From gun to sewing machine


WERE you to have walked into the grounds of the Anglican Church in Hohola, NCD, on three Saturdays last month, you would have noticed people huddled around pieces of cloth and a sewing
It definitely was a sewing class in progress and if one looked closer, they would have noticed two men amongst the class of women.
One of the pair was Stephen Vegogo, a 66-year-old retired chief warrant officer of the PNG Defence Force. The other was me.

Learning another set of skills
As someone who likes challenges and learning new skills, I was informed by a colleague earlier last month that someone in her church was going to run sewing lessons. I definitely was interested but could not attend the first class. The main reason for my wanting to learn to sew was so that I could make my own shirts.
People who are not of average size often cannot find brand new shirts that fit them – even in the nation’s capital. Larger size people often find that large size shirts sold in shops too small for them.
I joined the group on August 20. The other participants were about to complete their first product – a meri-blouse.
I learned that Vegogo, the enthusiastic student, proved to be a fast learner – he was the first to complete the blouse and was ready to learn how to make another product on the second Saturday.

Facilitator’s words of encouragement
The facilitator of the sewing lessons was Grace Meakoro, the wife of the pastor of the church. She is a former primary school teacher, and a trained instructor in sewing, cooking and baking.
Her lesson the day I joined started with her talking about hands- parts of our body that we use every day for different things and yet take for granted.
“God has given us two hands on which are ten fingers and we must use them well, which include using them to cook or sew clothes. Many people abuse these fingers – some use them to fight, or even scratch others. That is wrong,” Meakoro said. As with all trades, she said in sewing has its own tools – sewing
machine, tacking pins, material or fabric, a pair of scissors and tape measure, among others.
She had also worked with Gini Goada- an NGO group- as an instructor and taught women, young and old, to sew, cook and bake with many of her students now earning a living through the use of the skills they learned. “Instead of waiting for a fortnight, they are earning money (everyday) through selling their clothes or food on the streets,” she said.

Vegogo’s objective in learning to sew
The quick-learning Vegogo later confided in me that the main reason for his learning to sew was so that he could set himself up for the future.
The man from Tufi, Wanigela in Oro said he has had encouraging feedback from his former peers in the military.
“I am learning these skills to earn a living after exiting the force,” Vegogo, the former soldier who specialised in maintaining electronics and communications equipment,
“I am grateful for these lessons and I am eager to sew and sell my products.”

Maths and geometry in sewing
I learned to make a meri-blouse in my first class and carry bags from the Flying Fish material in the second. After my second lesson, was surprised to learn that a good amount of mathematics and geometry skills were involved in a sewing exercise – concepts that I taught students while I was teaching the subject years ago.
The measuring of fabric and cutting of pieces in different shapes involve mathematical skills. While sharing my new-found interest on Facebook, I reminded people that students who learn concepts under the topic of surface area in math will surely encounter problems in the calculations of the total surface area of a garment.
So sewing skills are not only confined to a possible money-earning venture, it can also help with math too. The sewing lessons will resume next year would resume next year under the guidance of Grace Meakoro, and shirts are one of the garments on the list.
I really am looking forward to that.

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