Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sew Chaotically! ~ Oh, LAW!!! It's been cray, cray up in the sewing community! So, is that good?

For the past few weeks, since this post (My Year of Color, by Karen Templer, of Fringe Association), things have been rather "chaotic" in the sewing community!!  You can check out her post, her response, as well as all the reactions to both as you like.  I've decided against reliving them here.  However, those posts and responses sparked intense debate, soul searching, heart felt stories, and countless conversations about inclusivity, people of color, white privilege, acceptance, understanding, and lack thereof in the sewing/making community.  I admit that I have been distressed and saddened by all the conflict.  Since discovering this incredible family of makers, I have been nothing but impressed with its generosity of spirit.  I have bragged to all who would listen about the consistent solidarity its members express on the side of HUMANITY across the globe - whether in reference to the horror of terrorist bombings and other evil, families separated at the U.S. border, too many shootings and lives lost in my country to list, women's rights, environmental protection issues, commercialism, ethical fabric sourcing, minimizing waste, LGBTQ rights, recycling, voting rights, the benefits of art and music for our children, health care for all, or the rights of indigenous people.  The recent conflict has been a bit like witnessing your parents fight.  (Or maybe that's just me ~ projecting...)  Still, I have thought about what has been said in all quarters and have come to some conclusions of my own.

I hate the ugliness with which a handful have chosen to make their points.  Thankfully, that tone has been a smaller part of the overall conversation, but if one is not careful, it can be the only part that is remembered.  Still, the bullying and harshness of the few have made me want to celebrate those who have consistently made desperately needed points about improvements the sewing community can make, as well as actions we can all take, to bring greater equality and diversity into our lives and our shared making with kindness and light.

Who am I to butt in like this?  Well, nobody really.  Like most, I have experienced incredibly shitty things and extraordinarily wonderful blessings.  I was raised in a tiny lumber town in south Alabama.  I have worked hard all my life.  As a teen I worked summers and holidays as a maid and assistant to the local dentist.  Handing over instruments and making appointments 4 days a week.  Cleaning toilets, slimy shower curtains, stripping wax from hard wood floors, and cooking dinner for the lady of the house on Wednesday, often with old, shriveled, limp vegetables.  A circumstance I found very strange for those who had wealth I could hardly fathom.  To this day, if an errant carrot or stray potato gets left in the bin too long it is referred to as a "Dr. Parker vegetable" by me and mine!  And I was lucky!  That job allowed me to save money to move out on my own.  I have been fortunate to attain three college degrees, all paid for by my own dime or academic scholarships I attained.  Oh, yes.  I'm white! And I mean very white!  As a melanoma survivor for the past 16 years (Stage IV for the past 9) the sun is not something I expose myself to directly!  In my first nursing job at the age of 19, via a move to Chattanooga, bank rolled by money saved through my work, I was acutely aware that while all the aids were black, save one, there was only one black nurse on my floor.   I knew that was NOT a coincidence.  I am forever blessed and grateful that Ms. Leslie, the ward clerk, happily became my mother hen, and Sandra, Connie and Angela were willing to become not just part of my team, but friends.  I have spent my adult life providing the best care I can to my little charges and their families, no matter race or creed - preventing, ameliorating and abolishing health disparities based on skin color and socioeconomic status whenever possible. 

I was blessed to have two amazing healthy children, now lovely adults, for whom I never had to fear I would not have food to put on their plates or a warm, safe place for them to sleep.  I worked to teach them about every race, religion and culture across the globe.  I wanted the lives they chose to be their own.  I made sure my son had access to dolls and my daughter to trucks.  Once, when working as a community organizer before that was a thing, I called and/or visited every resident in the area in which I lived to let them know about a zoning change the city was about to institute that would have made repairs and basic housing beyond the financial reach of many - dragging a toddler and preschooler door to door.  As I was buckling my son in the car to leave one such visit, he asked, "Mommy, what was wrong with that man?"  I drew a blank.  "What do you mean, sweetie?" I replied.  With his little brow furrowed, he continued, "What were those things all over his face?  Was he sick?"  With horror, I realized my children were completely without exposure to the elderly!!!  They knew folks from Iran, Hong Kong, and India.  They were familiar with people who were white and brown and black.  Their friends were brown children at the local park and my daughter passionately desired "hair dudes" that consisted of lots of braids and beads.  They could talk a bit about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and American Indian religions, but wrinkles and 'liver spots' of the old were foreign. I worked to remedy that and we were successful in preventing the rezoning the city wished to foist upon us!

