34. This Long Thread: A Community Episode – The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast
Learn more about Jen Hewett & This Long Thread
Jen’s website – jenhewett.com
Instagram – @jenhewett
*Please note, we are a Bookshop.org affiliate, so we may make a small commission if you choose to purchase books via these links.
Patterns & Designers mentioned
The Tie Tee by The Sew Sew
Multi-Sport Skort by Jalie Patterns
Qipao Jumpsuit by Porcupine Patterns
Patina Blouse by Friday Pattern Company
Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet Patterns
Envelope Dress by Criswood Sews
Oslo Coat by Tessuti Fabrics
ASC Team & Listeners mentioned
Sareena – @dresslikeanonion
Trish – @peonyppa
Ada: From the time I was like seven to like 21, I would go back and take the train. And first of all, it was cheaper. But second of all, like, you know, he knew my hair. He had done my hair forever. 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 fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.
Nicole: 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.
Ada: I’m your co host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado, Denver is a traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapahoe peoples. I’m a Taiwanese American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise. That’s C-H-U-A-N apostrophe S Promise, and sharing my marketing tips on my blog. 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 outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the Three Fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Filippine American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time, you can find me on Instagram at @nicoleangelinesews.
Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?
Nicole: I can. I am making The Tie Tee from The Sew Sew. It was a pattern I bought before I left on a trip because I kept thinking like, it’s really cute. Should I make it? And then I was like, you know what, I’ll just get it, it looks great. And I was right, I think it worked out really, it’s working out really cute. And I’m gonna make another one. It’s a really simple boxy tee, but split in the back and secured on your body with ties around the neck and the waist. And it’s simple design, you know, I wish I paid closer attention. It’s a minimal waste design. This designer has several zero waste designs. This one was minimal waste. And so what I did was I printed out the pattern and I taped it and I used the big pattern piece. And then somewhere in the instructions it said it showed or video or something of instead of printing out the whole pattern, you can just sort of take note of the curve of the neck and the curve underneath the arms. And I saw somebody just have pieces of those, like the negative space in the pattern. So that you just put those down instead of the really big ones on like a certain like size of cloth that you have. So it’s minimal waste because it’s a single rectangle with small cutouts, three, three cutouts. But anyway, it’s a super easy make, and I really enjoyed it. So I will be making another one.
The fabric is a remnant that I got, so totally doable with remnants. I think I made a size sixteen, but it goes both ways up and down a significant amount. And I didn’t realize that this piece of fabric would have significance for me, it’s just a Joann’s remnant. But the day after my grandpa died, like the morning after, my sister and I, we had gone home at like 3:30am from my mom’s house, and then we’re back at the funeral home at 9am. And we were exhausted and sad. And she had picked me up. And then as we were leaving my mom’s house we’d like around 12:30. We had we just had lunch and like, we just need to go home. And then I looked at her and I was like I’m gonna go fabric shopping. And I was like, I don’t need any fabric but kind of just want to go to Joann’s because there’s one nearby house. And she’s like, Yeah, f it, let’s go. And so we just went together like it was obviously like, a time when we could have been should have been doing other things should have could have been doing other things. But it was like, we’re just gonna go together. And we’re just going to space out and do something that brings us joy and look and touch fabric. And so this was a remnant. I don’t remember what else I picked up maybe hopefully not anything else because you know, I gotta wash it. But yeah, it was like a remnant. That was maybe a rayon blend probably. It’s like nice and flowy but yeah, so that’s I just finished it and I’m going to make another one with this lovely avocado dyed fabric that’s currently curing behind me. So yeah, that’s what I’m working on. Or I guess what I worked on and what I will be working on what about you, Ada, what you what do you have going on?
Ada: I love that you remember that fabric that way? I mean I obviously hate it for obvious reasons, but I love that you have a core memory of going to Joann’s with your sister because you just needed to pet some fabric in a bad time. So love that. I am making a bunch of things. I have cut out my very first circle skirt, like self drafted circle skirt, I was inspired because I was making some more skirts from the same Jalie pattern, I forget the number but it’s the multi sport skort. And we’ll have the link in the show notes. But I cut out a few of those. And then I also had just one more piece that wouldn’t quite fit because that skirt has two side panels on each side. So four side panels, and it just wasn’t working out. And I didn’t want to try to hack it, because those panels also form a pocket. So what can I do with this like kind of rectangular ish piece that I have left over? And the answer was make a circle skirt. And what I’m attempting to make into arm sun guards, which is like just sleeves with that not attached to anything that you can put on if you’re wearing something short sleeves or sleeveless to block the sun. So both things hopefully will fit and work for me during the outdoor season this summer. Besides that, I think I have a few more like pieces of shorts that will go under that skirt to make it into a sport. Just like athletic wear, like things that I’m trying to get out. Just because yeah, all I own for bottoms and athletic wear are ready to wear leggings that are full length leggings and gets hot.
Nicole: So I have a question about the construction of said skorts. If in theory if you had like a biker short pattern or some sort of athletic short pattern, could you just smack on a circle skirt on top of it. Is that what your skort is like? Does that seem feasible to you?
