KATHRYN McALLISTER - WONDERPANTS
I was born in the UK, grew up in New Zealand and moved to Australia when I was nineteen. We moved around a lot - countries and towns - so I was often the new kid. Sometimes I found that difficult, other times it was fine. We were a pretty regular family - I was quite a dork. I played music and read books, rode my bike, played backyard cricket. I tried uni straight out of school but it wasn’t for me. I had kids in my early 20s - the school of life. Later I studied kinesiology and massage.
I learned sewing mostly from being my mother and grandmother - my mother made most of our clothes when we were young. I remember making hand-dyed calico tops, skirts and trousers when I was about thirteen - they were the best! And a friend and I made ourselves tube skirts - so tight we could barely walk - also excellent! I had two wonderful friends, Sally and Noel, when I first moved to Australia. They made costumes, backdrops, and sets, and I assisted them for a while - it was ace - they taught me LOADS. Other than that it has mostly been self-taught - trial and error kind of thing, with the odd small course and some very kind people along the way.
I moved to Castlemaine mainly to get out of the city. I landed in St Kilda when I was nineteen but moved to Daylesford a couple of years after that, where my children were born. After separating from their dad, I moved back to Melbourne for a few years, but wanted a more simple way of life for myself and my kids, so returned to the country.
Life in a small town is equally wonderful and challenging, and the longer you live here both aspects continue to be true. I’ve been here over fifteen years now. Sometimes you need to leave for a while to refresh, and enjoy the anonymity a bigger place can offer. For me, getting out of town helps me want to stay in town - but having said that, I have not been out of town for a while now! It tends to come in waves. I guess finding the balance of small town life and needing to access the bigger picture, in whatever way, to keep refreshed and refueled creatively and personally is something I still need to keep an eye on. But I feel at home in Castlemaine - supported and nourished by the environment and the wonderful people who live here. Hopefully I’m part of that for others too.
I have a small business I am growing here - Wonderpants - ethically made, organic, comfortable underpants for every body. I had been looking for comfortable underpants for a long time - Cottontails and Bonds just weren't cutting it anymore for me. A friend gifted me the original pattern which I adapted and made my own, and created the wonderful world of Wonderpants. I started off selling them at the local Artists Market and quite quickly discovered a very supportive local customer base - it has humbled and gobsmacked me. Small towns, particularly this one, are places that people and their ideas, whatever form they take, can be nurtured and brought to life.
All sorts of people buy them! I have tried to find a distinct market group over the years, by watching who bought from me at markets and online, but in the end I found that so many people from varied groups would buy them, they were very hard to categorise - which I like! Most have a sense of humour, want to change the way they buy clothes and support local and ethical business. In short, anyone who is interested in comfortable underwear - I mean let's face it, a bad pair of underpants can ruin anyone's day, right?
My own drawer is chocked full of Wonderpants - I don't wear anything else - summer and winter. Initially fabric supplies were tighter, as I sold a bunch of knickers to be able to buy the next load of fabric, but now my drawer is full. I have a few favourites at the back of the drawer for special days!
Eventually I would like Wonderpants to sustain itself and me, and potentially employ one or two other people. I've been selling on Etsy for a few years now, and am currently working on my website, which is exciting. We recently did a photo shoot for the new colours; my daughter was the photographer and my son took video footage - it was such a great day, with some excellent models, and so brilliant to be helped creatively by my kids. I also make singlets, and am experimenting with a crop top-style bra for future release. I also have just started working on a t-shirt dress to add to the collection.
Favourite things to do in the area: I have a few for different times of the year. I’m always blown away with how lucky we are to have such beautiful Botanic Gardens. I love swimming at the res in summer, walking in the hills of Chewton is lovely, driving through Sandon to Werona soothes my soul. So many places to love!
Advice for anyone thinking of moving out here: Allow time to settle in and grow a new way of life here. It can take longer than you think sometimes to find your people or your sense of place in a small town, but find them you will. There’s so much good stuff going on here - we’re very lucky.