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Sewing group faces closure

Heather Bannister sewing inside ‘Rose Cottage’, where she houses her collection of antique sewing machines and runs sewing workshops. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

Rent the problem for sewing centre

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Nestled in ‘Rose Cottage’ in Masterton’s Queen Elizabeth Park, surrounded by more than 120 working vintage sewing machines, Heather Bannister has been teaching people how to sew – but without a new source of funding to cover rental costs, closure looms.

What began as a home for her collection of antique sewing machines has grown into a vibrant community hub.

“People talk about cottage magic. It’s become so much more,” said Bannister, who runs the Come Sew With Me programme.

Hundreds of people pass through her doors to admire the collection or learn how to sew during the weekday workshop sessions.

Ages range from just four years old to women in their 90s who are well-versed in the vintage machines.

Come Sew with Me launched in December 2017, funded by the Urban Dream Brokerage programme.

However, they have pulled out of the region and application for funding from the Lotteries Commission had not been successful, placing the financial burden on Bannister.

The cost of operating was generally low, limited to power for the stove and lights – sewing supplies are donated and most of the machines are operated by a hand crank.

“We get a lot of fabric donations,” she said.

“The difficulty we have is in paying for the rent.”

The Masterton District Council charges $1000 a month in rent for the park location.

One of the barriers to funding is that Come Sew With Me is not a registered charity.

Bannister said she had explored that option but did not want to lose control of her antique sewing machine collection to a charitable trust.

“I did look at it before but then it would all belong to the charity.”

She had also considered charging her loyal followers but couldn’t bear to turn people away – entry is by koha only.

“The people who need it most are the people who haven’t got the money to pay.

“Men, women and children of all ages and abilities have and continue to benefit from coming to sew with me where they regain self-worth and tap into their creative ability by learning a new craft.”

Bannister said she would be sad to leave the location but could no longer afford to pay the rent alone.

“I’ll stay as long as I can but at the end of the month, I’ll be making some big decisions.”

She invited donations to help with covering rent and offers of help with funding applications.

A Givealittle page has been set up under Come Sew With Me.

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