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Asma's Make and Mend workshops


Poplar resident, Asma Begum, is making use of her experience and love of textiles, crafts and upcycling to provide FREE, weekly Make and Mend workshops for the local community.

The workshops, run by Asma every Wednesday at Poplar Works, aim not only to upskill participants to make beautiful things from unloved or discarded materials, but also to provide a creative, social community space.

Express your interest

Text Asma to express interest on 07944 942 110.

  • Pre-booking your place for the Make and Mend workshops is essential because of social distancing measures which currently allow up to 5 participants per session.
  • You do not have to commit to attending every week and can express interest on an adhoc basis.
  • Read more on the Poplar Works website

We had a chat with Asma to find out more about Make and Mend.

What inspired you to run the Make and Mend workshops?

My mum is my muse. She worked from home as a seamstress, bringing in money, while raising four children. There’s an unknown history of Bangladeshi women like my mum, who in the 1970’s and 80’s filled a dual role of wage earner and home maker.

My dad was creative and frugal and I think this sparked my interest in upcycling.  I can’t stand the thought of clothes thrown away to become landfill.

Dad was a machinist and tailor and worked for a leather and suede factory in Tower Hamlets.  I remember him re-purposing discarded material to make a bodice, waistcoats and combat style clothes which my brothers loved because they were like clothes The A-Team wore!

I’m motivated by both my parents’ skills and work ethic every day.

How come the workshops are free of charge to those who want to take part?

When Poplar Works, a creative hub and studio space, opened so close to where I live, I offered to volunteer.  I want to help sustain the history of East London’s craftsmanship and sewing skills which my parents were part of.

And I want to open up opportunities for local people to progress into gaining qualifications and work.

Staff here helped me to apply for funding from Foundation for Future London, a charity who aim to connect communities through arts and cultural activities. They’ve provided funding which means I can run the workshops for free, over 25 weeks, so you can join the workshops until well into 2021!

Do you have to be experienced at sewing or crafts to take part in the workshops?

The Make and Mend workshops are for everyone. Complete beginners are welcome as are those who might have some experience. We’ll be making home furnishings, book marks, pompom cushions, laptop covers, you name it!

What would you say to encourage someone interested in coming to the Make and Mend workshops?

You’ll come away from each workshop having made something useful and beautiful. But perhaps more significantly, the workshops are a creative outlet for people. The changes the pandemic has made to our lives mean we’re all having to take extra care with our wellbeing. A new mother messaged me recently to say how much she needed to get out, be somewhere different and be around people. Creativity and doing something useful is good for us. And spending time with each other, even at a distance, has never been so important.

You can hear more from Asma in a BBC4 documentary about the British Banglasheshi community. Click the button below.


A Very British History: British Bangladeshis