Words by Annie Jordan & Photos by Caroline Finn
Clydebank, once home to Singer sewing machine factory, recently played host to a creative sewing project sharing some of the untold stories woven into our community.
The six-week quilting workshops, part of Clydesider’s creative storytelling project, paired artist Flo Dwyer with local charity Isaro Community Initiative.
Isaro was set up in 2010 to welcome new Scots to the area.
Rose Sehazizinka, one of four founder members, and now project co-ordinator explained: “When you are new, you feel very isolated.”
“It is important to have a social space to meet other people who speak the same language to learn more about life in Scotland and Glasgow: a place where you can go to ask for information on how to access services, how to study, where to find this and that, and socialise.”
There is a mix of nationalities and cultures represented in the group including Arabic and Farsi speakers who provide peer support, translating and interpreting.
“Peer learning is central to what we are doing,” Rose added.
Pre-covid the women had a regular sewing group and during the pandemic they continued to sew at home, making scrub bags and masks for NHS staff.
So the group were keen to work on another textile-based project with Clydesider.
Both experienced and inexperienced sewers worked together to produce beautiful quilts.
Samina, one of the participants, explained: “Sewing is part of our culture. We sew our own veils and embroider our saris.” She showed me some intricate embroidery.
“We hand down our skills to the younger generation. Otherwise our traditions could die out.”
All the material for the quilts was donated.
And for Samina, this was the best part: “Materials were set out, all different designs and colours. Some were very vibrant.
“We worked in teams to decide which colours we were going to pick for our quilt.
“Once we had our colours and patterns, we then had to decide what to make together and how to complete the work.”
Their eye-catching work is exhibited in a display cabinet in Whitecrook’s Centre 81. There are purses, bags, plus larger items like bedspread and throws.
My favourite is a patchwork quilt in the shades of autumn: bright oranges, yellows and rich rusts and burgundy.
Rose tells me: “Some of the items have been sold at markets and at a shop in Dumbarton and the ladies intend to use Instagram and maybe Etsy.
“We’re setting up a social enterprise to use reclaimed material to make new things, like the patchwork pieces made on the Clydesider project.”
Rose appeals for unused sewing machines, they are happy to take older machines.
“We have a technician for repairs. Some of the ladies can also do a little bit of maintenance themselves.”
It makes me smile to think the sewing machines built in Clydebank and shipped across the world, are now whirring away under the steady hands of new Scots women who are sharing their own creative traditions and styles.
I wonder what Isaac Merritt Singer, American founder of Singer sewing machine, would make of it all?