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Sip'n'Stitch Community Mending Cafe

As we slide into the New Year and start to look at fresh ideas and new things, I’d like to tell you about a way my students have rekindled their love of the old.

Following Greta Thunberg's example last year, many of my students became concerned about climate change and began looking for ways they could help prevent this. Being second plane children, they are also very concerned with social justice and are quite indignant about the morals of ‘modern slavery’ in the fast fashion industry. We have had many conversations about these issues, and what we can do to make a difference, and we came up with a plan to help our community make the most of the clothing they already have – keeping it out of the landfills and reducing the need to buy more clothing from unscrupulous producers.

We decided we needed to encourage people to mend their damaged textiles so they could love them again. This is something we do as a matter of course in our classroom and we wanted to share our habit with the wider community. So, we opened ‘Sip ‘n’ Stitch Mending Café’ in our classroom. The children went around every class in school to tell them about it and put up posters everywhere they would stick!

Our cafe now runs for an hour (officially, though we never ask overstayers to leave) after school on a Wednesday. The children set up before they leave for the day – laying out essential tools like needles and thread as well as extra bits for inspiration such as books and interesting fabric for patches.

Each week a group of children takes on the responsibility of baking some treats during the work cycle so that we have something yummy to serve our customers. Those who choose to stay for the café serve complimentary food and drinks to our guests and offer mending help to anyone who needs it.

Everyone in our community is welcome to come, though younger children are asked to bring an adult with them. Often children just want to come along to the café but have not planned far enough ahead to have brought something that needs mending. Fortunately, we have other, highly astute children who have recognised this opportunity and brought whole piles of their family’s mending for people to work on, so everyone’s a winner!

One week I got a bit carried away and bought a whole lot of gorgeous patches, which everyone was desperate to use.

I thought this had backfired a bit when I kept hearing things like “Mummy, can I make a hole in my jeans so I can have this patch?” Whoops! The compromise we reached here was that they could sew a patch onto a piece of clothing whether it was damaged or not, as it’s all good practise and makes us love our clothes even more.

The café has been a wonderful experience so far, bringing together families that might not otherwise have met and creating a space to sit and do the small tasks that so easily get pushed aside in our busy lives. We have seen pencil cases, stuffed toys, school bags and all manner of clothing gain a new life in our café.

One parent brought along a sleeping bag she had been making for her baby (now 10years old!) but never finished as she didn’t know how to put in the domes. The café staff were very happy to show her how to use the snap press to complete her project which she planned to gift to a new nephew.

Our cafe was a little slow to get going for the first couple of weeks and it was hard not to find it disheartening but gradually word spread and now we have a bustling crew of regulars who have not only found a new love for old clothes but have developed the skills to look after their textiles for life.

Do you mend things in your environment? Please share any photos and stories of your mending (or any handwork at all, really!) in the Facebook group: Montessori Handwork Threads Also check out my Instagram and Facebook feeds for pictures of all the exciting Handwork going on in our class.

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