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Why you should support Black sewing bloggers, pattern designers, & fabric stores

Why you should support Black sewing bloggers, pattern designers, & fabric stores

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Black sewing bloggers Black owned fabric stores Black sewing pattern designers

The United States has experienced a recent, long over-due, reckoning with the rampant racial injustices in our society, leaving lots of people seeking ways to educate themselves and support in solidarity. The sewing community is no different and I wanted to carve out a little bit of space to encourage my audience to be a part of what I hope will be a change.

This is a call not only for individual shoppers but also for sewing/quilting conferences, shops, magazines, and brands as they work to align who they hire to better mirror the racial diversity of our world and their customers. If your quilt guild or local fabric shop holds workshops, you can reach out and make sure diverse voices are being brought in; keep reading for some resources to help make that easier.

Supporting with your wallet by shopping with Black sewing businesses is a great place to start; also use the power of your word – recommend their pattern/class to your friends and on social media, write a review in their shop, engage on social media & blog posts so they reach more people.

Why does it matter?

First, because of our past and also our present. Black lives matter (if you’re saying ‘but all lives matter’ in your head as you read that, read this and stop saying that). We live in a racist system and highly segregated society in the USA. Black Americans have always had and still have systemic disadvantages when it comes to starting a business (read here) and wealth is generational while growing increasingly concentrated in the smallest tier of white citizens (stats here). Our country has a despicable history when it comes to Black businesses (one example), and while being conscious with your spending isn’t the only way to effect change, it’s one of them. Seeking out & supporting Black owned businesses is one small action to address this systemic imbalance.

Second, representation matters and racism exists in the sewing world. Our industry is overwhelmingly white when it comes to who is running the companies and representation in bloggers/influencers. I think this is a problem, while acknowledging that as a white person, I benefit from it. Overwhelmingly the teachers at sewing conferences, the hands we see in sewing tutorials, the models we see on pattern covers, and the faces we see on social media are white (check out this post or this post for analysis examples). 

I’d be willing to bet that this marketing decision, for one example, wouldn’t have been made with a more diverse PR team. Non-white fabric & quilt designers shouldn’t be so few that people confuse them with one another in the industry (you can listen about this happening here, in a podcast about diversity in the quilting world).  Industry professionals should not have to suffer microaggressions when generously offering advice, like happened here.

By realizing these problems and the past history, we can all be better positioned to challenge companies when their influencer team or a sewing retreat’s line-up all looks like me, to ask what anti-racism actions they have taken/are taking, to ask how they’re working to better represent and serve the diverse sewing community. Black sewists and industry professionals have been talking about how this is a problem for a long time, this is a post I should’ve written a long time ago, and I hope you’ll join me as I continue to listen for opportunities to support their businesses & help make industry-wide change. 

A few suggestions for white readers, before you start clicking & shopping:

Please, don’t do these things:

  • Contact these people/designers or comment on their social media and let them know you are following or shopping in an effort to support Black businesses. If you want to chat about it, I’m happy to listen! I’ve seen several Black sewists comment on how they have mixed feelings about a big spike in followers since the protests started and anti-racist resources started bouncing around – be respectful and be kind.
  • Jump into their social media feeds or contact them to ask questions about racism. I get it, maybe after reading a little more about how white-centered the sewing industry presents, or about systemic racism in general, you’re hoping they can help you learn more. But that’s what the internet is for; don’t ask someone else to educate you when there are loads of anti-racism action ideas, reading lists, and resource lists already out there. I am not an expert but if you want to talk about something or are looking for answers, reach out and let’s see if I can help you find some.

Also, a few last thoughts:

How to find Black sewing bloggers, pattern designers, fabric stores:

Ok, you’re on board, here is where to direct your energy:

[In closing, hopefully this is a non-issue but I want to be clear that while responses to what I’ve written are welcome in the comments, I will delete/not approve anything that I read as disrespectful or potentially hurtful to read.]

 

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Tomoko

Thursday 15th of October 2020

what a bunch of crap this all is!! crap!! Yes, ALL lives matter, not just BLACK! I am so sick of all this ridiculous politically correct idiocy! Just sew and enjoy it, don't bring politics into this arena, it is unnecessary and unwanted. I will not be looking at your blog anymore because it is just full of PROPOGANDA!!

