Prince Charles – Sustainable Fashion Range. I saw a piece about this on TV this morning and whilst I applaud the ethos of his rally against throwaway fashion and the fact that the range was hand made by students from the Modern Artisan project I was more interested in Sewing Bee’s Patrick Grant comments. He noted that over the years we have lost the basic sewing skills that our grand-parents would have taken for granted, and I know from personal experience that the school system has a lot to answer for in that.

I was at secondary school in the 1960’s and I had a brilliant needlework teacher. The thing that has been a lasting asset to me all my life was that one of the projects was to make a garment from start to finish. We went through the whole process – buying the fabric and pattern, cutting out, making and finishing. They are skills that I have been using ever since. I also had another wonderful teacher at another school who taught crafts – from pillow lacemaking to embroidery and toymaking. We had a go at all sorts and again that grounding has stayed with me.

However, when my four daughters were at secondary school they were taught “theory” and the most basic of skills. I have to say they have learnt more from me than they ever learnt at school. I believe this omission in the education curriculum helped fuel the “throwaway” society, especially where clothes were concerned. And as for repairing anything!!! (My Grandma would be horrified – she was from the ‘Make Do & Mend’ era.)

I feel it became ‘un-cool’ to do crafts plus there was the work ethic that came with technology – you were expected to be on call 24/7 so people just didn’t have the time or the energy to learn or pursue craft-based pursuits.

Thankfully that is changing with grateful thanks to TV programs and books like Kirstie, Sewing Bee, Pottery Throwdown, Repair Shop etc. etc. and selling channels that also have designers who show you how to do things. And whilst I would give anything for no COVID, it has given us a break from the frantic world we lived in and some of that time has been given to the learning or pursing crafts.

The skills I learnt at school has meant that I have enjoyed many decades of making clothes for me and my children and grand-children, practicing the art of English Smocking and giving talks about its History, doing cross stitch, making soft toys, (basic) painting, teaching Smocking…….

I just hope the movement for eliminating waste and sustainability for our planet can be aligned with learning lost skills that have supported mankind so well in the past.

Heather Flint – Seamstress & Artisan (Norfolk, UK)

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