Patches creates a space where fashion, sustainability and creativity intersect — The Heights

The art of sewing and sewing shaped Katie Garrett’s life from an early age. But when she arrived at Boston College a few years ago, sewing and hemming became a pastime as she adjusted to her new busy schedule.

Today, Garrett, CSOM ’23, is president and founder of Patches, a new club in British Columbia focused on teaching the community how to sew and repurpose second-hand clothing and fabrics.

“I really enjoy helping people realize they can sew,” Garrett said. “I think it’s really exciting because it’s something so creative that I think a lot of students don’t have time for in the traditional sense of the word.”

Garrett, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, came up with the idea for Patches during her sophomore year at BC. This was before BC created Hatchery, a manufacturing location at 245 Beacon Street with sewing equipment. She originally planned for her club to focus solely on teaching students how to sew, and thought she would have to spend the club’s budget on sewing machines. But when the Hatchery opened, Garrett’s opportunities grew.

Garrett then decided that Patches would be more than a tutorial-based program—the group would expand beyond basic sewing skills, and members would redesign and create clothing that matched their style.

Rather than a typical classroom setting where one or a few individuals teach the group how to transform their fabrics, Garrett said the Patches meetings embrace a more collaborative learning environment.

“It’s kind of turned into this club that … isn’t just about providing sewing machines, it’s about being a community teaching environment where people learn from each other and share their experiences and share their knowledge,” Garrett said .

Garrett first learned to sew in sixth grade when her grandmother taught her an old sewing machine. With this newfound knowledge, she made pencil pouches as Valentine’s Day gifts for her closest friends. Although the pouches weren’t functional, Garrett said her ability to make something with her own hands ignited a sense of pride in her.

She later began expanding her experience in clothing, she said, by customizing clothes she found at various thrift stores. With the encouragement and guidance of his father, who was an apprentice tailor at the time, Garrett began learning and practicing different styles of stitching and hemming.

As Garrett has mastered different techniques, she said she finds the most joy in taking discarded clothing or fabric and creating an entirely new garment. By making her clothes unique, Garrett said she can creatively express her style and personality.

Garrett said sewing is a subjective art form. Instead of being forced to “color between the lines,” club members can embrace their own creative interpretations of sewing. She also said that sewing is not just defined by the act of sewing fabric together with a thread and a needle.

“There are a lot of different skills you can learn,” Garrett said. “You can learn how to quilt or you can learn how to use patterns, you can learn how to zip, things like that.”

Patches club member Casey Johnson, MCAS ’25, said she hasn’t been able to really pursue her old artistic hobbies since arriving in BC, but being a part of Patches allows her to express her creative side.

“I didn’t know how to sew, but I was looking for a new craft … so I decided to pick something that would make me spend more time in the makerspace,” Johnson said. “I’ve met a lot of people at Patches … and it’s fun!”

With no previous sewing experience, Johnson enjoys the challenge of learning to sew, which she finds both comforting and motivating.

“Mostly I was messing around trying to figure things out,” Johnson said. “I guess I like the learning curve. I like to see myself getting better at something.”

In December, Patches partnered with EcoPledge, BC Fashion Club and UGBC to host a free thrift store on campus where students were invited to pick up clothes donated by fellow students in an effort to encourage sustainable shopping on campus. At this event, Patches organized an exhibition of upcycled clothing to showcase the accessibility and beauty of upcycling.

In the future, Garrett said Patches hopes to host a variety of larger events for the BC community, including a formal event where students wear only clothing they’ve created and a fashion show to showcase student creations.

While Garrett said she’s proud of the group she’s created, she hopes to make Patches more appealing to people of all genders, since sewing is a skill historically dominated by women. The way she sees it, sewing is for anyone willing to put in the effort, and it’s about creating something you love, regardless of your skill level.

“No one will ever tell you, ‘this is bad,'” she said. “If you like it, that’s enough.”

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