Helping people is all stitched up
9 July 2019 | North West England
Brilliant sewing group boosts mental health as well as helping protect the environment.
From an unimposing building in Chorlton, the hum of sewing machines and chatter of women’s voices echo out. Laughter follows as steaming cups of tea and biscuits are passed around inside.
Here, where four grey garage units once stood, a little bit of magic is happening. The space has been transformed into a vibrant hub of creativity.
Meet the Stitched Up Co-operative, an inspirational bunch of (mostly) ladies who have come together to show that you can be resourceful and eco-minded while having fun and making new friends.
That is exactly what Katy Delaney, 27, found when she joined their Bee Well Crafternoons project for adults facing mental health challenges. The group offers a supportive environment in which to learn and share new skills while getting to know others dealing with similar issues.
Katy has learnt different textile craft skills, including knitting, crochet, hand and machine sewing, visible mending, clothes upcycling, printing, embroidery, applique, needle felting and more.
For someone who feels passionately about the environment and reducing her ecological footprint but who suffers from anxiety, the group provides a safe space.
Stitched Up was launched in 2011 with the aim of encouraging individuality, pride and sustainability through fashion and style. The grassroots collective grew from their passion for the environment, human rights, style & creativity.
They run garment making and upcycling workshops and it is a space for crafters, makers and tinkerers. They also travel around Manchester delivering workshops, teaching how to sew and upcycle to young people and in schools. Not only that, but every Monday they work with vulnerable adults at the local Booth Centre which helps those at risk of becoming homeless.
“We thought it would be nice to all come together in a place where we could do something creative,” explained Bryony Moore, 35, one of the founders. “We began with pop up events around Manchester, then looked for a permanent residence. In 2014 we opened our workshop space in Chorlton. We call it our HQ, but in reality its four garage units that have been knocked together. But we love it and it is our home.”
Katy loves it too: “I suffer from anxiety and have had bad panic attacks since childhood. My dad encouraged me to come along. He thought it would be good for me and wanted to buy me a sewing machine but I had no idea how to use it. I was a bit apprehensive, but came along to a ‘learn to sew’ class and that gave me the confidence to come and do a project of my own. At the moment I am making a new pair of shorts for the summer from old material and upcycling a skirt by screen painting it.
“It is so hard to shop ethically these days, but here you can come along and make your own or upcycle to avoid that headache. There is the social element, but also, it offers me such much-needed ‘me-time’. I am self-employed and never stop. I hardly have a moment to myself, but now I have a set time in my diary that I know I can come along and switch off from work.”
Katy added: “Everyone is so friendly and I have actually made some lovely friends. It is really useful to know that everyone here has gone through or is going through similar situations.It is a brilliant organisation that helps people develop confidence and brings people together. I have definitely noticed that I am a lot more relaxed and calm since coming.”
As well as their weekly programme of workshops they hold monthly events like their popular ‘repair cafe’ where people bring along broken computers, bikes, small electrical items or furniture. It is free to attend and the idea is that not just that people hope to give the items a new lease of life but actually learn how to repair them.
“It is a social occasion, but also one where you learn new skills. And, at the end of the day, it is all about keeping things out of landfill,” says Bryony. “We want to reduce our impact on the environment.”
Once a month they also hold ‘volunteer day’, where people from the local community will come along to help out with anything that might need doing. That could be weighing and sorting textiles to painting and decorating the centre. Up to 35 volunteers come regularly.
“We are always pleased to see how many volunteers come along, they make such a difference and have such a big impact on what we do. It is amazing how willing they are to pitch in.”