Sew Excited

A time for textiles

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ever since I attempted to make a flannel nightgown as part of a home economics class in junior high school, I’ve been in awe of people who can sew.

While my finished frock looked like something someone in a mental institution might wear instead of a straitjacket—one arm was approximately four inches shorter than the other one, and the longer limb’s elastic wristband was almost cinched too tight to allow a hand to fit through—other students created attractive, wearable works that had me wondering what went wrong with my own creation. 

Decades later, my cutting and stitching abilities haven’t progressed much, meaning you probably won’t find me celebrating National Sewing Month by signing up to be a contestant in Ragfinery’s upcoming “Sewing Rodeo.”

The “upcycle” challenge is helmed by the nonprofit that, since 2014, has diverted more than 743,000 pounds of textiles from the waste stream. The bounty of repurposed fabric will come in handy on Fri., Sept. 22, when teams of two will be given design parameters before embarking on speed-shopping sprees at Ragfinery’s Forest Street headquarters.

After choosing their second-time-around materials, the duos can leave the venue to sketch out plans for their versions of what modern-day cowgirls might wear on the “mean streets” of Bellingham. When they come back Sat., Sept. 23 it will be for a live sewing challenge that will result in finished products that will be shared with the public during a runway show later than afternoon.

“Instead of roping calves and riding broncos, challengers will be cutting and stitching their way to the championship, and we get to watch as they transform raw materials into an upcycled, runway-ready garment,” organizers say.

“If you’re not feeling up to the challenge of competing, you can still come enjoy the show,” they add. “From watching the artists create, to enjoying the culminating runway show, to seeing the awards be presented, there will be plenty of ways to join the fun.”

Ragfinery reps will also be on hand Thurs., Sept. 28 at Western Gallery’s opening reception for “Coded Threads: Textile and Technology,” which includes 14 well-known artists tackling the themed topic via wearable art, gallery installations and public art produced by collaborations with scientists and engineers.

Among the related artist talks, dance performances, program presentations and workshops that will take place at the Western Washington University-based gallery and beyond through late November is a Nov. 2 “Sustainable Textiles and Technology” discussion led by Ragfinery manager Shan Sparling and Stacy Flynn of Evrnu, a Seattle-based recycling startup that transforms textile waste into pristine new fiber.

Early November will also bring another installment of Ragfinery’s “Sewing Bootcamp.” Here, everyone from non-sewers to beginners to those who failed to make worthy flannel nightgowns in junior high can learn different techniques and stitches, get tips on how to care for a sewing machine and learn to upcycle their own clothing. See you there?

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