The art of sewing and tailoring has shaped Katie Garrett’s life from a young age. But when she arrived at Boston College a few years ago, stitching and hemming became a hobby of the past as she adjusted to her new busy schedule.
Today, Garrett, MCAS ’23, is the president and founder of Patches—a new club at BC centered around teaching the community how to sew and upcycle secondhand clothing and fabric.
“I really love helping people realize they can sew,” Garrett said. “I think it’s really exciting because it’s like something so creative, which I think a lot of college students don’t have time for in the traditional sense.”
Garrett, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., came up with the idea for Patches during her sophomore year at BC. This was before BC created the Hatchery, a makerspace in 245 Beacon Street with sewing equipment. She initially planned for her club to solely focus 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 possibilities grew.
Garrett then decided Patches would be more than a lesson-based program—the group would expand beyond basic sewing skills and members would upcycle and create clothing that aligned with their style.
Instead of a typical classroom environment where one or a few individuals teach the group how to transform their fabrics, Garrett said Patches meetings embrace a more collaborative learning environment.
“It’s kind of morphed into this club that is … about not just providing sewing machines, but about being a communal teaching environment where people kind of teach each other and share their experience and share their knowledge,” Garrett said.
Garrett first learned how to sew in the sixth grade when her grandmother taught her on an old sewing machine. With this new-found knowledge, she made pencil pouches as Valentine’s Day gifts for her closest friends. Though the pouches were hardly functional, Garrett said her ability to make something with her own hands ignited a sense of pride within her.
She later began to expand her expertise to apparel, she said, by personalizing the clothes she found at various thrift stores. With the encouragement and guidance of her father, who was a tailor’s apprentice at the time, Garrett began to learn and practice various stitch and hemming styles.
As Garrett mastered a variety of techniques, she said she found the most joy in taking a discarded clothing piece or fabric and creating an entirely new garment. In making her clothes unique, Garrett said she can creatively express her style and personality.
Garrett said sewing is a subjective art form. Rather than being forced to “color between the lines,” club members can embrace their own creative interpretations of sewing. She also said sewing is not solely defined by the act of stitching fabric with a thread and needle.
“There are lots of different skills that you could learn,” Garrett said. “You could learn how to quilt or you could learn how to use patterns, you could learn how to put a zipper on, those kinds of things.”
Patches club member Kacey Johnson, MCAS ’25, said she had not truly been able to continue pursuing her old artistic hobbies since arriving at 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 thought I’d pick up something to make me spend more time in the makerspace,” Johnson said. “I’ve met many people in Patches … and it’s fun!”
With no previous sewing experience, Johnson has enjoyed the challenge of learning how to sew, which she said is both soothing and motivating.
“It’s just been mostly me messing around, trying to figure things out,” Johnson said. “I guess I like the learning curve. I like seeing that I’m getting better at something.”
In December, Patches collaborated with EcoPledge, the BC Fashion Club, and UGBC to host a free on-campus thrift shop where students were invited to pick up clothing donated by fellow students in an effort to promote sustainable shopping on campus. At this event, Patches curated a display of repurposed 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 only wear garments they have created and a fashion show to exhibit student’s creations.
While Garrett said she is proud of the group she has made, she is hoping to make Patches more inviting for people of all genders, as sewing is a historically female-dominated skill. As she sees it, sewing is for anyone willing to make the effort and is all about creating something you like, regardless of your skill level.
“No one’s ever going to tell you ‘that’s bad,’” she said. “If you like it, that’s good enough.”