In a nutshell – it is incredibly rewarding getting together with a group of people to make something out of nothing. Here are some hints and tips to help you set up a local crafting or upcycling group.
I fell in love with the idea of making Morsbags last month. They are sturdy fabric bags made by volunteers from scrap material and they have to be given away, they cannot be sold. They are a great alternative to plastic bags. The Morsbag concept ticks a lot of boxes for me. I like making things, I like saving decent fabric from landfill and I really like giving things to strangers. There are thousands of groups of people all over the world making Morsbags and each group is called a pod. We have a couple in Bristol already but none in the centre where I live.
This article is about how I set up a new Morsbag pod but the process could be the same to start up any other local crafting group.
Gauge the interest level
A quick and easy way to get an idea of how many other people want to join in is to ask on Facebook. Ask your friends to ask their friends, set up a poll on a local buy and sell group if you are allowed, or make a community group and share it. Facebook change the way they do things all the time so I’m not going to give instructions to set up a group. At the moment if you go to one of your groups you should see a section encouraging you to create your own group. It talks you through the process and it is very easy.
Facebook groups have 3 options for privacy. Public is open to all. Closed is where everyone can see the group and anyone can ask to join or be added or invited by a member. They have to be approved by admin. Secret is hidden from searches and although anyone can join they have to be added or invited by a member. I chose ‘closed’ as the privacy status of our Facebook group. I want people to be able to see it but I want some control over who gets in. I don’t want people spamming the group.
List what you need to start
Whatever you are intending to do will need materials and equipment. Although it may seem obvious it is a really good idea to list everything you need. It is far too easy to forget basic things; I once turned up to teach sewing without a pair of scissors, which made life very hard indeed.
To make a Morsbag you need:
- A sewing machine
- Spare needles
- A bobbin
- A table or work surface
- The pattern
- Flyers to put in the bag to explain what they are
- Transport for heavy items
To make Morsbags in a group you need a space big enough for people to sew in a group and an electricity supply for each sewing machine.
Break your list into chunks
If it is impossible to have everything you need in a group, all at once, what can you break the list down into? If we didn’t have electricity or sewing machines we could still meet to cut up fabric and all we would need is fabric, scissors and the pattern. If we didn’t have space to cut fabric out, we could still meet up for a nice social coffee to swap material.
Build in an exit strategy
It is possible that you will not want to run your group for the rest of your life. If you can make it easy for the other members to meet up on their own it can keep going without you. Try to have back ups in place, if one person is responsible for bringing fabric and they don’t turn up, you will waste time. If several people are responsible for fabric and even a few don’t turn up you can still keep going. I’ve been really clear from the start that BS5 Baggers is not ‘my group’, it is our group, we share it and we run it together. I want to be able to take time off and I don’t want it to become a chore.
Find a space to meet
This is where we got really lucky. Bristol has an active and brilliant Repair Cafe that meets in 3 locations pretty near to where I live. The Morsbag idea fits in really well with the Repair Cafe ethos and they were happy to have us tag along. We used up one table in the cafe where they meet and sent a few of their customers home happy with new bags. We can use the Repair cafe as a central point to meet and swap fabric, ideas, labels and finished bags to give away. Some members of our group are looking for places where more of us could meet at once but for the moment, small is good. Because we have linked up with an existing group we don’t need to worry about hiring space, we know there will be a table and electricity and people already turn up for the Repair Cafe. They even advertise for us!
If you don’t have a Repair Cafe near you that can help, what else is there? Is there a Stitch ‘n Bitch where you might be able to meet and swap fabric? Do any of your local cafes have craft mornings? Is there a community centre with free space? A pub with a community room? Personally I like my home to be a quiet refuge and having it full of people is my idea of hell, but you might have a member of your group that has space for a few people to sew at once.
Fellow Lagommer Juliette Smart is in Leicester told me that setting up her pod was really easy. She bought labels to use on the bags and put on a call on her local Community Facebook Page for materials and volunteers. They have community buildings that are owned by the council all ready set up for groups to use. She said
“We already had sewing machines etc so didn’t need to buy any. The group meet regularly and do a lot of craft activities now. The other ‘Pod’ in Leicester has been going strong for a number of years and grown and grown so much they have their own space now!”
What needs paying for?
If your group has any costs it is only fair to share them. To start the group off I spent £6 on labels which I’m considering my donation to the cause. I can give out a bunch of labels for a donation and use that money to buy more. We are lucky enough to not have any room hire costs but if you do, make it clear that you are dividing that between the people that meet up.
Whatever reason you are doing this remember it is supposed to be fun. If it turns into a chore, takes over your life or makes you feel like you have too much on then it is fine to take a step back. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer for someone else to set up a local Morsbag Pod. It has been easy, fun and incredibly rewarding!