Roscommon Women’s Network embarks on exciting upcycling project

Project has EPA funding

RWN (Roscommon Women’s Network) is pleased to announce the commencement of its environmental project, Women’s Environmental Community Activation Network (WECAN), with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Enterprise programme.

In January, a new Project Manager was appointed to WECAN to oversee the establishment of a textile upcycling social enterprise in County Roscommon. This initiative is part of the Roscommon Women’s Network Strategic Direction as outlined in the RWN Strategic Statement 2019-2024.

The idea for this work initially came from the RWN charity shop volunteers, who wanted to do something to combat the increasing textile waste from charity shops and the growing issue of fast fashion. The appetite for community-led awareness raising, and for training on the issue of climate change, was also very evident during RWN’s consultations with women around the county during the preparations for the RWN Strategic plan in 2018.

In response to this expressed need, RWN sourced funding to run a pilot textile Upcycling Training Project at their base in Castlerea, which had the support of Roscommon County Council (through the EPA funded Local Authority Prevention Network), Patagonia, GRETB Community Education and the Rediscovery Centre in Dublin, as well as St. Angela’s College NUI Galway, who completed an evaluation of the project.

Based on the success and learnings of its initial Pilot Textile Upcycling Training Project in 2019, RWN applied for the EPA Green Enterprise programme, which provides funding to demonstration projects that are innovating for the circular economy. The WECAN project was awarded this funding in 2020 to continue training around the county and expand its social enterprise.

Further training took place in early 2020 in Castlerea with expansion to Roscommon Town, however both were curtailed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

The initial training that took place in 2019/2020 has already proved effective in the practical application of fabric upcycling, with the trainees in Castlerea forming an upcycling volunteers club and making high quality upcycled items under the CycleUp brand. Under the guidance of their tutors Michelle Fallon and Jane Ward, the participants learned pattern making, design and sewing skills, and have made some beautiful fashion and home ware items, which can be found in the RWN Charity Shop in Castlerea, Rummage in Roscommon Town, Healy’s Shop in Athleague and the Boyle Craft Shop.

The CycleUp online shop on the RWN website was inundated with interest after Minister Simon Harris posted an Instagram image of an Upcycled Owl that the CycleUP group made for him, praising the initiative and in particular the work of the volunteers. Members of the public and local businesses like the Curtain Centre and Frances Finishing Touches in Roscommon town, and even the clothing brand Patagonia, rowed in behind the efforts of the volunteers in 2020 to help their work in making upcycled reusable facemasks to donate to nursing homes and to raise funds for RWN during the pandemic-related closures.

This year, the Women’s Environmental Community Activation Network (WECAN) project will build on these achievements, and will roll out fabric upcycling training to further locations around the county. It will also reach out to communities and schools through upcycling and repair workshops and events facilitated by local trainees and project participants.

“This project has so much scope to fulfil the sharing of the values of the circular economy and provide a practical example of how the upcycling of fabrics can be made into a sustainable social enterprise” said Martina Hourigan, WECAN Project Manager.

Training will take place in Castlerea, Monksland and Roscommon Town once the appropriate Covid levels are in place. Details from Martina at mhourigan@rwn.ie, call the RWN Offices on 094 9621 690 or message the RWN/CycleUp Facebook Pages.