by Learning Lead – Fidel Pacay

I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to meet Danielle through my old roommate Kluane here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Danielle used to be a regular at our weekly Sunday Brunches at the house where Kluane and I used to reside, and she was always a delight to be around. Her presence always brought a sense of community to the house we lived in, and her laughter was always so sweet and contagious that it always made me feel the warmth of the sunshine, even on a cloudy day.

I was one of the lucky ones to have been able to celebrate with Danielle her birthday in 2018. That night, she was over at the house hanging out with Kluane, and upon noticing that a friend of mine and I were hanging out in the living room, she suggested to Kluane for them to stay with us and hang, instead of going out. Upon finding out that it was her birthday, I pulled out some vinyl records, and we listened to some good tunes, chatted, and had a really low key, but fun night. 

After a couple of hours hanging out chatting, listening to music, and Klu and Danielle doing some art, we started to say our goodbyes. Danielle then presented me with a painting she had been working on while we were hanging out that night, and very unselfishly said to me that the painting represented a cheetah because she found out that night that the cheetah was my favourite animal, so she wanted for me to have something to remind me of it. The painting also had a portrait of myself according to her, and the reason why she told me that she did a portrait of myself was because she thought I was pretty cool! (Don’t forget that this was her birthday celebration, not mine). I keep this painting very close to my heart, and I feel incredibly blessed to not only have been able to experience such a special moment with Danielle, Kluane, and my good pal Pete.

Paintings made by Danielle which were gifted to me. Photo by Fidel Pacay.

Danielle’s passing has left a huge void in my heart. Although I did not have the opportunity to get to know her more in depth as I would have liked to, I feel that the memory of her presence, her laughter, and her beautiful energy is something that I will keep close to my heart, and something that I will treasure for the rest of my life. She was such a beautiful light that when she came to our Sunday’s brunch, she just made everyone smile. It saddens me to think that she is not here with us today, but it fills me with joy to know that her legacy lives on. 

After Danielle passed away, I started to realize more how humble, and how much more wonderful she actually was than the glimpse of what I got to know about her. How caring, loving, and how involved she was in the community here in Winnipeg. It also became quite evident to me that Daniel was a very well liked human being who had touched, and perhaps inspired others just as much as she has inspired me to be a better member of my community, to give without expecting anything in return, and to love all living things.

I was really excited to hear that the Cautious Optimistic Project was launched in Danielle’s memory, so I’ve decided to apply for it, and thankfully I was accepted to be part of it.  

My Project: 

To Learn how to Sew and Make Bike Mechanics’ Aprons from Recycled Jeans

My project is going to be to learn the skill of sewing with a focus on learning how to make bike mechanic’s aprons from recycled denim, and jeans.  

The reason why I chose this project is because I work at a community bike shop here in Winnipeg called the WRENCH, or the Winnipeg Repair, Education, And Cycling Hub.  I have noticed a need for bike mechanics’ aprons for our staff, and our amazing group of volunteers, so I thought why don’t I learn how to sew and make bike mechanics aprons from recycled denim, and used jeans?

I know that caring for our environment was very important to Danielle, so using recycled old jeans to make these bike mechanics aprons will have a double the benefit; for one, our community will benefit from having some pretty cool heavy duty, bike mechanics’  aprons, and the environment would benefit from me having to reuse recycled denim, or used jeans instead of having to purchase new materials. If you are wondering  why use recycled denim for this project? Well, in case you didn’t know, the production of denim material has a huge impact on our environment as they lead to pollution of local waterways from the dyes to produce jeans. One pair of jeans could require up to 8 gallons of water, which is the equivalent to three days of water usage for an average household. 

I started my project back in May of 2021, and the beginning of it was just about doing some research on the materials and equipment I will be needing for this project? What sort of sewing classes would I need to learn how to use a sewing machine, how to design, and make these bike mechanics’ aprons? 

The Materials:

The Sewing Machine: 

Photo of the sewing machine. Photo taken by Fidel Pacay.

After looking at various models and brands of sewing machines, I decided to go with the Singer 4452 Heavy Duty machine. The reason I chose this machine is because it had great reviews, the price was under $300.00, and because it is able to sew through thick fabrics such as denim. After ordering this machine, I was notified that it would take a month for it to arrive, however, the machine took almost two months to be delivered, but I am happy to have it now in my possession so I can now get on with my sewing lessons.

The selected fabric scissors. Photo taken by Fidel Pacay.

The Scissors:

 After doing a bit of research as to what type of scissors to get, I settled on the 10” Bvekado Dressmaking Scissors which had great reviews, and are Japan-made. These scissors are long, sharp, sturdy, and overall, of great quality.

The Seam Ripper:

The selected seam rippers. Photo taken by Fidel Pacay.

 Learning to sew is not without mistakes, so not only a seam ripper will come handy when deconstructing a pair of used jeans in order to tear off the pockets, for them then to placed at the front of the aprons, but they will also come handy when undoing any stitching in the event that  I make some mistakes, which I am sure I will be making a couple along the way.

The pack of seam rippers that I chose came with four different sizes.

Now that I have gathered all the necessary equipment and materials for my project, I am going to be starting my sewing lessons in the next couple of weeks. 

I have already lined up my instructor from Winnipeg Sew, and she will be teaching me how to use my new sewing machine, how to design, cut, and construct the bike mechanics’ aprons that will come very handy to our volunteers, and staff at the WRENCH.

I am feeling excited, and a little bit nervous about my first sewing lesson as this will be a bit of a challenge for me as I am not the most handy person out there, but I think that this is going to be a fun learning journey. 

Stay tuned, next I will be sharing with you my sewing learning journey.