To celebrate Dresscue reaching its first birthday we spoke to some of our regular attendees.
A year ago we opened a weekly sewing space facilitated by our community artist, Sally Bourner. In that time, we’ve opened our doors 10am to 1pm on Fridays to invite people to drop in and learn new mending, making and upcycling skills as well as share their own knowledge of working with fabric. Since opening, 376 items have been saved from landfill through up-cycling, repairing and clothes swaps and 116 new items have been created from our stash of donated fabric. We hope these personal stories can tell you a little more about the less quantifiable impacts of the Dresscue project!
“Hi. I’m Saira. I have been volunteering with the Dresscue team since January. My background is in fashion design and textiles, and I have always had a love of vintage/preloved clothing and recycling/ customising clothing. I worked for many years in fashion PR and styling which suited my love of thrifting and unearthing unique items and experimenting with clothing as a form of visual art. Like many creative people I have expanded my skills and use many creative mediums such as paints, ceramics, and textiles in my current art practices.
I am currently studying a Masters in Inclusive Arts Practice at Brighton University and look forward to applying my skills to promote equal access in the arts.”
Q: How long have you been coming to Dresscue?
“I have been here for about 6 months, every week. It’s very nice, it’s good for communication – good to meet new people.”
Q: How did you find out about the space?
“From Hayat, someone working at Voices in Exile. We usually meet with her every week, every Thursday, and she told us that we can come here regularly, every Friday”
Q: What have you made since you started coming here?
“I made a cushion – that was my first project. And then I made a whole jumpsuit for myself, it was blue cotton. I’m also making a small dress for my sister – she’s 4. I got lovely material and I brought it here and Sally and Saira are helping me. I haven’t finished it yet but hopefully soon.”
“As a 56 year old freshly outed trans woman, this is a time for me to grow and learn. Sally and the team at Dresscue have been loving, supportive, empathic and useful all at the same time. Until now, I’ve never been able to sew, but I arrived on my first day with a bag full of potential projects and a hunger to learn. The team and I went through them, one by one, working out how things could be fixed or altered, and in what order to best facilitate my journey.
The first week, I fixed a mis-sewn dress. Sally supported me through each step of the process, always making sure that I knew how to do what needed doing, while simultaneously always making sure that I myself did it. I learnt so much from that one simple job. I was able to wear the dress the next day, and I felt both proud and fabulous. Not only had I learnt some excellent new skills, but I had rescued a piece of clothing that probably would have ended up in landfill.
I am now a regular at Dresscue; each week, the complexity of my projects is stretching my knowledge, and the team are constantly there making sure that I’m learning new skills and succeeding. As an individual with a love of learning, I massively appreciate Dresscue, and for me, an added bonus is the warmth and social support that the project provides. I cannot recommend them highly enough.”
Q. How long have you been coming to Dresccue?
“For maybe 4 months? Sometimes I come, sometimes I don’t because of my school – I’m studying English.”
Q. How do you find the space? What do you enjoy about Dresscue?
“The view and the place gives me energy and the people here are amazing. It’s so nice to make a friend wherever you go. When I come here I see my friends coming and going and I get to talk to them. It’s so nice. I love it. I’d never touched a sewing machine before I came here.”
Q. What have you made since you started coming here?
“Cushions first, and now I’m making a dress for myself. I’m very excited.”
Q. What are you making today?
“A long sleeved top with two types of materials. I’m getting creative with how I combine the two on a pattern, I know. I’ve mapped out how it is going to take shape, just need to try it out now.”
Q. What does sewing mean to you?
“I grew up in an environment where my mum would give us sewing machines. In primary school we had to make aprons to use in our cooking classes. The following year we had to make a skirt, and I remember making a dress at home when I was 17. I didn’t do much sewing after that. Then after I left home, I continued making my own clothes.
What I love about it is that you decide what material, colour and size you want. It’s moulded to yourself. It’s a way of tailoring what you like to yourself. When I was young I would sew dresses with my mum. I remember reading about how Burberry threw away a bunch of new clothing into a landfill and that is ridiculous! It doesn’t make sense.”
Q. It’s amazing how you have seen the value in it and kept up the process of making it for yourself from a young age. What tips would you give to someone who is a beginner?
“Try to start off with something simple. A sleeveless top is less complicated. Also start off not with a knit or weave fabric, but with something stretchy, so if you make a mistake you can fit into it still. Keep it straight forward. Patterns are designed for people to figure out at home so don’t be afraid to start.”
Photos by Phoebe Wingrove