Training British Asian women in the use of advanced computerised sewing machines in partnership with Wardleworth Community Centre.
'Digital Embroidery' is a WEA adult and community learning course provided as part of the 'Digital Threads' project. It involves the use of digital sewing machines, the acquisition of basic ICT skills, searching the Internet for design patterns, digitisation of these patterns using a scanner and interfacing new design patterns with the digital sewing machines.
It is accredited by Greater Manchester Open College Network at Level 1 Credit 1 Embroidery, and at Level 1 Credit 1 Computing. Learners are women of predominantly Bengali, Asian Pakistani and Asian Kashmiri origin, some with language and literacy difficulties.
The project started with a few open day tasters funded by the WEA, focusing on basic embroidery techniques. However, before much progress could be made, a number of problems needed to be resolved. Some women were struggling to get permission from their families to attend the community centre, therefore a second women’s only centre had to be found. Crèche facilities were also needed and language barriers had to be overcome.
On the technical side, it soon became apparent that more culturally relevant material needed to be included other than the Disney cartoon characters that were already pre-programmed into the machines.
Eventually, through the perseverance and vision of the WTI coordinator, Rehana Mohammed, the project grew and more and more Asian women are now taking part in activities that are culturally relevant to them, overcoming fears in the use of computers and incorporating basic skills training into courses in embroidery.
Rehana noted how the accessing the internet as a tool has enabled all age groups of women to progress. “If the student is very young, I show them stuff on the internet that appeals to them such as fashion, beauty, music, but it should be all based around their own culture. You need to consider your target group and make sure tutors are aware of the specific needs of the learners.”
Rochdale Ethnic Minority Business Woman of the Year 2005
first became interested in the WEA through a friend and enrolled
digital embroidery, IT and sewing. I was helped to apply for a loan
from the Prince’s Trust. I used the loan to open my own business, a
clothing boutique called ‘Unique’. Due to its success I won the award
for Asian business of the year in Rochdale. A big thanks to WEA for
giving me the confidence to start my own business'.
Shafqat Parveen – ‘Unique’