I am lucky to have dear ones of every color who love me; standing by me and mine through ever so many messes.  My Hispanic friends have not labeled my interest in their lunches and recipes as "appropriation" but consider it a sign of true interest and embrace the sharing of our lives.  I have black friends who are willing to talk hair and ashy skin with me.  My white friends find me real and "down to earth" even though "I married a doctor."

My introduction to sewing and the online community was really through my sister.  She is an amazing seamstress and about four years ago, to encourage my fledgling sewing efforts, introduced me to Marcy Harriel of Oonaballoona, Handmade by Carolyn, and Sarah, of Goodbye Valentino.  I follow Marcy and Carolyn still and rapidly found more amazing folks willing to share their craft and their lives!  Here are just a few:  Mimi G, of Mimi G StyleHila, of Saturday Night StitchJasika, of Try CuriousSasha, of Secondo PianoMy Dress MadeALL the lovely ladies of Mix and SewAtia, of The Bright Blooms and Charlie, of Noble and Daughter.  Once I joined instagram, I found even more amazing sewists!  Which brings me to the point of all of this...

In my recent 4 month incarceration, imposed by 2 abdominal surgeries and chemotherapy for Stage 2 adenocarcinoma of the appendix, I swear I have perused and studied every sewing blog and IG feed of makers across the globe!!  As pain and drugs made reading books and making impossible, blog posts were sufficiently challenging to interest me without requiring extreme mental acuity while simultaneously allowing me to participate in my craft vicariously.  It was a healing diversion for which I am indebted to many.  Perhaps I am overreaching, but I feel as though I have friends across the United States, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, the UK, and the Caribbean! light of the recent discussions, I wanted to spend the next few days highlighting what others have generously and kindly offered to all of us:

To start, I wanted to begin with something that had been rattling around in my head and though I cannot (despite several hours of effort) locate the post or story it was in, but, I think was (???) noted in a story by Atia, from an interview Jasika did with a sewing magazine.  My sincere apologies if I have that all balled up!!!!  At any rate, the writer acknowledged that all of us with hobbies we love are incredibly lucky.  Lucky because we reap the benefits our creating bring us - physically and emotionally.  We are clearly affluent enough to participate.  Meaning - fabric, yarn, machines, needles, etc, are not cheap!  It would be much more feasible to purchase a cami for $1.69 from Wally World!!  Further, though many of us are working moms we do, though there are plenty of days it doesn't seem so, possess the ultimate luxury - TIME - to spend on our making.  Not to mention if we are blogging and posting on IG, we have computers and phones at our disposal.  As such, we are lucky and more blessed than many.  For my part, I am incredibly grateful for the time and monetary ability to participate in my craft as well as the mental and physical strength to do the things I love as a maker.

With that, I would like to start by highlighting Atia, of The Bright Blooms and her post ~ About Being Inclusive

In her honor, and to share some lovely color on a cold winter day, there's this...

Farmers Market in San Francisco, thanks B!!!
So.....YES!!!  Despite the angst, the difficulty of facing a need for change, the work required to make change a reality - getting cray, cray in the sewing community can be a good thing.  Who better to make it so, than ~ makers?????

More highlights from the lifters tomorrow. Sew Chaotically! - les


  1. Dang, the lady was just excited about traveling and bringing color back into her life. I think it is important to examine intent before you get your knickers in a wad.

  2. Right???!!!! I told you it has been cray cray up in here!!!