Personalised stitching workshop

Shirley Mclauchlan, Edinburgh University

Public engagement. I was invited by Fashion Revolution Scotland to facilitate a personalised stitching/mending workshop. The festival was held in the Meadows in Edinburgh as part of the Climate Change festival. Workshops ran in the afternoon from 2pm-4pm, took place outside and were open to everyone. The workshops were practical but there was also information about fast fashion to encourage discussion.

July 2019

The purpose of my workshop was to raise awareness with regards to mending and personalising your clothes. I was eager to encourage people to learn to stitch and to take the time to enjoy the process. Some discussion on fast fashion and the importance of mending your clothes was introduced during the practical workshop.

My own design work can best be described as ‘making modern day family heirlooms’. I strive to make pieces of work that last a very long time. During the workshop I discussed the importance of mending and personalising a repair. I had an enthusiastic audience of over 20 people with varied skill levels and mixed generations ranging from 7 years to 72 years. Some participants stayed for the duration of the workshops and some just came to seek advice on how to repair a particular item.

To start this workshop the participants were shown some of my samples that I had on display from my #100daysprojectscotland2019 (images below); each person then selected a stitch and a pattern to work from. It is important that each individual selects the stitch, pattern and colours that they want as this maximises the individualism of the sample that they create. During the workshop as everyone started to sew and concentrate on the activity, silence fell… This is the most wonderful time when everyone is simply enjoying the activity.

All participants were eager to learn a new skill and the atmosphere on the day was full of positivity. The younger participants were keen to learn to sew and were inspired by the samples. The hand stitched samples had tags on the back which described the amount of time each sample took. I think this information is important, as sometimes people do not realise the amount of time stitching can take. The older participants enjoyed the experience of simply stitching, the bonus being they could apply this knowledge to mending their clothes!

I have over the years facilitated many workshops exploring hand stitching and discussion. I enjoy working with a wide variety of ages and skills. I like to encourage the audience to simply try with the importance on enjoyment. The mending and repair aspect is a secondary aspect of the workshop.

I learnt that a single activity can be a valuable source of research. Engaging with the public is always enlightening.

Many of the people that attended the workshop were inspired to go back and continue the repair. Annie (a mother of 3 young children) said she would now go back and make the time to sew with her daughter. Some said they were more confident about attempting future repairs. Sarah and Megan (7-year-old) said they were going to make a heart for their grandmothers. All participants said they had enjoyed the experience.

I am enjoying the added bonus stitching has with regards to good mental health:

During the workshop I discussed the benefits of doing a practical activity like sewing. We discussed how important it was to make time for this activity. Many of the participants described how calm they felt after and during the workshop.

Related projects

During Fashion Revolution week April 2019 I ran a public engagement workshop highlighting the effect fast fashion has on communities and the environment. During the workshops discussions were had and mending techniques were explored as possible alternatives to the buying and throwing away of fashion garments.

Public event at the V&A Dundee in which my film was shown and I was an invited panellist.

Further information

Mclaren, A. & McLauchlan, S., 2015. Crafting sustainable repairs: Practised based approaches to extending the life of clothesProduct Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE): Conference Proceedings. Nottingham Trent University.

McLauchlan, S., 2017. Practicing cherish-ability as a designer. Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE): Conference Proceedings. IOS Press, Vol. 9, p. 480-481.