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22. It’s a Mailbag Episode! – The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast
Patterns & Designers mentioned
Simplicity Pattern 8427 Men’s Fitted Shirt with Collar and Cuff Variations by Mimi G by Simplicity
Simplicity Sewing Pattern S9426 Quilted Dog Coats by Simplicity
Gilbert Top by Helen’s Closet
Olya Shirt Pattern by Paper Theory
Bloomsbury Blouse by Nina Lee
Patina Blouse by Friday Pattern Company
ZW Cropped Shirt by Birgitta Helmersson
ZW Workwear Jacket by Birgitta Helmersson
Woodland Dopp Kit by Klum House
ZW Coat by Birgitta Helmersson
Butterick 6454 Jumpsuit by Butterick
Fabric Stores mentioned
Fabscrap, based in Brooklyn, NY and Philadelphia, PA, carries recycled fabric scraps from popular brands
Patchwork Coat, by @handmademillennial on Instagram
The New Question Haunting Adoption, The Atlantic
APISAA Therapist Directory, Asian Mental Health Collective
Care from a therapist who gets you, Inclusive Therapists
East Meets West Sari Jumpsuit, by @mimifxrd on Instagram
Nicole: That is a challenge. You worked really hard, like, all year. I mean, it’s work, right? Being in a wedding
Ada: It’s work, it’s work.
Nicole: Especially the travelling.
Ada: Yeah. Travelling, planning things, both like, the bridal thing and the bachelorette and… Ooh, it’s work.
Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fibre and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community. In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities and our shared sewing practice, as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies. I’m your co-host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado,. Denver is the traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese-American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own all natural skincare business called Chuan Skincare – that’s C-H-U-A-N – and sharing my marketing tips on my blog, The Cultivate method. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing at @i.hope.sew on Instagram,
Nicole: And I’m your co-host, Nicole. I’m based out of Chicago, Illinois, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m Filipinx-American, and I’m a woman, and a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.
Ada: So before we dive into our mail, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing projects?
Nicole: I can. I am currently working on my first family matchy-matchy outfit for me, my husband and my dog. You can believe it, it hasn’t happened yet. So, maybe you can tell me about what it’s like to sew for your partner, if you’ve done it before, but since I started sewing, I… You know, get excited. I’m like, I’m going to so gonna make something, it’s going to be great. Would you wear something in this fabric? Nah. Would you wear something in this fabric? It’s nice, but no. I’m like, ugh, the answer every time was literally no, no, no, no. Even though, like, he’ll love this, it’s gonna be great. He’s gonna love it. And then I found a rainbow plaid. It’s from Joann’s and I’ve seen it on a lot of people on Instagram, all women. And like, it’s just really cute, and I just happened to stumble across it, because it was sold out everywhere. And I said, hey, what you think about this, it’s like, that would make a really great shirt. I’d love a shirt like that. I’m like, yeah!!! We finally got one. And so instead of buying what I needed for a shirt, I bought eight yards and I’m like, we’re making family outfits.
Ada: Two shirts.
Nicole: We got it, we got to do it. So for him, I do have a Simplicity Mimi G pattern. It’s, um, an 820… Wait. It’s 8427, Simplicity 8427, and it was the first pattern that was released by Mimi G with her husband Norris. And he’s got a YouTube video on making it as well. And I measured him and I was gonna do all this grading, but then I asked him to give me a shirt that he really likes the fit of and I was like, I should base it on this instead of trying to contour for his body, like we do. I’m just gonna make the shirt in the dimensions that he likes. And so, I used the finished measurements and we’ll figure that out. Zizou is my dog. He’s a 23 pounds, he lost a pound since he last went to the vet, he was at the vet on Friday. 23 pounds Bishon Frise, which is a bigger, this is a big boy. But I also had a Simplicity coat pattern, like, I have a couple, have one, a hoodie from Ellie and Mac, but I do have a Simplicity coat pattern. It’s 9426 and so I’ll just make him that coat. And for me, I’m going to do a shirt dress. So I bought fabric, like, this would be a great shirt dress and I’ve never really worn shirt dresses because they’ve never fit me well with my proportions. I’m like, yeah, this is gonna be great. And I have a lot of Big 4 patterns, but Ada, do you have any indie recommendations potentially for, like, a good shirt dress or a shirt to like, lengthen into a dress?
Ada: Ooh. When you said that the first two that came to mind that I have are two Big 4 patterns, but indie… There’s the Helen’s Closet Gilbert top, which is a collared shirt that I believe has been hacked into a shirt dress just by lengthening, like you said, many times. I think Helen has a blog post on it. There is the… I think it’s the Olya, O-L-Y-A, by Paper Theory, who, I think it’s a longer dress shirt and I think you can also lengthen that one. I’m trying to think what else… I actually haven’t… I’ve made collared jackets before I haven’t made a collared… Uh, I’ve made like polos and stuff so not necessarily like, a button-up kind of shirt dress from indie patterns before. So, I think… Oh, Friday Pattern Company also just came out with one. Her collar’s a little bit different, it’s like, the Nina Lee Bloomsbury shape more, like, thinner. It’s thinner than the Bloomsbury.
Nicole: I think that’s what it’s called.
Ada: Yeah, it’s thinner and kind of a different angle. And I thought it was really cool looking, but I bet that one could also be lengthened, it just looks a little more tailored at the waist. So you would have to either size up or grade out when you’re lengthening the piece to make sure that it doesn’t end up being, like, the width of one pant leg.
