Catherine West, the founder of creative social enterprise Significant Seams, marks five years of happy stitching
We’ve patchworked furniture; crocheted snowflakes; dressed women around the world; made blankets for Calais; baked for Macmillan Cancer Care; made bunting for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; pounded flowers; knitted flowers; sewn flowers; led six community quilt projects; sculpted a tree, a wishing well and a giant apple; and collected hundreds of water droplet wishes – to lead a flood of community-driven activities and change.
All of this is thanks to Significant Seams, which is this month celebrating its fifth anniversary, and a different way of doing business. The local social enterprise, based in Wood Street in Walthamstow, uses textiles and craft to ‘build community and support people in vulnerable life moments’.
In practice, Significant Seams run sewing, knitting and crochet workshops. It delivers programmes in schools, at galleries, and from an enviable spot overlooking Walthamstow Garden Party.
Fabric and craft supplies, new and donated, are sold from a boutique-like space in Wood Street that has been dubbed the “Community Living Room”.
Significant Seams participate in business forums and community organisation networks. It is our strong view that businesses are part of the local community, and like any individual, have a social role to play.
The team includes a small staff of six people whose hours add up to less than two full-time jobs, plus company directors and over 20 active regular volunteers. There are also many more ad hoc contributors. Volunteers help staff the space, where regulars drop in for a cuppa, advice (personal or crafting), and a top-up of supplies.
Since setting up in September 2011, volunteers have contributed over 19,000 hours – some to running the organisation, some to helping the organisation help other projects. Their work, from its spot in Wood Street, has garnered international attention. A chapter of the book Craftivism: The art and craft of activism is dedicated to the activities and approach of this small organisation with a big impact.
Significant Seams has nurtured relationships between local people, and helped connect people with goodwill and good ideas. Its volunteers and regular clients are increasingly involved in projects across Waltham Forest as a result; Caravans for Calais, Waltham Forest Migrants Action Group, Dementia Awareness, Chance UK, and Carefree Kids, to name a few.
This month supporters are delivering a busy schedule of workshops to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Significant Seams, and to reflect the range of skills and interests in our community. They include social groups and an English programme for speakers of other languages; a menopause support group; and a new Saturday morning craft club for kids.
New participants are always welcome to all of the groups and programmes. I look forward to seeing you there!
For more information on events at Significant Seams