IT is a charitable move which is paying homage to the past.

Seeking new premises to house their expanding organisation, Touchstone - set up 30 years ago working with interfaith relationships and community development, stumbled on a substantial property straddling the end of a row of terraces close to their current premises in the city of Bradford.

Before the deal was sealed, the £700,000 cost of which they have 90 per cent fulfilled through various funding pots including local Methodist churches and Awards for All, the property in Easby Road close to Bradford College, had been home to a bar and a small hotel but it was its occupancy before that Touchstone were keen to embrace.

They discovered the property was once the home to the Dewhurst family who were the proprietors of a cotton mill in Skipton.

According to Barbara Glasson, team leader at Touchstone, the family also made Dewhurst cotton reels, many of which can still be found in the sewing boxes of seamstresses and crafters that have been passed down and are now treasured by younger generations who are re-discovering an enthusiasm for the make-do-and-mend ethos.

“We are very interested in textiles and the weaving history of Bradford,” says Barbara.

The charity is hoping to move into their new home in May but, in the meantime, Barbara and her colleagues are keen to promote its past through their crafty skills.

Margaret Sowden joined Touchstone as a volunteer in 2001 after being introduced to it through her local church.

The 77-year-old was taught to knit by her mum and a neighbour when she was a young girl and she’s been clickety-clicking ever since.

Her latest project is knitting hedgehogs to help boots funds for Touchstone’s new premises. Margaret explains how she was inspired to knit hogs after spotting the King Cole knitting pattern at a local garden centre.

Oscar, her proto-type hog takes pride of place in her Heaton home, but the response from his arrival is such that she cannot knit enough to cope with the evident demand!

So far the retired office clerk has knitted around 14 hogs ranging from small, medium and large. The collection she has so far created have raised around £100 towards the cost of Touchstone’s new building.

For Margaret, volunteering has given her the opportunity to help others. She joined Touchstone in 1999 and attends on Wednesdays.

“You are helping people. You are talking to people and we have all sorts going on. I just like meeting people,” says Margaret.

As well as putting their own crafty skills to good use, the group are also busy collecting Dewhurst cotton reels.

Barbara explains they have been using the cotton reels for their craft activities, transforming them into items such as dolls and Christmas trees to sell.

Even reels containing thread have been put into purpose as they have used the thread for their crafting activities.

“The interesting thing is people often have them, they belong to a granny or auntie,” says Barbara.

She explains how subsequently they have been passed on to them and their intention is to form a permanent display of reels when they move into their new premises.

As well as promoting the importance of the Dewhurst family, the reels will also serve as a reminder of Bradford’s once booming textile trade and the families who spent time sewing and crafting down the generations.

“People used to make their own clothes and had Singer sewing machines,” recalls Barbara.

Their new premises will provide a creative space for cooking and workshops and office space. They also hope to work with partners who can use the space for their own organisations. Quiet spaces will also be provided for counselling sessions.

“Bradford’s history is about textiles, but also many of our neighbours are Pakistani heritage. The reason they are here historically is because of the mills and their insight and knowledge about textiles and why it is important for Bradford is why they are here. That is a good link for stories and story-telling in our collective history.

“Often we see ourselves as separate communities but the threads go between all of us.

“What we have is a really rich history of industry and creativity which is really important for us to own and take to the next generation.”

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