Manchester Made Clothes: The Kathleen Project Exhibition

Over the past year we’ve been working on The Kathleen Project – capturing conversations with people who worked in Manchester’s garment industry at various points in the 20th Century, so they can tell their story in their own words.

The project was inspired by a name badge, found in the drawer of an industrial sewing machine which was left on our doorstep in 2016. The badge, bearing the name ‘Kathleen’, sparked curiosity about who Kathleen was and the stories she might have to tell. The machine, on display in our shop, became a point of interest for others too – inspiring them to recall their, or their relatives’, memories working in Manchester’s garment industry.

With many workers now aged over 60, we recognised the importance of recording these overlooked work experiences and preserving them within Manchester’s textile, and wider, industrial heritage story.

So with the help of Historic England, the Kathleen Project has sought out and recorded conversations with dressmaking apprentices, machinists and pieceworkers, with each person bringing different details to a familiar story: entering the workplace in their mid-teens, to work long hours for low pay; learning about life through hard work and workroom chat; developing life-long skills and making life-long friends and experiencing workforce camaraderie never quite replicated anywhere else.

In the ‘Manchester Made Clothes’ exhibition you will hear the voices of these workers while photos and archive materials will bring a visual dimension to their words and create a picture of what it was like to work in this industry. There will be opportunities to interact with fabrics and garments, to test your own skills, and to contribute to this archive, particularly if you worked in, or have links to, Manchester’s garment industry.

Preview podcast episodes are available on our website now.

The Kathleen Project has been made possible by Historic England’s Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories, and is part of Heritage Open Days programme of events – England’s largest community led festival of history and culture.


The exhibition runs from 13th – 17th September 2023, 12-4pm.
At Stitched Up, Stretford Mall.
Children welcome, accompanied by an adult.
Admission free.

Exhibition info >>

Listen to all of The Kathleen Project Conversations

**Please note that we will be photographing / filming this event. If you do not wish to be included in the footage, please speak to a member of the team when you arrive.

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