Connections through Sewing Boomerang Bags

Connections through Sewing Boomerang Bags

The Northwest Territories Literacy Council (NWTLC) has a new project. Participants in our Community Connections program for newcomers to Canada are sewing Boomerang Bags. Boomerang Bags are cloth shopping bags made from repurposed fabric. The idea originated in Australia when a grocery store clerk started a conversation about plastic, particularly about plastic shopping bags.

Boomerang Bags, the organization, began with the goal of reducing the use of plastic bags. It started “a movement towards shifting society’s throw-away mentality to a more sustainable revolution of repurposing and re-use!” The initiative has spread enthusiastically to over 1100 communities worldwide and saved hundreds of thousands of plastic bags from landfill. As well, it has inspired behaviour change that extends to other single-use plastics and to promoting sustainable living.

Following this idea, the NWTLC received a Waste Reduction Grant from the Government of the Northwest Territories that allowed us to purchase sewing machines and other supplies. For several months now, participants in the project have met weekly to create bags. The quilting community and other supporters donated much of the fabric we use, and a local seamstress taught the group how to cut and sew the fabric and how to use the machines. Participants began by making pillowcases and pajama pants to practice their skills.

The participants work together cutting fabric, pinning, sewing, and ironing. They share tasks according to their comfort and skill levels. Over the course of a two-to-three-hour session, people chat with each other in English to improve their English skills. Consequently, they have learned a whole new vocabulary. Sometimes the conversation is sewing-related; but often participants chat about their lives and their children and make connections across cultures. 

People are interested in not only continuing the Boomerang Bag project but extending it so that they can learn more sewing skills. It would be possible, for example, for people to bring in sewing projects from home once-a-month and work on those.

We are proud of how successful this project is: the immeasurable social impacts of the conversations, the connections, the new friendships, as well as the new skills that people have developed. We look forward to making this a permanent program.

- Karen Johnson, Community Connections Coordinator



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