Meet the Newnham students who make and mend their own clothes


Roz Delap @knittingwithroz

Newnham is, by far, the hottest university in Cambridge. Weekdays will see Doc Martens hustle and bustle pouring in from the Sidgwick site between lectures, with seats in the Iris Café taken by those dressed in their Monday best. But nothing like the fashion found in Iris’ cabins, reserved for Newnham students only. Have you ever walked through these sacred enclaves in awe of the style that inhabits them? More often than not, it’s the result of the handiwork of the wearer, and if you’re feeling inspired, here are some tips from Newnham students who make and repair their own wardrobes.

“Never seen without a knitting project”Roz Delap @knittingwithroz

A regular at the aforementioned booths is Roz (@knittingwithroz), a sophomore engineering student who “never sees herself without a knitting project.” I can attest to that – the first time I met Roz there was a long strand of pink yarn trailing behind them as they walked through the butter.

The amount of engineering required to turn a flat piece of fabric into something that can flatter the human form is what initially brought Roz into their favorite subject. “Knitting is so mathematical,” they tell me, “I love how it brings together my love of creativity and my love of math.” You heard it here first: fashion and STEM don’t have to be at odds. It’s a mythological gap that Roz is actively bridging. A method of concentration, “me and a friend are sitting and knitting in class, surrounded by boys in hoodies and jeans”.

Within the university, Roz chairs the Newnham Craft Soc, “a great place to get to know other knitters and discover new crafts”. But knitting in Cambridge is a community activity that goes far beyond the iron gates of Newnham, with many student groups formed around the activity. It is important to note that this is a community that is not bound by exclusion. “I’m a knitter with a disability, and there’s an incredibly diverse community of knitters with a disability,” Roz adds, “in fact, a lot of the knitting community is neurodivergent, so it’s a great fit for everyone.”

“I hadn’t seen anything like this advertised denim skirt, so I knew I had to make one myself”Erin Jones @tropicallytrashless

Knitting doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby either. Roz advises to “start very cheap” and move forward, “it can be as expensive or as cheap as you want”. It’s a sentiment shared by fellow Newnham student Erin (@tropicallytrashless), whose sartorial expertise is mostly rooted in mending. I remember a trip to CDA, and as a friend and I were waiting for Erin to arrive, she was in her bedroom busy sewing an undergarment she already owned to a new dress so that she doesn’t need to “buy a specialty item that I’m only going to wear once a month.” Much of Erin’s repair philosophy is due to her frugality. “If I can fix it in 20 minutes instead of saving up to buy it again, I will.”

She’s also a source of countless hacks to keep your clothes from needing repair in the first place. Erin’s best advice? Hand wash and air dry if possible, hang clothes up so they don’t put pressure on their most fragile points (“use the little strings inside!”), and buy only items you love so much, you would be willing to spend time repairing them if necessary.

Are you worried about having to have a certain level of expertise to repair successfully? “It’s the project that develops skills, not the other way around,” insists Erin. These aren’t unattainable skills either, thanks to the endless repertoires of Google, Youtube and “mind-candy” shows like The Great British Sewing Bee.

For those already thinking about the week of May (saving takes time!), consider attending in an outfit of your choice. If the task seems daunting, Newnham runner-up Paloma suggests “starting small” as the May balls and June events approach. “Find a template website that lets you adjust the level of difficulty” and build your confidence before bigger projects. But don’t “start too simple,” according to Roz. “If you do something and you hate it halfway through, stop and knit something more interesting. You can always come back to it, there’s no shame in working on a million things at the same time. time !

“I’ve wanted to make a regency dress for a while, one with deep colors and bold fabrics”Atqa Arham

After the exams, Newnham doctor Aatqa created a regency dress for PakSoc and BanglaSoc’s Bridgerton Charity Gala last year. Armed with a Pinterest board and a “cunning beast” of a sewing machine, Aatqa was able to recreate the “Jane Austen festival” dress of her dreams in a way that honored her heritage and personal style. Taking on the project inspired Aatqa to create her own wardrobe: “Dressing modestly means it’s quite difficult to find clothes that I like, and I like eclectic and quirky clothes, so creating the mine is a good way to achieve this!”

So what’s stopping you from picking up a needle and thread? Too often we assume that our creative pursuits have to be perfect from the start to earn our applause. But there is room to spoil it all. In fact, it’s encouraged. Alice from Newnham (@aliceknits_) reassures that “the first thing you knit or sew will probably be unwearable, but the rest will be fine!”.


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