The Hobart

Did You Know Police Uniforms Are Hand Stitched In Hobart’s CBD?

by Zilla Gordon
Did You Know Police Uniforms Are Hand Stitched In Hobart’s CBD?

Amid the hustle and bustle of Hobart’s CBD, a woman sits behind a sewing machine. Another leans over a table as she marks out a pattern with white chalk.

In this quaint, sunbathed room overlooking Elizabeth Street, these women are busy suiting up some of the state’s frontline works.

Forty-two dress uniforms for the Tasmanian Police Service were among recent orders which also included garments for Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and Tasmania Corrective Services. They’ve even had the odd order for Mona.

But local hasn’t always been the first choice. Owner of The Island Seamstress Bronwen Feachnie said while the business had a long history of sewing gear for government agencies, they had “gone hard” for more contracts to keep production on the island.

“All agencies have dabbled with off-shore production,” Bronwen said.  “Some have even gone to Victoria.”

The team had recently filled an order for a government department who had previously sourced their uniforms from overseas.

“They just weren’t happy with the quality,” Bronwen said.

And the temptation isn’t just for a cheaper option, it’s also for a more convenient one. With a new frock just a click away, some bricks-and-mortar retailers have been unable to keep up.

But Bronwen said garments bought online didn’t often live up to the quality of locally produced Tasmanian attire.

Seamstress Patricia, who had been working at the business since she was 16 – three decades ago – said the products she and other Tasmanian ateliers made were lasting longer too. Police officers have come back with uniforms 20 to 25 old in near-perfect condition.

“The only thing that might be wrong is that they’ve lost or gained a little weight,” Bronwen said.

“They were probably made by Patricia.”

While the government does have a Buy Local Policy, Bronwen said it was important businesses were backed to build up.

“The bigger our population gets, the bigger the demand gets for [orders],” Bronwen said.

“Right now Tasmania doesn’t have the numbers to support the manufacturing required.”

Having spent most of her life sewing, Patricia believed internships, which although once plentiful, were now few-and-far-between.

Bronwen said she had been working with local TAFEs to help meet her staffing needs, but it was sometimes tricky to find someone keen to sew, rather than design.

Employee Jen came to the rescue when there was no-one in the workroom able to cut patterns. Jen arrived on her first day, unable to use a sewing machine, but she was given a crash-course by their in-house veteran Patrica.

“I was definitely thrown in at the deep end,” Jen said.

Pattern-cutter Jen

“But I’m always learning something new, something different and a new technique to manipulate patterns and do things quicker.”

Jen was now solely responsible for cutting the pattern for each and every order. “Not many people would be able to do that job in this state, so we probably need more training,” Bronwen said.

While time has seen the popularity of dressmaking fade, Tasmanian businesses have banded together, forming complementary relationships with people and companies to get the work done.

On whether the future of the industry is threaded for success, Bronwen said there was work to do. But ask her if the battle to keep the Tasmanian-made dream alive was worth it and she’ll tell you: “we just really enjoy what we’re doing.”

Love this

Cold Water Wake Up Call
It seems everywhere I turn someone is talking about or participating in cold water swimming right now.
A Short Geelong Getaway
Since the Spirit of Tasmania terminal moved from Melbourne to Geelong late last year, a visit to Geelong has been on the radar.
27 Hobart Friends Get Snipping For One Off Wine
The borders were declared shut in Tasmania on the 30th of March, 2020; the first stare to do so amid the COVID- 19 pandemic and hard lockdown of Hobart followed.
Danphe Nepalese and Indian Food + Peppermint Bay Bar and Bistro
Nepalese food is a comfort in our house. Having spent much time trekking and mountain climbing in Nepal as a younger man, Nepalese food is something I always love to go back to.
That’s DR Hannah Gadsby To You
From Smithton to Netflix and the Emmys stage, Tasmanian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby has forged an unlikely path. Following on from the massive success of her shows Nanette and Douglas, Hannah brings her new show Body of Work to Hobart this month.
PODCAST: Incat founder Robert Clifford on why electric boats are the future
Robert Clifford is the founder of Incat, a Hobart company building fast ferries for the world. Always looking to future opportunities, he has identified where Hobart sits in the next wave of transportation. For more of this interview listen to The Hobart Magazine podcast.
Is Tourism Ready For More Forestry Wars?
Tasmanian forests are special. They’re home to centuries-old trees, including the tallest flowering trees on the planet, and support unique native species. Yet not everyone agrees on how these forests should be managed.
Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce...and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
Did You Know Australia’s First Female Doctor Was Hobartian?
Tasmania, despite its small size and population in comparison to the mainland, has produced more than its proportionally predicted percentage of significant figures and heroes of Australian history. 
Return Travellers Adding Pressure to Hobart Housing
For all of us 2020 was a year like no other, punctuated by rapid change and plenty of new challenges. For vulnerable people in Tasmania, including people facing homelessness, those on low incomes and those facing increasingly higher rents, it was very challenging. We are seeing a growing demand for homes in Tassie from international travellers returning home, people moving for work and others seeking the lifestyle that our Apple Isle has to offer.
AboutContributeAdvertiseNewsletter Sign UpContact
February 2024

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

Thank you to Luke Brokensha for mobilising his friends and local residents recently to host two rubbish clean ups along the Hobart Rivulet after heavy rains.
The warm weather returns...hello summer.
Need a laugh? Check out @theinspiredunemployed feed on Instagram.
Moto Vecchia Cafe in Bellerive and Czegs Cafe in Richmond have joined the Clarence City Council dementia program, creating dementia-friendly spaces for all patrons.
It’s hard to believe it’s not standard practice to have a working phone in every aged care room - shared phones make private conversations impossible and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Tacks on the tracks. Mountain bikers beware of tacks being left on certain tracks on the mountain.
Just when you think your cousins are alright. NZ Opposition Leader Judith Collins took aim at Tassie during her recent (unsuccessful) campaign, calling us Australia’s “poor cousin.” She also seems worried about us nabbing tech businesses, “It’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your high- tech business? Possibly not,” she said. We beg to differ!