Article written by Aleks Pacula of LIVING IT UP
In today’s world of mass production and throw-away culture, it is a breath of fresh air to come upon pockets of people trying to do their best for their community and the environment. And finding inter-generational groups whose purpose it is to teach the handicraft of sewing, the sharing of knitting and stitching skills, as well as embroidery and crocheting is very encouraging.
In the heart of Oxgangs, an area of South West Edinburgh, two friends who were living in the area, Eileen and Lesley, have done just that. They were keen to encourage more social participation but needed to make this self-funding – how could this be achieved? They discovered there was little choice in the market of protecting clothes against spillage at mealtimes. Lesley had been working for Alzheimer Scotland and regularly took people out for a couple of hours. She found that folk were often anxious about spilling food and liquid over their clothes. This is where the light-bulb moment occurred, and from here Best Bib n Tucker was launched as a social enterprise, not-for-profit organisation, with Faith, a third person coming on-board.
The aim was to produce good-quality protective clothing in a variety of attractive and hard-wearing fabrics. The money raised in the sale of these items would fund the sewing classes. The aim of the classes, as well as learning to sew, was to help reduce isolation, increase skills and improve the possibility of employment. They also encourage a better sense of “community”. The workshops offer a safe environment to learn and enjoy new interests, meet new people, and feel supported and valued. The classes and sessions are open to anyone.
The items are made by volunteers and come in the shape of smocks, tabards and aprons. They can be customised for fit and colour and at the moment, Isa, one of the regular volunteers, has taken a child-sized apron to make a pattern so that the volunteers can create protective clothing for the local school children. Bags are also available to store the aprons, Faith being the designer of these, using not only new materials but also, conscious of being environmentally-friendly, recycling old jeans and other pieces of fabric. So, if any of you dear readers have any good fabric that is needing a home, be it a pair of curtains, jeans or other fabric, do get in touch with either Eileen, Lesley or Faith to make arrangements for dropping it off. Phone 07468 101418 or fill in the form on the website.
The sessions take place at Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre – chosen for its location in the middle of a housing area, as well as its cosy and community-spirited atmosphere. There is a café in the Centre and local people pop in for a coffee and cake. A number of the current members of the sewing group had come to the café, spotted that something was happening in one of the community rooms, had a peek to see what Eileen and Lesley were up to and they are now regulars. The ranks of sewers have increased but there is always room for more, and people are welcome to help with the making of the aprons, tabards and bags or do their own thing: one member, Pat, had knitted an almost-life-size otter for Lesley’s daughter’s birthday and, at the moment, she is knitting a beaver.
All are welcome to join in on the Monday afternoon session, 13:00-15:00 or on Thursday mornings 10:00-12:00 at Oxgangs