How Islington’s seamstress volunteers have gone on to find paid work after making coronavirus face masks

Cllr Asima Shaikh with members of the community sewing groups wearing their masks. Picture: Islingto

Cllr Asima Shaikh with members of the community sewing groups wearing their masks. Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Islington Council

Community sewing groups have banded together to produce more than 500 face masks for vulnerable residents in Islington during the lockdown, learning vital skills that have opened up employment and training opportunities for them.

The Finsbury Park Women’s Network helped to co-ordinate the volunteers, some of whom previously had no sewing experience, and word of the group’s ambitions quickly spread.

Islington Council connected the group to a garment industry affordable workspace provider, Fashion Enter, which it is working with to deliver employment and training opportunities in workshop spaces on the Andover Estate in Holloway and a new retail space in Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park.

Fashion Enter donated some fabric to the sewing group, and in return they have directed volunteers in the group to some of the firm’s courses and employment vacancies. The council’s employment chief, Cllr Asima Shaikh, said: “This is the definition of an inclusive economy. Not only have hundreds of essential masks been made locally for people who need them, but these women are developing skills that will enable them to access employment and training opportunities right here in the community with our affordable workspace provider.

“I was very keen to support them every way we could, and am pleased to see how it’s made a real difference to people’s lives.”

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One of the seamstresses, Dehab Asfaha, said: “I wanted to do something to help during the crisis. So I used my sewing and knitting skills to make masks and help the community. It kept me busy during lockdown and it made me happy to know I was doing something to help.

“It might not seem like a big deal, but sometimes small things can make a big difference.

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“I made over 180 masks from the materials donated to us. I’m still making face coverings and distributing them in the Finsbury Park community.”

For anyone who wants to learn how to sew or to brush up on sewing skills on a free course, email

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