From Dishes to Dresses: This Sewist Is Transforming Tea Towels for a Good Cause
Sue-Ching Lascelles is a Brisbane-based artist who, like many of us, went through a home sewing kick during lockdown. Combining vintage wedding dress, nightgown and clown costume (!) patterns with vibrant colours and prints, she creates wondrous wares that are works of art in their own right.
One particular project, a voluminous tent dress made of vintage tea towels, garnered a particularly positive reception online, which inspired Sue-Ching to go a step further. Partnering with four Australian designers/tea towel purveyors, she launched the Close To My Heart project; an online auction of five unique handmade tea towel gowns to raise money for asylum seekers and the women of Afghanistan.
Ahead of the auction and to learn a little bit about the project’s inspiration, we caught up with Sue-Ching to find out more…
What is the #CloseToMyHeartProject?
I created the Close To My Heart project as a way to use my sewing superpowers to give something back to the world! I’ve made five one-of-a-kind, handcrafted dresses – made mostly of designer tea towels – to raise money for asylum seekers and the women of Afghanistan. They will be auctioned online from 14–21 November and all proceeds raised will support the Romero Centre and Women for Women International.
I created the Close To My Heart project as a way to use my sewing superpowers to give something back to the world!
What inspired you to start this project?
The last couple of years have been such a crazy rollercoaster of emotions for everyone and there have been some deeply saddening events. The ongoing poor treatment of asylum seekers at Australian detention centres and the recent events in Afghanistan really made me want to help bring attention to these issues, as well as raise money to assist the people who are doing such great work supporting refugees and the women who need assistance in Afghanistan.
Why tea towel dresses?
I recently made a tea towel dress for fun and posted it on my Instagram. It received such a wonderfully positive response that I thought I would try to harness that positivity and turn it into something good where I could give back.
What’s your favourite thing about these dresses?
I love that the tea towel is an everyday item in the house that with some careful crafting can be transformed into a wearable thing of beauty, memory and kitsch. The dress itself is such a comfy style, easy to wear and very unique!
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You’ve partnered with four incredible Australian artists for this project. Can you tell us a little bit about how the collaboration process worked…
I started approaching Australian artists and creatives who make and sell tea towels. It was a matter of pitching the idea and hoping that people would be generous enough to contribute to the project. Claire Ritchie was the first one to say yes – I was thrilled to have Claire on board and that really gave me the confidence that I could actually do this! Aqua Door Designs, Anna Spiro and Dancing with Juniper all followed and I absolutely love the mix of prints from each of the artists in the collection.
What excited you about working with these artists?
Being able to collaborate with these artists and designers as a sewist is a dream come true! I admire each of the artists involved and have been drooling over their stuff for a while. It was amazing to be able to add my own spin and turn their textiles into these amazing dresses. They are all very much a reflection of the creativity and style of each of the artists.
I love that the tea towel is an everyday item in the house that with some careful crafting can be transformed into a wearable thing of beauty, memory and kitsch.
All proceeds from this auction are going to support the Romero Centre and Women for Women International. How did you select these two charities?
When I came up with the idea for the project, I spoke with my good friend Caroline (also one of the models in the campaign) about it and asked her who she thought would be some of the best organisations to support. Caroline’s parents came to Australia as refugees and both her and her sister are very proactive in supporting and rallying here in Brisbane. So it was Caroline who recommended I take a look at the Romero Centre. I chose Women for Women as a second organisation because of the worsening situation in Afghanistan at the time – it was being heavily broadcast in the news media. I particularly wanted to be able to contribute to an organisation that was supporting the women there.
Why would you say they are close to your heart?
It sounds like such a cliche, but we really do take it for granted how lucky we are to be able to live here in Australia. I often have to remind myself how fortunate I am just to be born here and call this country home. There are so many people who are not able to live freely in their own countries and that really makes me feel sad. These are people we know, our friends, our colleagues. Sharing love and empathy while promoting the fair treatment of other human beings is something that will always be close to my heart.
Sharing love and empathy while promoting the fair treatment of other human beings is something that will always be close to my heart.
Do you think art can be a positive force for change in the world?
Yes! Historically, art and artists have often been linked to social justice and change issues. Artists have a unique way of seeing the world and holding up a lens. There are no boundaries with art so without limits, artists are often free to express their true selves, including their views on social issues. It’s a valuable way to highlight, bring attention to and document the important issues of our time.