The Sewing Ladies

Hand in

In short:

  • Approach: Create space in a meeting space for a sewing initiative
  • Time investment: Few hours a week
  • Resources: Several sewing machines
  • Element for success: listen to what is going on with people give people access to an unused room


  • Creativity :

  • Feasibility :

  • Result :

  • Total :


The union of the carefree; A social artistic project in a working-class neighborhood. For Corona there was a "coffee chat" every Thursday, an informal open door where everyone was welcome. Questions are answered and consumed with a homemade cake and coffee. For many this is a major highlight of the week. The coffee chat had become the people's house for the local residents and a small social house.

The lockdown also pulled the plug from the coffee chat. All services were virtually flat. People lost sight of each other. Also a number of ladies who came to the coffee chat every week. Fear took over their daily life and thinking. No one to talk to. No network. The walls of their tiny apartment came toward them. The ladies called me. The future was one black hole. The ladies already had fears for Corona, but now the fear paralyzed their thinking and acting.

Meanwhile, every citizen is under the spell of mouth masks. Making it yourself is the message because the government is delaying. One of the ladies has a sewing machine, but does not like it. The desire to continue sewing on her own at her table was gone… The ladies called Caroline one by one.

Band and team work

Instead of calling Caroline individually, the women were invited to make mouth masks together in the café of the Union of the Care-Free. Fabric was supplied free of charge by a hospital employee. Several second-hand stationary sewing machines were collected and dusted and installed in the cafe.
One lady cut the pattern, another lady put the pins and the stretchers in it. They call this band and teamwork. Wash 'pollekes' at a safe distance, on time and of course… wear a mouth mask if we had to stand too close to each other.

Together we are strong.

A cozy atmosphere. Of course the first hour is about Corona, but all of a sudden the everyday things in life pass in review! All this with a coffee and a pre-packaged biscuit. When I suddenly heard general laughter, I knew it was good. The afternoon flies by.

But a person cannot just sew masks to sew. Following a conversation with the Red Cross Men who were still "waiting" for their mouth masks for their people, the ladies took it upon themselves to provide those people with mouth masks. Visitors to the food distribution also needed it. Then for the carefree people of the Union and for a school in the Three Hofsteden. Quantity: 250. Should work.

The ladies were posted twice a week for a month. The ladies bloomed open. People feel useful! And doing something and laughing together makes the virus less threatening.

The more the merrier

In the meantime, a local resident Aisha, a Muslim woman, joins the troops. In the beginning the atmosphere is a bit tense. Can we still just talk West Flemish, amongst each other? What will that give? Just a smoke break and Aisha comes along. A raised eyebrow. "You are wearing a headscarf, aren't you? Muslims are not allowed to smoke? "one of the ladies asks.

"Yes, but I don't drink alcohol, but I'm not allowed to smoke, don't exaggerate, huh ..."
General laughter! The ice has broken. Stories are told. Recipes are distributed. No, the prepackaged Corona proof biscuit with the coffee is no longer eaten. Aisha arrives with a homemade pizza. To taste Nora's homemade cake after an hour.
The following week the homemade cakes follow each other. Corona kilo’s? I personally experienced where they came from!

Placed by:
Geert de Bolle

“You have to love the persons you are helping. We don’t talk a lot about that, because there’s that boundary issue. But without love, there’s no difference, no recovery, no change.”

Werkt bij Housing First Belgium als Coordinator
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