Spectrum for 22 June 2014

From Spectrum, 12:05 pm on 22 June 2014

Twelve women, mainly from Taranaki, trekked for three days through Nepal's mountain passes. They were accompanied by Sherpa porters carrying 10 sewing machines, haberdashery, fabric, threads, elastic and needles.

Calling themselves 'Stitches for Britches', and building on the example set by Sir Edmund Hillary who helped the Sherpas help themselves, the intrepid team taught local village women new sewing skills.

Gallery: Stitches for Britches

Sewing The Stitches for Britches team from left Sally Masson Julie Owen Elle Bray Marie Grace Robin Drake Isobel Rose Kathy Farley Rachel McKean
The Stitches for Britches team. (from left) Sally Masson, Julie Owen, Elle Bray, Marie Grace, Robin Drake, Isobel Rose, Kathy Farley, Rachel McKean.

The trekkers, aged from 50 to mid-70s, trained on Mount Taranaki before they took on the roof of the world and trekked through mountain passes to Kharikhola.

Sewing on way Sherpa
(Left) On the way to Kharikhola village. (Right) A Sherpa porter takes a breather.                                           

‘Stitches for Britches’ founder, Robin Drake, is an interior designer with a background in textiles, while Rachel McKean is a professional sewing teacher. They ran a workshop for ‘Stitches for Britches’ members before the team left New Zealand.

Sewing The workshops get underway all welcome
It's all go at the workshop - everyone welcome.

During her several visits to Nepal in support of Band Aid Box, which brings medical aid to Kharikhola,‘Stitches for Britches’ founder, Robin Drake, saw a need to bring practical skills to the villagers.

‘The people survive at a subsistence level’ she says, ‘they have knitted garments for the upper body but little for the bottom half.’

So the workshops concentrated on teaching the women how to sew trackpants – a simple garment, easy to sew – with a few bonus beanies thrown in.

Sewing Finished pants
Finished trackpants, bright colours preferred, pink is the favourite.

By providing practical skills the programme aims to be sustainable and benefit the whole community over time. The hope is that as their proficiency improves, the villagers will develop a cottage industry.

Spectrum’s Jack Perkins dropped in on a gathering of ‘Stitches for Britches’, as they celebrated the already-established success of the trip.