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In Your Network: Sarah Dickins

Sarah Dickins FRSA won a Student Design Award in 2012.  She has been working on a great new idea around encouraging people to be more resourceful with clothing reparations and customisation which has led to making a design accessible for disabled sewers. She would like to hear from Fellows with contacts in the sewing industry to help move it forward:

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
I’m just starting out as an Industrial Designer, having graduated from Loughborough last summer. At the New Designers show of last year’s graduates, I spent most of my time ear wigging conversations to hear what people really thought of our products! My favourite moment was hearing people explain the sewing machine that I was exhibiting to their friends. I think that that would be my favourite part of design – when a user just ‘gets’ the whole point of the design that you have spent months finessing.

2) What did you join the Fellowship for?
The RSA’s vision of drawing together people from different fields to tackle real life issues creatively is incredible but if I’m honest, something I only found out about after becoming a Fellow!  Lecturers at Loughborough encouraged us to take part in the RSA Student Design Awards and so I won the opportunity to become a fellow along with a placement designing medical devices with GlaxoSmithKline.  

3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship? 
I have just started at Kinneir Dufort which is a design consultancy in Bristol, so as I progress in my career I hope to contribute more and to support like-minded students.

4) What would you change in society given the chance?
I am an explorer at heart and I would love to encourage other people to really enjoy life. In our culture, it is so easy to get stuck in a boring routine and not to enjoy what we have been given.  Recently, I have been experimenting with different ways to spend early mornings before work (however I have yet to convince anyone else to get out of bed!). I find it really changes my perspective if I start the day with something other than work.    

5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you? 
I keep in touch with an inspiring lady who I met in Uganda last year. She takes care of over 20 street children who call her ‘Mummy Praise’. I recently heard that she has set up a school for them which is incredible considering that she has no steady funding. I don’t think anyone that I have met for two hours has ever left such an impression.

6) What did you learn last week? 
I learnt a new piece of Spanish guitar music.

7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
I had the privilege of working in a team at GSK with Lewis Buckle who previously won the RSA Student Design Award. He is excellent to work with and I learnt a lot from him on placement. He has just set up ‘Your,’ his own consultancy in York and I think he will go far in the world of design.

8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows
My current project, ‘Alto’ is a new sewing machine which aims to encourage people to be resourceful & creative with their clothing by making it really simple to learn to sew.  It simplifies speed control & threading and improves ergonomics. Watching beginners struggle to coordinate the foot pedal with holding the fabric, inspired a new method of controlling the speed by finger pressure on top of the fabric. Pedal-free sewing will make the design inclusive of disabled sewers too.

A single thread guide runs right from reel to needle for the user to follow so that they don’t get lost en route.  Lastly, a new mechanism allows the machine to be arched to give more room for the fabric and improve visibility of the sewing area.

I have been finding it difficult to make meaningful contact with a sewing machine manufacturer, so I would be grateful of advice from other Fellows who are involved with the sewing machine industry or have related expertise.

Sarah Dickins

Sarah Dickins



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