Forget rock on: it’s SewOn, say a group of Arohanui Hospice volunteers who are upcycling donated clothing and fabric that would otherwise not sell.
Think dog coats, casserole carriers, vegetable storage sacks, and tortilla warmers.
The sewers also make tea bag wallets, bowl cosies, door stops, and clothes.
SewOn’s work keeps hard-to-recycle waste material out of landfills.
Since starting four years ago, they have made do with donated sewing machines, but thanks to a grant from the city council’s Resource Recovery Fund, they now have three specialist machines to aid them in their work.
The industrial sewing machine, heavy-duty overlocker and heavy-duty sewing machine will allow them to tackle more challenging fabrics such as leather, wool and bag handles, coordinator Faith Martin says.
It’s been her dream to get an industrial machine for some time, and when a SewOn member saw an article about the new fund in the Manawatū Guardian, they decided to apply. Martin says they are excited to get the funding – $4673 plus GST, which is what they asked for.
Newspaper articles have played a significant part in the group’s trajectory. Martin was already a hospice volunteer when she saw an article about St Vinnies in Wellington turning unsalable donated items into something that could be sold.
She went to look at the operation, called a meeting of interested Palmerston North sewers, and SewOn has since grown to have enough volunteers to operate two mornings a week. It has about 18 volunteers, with 12 at work the Thursday the Guardian visited.
“It’s a wonderful group of people, we have a lot of fun up here,” Martin says.
Up here is the workshop above the hospice’s Lombard St shop. If they were to pause from their pattern-making, cutting, stuffing, sewing and pressing, they could see their creations going out the door.
Martin is always on the lookout for new ideas.
As well as hard work and a chance to be creative, there is plenty of social interaction, especially over morning tea.
The waste minimisation ethos extends even to the pattern instructions, written on a board that doubles as a table. The workshop’s shelves are lined with fabric waiting for a new life; perhaps keeping a child’s head warm, or giving a cat its own bed.
The machines were purchased from Direct Sewing Machines. Shop manager Erin Marsden says the company provided a brilliant service and free freight.
SewOn’s application was one of four that successfully received some of the $40,000 Resource Recovery Fund.
The annual fund is for community groups and small businesses with projects that promote or contribute to reducing, reusing, and recycling items. The overall goal is reducing the amount of waste ending up in landfills.
The money comes from funding the city council receives from central government annually for resource recovery services.
In its fund application, SewOn wrote that when clothes end up in landfills, they create greenhouse gases, so recycling them instead helps to diminish the forces that contribute to climate change.
“Reusing the fabric from old clothes means less resources, both monetary and environmental, are wasted in growing fibre for new ones.”
This story was written by Judith Lacey and originally published on the front page of the Manawatu Guardian on 6 July 2022. For the original article please click here.