Nicole: Okay, yeah, I’ve seen the Patina blouse. It’s really cute, it’s got a great 70s vibe to it.
Ada: Oh, one more. Birgitta Helm… I’m gonna say it correctly. Birgitta Helmersson, in Malmo, Sweden. She does the zero waste patterns. She also has a collared shirt pattern, and a workwear jacket, which I guess, if you made in a lighter fabric, and lengthen, could kind of be similar?
Nicole: I like the zero waste concept. I imagine that it’s probably a straight cut, and then strategically placed darts for shaping if necessary, or needed, or…
Ada: Uh, yeah, I will talk about it in a minute, but I did buy one of her patterns and she does not do a lot of those darts for shaping to keep with zero waste. But if you know what you’re doing, you could definitely alter the patterns to shape in more or you could just cut less fabric, honestly, based on the cutting pattern.
Nicole: Okay, well, I’ll take a look. So, what’s going on with you Ada, what are you working on?
Ada: The reason I know how to say Birgitta Helmersson’s name is because I pulled it up specifically for this episode. So I have three projects going on simultaneously. Number one would be the Woodland dopp kits from Klum House that I am making for holiday presents. Ellie was on our subscriber sew and chat for a bit, a few weeks ago, and I was in the middle of sewing up the seams. It’s really simple, super easy and super fast. I think putting the leather bits on will take longer than it did for me to sew this and turn it out. But these are going to be… I was trying to think of good batch gifts to make for some of my closer friends this year. And I bought two of her kits a while ago on the seconds sale and they didn’t look like anything was wrong with them, full, like, transparency. I thought they came out great. So all that’s left to do on these two testers is to attach the leather and then I will start cranking them out for the eight other ones I need to make, I have two done, I need to make 10 total, so eight more. And then, I do think once I kind of, like, get it down with these two, it’ll be very, very speedy. I’ve got a jumpsuit toile that I’m not naming because it’s not size-inclusive, but I had cut it out last year before I knew anything about them. And it’s just been sitting here cut out for a year basically since I bought the pattern and it’s made out of an old Target bedsheet that we used to have in the house and so it’s this really cool cotton with embroidery on it. And I’m hoping it turns out well; it is white though and the other day I was looking, I was like, this is a little sheer for my taste, in a jumpsuit. So we shall see, maybe it will never leave the house, it’ll be just a toile jumpsuit for home? And then…
Nicole: You could dye it.
Ada: I could… Oh, I could dye it, that is a good point. But the, the thread of the embroidery is black.
Nicole: So, you could dye it black?
Ada: Oh that, oooooh…
Nicole: And then it’d be like, black with textures. And then it can leave the house if you want it to.
Ada: That is a good call. Perhaps I should start saving some things to do that. I’m like, looking around my room. Yeah, that one, I started the other day. I got the pockets assembled, and then I sewed… You’ll appreciate that I sewed the front crotch together and then the front pant legs together, and that’s when I knew I had to call it a night. I was like, hmm, this is not a skirt, it is a jumpsuit, gotta unpick all of that. And the last thing that I’m working on that I’m really excited about, that I definitely want to get done in time for the holidays, because we’re going to go visit my in-laws is a Birgitta Helmersson zero waste coat. So I bought that pattern, and I’m going to try to make the long version but I’m going to try to make some alterations to squeeze it out of… The long version calls for like 2.2 yards, I think I have 1.75.
Ada: And it’s this really, really nice felted wool, I think? I’m not exactly sure about it, but it’s like, coating wool and it’s camel coloured, it’s the piece that I got from Fabscrap when I volunteered there and I got it for free. You get five pounds of material for free. And I do have other wool that I’ve been sitting on and hoarding for a while, but this one… I got it a few months ago and I just was like, oh, I’ve never had a coat made out of such nice wool. And I was looking for something that I could maximize that yardage out of, and every other coat that I saw required something long, four to five yards. And I was like, you can’t really… I don’t… I’m not about to go and try and patchwork this. I know, um, Ella, @handmademillennial, made a cool multicolour coat a few weeks ago. I don’t have the patience or the time right now to go figure out like, what other weight wool would match with this, which, you know, it’s kind of hard when you thrift things and find things secondhand, but I’m very excited because it’s so nice.
Nicole: Well, I’ve been intrigued by zero waste designs. I bought a zero waste bag, which is really cute, but I have not taken the step to… Although, of course, I want to, because it’d be nice to be able to utilise, you know, as much fabric as possible. And so, kudos to you for, for going this route, and I look forward to actually seeing the final product.
Ada: Thanks. Yeah, it… Surprisingly, she points out a lot of different ways you can be zero waste and things that you can do to change the pattern that would make it not zero waste anymore. But surprisingly, it’s a lot easier for me to look at the cutting layout because you get a cutting layout, you don’t get patterned pieces. So that was another draw for me. You don’t have to sit there and cut pattern pieces.
Nicole: No taping.
Ada: Yeah, no taping. I mean, there’s about maybe five to eight sheets, where they’re curved pieces that you do have to, where you might want to cut out for ease of cutting in general, but five to eight pieces for a coat versus, I think the jumpsuit that I’m working on was a 60 page beast.
Ada: Because it was like full length pants and the whole thing. And so, to do that at like, 10% of what I would normally do on a pattern, I am very excited. It looks like it’ll come together pretty quickly, too. The only question is, like, if I want to add a lining, which does make it not zero waste, because you won’t achieve through waste cutting on the lining. But yeah, that’s the only question. Do I want to line it? I probably do.
