Mona is a sewing and textiles tutor with the WEA and beloved by former and current learners for her dedication to helping her community. "I've been teaching for 15 years with the WEA. When I started as a volunteer in the community centre there were just 2 second-hand sewing machines. Throughout the years, we’ve raised funds and sold handmade items to fully equip the workshop. Now we have 11 digital sewing machines and a proper cutting table!” 

She currently runs 5 classes throughout the year (September to July) from her community classroom in East London. The learners that join Mona's classes may differ in age, nationality and lifestyle, but the emotional and skills-based benefits are something they all share “This year, there were 13 nationalities and different ages ranging from 20-70 years old. Some had very little English and some had master's degrees – it was very mixed."

"Some of the learners were shy at the beginning, but when they learnt the basic sewing techniques they developed their confidence and really started participating and taking part in the classes. They learnt from each other and gained a great sense of achievement and pride”. 

Some of the ladies join the classes because they want to develop a skill to find work in a sector that isn’t office-based or 9-5.

"Around 90% that join are beginners but through the year they develop to advanced level”. Many even go on to start their own businesses. “One is selling items in the nearby market and on Facebook Marketplace, another started her own company, another is working from home making Burkas and dresses for the Bengali community.

It’s not just sewing skills that learners gain. “Through sewing they learn English via the new words they pick up and by having simple conversations. They also learn maths, as sewing requires calculating fabric quantity, measuring, reading the tape measure, using multiplication and division and also working with shapes. For cushion shapes you might be working with triangles or squares. So, we are building sewing skills alongside maths and also English”.

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About the author

Kay Field

Digital Marketing Officer

Kay is the Digital Marketing Officer at the WEA.