Partnership with St Petrock’s Homelessness charity
Devon Community Foundation’s Thrive for Five funding scheme is enabling a distinctive new partnership between Significant Seams and St Petrock’s Homelessness Charity and their Circular Economy Hub at 19 Paris Street, Exeter. Significant Seams will be working with St Petrocks, its volunteers, and others interested in environmental, mental health, and community building initiatives to patchwork a creative response to these complicated issues of modern life, with some sewing, tea and biscuits, and intentional connection making.
In February, three Crediton young people volunteered for a day at St Petrock’s, alongside Catherine West, Significant Seams Director. At the end of the day, the young people donated sample ‘Freestyle Patchwork’ bags. On Friday 6 May, Catherine West will lead a workshop at St Petrocks to teach paying participants the distinctive approach as part of Cygnet Theatre’s Dream Festival. Customer’s £40 booking fee for the 5-hour workshop will be donated to St Petrocks.
West’s ‘Freestyle Patchwork’ approach is created from the presumption of using ‘excess’ clothing. Textiles are a major contributor to the environmental crisis. The UK has the dubious distinction of being the fourth largest textile waste producer in Europe: UK ‘Fast Fashion’ creates 92 M tonnes of textile waste a year. 35% of microplastics in the oceans are attributable to the textile industry. Textile production contributes 10% of global emissions and uses massive amounts of fresh water. Further, textiles are relatively hard to recycle: the processes are complex, expensive, and resource-intensive. To recycle fabric the colour must be stripped out, a further polluting process that can degrade the qualities of fibres, reducing their potential uses. Overconsumption also means the volumes available for recycling far outstrip the current markets for recycled end-products. The scale of the challenges can lead to a sense of ‘I’m-alone-against-the-world,’ eco-anxiety and grief for those attempting to counter the problems.
A pilot session with St Petrocks demonstrated some of the complexities on a micro scale, making the complexities tangible to participants. Tables were heaped with donations left over after being sorted for 1)potential use for homeless clients 2) immediate sale in the shop and 3) storage for future season-appropriate sale in the shop. Even before the daily delivery of a van load of further donations backs up to the shop door, what remains is substantial – and a waste management problem heaped on a charity trying to raise funds to do good. After our processing of garments, there are sorted piles of more usable fabrics that need storing until transformed into something new and presumed saleable.
In the session, conversation meandered but unavoidably explored waste, what might be done, what can we do, what might people buy, and how the fabrics in front of them make them feel. The group has the view that a good start could be turning some of the fabric into scrap bundles, for craft projects, and further, making patchwork fabric that could be bought off the roll for patchwork clothing and projects. The space and tools needed for this were bantered about for a while, as well as ways to amass what would be needed. Participants say they would be keen to help, but they would need guidance, clear instructions, and suitable equipment. This is how the partnership between Significant Seams and St Petrock’s emerged.The St Petrocks team are keen to host and help, and in fact have started a monthly self-directed group known as the Petrock Patchers, but the staff have their hands full with raising funds for and directly supporting the homeless and housing vulnerable of Exeter.
West, and St Petrock’s Communication manager, Lucy Patrick, took the story to the teens of Significant Seams pilot ‘Craftivism Club.’ The young people showed incredible sensitivity to the issues of insecure housing and environmental degradation – and fabulous enthusiasm for testing out West’s draft instructions for bag making.
Participants in the 6 May workshop and Petrock Patchers will be receiving the pattern for free. Others will be able to purchase the pattern with a ‘Significant Seams strengthening the seams of community with St Petrocks’ label to insert into the seams of their homemade bag. Keen makers are also encouraged to donate patchwork totes to St Petrocks for purchase by the less crafty-inclined. The pattern with the label will be available at St Petrock’s and via the Significant Seams online Etsy shop.
Book online via Eventbrite, or in St Petrock’s Charity Shop at 19 Paris Street Exeter.