Nicole: I think I would want to.
Ada: Yeah, that also saves you the step of having to finish all the seams with bias tape.
Nicole: Oh, that’d be kind of nice. So you got that new bias tape machine that we both bought, and as far as I can tell you haven’t used it yet, because I haven’t.
Ada: I haven’t, because I haven’t cut anything… Yeah, I haven’t cut anything out.
Nicole: That needs it.
Ada: That needs it, yeah, this coat will be pretty low on… I’m not gonna make bias tape out of wool, but I have a lot of other stuff that’s been cut out. I think I’m waiting to cut some bias tape from some of the extra fabrics that I have just lying around. And it’s like a good mindless activity for a day. I also need to figure out how to jerry rig my bias tape metal pieces onto the maker.
Nicole: Yeah, washi tape works okay, but you could probably just go with something more substantial, like masking tape, and it’ll be good.
Nicole: And we’re back, surprise! At the end of season two, we decided we wanted to pop in for some reflection and sharing. So welcome, everyone, to our first mailbag episode. We’ve just wrapped up two whole seasons of the Asian Sewist Ccollective. And we couldn’t be more grateful for our listeners’ support and their feedback. We do keep track and respond to feedback throughout the season, although we usually respond privately to the person submitting the feedback.
Ada: Such is the nature of podcasting, right? So here’s a little something you might not know about what happens behind the scenes. We batch record our episodes to maximise the ability… Ehh… To maximise the availability of the hosts. And then things like that happen when we’re recording, and we’re not editing that out this time.
Nicole: Nope, leave it all in.
Ada: We’re leaving it all in. But we batch record so that Nicole and I can manage our schedules better and hopefully help the producers as well. Otherwise, we would have to set aside time every weekend for episode recording. So sometimes, we will record an episode, get feedback for it, and not be able to actually address it until several episodes later because we will have recorded the episodes in between already or be working on them. And if we’re at the end of the season, like we are now, oftentimes, it’s impossible. We’ve already released all the episodes.
Nicole: Right. So today we’re digging into our inboxes to share some feedback that we haven’t surfaced previously. Hence, the mailbag episode. And as always, if you have any questions or feedback about our podcast, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram, which is @asiansewistcollective.
Ada: So the number one topic of the majority of emails and messages we get are… Suggestions on topics to cover in future episodes! And we love getting these emails and messages. I swear they make our lives so much easier because we’re not the only ones coming up with ideas. So we are super thankful for all of our listeners who are so committed to our podcast for their creativeness and willingness to share, and just your openness to share your ideas with us on what you want to see.
Nicole: And unfortunately we can only release 10 episodes or so per season, which means our small but very awesome volunteer team isn’t able to churn the episodes out fast enough to make all of your wishes come true. But nevertheless, we do read every single message that came through and put every idea of yours onto a list, also known as a backlog that’s longer than a Joann Fabrics receipt. If you’ve ever shopped at Joann Fabrics, you know, you’ve only bought one thing… But you get all this paperwork
Ada: Joann’s has nothing on CVS.
Nicole: Oh, yeah.
Ada: Anybody outside of the US will be like, what are you talking about? CVS as a pharmacy here that literally, for as long as I have been alive, prints receipts that are at minimum, a metre long.
Nicole: Hahahahaha. Yeah, I… Absolutely. And listeners, if you’re outside of the US, and there’s an equivalent, just share that with us so we can have a chuckle. What’s the longest receipt that you’ve received, an insane amount of length. So Ada and I had a chat offline about how to manage this long backlog, and also, you know, keeping the podcast relevant and interesting to all of you. So we’re going to start by sharing with you what our process is for selecting episode topics. And then we’ll dive in some of the ideas that we’ve received for consideration for future seasons.
Ada: Right. So how on earth does the Asian Sewist Collective even figure out what topics to cover in an upcoming episode? And basically, it starts with a lot of planning. So before each season starts the entire team – so there’s currently about a dozen of us – gets together for a planning session, where we discuss, vote on and prioritise episode ideas together. The idea is with the most number of votes, and the most number of people who want to work on them are the ones that make it onto our production schedule, and the other remaining ideas stay in our backlog. And they’re revisited again, later, because you never know, we might be interested in it, it might be more topical at another time, or someone might join the team who is interested in leading that episode. And I find that this process makes it a lot easier for us to keep everyone motivated and working on topics and episodes that they’re interested in. Because, like I said, there’s currently about a dozen of us who are part of the collective and we’re all volunteers. So it’s really, what do we want to work on in our free time because this isn’t a job, and I never want it to feel like a job. And what do we as a group feel like would be useful and helpful and interesting to our listeners. So really, it is a group decision, there’s a lot of voting and numbers involved. And if we do decide to move forward with a topic, then after we go through that whole process of literally going through the backlog, we will then begin the process of planning for those episodes. So this is really simplified. Like, if I were to show you the spreadsheets and the forms and the polls involved, you would be like, wow, that’s overkill. But essentially, I think, because we’re all living in different places and different time zones, and we’re managing on a volunteer schedule, this makes it super easy for us to figure out what episodes work for the collective and work for the team and how we want to keep this podcast going. And then once we kind of get those episodes decided, we figure out who’s going to do what so what are we going to record, who’s doing research, who’s producing, who’s doing guest outreach, coordination, editing, all the other details, marketing, that go into putting together an episode for you.
Nicole: In fact, if you want to have a bigger say in episode selection, you should consider getting involved with the Asian Sewist Collective in season three. So for season three, we will primarily be looking for folks to help us out with audio editing, video editing, and marketing support, particularly when it comes to maintaining our Instagram account. So if you are interested in any of these roles, or even just want to learn more, send us a message at our email at email@example.com. Don’t worry, emailing us isn’t a commitment. You can ask as many questions as you need to in order for you to come to a decision. So next up for today, we said we’re going to cover some of the suggestions that we received, and we’ll also follow up on our thoughts and on the suggestions as well.
Ada: Katie Yap, who goes by @yapstitch on Instagram – that’s Y-A-P-stitch – wrote to us a while ago, but also sent in a voice memo, which we will play for you now.
Katie: Hello, Ada, Nicole, and everyone else at the Asian Sewist Collective. My name is Katie, and my Instagram handle is @yapstitch, and I’m a relatively new sewist living in Melbourne, Australia. I just discovered your podcast a little while ago, and I absolutely love what you’ve done, and the thoughtfulness with which you’ve done. Your production is fantastic. Your content is really well researched and presented and you have an amazing ability to fuse your clearly lovely personalities with strong statements about important issues. So I am half Chinese, half white Australian, and I’ve grappled with my cultural identity for pretty much as long as I can remember, being Chinese is really important to me. But I had almost no cultural or language connection to my Chinese family as my dad who is the Chinese one. He doesn’t feel any affinity with the culture and he speaks only English. I also look really white, so, many people don’t even believe me when I tell them that I’m half Chinese, which combines white privilege with sort of an increased sense of alienation. My cultural identities and the difficulties that I have with it follows me to my sewing practice, and I’ve been thinking for a long time about how I can express myself and my identities through what I wear and what I make. Thank you so much for giving me the sense of solidarity with you and other Asian sewists out there, and for holding conversations that deal with things that I think about a lot, as well as many other topics that I’ve never thought about before. So I was wondering if you might consider doing an episode interviewing a mixed race maker, and how their blended heritage informs their sewing or their making practice, I would really love to hear the experiences of other halfies out there – that is a term that I use strictly endearingly – and I think that there would be many, many others who would also find it interesting and useful. Thanks for everything you do. Bye, from Melbourne!
Ada: Thank you, Katie, for writing in and thank you for all of those really kind words. I read this email originally, like, a few months back, and I was like, oh my God, but rereading it for the podcast gets me in my feels. The week after Katie actually emailed, we aired our episodes with Ellie of Klum House, episode seven, season one, Ella @handmademillennial, and Jennifer from Workroom Social. And so, Katie actually updated us and said she enjoyed them. So these three guests have all shared that they are mixed race, Asian, and they do identify with some part of their own heritage. And I think it’s important to hear their unique stories and continuing to promote unique stories, because they’re unique, everyone has a different experience, right? I’m sure Katie’s experience, living as mixed race in Australia is different. Ellie, Ella and Jennifer are all American. So I think it’ll be interesting to see in future seasons, how many of our guests we can feature with different experiences all around the world. And I hope that we can provide a platform where the stories are shared so that every listener can find a story that they connect with them, that resonates with their own experience. And representation is about seeing yourself in the stories being told. And hopefully, providing these perspectives, elevates those and I think makes them more visible for those who may not see people who literally look like them, or have backgrounds like them in the media today or in social media. And I guess the question is like, should we dedicate an entire episode to… What being mixed race is?
Nicole: Maybe? I think, Ada, you and I are not mixed race, so we don’t want to be the voice of anyone who is. And I don’t have a firm opinion on it. I think, you know, what would the episode look like? And maybe, folks who are interested in this topic can let us know, like, is it a series of interviews with mixed race sewists specifically talking about their heritages and what it’s like navigating the world for them? You know, Katie mentioned being white passing, what does that mean? And I know that Jennifer touched on it a little bit in her episode this season, and family’s attitudes toward being mixed race in their own family, their relationship to their Asian heritage. Before we think about dedicating an entire episode to it, we do want to think, what would this look like? And how would we best serve the folks who are interested in the topic?
Ada: Yeah, I agree. I think it comes down to us hearing your feedback on, like, more of what kind of episode would you want to hear this? Do you want to hear from just more singular guests and have us deep dive with them? Do you want to have a whole episode kind of, like, this one where we pull in things from different people? Or like, the sari episode where we had two guests who could share their experiences, like, what does that look like? I think we could be always doing a better job of finding a variety of people within the diaspora both in representing different heritages, but also, like I said, where they live, where they grew up, and their own lived experiences being so different, and even someone’s experience here, in one place might be completely different than somebody else who lives across the country or in a different area of the country or who is different types of mixed race, right? So I think there’s a lot to explore there.
Nicole: Another topic that has been suggested to us is covering the topic of Asian adoptees. So international adoptions, which is an adoption where a baby is placed with a family outside of its home country have come under scrutiny over the last few decades. These adoptions, many of which were transracial, perpetuate white saviour syndrome and imperialist views, basically that white people were saving foreign babies.
