Patchwork sewing and gardening group where participants learn practical skills. The project aims to help people re-engage with learning and society
- Improved social links and ties
- Collective action and control
Stitches, Knots and Sails, run by METcic (Medway English Training Community Interest Company), based in Medway, Kent was funded by the Trust through the Active Communities programme for two years.
It had two strands - a patchwork group and a gardening group. Members were local residents, some of who were experiencing social isolation.
The patchwork group met twice a week to research maritime themes, such as historical links to the local dockyard, and design quilts inspired by their research. They created a line of stationery based on their patchwork designs, which was sold in local outlets and Etsy, an online shop.
Members have gained valuable practical craft, business, digital photography and marketing skills through the project. They have also developed a creative portfolio, which members could use as evidence to take up an art course and apply for creative jobs. Beyond the project, the patchwork group has taken part in consultation exercises held by the local council on proposals for a new market. The group have continued to meet weekly and are selling their stationery through Etsy to generate money for new fabric, continuing to offer exciting and creative choices in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere where people can socialise. They also continue to have a free room to run sessions.
Artwork made by project members
Members came together to shape and lead the project according to their needs, by regularly reviewing the activities and skills being taught. For example, the gardening strand of the project, ‘The Magpie Growers’, was set up after men in the local area expressed an interest in developing their gardening skills. Members collectively decided on the vegetables and plants that they wanted to grow. They also supported various community events organised by local primary schools to encourage children to learn about growing vegetables and plants.
Both strands of the project provided a safe space for members to meet other people from similar backgrounds, share skills and address local issues. This developed strong social ties between members and a greater sense of belonging in the local community. One project member said: “There is a sense of togetherness… we are helping to build the project up, and also build a community of people.”
All members either learnt a new skill or achieved a qualification through the project, and some have gone on to find jobs, contributing to improved health and wellbeing.
Priti joined the patchwork-sewing group because she wanted to get out of the house. At the first visit, Priti had been instrumental in getting others to join the group. While she had been outspoken and wanted to help people, she did not feel confident enough to get a job. By the follow-up visit, Priti had a part time job working as an Engagement Worker with community Hub ‘Arches Local’. The new community Hub organises local events, such as Lego clubs for children, coffee mornings, business events and Christmas fares. The patchwork-sewing group is now meeting at the premises.
The project was funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery in London East.
This case study was carried out by Ecorys UK, who are conducting an independent evaluation of People's Health Trust's Active Communities programme. This case study formed part of the first year of the evaluation process.