With an already established weekly workshop that was taking place at the Chestnuts Centre in Tottenham, 4U2’s Sewn Together project is a fine example of how crafting has given a sense of purpose to many women who have become economically inactive.

A Haringey Giving grant of £4,916 meant that Sewn Together was able to continue delivering its free crafting workshops online, despite the challenges Covid19 presented to its community. Their goal is to improve health and wellbeing – and give their participants the skills to seek work in creative industries.

The workshops provide mainly women from minority groups with a secure and safe space to learn a craft – honouring heritage and culture. It’s been replicated online with huge success, with engaging course content and tuition from expert facilitators and professional artisans. Content ranging from book binding, pattern cutting and upcycling - to how to start up a business. The workshops help many learn new skills and overcome the challenges they face daily.

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Sewn Together participant holding her blue and white embroidered bag  

We spoke to Sonja Camara, Project Manager for Sewn Together and two of the project's facilitators - Paula Balfe who runs the embroidery course - and Sandra Sutherland who teaches bookbinding.

Hi Sonja, how has the Haringey Giving grant helped Sewn Together?

It’s meant that we can continue to bring people together, many from families living in low income households. Many of whom also face physical and mental challenges and have increased anxiety at the moment. So being able to continue to provide a creative space for them has been so important. 

We have also been able to help some with vouchers for electricity and their phones too.

Hi Paula, how did your embroidery course provide a space for your participants to share their problems during lockdown?

Going online with my cross stitch course meant that many felt comfortable sharing their anxieties and very real problems - whilst they were making a gorgeous canvas bag.

They were learning different processes too. Some making the handles, others the linings, taking away their feelings of isolation. The bags were quite big, so for some it was a challenge to complete the task but their tenacity prevailed! I was impressed and proud by their completed hand embroidered bags. It really brought out their creativity too.
Sewn Together Team in Chestnuts Community Centre

Hi Sandra, you showed the group the dying craft of bookbinding, how did the participants get on with this?

This was another positive workshop that meant the group could use many items they had at home and recycle them. Many making journals, using their own fabrics or scrap paper from home – they could have their own private conversations too whilst I could teach this wonderful craft.

This also became about slowing the pace down whilst making something - cutting, revisiting personal photos to include, and practising new skills – from a mindfulness aspect too it really achieved what I wanted.

Sonja, with many who were feeling so isolated, what else did you provide?

With participants aged between 25 and 70 there were challenges for everyone. Anxiety, depression, losing friends and loved ones and worrying about their own health. So, we adapted the programme and included group counselling for both the participants and facilitators, provided by Creative Expressions. Covid19 has compounded problems and many of the group have lost relatives. Some are homeless and staying in temporary accommodation, so this group has massively benefited from going through this uncertainty together.

And how did you help the NHS during this time too?

Jesslyn Roberts, our fantastic pattern cutting facilitator, showed everyone how to make fabric masks and drawstring bags. Some of the group then went on to using their own old curtains and bedding to make for the staff at the North Middlesex Hospital.

What’s next for Sewn Together?

We are pleased to be running a new crafting course, focusing on recycling and repurposing, with the aim of improving health and wellbeing. It’s a 7 week programme, open to anyone. It will also look at how to set up a creative and sustainable business, looking at marketing too. We want to get Haringey crafting and it’s certainly good for the soul!

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