Sewing for Social Change

I have recently been fortunate enough to attend the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts (FOPA) in Honiara, Solomon Islands. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a beautiful display of Pacific culture in my Island Home. While I was there, I had the pleasure of presenting my short film “Tide of Change” as part of the FOPA Film Festival. “Tide of Change” is a film that documents the rising sea levels in Lilisiana village, Malaita, where my family live. It was such an overwhelming experience to screen the film in the Solomons in public for the first time with family present. The film has screened around the world but this was by far the most important screening.

Solomon Islands Delegation at FoPA © Pretty WAK 2012.

Afterwards, I took donations from a very generous audience, for our small group called Pacific Community Partnerships (PCP) – we set up in 2009 and we are just a small group of friends and family who set out to help the Lilisiana community where possible (PCP FB Page). I was very grateful to be able to raise enough money to buy a sewing machine for the Fui Geli Asi Women’s Association in the village. Fui Geli Asi (women by the sea) was also set up in 2009 and so far we have worked with them to run the Helpim Lilisiana Project and also get funds for three water tanks through AusAid. All projects ideas have come directly from consulting with community and address the needs voiced by the people of Lilisiana.

Sewing Demonstration in Lilisiana Village. © Pretty WAK 2012.

The sewing machine is a new (old style) Singer hand sewing machine and it’s purrrrrrrrrs like a kitten! The women were very excited to receive it and had also done a bit of their own fundraising to contribute to the cost of fabric etc. This sewing machine is really a bit of a lifeline. Lilisiana is a very large overcrowded village, with no space for gardens so most people rely on cash to buy food from the market. Most people are unemployed and rely on fishing for income, but this can be very hard and unreliable in bad weather (the decline in fish from overfishing by big overseas companies doesn’t help either). So the idea behind the sewing machine is that it can be used by the Fui Geli Asi Women to make bags and garments to sell at the local Auki market and in turn bring in a bit of income for them and their families.

I never imagined that I would be sharing my Pretty WAK bag designs in the village but I was so happy to do so and wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before! My Aunties and Cousins looked on with curiosity as I demonstrated how to make a ‘Pretty Wak Tote Bag’ and a ‘Pretty Wak Messenger Bag’. Then some of them had a go and made the first of what we hope will be many. We also got out the crochet hooks (many of the women are very skilled in this area and just needed the wool and the hook to get going). Inspired by the wonderful Sistas Savve project in Honiara, we also tried crocheting with recycled plastic bags.

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If you would like to help the Fui Geli Asi Women’s Association to continue with their new sewing & craft endeavors you can send fabric and wool donations of any size, colour, amount directly to: Fui Geli Asi Women’s Association, PO Box 193, Auki, Malaita Provence, Solomon Islands. (Just email: so I can give them a heads up to look out for a parcel). Any support is much appreciated!

Before I go, I am going to end with a little plug. To celebrate being back online I am offering a 10% discount storewide in the Pretty WAK online online store until 30 July 2012…. CLICK HERE to browse before you shop.