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Upcycling cushions – a real team effort!

5 Jun 23
Getting the sewing machines involved!

It sounded simple – some new cushions for the library window seat. It took more time, effort and perseverance than expected, but here’s the story of how we all mucked in, shared skills, and had a lot of fun along the way to get the job done…

The problem

The red velvet cushions in the library window seat had become old, faded, and in need of repair. We considered if they could be rescued, however they were rotting in places and had been around for many long years.

The vision!

The Aesthetic Committee Beautiful Salisbury agreed we would make some fresh cushions, using upcycled materials, to bring the window seat up to date.

Bumps in the road

We wanted to consider solutions that were more sustainable than simply purchasing foam. An offer of caravan cushions would have meant an 80 mile round-trip… we were stuck before we had begun.

Then Trustee Cathie Wright had an inspired suggestion: we could upcycle old duvets which we already had in the attic, saving them from landfill and giving them a new lease of life! Finally we were all in agreement with a low-cost sustainable solution!

We had planned to work with Remode to run a community upcycling workshop. Unfortunately we struggled to find a date that would work as they were so busy. Then the fabric initially sourced wasn’t right for the size of the cushions and needed to be returned.

We struggled to find a way to keep things moving. Time wore on, patience wore thin, and there was a desire to just get on with it!

How we got there

Eventually Cathie offered to lead the process herself and things fell into place. We swapped the fabric for something  more hard-wearing, purchased threads and needles and dusted off the sewing machines.  The date was set, we thought a half-day would do the trick!

We carefully measured our pattern and got going, and were very motivated after our first session. Eventually it was clear we would need multiple sessions and to involve more people.

A cross-section of staff, trustees and volunteers who were shown the method for cutting out, sewing together duvets, and making liners and covers using The Centre’s sewing machines (purchased as part of the Living Lighter project).

“Measure twice, cut once!” was an important consideration as we didn’t have access to more of the precious outer fabric if we got it wrong!

Cutting out old duvets The team cutting and sewingTrying out the covers

The results

Having begun the process half way through the pandemic, it took almost 2 years from vision to the cushions being in place in April 2023. At times this was frustrating and we felt mired in the decision making process, but once we got going we really enjoyed the sense of achievement from making the cushions ourselves, from upcycled materials, and learning some new skills along the way.

Spurred on by this success, we went on to run a series of upcycling workshops funded by Thrive as part of the Coorie in for Winter programme, in which Cathie taught people how to make draught excluders from materials that would otherwise go to waste.

We hope you join us in admiring the finished cushions in place in the library window seat – hopefully for many years to come!

What we learned

“Sustainable refurbishing, whether a kitchen or cushions requires careful thought and exploration. It is not always possible to reuse, sometimes it is necessary to buy new and professionally installed equipment or furnishings. There is always balancing act between the ideal and the possible and the cost effective. However the exploration in itself is immensely valuable and thought provoking, and has led to new ways of working in the Centre, and undoubtably prevented stuff going into landfill. and taught us to be more imaginative and resourceful.”

– Cathie Wright, Trustee

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