We grow, we learn, we try not to sweat the small stuff!

Anyone with zero experience trying to launch a project from scratch, especially one in a resource-poor country in deep recession, is going to have moments that just feel like one step forwards and two steps back. I have to give a shout out to Julia Gomachas and Amory Tjipepa, who have been more than patient as we debated ideas, created prototypes, and – often – went back to the drawing board on the way to developing viable product lines. Eventually, they managed to create a little upcycled bag that fits into a tiny sack in your handbag or pocket when not in use – because we all forget to take our full-scale ‘Sew Good’ reusable shopping bag to the store from time to time and only remember we need one when we realise we are going to be charged for a plastic carrier bag just to hold a carton of milk.

They also have been hard at work experimenting with making net and organza drawstring bags that can be used to hold loose fruit and vegetables at the store weighing station – thus reducing the amount of plastic packaging you are forced to take home with you.

And I have been putting my long-dormant domestic-science class skills to use to make little applique felt birds that will be added to all the bags we sell soon at the Namibia Bird Club stall at the craft market at The Shed (19/20 October).

It’s important that we mention the support we have received today from two new donors too: the MammadĂș Welcome Center arranged for us to collect a large selection of buttons, fabrics, ribbons and other sewing supplies (as well as three sewing machines that they no longer need) from their beautiful premises in Otjomuise, Katutura. We are very thankful for the support of this amazing organisation, which is doing such good work for the children in its care: https://www.mammadu.org/?lang=en.

Promotional billboard banners are not easy to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner in Namibia and ‘Sew Good’ is exploring options to turn them into an exciting new product soon. We are grateful to Grace and Michael of Gecko Signs, in Windhoek, who were generous enough to give us one of their old banners to experiment with: ttps://www.geckosignsnamibia.com/about

‘Sew Good’ has its first showcase

Julia Gomachas prepares the display of ‘Sew Good’ products for the IWAN event

Yesterday was the first time that ‘Sew Good’ has had an opportunity to showcase the items made by the three women now upcycling donated fabric into household items. The International Women’s Association Namibia (http://iwan.com.na/) very kindly invited us to exhibit examples of the project’s current products at their coffee morning in Windhoek and a number of shopping bags (to replace single-use non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags) and sets of net sacks (for purchases of loose fruit and vegetables) were bought. We also took some orders, engaged in valuable networking, and received some great ideas for future lines.

It’s interesting to see that while we have received a great deal of interest in our Facebook page, this hasn’t really translated into sales yet. It seems to be the case that when people can see the quality of the goods made by Julia, Amory and Margrieta in person, and talk to someone directly involved – that’s when the human connection is made and people really want to support the group.

With that in mind, we will now be focusing on making items with a ‘birdy’ theme since the Namibia Bird Club (https://www.namibiabirdclub.org/) has generously allowed us space on their stall at the forthcoming craft market at The Shed, outside Windhoek (19th and 20th October, https://www.facebook.com/TheShed9000).

Small steps and the bigger picture

The first ‘Good for Namibia’ project – the ‘Sew Good’ women’s group, embodies the grassroots approach in three ways. Firstly, it addresses the need for the most disadvantaged members of our community – often those most affected by environmental degradation, climate change, and other linked issues – to increase their incomes; learn useful entrepreneurial skills; and plan for the future through a sustainable business model.Secondly, the items created by the group (and by others I hope to assist in the future) are made in Namibia from locally available recycled materials. Therefore the profits remain within the communities that make the products and the transportation costs (actual, and in terms of the negative impacts of fossil fuel-use and pollution) are kept to a minimum. Lastly, of course, by upcycling waste the projects will contribute towards reducing pollution in our country and beyond.

This waste – primarily plastic bottles and fast-food containers – was photographed in Windhoek last week. It has collected in a rainwater channel and will block the drainage eventually, when – as we all fervently wish – it rains in a few weeks. The flooding that will then ensue as the flow backs up will inundate housing upstream, often in areas where newer, low cost housing has been constructed and informal settlements proliferate.

Local activism plays a role in advancing the goals of the global environmental movement too and so it is gratifying to see that Windhoek will host its first organised march against climate change at the end of this week. https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Environmental-Conservation-Organization/Friday-For-Future-Windhoek-102120687805024/

‘Sew Good’ expands its product lines

The ‘Sew Good’ project has a new member, who will be focusing on hand-sewing patchwork blocks in order to expand the range of products the group can offer. Ms Amory Tjipepa works in the security control room of an estate outside Windhoek and has plenty of time on her hands to make up these items from strips of contrasting furnishing fabric while she is on duty. Clients will be able to then have the finished squares made into cushions, quilts and pet beds.

‘Sew Good’ makes its first sale!

After carpet bombing friends and family with the link to this blog yesterday night, this morning I can announce that ‘Sew Good’ has made its VERY FIRST SALE. Many thanks go out to Ms Uschi Bauer, a keen birder, who bought a reusable shopping bag made from material with a design of birds. I hope to be able to deliver it to her shortly and that she gets many years of use from it.

‘Sew Good’s’ group of supporters grows

Today I was excited to swing by Windhoek to collect two large and welcome donations from new supporters.

Mrs Gertrude Piek of the Namibia Bird Club (https://www.namibiabirdclub.org/) kindly handed over a large quantity of cotton material, some of which may be of use to a group member who is skilled at quilting. She also supplied a lot of wooden beads, which I had been unable to find on sale in any local shops.

Our very own Safari Court Hotel (https://www.safarihotelsnamibia.com/safari-court-hotel/) also stepped up and contributed old plain cotton sheets that can be used to line bags, thus ensuring that the ‘Sew Good’ group does not have to purchase this essential item from their income.

Our first project: ‘Sew Good’ gets us up and running

‘Sew Good’ received its first donation of fabric swatches and wallpaper samples from ‘Touch of Style’ in mid-June 2019. https://www.facebook.com/touchofstyleinteriordecor/

Many thanks indeed to Annette, Nicky and the team.

‘Sew Good’ is a Windhoek-based pilot enterprise that will be soft launched this weekend (22/23 June 2019). Using fabric and wallpaper donations from interior design shops in the Namibian capital, three women will be able to start supplementing their household incomes by making up shopping bags, patchwork tote bags, fabric containers for a range of gifts, and Bible covers – all reusable and made from discontinued shop stock that would otherwise go to waste. Thanks go to Merryl Butcher who first suggested this idea many months ago.

‘Sew Good’ artisans are also able to make other fabric items to order and are developing product lines to utilise the waste wallpaper samples in their stock. To find out more about ‘Sew Good’ and request a quotation, please contact Julia Gomachas on: 081 2073156 or SewGoodNamibia@gmail.com

(Profiles of the three founder members of ‘Sew Good’ to follow!)