Ada: We thought it’d be nice to share some history and context on this that we found from an article in The Atlantic, so that will be linked in the show notes. And so the article says, and I quote, starting in the 70s, single white women became much less likely to relinquish their babies at birth. This is speaking to the US. Nearly a fifth of them did so before 1973; by 1988, just 3% did. Single Black women were always very unlikely to place their children for adoption because many maternity homes excluded Black women. In 1986, an adoption director at the New York Foundling Hospital, told The New York Times that though, quote, there was a time about 20 years ago, when the New York Foundling had many, many white infants, end quote, the number of white infants had, quote, been very scarce for a number of years, end quote. So throughout this era, American families adopted thousands of infants and toddlers from foreign countries in the 50s. A mission to rescue Korean war orphans sparked a trend of international adoptions by Americans. Over the years international adoptions increased and Americans went on to adopt more than 100,000 kids from South Korea, Romania and elsewhere from 1953 to 1991. In 1992, China opened its orphanages to Americans and allowed them to take in thousands of girls abandoned because of the country’s one child policy.
Nicole: In recent years, though, international adoption has slowed to a trickle because of the changes abroad and within American adoption agencies. During the foreign adoption boom, most of the children adopted from abroad found happy homes in the US. Some, however, turned out not to really be orphans, but children instead placed in orphanages temporarily by their impoverished parents. And this sparked reforms and had a chilling effect on their home countries’ policies. Some of the most popular source countries for adoptable children, including Russia, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, shut down their adoption programs years ago, because of the corruption scandals or tensions with the US government. China expanded its domestic adoption program and reversed its one child policy in 2015, dramatically reducing the number of girls who are relinquished for adoption.
Ada: We’ve received this topic request a few times from adoptees themselves and people who are not adoptees, but are curious. And one of the other questions that we got was given the history that we just shared, or a brief synopsis of it, and the dynamics, is talking about international and transracial adoption problematic? And I want to say that talking about it isn’t problematic as long as we acknowledge everything else, right, like as we said before, we want to include as many perspectives from the community and diaspora as possible. And that includes talking with Asian adoptees.
Nicole: On this podcast, we ask the question, how does your sewing connects to your identity? And from what we gather from the adoptees from Asian countries who have reached out to us, it’s an intensely complicated question. So for example, one person has shared with us that they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t feel connected to their Asian identity, sewing or otherwise, because their families did not incorporate their Asian ethnicity into their upbringing. But simultaneously, even though they don’t feel connected to their Asian identity, they are confronted with all of the assumptions that looking like an Asian person comes with, including anti-Asian racism.
Ada: And I think part of the reason why we haven’t jumped on this idea is that some folks that we’ve spoken to, who are Asian adoptees, have shared that once this piece of their identity is revealed, people on social media so Internet strangers have felt that it’s appropriate to message them and ask them all sorts of really personal and invasive questions. And that’s just wrong. Don’t ask people personal invasive questions, if you don’t know them, don’t have that relationship with them, they’ve set a boundary or you know, there’s this unspoken boundary, like, don’t ask people weird invasive questions on the Internet. We don’t want to put any of our guests in that type of situation. And at the same time, it’s a really personal topic, And so some people might not be ready to talk about it on a podcast on the Internet, because the Internet is forever. And we are a podcast that’s focused on the intersection between sewing and your identity, and so if… If you are still working through that, and figuring out how you identify or what your identity is, I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to put you on the spot, just because somebody wants, is curious and wants to learn more. I think we should respect that and help you get to wherever you need to go in figuring that out. It is a journey, and it’s always evolving. And so I think just purely interviewing people because they were adopted, it’s not a good enough reason to have that interview. I think, maybe we will do some more research and better understanding of this and see if there are any sewists out there who are willing to talk about it, you know, raise your hand, let us know. We won’t know. But we will be kind of, thinking about it further and talking about it amongst the group.
Nicole: And I think any guests that we do have, they’re going to have to say, yes, I would like to talk about it.
Nicole: Because some of the folks that have submitted, you know, this is a topic or adoptees themselves have said, I’m not ready to talk about it, but I’d like to hear someone else talk about it. And so far, we haven’t had anyone. Don’t go to your Asian adoptee friends and say, hey, there’s this podcast, you should be on it! Maybe let them know? But, you know, don’t try to force anyone to contact us to be a guest, I think. But if you are, if you are an Asian adoptee and you might be interested in sharing your story, definitely get a hold of us. So those were the two big topic suggestions that we got this season multiple times from multiple different people. And some of the other topic suggestions we received were: requests to do deep dives on specific garments, self nominations to be guests, both of which again, we very much welcome. And as we said earlier, when we covered our process, we conduct research and look for guests and topics that we want to work on, but we’re definitely not able to find everything on our own. So if you have a good idea or topic, again, just send us an email – that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. To sum up this part of today’s episode, if the topics of being mixed race or an Asian adoptee appeal to you, resonate with you, and you’re interested in being a guest on our podcast, or know someone who is, let us know. A guest doesn’t have to record an entire episode if they don’t want to, we can do shorter interviews like we did for episode 19, where we covered the history of the sari before we spoke to two guests about their relationship with the garment.