Ada: The shorts part I’ve taken from the skort makes it seem like yes, but with some modifications. So if you have biker shorts, and usually biker shorts have that like wide waistband. Yeah, and then the short part sets a little lower, what I would do is actually, like draft it so that the short part just goes higher a little bit. And instead of cutting out the waistband to don’t double waistband yourself in, just lengthen the short pattern to go further up like the rise should go further up so that it meets the waistband of the circle skirt.
Nicole: I see, so it seems doable.
Ada: I’ve also worn biker shorts, under skirts because I’m just like, well, I have these shorts, and I have this skirt. But I want to be covered.
Nicole: Yeah, I have a lot a lot of my shorts, athleticwear are like three inch inseams. And even though they fit my like, my body doesn’t like as much you know, they still fit. So I’ve been gravitating toward longer bike shorts for when I’m running. I used to run with old tennis skirts, which worked but again, like my body is like I don’t like that, like the rubbing and stuff. So they need to be longer for me. But I think it’d be kind of cute to throw a skirt on top. And I certainly have a lot of knit or poly knit fabric that I purchased and need to give it some kind of life. Right.
Ada: Yeah, I mean, that could be really cute to just like not even for athletic stuff. Like skirts are back in everyone Gen Z has discovered what we all knew in the 90s
Nicole: You know, it’s funny, not sewing related. We’ll move on to the main topic, but I just wanted to share this. I’m going to 90s themed retreat weekend in Portland for my husband’s work. And I was like I don’t really want to buy anything new of course, you know, but in the 90s are super in. I ended up when I was in England at a charity shop. I bought a skirt a plaid skirt skirt.
Ada: I remember. Yeah.
Nicole: So it’s really cute. And I’m like, I’m really glad that this is secondhand. You know, with the conversion. It worked out to being like five bucks. I saw this I was like this it’s very 90s very 90s. But yeah, oh, I’ll put on a skort maybe I’ll make it for sure. I’ll try anyway. But good luck with your skort patterns and getting your legs free for the summer while you’re in athletic wear.
It is our season finale and what a better way to wrap things up than to have a community focused episode. On today’s episode we will be talking about This Long Thread.
Ada: So you may have noticed that we put a call out on Instagram a few months ago for stories and responses. So we will be sharing your thoughts and feedback throughout the episode and the thoughtful responses that we got from the collective team.
Before we dive into those for those that don’t know, This Long Thread is a book by Jen Hewett. Jen is a printmaker, surface designer, teacher and author. And in addition to designing it selling her own products. Jen also licenses her work to fabric manufacturers and large retailers. Her books include This Long Thread and Print, Pattern, Sew.
Nicole: So in the press for Print, Pattern, Sew, Jen actually talks about growing up mixed race, her dad is black and her mom is Filipino. If you go back to her blog and go back far enough, you actually find lots of mentions of Filipino food on her blog, which was really cool. And Jen’s experience as a woman of color in the crafting world, definitely informed where this book came from.
In her introduction, she describes how This Long Thread came to be. Now this is from the press kit: “In early 2019, the craft community experienced a reckoning when crafters of color began sharing personal stories about exclusion and racial injustice in their field, pointing out the inequity and lack of visible diversity within the craft world. Author Jen Hewett, a prominent Black woman in the fiber crafts community, brings together This Long Thread: Women of Color on Craft, Community, and Connection as a direct response to the need to highlight the diverse voices of women working in fiber arts and crafts.
Weaving together interviews, first-person essays, and artist profiles, this book explores the work and contributions of people of color across the fiber arts and crafts community, representing a wide spectrum of race, age, region, cultural identity, education, and economic class. Be inspired by the work and stories of innovative artists and artisans, such as Cynthia Alberto, Windy Chien, Naiomi Glasses, Sonya Philip, Latifah Saafir, and Lisa Woolfolk, who are making exceptional contributions to the world of craft.”
Ada, you read the book, right?
Ada: I did. And it was, I’ll be honest, a bit dense to get started. And I’ll get into why that is later. But Jen does a really great job of talking about the data that she gathered and the research and the people she talked to. And it quickly moves into stories and responses that she received from these folks and others. And I think it took me like two plane rides to finish. So a round trip to and from a wedding to get through the book. And I highly, highly recommend reading it. You can find links to buy the book in the show notes and definitely follow Jen at Jen Hewitt, that’s J-E-N-H-E-W-E-T-T on Instagram or jenhewett.com. By the way, we should note that we reached out to Jen before working on this episode to ask for her permission to borrow some questions and to borrow from the format of This Long Thread, and she graciously obliged.
Nicole: So for this episode, we asked you, our listeners and our Asian Sewist Collective team to answer some questions that mirror the questions Jen asked for This Long Thread.
Ada: And we’re going to share your responses and discuss those questions – like what folks have in common and some of the differences in our responses. Like I said, we should note that in This Long Thread, Jen used quantitative and qualitative data that she gathered, she followed best practices for gathering the status similar to how a research paper would be put together for academic purposes. So that’s the beginning of the book, which is what kind of made getting started in it a little bit harder for me. But once I got past that, it was great.
