Issue 216
Spring 2021

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Jun 20, 2021

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 216
Spring 2021 (7.8MB)

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Tweed revival by the Tweed

A community interest company at work

THE SCOTTISH BORDERS was once at the heart of the UK textiles business, but recent decades have seen the once thriving industry decline, causing unemployment and low morale.

Now, a charity named ReTweed is reviving both people's hope and discarded textiles, thanks to its dynamic founder and director Hazel Smith.

Based in the fishing town of Eyemouth, this pioneering social enterprise provides creative and inspiring employability and entrepreneurship opportunities for women in a community often forgotten in the wider national initiatives.

Hazel Smith, founder and director of ReTweed

It offers women an opportunity to gain the skills and experience for creative industry and enterprise whilst producing amazing and original furnishings, fashions and crafts.

ReTweed's founder Hazel grew up in Berwickshire and, returning in 2015, she recognized the area's unseen but acute needs around poverty, isolation, low aspiration and the associated challenges to health and well being. With the strong Scottish Borders textile heritage she saw an opportunity to create a social enterprise delivering craft, textiles and heritage skills to those facing these barriers.

For 30 years she worked with Scotland's Third Sector, with Government and the EU, with most of her career focussed on addressing inequalities (social, health and particularly gender). She volunteered with Women's Associations in rural Senegal, setting up community enterprise projects and on returning to Scotland supported a social enterprise on the Isle of Skye; specialising in upcycling.

"This is a distillation of so much of my past work," says Hazel. "At a time when welfare reform cuts are impacting most acutely on women and those who are vulnerable, we need to provide innovative solutions to promoting social and economic justice.

"ReTweed offers that opportunity and since we are using 70% recycled materials, we're also protecting the environment."

With a growing demand for ethical fashion, crafts and furnishings, ReTweed is harnessing that market, meeting both social and environmental objectives, providing successful manufacturing, creative industry, and unique and quality products for their customers.

The mission is to build routes into education, employment and enterprise for women facing barriers through the provision of sewing and upcycling skills training through their innovative free 12-week course, using waste textiles. This is underpinned by the environmental philosophy of promoting a reduce, re-use, recycle and repair culture for the area.

ReTweed aim to offer women a new way to think about their futures, supporting them to identify their creative skills and aspirations, and to allow them to gain the skills and experience for creative industry and enterprise whilst producing original items which are sold to raise money to sustain the project.

The free training programme allows women to learn basic skills in craft, design and technology. Each student learns how to use a sewing machine and create a range of furnishings, fashions and crafts which are sold to raise money to sustain the project.

Their partners in Business Gateway, Borders College and across the area, work with them to deliver opportunities for further learning and career pathways, including promoting opportunities for students to develop their own enterprises.

Sarah McDougal, who has lived in Eyemouth for more than thirty years, was one of the first students on the ReTweed course in 2016.

Sarah says: "I joined ReTweed's training programme as I felt a bit lost, without a purpose, once my two girls started school. I immediately loved the friendliness at ReTweed and I enjoyed getting the chance to learn new skills. I had never sewn before so my first time was with ReTweed. I have since inherited my great grandmother's 1962 Singer sewing machine and it's so special to be using something my nana had loved."

As well as delivering craft, design and technology training and teaching sewing competency, ReTweed also delivers on the Greener Scotland agenda of reducing, re-using and recycling. At least 70% of materials will be recycled and their products are made using environmentally sound methods.

Looking to the future, ReTweed is going on the road by offering shorter intensive skills-based courses for women in more remote and rural areas with no access to public transport or with care responsibilities. And it is hoping to revisit their ambition to develop a "ReMake Festival" in Eyemouth encouraging local creatives, makers, businesses, educators and communities to come together around their wider environmental philosophy of promoting the reduce, re-use, recycle and repair culture in the area.

Hazel concludes: "We want to grow this training and enterprise model, inspiring and working with other individuals and organisation who want to replicate the Eyemouth prototype or create their own version of ReTweed across other parts of Scotland and the rest of the country. And of course, to keep making and selling beautiful, imaginative and covetable items from fabrics rescued from landfill that showcase the skills and stories of the women that make them."


New Scotland Stations
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New Scotland Stations
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