Ada: We also got feedback, like I said earlier, regarding specific episodes that were released that we wanted to share. So Emilia of @emilia_to_nuno – so E-M-I-L-I-A underscore T-O underscore N-U-N-O on Instagram – shared this feedback with us after episode 17 aired, which was about imposter syndrome in sewing. Note that we adjusted their feedback slightly for clarity. So they said, I liked it and I love the two perspectives. On one hand as a person with various mental disorders, I think we should not underplay it. But I’m also very strong and direct and can relate to someone who has to achieve everything themselves but themselves. Personally, I would not have ventured into the psychological part, as in the discipline of psychology, and kept it to personal opinions. I have a psychiatry background and felt like it would have been better to state that personal opinions were being shared and also to say something along the lines of, we’re simplifying concepts greatly, talk to therapists, etc. I really do like the podcast honestly, it’s not pulling any punches. I think the tone may have come across as a bit dismissive at times, though not intentionally. We’re all human and you already cover so many important topics. The intention is always good on your part. What the podcast said on race and class and other -isms making what seems to be imposter syndrome manifest was totally valid, but I would have maybe said that for people with mental health issues and/or mental disorders, you can’t just snap out of it once you realize class and race play a role.
And thank you, Emilia, for writing in. The collective often shares podcast feedback within the team and we discuss the best way to move forward, as a team. And the producer for this episode, Mariko, had some thoughts in response to this that we wanted to surface today. She processed Emilia’s words and felt that the script’s episode should have said in a more definite manner, that although we touched upon the psychology aspect of imposter syndrome, or its lack thereof, we barely scratched the surface, so any listeners who wanted to learn more should consult with a mental health professional. Mariko says that we had some great disclaimers in episode two, our interview with Angelica Creates, that coincided with Mental Health Awareness Month, that should have also been included in this episode. She did want to point out that Cindy, our researcher in this episode, has an academic background in psychology and dug through old textbooks to find the information that we needed. And Mariko also felt that Emilia has points on folks with pre-existing mental disorders finding it difficult to snap out of feeling imposter syndrome, even upon learning that it can manifest due to all of the -isms, is totally true. Imposter syndrome may not be classed as a psychological disorder but that doesn’t make it any easier to resolve. And for those wondering why our producer’s weighing in, our producers play a key role in the creation of an episode. They decide the direction an episode goes, do a lot of the coordination work with the researcher and the co-hosts, write the scripts Ada and I read through during recording and are highly involved during and after recording.
Ada: They’re like the director, the invisible hand guiding me and Nicole. And even though their voices aren’t always heard on the podcasts, they play the biggest role in actually getting this out the door.
Ada: And so I wanted to thank you for sharing some information on that, Nicole. And I wanted to throw in my two cents regarding Emilia’s feedback. I think we did our best to communicate that we did research for the episode, but as Emilia points out, we are not mental health professionals, and we’re not qualified to be that, that’s not what either of us studied. If you are in need and need to talk to somebody or to find someone, I highly encourage you to do so. It has been a game changer for me, and it continues to be a game changer. I think that if you are having serious thoughts, there are resources out there that we will provide links to in the show notes. And if you don’t feel like you’re there yet, maybe go back and listen to some of the episodes we’ve done on that, like Episode 2 with Angelica Creates, but definitely advocate for yourself and talk to a mental health professional for sure.
Nicole: And as someone who has shared several times on the podcast that I have my own mental health issues, I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and am seeing a therapist…I think this episode was particularly important for me, because you could tell that I had this revelation about all the -isms like, holy cow, it’s not just me feeling like shit, and hating myself and feeling inadequate, or feeling like I am inadequate.
I do want to say just from my perspective, that learning about, you know, the Harvard Business Review article that I don’t think that it flipped a switch for me, to say that I can, as Emilia says, you know, snap out of it. I’m good, I don’t have to struggle with imposter syndrome anymore! I still do. And so, if we did not communicate that it’s more nuanced than just understanding and flipping a switch and being able to recover from something that’s not a disorder, but clearly very impactful, I’m glad that we have an opportunity to address it now. So we really appreciate your feedback, Emilia, and be sure to check them out at @emilia_to_nuno on Instagram.
Next up, we got this email from Cynthia Park on her thoughts about body inclusivity and cultural appropriation. She writes, “I have a series of interconnected thoughts that intersects two previous episodes about body inclusivity and cultural appropriation. I am a small fat Korean American woman with a dream to wear a hanbok that I can put on without ripping any seams. My mom brought back some traditional fabric that I am totally afraid of cutting into and gave me some of my grandma’s hanboks for me to copy the construction of. I am too fat and chesty for hanbok patterns made by Korean pattern makers, my Korean language skills are too meager to interpret a garment making textbook for artisans, or a virtual class taught in Korean. And I really want to learn how to make this amazing garment that has been previously inaccessible to me because of size constraints. I even thought about finding a hanbok maker in my community and bringing in the fabric my mother purchased, but the fear of being chastised for being fat is a real obstacle on following through on that one. Making the muslin of the jacket gives me all the feels, my internalised fatphobia, feelings of cultural appropriation, a deep appreciation for my mom and culture. I’m not at all asking for you to tell me what to do, but I want to share these thoughts as a listener. Thank you for creating this needed space in the sewing community, Cynthia.”
So my thoughts first are, Cynthia, thank you so much for writing in and as someone who would probably be considered small fat as well, and having faced a lot of external fatphobia growing up in my Filipino community, I can completely relate to your feelings about constructing your cultural garment in the way that I’ve constructed mine in recent years. And I don’t have advice, you didn’t ask for advice, I don’t have any, but I want to offer some encouragement and to say that I’m really proud of you for getting out there and trying to connect with this part of your heritage. I know that it’s scary. Nobody wants to hear all that bullshit that people put on us growing up. I still don’t want to hear it, and I’m like, in my mid 30s, and I’m just like, I can’t, I don’t want that in my life. But I really hope that you are able to make this work for yourself, use some of the beautiful heritage items that your mom was able to give you, and I can’t wait to see what you have coming up. When I read your email, I… If you could replace the words Filipino and, you know, terno or any type of Filipino clothing in there and all of it seems really relatable, so just know that I’m rooting for you and I can’t wait to see what you do next.
