do pop into our studio and see what we're up to.
As the funding we received from the DCC for the pop-up has now been exhausted, we are thinking of new ways to cover our ongoing costs to complete our 4000 goal. We are also offering to take on commissions for elephants for anyone unable to make them for themselves. We can make them from fabrics or items you have, or you can let us know colour preferences. These are $20 each.
Our patterns for the three sizes of elephants are available to download from our website, and we will happily send out our instructions and labels to anyone who would like them. If you would like to make elephants, for yourself or for us, do contact us and we can arrange for all the necessary bits and bobs to get to you.
These have been accessed by many people so far, locally in Dunedin, but also from throughout NZ, as individuals, teachers and community groups pick up on the popularity of our elephants. These are being made as keepsakes from special garments or fabrics; gifts for family and friends; and many are making their way back to us to add to our collection being donated to Tedz4Kidz.
We started believing the elephants represented our hope that waste can be seen as a resource; that everyone in the community can become involved in change; and to bring love and encouragement to those who have been through tough times. The elephants are taking on more significance as we hear many stories of them being given to new parents; to children in hospital; to elderly friends going into care; and to friends going through the loss of a family member; as auction items to raise money for breast cancer... and so many more!
We look forward to sharing more stories with you as the project continues!
New Volunteers Welecome!
Thursday mornings, 10am-1pm
@Stitch Kitchen, 88 Vogel Street
Or you're welcome to drop in and collect labels, and anything else you may need to make them at home.
Please feel free contact us if you have any questions
The response we've had to our 4KT Elephants environment envoy pop-up project has been amazing!
We had over 350 people through on the 10 days we opened our pop-up space, from May 31st - June 16th. From opening to closing (and often after our official closing time!) we had roughly 20 people in the space, including all ages, all backgrounds; all enjoying the chance to get creative and work together in a warm, bright space we created from a long dis-used retail space.
It was fabulous seeing parents bringing in their children and helping them with their very first sewing project. (Elephants are quite challenging for beginners, but the attraction of making their own elephant was so strong that they persevered and achieved their goal!)
Many people came back each weekend to make more elephants as gifts for friends and family or to donate to Tedz4Kidz. We also had people requesting our special individually numbered labels, to take home to add to elephants they were making from their own scrap fabrics.
Groups from Otago Girls and Dunedin City Council also joined us, as a team building volunteer activity.
Over 300 elephants we made in store (with another 200 labels taken or sent away for elephants to be made), using approximately 90kgs of textile 'waste'.
We also had a huge number of people stop and look at our amazing window display, created by Fiona Clements (Senorita Awesumo), showcasing what 85kgs of textiles (the equivalent weight of textiles thrown out each year per household) looks like - giving some idea of how enormous the issue of textile waste in Dunedin is.
Posters we had commissioned by Jess Newton of Dust and Dandelions, also helped to inform everyone who visited how this waste is created and what impact it has - not 'somewhere far away', but right here where we live.
Posters also shared our top 5 tips for reducing textile waste:
Many visitors took photos of our posters as reminders of simple things they can keep doing on a regular basis to help us cut our landfill waste and carbon emissions.
Although not found in NZ, elephants are known for helping the biodiversity and ecosystems of the areas they live. They are also renowned for their long lives, long memories and strong social bonds. We have developed an idea that we hope will bring these special benefits to Dunedin.
This is work we are thrilled to have the support of the Dunedin City Council with Dunedin Dream Brokerage, as part of Te Ao Tūroa - Dunedin’s Environment Strategy.
4KT Elephants Project is a unique creative project to engage the Dunedin community in practical solutions to re-purpose textile waste, reduce landfill, build resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dunedin waste management review reports that Dunedin’s textile waste to landfill has doubled in the last year, with over 4 thousand tons of textiles added to our green island landfill.
As well as putting pressure on landfill capacity and speeding the need for additional land to be converted from natural landscape or productive purposes to industrial waste storage. Textile waste also contributes significantly to Dunedin’s carbon footprint, as slowly degrading synthetic and natural fibres contribute 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions from our current landfill, which will continue long after the landfill has been decommissioned (200-700 years according to estimates based on the breakdown time for synthetic fibres!).
This textile waste presents an ‘elephant in the room’. The 4KT Elephant Projects will create a positive, empowering way to engage the community in discussion and demonstrate how textile waste can not only be reduced, but used to enrich our lives.
We have designed a unique soft toy elephant, which can be made by anyone in our community from (clean) worn clothing, curtains, bedding and other textiles, along with commercial waste stuffing materials.
(We will ultimately make four thousand elephants - one for every ton of waste, each with it's own numbered tag.)
For the Environmental Envoy, we will create a fun, accessible workshop space in a vacant shop in the central city to engage the public in collecting materials and developing skills to make the elephants; including sewing, problem solving, and teamwork.
The resulting elephants can be adopted by participants; donated to local children's projects such as Tedz4Kidz, Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women's Refuge; or sold to raise money to support the ongoing costs of the project as we continue towards our goal to make four thousand soft toy elephants: one for each ton of textile waste.
In additional the practical work space and making of the elephants, there will be educational resources and information about the context of textile waste and its impact on our community and environment here in Dunedin, and more importantly, how each person in our community can show their love of our environment by taking an active part in reducing textile waste through our everyday choices.
Keep your eyes open for where and when you can get involved!
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen