Life-changing support and education

Working with unemployed women staying in Edith Rigby House in Preston, a bail hostel for women awaiting either custodial sentences or for release from prison, The Sewing Rooms’ first project of this sort was declared to be “an outstanding success.”

Edith Rigby House is one of only six bail hostels for women in England, and as such, offers a unique opportunity to provide innovative, creative education and employment support.

Led by a tutor with previous experience of a bail hostel, the women who took part in the project used learning to sew as an outlet for expressing frustrations and worries and as a safe, supportive environment for growing in confidence and abilities. Participants were encouraged to speak openly, and the tutor worked with them on their aspirations for the future. Part of the learning to sew instruction included literacy, numeracy and team working, and many women were also given instruction in interview techniques and in building a CV.

Initially, many of the participants lacked confidence. Quickly, however, as their level of skill increased, so too did their feelings of self-worth. The women were tasked with helping others, as well as themselves, through the Dress a Girl From Around the World project, which asks people to recycle and re-use fabric by making new clothing for girls around the world.

The women in Edith Rigby House made more than 50 dresses for the project, with participants saying the work gave them a sense of purpose and inspiration.

The Sewing Rooms team believes in the therapeutic effects of creativity, and the Edith Rigby House project provided further evidence for that, with the hostel manager strongly commending the positive effects the project had on participants.

As well as personal improvement and helping others, The Sewing Rooms focuses on ethical and environmentally-friendly ways of doing business, and to that end, most of the materials and resources used throughout the project were upcycled donations. The women at the hostel made clothes, bags and soft furnishings.

Additionally, to help further their aspirations in education and creativity, project participants went on two field trips. The group toured the Queens Mill Textile Museum in Burnley and was given an escorted tour of the last surviving 19th century steam powered weaving mill, taking it in turns to act as a mill operator.

From learning about the creation of textiles, the group went on to participate in specially-organised workshops at the ReUse Operation in Skelmersdale where participants were given taster sessions in upholstery; upcycling furniture; using industrial sewing machines; curtain making; and decoupage (using old Beano comics).

This pilot project was such a success that The Sewing Rooms is considering a number of additional partnerships and projects, and a glowing testimonial from the Edith Rigby House hostel manager is available here, along with a letter of evaluation from Dr Iyabo Fatimilehin, Consultant Clinical Psychologist.

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