Ada: Yeah, I actually responded to Cynthia when the email first came in and like, oh my gosh, have you seen this TikToker, who goes by @asiansnowhite on TikTok. Also, we’ll throw a link to that in the show notes. I believe she’s also a fat Korean American woman, who identifies as fat, and then actually makes hanbok for people to wear for herself and is trying to be more size inclusive of this, the garment and the style. And I don’t know how I got recommended to her on TikTok. But, um, I seem to get a lot of random videos on TikTok of all sorts of different Asians. And she has a lot of choice words to say about body image and inclusivity and appropriation. And so I sent that along, I hope it was helpful.
Just reading this email, I… It kind of made my heart ache a little bit. I’m not fat. I do not necessarily struggle with the same struggles that Cynthia shared with us. And the closest I can relate to is that, you know, when you go to Asia, and there’s quote, unquote, one size clothing, the night markets and stuff, and back in high school, I might have been able to fit into those. And maybe it was on the larger end of those. But now like, there’s no way unless it’s literally just a piece of fabric.
Nicole: A tube top.
Ada: Yeah, not even, like, not even, like, it might not even stretch enough. And again, I, I’m not that, I’m somewhere in the mid range of a lot of pattern designers, at least on their straight size sizing. So even just a smaller, when you consider complete sizing ranges from like zero to 40. And so I… [Ada exhales loudly and forcefully] It just, yeah, it just made my heart ache, that all of this is going on. I do hope that we can cover some of these intersections of topics in future, future episodes. And I do know from speaking to some Korean American friends and relatives that this is a thing, it’s very much a culturally perpetuated issue, and so it can’t necessarily just be solved by like, if you were to figure out how to make a hanbok, which I think would be great, that doesn’t necessarily solve the larger issues, and I think it solves the immediate need of the garment, like… But I can also tell you that as somebody who studied Korean for four years in college and has a whole minor in it and paid a lot of money for that minor, my language skills are also not good enough to interpret a textbook or artisans, and so I sense that you were being a little hard on yourself for your language skills, and I think perhaps a lot of us who are second generation feel that way about our language skills sometimes, and I don’t think that’s any reason to feel like you can’t access your culture.
Nicole: I have one more thing I do want to add, and this is going to come across as advice, so prepare yourselves, everyone. But this is for Cynthia, but this is for anyone listening. I have read this email, I reviewed it before we came on, and reading it aloud again and hearing you say that you’re too fat, or your language skills are too meager. Several years ago, I read something, I don’t even know what it was, it could have been an Instagram, like, carousel. And Ada, you pointed out, it sounds like she’s being too hard on yourself.
The word “too” – T-O-O – is a fixture of people’s language that if you can completely eliminate it from your daily use, and the way that you think about yourself, it can make a really big difference in how you think about yourself. And it’s a lot of times, and I remember this article said, the word “too” is often applied to describe women. They are too fat, they’re too skinny, they’re too loud, or they’re too quiet. They’re too shy. They’re too bossy. They’re too smart. So the word “too” embedded into it however you apply it is that, you are not what I think you are supposed to be. So when we say I’m too fat, for who? And you know, like, by whose standards? And yeah, we can name lots of people. But something that’s helped me a lot is that I’ve really tried to eliminate calling myself “too” any. And I made this conscious choice a few years ago. And I usually when I say… And I’m not perfect, it’s not like I don’t do that. Like, that I don’t say, I’m too blah, blah, blah. Often it’s “I’m too tired”. That’s like, oh, I use the word “too”. But I try not to say, I’m too fat for these pants. Like, well, these pants, pants don’t fit me anymore. And if you sit and think about, you’re describing the same thing, but instead of using “I’m too fat”, you’re saying that the pants, it’s not me that’s wrong, it’s not me that’s inadequate, or or over adequate. It’s the pants and so just reading, I’m too fat, my skills are too meager… Be kinder to yourself and think about that word, think about the word “too”. And see if you can start thinking differently if you find yourself wanting to describe yourself as “too” anything and see what that does for you. I think it was a really big mindset shift. And I remember talking to Jennifer on episode 15 that I’m garbage at mindset shifting but that’s one that really, really changed things for me.
So, now that I’m done preaching, the next piece of feedback that we wanted to share was on multiculturalism in Guyana.
Ada: We received some really neat information from a listener, Michelle, who is @mimifxrd, so that, that’s at M-I-M-I-F-X-R-D on Instagram, and episode 19 was a deep dive on the sari, a popular traditional garment of people from the Indian subcontinent. And it was such a great episode, I learned so much while we worked on it and I have such a better appreciation for beautiful garments and the fabric. We put a call out on Instagram the week the episode aired, asking people to tag us in their sari makes and so that’s when we received a response from Michelle and she shared a beautiful bright pink jumpsuit that she made from sari fabric which she said she made for a quote, East Meets West, end quote, vibe, which we will clarify in just a second. And so you can head to her Instagram to see the suit which was posted on November 20, 2021. And it is a vintage Butterick pattern number 6454. And she hacked it to have a wide leg and pockets so it has a halter front, it’s solid pink except for the detail around the cuff of the wide leg pant that is in a beautiful black and gold trim.
