The description of the workshop on The Makehouse website gives fair warning: “making knickers is highly addictive!” But, not deterred by the apparent danger of becoming an underwear-stitching junkie, I signed up for the three-hour activity.
I hadn’t touched a sewing machine in about 10 years, and I doubted that I had the proper skills. But, as The Makehouse owner Jennifer Ambrose knows from years of teaching sewing, “a lot of people feel like they can’t. And then when you show them that they can, people get a real buzz from it.”
After creating my own pair of knickers, I felt proud, elated and yes, buzzed. There’s something special about seeing how such an ordinary item of clothing is constructed and then repeating the process yourself. “It’s about tapping in your own creativity, challenging yourself,” Ambrose tells me. And while my first creation is rather prosaic, I can definitely see the creative possibilities.
In the world of fast fashion and big-box stores, the art of making your own clothing (let alone your own underwear) is being lost faster than you can thread a sewing machine. But not for Ambrose: “My parents were both DIY people. My mom did a lot of sewing; all my clothes were homemade or hand-me-downs. I spent a lot of time in her sewing room.”
After a few years designing and selling an eco-fashion label in London, England, Ambrose started giving workshops at The Makery in Bath, a sewing space similar to The Makehouse. “I was really happy with this job. I realized that I really loved being with people,” she says. When The Makery started giving workshops for kids and teenagers, Ambrose felt right at home: “It’s amazing spending your time with creative children, helping them learn to sew and seeing their ideas come to life. It’s so much fun to work with kids.”
After moving to Victoria, Jennifer decided to open her own Makery-inspired workshop: “I wanted to create my own version of the place where I was so happy.” When she got her hands on the current Makehouse space (833 ½ Fort), she received help from the Victoria community in the form of free furniture, yards of fabric, hundreds of vintage patterns, feathers, buttons, lace and other knick-knacks.
“I had to give away a lot of stuff when I left England, and it’s come back tenfold … Everything I have ever loved or learned is combined in this space. This is my dream job and I can’t believe I get to do this.”
Since last October, The Makehouse has expanded its workshop offerings to include activities such as painting, needle felting and even making your own fascinators. But Ambrose is especially excited about some new activities for the summer: the DIY Wedding workshops in June and the weekly creative summer camps for kids in July.
The DIY Wedding workshops will give future brides the possibility to plan and fabricate their own wedding items for “The Paper”, “The Look”, “The Details” and “The Memories.”
“I think people spend unnecessary money on weddings,” Ambrose explains, and these workshops are meant to save brides hundreds of dollars on things they can make themselves.
In July, The Makehouse will offer four-day creative camps for kids and teenagers between nine and 14 years old. They will learn sewing, painting and other creative techniques to fabricate things based on themes such as eco-fashion, “By the Sea”, dolls and puppets, music and dance. M
By Anabelle Fournier