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Saturday 7th of November 2020

Tomoko, I would like nothing more than for you to never look at my blog again with a comment like this! If all lives matter, why does it bother you to read Black lives matter? That's rhetorical, I know why. Sewing has always been political and just because you think something is unnecessary or unwanted doesn't make it true, the world doesn't revolve around you! Hope you seek therapy for the anger you're harboring over the idea that everyone deserves equal rights, truly, I wish you healing.

Allyson

Sunday 19th of July 2020

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the information. As a Black woman, it has been VERY difficult to connect with others who share your journey of exclusion and to find a space where you are heard. As sewing so often brings people together, it hurt so much to NOT be a part of this community. I am from a long line of sewists (including a family member who is a 5th generation master quilter) and it was while learning to sew that I learned the most important lessons of life: family, sisterhood, community, fairness, uplift, sharing, caring, faith, and LOVE. None of the conversation ever centered around bigotry, exclusion, or hate. We had to pray for those who brought harm or intolerance to our community, and we ALWAYS had room for one more. I am encouraged by your exploration of racial injustice in the world and how you can combat systemic, systematic, and institutionalized racism as well as address the personal side too. We must all understand that is at stake and link arms to take a step forward on the path to a better day. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Until we meet, stay strong and thank you for 'seeing us.'

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

Allyson, I'm going to respond more thoroughly to your email but wanted to make sure I publicly also said thank you for reading, sharing your story, and your kind and generous words! What a gift to grow up surrounded by family who sews!! I know this blog post is just a start but I am hopeful for and actively looking to support and encourage larger, systemic changes in this industry.

Joan Mitchell

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

I do not purchase anything based on the race of the creator, because that's just wrong. If I were to seek out black-owned businesses and purchase their products, that would be just as racist as if I were to seek out and purchase products from white-owned businesses. I honestly cannot support small businesses most of the time, no matter who owns them, because I am a senior citizen living on a fixed income. I purchase most of what I need and some of what I want based on who can offer me the best price - bottom line. I rarely pay higher prices for things that are essential. This includes applicable sales taxes, shipping and handling. I am color-blind when it comes down to race of the business owner. And for that matter, I also take no notice of the race of the employees (if any) that I deal with.

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

Hi Joan! I can understand being on a fixed income, unfortunately most small businesses are definitely more expensive than big box stores and I know not everyone has the means to make those choices. That being said, racism isn't that simple. It has to do with the whole system, not individual choices, which I tried to outline with part of my article, and that system makes it very hard for Black businesses to get started let alone succeed. So seeking to counter balance that unlevel playing field isn't racist or exclusionary, it's trying to course correct. Here is an article focusing on "being color blind" - hopefully you can read it with an open mind. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/color-blindness-is-counterproductive/405037/

Peggy Cleary

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

I'm currently enjoying easy online quilting workshops with Gyleen X. Fitzgerald of Colourful Threads. $15 for instructions, live videos, and an exclusive Facebook group open only to the members of each class. Make a whole quilt from scraps on hand! Doing it with a friend doubles the fun. We put our phones on speaker and chat while we sew.

Joan Malone

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

I’m 82 years old and have lived my life with rallies, petitions, legislator visits, publishing, talks to large & small groups, prison sentences, staff member with social justice organizations most of my adult life. And I want to thank you for your inspired and exceptionally helpful piece. Of course, I am grateful to now have sources for my purchases I had not known about before. But perhaps more importantly, I want to thank you for your insightful suggestions regarding our approach with black owned business, lest we rush in As the great white fixer as it were. I too cringe when hearing “all lives matter” . Your response and other suggestions and the critical thought they represent are gift to your readers. One ps ... I have been protesting with young people, usually about twenty of them and this one old lady, and they look after me, but more importantly, they want to learn. They have trouble believing that 40 years ago, I had vile warnings yelled at me because I, a white woman, marched with our black sisters and brothers. That is incomprehensible to them, and that is their gift to me. This time, it is different and they are that difference.

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Joan, thank you for reading and sharing your story! I wish that in 40 years more equality and less prejudice existed but it's pretty inspiring that you've been working for change for so long!

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