Nicole: We wanted to highlight this make because Michelle shared some really interesting and new-to-us information about the country that she lives in, which is Guyana. Guyana is a country in South America’s North Atlantic Coast, situated between Venezuela and Suriname. And when she shared her beautiful sari fabric jumpsuit, Michelle also mentioned that Guyana is home to a high concentration of people of Indian descent, and that Guyana is truly a multicultural society where citizens celebrate and share in their traditions – those were her exact words. And as an example, she said that Diwali, which is the Festival of Lights, widely celebrated throughout the Indian subcontinent and by members of its diaspora, is a national holiday in Guyana as well.
Ada: And according to Michelle, the Indian Guyanese population in Guyana is due to the practice of indentured servitude. So, she shared that between 1838 and 1917, over 500 ship voyages were made from India to Guyana carrying nearly 240,000 indentured Indian people. And so, FYI, indentured servitude is the practice of recruiting people to travel to another country, paying for the cost of the travel and lodging when they get there, and then the people work to pay off that debt rather than actually getting paid in money or a wage. And this is something that’s been seen throughout US history as well.
Nicole: I’m thinking of the indentured Chinese population, and was in the mid to late 1800s…
Ada: Built the railroads.
Nicole: …Primarily on the West Coast that eventually led to the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1865. So Google that if you’ve not heard of it, and…
Ada: That’s not to skip over enslaved people for which the US robbed an entire continent of its people.
Nicole: Yes. And there’s a lot of history there. But we…
Ada: We’re not going to unpack that today, hahaha!
Nicole: I want to because it’s because I, I looked into it, why we moved to indentured servitude, following the freeing of enslaved people in the United States. There’s a lot of reasons for that and the similar reasons in Guyana. So we’ll go back, we’ll focus on Guyana. I think that for me, just receiving this feedback and going down a rabbit hole of learning a little bit more about Guyana helped me also better reflect on some of the United States history as well. So Michelle, she says that she does not have Indian ancestry, but that she is a Black, Chinese and European descent, and further explained that the Chinese arrived in Guyana via indentured servitude as well. Michelle also lets us know that Guyana’s ethnic makeup comprises of descendants of Amerindians – American Indians – Africans, enslaved people who were brought to work on the plantations, Europeans, Spanish, French, Dutch and British colonisers, and then indentured labourers after the enslaved people were freed: Indians, Chinese and Portuguese. So I don’t know about you, Ada, but my knowledge of the country of Guyana was very limited before Michelle shared her make with us, and I really wanted to talk about it today and let our listeners know, because I think it’s so neat how Guyana, a relatively small South American country came to be so ethnically diverse with a significant Asian population in the descendants of the Chinese and Indian indentured labourers.
Ada: Yeah. When Michelle wrote in about her history and ancestry and just her thoughts in the podcast so far, I was like, wow, A, our podcast has reached so far, but B, also there’s so many other examples. Thanks, imperialism and colonialism and, and all the -isms… Of countries where there’s similar cases. Immediately what came to mind was, Brazil has a massive Japanese population, and the first time I met someone who was Japanese, but from Brazil, was in high school, because she had also then moved to the US and, er… It was weird to be like, wait, what? Because at that time, you’re like, not really processing or you’re like, at a different point in forming your identity. And so, like, to see someone else who has a different identity is just so interesting. So that came up, I think, when we talked to our guests for the sari episode, some of that also came up as well. I think of Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where there are different ethnic populations and different religions, co-existing! Proving that you can coexist without perhaps some of the tension that we have here in the States. I don’t know, I thought it was interesting, and it makes me want to go down to another research rabbit hole to see what else we find. Definitely, we are looking into, for season three and beyond, how we can feature more people from all around the world with all different lived experiences. And Mochi would agree, just barking in the background, that I’m someone who’s always fascinated by learning from other people and learning about what their experience is like and not taking it as the only experience and saying that, that person represents everybody and… Mochi again, agrees. But I’m just really looking forward to learning more about different people and where they come from and different cultures and heritages and how all of that identity, identities works, to be honest, intersects with our shared sewing practice, and I apologise for my very talkative dog today.
Nicole: Leave it all in. That’s great. Thank you so much, Michelle, for sharing your feedback. And being a listener. Check her out @mimifxrd. That’s M-I-M-I-F-X-R-D on Instagram.
Nicole: Thank you so much for joining us on our inaugural mailbag episode. We are officially in the off-season, but all of our episodes are available to download wherever you listen to your podcast. You can also find all of our episodes up on our YouTube channel, just search for Asian Sewist Collective and you’ll find audio-only versions for season one, and full videos for season two. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-fi. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and will allow us to give back to our all-volunteer team who works so hard to provide you with new content each week. The link to our Ko-fi page is ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective, and you can find the link in our show notes on our website and on our Instagram account. Check us out on Instagram @asiansewistcollective – that’s one word, asiansewistcollective.
Ada: You can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would appreciate it if you could rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. And again don’t forget to check us out on YouTube and our website at asiansewistcollective.com. You can find all of the links and resources mentioned for all of our episodes on the website, as well as the directory of Asian-owned sewing businesses and anti-racism resources. Again, it’s all on our website at asiansewistcollective.com. And we’d love to hear from you. Like we said for the entire episode. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on a future episode at email@example.com
This episode was brought to you by your co-hosts Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. And this episode was produced and edited by our superstar production and editing team Mariko Abe and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this season’s podcast a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next season… For real this time.