So the beginning of the book really gives you a good sense of who she surveyed and it is quite a delight to read. Speaking as a research and data nerd, I had to be in like the right mood to do it. However, for the purposes of this episode, we’re going to leave it more open ended and free flowing and focus on qualitative responses. So if you’ve read the book, we hope that you keep that in mind as we discussed. And if you haven’t read the book, we hope this makes you more interested in picking it up at your local library or bookstore.
Nicole: All right, let’s move on to the questions that we asked you all. I’ll start with the first one. How do you self describe or identify yourself?
Mariko uses she/her pronouns. She describes herself as a proud third culture kid of Japanese Chinese heritage; she says that she’s both and she is neither of them. A sewist, knitter, tech geek, webcomic artist and more but generally trying to move the needle toward positive social impact with my skills, she says.
Sareena is a twin mom, knitter, designer, problem solver, maker, editor and activist. She’s black, brown, Asian, Indian and Seychellois.
Esther is Asian American with roots in Hong Kong, an engineer and the Jane of most crafts and a crafty troublemaker.
Listener @simplestitchshop says, “I identify as a Latina woman, artist and much more.”
Listener Trisha says, “In terms of identity, I’m culturally Thai, but Chinese by blood. I’m queer and gender fluid (she/they/he), and I currently live in the homelands of the Salish/Selis, Kootenai, and Kalispel people.” On instagram at @peonyppa.
Ada: Listener @angeliccreations says, “Hi, I’m a Chinese Belgian, second generation (first generation born here). I started sewing since April 2018 and I’m currently trying to sew my daughter’s prom dress by altering an existing pattern and drafting the missing links.”
Shilyn, a member of the collective, says “I’m a first or 1.5 to be exact generation Filipino,” a creative first and foremost in everything she does, which also means she’s a dabbler of many things DIY with sewing being her first love.
Now, if you don’t know, 1.5 generation isn’t a commonly used descriptor. But that just means that someone may have been born in another country and then immigrated when they were somewhere between, you know, elementary to teenage to even young adult years into another country. And so they’re kind of in one place, but they’re not really from one or the other. And they’re kind of like somewhere in the middle. Lots of folks identify as 1.5. Or they might pick one or two, you know, depending on how they identify. There’s no strict rules about what generation you have to identify yourself as. For me personally, I identify as a second generation Taiwanese American born and raised in New Jersey and a hardcore diy-er but sewing like Shilyn is my first love. And Nicole is there anything you want to share about your identity and how you identify?
Nicole: I use she’her pronouns and everything else is pretty much in the introduction that you hear every week. I like sewing. It’s amazing. One of the best parts about sewing is being on this podcast.
Ada: I would agree with all of that. Our next question to you all was What are you making now and we obviously share this at the beginning of every episode. So here’s what you all said.
There were some folks who were making making making: Mariko said that she was taking a short break after sewing for almost two weeks straight full time. But in that sewing binge she made Porcupine Patterns’s Qipao Jumpsuit top, so the top only, the FPC Patina Blouse, the Helen’s Closet Winslow Culottes and then the Criswoodsews Envelope Dress with slits and a waistcoat that was a lot in two weeks.
Esther said she made pants, a garden and a home and is making a better me. @simplestitchshop said “I’m working on several quilts, updating my resume and planning to trace a dress pattern so I have something to wear to LA Frocktails”. And listener @spywarz, wars with a Z, said they were making a Starfleet uniform.
Nicole: And then a few of you we’re working on drafting: Sareena says drafting a sloper, Shilyn says “I’ve been working on a bodice pattern drafting comparing them with the goal of making vests for both me and my partner” and again another plug for Shilyn: I know that she just released two videos comparing the different styles of drafting, but I am not really a pattern drafter I think I lack the creative skills to to draft patterns. I need my instructions. But I’d like to be a pattern drafter, I don’t know if someday I don’t know if you’ve dabbled in pattern drafting or working on slopers.
Ada: I haven’t made a sloper yet. I do have a kit. I think I showed in a haul for our Ko-Fi subscribers, that I found. I think it dates back to the 70s. And it’s one of those like plug in your measurements. And they’ll tell you where to trace the thing. I haven’t used it yet though, because it’s quite involved. And I have a lot more projects on my plate before getting to that. But I do want to get to it eventually. I think it’ll help me kind of figure out better fits for things that are pattern based. But yeah, not there yet. I definitely respect Sareena and Shilyn for tackling that now.
Nicole: Props to them.
Ada: Oh, yeah, props to them. The other question that we asked everyone was, “Does anyone in your family practice this craft too? Are your pieces similar or different aesthetically?”
Shilyn said, “My mom sews, and my grandmother sewed. Originally, I saw them sewing out of necessity, but they followed suit when they saw my teenage mind try to make different styles as I was experimenting.”
Listener @angeliccreations said “My half sister started sewing a few years ago, we do sew garments that are alike, but we don’t have the same clothing style. Her bf asked me to sew him a couple of tees since he doesn’t like shopping for them, there’s always sth that doesn’t fit just right. And my sister doesn’t feel up to that yet. If I consider myself an advanced sewist, then she considers herself a beginner sewist, impatient to advance further.”
