Black Lives Matter

…and so my sewing has to change.

I spent this week realising just how much I didn’t know about the experience of being black in America, or in my own community. I thought I was informed, I thought I was progressive, and somehow I still had no clue. My path forward is clear as an individual (educate myself) and as a teacher (educate others), but what do I so as a sewist? There has got to be more than supportive Instagram posts.

One step I’m taking is to put my money where my mouth is, and buy patterns and fabric from Black-owned and ally-owned shops. That means seeking out Black-owned businesses that I haven’t tried before, and shopping at indie companies who made quality statements and commitments this past week.

And so, my new dress!

I spent Blackout Tuesday studying anti-Black racism in Canada by listening to Desmond Cole’s audiobook of The Skin We’re In, and watching this free course on Aboriginal World Views and Education. I needed something to keep my hands busy during all that thinking, so I bought and sewed my first pattern from Style Sew Me! It’s a Black-owned pattern line designed by Eryn, who makes trendy patterns up to 53″ hip.

(Side note: I always thought the logo said “Sew Style Me”, but the website address showed I was wrong!”

I’ve had my eye on quite a few of her designs in the past after seeing them on blogger friends, but I went with the Naomi because it fit the yardage in my stash. This pattern is designed for a woven, but I sewed it in a lovely midweight rayon knit. I initially cut the pattern one size down from my measurements, but ended up taping the paper back on to make it true to size. As they website says, these patterns have limited ease!

The dress pattern has no darts, and adjusts with long ties at the shoulders. I made a shelf-bra facing instead of a full ining as instructed. I think this is going to be a perfect “Presentable Pyjamas” (when you don’t care if it looks like pyjamas but you want to be able to answer the door). Of course I can wear it as a dress but pretty pyjamas are actually more exciting in my wardrobe!

I’m also choosing to support businesses that stood up for anti-racism in the past week. This may not always be possible – for example, neither of my local fabric chain options spoke out, but it’s just not feasable for me to order everything online all the time. I can however chose where I spend my online dollars, and be mindful of who I promote via tags on my social media account. This rayon floral knit comes from Style Maker Fabrics who did make a statement this week about Black Lives Matter and the #amplifymelanatedvoices hashtag.

How long can I keep this up, and how will I adapt over time? I really can’t say. There needs to be room for companies to make the right choice in the future, and acknowledgement that making one statement is not a good indication of the companies’ actual investment in anti-racism. I’m a work in progress as I try to re-educate myself about the systemic racism I grew up with, and no action will ever be perfect. Better to start somewhere though, and using my sewing dollars wisely is a good place to start.

P.S. There are lists and boycotts in development by the BIPOC that I know will be revealed in the next few days. We’ll have more about it on the Sewcialists soon! This is just my own take to get started.


17 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter

  1. Sorry to say “sewist” is not a word. You can use seamstress (a woman who sews clothes), seamster, stitcher. Sewer, needleman, etc.

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    1. I am sorry to say that your comment on this subject is totally unnecessary and takes away attention of the important subject Gillian is trying to talk about. It gives nothing to the article.

      A beautiful thing about language is that it can change and we can create new words with new meanings. A lot of people in the sewing community uses the word sewist and it is very clear what it means.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Yes, you are right. The word just hit me the wrong way as I never heard it used before. I need to be more tactful and less critical. Thanks for calling me on it! Apologies!

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Sewist: a relatively new term, combining the words “sew” and “artist”, to describe someone who creates sewn works of art, which can include clothing or other items made with sewn elements. Sewer: an underground conduit for carrying off drainage water and waste matter. From Threads Magazine in 2011.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I stand corrected! Never heard the term before and it just hit me the wrong way. Thanks for the clarafication.

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  2. I’m so glad you posted this!

    A question about black producers and suppliers of fabrics and patterns came up in one of my Face Book sewing groups. I mentioned the ones I knew, but suggested they check sewcialists as you are so inclusive – and here you are answering that need! Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am happy to hear that you will be providing resources for those of us who want to follow suit! I think the past few days have been *very* revealing. I’m hoping that this can be the impetus for change that this industry so clearly needs, but I am going to be very mindful about where my sewing dollars will be going henceforth. I’ve been trying to follow social media the best I can, but if the Sewcialists will be providing resources that would be so awesome and helpful! I think this is really a case of you don’t know what you don’t know, but also a case of once you have seen it, it cannot be unseen. I do agree we need to give room for growth. It’s definitely time to put a few brands on pause though, and reassess things after they have time to sort themselves out. (Or not, but only time will tell. Though I may have a few predictions on who I think the “nots” will be…)

    Also – your dress is super cute! “Socially acceptable pajamas” is totally the quarantine lifestyle, so they might as well be easy and fun!

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  4. This post right here is just awesome!! I love that you are challenging yourself by assessing where you spend your dollars. I look forward to seeing the Sewcialists resources. Your dress is lovely!

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  5. G: Thank you for the rec for D Cole’s audio book. That dress is perfect presentable pjs. And lately I am gardening for all to see in presentable pjs! So I will be checking this pattern out.

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  6. Love this pattern….it looks really fabulous on you.

    Have to be honest and say that hearing Sewcialists are going to publish a list of designers to blacklist sends a shiver down my spine. I think individual sewists should do their own research and deciding.

    Who nominates the Sewcialists as the authority to nominate who is a racist or not? The businesses they list will have their enterprises and living potentially decimated. Will they include the big commercial pattern businesses in their judgement or just small independent businesses? A list like that also means those businesses might be trolled by angry people.
    I find this news distressing…I’ll take responsibility for where I spend my money won’t be taking the lazy option of just endorsing whoever Sewcialists say they don’t approve of.

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    1. I’m sorry for being unclear! We are publishing about the list, but not making the list, and certainly not telling people what to do. It’s a crowdsourced spreadsheet created by @pinkmimosabyJacinta of companies that are owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) and/or white allies. Jacinta is writing about why she created it, and then we also have a representative writing from the new @blkmakersmatter account (created by over 20 Black sewists). The Sewcialists role has always been amplifying the voices that are unheard, and that’s how we view this. And yes, 😊 it started with @Diaryofasewingfanatic ‘s discussion of how the big sewing companies have failed their community.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. thanks for clarifying a bit more Gillian. I’ll have to take my own advice and do more research into what its all about. So thanks for the references you gave. Perhaps I’ve overreacted a bit here as I still feel ambivalent about the way Ravelry flushed out people it didn’t approve of a few years ago. Some of the action was probably justified, some still seems a bit murky. I was troubled by the atmosphere of hostility that went on for months and polarised the community. Sometimes I wonder if over zealous virtue signalling sweeps people up in the heat of the moment to do stuff thats not well thought out.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gillian – may I ask you to contact me privately so I can explain some of my concerns about the proposed Sewcialist boycotts? Having been the brunt of social media disdain in the past I’m literally afraid of the consequences if I bring up any issues on this public message board that are politically nuanced. I am feeling a great deal of anxiety and would welcome an opportunity to explain myself in a safe place. My email is pearl@upstairs-art.com.au. Thank you!

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  9. Very lovely dress and fabric. Thank you for your support and willingness to speak about a topic that so many seem to want to avoid out of politeness, fear or ignorance. One of the Mowry twins spoke eloquently when she reminded all of us that to deny, to continue to deny that there is a problem in this country is the new racism.

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  10. Gillian, thank you so much for your business, allyship, and using your voice. You’re now making me want to sew up a casual version of Naomi because I’m all about wearable comfywear!

    Again, your voice and your business is much appreciated!

    Best,
    Eryn
    Style Sew Me Patterns

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