Whilst crafting has found new popularity in recent years, with many dusting off their knitting needles and embroidery hoops during lockdown, these domestic arts have a long and rich history.

The Eastside Community Heritage project Close Knit looks at the history of crafting through personal stories from Newham’s crafters, mapping the changing attitudes towards crafting as an essential life-skill to wellbeing hobby.

Earlier this year ECH interviewed 21 Newham crafters about their crafting memories and experiences, recorded in oral histories which have now been added to ECH’s Hidden Histories archive. These oral histories share experiences of working in East London’s Rag Trade and family craft trades, and explore links between craftwork, community, wellbeing, and femininity, often overlooked in historical research.

Bagging at Tate & Lyle, 1946. © Eastside Community Heritage

In an oral history interview, one participant recalls finding a lace pattern designed by her grandmother in her father’s wallet when he passed away – he had carried it with him for over 50 years.

Another noted the importance of crafting for her wellbeing:

“In times of trouble, get the knitting out”.

For Women’s History Month in March, ECH ran craft heritage workshops with the Stitches in Time embroidery group at The Gate Library and Ekta Project at the Trinity Centre in East Ham. In these workshops, participants drew inspiration from the oral histories and their own memories to craft a banner together.

Eastside Community Heritage are holding a family-friendly community event this Newham Heritage Month to celebrate the project and exhibit this banner. The event will run from 2pm to 6pm on Sunday 11th June 2023 at Hazel Goldman's Grove Guest House E7 in Forest Gate, and entry is free.

Hazel Goldman, Grove Guest House E7. © Max Miechowski

Attendees will also get the chance to explore the oral histories collected for the project, presented in a virtual exhibition, take part in craft activities, enjoy refreshments and live music from Adriana Cristea.

Throughout the afternoon, community craft icon Hazel Goldman who lives in Grove Guest House E7 will be running tours of her home, which has been in her family since 1955.

Hear how Hazel’s grandparents came to make their home in East London, having fled from the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century with thousands of other Jewish people facing persecution.

You can sign up for tours here. Also on display will be the Handsome Frog mosaic, underway for Forest Gate Community Garden.

Peacock embroidery made by Hazel's mother, Doreen Goldman, 1980s. © Hazel Goldman

Eastside Community Heritage is a charity based in Newham that aims to uncover and preserve the hidden histories of East London, through encouraging people to share their stories in oral histories since 1993.

Their Hidden-History Archive contains over 4,000 digitalised oral histories and approximately 40,000 digital photographs from people who have often been side-lined by history - the economically disadvantaged, from immigrant communities and from disabled people. They then share these stories in community projects, workshops, and exhibitions.

To find out more, email Freya at freya@ech.org.uk or call them on 0208 5533 116. For more info check out their website here and for further updates follow @eastsidecommunityheritage

© Eastside Community Heritage