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Tea and Textiles: quilt-making with ESOL learners

WAES Fashion course leader, Ekta, organised a truly incredible project with the help of Church Street Library. A group of ESOL students met every Monday at their local library to make a quilt together.

 “There’s a long history all over the world of women coming together through sewing,” says Ekta, the brilliant mastermind behind the project. “We really wanted to do something collective.”

The quilt really is a group project, with each woman contributing a square to the final piece. It all comes together to make a map of the Church Street area, with the library in the centre. They say that although they’re all from different countries and backgrounds, it was the Church Street area that brought them together and they really wanted to make something to reflect that.

Sewing is great because it’s a very hands-on skill, and so overcame the language barriers in the group as they could learn from each other through observation. While some of the women are completely new to it, many of them have been sewing from a young age but just haven’t had any reason to pick up a needle since moving to the UK.

Shaheda Khan is one of those people – she’s been sewing since she was five and is actually incredible at it. She’s been thrilled to get the chance to use those skills again and is interested in enrolling on one of WAES’ fashion courses. Four of her friends from the group have already signed up for a sewing class and are looking forward to starting it in January.

The project came to an end with an exhibition in the Showroom, where the work was displayed and there was a fantastic celebration. Each of the women received a certificate from Barbara Grahame, the councillor for the Church Street ward. Many of the women also chose to give speeches about the project and what it meant for them in English, a difficult and nerve-wracking task for people who are only just learning the language, but something that, with the support of their friends, they pulled off fantastically. The project hasn’t just helped them with their sewing skills and to make new friends, but has also helped them with their English.

To find out more about our ESOL classes click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about sewing yourself, have a look at our fashion courses.

And find out about other community projects running in Westminster libraries.


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