Mariko from the collective said, “ My mother used to sew clothes for my brother and I when we were children. My aunt on my dad’s side sews little accessories from upcycling kimono and obi fabric. We make very different things.”
Nicole: Listener @simplestitchshop says, “My maternal grandmother was a seamstress and my dad is an artist. I am not sure what my grandmother sewed. My dad has a different style from me.”
Sareena from the collective says, “My Grandmother was an expert seamstress, but since we lived far away, I never got to spend time with her while she was making. She made clothes for the family as a matter of course, but when she retired she did alterations for her local dress boutique. My sister crochets, and she is way better at being focused and finishing things. I have a cousin in Scotland who makes and sells beautiful soft furnishings.”
Esther also of the collective says, “My great-grandmother, both grandmothers, and an aunt or two used to sew. I’m very privileged that while my family had to sew for a living, I can sew for fun. I recently taught my sister how to sew! She has a specific aesthetics while I have a more experimental and broad interest. But, both of us tend to gravitate towards less patterns and more solid blocks of colors.”
And for my part, I may have talked about this before, so I’ll keep it brief. My mom taught me how to thread a machine and I think I said something way back in the day. But her sewing was scrubs. That’s really all I can remember. And I know she stopped doing that a while back. My grandmother was a seamstress at Marshall Fields, and she retired there. So all things dressmaking and alterations went to her. And I wish I could have learned from her but she passed in 2021 after I started learning during the pandemic, so I didn’t get to learn at her feet, so to speak, but I do have fond memories. What about you?
Ada: I’m sure she was, I mean, she worked in Marshall Fields, so she must have been fantastic at what she did. I kind guess I’m similar to you, I don’t think I learned how to thread a machine as a kid. I did learn how to hand sew, I remember making a t-shirt pillow out of my Girl Scout uniform shirt back in daisies or I guess we would have been brownies at that point. Somewhere old enough that someone trusted me with a needle on a thread but not a machine. And I do remember my mom would hem my pants and hem my dad’s pants. And she had that scale and she had a craft box. But that was about it. I did learn how to hand sew when I had to sew the elastics on to my ballet slippers and my pointe shoes. And that was the extent of my experience with kind of being in our family and seeing anyone crafting like that, I think because we were a generation removed from that having to be the case.
Nicole: So the next question from This Long Thread is, “What is your favorite thing you’ve made?” And Mariko says, “I like most of what I make, but perhaps it is my Tessuti Fabrics Oslo Wool Coat because of how much time and care I poured into it.”
Esther says, “I have a lot of favorites. And for different reasons too.”
Shilyn says, “My favorite make is my Filipino Moana cosplay. I researched a lot and put a lot of effort into making each part of the costume have meaning.”
Ada: Nicole, do you have a favorite thing you’ve made? That’s a tough question.
Nicole: It’s hard to choose and you know, it really depends on why something is your favorite, right? Like what’s your definition of favorite? You wear it the most, you enjoy the process, enjoy the result, I think that I have to just say, my birthday dress 2020. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s just before we met, but I had no idea what I was doing. It was only six months after I started sewing and I was just, you know when you’re new to something and you’re just confident enough to not know all the bad things that could happen. So that’s where I was. And the pattern was a wedding dress pattern like a McCall’s wedding dress pattern, and it calls for wovens like satins or whatever. And I was like I’m gonna do this with this stretchy ITY knit? Do I know what ITY is? No. Do I know the difference between woven and knit? No. But it worked out and it looked really cool. And it didn’t even occur to me that the dress was like five sizes too big when I first made it and I’m like, I’m just gonna keep pinning it. And then like, like, I’m just gonna keep like bringing it in whatever, obviously, because I used an interlock knit like a super stretch anyway. So that’s probably I think, to date, my favorite thing that I’ve made. What about you Ada?
Ada: I think I kind of relate like it depends on why things are your favorite. I probably right now the things that are my favorite are the things that I wear the most. So it would be the skorts that I mentioned in the beginning of this episode. Like I get so much wear out of those I wear at least one of them once or twice a week. And they’re just super practical. Like they have pockets. I can freely move in them and they’re not uncomfortable. I’m not picking at them all the time. But there’s also some dresses that I’ve made that I get a lot of wear out of and I just feel really confident in. And so for me it’s like anything that I make and then I actively incorporate into my wardrobe because we’ve talked about this, I think on some Ko-fi exclusives where sometimes you just don’t wear the thing and it sucks, but you have to kind of figure out what to do with them.
Nicole: So your definition of favorite is things that you love and use over and over again. And my favorite thing that I’ve made I’ve never put it on again. So favorite subjective, lots of different reasons why things are favorite. And it’s funny. Yeah, it’s but I can’t get rid of it. I’ve gotten rid of other makes. But I love that dress. So moving on to the next question. Tell us about your creative community. You can define community as broadly or as specifically as you like.
As a member, Mariko says, “I like working on creative stuff in my own bubble, but I’m glad to have found small pockets of people like our podcast Collective to mingle with. I hope to find something similar for the other creative outlets I frequently find myself in”.
