Making of the Sew It Forward banner

Sew It Forward is an initiative that we launched recently to encourage people to share their sewing, mending and knitting skills with their friends, family, neighbours, or anyone else who is keen to learn or willing to listen. It is about grabbing these skills while we can, before they are lost forever, and passing them on.

To me, what is most exciting about Sew It Forward is that it's not only about learning to mend something old, or to make something new, it is also about acknowledging, and even celebrating, the process of making. It is about bringing our skills out from our sewing rooms, and sharing them with the world.

We thought that, in keeping with the theme of Sew it Forward, and to celebrate the process of making, it was important to document the construction of the banner we made for our event at Henrietta Ludgate's studio. So here is a little 'how to' to get you in the mood of Sew It Forward.

• To start this project, Zoe rummaged through her sewing box (unfortunately mine is back in Sydney) and found some black cotton off cuts, a piece of unbleached cotton - perfect for banner making - and a needle and thread, and sent me on my way.

The making of the Sew It Forward banner

• The letters were cut from the cotton after they were backed with a fine layer of bondaweb and arranged on the backing fabric.

• Each letter was ironed in place (using my housemate, Irene's iron and ironing board - it's about sharing tools as well as skills, plus an iron wouldn't fit in my backpack), before being stitched in place with coloured embroidery thread. This made a feature of each stitch and accentuated the handmade look of the banner.

• The last, and most time consuming part of this project, was adding the 'stitches' around the edge. A small rectangle of black cotton was cut, ironed in place and then stitched along each side, to present each individual stitch. Although it took a long time, it was worth it. This feature really completed the banner, and also gave me a chance to sit down and get to know my new housemates.

Sometimes we get carried away, thinking that everything we do needs to be done as quickly as possible. What's nice about hand sewing, knitting and mending, is that it forces you to slow down; to sit down, take a moment on your own, or take a moment with others, have a chat, maybe even have a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and watch the project slowly take shape.

And there we have it, a beautifully finished banner ready for hanging!

So in the theme of the initiative, we made a banner that used materials responsibly, we were resourceful, we shared tools, we were social, we took our time, and enjoyed the process of making, from beginning to end.

Zoe Robinson with the Sew It Forward banner



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Fashion and textiles graduate, newby to London, charity shop addict, lover of tea

morsbags - sewing it forwards since 2007

Loving the idea of sewing it forward - nice job on the banner btw.

Maybe the ultimate "sewing it forward" project is morsbags. aka sociable guerilla bagging

the basic idea is that you

* get together with a bunch of people (friends, relatives, work colleagues, politicians, scouts, people who have walked in off the street)
* make shopping bags from your old stuff (shirts, skirts, trousers, duvet covers, you get the picture)
* eat cake and drink tea/sherry/wine
* give the bags away (to your book club, to the library, to your work colleagues, to your friends, to your family, post them through the letter boxes in your street, to the next person you see at the checkout about to accept a single use bag.....OK you can keep one for yourself too)

There are full details on how to make them (and hints and tips) on the morsbags website and forum.

There are very many reasons why morsbags are completely fabulous

* they reduce the consumption of plastic bags
* they reduce the amount of textiles going to landfill
* you can reuse and reuse and reuse and reuse ......them
* you get to eat cake
* they reduce the amount of plastics in the environment that are harmful to wildlife
* you get to "be the change" - when you give someone a morsbag you're offering them a solution rather than wagging a finger or dropping a guilt trip
* you get to be sociable
* you get to share skills
* did I mention the cake?
* think of all the lonely, unloved sewing machines that will get some use
* they are more comfortable to carry than plastic bags
* you can adapt them to fit you (longer handles for your shoulder, shorter bags so they don't drag on the floor)
* you can match them to your outfit (or not if that is the way you roll)
* you can customise them to your heart's content
* I love the look of achievement on someone's face when they've made something for the first time
* CAKE!!!!

The bag was designed to be constructed using the most basic of tools and skills. If there is a gang of you and one or two people are sewing phobic then set it up assembly line style and have them on the cutting out or ironing station (or the cake station) - Henry Ford eat your heart out!

Do it anywhere - my fave thing at the moment is sewing them al fresco (weather permitting) with a hand cranked Singer sewing machine.

One little thing, they can be a tiny bit addictive - you were warned !

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