On 13th September 2022 we turn a whopping 10 years old!

You’re all warmly welcomed to celebrate with us at our birthday party on Sat 17th September.

For each of the ten days running up to our 10th birthday, we thought we’d look back and share a year of our history. Stretch the ol’ memory muscle, why not!

Today, is year 0…

Stitched Up’s six co founders met in 2011, some introduced by mutual friends and others finding each other on Twitter, where we espoused our shared passion for clothing, style and sustainability.

After a year of working together as a collective, we made it official and registered as a co-operative in 2012, with a mission statement that we remain true to to this day. We ran pop-up workshops and clothes swaps across Manchester and beyond, including a very fun weekend of upcycling workshops at Shambala festival.

We 2012 was also the year we decided to find a way to create a permanent space to host our activities. The search for a premises began!

In 2013 we became joint regional Labour Behind the Label coordinators, a group that organised local actions in support of garment workers globally. As part of this role we hosted ‘The race for a living wage’ – an interactive experience at the People’s History Museum to share the reality of life as a garment worker with young visitors, as well as a halloween action on Market Street – Return of the Living Wage.

After a LONG year of looking, while continuing to run pop-up activities across the city, we signed a lease on our first premises in Chorlton in December 2013.

At this point, all six co-founders were working on a voluntary capacity, fitting Stitched Up around work and life.

After a frantic month of painting and building, we excitedly opened the doors to the very first HQ at 517 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, in January 2014.

From this space we started taking donations of surplus, secondhand fabric and selling them on for creative reuse, and sold upcycled clothing and accessories made by talented local designersWe created our first public programme which included workshops like Pass Your Sewing Machine Driving Test and Upcycled Undies, our first Yard Sale and first Clothes Swap at our *own* venue. The programme also included events and talks, crafternoons, a Knit-A-Thon for the Wool Against Weapons campaign and a Mind Craft event celebrating the benefits of craft for mental health, raising funds for Mind.

In April 2015, we had queues around the block for our Fashion Revolution clothes swap and in May, were honoured to host a talk by the inspiring labour activist Kalpona Akter.

A few months later, we moved into a new home – just around the corner. Our new space was more peaceful, being tucked back from the road, and better still was all on ONE LEVEL, meaning no more lugging sewing machines and sacks of fabric up and down the stairs. However, it had no retail space so we could no longer sell upcycled clothing and fabrics.

Instead, we put our energies into our workshops and events programme, adding more great things including pattern cutting and upcycling projects. We continued to travel around Manchester too, running swaps and even dabbling in wearable electronics at some workshops with Madlab!

We spent the end of the year making ‘Scaff Bags’ bags for Unicorn Grocery, upcycled from plastic mesh used to wrap their building during renovations, which were a sell-out success!

In 2016 we created a Stitched Up fashion collection of repaired and reworked clothes, which were shown alongside some amazing sustainable designers at the Big Green Fashion Show.

We started Manchester’s first Repair Cafe in Chorlton and started our love affair with Shibori indigo dyeing with a workshop from the maestro Flora Arbuthnott.

We were commissioned to make some upcycled décor for the wonderful Real Junk Food Project and to transform old event banners into bags for MMU.

A crowdfunding campaign got us a custom bike trailer, made from recycled materials by our long-time friend and collaborator Alfred @ Maker_Of_Things. We used it to spread the joy of upcycling and repair at community events across the city including Envirolution and Trouble At Mill.

In 2017, we celebrated our 5th Birthday party in Chorlton.

We attended the excellent make Do & Mend Expo organised by Dr. Helen Homes at the University of Manchester. It was also the year that we started our online reclaimed fabric shop, exhibited at the Make It Shop Craftivism exhibition, got stuck into shibori in a big way and started our brand new Garment Making Course, facilitated by Sarah who until this point had been a volunteer.

We also supported residents in Hulme to make upcycled flags celebrating 70 years of their estate, took on the Six Items Challenge as a team to raise money for Labour Behind the Label and started working with the brilliant Booth Centre, who we’re very proud to still work with to this day!

In 2018 we had a lovely visit from iCOOP, one of Korea’s consumer co-operatives’ federations, and hosted the first of many Knit Your Own Socks courses.

We took part as a team in the Big Sleepout to raise money for the Booth Centre, and braved the Six Items Challenge for a second year too, in aid of Labour Behind the Label.

We worked on a couple of great projects in 2018 too. The DRESS Project was a collaboration between The Horsfall, MMU Fashion Institute, Wythenshawe Community Housing Group and Stitched Up. We worked with a group of young women from Wythenshawe to generate a creative response to ideas about how society expects women to dress.

With the Booth Centre sewing group, we created a collection of handmade garments featuring embroidery and applique detailing. We held a photoshoot of the collection at HOME, where the resulting photos were displayed.

