Tag Archives | quilting

A look at the Social Justice Sewing Academy!

At the start of this year, I was asked to write about the Social Justice Sewing Academy for the Craft Industry Alliance. You can check out the article here if you’re a member, as it shares more background and different photos. (And if you’re not a member, you should join!) 

Abby Glassenberg kindly said I could share some of the quotes and photos I got from the founder, Sara, so here goes! 

“The summer I got the grant, it was $25,000. UC Berkeley paid for it. So it’s a year-long public service project, where as long as you submit reports and you show that you spent the money appropriately they’ll give you $25,000 for a project. What kind of spurred it, was I was a mentor at Berkeley High School and working with the kids, you could kind of see how they would give me complaints, like at UC Berkeley they have Ethnic Studies, they have African-American Studies, they have Chicano, Latino, LGBT Studies, like UC Berkeley really gives you a holistic, a critical lens on how you view the world, on other people’s history, on the diaspora work, it just really gives you a holistic lens of American history.

And some of the kids were like, you know, in our history class we learn from African-American history starting at slavery, and I was like, you know, well before that there were kings and queens, I just like a lot of the like Paolo Friere, just I think Frierian methodology and more critical pedagogy like how to become a critical thinker and not just take whatever the teacher gives you as fact.”

At this point, Sara was tutoring kids and decided to bring in readings for them. She brought in readings about their own cultures and identities, so they could see themselves in the literature. 

She had them write research papers on the material and came up with the idea of having an art show where they could show related work and therefore involve the community. 

“I know initially when the boys were in my class and they were told, ‘Hey, you’re in Sara’s class,” and I said, “Hey, so it’s called Sewing Justice Sewing Academy and this is what we’re going to do.” “I don’t want to be in a sewing class, man.” I mean I had so much pushback, but it turns out the boys, they would come spend their lunches in the class just to work on their project, so I think initially after they got over the stigma, and I kind of framed it, “Like you guys don’t consider yourself seamstresses, consider yourself textile artists,” telling a boy that means all the difference.

Just the wording alone, but “And so you guys are going to be sewing, but consider yourself a textile artist, it’s not like I’m asking you guys to make a patchwork quilt. You guys are going to design and create your own social justice art quilt.” I think what matters, [is that you] use this art as a platform to share your voice, share your opinion, once they got their fabrics, everyone was super excited, there was a couple moments where I feel like kids were getting overwhelmed, ’cause I realized, some people made really detailed, detailed, patterns, and I’m telling them, you know every pattern you draw like that’s going to be something you’re going to have to cut out and pin… But ultimately everyone was so proud of their quilts – and the progress, other teachers would come and other students who weren’t in the Social Justice Sewing Academy they would come and say “Man, I wish I was in this class.” 

Want to see more of SJSA’s work? Check out their gallery of photos and find them on Facebook and Instagram


CAFAM, Male Quilters, and the Death of Ironic Craft.

First of all, I want to say that I think all the quilters participating in CAFAM’s Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quilters are both amazing and amazingly talented. It’s a show I’d like to see; however, its title is one that I think needs some unpacking, so it and its ilk can be vanquished to the past once the show is over.

Every time gender orientation is used to denote a separateness in craft, it’s just one skip and jump away from exploiting difference as a moneymaker vs. celebration of that difference. When the craft resurgence began at the start of this century, the supposed irony of it was a continued topic of note. When I was talking about writing my uni dissertation on knitting and community development, one of my advisors was literally gobsmacked and said something to the effect of, “I would expect you to be researching punk rock tattoo parlors instead of knitting!” He couldn’t wrap his head around it.

This kind of reaction quickly led to a reframing of feminism, in that now we could use a drill and knitting needles and pay our own way, there was no need to shy away from work in the domestic sphere. I was one of many who wrote essays and columns about this, about the transitions that feminism had taken to get where we could knit our own items and not feel guilty (as some of the women I knew did). Given that being young and knitting was seen as such a cultural juxtaposition, it was ripe for the intrusion of irony.

Therefore, all the needlework done by our grandmothers was seen as uncool and of times gone by, because we, the tattooed, pierced, thrift store-clad ones, knew what was hip. But what we forgot to see was that one day, our work will also be seen as uncool and of times gone by. We will become our grandmothers. And instead of taking our grandmothers’ work and praising it for skill (because it’s still skill even if you don’t like the aesthetic choices, right?), it was mocked at large, as something done of a different, less-hip era. And we should be ashamed of ourselves, because irony is not cool, it’s a tearing down of someone else’s vision in order to elevate yourself, nothing more.

So, in this light, when I saw posts about this show at CAFAM, I was astounded that this was still an angle with which to reach people. That this was still something that is deemed necessary. That the best curatorial solution here was “Look! It’s dudes who quilt?! Isn’t that hilarious/awesome/a novelty? This is so creative!” vs. let’s show some quilts made by people that are inspiring/working with different materials/whathaveyou. Because choosing irony, choosing gender vs. method or skills, as a marker of things to display is a cheap shot in the light of all the other amazing things people are creating.

And while I wish for this show to be successful and for all the artists within it to gain useful contacts from their being showcased, I also wish that we could put irony to bed. Forever. That we could start looking at craft objects that were created with different aesthetics and see them as valuable for their skill. That we stop putting our grandmothers down in the name of success, because it sounds hip or funny. That we start taking from history in a way that celebrates it vs. mocks its outdated fashions.

