The club took off when Jo Lee English, Assistant Cafe Manager and Outreach Worker at St Stephen’s in Norwich, and Malcolm Brown, a leading volunteer at Norwich Foodbank, discovered that they were each carrying a similar vision.
Jo Lee said: “I love to sew for others. For a long time, I have wanted to use my ability to sew to help those who need it. Then, late last year I saw a project taking place in Birmingham by Our Scene CIC that I thought I could easily re-create so long as I could find some like-minded people and enough fabric and stuffing to get going. Around that time, St Stephen’s church received funding from Norfolk Community Foundation to open as a Community Hot Spot on Sundays between 12pm and 4pm and the door huggers project started to get going. I was so pleased when, two weeks before we were due to start making door huggers at the Community Hot Spot, Malcolm found us. His enthusiasm for the project, practical skills, and willingness to share his equipment has meant that this project has really taken off.”
Malcolm says: “I like to sew too, mostly with a machine. It saddens me to see that some people in my community lack proper curtains when I could sew a set of thick curtains for them in an afternoon. Charity shops are selling curtains at around £30 a set which is beyond the budget of many people, and I knew that I could help people to stay warm for less. This is especially important now, as energy prices rise, and good curtains help a lot to keep a home warm.”
Recently, a friend was able to give Malcolm fabrics to kick start a project, so he started making quilts and draught excluders with the thought of later also providing curtains. The Community, Quilts and Curtains project (CQAC for short) was underway. He began to learn sewing techniques and friends started clearing their sewing stashes and attics to help the project along. He decided to make a free gift of his products to people in need.
Having created a pile of quilts, he popped into St Stephens one cold Wednesday and received a warm welcome, with lots of interest and support. To his surprise, he learned that Jo Lee was about to start a similar project – which she had christened ‘door huggers’ – based at the St Stephen’s Community Hot Spot.
The two have now joined forces and have held their first sewing group work session at the church, distributing quilts and draught excluders to people who need them.
Malcolm says: “The group has immediately developed an energetic can-do attitude, with compassion for our neighbours who are struggling to keep warm at home.”
Jo Lee says: “Since we started our little group has made 25 door huggers – including two extra-long ones for the medieval doors at St Stephen’s church! By the end of this week, all the door huggers that we have made will already be in people’s homes keeping them warm. We’re excited to see that they are clearly much needed in this community and are finding their way to the right homes. Our group is open to anyone, whether you have experience with sewing or not. There’s a job for everyone; cutting the fabric, sewing on labels, stuffing them and stitching them together. Our Community Hot Spot is open from 12pm to 4pm and we serve simple meals like beans on toast and jacket potatoes. We’ll be open every Sunday until the end of March… but who knows, maybe our little crafting group will keep meeting and making for our community.”