Making ends meet

By Rhonda Dredge

An hour is quite a long time to devote to hand-stitching a garment but if you’re into slow fashion it’s worth the effort.

Kara Baker has finished off each of her padded scarves for Zoom meetings with prick stitch.

The stitch comes from men’s tailoring and is called this because of the small regular bumps.

Really, prick stitch is a version of back stitch, so evenly executed it could have been done by a machine.

But a small wobble in the line says it has been done by the human hand.

“The more steps you take the better the results,” Kara said. “It takes time. You can’t make something quickly.” 

The trimming of seams is a laborious task, for example, as is fringing and the addition of a selvage to a sleeve to give it weight.

Kara runs her own fashion design business from her first-floor apartment in Bourke St and she does the sewing herself, mostly one-offs.

In the living room is a rack of her clothes ready to go and the other rooms house a cutting table, sewing machines and bolts of material.

How exciting it is to step behind the scenes and feel the pleasure of fabric before it takes form.

“I keep any fabric bigger than an inch square,” Kara said. “You can’t have a fashion business these days without adhering to sustainability.”

The CBD has long attracted pioneers in the fashion industry. Where other suburbs have caved into residential pressure, there are still pockets of activity here supported by loyal followers.

The padded scarves kept Kara going during the long lockdown and now she is completing a Cozy range made from vintage fabrics.

One of the fabrics came from Yarra Falls mill in Richmond, now a housing development.

Kara is launching the range – ponchos and funnel-necked tops made from one metre lengths of vintage wools from the ‘60s – at Next hotel in Little Collins St on July 31. 

“I’m really worried about the launch,” she said, as the state went back into lockdown in July. 

The launch would have been a great opportunity for her fans to see the garments in person in the club room which she’s converting to “a cash and carry” for the occasion.

Kara uses Instagram to keep in touch with followers who can order and visit her apartment. She’s also launching an online shop.

It’s not easy being a sole trader in a vast global industry but Kara is making ends meet •

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