Sew 2 Speak

A non-profit charitable organisation, community-based workshops

Our aim: Following on from the success of the Brighton Night Shelter for Rough Sleepers (where I was fortunate to be able to volunteer), I began to consider what next after the centre closed, in the sense of how could we continue to offer help and friendship in some capacity to those that were able to get places in the shelter, and to reach out to those who for whatever reason decided not to attend, or were unable to attend.  I realised that one of the most valued thing volunteers brought to the centre was their companionship, their friendship and their soft offer of help; which gradually helped the guests begin to open up and realise that these actions were genuine; so I thought how could we replicate that in a small degree moving forwards… hence, the idea of Sew 2 Speak (a community-based workshop) was born.

Our aim is to restore the dignity, self image and confidence of rough sleepers, homeless and vulnerable adults by providing a service of altering donated clothing so they can make them their own, and an opportunity to learn life skills in order to personalise and/or mend clothing, whilst engaging with the members of the local community to begin breaking down barriers and the stigma of rough sleepers, raising awareness including awareness of services the day centres offer, and changing pre-conceptions of homelessness.  We want people to have ownership, confidence and ultimately to feel good.

Our story: Clothing not only protects us from the elements, it helps shape our confidence, dignity and motivation.  And that has the power to turn lives around.  The concept of the Sew 2 Speak was born from the belief that altering clothing to make them fit the person, providing training to upskill participants and teach them life skills, and providing a service to mending and personalise clothing, with the help of a local community, could create brighter futures for those having it tough. 

 The concept is also an extension of the successful service Crisis at Christmas provides guests for their donated clothing, where the impact of having donated clothing altered for the recipients so they fit properly and the self-worth that brings is obvious to all concerned.

Kirsten Holt founded Sew 2 Speak in March 2018, collaborating with Greg Headley, Project Co-ordinator of the Brighton Charity Link Project, The Passage with the aim of restoring the dignity, self image and confidence of homeless people by providing a service of altering donated clothing so they can make them their own, and an opportunity to learn life skills in order to personalise and/or mend clothing and personal items, whilst engaging with the local community to begin breaking down barriers and changing pre-conceptions of homelessness.

Sew 2 Speak ultimately wants people to have ownership, confidence and ultimately to feel good by providing a creative outlet and a service where talent and achievements are recognised.

Sew 2 Speak entered into a partnership with Justlife Creative Studio in May 2018 in order to support artists with creative sewing projects on fortnightly Saturday afternoons, when other services aren’t available. In addition to the studio Sew 2 Speak has also run evening workshops in emergency accommodation hostels around Brighton encouraging the guests to sign up to use the studio.

We have had 11 sewing machines donated – many of which have been kindly fixed for free by Richard Mouland more than once but who have almost reached the end of their lives, so we have just invested in 3 new sewing machines from Varneys thanks to kind donations – mountains of material, thread and sewing equipment but have to still crowd fund to enable us to buy and source supplies for whatever creative project our artists want to do and to cover our running costs. Please contact us at [email redacted] if you have ‘spare’ material, trims, fastenings, etc as we can always use more! The donations help us keep the workshops completely free for the artists to attend, and even provide tea/coffee and biscuits for each session as well.

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If you would like to donate to Sew 2 Speak workshops, please visit:

To date we have run over 40 workshops at the studio, and a few at emergency accommodation hostels. During these workshops we have customised 17 trousers/jeans into shorts; mended and customised 41 tops/shorts; patched and embroidered 17 pairs of jeans; mended 22 pairs of jeans; created 14 invisible pockets in jackets and bags; mended a severely torn lining of a jacket; fixed 29 pockets; replaced 5 zips in bags; designed and made 28 pairs of stress balls, one evening bag, 18 weatherproof bags, 16 drawstring bags, 12 bags with pockets, 6 embroidered bags, 2 backpacks, 1 smartphone holder and 15 purses; created 2 Christmas banners, 1 cushion cover, and 55 Christmas decorations (3 Christmas trees, 9 Christmas stockings, 7 Christmas hearts, 9 stars, 11 baubles, 5 reindeers, 4 Christmas puddings and 7 snow scenes). It was motivating to sell some of our creations on the Justlife Christmas stall in the Open Market last November and for the artists to benefit directly from the sales. We also assisted the Australian wildlife project after this year's terrible bush fires and made pouches for baby kangaroo joeys to shelter and grow in, bat wraps to help injured bats recover, and possum pouches to keep injured possums safe and were delighted to get a special ,mention from the teams in the UK and Australian organising the delivery along with updates of how they were helping in the field.

We have worked closely with over 30 artists, supported with a team of 5 volunteers. Over the past 19 months we have seen our regular attendees grow in confidence, both in conversation skills and in their design ability, and have proven that sewing and creative arts play an important part in someone’s recovery and well being.Togetherness in the local community has power!

What difference is this making?
·       We’re bringing people together, reducing isolation and connecting with peers and the local community.
·       We’re developing 21st century skills both artistically and socially for further education or work.
·       We have helped people gain confidence and find ways of coping with anxiety

Quotes from some of the artists:
‘I find it very therapeutic doing embroidery.’
‘I really enjoy coming and feel like I’m really learning new skills.’
‘The welcoming atmosphere makes me comfortable and encourages me to be creative.’

About: Sew 2 Speak aims to restore the dignity, self image and hope of homeless and vulnerable people in need, by providing a service and training to alter, personalise and mend clothes at no cost.

The workshops, run by a team of volunteers, are held every fortnight in a studio in Brighton Open Market and last 2 hours.  There will be opportunities for participants to leave clothing until the next workshop if they would like them to be laundered and/or if they require more specialist alterations, e.g. tailoring.  There will be guest trainers coming in to particular sessions to teach a specific skill or aspect of tailoring, in response to participants’ feedback and needs (which will be gathered visa polls, questionnaires and/or verbal feedback).  

The workshops aim to teach life skills and enable participants to have clothing altered, customised and/or mended whilst engaging in conversations with members of the local community thereby altering the community’s pre-conceptions of homelessness, restoring participants’ confidences in the kindness of strangers and breaking down barriers on either side.  By providing the choice of either learning the life skill of mending and altering, or by having clothing altered, to the participants, the focus is more on the communicative aspect of the workshops.

Our cause: In order to keep the workshops up and running we need funds and donations (of sewing material, equipment and clothing remnants of decent quality) so that we can provide the necessary tools and materials, cover hire costs and day-to-day workshop running costs. Extra funds are being raised so we can hire a larger premises to help with social distancing post Covid as well as helping us store equipment safely and securely.  Although we often approach local haberdashery and tailoring businesses for donations, the target we are aiming to raise will enable us to cover the shortfall, all the workshop running costs (including providing extra things such as tea, coffee and biscuits during the workshops themselves) and the storage we are hoping to hire.  All funds raised will be ploughed into the project to keep the workshops running every fortnight, whilst being free for people to attend. Any surplus raised will enable us to expand the workshops into emergency accommodation hostels once a month, and to stretch our reach further.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read about our project and your donation to this cause.  We appreciate your donation very much. If you'd like to see how the group is getting on you can follow us on Facebook, just look for the page Sew 2 Speak:  If you’d like to become a volunteer (or know of someone who might), please email us [email redacted] for an application pack (nothing onerous we promise).


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Kirsten Holt 
Hove, South East England, United Kingdom
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