Xmas 2019
Xmas 2019
1 Mar
2018
Say It Ain’t Sew - How Free Classes Are Doing Good

We all know that sewing is good for us – not only is it satisfying to create something from scratch, it’s also a great way to relax and unwind. Since 2010, designer Iona Barker has been sharing those benefits via Say It Ain’t Sew, an organisation that offers free weekly hand sewing classes to anyone who wants to learn in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ellon, Aberdeen and Stirling. “We envision a happy and creative world where we use craft as a tool to reduce social isolation, improve cognitive skills and increase mental well-being,” she tells Sew.

Iona’s own interest in sewing began at an early age and was encouraged by her mother and grandmother, who taught her the basics. “Although I got in trouble on many occasions for cutting things up that I wasn’t supposed to, it didn’t curb my enthusiasm!” she recalls. As an adult, she moved up to London to work in the fashion industry and costume design, but eventually moved home after suffering extreme burnout. Back in Scotland, she started work in a bar that was looking for fun things for customers to do in a new premises opening in Glasgow’s West End – and it was here that Say It Ain’t Sew was born.

Spreading the word
“I began running sewing classes the week after the bar opened – it was what I looked forward to most during the week,” Iona explains. “It became so popular that people holidaying in Glasgow were making trips especially to join in. By 2014, one of our participants had moved to Edinburgh, so we decided to start having sessions there too. Now we run out of Brewdog bars in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Stirling and Ellon, whilst in Edinburgh we can be found in Cabaret Voltaire.”

Say It Ain’t Sew’s was founded on Iona’s belief that hand sewing should be accessible to everyone, whatever their age, gender, background, ability, financial and social status. “We get all kinds of people coming to the classes – those who are out of work due to unemployment or disability, students, retired people, young mums with kids, and men who want to learn a new skill and fix their own clothes,” Iona reveals. “Hand sewing is more relevant now than it has ever been as the benefits are immeasurable. We believe that people deserve to learn this craft in a positive and encouraging environment.”

Community service
With recent statistics from a report commissioned by the late MP Jo Cox revealing that more 9 million adults are often or always lonely, it’s clear that this issue is widespread. With loneliness said to be deadlier than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day, the effects are more serious and saddening than previously thought. As well as learning useful skills, Iona’s classes aim to combat feelings of isolation by providing the opportunity to meet up and socialise with others. “We run a few classes for older people who have lost their partners in recent years and the communities and friendships that are being built through these are just wonderful,” Iona says. “We also get a lot of young mothers who come along with their babies – being a new mum can be extremely challenging but they can come and spend a few hours with us being creative and having fun.”

This year promises to be just as busy for Say It Ain’t Sew, which could be coming to a location near you sometime in the future! “We are hoping to get non-profit status and apply for funding with a view to opening up more new classes across the UK,” Iona reveals. “I’ve also been presenting sewing and crafts on TV over the last four years as well as via our YouTube channel, and would LOVE to do more of that to spread the message of crafting even further. Sewing is a universal language that crosses many cultures around the world – as the UK changes, we can set aside our differences to come together and create.”

To find out more, visit sayitaintsew.org, and check the Say It Ain’t Sew channel at youtube.com

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