The Stitch Society have always been involved in teaching and passing on skills to new learners and the next generation of textile enthusiasts – I  purposely haven’t used the word “maker” as I believe that it is more than “making” – for me the act of working with textiles and creating something unique and beautiful is such a major part of my life that when I can’t create I short circuit and my mind doesn’t work properly. It has taken me a long time to work this out and when I create – my whole being is in tune and the sense of wellbeing, and often euphoria, is fabulous.

So when Keighley College asked if I would be involved in setting up a Textile Academy, I leapt at the opportunity. How often in life does an chance like this come along – to influence how courses are set up, how they are taught, to involve all levels of the community from school children up to grandmothers wanting to relearn their skills.

The programme is starting slowly, teaching unemployed adults how to use industrial sewing machines, hoping to place them in full time work, whilst filling the skills gap that has developed over the last 20 years in the local textile industry, where there has been a lack of formal training and the skilled workforce is rapidly approaching retirement age.

Textiles, textile manufacture, clothing, upholstery, there are so many different pathways into textiles, not just crafting but real, proper, skilled jobs that can inspire you, give you a sense of satisfaction and a long career. I have been working in textiles for about 30 years now and I still get a thrill from seeing the machines working away – producing all manner of exciting products from piping cord through to a full set of cushions for a three piece suite.

The Academy launched last Friday, with Kris Hopkins opening their doors and his support has been invaluable, as has the support of local businesses such as JTS Cushions, Fibreline, Canvasman and Specialised Covers. All these businesses are thriving locally, so next time you buy something from a major retailer, just stop and think that it might have been made not far from your door!

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