We have now reached our second anniversary and the sewing group is going from strength to strength with around 20 regular members. Last year we featured in two short Oxfam films marking Refugee Week and Secondhand September.  Also marking the latter, we ran a sashiko denim patch workshop for 30 Oxfam shop managers and staff, in Mushkil Aasaan and secondly, we ran a repair and upcycling workshop, on the Oxfam shop floor.

During the year we had two takeovers of the shop window, when we exhibited our handiwork to the shoppers of Tooting. The second of these was the culmination of a project ‘Different Ways to feel London is your Home’. This fantastic project was suggested and managed by our wonderful facilitator Patricia who brought her flair, skills and colourful creativity all the way from Columbia.  Acknowledging that many of us were originally from different countries or other parts of the UK, we celebrated this by making items for the home collaboratively, using recycled materials and including colours, symbols, fabrics or techniques from our various homes and cultures.

The finished furnishings included a hammock made using crocheted strips of waste tee-shirts, a plaited rug made from sari falls recalling rangoli designs, a bed set using techniques from Afghanistan and labelled ‘dreaming of a better life in London’ and a fabric tea service recalling conversations over tea in Paris. As we made these items, various members of the group stood up and shared their memories of childhood, home and families and this was very moving.

We completed our beautiful ‘Sewing and Sanctuary’ banner with each letter created by a different member of the group using a variety of techniques and all from repurposed materials of course! You may have seen it on display at Tooting Can or one of our other events. 

We took it along to a meeting organised by Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees involving a number of local community sewing groups where we met a team from Liberty. This led to two visits (including some of our group members) to the Design Studio at Liberty. We have also made connections with a local fashion entrepreneur, Sakina O’Neill of Re-Runn and with the Royal College of Art who included us in their stakeholder engagement focus groups as part of their research into creating a regenerative fashion hub in Wandsworth. 

Over the past year we have continued to produce work for other charities, some of our knitters producing chicks for Trinity Hospice’s annual fundraiser and we made textile picture postcards for Sprout Art’s postcard sale. As I write this, Oxfam Tooting is temporarily closed  for refurbishment but we continue to meet and in the future we have plans to sell some of our work in the Oxfam shop. Watch this space!