Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Don’t ditch it… stitch it

by Anna Perkins

I first started using reclaimed textiles because it was fun. Being creative, transforming something discarded or unattractive into something usable and beautiful is so rewarding.
But over the past 10 years I noticed big changes were happening. The piles of clothing, linen, bags and so forth being thrown away were growing into huge mountains. At the same time, Natural fibres such as cotton and wool were disappearing quickly, being replaced by synthetics.
I started to look deeper at what was happening. The research on fast fashion and textile waste became more readily available and it was clearly demonstrating a huge and growing social and environmental problem.
Our current textile use is unsustainable and its production and associated waste is toxic to both the environment and living beings. The research explained for me what had already become visible in my own backyard.
I was also very concerned about fair wages and conditions for workers in the clothing industry, particularly where production has limited regulations or monitoring. Fast Fashion is not as cheap as it looks when the real costs are counted. The massive Rana Plaza incident which killed 1138 people and injured around 2500 more, really showed us that.
In response, I decided to use my experience and love of working with textiles to:
  • Help raise awareness of the waste and pollution from fast fashion;
  • Demonstrate that reclaiming fabric makes good sense and can be used to make stylish contemporary clothing and other textile items; and
  • Develop the skills in the community to mend, sew and create.
In late 2016, I had started making “Fair Chance Pants”. The aim was to create comfortable everyday lounge pants using reclaimed fabrics from the piles of Canberra textile waste, or ethically produced, environmentally sustainable and fair trade natural fabrics.
As it turned out in 2017, I ended up making all sorts of things, working almost exclusively with textile waste. I just worked with whatever waste materials were available. I started posting regularly on my Fair Chance Pants Facebook and people really liked what I was doing.
I started getting requests for workshops so I developed three creative and fun workshops drawn from my own textile practice. I am running these popular workshops again in 2018. Each workshop uses reclaimed textiles and I use my traditional sewing skills as well as my knowledge of hand stitching techniques from India and Japan. A key focus is on the “boro” mending tradition from Japan with simple sashiko stitching as well as Indian “Kantha” stitch.


With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government