An avid sewer since childhood, Gaye Naismith has been in the sewing business for most of her life.
She originally made accessories and garments out of partly recycled materials before starting the School of Sewing & Upcycling in 2015 at her former premises in Buckley Street, Footscray.
“I was a self-taught sewer who kind of fell into making things for sale. Then I gradually got out of the handmade business and started teaching full time,” she says. “But all of my businesses have always really focused on sustainability, recycling and upcycling.”
Gaye believes sewing is a fundamental life skill that everybody should learn.
“Sewing offers many ways to develop creatively and sustainably — from fixing what you already have, to creating garments and homewares that tell a story.”
Gaye and her team at the School of Sewing & Upcycling work with beginners through to experts who wish to fine-tune their sewing skills. The class timetable ranges from intensive three-hour workshops that cover sewing machine basics to six-week courses at all levels.
Classes are held in a light-filled upstairs studio in Hyde Street, Footscray filled with sewing machines, overlockers and sewing tools. Students range from young children to eighty-year olds.
When asked why she thought people want to make their own clothes, she answers:
“I think people are really waking up to fast fashion’s impact on the environment. There's also been increasing awareness about the way garment workers are treated around the world. People just don't want to be a part of unethical practices.”
Another reason DIY clothes are coming back into fashion is because people can custom make their clothes.
“People who are into personal style want to build a wardrobe that fits their unique look. They don’t want to be limited by what’s available on the market.”
Gaye also thinks that people simply enjoy doing something hands-on.
“A lot of people work in front of computers all day, and they really want to do something that involves creativity and working with their hands. Learning new skills like sewing is good for the brain! Our students are always really proud of their first projects and leave with a sense of achievement.”
Her plans for the future are to stay close by. The School of Sewing & Upcycling is the only place dedicated to sewing education in Melbourne’s inner west so she feels that her business fills an important need.
“I live in Footscray and I want to keep the school small and to some degree, local,” she says. “My vision is for it to be a friendly and community-minded place and somewhere where I can keep passing on my skills to others.”