Because I don’t find irony funny anymore, especially when it comes to craft. I want to share skills with my relatives, not make fun of their aesthetic choices. I want to stop seeing places, businesses, and museums try to make a quick buck off of irony and show us some badass historical skills instead. Or what people are doing now that needs to be celebrated despite what their gender orientation is. I know that people that look like me may not be expected to knit or make things by hand, even now, 15 years on, but we do, and it’s awesome. We should be turning the “What? You knit?” questions around and asking, “Do you make anything by hand?” and share knowledge instead.

But first, we need to work on our relationship with the past a bit, vs. trying so hard to forget about it. We need to stop using the past’s aesthetic choices against them, because all those felted cozies will look just as out-of-date as those shell-art lanterns in a few years. We need to be okay with the fact that people of all orientations like to craft and that’s not weird or particularly even worth celebrating. So down with irony and its celebration, up with celebrating those that make at all in 2015, because it’s still a beautiful choice. And just by the act of making crafty things, we are all united, no matter what gender or age. To me, that’s what’s worth holding on to and celebrating, our connectedness, not what may appear as different to some.

A Quilt of Many Panties

How could I not post this on a Friday?

Text from here, click through for whole story:

Video from here:

Louisiana, MO. He’s a hard-core biker with a sensitive soft side. Truly, how many Harley owners do you know who stitch quilts on the side? And have you ever met a HOG lover who makes his quilts out of women’s panties? And let’s not forget this character has his nickname “Shovelhead” tattooed just below the bridge of his cap. Yep, right there on his forehead so you won’t forget his name—as if anyone could forget ol’ Shovelhead.

But back to the panty quilt…

Louis “Shovelhead” Garrett rents out the basement of his mother’s house in Louisiana, Mo. That’s where he crafts his one-of-a-kind quilts. He’s kind of picky with his panties. He’ll accept silk, acetate, nylon, even rayon. But polyester panties need not apply.

“I don’t want them cheap, dollar store, not-sexy-farm-girl panties. I want classy.”

How can you not love a story who’s headline reads “Biker stitches panty quilt? Or a video that dares to ask, “From where do you get all the panties?”

Yet another example of how craftiness has nothing to do with gender or appearance… And how it runs through the lives of many in so very many ways!

Soldiers, Crafts and Comfort

I know that many of you, as have I, have donated various items of handcraft to soldiers currently in country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ever since World War I, there have been initiatives like Knit Your Bit from the Red Cross. Actually, knitting for soldiers started even earlier than that, but that’s another story for another day.

But here’s a story about quilting and war. It’s about how a mother and daughter started an Iraq quilting bee for soldiers who have since learned various handcrafts. In the video below, there’s also a photo a light blue elephant crocheted by a very manly looking doctor in uniform, and the story of how this was started.

What I like best about this story was that it not only showed how a tiny idea (a soldier in Iraq requesting fabric from her mother) can grow into something bigger, but it also showed how sometimes (religion aside) there’s both a need and an interest in picking up something like crochet or quilting where you least expect it.

Instead of making something for the soldiers to use as comfort, this particular project uses craft itself as the comfort. And this perfectly dovetails with some thoughts I’ve been struck with lately… how sometimes the act/lesson of craft itself can be a more apt gift than the final product and how new valuable (for others not just ourselves!) projects can find us if we’re willing to just listen and be present.

I don’t know about you, but usually when I start something so small I feel like it’s useless, I’m focusing on the wrong end of the stick (the needle? the hook?). I’m focusing on what I think it will give vs. focusing on the joy and excitement and energy the project itself brings.

I forget how letting go of the outcome allows projects the room to fully expand and go where they need to. So today, here, is a little reminder to follow the joy your work brings… and to honor the work itself by giving it the space and the trust to change, move and grow.

Roosevelt Elementary’s 2nd & 3rd Graders Rule!

“Because of her career as the Elementary Spanish program teacher and because of her passion for quilting, Detroit Lakes teacher Pat Link is introducing her students to bringing a smile to those less fortunate.

Through Cultural Collaborative, Amy Tervola Hultberg’s second/third grade combo class made two quilts that will be sent to those in need.”

“Each student was given a block of fabric and fabric markers to draw a picture of hope that would make someone else happy. Those drew smiley faces, rainbows, a butterfly, flower, fish, sailboat, family and more.”

Ms. Link and Ms. Hultberg from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, might just be some of the awesome teachers ever. They not only had their students literally made something from happy, they also turned the quilting into a learning experience!

“Besides the quilts, the group also held a bake sale and raised $174. The money was used for materials, shipping the quilts and the remainder will be donated to some program, one they haven’t decided on yet. But students got to learn about paying bills — materials for the quilts — what profit is, and they got to count and add up the money they made at the sale.”

I think the only thing I knew about bills at that age was that it seemed like lots of old men were mysteriously called Bill even though their name was really William. (It’s still a mystery to this day. I mean, really, where does that B come from!)

(Text from article)

*Embroidered plastic bags (!!!) by Maria Cornejo
*I love this post by Alabama Weaver about why she quilts.
*Amazingly awesome post by Jo Bourne about knitting in the 1700s
*Did you know Union City, New Jersey, is the EMBROIDERY CAPITAL OF THE US?
*School knitting club knitting chain mail shirts (I told you knitting’s not for wusses!)
Timeline for Guilford Mills’ textile plant’s history since 1946: The rise and fall and rise (and fall) of one North Carolina textile plant

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