What does Shared Threads do?
Shared Threads is a community of women from all across N.Ireland who are working together to help remove limitations that menstruation can put on women and girls. We make cloth sanitary pads from secondhand cotton and send them women and girls who otherwise have no access to sanitary products.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to set up Shared Threads?
My name is Kirsty King and I am 41, a mum of 3 and live in East Belfast. I am a hopeless upcycling addict and it was my love of upcycling and eco living that inspired me to make the cloth pads from secondhand cotton. We waste and throw away so much cloth here. It made me angry when I realised that women elsewhere were having to resort to using leaves or rags to manage their period. I love sewing and making and gathering women around creative projects which is what inspired me to gather the wonderful and generous community of women that now sew all our pads.
What/who influences/motivates you?
My daughter. She is 12. She has just started secondary school in Belfast. It’s been so exciting watching her soak up all the opportunities that school offers her. She has her whole future ahead of her and the possibility of doing and being almost anything because she can go to school. But then I compare her to one of our girls in India that we send packs to. She is also 12. She stopped going to school because she doesn’t have basic sanitary pads. To manage her period, she has to resort to using leaves or old newspaper or ash from the fire, which means she has to stay at home. Almost ¼ of girls in India stop school altogether age 12 for this very reason. I want this girl in India to have the same chance as my daughter at getting an education. That is what motivates me.
What has been your biggest hurdle and your proudest moment or accomplishment with Shared Threads?
To be honest, probably the biggest hurdle was taking the very first small step of just starting. The idea had been rattling round in my head for years but it took me a really long time to work up the courage to start. The first step involved me inviting some women to gather round my kitchen table to share the idea with them. It seems silly now, but I was so nervous that they would think it was a terrible idea. They didn’t. My daughter baked a cake. 15 women turned up. They loved the idea and the cake. We now have more than 100 volunteers within less than a year.
Could you give some advice for any young, emerging designers?
Don’t be afraid to dream big. 6 months in to running Shared Threads I was asked to to supply 200 packs to a women’s prison in India.
I thought this was impossible and almost said no. But the dreamer in me said yes, let’s try. So I asked, and the volunteers really stepped up to the challenge. They donated cloth and towels and time and energy and money and pants! They overwhelmed me with their passion to serve these women who find themselves in such a bleak and desperate situation. And we did it! We made enough pads and holders and bags to send 200 packs. 200 women who live in the grimmest of conditions, received a beautiful handmade bag with pants and pads and a little note handwritten by my daughter and her friend.
Finally how can people get involved and help?
There are so many ways to get involved. You can join us at a making workshop where you can sew if you can or you can sort or cut or draw patterns or pin fabric. You can sew at home or with friends. Patterns and instructions are on our website. You can attend one of our fundraisers. You can sign up to our newsletter to find out more. You can follow us on facebook or Instagram or Twitter. You can donate fabric. We use old towels and any secondhand cotton. You can talk more about periods and help break down the taboos and shame that still surrounds menstruation. You can donate money. You can find out more about period poverty. You can tell your friends about us. Find out all you need to know on our website.