Sew Halton is a social enterprise that utilises machine sewing and clothing design as a platform to reduce unemployment, isolation, poor wellbeing and fabric waste.
Before Covid-19, the team ran a range of activities from its sewing studio at Runcorn Old Police Station. These included a confidence sewing course aimed at long-term unemployed people, an up-cycling project that distributed over 500 coats to local children and a poppy-making project with local veterans.
Sew Halton’s participants typically face many barriers – in a recent series of courses, 26% of the participants had a mental health challenge and 64% had a physical disability of some kind. Halton as a borough faces many challenges: high levels of deprivation have been compounded by years of austerity and many people feel isolated and disconnected. Covid-19 added another level of complexity to these social challenges.
The Kindred team has worked with Sew Halton since early lockdown. “Kindred’s support has been vital to Sew Halton – lockdown and social distancing could easily have made us unsustainable,” says founder Victoria Begg. “With their support we’ve been able to offer a range of Zoom sewing classes, aimed at those that may be particularly at risk of isolation. These have included craft lessons for young carers, sewing classes for local veterans, making masks for local charities and scrubs for our NHS heroes. Lockdown became a very productive time for Sew Halton and our community of sewers.”
Now, Sew Halton’s moving into the area of manufacture. It plans to set up a factory that employs local people and produces good ethical products from its base in Halton, which is plans to call ‘social manufacturing’. “Kindred has been incredible in helping us take this vision forward,” says Victoria. “They have connected us to universities, other manufactures and fellow social businesses. The networking and capacity-building they have given us has been fantastic. We’re now confident that we can start to manufacture a range of eco-sanitary garments in the near future.”
Its work in the community has also gained new recognition. “Sew Halton has been a great help to some of our most isolated veterans and families during lockdown,” says Billy Jones, director of the Veterans Community Force in Halton. “The craft sessions and sewing are great, but it’s the connection and community they’ve developed that really makes a difference.”
Leigh Thompson is the chief commissioner for NHS Halton CCG. “It’s been amazing to see the organisation grow and to see the positive impact that Sew Halton has had on the participants’ health and wellbeing,” she says. “During lockdown, Sew Halton and an army of local volunteers, manufactured scrubs for frontline workers. This was a brilliant idea that brought people together with a clear sense of community and purpose.”
“Sew Halton is a unique and valued community organisation that’s helping those that often fall through the cracks. They have created a brilliant community of sewers, crafters and friends – isolation has met its match in Halton!” adds Cllr. Margaret Horrabin, Mayor of Halton.