This year marks 5 years since Fiona Clements and I (Fiona Jenkin) started Stitch Kitchen. We couldn’t celebrate on the official date we formally established our not-for-profit trust due to COVID-19, but we wanted to wait until we were in our new space and could celebrate not only the work and achievements of the past, but also show what is inspiring us into the future.
After the epic work preparing the new studio, it was amazing to create a special event to welcome everyone and let it shine.
We were still restricted by COVID-19 protocols and had to limit attendees, but we still had a wonderful mix of people from throughout the city.
Enormous thanks go to everyone who helped prepare the food, and serve the drinks; to those who helped us rearrange the studio including clearing all the sewing machines and even our cutting tables to make room, and setting up the former restaurant dining tables found in the back shed; to the bands who provided fantastic music; and to Roger Mangai for a formal blessing on the space and the community who will be part of it.
After a year-long hunt, and a 3 month delay due to COVID-19 lockdown, we finally had a lease and keys to our brand new studio space, on the ground floor of the Prince of Wales Hotel at 474 Princes Street.
Early in July we closed for 2 weeks during the term break to do our very own 'dream kitchen renovation' :D This included cleaning a decades worth of dust and repainting.
In the end, it took nearly 6 weeks to finish the painting (and there are still a few areas to finish), and work through a myriad of other complications, but it was well worth it. The Valspa paints, in all our fabulous colours, were purchased with the generous help of Mitre 10 Mega.
Very special thanks go to Ken, Christine, Jaquitta, Oliver, Fienie, Lz, Paul, Alison, Ian, Matthew, and Sam for the many hours they volunteered and helped to keep me sane.
As this new studio is roughly twice the size of our old space, we needed a considerable amount of new furniture and fittings. In keeping with our re-use policy, we sourced almost everything second-hand, and in some cases, on its way to become landfill! We are very grateful to the University of Otago Property Services team for allowing us to give a bright new home to old lab and office furniture. Also the DCC Waste Management department with access to the storage warehouse for extra filing cabinets, and ironing boards. Our amazing carpet tiles for our mosaic floor were given by Millers Studio’s and Tak flooring. A few special pieces, such as our tea cabinet and reception desk were sourced from op shops.
It was fabulous fun dreaming of, designing and creating the new studio, and it’s heartwarming to hear responses from people who come into our space and say how ‘light’ ‘spacious’ ‘bright’ ‘cheerful’ ‘inspiring’ and ‘beautifully organised’ everything looks :D
There are (and probably always will be) a few projects still in progress, but our ‘dream kitchen’ is already a joy to welcome people to, teach and be creative.
Who doesn’t love comfy underwear! Better still is comfy undies that are affordable, good quality, and give peace-of-mind that they’re not made in a sweat-shop from materials that destroy ecosystems to create (small things with big issues attached).
For quite a while, each of us at Stitch Kitchen have expressed the intention to make our own underwear. During the lockdown we set it as a fun group challenge to make this intention a reality!
Between us we used a variety of methods to get our pattern. Taking a pattern from an existing pair of comfortable undies; using a paper pattern; and draping a customised mannequin.
For fabric, we used old t-shirts and offcuts from previous projects - a great practice to use up whatever we had to hand when there was no chance to dash out to the fabric store! As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and we certainly came up with some highly creative fabric and color combinations.
It was great fun working on this project independently, but together; sharing challenges, tips and triumphs along the way.
Have you ever had a go at making your own underwear? We’d love to hear any tips - be it great ideas or things to avoid!
If you haven’t yet, but always wanted to, we will be running a workshop on how to make your own underpants at Stitch Kitchen on Saturday 3rd October. We’ll be demonstrating a few style options, suited for children, women and men. We hope to run this again in the future :)
Happy National Volunteer Week!
We are super aware of the theme for this year: Te Hua o te Mahi Tahi - The benefit of working together. We wouldn't be able to do any of what we do without the awesome generosity of our volunteers!
As volunteers ourselves, we know how working together lightens the spirit and keeps us inspired to learn, grow and create.
Every week we have opportunities for anyone who is interested in the work we do, and this week we welcome back the regular Thursday morning time slot for working on community projects, such as Bags For Good or 4KT Elephants.
We also regularly have groups of volunteers from University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic as well as corporate 'team building' excersizes.
