Sew & Repair

Sew & Repair .Make & Fix

Madison teens collaborate with local artists on projects that revolve around sewing and mending.

Panthers Pride

Picture of Metro Panthers student posing in new graduation gown in front of classroom mascot mural.

After following the lead of her students and completing the year-long project to design a Metro Panthers mascot & murals in each of the four Juvenile Court classrooms, one of the Dane County Jail teachers, Tina Geier, reached out to the Bubbler with another request based on what she started to hear more frequently from her students after posing in front of the new murals for their graduation pictures. Some students were sharing that they didn't always feel connected to their regular school and it often felt weird or misplaced to wear a graduation gown donning the colors of their "home" school when much of their positive classroom experiences leading up to graduation came from their time as a Metro Panther. 

So when Tina reached out to see if the Bubbler might have the resources or connections to artists in this realm, we were excited to introduce her to Emily Popp, Jennifer Bastian & Bird Ross. One student was pleasantly surprised to see Bird come in on the first day as they initially met while Bird was leading Making Justice sewing workshops at the Juvenile Court Shelter Home a few years prior. 

A close-up picture of the Metro Panthers mascot eyes.



Over the course of one month during the winter of 2023, Emily, Jennie and Bird worked with the students to learn the basics of using patterns and sewing machine to create a graduation gown "first draft", and then moved into the final stage of creating a re-usable leather Metro Panthers graduation gown.

Sewing machines and sharp objects are not allowed into the Dane County Jail, but we had to work with officers to create a safe plan for learning.

While needles and other sharp objects are not allowed within the Dane County Jail facility, Tina's relationship with Dane County Sheriff's department was already in place to discuss and eventually co-design a safe plan to bring sewing machines and other sewing equipment into the Jail only while working on this student-led school project. 

  • Jail student using a sewing machine in the classroom to create a final draft graduation gown.
  • Jail students working together on the sewing machine.
  • Jail student learning to sew.
  • Jail students help each other try on their new Metro Panthers leather graduation gown.



Picture of students posing in front of the new Metro Panthers mural, but wearing old graduation gown colors from other schools.
OLD - Using gowns from former schools to pose for graduation didn't always feel right for some students.
Picture of Jail students posing for graduation pictures wearing their new Metro Panthers gown, in front of the Metro Panthers classroom mascot mural.
NEW - Wearing the new Metro Panthers gown to pose for graduation in front of the classroom mascot mural (featuring teacher Kate).
Metro Panthers digital logo developed by students and Audifax

On several occasions, former Bubbler Artist-In-Residence, Bird Ross, went out into the community to work with Bubbler Teens in a series of sewing workshops. Backpacks are a easy and useful object to make. Who wouldn't rather pick out your own fabric to make a personalized bage versus just choosing what is on the shelf at the store?


Teens using sewing machines to create backpacks

Teen wearing new backpack he made with sewing machine.

Teen wearing backpack she just created.


One teen loved two designs so much that she asked Bird Ross to teach her how to create a reversible backpack.

Teen showing reversible backpack she just created.

Wearing reversible backpack just created.




Because Huggable!

On several occasions, former Bubbler Artist-In-Residence, Bird Ross, went out into the community to work with Bubbler Teens in a series of sewing workshops. By far, the project that garnered the most excitement and never got old was making pillows. Pillows are a very simple and intimate object to create and can be given as a thoughtful gift or kept as a comforting object.


Teens use sewing machines around a large table to create pillows.



Create and cutout a design template.

Teen cutting out a pattern for his pillow.



Use the template to cutout your fabric.

Teen using pattern to cut fabric.



Use a sewing machine to start attaching both sides of the pillow.

Teen sewing together fabric cutout by patterns.

Teen using sewing machine with pile of fabric.

Teens working together on a sewing machine.



Stuff the pillow to your preferred firmness.

Teen stuffing the pillow.


And finally, hand-sew the pillow shut on the final side.

Teen hand sewing her pillow shut.

Pillows on display

All pillows on full display.


And did we mention that due to Bird Ross working with these teen groups, some of the site staff have started their own pillow making companies with family members?!?

Teens and UW Students in Making Repairs session


Bubbler Artist-in-Residence Bird Ross guided participants through sewing and problem-solving projects that focused on the concept of making repairs.

In their first session, Bubbler Teens and University of Wisconsin-Madison students partnered up to make sewing kits. 


Hands creating sewing kit


Hands holding finished sewing kit


Bubbler Teens also learned to operate Bird’s sewing machine. Using recycled fabric, participants designed, stuffed, and stitched their own pillows. 


Bubbler Teen using sewing machine


Bubbler Teens holding finished pillows


Bird also encouraged participants to think about repurposing and problem-solving. During one session, Bubbler Teens were given survival scenarios such as living on a desert island or escaping from a volcano. Each teen worked with a partner using miscellaneous supplies to build tools to help them survive. 


Hands making survival tools


Survival tool created by Bubbler Teens