Gaye Naismith is a sewing teacher, a stitcher, and a maker of garments, homewares and art. Her approach focuses on re-purposing second-hand and remnant materials. She is commited to sustainable, ethical and local production. Since 2013 Gaye has taught workshops and courses in sustainable sewing, upcycling and mending from her Footscray studio and in venues across Melbourne.
Read on for some insights about Gaye’s background, her inspirations and the sewing methods she loves to teach.
What are your earliest memories of textiles and sewing?
My grandmother and aunty always had knitting and crocheting on the go and made things for the extended family from exquisite baby knits to socks, cardis and jumpers. Living in the cold deep south of New Zealand, hand knits were obligatory. My Mum sewed lots of matching outfits for me and my two sisters when we were little, but as soon as she could see that we were beginning to get the hang of using the machine ourselves, she pretty much abandoned sewing for ever! My sisters and I were all mad keen on making clothes and when I was around 9 years old my grandparents bought three second-hand sewing machines— one for each of us– to avoid any more squabbling over who got time on my Mum’s Singer. As a teenager most of my friend’s were also pretty much obsessed with making clothes, most Friday nights we hung out at the fabric store where my friend Trish worked and always left with a few different fabric options for that week’s project. I also remember making more than one pair of ugg boots from scratch!
Why is the handmade important to you personally?
I like wearing, using and appreciating things that embody the skills, efforts and creativity of the people that made them. As well as enjoying the visible qualities of handmade pieces, I like that they bring to mind thoughts of the maker, especially when that person is someone I know. When it’s a piece i’ve handmade myself, I often think of the making process, the place and the time in which it was created. I believe that we tend to cherish beautifully made, hand crafted things more deeply than manufactured items because of the connections and memories they evoke.
Explain your take on hand sewing versus machine sewing…
Domestic sewing, couture dressmaking and tailoring alike have always required skill in both hand and machine sewing techniques, so they are complementary approaches. What I enjoy about hand making garments is that it liberates me from being plugged into the sewing machine in a specific environment (the kitchen table, sewing room or studio). Hand sewing has the same benefits as knitting and crocheting— you can do it anywhere anytime, it doesn’t always require your full attention, you don’t need electricity to do it and it can be quite mediative (when things are going well!).
How do you incorporate recycling, upcycling and material consciousness into your practice?
A sustainable approach to making is central to my practice and my teaching, both from an ethical and an aesthetic standpoint. For the past 8 years, upcycled, felted wool knitwear has been the primary material I have used to create homewares and accessories for my Gaye Abandon range. Of course, like any sewist, I swoon over the beautiful cottons, silks and linens that can be found in Melbourne’s best fabric stores, but pre-existing garments, such as men’s shirts, are also an excellent source of quality material. Luckily I live less than a minutes walk from a Savers so i’m always on the prowl for interesting second-hand textiles.
About Gaye Abandon
Gaye Abandon is a small-scale, textile based label run by designer/maker Gaye Naismith, producing one-of-a-kind and limited edition handmade homewares and accessories from felted jumpers and other upcycled textiles. Gaye also creates wall pieces and other textile based artworks
Handmade in Melbourne since 2005, most Gaye Abandon products are exclusive to our online store and can be shipped worldwide. Recently Gaye has begun offering workshops in hand and machine stitching, mending and textile upcycling from the Gaye Abandon workroom in Footscray.