Sareena also of the podcast says, “I find my creative community online. I find my crafting time is outside of when other people are crafting and so I need asynchronous community. That being said, I love having a studio feeling, working alongside other creatives, even if we’re working on different projects. I love touching base with everyone much like the -What are you working on now?- way Ada and Nicole start every podcast, it’s a great touchstone for also how we’re doing emotionally.”
Esther of the ASC says, “the overall sewing community is great. But I’m so thrilled to have found the lovely people at the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. Some of these amazing inspiring people whom I would never have met if it wasn’t for the internet”. And Shailyn says, “I found ASC to be a community where I can probably feel most myself when talking about sewing ideas and other things we may have in common”.
Ada: We did not ask anyone to say this, but it does sound like a Collective love letter. I am so flattered and grateful that everyone finds community in being on the podcast team and being in our podcast community on Instagram. I just love that we have created this little space on the internet for us or a little internet home. I guess I’m really proud of the community that we have through the Asian Sewist collective. Nicole, what about you tell us about your creative community?
Nicole: For me, this community is inspirational. I love to see what everyone is making, grateful for the ability to crowdsource solicited help and advice and ideas. I also find that sometimes it can be limiting to be part of the community a bit of a strange way to put it, I know. But if I’m too inspired, and I pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing. I think about their work, if I can emulate them or achieve a similar thing. And for me, sometimes that’s paralyzing. And so I love the community for what it can give me. But sometimes I do need to step back and focus on me doing my own thing. And I think that it just is balanced. But it would be terrible without a community for sure. Ada, do you want to share about your creative community?
Ada: I guess it’s kind of similar to yours, right? Like I have the ASC community and I love what we have within our own team. For listeners who aren’t part of the team. We have an internal Slack channel where we chat about not only the episodes that we’re working on the topics that we want to discuss, but also our sewing practice and what’s going on. And most often, that is the Slack channel that’s going off the most. And we only asked folks when they joined the team to check in on Slack once a week. But very often what I find is that you might be sewing and you run into an issue or a question. You just want to kind of talk to people, but you might not want to post it to the world. And so you come into the space to ask questions and share resources.
And similarly, I guess I use Instagram, sewing Instagram kind of like that. For questions I want more answers to for example, like I was in the market for a new Iron and my old Rowenta which was actually my partner’s Rowenta from college just was not cutting it. It kept turning off auto shutting off every 90 seconds and how was it ever going to iron six yards of fabric with that happening? It was yeah, it was not good. And so I posed that question on Instagram when I got some fantastic responses, and ended up with a really cool dry iron that I like and then talking to other folks who had gone through the same process. And so I like to go to the community to ask questions when I need help.
But I also similar to Mariko, I like to use it for inspiration. And I also get swept up in the hype sometimes right like I see someone’s cool linen make and I’m like I could do that too. And I have all this linen and then I don’t get around to making it I’ll be sitting on the fabric for a while. And so it’s kind of that like push and pull mechanism of like getting what I need out of it but then also kind of balancing it with what do I personally want to make and how do I want this to be incorporated in my style.
The other thing that we asked our listeners and our team was what adjectives do you use to describe your work? So, from the collective team, Mariko said “precise, meticulous methodical, on time” all the adjectives you’d associate with an ISTJ slash Enneagram One person. Esther said “intentional, curious, fun, creative”, and Shilyn said “colorful and thoughtful”.
Nicole: Sareena says, I guess I don’t, perhaps I should. And I was in a similar boat. When faced with this question, how do I describe my work? I said this on this Love to Sew podcast, and chaotic was what I use. And the reason for that is because I just I do, I’m like, I want to do this, I want to do that. That looks great. I’m gonna do that. And I think there’s another word that I’m searching for, that I didn’t write down in advance. But spontaneous is, I think, a good way to put it. It’s not good for the fabric stash because ideas will come to me that didn’t come from things that I already have. I’m trying to be more deliberate about that. But chaotic, spontaneous, but also, I think I would describe my style as chic. And that’s at least how what I wish to emulate in the clothing that I make. Now I feel like I’m narrowing my focus more on you know, realizing I like straight lines, your curves, gathers ruffles, that’s not really my thing like embellishments. I like the lines to be cleaner, and then the fabric will end up speaking for itself. Have you thought about your adjectives, Ada?
Ada: There are the adjectives that I am and the adjectives I want to be. That’s right. The adjectives I am are probably “speedy and efficient”. Like I like a quick. So I like going fast. I like putting the pedal all the way down. I like being efficient and cutting out a batch of projects and going through that batch and kind of repeating that process. I know some people don’t like that. And don’t suggest that. On the other hand, I do wish that somewhere in between that I could get to more of like a thoughtful and measured approach where like I can see the fabric and see the thing and do the thing and then move on to the next one. But I find that when I kind of put those barriers into my sewing practice, I end up sewing less than I end up getting less joy out of my sewing and so I’m trying to figure that out right now. If anyone has any ideas or tips, I am all ears for that one I am soliciting advice on.
