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AS “fast fashion” continues to gain momentum feeding the throw-away culture, one Canberra woman is trying to slow it down by passing on, what might be considered, a lost skill.
Anna Perkins, 57, of Ainslie, learnt crochet and embroidery in the ’60s and, except for a brief semester at CIT, is a self-taught sewer.
Her love for textiles, which stemmed from a fascination with the family doll collection, now sees her reclaiming materials and making them into items such as clothes, quilts and bags under the brand Fair Chance Pants.
Through upcoming, practical workshops this year, she’s hoping to pass on these skills and reclaim a place for sewing in the current “fast fashion environment”.
“Over the past 10 years I noticed big changes were happening,” she says. “The piles of clothing, linen, bags and so forth being thrown away were growing into huge mountains.
“At the same time, natural fibres such as cotton and wool were disappearing quickly, being replaced by synthetics.”
Alarmed by what she saw, Anna now aims to help demonstrate and promote the use of reclaimed textiles for stylish clothing and other beautiful creative objects.
“Many of the skills I use every day have not been taught to younger generations [and] those who have learned them, don’t always have the time, support or opportunity to use them,” she says.
“My workshops [which use mending styles and techniques from India and Japan] are creative and supportive.
“I teach simple and effective techniques that give people confidence and dedicated time to learn and practice their skills.
“We use reclaimed fabrics, which gets people thinking about how they can reuse fabric and reduce waste.”
So far, Anna’s workshops have only seen female participants, particularly women with independent children and women in their 20s but she’d like to engage with more teenagers and men.
“In Australia, sewing and textile crafts have generally been associated as a women’s interest and skill set,” she says.
“But I know of men picking up these skills now and I’m sure there are men in Canberra who share textile and sewing interests.
“It would be great to know more about men’s interests in this regard.”
SEE-Change executive officer Edwina Robinson, 52, of O’Connor was recently confronted when one of her adult sons asked her to sew on a button.
“As parents we haven’t taught those skills that we were taught,” she says.
Like Anna, Edwina grew up in the ’60s, where she was taught machine sewing, hand sewing and making patterned garments and while it’s not a hobby for her, she believes it’s a great skill.
In 2017, after becoming more conscious of where her clothes were coming from, Edwina completed a year-long challenge where she didn’t buy any new clothes.
It was during this time that she ran into Anna and asked her to run a workshop for SEE-Change.
Fascinated by Anna’s mending styles and passionate about slow fashion, Edwina continues to mend her clothes and fight against fast fashion.
“We eat every day and lots of us are conscious of what we eat but we also get dressed every day and we never think: ‘Where are our clothes come from?’” she says.
“If you go into most second-hand shops these days, I reckon about 80 per cent of the clothes are synthetic.”
Now, Edwina tries to invest in materials such as linen, wool and silk.
“The test for me is if you can put it in your garden, if you can compost it then it’s okay,” she says.
During Edwina’s year without clothes, she had one lapse, when she forgot to pack undies for a weekend trip away.
“Mentally, I sorted through the alternatives and decided the best option was to buy three simple cotton pairs,” she says.
“As penance, back home in wintery Canberra, I placed one cotton and one synthetic pair of knickers into our worm farm.
“Once the weather warmed, I opened the can of worms. The cotton pair were shredded to a fine filigree with only the elastane waistband holding the thing together.
“The synthetic undies, although dirtied, could have been soaked for a couple of days, washed and hung out to dry, without anyone knowing they’d been hibernating in a worm farm.”
Anna’s next workshop is at CARDIF collective, Cusack Centre, 27 Eyre Street, Kingston, April 14. Registrations to firstname.lastname@example.org