LRFs Women’s only Wellbeing project 


The women’s only wellbeing project launch first focused on teaching women hand embroidery skills using embroidery hoops, thread, big eye needles, and recycled fabric. Women were taught basic vocabulary and phrases to establish a baseline knowledge of terminology used in the textiles industry, including ‘fabric’, ‘sewing’, ‘needle’, ‘embroidery’, and were provided with the opportunity to practice these phrases by having their very own materials to be used in class.

To help stop the spread of Covid19, women were briefed in every class on sanitising hands and the use of face coverings every class (unless exempt); they were also reminded of respecting one another’s space to encourage a healthy and welcoming work environment. This was followed and encouraged by all of the women.

After developing their basic skills, the women were introduced to sewing machines and taught the various parts and skills needed to use a sewing machine – this includes practicing various stitch patterns, using an embroidery hoop on a sewing machine, and were also given booklets to practice these skills at home. Women were also given background information on the history of sewing machines, patchwork, and its uses in modern landscaping like church windows. The women were impressed with this informal education, and often shared what they learnt with friends and family members.

After weeks of hard work and learning, LRF wanted to celebrate the women’s efforts in accordance with Covid19 – and what better to end than a handbag fashion show?

The handbag fashion show asked women to race against time (1 ¼ hours) to make their first tote or handbag; “think Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Next, wherever your heart desires and make your very own handbag”, as our project coordinator stated in class.

The project teachers instructed women to work in pairs on tables of 6 (in accordance with Covid19 guidelines). This meant that pairs had one sewing machine to share but had the freedom to cut their own pattern, chose their fabric and design their own tote – whether this be with pockets, with a zip, a phone pocket.

Here were the results: a kaleidoscope of patterns with green, pink, purple and cream with various internal pockets, reversible totes and even hand embroidery. The class voted on which bag was the best curated, designed and executed, and women were able to take home their bags to friends and family.

     

Whilst the women may see the class as an opportunity to socialise and develop their own community, some women may wish to pursue sewing as a career. LRF therefore offers the women an opportunity to book a one to one appointment with our employment advisor, who helps people to improve their CV, brush up on interview skills and update qualifications.

The class continues to grow and has proved extraordinarily popular among our service users. However, with Covid19 guidelines and new varients contributing to the rise in the number of Covid19 cases, the Thursday class follows a strict registration process. New service users are instructed to register using our online registration form and to email it to info@leedsrefugeeforum.org.uk. The project coordinator will proceed to contact new students or their referees with further information; this includes the weekly sign-up process which limits the number of women attending each class, and ensures the delivery of a Covid19 safe class.