Who Said Women Can't Make Sausages

Who Said Women Can't Make Sausages

By Kellie Maloney

A macramé knot-lover, a sausage queen, a glass artist and a master sewist—what do they all have in common? While this might sound like an unusual mix of talents, each of these four local makers go against the grain in their chosen craft every day.

From sausage maker Chrissy Flanagan, who shares her typically “blokey” love of bangers and beer at her restaurant The Sausage Factory in Dulwich Hill, to Pete Williams, aka Mr Macramé, who’s overcome a lack of male representation to bring macramé to Melbourne’s St Kilda. 

On the other side of Melbourne, you’ll find glassblower Ruth Allen in her Coburg North warehouse. After pushing through a male-dominated glass art education, Ruth has gone on to become a pioneering force in the revival of this mesmerising craft.

Fly up to the Sunshine Coast and you’ll become acquainted with Pete Trimble, aka Pete Sews. A proud shirt designer, Pete’s undeniable talent with needle and thread is a skill he learnt from his mum.

Despite coming from different crafting backgrounds, these four teachers are here to inspire you to try new things and chase your passions—regardless of what people might think.

On becoming a trailblazer…

Chrissy Flanagan from The Sausage Factory

Chrissy Flanagan, sausage-making queen and craft beer connoisseur 

After some failed cheese and explosive kombucha, I started making sausages at home seven years ago. [I was] learning from YouTube and things obviously escalated. I’ve been teaching for about five years and honestly, it’s my favourite part of being Sydney’s Sausage Queen.

Mr Macramé, knot-lover and boho fashion designer

I’ve always been arty. My grandparents used to own an arts and craft shop. There was always something for me to try out and create when growing up. I already knew how to knit, stitch and crochet but tried out macramé around four years ago and got totally hooked. 

Pete Sews, talented threader and sewing machine master

I started properly sewing myself about 10 years ago when I was a primary school teacher and I had time during school holidays. I have worked with groups of people in a range of settings for over 20 years now and teaching sewing is just the latest way to get in front of an audience, share my passion for creating and impart valuable skills to new sewists.

Ruth Allen, glass artist and flame maestro 

I found hot glass relatively young when I had just left high school. My curiosity and passion for the material was immediate. I moved from Sydney to the Canberra School of Art and commenced a four-and-a-half-year degree majoring in glass. Witnessing the demise of hands-on tuition and skill-building, I decided to make educational and experiential workshops one of my main focuses. 

On challenging gender stereotypes…

Mr Macrame in his St Kilda studio

Chrissy Flanagan

[For] the same reason it’s important to challenge gender stereotypes in everything—representation and visibility matter. If anyone else who isn’t the typical blokey sausage and beer maker can see me doing this I hope it will encourage them to do whatever they want to do too, regardless of who “usually” does it. 

Mr Macramé

The more we challenge gender stereotypes the easier and more accessible alternative arts and crafts become for everyone. As macramé comes back, it’s so exciting to see anyone and everyone give the fiber art form a go this time around.

Pete Sews

What I do is a trade – it really is no different to carpentry, welding or baking. We take a design and some raw materials, cut them and put them back together in the right order and the right way to make something new.

Ruth Allen

Life, generations, gender, sex – everything changes all of the time. It is important to be you and follow your passions, your interests no matter what. When I started in the late '80s there were very few women in the field. The Italian maestros especially did not take the few of us seriously but rather looked upon us females as spectators, certainly not the serious stakeholders we have grown to be. Nowadays women proliferate the profession – they are leaders, winners of prestigious prizes and teachers of this threatened artform.

On trying an ‘unconventional’ craft…

Pete Sews from the Sunshine Coast

Chrissy Flanagan

Craft doesn’t know gender or colour, food loves all orientations equally. If you feel like it’d bring you joy, there’s every chance it will. 

Mr Macramé

I think if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s not to care as much about what people think and to just do what you enjoy. Heck, if all you want to do is find something that can make you happy, then give it a go.

Pete Sews

I would say try it. Get some advice, get some equipment, make some mistakes and then make an informed decision about whether to continue with it. I would also highly recommend a mentor of some kind, someone to bounce ideas off, to ask you what went wrong and to guide your hand when you need it.

Ruth Allen

I would always say ... Go for it! The introductory workshops we have conducted here for the last three years are very supportive of all personalities, body shapes, tolerances, there is something within the intimacy of the material for everyone. 

On following your dreams… 

Ruth Allen in her Coburg North glass art warehouse

Chrissy Flanagan

Each class I make a big stack of new friends and so do they, and we make sausages and get tipsy along the way. It’s unbeatable. My favourite thing about sausage making is that no one comes knowing how to do it so everyone is equally vulnerable. It truly is democracy sausage.

Mr Macramé

I get so excited when the students get that lightbulb moment and the technique just clicks. The craft has a repeated process that is therapeutic and gives the workshop attendees the opportunity to hone in and practice macramé with my guidance. After the workshop, they (99% of the time!) come away with the ability and skills to make their own macramé homewares and artworks which I love seeing and sharing on socials.

Pete Sews

My favourite thing about teaching sewing is seeing my clients realise that they have just made themselves something useful, something unique and it wasn’t as hard as they imagined. Too many people are fearful of making mistakes but I have told my students for years: ‘Mistakes are the best thing you can make, except for cookies.’

Ruth Allen

I will never forget the first time I gathered from the furnace – resting at 1100 degrees – a pool of molten material, hot and gooey like honey. All I needed to do was coil it up on my rod and pull it out. My heart was pounding, my body full of butterflies. I relive this moment with each and every participant in my workshops. It is so exhilarating and somewhat primal, bringing your presence of mind directly to the moment.

On beating the bias and paving your own path…

Chrissy Flanagan

I do occasionally get a bit of mansplaining even to the point of being corrected about how to make sausages – lol – but I shut that down pretty fast. No one talks down to the Sausage Queen, and in my class, we are all Sausage Queens. We don’t stand for any patronising.

Pete Sews

I visited a prestigious fabric store in Melbourne a few years ago looking to buy some high-quality shirting fabric. I was travelling at the time so wore shorts, a t-shirt and had a small backpack. I was treated rudely, given no assistance and did not feel welcome, almost like Vivian in that iconic scene from Pretty Woman. I left the store without making a purchase, went up the road to a different fabric store where I was warmly welcomed and assisted so I then spent nearly $400 on fabric (big mistake, huge!). Only by continually challenging these expectations in society and by stepping outside of your comfort zone will we stop saying “a male sewing teacher”, “a female blacksmith”, “men who knit” and “woman builders” and instead just have sewing teachers, blacksmiths, knitters and builders.

A final word...

Ready to challenge social expectations and subvert conventions? In the wise words of Pete Sews, "who cares about who you are – get excited and make things!"

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