Close to people | Stories from Bethel

"For me, plastic is also just a material"

Toiletry bags, wallets, key rings: many useful and stylish accessories can be made from a material that very few people would have thought could be recycled: used water wings. But these rubber buoyancy aids are given a second chance at the "Nähwerk", the sewing workshop at Bethel's "Tagwerk".

Many creative people work at the day centre for people with mental illnesses on Herbergsweg - such as Ulrike Kögel*. The Bielefeld native has been attending the sewing workshop for many years. In addition to patience and experience, she has a great deal of sensitivity for the not always easy processing of the tough material. The woman, who describes herself as a "patchworker", also often uses a needle and thread in her private life. "For me, plastic is also just a fabric. Only firmer," she says. Special machine needles are needed to pierce the thick rubber layer of the wings without the needles breaking. Ulrike Kögel appreciates the sturdy material because it makes her creations stable, durable and water-repellent. Most of the pieces are finished with zips and a logo. The raw material, discarded swimming aids, comes from all of Bielefeld's swimming pools and has been collected at Ishara for four years now.

In addition to her passion for sewing, the idea of having to buy fewer new things is an incentive for Ulrike Kögel. Recycling existing materials is an important contribution to environmental protection. "So many things happen in the textile industry that are bad for the environment," she says. In addition to water wings, awning fabrics, wax tablecloths and air mattresses are also converted into unique bags or practical toiletry bags. Their creativity has not gone unnoticed: the seamstresses from Bethel were even honoured with the Marta Museum Design Award for a rucksack made from empty milk cartons.

The creative mind behind the upcycling project at Tagwerk is Esther Deppendorf. The occupational therapist has been thinking about what could be processed and how for eight years: "Initially, it was mainly about making sensible use of the many material donations we receive from companies. We asked ourselves: What can we make out of them?" Today, the products from the half-timbered house on Herbergsweg can not only be found directly on site, at local markets such as the Christmas market on Siegfriedplatz and at Bethel's own upcycling market, but they are also available at M Kaffee. The handmade products are very popular in the café on Bielefeld's Gehrenberg - at a price of 16 euros per item. All proceeds from the sale go to Betheler Tagwerk.


Text: Robert Burg | Photos: Matthias Cremer

This story simply told

In the Bethel sewing workshop, old water wings are turned into new things such as bags and key rings. Ulrike Kögel works there and likes turning old things into something new. She likes the fact that it is good for the environment. The items are sold and the money helps other people.

Would you like to find out more?


Day-care programmes Tagwerk
Herbergsweg 10
33617 Bielefeld

Johanna Verwold
0521 144-4042

To the website of the offer

Offers & services

TagWerk is one of several day-care programmes offered by Bethel.regional. The service is primarily aimed at adults who are currently unable to organise their day independently or find work due to the effects of a mental impairment.

TagWerk offers a wide range of day-structuring activities that provide counselling, encounters with other people, socialising and discussions, and work opportunities without the pressure to perform.

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