Imagining A Circular Economy for Whitehawk

by Ishtar Parrish Wain

On Saturday April 2, I attended a Circular Economy event at Whitehawk Library and Community Hub. 

With the incentive to encourage the local community to mend and swap clothing, rather than throw away worn-out or unloved items, the library was full of families and children mending, making and swapping skills. It was an opportunity to inspire a new relationship with our old belongings, and foster an appreciation of the pre-loved. 

I spent some time talking to Fabric Godmother, a Hove-based fabric and haberdashery retailer, about the inaccessibility of sustainable textiles. You can find more about their work through their website and Instagram account. Nestled amongst the books, their stall had an array of ready-to-sew patches along with pocket-sized sewing kits for people to take away with them, and books championing the art of visible mending. With the shared goal to re-distribute the knowledge of fixing over the ease of throwing away and buying again, it was great to witness children choosing their favourite patches to sew onto old school bags and coats, nurturing a more personal connection to the fabrics they wear every day. 

 Two inspiring books: The Art of Repair by Molly Martin, and Visible Mending by Arounna Khounnoraj

A head-dress making workshop run by Whitehawk Art Collective offered an introduction to hand sewing, where people could stitch scrap fabrics around a willow hoop and adorn it with paper flowers, using the sewing kits from Fabric Godmother. This casual and friendly environment allowed for a judgement-free space for participants to learn how to use a needle and thread for the first time, and create something colourful and beautiful without having a harmful impact on our planet. From the wide selection of fabrics to choose from, some with past lives as bus seat covers or curtains, Whitehawk Art Collective’s artist in residence Sareh Griffiths was also fashioning hanging plant holders. For photos of this workshop, and information on other projects that they run, take a look at their Facebook page

I got a chance to watch a wool spinning demonstration by The Woolly Umbrella, a spinning group that meets every Friday at Whitehawk Library, who use excess wool donated from a local farm to flatten on pins and spin into yarn on an old wooden spinning wheel. The yarn spun can be knitted or crocheted with, and is currently being used to knit patchwork blankets which are donated to a charity shop. Whilst spinning, Carol retold the story of Rumplestiltskin spinning straw into gold – a shared reminder of the importance of continuing old crafts such as spinning, and the oral history and folklore that organically run alongside it. If you are interested in joining The Woolly Umbrella spinning group or would like to know more, their website offers contact information and weblinks to additional information about the history of spinning.

Free Your Wardrobe, a movement focused on finding new homes for secondhand clothes, had a room to itself in which an array of clothes organised by size were spread out, ready to be loved and freely taken home by someone new. There were three questions asked to help navigate whether an item of clothing is right for you: 

  1. Do you love it?
  2. Does it fit you?
  3. Will you wear it?

Given the devastating impact that the fast fashion industry has on our planet, it’s difficult not to view these simple questions as revolutionary. If we all answered honestly, it would be hard to find somebody who has consistently adhered to these standards, especially in a culture in which fast fashion is unfortunately often the most economically viable option. To combat this, Free Your Wardrobe has built a physical and online community which normalises bringing together our shared resources to offer new life to good quality pre-loved clothes. Using community spaces to run pop-ups, they also run a Facebook page where members can post an item or outfit they are looking for, and other members can lend or give away clothes they no longer wear.

Spread across the library were stalls offering support parcels for families in need, information on the environmental impact of textile waste and tech repair. In addition to the objective of normalising repair and re-use, it was inspiring to witness the coming together of community in such an intergenerational, creative way. It served as a reminder that through skill sharing, educating and challenging our societal norms, we are able to find ways to work towards a more circular, sustainable way of living. As Margaret Mead said:

‘Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.’

Anyone interested in learning more about the Circular Economy can sign up to become a Circular Economy Champion with the BLUEPRINT project. You’ll be provided with training and  opportunities to meet other like-minded people at our sessions,  allowing you to live more sustainably and encourage friends and family to do the same. It’s open until the start of 2023, just email for more information.

Dresscue is a free, drop-in project run by ONCA, which encourages people to mend and upcycle clothing. We have a number of sewing machines kindly donated by Pfaff, and welcome people of all abilities to come by and mend together. Dresscue runs 10am – 1pm every Friday at ONCA Barge


Image credit (main featured image): artwork featured on Circular Economy event flyer, original source & artist unknown

Image description (main featured image): colourful illustration of two people kneeling with one knee bent and the other knee resting on the floor holding up the earth between them above their heads.

Image credit (within text body): images of book covers via Google

Image description (within text body): two photographs side by side showing the front covers of two books – The Art of Repair by Molly Martin, and Visible Mending by Arounna Khounnoraj. The cover of The Art of Repair has a series of beautiful simple illustrations of textile tools/implements in muted pink and blue grey tones. The cover of Visible Mending has a birds eye view photograph of someone sewing a pair of jeans that have several patches on from previous repairs.