Nicole: Determining your adjectives is a way more difficult than I think I expected. Whereas a lot of introspection, so it’s a great question. So the next question from the book is, were you exposed to other people who looked like you who were engaged in this craft when you were younger?
Mariko says “Just my mother. Many housewives married to Japanese men picked up creative hobbies like floral arrangements, sewing, crocheting, etc. to pass the time while the husband is at work and the kids are at school. I know the patriarchy. She was always trying out a new hobby. To some extent my godmother slash neighbor was also big on creative hobbies, although she did not sew.”
Shilyn says “Only my family. I’m very glad to have this community to push and challenge me”.
Listener @Mrs_Yamaguchi, “Yes. Growing up in Hawaii, they all look like me. And my favorite grandmother was my North Star when it came to fiber craft. Her family raised silkworms in Japan and she was trained as a kimono seamstress spent decades of my life watching her draft, innovate and sew.”
And then we’ve got aunties, both community aunties and actual aunties: listener, @WarwickElmcroft says, “Yes, living in London it seemed every Indian Auntie knew how to sew.” Listener. @thats.so.nhea says, “My auntie in the Philippines is a seamstress, but I never got a chance to see her final creations because I live here. I have the privilege of sewing for joy and calm but I think she has to focus on work and income”.
Ada: And Trisha @PeonyPPA mentioned this in their voicemail.
Trisha: So when I was a kid, my friends and I cosplayed a lot and our moms were pretty good at sewing. I think it was just an immigrant mentality where they were always thinking, I’m going to make it myself. I’m going to fix it myself. So I actually saw a lot of people in my community who looked like me and would sew were pretty good at sewing, which is very lucky for me.
Ada: On the flip side, a few folks said no, so Sareena said no, but also not to any other makers. And Esther said no, sewing was rarely brought up and the family members who sewed no longer practiced it when I was younger. Somehow I had this desire to learn sewing one day and when I did, I fell in love with it. I guess Yeah, I would fall into the bucket of no because they can’t really remember anyone around us sewing or even, you know, on to use family friends, not in my extended family and I have a very big extended family. It was just kind of what needed to be done for hemming and patches and not all that kind of mending stuff. Nicole, what about you? Was it family? Or were you not exposed to folks who looked like you were into sewing when you were younger?
Nicole: It was just my mom and my grandma. But it was never really treated as a creative pursuit functional necessary scrubs for working as a nurse a job. It’s wasn’t really a creative exploration. My grandma my Lola in her later years, did some exploration like maybe she did before. Perhaps they didn’t notice because she was making dresses and for us and making alterations, but in her later years, especially with the dawn of social media, her her granddaughter made some really fun grandma like vests, and clothing. One of my favorite memories of her is like from a video on my cousin’s Instagram posts that was like her showing her vest that she was super proud of, and then showing that it was reversible. Yeah, it’s really cute. I really love it. But that’s those were the only two people that I knew knew how to sew that looked like me.
Ada: It reminds me of, when you said “Lola” it reminded me of I think the moment that I sent you from Spider Man No Way Home. Where, what Peter’s friend’s name? The friend goes “my Lola says”, Ned, it’s Ned – Ned goes, “My Lola says” or he’s like translating for Lola. Like a “my Lola made that” like, that’d be so cool.
Nicole: Yeah, I like when other people in the room, no spoilers, are like “Sorry, Lola”, when she’s yelling at them about making a mess.
Ada: Yeah, Lola, that’s not her name. Well, it just means grandma.
Nicole: Right? Yeah, it does.
Ada: So the next question that we asked everyone was, “What colors are you drawn to and why?” And we kind of talked about those topics already in our color theory and palettes episode. So if you want to go back and check out episode 25 and give that a listen. Sareena said currently green and pink. Shilyn said my favorite color green but for clothing I tend to go towards pinks and blues. I think it’s because it gives me bubblegum or cotton candy vibes, which makes me happy. Listener @thats.so.nhea said I like earthy pinks and blues, and Trisha who I’ll play another clip from their voicemail here:
Trisha: In terms of colors that I gravitate to. I think as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable for myself, I’ve leaned into more feminine traditionally feminine colors like pink and pastels. When I was younger, I really wanted to dress more neutral so like beige and navy was my main go tos, but now I’m kind of branching out into different colors.
Ada: By the way, thank you Trisha for sending in that voicemail. Listeners for next season: definitely send us in some voicemails. We have links to that on our website and our Instagram. But back to the topic. I love all of the bright colors that these folks have mentioned. It kind of reminds me of what you sew and wear Nicole.
Nicole: I like colors. We’ve got more colors than what was shared to producer and wearer of many hats on the podcast Mariko says black, white, yellows, browns, greens, loving neutral palettes right now. Esther on the podcast also says I’m drawn to purple because my Chinese name has purple in it. But I’ve also found myself drawn to muted autumn colors, something about them is very grounding or perhaps that was what I was told would look good on me.
