Kindred Clothing Online is a powerful story of success in the face of lockdown – Caroline Lindsay finds out more about this inspiring project.
Front Lounge, a Dundee charity that empowers people from disadvantaged backgrounds, has a wonderful story of brilliant lockdown success to tell.
The charity’s Kindred Clothing project teaches young parents to make their own clothes, or clothes for their child, and, before lockdown, they were about to launch the pilot course with the aim of gaining an official SQA accredited qualification at the end of it.
The course is designed to take learners through the key stages of the garment production process, including setting up and using a sewing machine, garment construction, pattern making, mood boards, using a costing sheet, plus practical fashion photography and learning how to professionally present themselves, their stories and their clothes.
Each element of the course is delivered by an experienced maker and learners build up portfolios documenting all the things they have learnt.
To gain the qualification learners must complete all the necessary assessments, complete the mandated number of hours, and present a portfolio of their work at the end of the course.
“Kindred Clothing is currently aimed at young parents because it emerged from Bringing Up Baby (BUBS), an informal support group for young parents and their children,” explains project leader Chika Inatimi.
“What makes Kindred Clothing unique is that it has childcare built into every aspect of it, allowing parents with young children to get involved.”
Before it was called Kindred Clothing, it was called DIY Family Fashion, and was run by the talented Alice Stuart.
“The very first block took place in Autumn 2017, a BUBS Halloween themed block in which all the families created Halloween costumes for their children,” says Chika.
“It was a fantastic start that convinced us there was something potent in learning how to make clothes. We were then subsequently shortlisted for the Big Lottery’s People’s Projects and, as part of the media training to develop our pitch, a new name was found in early 2018.
“The name Kindred Clothing was chosen because it evokes the idea that family is at the centre of all the activities we do – both parent and child are actively involved, which is a key feature of the project – and it intimates we are somehow connected – kindred – via our passion for making clothes,” he continues, before revealing they were announced as winners of the North East region.
The project was held in The Workshop in Dundee’s Hilltown and everything was going swimmingly – until lockdown.
“We were always going to run a summer Kindred Clothing pilot this summer,” says Chika.
“We were planning on testing out recruitment protocols, our learning assessment framework, and the bespoke learning management system designed from scratch specifically for Kindred Clothing learners.
“Lockdown and the coronavirus crisis completely changed everything.
“It became very apparent very quickly that we had to respond to the crisis directly. Doing nothing was not an option: we absolutely had to provide something constructive and creative to do during what has been a very difficult time for many of the folk who are part of the Front Lounge family,” he continues.
“We soon decided to create the Kindred Clothing online course based on much of the content we had developed for SQA approval.
“The main challenge has been overcoming the logistical hurdles of creating an online course from a course designed for in person delivery. We went into overdrive and somehow devised a way of doing it.
“We bought every learner a sewing machine; we bought computers so everyone who didn’t have one could access the online content and participate in regular online tutorials; we created sewing packs full of all the materials and sewing essentials each learner would need to complete the making task; we made instructional films to accompany the online course content; and we got the online learning management system up and running, which was a major feat all on its own.
“Finally we invited 10 learners to take part in the very first Kindred Clothing course delivered online.
“The greatest achievement though was how well and how deeply the learners engaged with the course, successfully producing designs, motifs and midi dresses by the end of the pilot! We are so proud of all they managed to get done often in the face of very stiff headwinds.
“Kindred Clothing Online delivered throughout June 2020 is such a powerful lockdown story.”
Amy Yancouskie used to volunteer with Chika at Kindred Clothing as a play leader, looking after the children while the mums were sewing.
“Chika got in touch about the lockdown project to say he’d got it up and running online and I thought it looked interesting,” says Amy, 22, who lives in Blairgowrie.
“My partner and I run a business and with two kids – Mason, four, and five-month-old Parker – things are pretty full on. So it was good having something I could accomplish that was for me, a completely new experience that was for me, not the kids or the business.
“A box of equipment and a sewing machine were delivered to the house and we all joined up on Zoom, with Samantha Paton from Dundee-based fashion brand Isolated Heroes running the session.
“It was a great experience and I’ll definitely be back.”
Kayleigh Mitchell from Dundee is another young mum who has benefited from the Kindred Clothing project.
“It’s good working with mums the same age as me and that you can take your kids along as well,” says the 21-year-old, who took to the online course like a duck to water.
“It’s very different learning from home but I liked it better as I was going through a challenging time,” she reveals.
As well as a T-shirt and T-shirt dresses, Kayleigh has also made dungarees for her little boy, Jamie Lafferty, who’s almost two.
“I like that you have an end product to show what you’ve achieved,” she smiles, before revealing that she hopes in the future to help get new mums involved.
Twenty-year-old Cerrys Duke, also from Dundee, has always been artistic and was looking for something new to learn that would encourage her creativity.
“I’ve made aprons for kids and matching dresses for me and my daughter Layla, three,” says Cerrys. “It was a bit tricky at first as I wasn’t used to a sewing machine but I just got on with it.
“I loved seeing my finished item at the end of the project but, although found it easier at home because everyone had their own machines, I missed the company of the other mums.”
Chika and the team are also gearing up to run a second online pilot course.
“This pilot will focus more on assessment and verification of learning, and help the learners build up their portfolios so that they will be ready to receive the Kindred Clothing Award once it has been ratified by SQA. We are waiting to hear back from SQA ready to do any additional work required to secure formal accreditation.
“Finally, we need to find the necessary resources to keep this amazing, life transforming opportunity running.
“By early 2021 we hope to recruit a new cohort of learners and take the whole Kindred Clothing experience to the next level.”