Sewing circles are still bringing women together
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 15:07

circleStrange customs, a new language, and loss of family and friends are a lot to deal with but for many new migrants it's a set of challenges they face all at once, with the added distress of having had to flee their home and community.

A QUT project at The Stitchery Collective in The Valley, called Fashioning Social Inclusion, worked with refugee support organisations The Romero Centre in Dutton Park and NOAH in Stafford to bring migrant women from the Middle East and Sudan together to share sewing skills and learn new ones.

Project leader Kathleen Horton from QUT's School of Design said many of the women in the group were at risk of feeling isolated in their new country.

"We have found that sewing and clothing are a 'lingua franca' when women get together. This project helps the women to not only learn new skills but to feel empowered by teaching others sewing techniques from their own culture," she said.

"By meeting in this way the women increase their self-confidence and interpersonal skills as well as build new friendships with QUT staff and volunteers and with others in similar circumstances."

On Thursdays women from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iran met to sit, chat and sew with QUT staff and Stitchery Collective members and learn hand-sewing, embroidery and appliqué. On Fridays, women from Sudan and Burma learnt pattern-cutting and machining skills to make their own blouses and skirts.

At the end of the program the women and their family and friends gathered with the facilitators and members of the QUT community to celebrate their achievements and screen a short documentary about the project made by QUT Creative Industries students.

The Stitchery Collective is a community of young women who are graduates and teachers from QUT's fashion discipline inspired by the potential of clothes and their making to develop and maintain joyous connections with people.

"It is a social enterprise, an idea and a meeting point," Ms Horton said.

"We are connecting the unlikely bedfellows of fashion and social welfare to facilitate meaningful exchanges between individuals and communities."