Listener @Mrs_Yamaguchi says, “Indigo is a complex rich color that reminds me of the ocean. And for my part, you know colors that I’m drawn to are are bright colors, but it’s really about richness of pigment for me, I think it could be bright. It could be, you know, springy, summery, it could be jewel tones, it could be dark, but like super saturated. And for me it’s all about color. Although sometimes I wear a lot of black too. So black is a color or the absence now depending on who you ask.”
The next question is where do you get your materials and the response to this question kind of fell into two categories which you can probably guess as Shilyn says she said retail fabric stores and my thankfully dwindling fabric stash. And you know for retail so the first category is just Joann Fabrics for me. Sadly, you know, so I get so excited and when I when I travel, I can go to these retail shops, recent retail brick and mortar shops. I live in the suburbs of Chicago, not the city so there aren’t really many apparel fabric shops here.
Ada: Then to kind of complement us the other responses. We got our online fabric shopping so Mariko said mostly online. I shop way too much at Blackbird Fabrics haven’t found my favorite yarn store yet I get overwhelmed in physical stores and need time to ponder a purchase prior to buying.
Nicole: And and we have folks that do a little bit of both. Esther says, online and retail fabric stores, but I hope to shift into reusing existing wardrobe fabric or thrifted fabric when possible. For now I’m on a mission to use up my stash before I buy anything. Good luck, Esther. I believe in you.
Listener @Mrs_Yamaguchi, “My hometown fabric store is Fancy Tiger. My online favorites are many Blackbird fabrics, Ewe fibers, Core fabrics, the fabric store. I also frequent thrift stores.”
Listener @thats.so.nhea says “Anywhere. I try to buy materials based on feel and look”.
And for me, I do a little bit of both. I mean, lots of it especially early on Joann Fabric shopping just because it was really exciting to like learn sewing and I couldn’t have instant gratification of having fabric in my hands anywhere besides the ones that are 15 minutes in either direction of me, but lots of online fabric shops. But I also have have been getting into thrifted fabrics this year I went to I think I’ve mentioned this before the Apparel Industry Board fabric sale in Chicago here. It’s a nonprofit that’s dedicated to supporting apparel designers in the Chicagoland area. And they did a fabric sale where designers and other people donate their fabrics. So it’s designer deadstock. And then just other fabric notions sample books. And you buy by the pound I bought so much, it was great. I mean, it was it was it was really nice.
Recently, like yesterday, I went to thrift stores to find fabric to dye. And so you know, cotton linen sheets, I think it’s something that I’m super interested in. And so I bought fabric to dye but I also bought this like really cute cotton sheet that I think would make a really nice dress of some kind buttoned down dresses. So for me it’s like in store I think probably more when I travel is when I would go in store and spend too much money and be very excited about it online. And then I am like Esther looking more toward like thrifting fabric now and using certainly using what I have, and then using those creative muscles to try to be more, I guess creative. When it comes to you know, where I get my materials.
Ada: I mean, anyone who’s listened to the pod knows that I thrifted a lot of fabric and you know partially to get started that was because it was just a lower cost to get more fabric that I could practice on. Before I like really splurged and and I think my first Black Friday, I like did two or three orders and they were like massive, and I still have a lot of fabric from them. So I did not really partake in the last few big sales. I have quite a bunch of fabric now of all sorts of like varieties. I know I’ve de stashed some of it within the Collective. And I’m very grateful for friends who want the fabric that I’ve gotten that I’ve realized will no longer suit what I want or need. And the response that really resonated with me has to do with this story from Trisha:
Trisha: I will go to the Goodwill or the local thrift store and stick my hand in whatever barrel they have. And just like root around until I find something that feels nice. So usually I get to pull out like a cotton linen or some rayon. And if it’s a color I like and there’s enough of it. I’ll stand there for like 15 minutes being like, what do you want to be like? What are you going to turn into? And that’s usually how I do my projects. I think, I think when I pick a pattern, it takes me longer to find material because I want to find the perfect material to fit the pattern. But if I pick the fabric first, then the project comes to mind. And I can find the pattern easier to fit the material. Maybe that’s just my weird brain.
Ada: Yeah, that whole like stick your hand and Goodwill and root around, I wouldn’t necessarily do it at the ones that I frequent because you never know what could be in there. It’s kind of a little grimy. Or if you’re going to do that, like bring bring gloves or hand sanitizer, but I do like kind of going and seeing being inspired by the fabric more so than like trying to search for one specific thing. There are occasions where I’m like, Oh, I see this fabric and I’m like, oh, or this pattern. I’m like, Oh, I know exactly what I could do with that. But it’s kind of like a push and pull. I am temporarily kind of on an unofficial no buy. Because I just I have figured out my storage space. I recently reorganized my sewing space and I bought these square. I don’t know if you know what I’m talking about those square box shelves where you insert like a cube container. Yeah, totally. Yeah, they use them a lot in creative reuse stores to store the fabric. And I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me until my partner pointed out but I wanted to have something to see my fabric and store it under my tables.
So I bought the square ones. I bought four of them. I fit them under my second sewing table and I rotated my tables so I have like an L shaped sewing space now. And now I can see all of my stuff around me which makes it super helpful for me to use all that stuff. But I also know that I have enough that I everything is full right now probably a little more than full if you count the projects currently on my table.
