Sewing to success

By Melissa Walsh Photos Gary Sissons

You can’t keep a good woman down and the ladies at Mount Eliza Neighbourhood House are proving that with their fabulous work on the Boomerang Bag program. It’s what happens when the group gets together for sewing bees to create the handcrafted bags that are helping to save our planet and getting rid of the need for all plastic bags.

One of the women of the Boomerang Bags Mt Eliza is Eliza Foster, the woman behind the successful business, Made in the Shade, which she launched back in 1980.

Fast forward 38 years and, although she has now sold the business, Eliza is still a go getter so the plan came to give back to the community.

“I decided to use my factory and my sewing ability to help with the Boomerang Bag project as I am a firm believer in preserving our planet and think plastic bags need to go,” said Eliza from the Seaford factory she has run for the past few decades.

“I know I might have retired but I am certainly not one to sit and do nothing. Now I am a part of the Boomerang Bags Mt Eliza where a group of us get together to make the bags for sale. We use donated manchester and all bags are lovingly handcrafted by the local community members at sewing bees or from home using donated recycled materials,” said Eliza of the community program that has now made over 800 bags. “Our aim is to eliminate the use of plastic bags, which end up in our marine environment and endanger wildlife, litter our pristine environment and take up space in landfill. Your donation goes towards meeting the costs such as machines, thread and labels.”

Eliza uses her heavy duty machine to sew the bags and then takes them to the community house to have them finished by the other volunteers.

“We can accept all sorts of materials from recycled doona covers, sheets, drapes, basically anything that could be strong enough for a bag,” said Eliza, who works alongside a group of other driven women with their sewing machines, stitching and ironing boards at the ready.

“I think it is very important for the environment to get rid of plastic bags and this has been proven as a great way to do it. If you take a look around, you start to realise that much of what we eat, drink, or use comes packaged in plastic – a material made from petroleum which is designed to last forever, yet is usually used only once before being thrown away,” she said of the Boomerang Bags which are the brainchild of two women from Brunswick Heads in northern New South Wales who wanted to restrict the use of plastics. Since 2013 the idea has gone global, and there’s now more than 700 registered Boomerang community groups around the world making re-usable shopping bags.

“Some plastic has its benefits but there is also an inconvenient long term truth about plastic,” said Eliza of the environmental damage plastic bags can do. “They contribute to millions of tonnes of waste each year that is not recyclable. It is not going away any time soon as plastic lasts for thousands of years.”

The women at the Mt Eliza Neighbourhood House are making sure there are plenty of Boomerang Bags to go around so this unnecessary destruction to the environment doesn’t occur.

“This is our way of making sure we reduce the amount of plastic bags needed to be produced by offering an alternative. It is like going back to the old days when they used to take a basket or string bag to the shops. It is a simple and successful solution and we are slowly getting rid of plastic one boomerang bag at a time.”


Boomerang Bags are also made on the peninsula in Balnarring, Hastings, Red Hill, Rosebud, Somers, Western Port, Dromana, Mornington, Mt Martha, Rye, Seawinds, and Sorrento.

First published in Peninsula Essence – September 2018