In 2019 Claire and Emily featured on BBC Radio 5 Live, in a piece titled ‘The women fighting fast fashion waste’. We embarked on a new project, our Bee Well Crafternoons course, a social group for people facing mental health challenges, which has gone on to become a mainstay in our programme.

We also created a collaborative banner to celebrate craft’s benefits for mental health. It was stitched by many hands andnow has pride of place in our Stretford space. This was also the year we held our first Zero to hero, Rag Rug Making and Vajazzle Your Xmas Tree workshops, all of which remain really popular.

We hosted some fun events including making Stop the Arms Fair mini banners, a Big Bike Revival event where we fixed loads of bikes and made upcycled bike accessories and we had the brilliant Action for Equality in the space running their pockets-making workshop – such a great idea!
We also supported Labour Behind the Label’s BooWHo campaign with an information event held at the People’s History Museum.
2020 started off great, with loads of events including a Denim Upcycling Challenge with Uprising, a fabulous clothes swap and The Big Fix – a gathering of all the Manchester Repair Cafes which we hosted in Chorlton. We also started working with the wonderful charity Revive, another of our favourites who we’re still involved with now.

Then… Covid!

After the initial shock, we set up a crowdfunder and loads of our lovely supporters ‘paid forward’ for workshops they’d do after the pandemic. While all our usual activities were put on hold, we created a free covid masks pattern and made masks for keyworkers, and became a collection point for handmade masks made by local sewists to be distrbuted to vulnerable people across Manchester.

We worked on some remote projects, including making craft packs for the Booth Centre sewing group, and create a Chorlton COmmunity Quilt, with each square sewn by a member of the community to reflect something that was helping them through lockdown.

We also used our pause to create lots of clothes repair and upcycling tutorial videos so you could keep reworking your clothes from home, and to make the long-awaited transition to a Community Benefit Society, another type of co-operative which enables our community to join and have a real say in the community benefit we deliver.

In September, we moved into our current home at Stretford Mall, giving us more space and enabling us to resume group activities with the new social distancing measures.
In 2021, Covid continued to cause havoc and we had a turbulent year, continually adapting to the latest guidance. However, as restrictions eased we were over the moon to resume our clothes swaps (hosted in the Northern Quarter and Stretford), our workshops and our 50+ Crafternoons craft for wellbeing courses.

We also started some exciting new projects; 
>> Social Fabric, a get together for local people to reduce social isolation and make upcycled textile items for good causes.
>> Common Thread – an online project working with women who faced multiple disadvantages and barriers to work. We worked with domestic abuse survivors and women who sex work to create some awesome upcycled garments, sending kits and tutorials through the post, with project support over the phone.

>> We became a Care 4 Calais collection point for donations for Afghan refugees arriving into Manchester, and were overwhelmed by your generosity and support.

We also hosted three campaign actions:
>> Two Stitch It Don’t Ditch It events, mending clothes on the high street.
>> Market Street action for the Justice for Jeyasre campaign

In Stretford we:
>> hosted the first of many Quilting course with the wonderful Margaret Styles
>> Exhibitions upstairs including Wandle Wardrobe and COP Twenty Stitch
>> Stitched together a giant quilt that had been made by refugees under the guidance of Ibukun Baldwin for Little Amal’s visit to Manchester.
This year we’re proud to be celebrating a decade of inspiring action on sustainable fashion, supporting communities across Manchester to learn new skills, mend, repair, upcycle, swap, find out more about fast fashion and get involved in campaign actions.

In 2022 so far we have:

>> Started three brand new projects, Walk In Wardrobe – a pop-up interactive sustainable fashion experience for young people, the Kathleen Project, gathering stories about Manchester’s industrial heritage in the voices of those who lived it and a new Repair Cafe in Stretford.

>>  Recruited Gosia, Isabel and Roshaney through the Green Jobs scheme, who’ve given our textile reuse work a real boost, doubling the amount of textiles we diverted from landfill versus last year, and there’s still more of 2022 to come! We’re very sad to be saying goodbye to them at the end of the month.

>> Added two bike trailers and an electric cargo bike to our fleet, enabling us to make almost 100% of our business travel by bike – yep, allll year round!

>> Been awarded the Viable Future Mark by Steady State Manchester and appeared live on Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4.

We have lots of exciting plans for the coming year and beyond – including moving to a more permanent home. If you’d like to get involved in shaping our future plans, consider joining as a member, or volunteering on a variety of projects and activities.
We also have a tenth birthday survey which we’d love you to fill in, to tell us what you think of our work and your thoughts on what we should be focusing on in the future.

Thanks for all your support throughout the last decade, it means the absolute world to us! 

Stitched Up x