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:
- If you’re looking to buy a sewing book, consider ordering from one of these Black owned small book stores.
- If you’re looking for fabric with Black representation in the prints, I don’t keep up on all the new releases/current lines, but I’d recommend checking out Melissa Mortenson and Amber Kemp-Gerstel with Riley Blake Designs, Ann Kelle with Robert Kaufman (check out what else they’re doing to support Black textile artists!), and generally on Spoonflower. If you know of others please leave a comment and I’ll happily link them!
- I’d encourage you to check out the mission of the Social Justice Sewing Academy and support them, too!
How to find Black sewing bloggers, pattern designers, fabric stores:
Ok, you’re on board, here is where to direct your energy:
- Compiled by @pinkmimosabyjacinta, get shopping with this google doc of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color) + ally fabric stores & companies.
- Follow @blkmakersmatter on instagram; it looks like they are also working on their list/database and they have been meeting with sewing industry leaders. Check out the link in their profile for specific calls to action like surveys, too. Read more about this new account and two of the makers behind it in this Sewcialists blog post by Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic & Seamwork interview with Monica of That’s Sew Monica.
- Follow @meetmakersofcolor on instagram.
[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.]