A way to combine my deep concern for the environment and desire to connect with my neighbours came together when my daughter told me about the responsive community Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG) program.
She said, ‘Mom, you have often said that you want to share your studio and meet more neighbours. Here is a way to do it.’
I have had friends and family visit my studio the past five summers to indigo dye, block print and sew. Also I have always kept the door of my garage studio that faces the street open while working hoping a passerby will express interest.
The NSG program provided me with an infrastructure to find a way to really make that connection. At first I felt a little intimidated and wondered if what I had anything to offer that would be of interest let alone provide value but concluded that my knowledge of sewing, skill in patching and desire to learn and share was enough. I threw myself into the world of sashiko stitching, visible mending, patching, appliqueing and the task of organizing and promoting.
During the spring and summer of 2021 I put on eight workshops for fifteen different individuals. Some responded to the ‘Westside group’ email. Others came to me via facebook groups. I put up posters in strategic locations such as Kits House, the library, and bulletin boards at playgrounds and coffee shops. I mentioned it to other groups that I belong to such as my writing and reading groups. My intention was to bring together people from as many different backgrounds, ages and cultures as possible.
I started out with zoom meetings where participants showed me their projects. I then set up individual outdoor meetings so they could pick up thread, patching fabric and needles. As the summer progressed and provincial health restrictions relating to the Covid pandemic were lifted, I invited participants into my garage studio where we worked together most of the time with the door open.
Below I will try and list the varied, disconnected and often completely unrelated to sewing things I have learned when planning and executing my project:
• There are lots of interesting, generous, creative people in my community who go out of their way to help out and share. For example Maire-France shared her beautiful hand dyed indigo patches. She told me about dye techniques that improved the quality of my dyeing and helped me to get more out of my dye bath.
• To find out what is happening in my community I learned about many websites such as https://www.kitsilano.ca/category/bulletin-board/
• It is OK if someone has a project that is not exactly, as my nephews would say, is in my wheelhouse. Together we can and did figure it out.
• I learned how to free sew. One of the many books I borrowed from the library included a section on free sewing. For those of you who machine sew, it is a way to is a way of sewing without having the fabric touch the feed dogs. As a result you can draw on your fabric. I have had my sewing machine for over 45 years, yet I didn’t know it had a special attachment for making this creative and interesting patch.
• I learned several new mending techniques such as knit mending.
• When people come together around a creative project, the unexpected can happen such as learning about a new app that helps me to document my projects.
Forming bonds over a shared love of creating things brings so much more than a renewed life for a well-loved article of clothing or other textile. I have learned much about other people’s lives and gained new insights about myself and my community. Not a small outcome.
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