Working for UBU means that I get a heads up on a lot of the cool events that we put on throughout the year. A few weeks ago, I heard about a series of free upcyling workshops in collaboration with Cordial and Grace, organised by UBU Get Green as part of showcase month. Having been intrigued by the idea of the sewing cafe ever since I first read about it in Clifton Life, I’d been dying for an excuse to go there, particularly a supervised excuse, as my sewing machine proficiency has been gently declining since I back-stitched the final seam of my bag project in year 10. Granted, it had been a particularly ambitious project involving metres of green netting and a lobster themed purse (sewing around claws are much tricker than you might think), but too much time had passed to feel comfortable letting myself loose in Cordial & Grace’s basement on my own.
So I signed myself up immediately and a couple of Tuesdays ago I rocked up in Clifton with my t-shirt (read: my boyfriend’s t-shirt that I’d managed to convince him he would prefer as an upcycled bag), ready for the workshop. The cafe itself is adorable; coffee and cake upstairs and the most enchanting sewing room downstairs, with all kinds of useful tools and fabrics carefully arranged in pots or hung on the walls. There were only six sewing machines, arranged in pairs, but that was perfect for us and everyone had a sewing machine each.
Our instructor, Oyinda from the Go TopLess campaign, got us started straight away, quickly getting us hacking at our t-shirts (artfully of course); cutting away the neck and the sleeves so it took on bag form. She then went over the basics of using the machines and we were off! As I placed my foot on the pedal revving myself up to sew that first line I suddenly remembered the slightly manic screaming of my home economics teacher as 15 enthusiastic teenagers launched themselves at their machines: ‘We want slow, Sun-day drivers, not boy racers!’. And she was right, I took it slowly and within minutes had a finished bag, with no need to recast the needle, or indeed replace the needle, unlike some particularly boisterous boys in my year 10 class.
With the bags under our belts we were keen to learn more, so Oyinda provided us with some spare RAG Barmy Bar Crawl t-shirts and we set to on cushion covers. Slightly more technical this time, but easy enough nonetheless and definitely very enjoyable. I found the process of turning something old and useless into something new and unique quite therapeutic, and the fiddly, hands-on nature of sewing really allowed me to focus, taking my mind away from sales reporting and range-planning and payroll and what do I need to pick up from the supermarket on my way home? etc. etc. And it wasn’t just me that enjoyed it; one of my colleagues who was also there (and who admitted to having sewn her hand to previous stitching projects several times in the past) was thrilled that she’d successfully made both items without injury, and her cushion is now well-installed in our office.
I left the cafe (a little reluctantly, I must say) with a warm glow, pleased that I’d refreshed my sewing skills whilst promoting sustainability and meeting lovely new people. I also left with more than a slight inclination to raid all the charity shops in Bristol for a sewing machine, but until I’ve scoured the city you’ll find me in Coridal & Grace, gently chugging along in the basement with a green tea and a slice of cake.
As for my bag and cushion cover? I stuffed the cover with some other old t-shirts that were hanging around at work and used it to make my corporate chair slightly more homely. The bag was proudly paraded around in front of my boyfriend, who seemed mildly impressed (read: still not entirely sure he didn’t prefer it as a t-shirt), and is now being used as a washing bag. Fun, free and environmentally-friendly, what more could you want from a Tuesday evening? I finished mine off with fish and chips, just to give it that little extra kick.
Until next time x
Check out Cordial & Grace’s website here to find out more info about the cafe and their sewing classes. You can also find out more about UBU Get Green on their Facebook page here, and the Go TopLess campaign here.