As volunteers, you can 'bank' your time with us or with Dunedin Timebank to exchange for services in kind, including use of our studio for your own projects, any of our great sewing classes and even items from our Swap Shop. It's all part of our idea of 'equal value exchange'. <3
Other benefits are knowing your skills and time are valued, and connecting with other caring, creative people.
If you would like to learn more about projects you could help with, or time banking in general, we would love to hear from you.
After over 5 years of gradually filling every nook and cranny in our studio with boxes of fabrics, and after a solid 6 months of searching, we are thrilled to say we have finally found a new studio location!
It’s been a tough search finding somewhere accessible, open plan and within budget!
The search is now happily over, and all going well, we will be able to open in our new space in late July, ready for term 3 classes.
The new space is in a great area with creative businesses all around, it has a distinct frontage and is easy to find, and has level street access!
We've been dreaming of our new setup and it's very exciting to see the jigsaw pieces come together to make this dream a reality. The new space will have lots of features which make sewing and working in classes easier and more enjoyable, with easier access, and more space to work.
If you’re interested in helping us in any way, we would love to hear from you. Send us a message and we will be packing, cleaning, painting, building fixtures and of course lugging boxes and relaxing in our new suroundings before we know it!
To officially open the new space, and mark our 5th Birthday, we will be holding a celebration in August, and we cannot wait! Your invitation will be on it’s way to you as soon as we’ve recovered from the shift :)
Our recent nation-wide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a great opportunity for some to take stock of their sewing stash, and set goals for the projects they really want to make time to sew up… and those projects which even if they had all the time in the world they’d never get around to, and could comfortably let go to another good home.
It was also a time when projects were dreamed of and couldn’t be created because something was missing from their supplies.
As we moved down levels and restrictions lifted, at Stitch Kitchen we looked for ways we could make it easier for people to access the amazing collection of haberdashery items that have been generously given to us to rehome. While not yet able to have a fully fledged online shop, our efforts to share our ‘Swap Shop’ has certainly went up a level; creating an easy form you can fill in to request items, and taking more time to share our finds on social media.
It’s hard to capture the extent of our amazing collection of patterns, fabrics, trims and notions in a few photos at a time, but it’s exciting to see the level of interest grow, and to hear about what projects people are working on!
Our fabrics have been posted away to sewists beyond Dunedin too, with people from throughout NZ, from Waihiki Island to Riverton loving the ability to access items beyond what local fabric shops and second hand stores have available.
Many requests came from people wanting to sew items for their community, from face masks to baby wear to pet beds for animal shelters.
Very soon our physical swap shop will soon go up another level, with better visibility and access - with less stuff hidden in boxes and more on display within easy reach :).
Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to transform items that might have once gone to waste into beautiful, useful items that haven’t cost the earth!
Our ‘swap shop’ concept makes it easy to access these resources, as you can swap what you would like to adopt for a cash donation (swapping items for money) - which helps to pay for the rent and time it takes to sort and manage the materials…
Or you can swap items from our collection with items from your own - which helps us keep up our excellent supply of fresh stock)…
Or you can swap your time - volunteering to help us sort donations (or help with other projects) which keeps everything ticking along.
We will be continuing to develop this new online request service, so if you’re not within easy reach of our studio, or would like to save time and have a selection of top picks put aside for you, you can easily get in touch.
During COVID-19 level 4 lockdown, while most of NZ was keen on bear hunts, we went on elephant adventures! To add some humour to our days, we had fun creating stories with our favourite 4KT elephants.
We have had a great response as we shared these on our social media, and many people telling us since how much they enjoyed seeing our regular updates.
Here are some of the highlights:
I enjoyed the added incentive to leave the house and go exploring, to see what interesting things I could find to photograph with my elephant, and then share with friends who follow us on social media. It was as if by taking my elephant with me, I was sharing the experience with those I couldn’t spend time with in person.
Did you have any adventures with an elephant in your household? Would love to hear about your experiences, and what you took comfort or encouragement from.
If you don't have an elephant, or would like to have one to give to a friend or loved one; you can download the pattern and sewing instructions from our website, or order a pre-cut elephant ready to sew and stuff. You can also custom order an elephant to be made for you, or someone you want to give a special gift to. Contact us for more info.
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...
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen