Stitches in Time

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Stitches in Time's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Stitches in Time is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

The Stitches in Time team
Weekly sewing classes
for local women
Stitches in Time has been using creative projects to bring
people together for over 25 years. Founded by artist Diana
England in 1993, this locally rooted arts charity has had to
be responsive and innovative in adapting to varying economic
and funding climates. In uncertain economic times, Directors
Katie Adkins and Paul Garayo have increased the numbers of
people who benefit from the charity by 500 per cent. They have
almost tripled the charity’s income over the past five years to
become more self-sufficient, through diversified income streams
and innovative social enterprise endeavours, addressing the
huge economic disparity in Tower Hamlets.
Stitches in Time is a participatory arts and education charity based in Tower
Hamlets. Yet the support we offer is much more than just sewing. It starts
with offering a safe, supportive space for people to develop a creative skill, but
expands and wraps around to support the ranging needs and aspirations of our
We run weekly creative projects at the request of our beneficiaries, providing
projects for elders facing isolation, unemployed migrant women facing
marginalisation, children living in poverty, and our wider community, to meet and
access help. Through becoming known as a provider of support for many who
wouldn’t know how to access it, we deal with a range of complex issues, such as
domestic and financial abuse, homelessness, long-term unemployment, mental
health issues, isolation and poverty.
»Directors: Katie Adkins and
Paul Garayo
»Founded in 1993
»Based in Limehouse, London
»Services: Forum to enable
culturally diverse groups to work
together, running educational
programmes, raising levels
of confidence and skill-based
learning for women, young
people and older people and
creating partnerships between
individuals in the voluntary,
statutory and private sectors
»No. of employees: 2 full-time
and 14 part-time
»No. of annual beneficiaries:
»The number of people
accessing our charity has
increased by 500 per cent in
two and a half years
Stitches in Time
Highlighting best practice
Working with people
Stitches in Time began through a
creative experiment. Could something
as simple as sewing start conversations
between strangers? Our Founder Diana
England explained: “The project aimed
to include everyone; all they had to do
was join in and add a stitch.”
The success of this small test in 1993
soon became our charity’s giant
founding project, creating 50 large-
scale tapestries based on the changing
history of London, now housed in our
archive in Limehouse Town Hall. Over
the next seven years, facilitating the
meeting of diverse groups of local
people in an area of massive inequality,
over 3,000 people sat and sewed
together with lasting impact.
Pensioners met at children’s centres,
Canary Wharf bank staff stitched
with migrant women with English
as a second language, young people
stitched with parents’ groups, textile
artists embroidered with people who
have never held a needle. Twenty-five
years later, the charity now engages
with over 2,000 people per year.
Regular groups were formed through
this, some still meeting weekly to
create and converse together.
Perhaps more than any other borough in
London, Tower Hamlets best represents
the capital with its untrammelled riches
and stark poverty. Despite hosting the
city’s financial district Canary Wharf, it
has the highest level of child poverty
in the country, more children living in
poverty than not. It has the highest rate
of pensioner poverty, and the greatest
level of income inequality in the UK.
Deprivation is widespread in Tower
Hamlets: 58 per cent of neighbourhoods
are in the most deprived 20 per cent.
Innovative approaches to
social enterprise
FabricWorks is our training, production
and social enterprise arm. We match
the need for a London-based textile
production service with the need for
supportive employment opportunities
for local migrant women with limited
job opportunities.
Since FabricWorks began in 2014, we’ve
assisted approximately 150 women
facing marginalisation into training
and towards employment. Through
delivering creative workshops to
parents’ groups and women’s centres,
it became evident there was a huge
wealth of sewing knowledge prevalent
with local South Asian women,
possessing sewing skills practised since
a young age.
Through getting to know these women,
we learnt of the huge desire to earn
an income, many for the first time,
and progress into work with skills they
Demonstrating business
Learning garment
manufacturing skills
Perhaps more
than any other
borough in
Hamlets best
represents the
capital with its
riches and
stark poverty
felt accomplished in. We created
opportunities to learn, gain experience
and learn a trade in a supportive,
empowering environment. Coupled with
the diminishing rag trade in the East
End, and the growing focus on ethical
fashion, FabricWorks was formed.
We’ve made items for wide-ranging
clients, stocked in Topshop, Southbank
Centre, Somerset House, Royal College
of Art, and the Venice Biennale. We’ve
made 250 aprons for Granger & Co
restaurant, numerous collections
for ethical brand Birdsong, and dog
bandanas for a new designer start-up.
We have evidenced that this enterprise
is needed and we are at capacity
with commissions within our current
infrastructure, and are now exploring
ways to expand. This will enable more
women to advance into training and
work and bring more stable revenue to
the charity.
Unlimited ambition
Despite our size, we think big. We are
always looking for ways that our small
organisation can drive the bigger picture.
Currently, our involvement in Poplar
Works as a key partner with London
College of Fashion and Poplar Harca
housing association means that we
can be at the heart of people-centred
community engagement approaches
to developments that will bring in new
jobs and new educational opportunities.
Our aim is to reinitialise the textile
manufacturing sector in London with
a socially responsible ethos that means
as London changes, people can change
with it too and benefit from it.
Small, locally rooted charities have
been in the best position to be able to
innovate quickly and directly with their
local community to creatively respond to
issues affecting those they work with.
With the changing funding climates,
commissioning rather than grants, we
run the risk of removing the imagination
and innovative problem-solving in
charity that is very much needed.
Government needs to protect the
stability of smaller charities, by ensuring
their ability to continue doing what
they do best, which is to remain closely
embedded in the local community,
rather than giving larger contracts to
bigger bodies for ease of administration.
We’ve made
items for
stocked in
House, Royal
College of Art,
and the
Stitches in Time has made me independent to come out of the
house. I have been suffering domestic abuse for 29 years. They have
listened, helped me and given me emotional support.”
At first I found the course a little bit hard but I am enjoying learning.
I look forward to coming in and feel like a really valued part of a
team. It feels like a family, like a home, and I feel part of something,
and important.”
Some of our group at
Limehouse Town Hall
Mini Stitches - our
charity’s own
childrenwear brand,
made in our studio

This article was sponsored by Stitches in Time. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster