Community sewing groups based in the London borough of Islington have colloborated to make face masks for vulnerable residents during the lockdown whilst learning stitching skills that have opened up employment and training opportunities.
The Finsbury Park Women’s Network helped co-ordinate the volunteers, that included newbies as well as experienced stitchers, and the council connected them with Fashion-Enter / FTA, who supplied them with their first batch of material and threads. They were then joined by the local mutual aid group and from that point on the group got sewing and produced over 500 face masks. With help from experienced machinists and community group leaders from a range of black and minority ethnic support groups, they were able to introduce volunteers to courses and employment opportunities via Fashion-Enter.
One of the seamstresses, Dehab Asfaha, told us: “I wanted to do something to help during the crisis. So I used my sewing and knitting skills to make masks and help the community. It kept me busy during lockdown and it made me happy to know I was doing something to help.
“It might not seem like a big deal, but sometimes small things can make a big difference. I made over 180 masks from the materials donated to us. I’m still making face coverings and distributing them in the Finsbury Park community.”
Cllr Asima Shaikh, the council’s executive member for inclusive economy and jobs, said: “Islington has a unique community spirit; something as terrible as coronavirus was always going to challenge us to show our best side, and these sewing groups are among many grass-roots responses that really demonstrate our strength in adversity.
“I was very keen to support them every way we could, and am pleased to see how it’s made a real difference to people’s lives. This is the definition of an inclusive economy; not only have hundreds of essential masks been made locally for people who need them, but these women are developing skills that will enable them to access employment and training opportunities right here in the community with our affordable workspace provider, Fashion-Enter.”
The council is working in partnership with Fashion-Enter / FTA to create employment and training opportunities for local residents. If you would like to learn to sew or brush up on your sewing skills, Fashion-Enter / FTA have spaces left on their free level 1 and level 2 sewing courses. To find out more, email email@example.com.