So I’m more in like a, I’m trying to use it all up before I build up more type feeling right now I am considering destashing some of it again, I know Sareena from the Collective said, “I wish I had a fabric or yarn store close by, but I suppose that is my stash. The most important for me now is establishing and maintaining that organized studio space in my home. So I can spend less time looking for my tools and materials and more time using” which is definitely something I relate to. And I think for just the way that my brain works, does wonders for me, using up what I have and not forgetting about it. And then like having it buried at the bottom of a box somewhere,
Nicole: I need to take like two months off of actually sewing to really be able to have like the energy and time to reorganize my space. I am not the most organized person with regard to my sewing space right now, I do try to make sure that my fabric is tagged and folded. I’ve kept up with it really well. But that just means me not keeping up with it just means of buying too much at one point or like too much at a time. And one thing that like really helped me was to purchase magazine boards.
So I don’t know if you’ve heard this tip before. I’m happy to just share it. I think you showed me. Yeah. So early on. I was like, What am I going to do with this and I do a lot of Googling, a lot of people said, Buy these comic book boards that are specially treated so that the comic books themselves aren’t going to like react with any materials like like they won’t fade from like being set against that. I think it was a lot of advice, looking back from quilters, because comic boards or small magazine boards have the same vibe, you know, like they don’t want to ruin the magazine that they’re they’re pressed up against. But they’re bigger, like I think they’re standard eight and a half by 11 or something like that inches. So I use them to fold. And after I pre wash, I usually pre wash after I buy so that everything’s a uniform size. And then they fit on shelves or in boxes. But yeah, I’m just really not the most organized person right now. But I want to keep sewing. So it’s not really, it’s going to be like a really slow march toward finding my groove with that, because I’m not going to be able to take the two months away from sewing like I want to, to really really dig in.
Ada: I will say that having an unorganized space kind of kept me from sewing for at least a month, month and a half. And part of that was that I was moving the fulfillment part of my business out of my basement, which was on like, what is now my second sewing table and getting all of that stuff out and kind of clearing out some space. But then having my fabric everywhere on the floor. I just once I bought those little grid containers, which at the time were on sale at Target, I think for like 12 bucks each. Like I was like, Okay, I’m motivated, I’m going to build the shelves and store the fabric. And it felt really good. I will say to kind of sort through what I had. And remember, all my heavy winter wools and boucles are in a clear storage box.
But then I’ve got one side of knits and like special occasion fabrics and then one side of wovens. And those are kind of sort of organized in order of weight ish. There’s like a whole linen section and a whole tencel section. But like organizing, it helped me remember what I was so inspired to do with them when I first purchased them. Yeah, which definitely helps and kind of leads us to our last question for everyone, which was how do you choose your materials.
Listener @Mrs_Yamaguchi said “I gravitated towards natural fibers in black” and Mariko from our team that said I love natural fibers and have the privilege to invest in them. Give me all the linen although I’ve started loving to sew Lyocell because it makes for beautiful drapey pieces, I would tend to agree with both of these sentiments and natural fibers for the win. I know you can’t necessarily do that with everything to achieve, you know, necessarily the stretch you want for example in a knit, but I do tend to gravitate more towards those things are things that feel soft against my skin that won’t chafe or itch or scratch. And I will say that the other thing that I tried to factor in is like how wrinkly is it going to be the washer coming out of my drying rack like Will I have to iron or steam this again? If the answer is yes, we may not be buying that fabric and we may not be choosing choosing that material to work.
Nicole: Fair enough. Fair enough. Esther from the Collective says sometimes I let it speak to me. What kind of silhouette would look good, what kind of garment would it want to be? Other times I browse through and purchase materials based on that? I prefer materials that are breathable or appropriate for multi season use. Shilyn says something similar. I usually let it speak to me and decide what I want to make from there. And for me, when I used to choose fabrics used to just be looks alone, whether it was knit or woven or synthetic or natural or manmade, I just Is it is it pretty? I am more thoughtful. Now you know, of course I want to like how it looks, I love how it looks. But I try I do try to select natural materials or the the man you know like the manmade type, if I can like rayon or viscose, tons of synthetic poly my stash already, if I never bought it again, I can make everything that I need or want from that. I choose my materials still mostly on color and pattern. But there are additional things as to what you’d said about you know, how it feels against your skin. That’s something that I think about too.
Ada: And that’s it for this episode. And this season. We hope you’ve enjoyed listening and learning. I know we’ve continued to learn a lot from our guests and the research that goes into all of our episodes. So a huge thank you to our team who have really made this season possible, the in between their own personal and professional lives. And of course, their sewing, they have contributed to the podcast and you hear their names in the credits of each episodes. And we really could not do this without them. So thank you as well to everyone who supported us via coffee. Whether it’s one time or monthly, your contribution has made it possible for us to produce this content.
Nicole: We will be taking a break for the next few weeks. So stay tuned for season four updates, including when we will be recruiting new team members and this could be and when new episodes come out via our Instagram at Asian Sewist Collective and website, AsianSewistCollective.com
Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Ko-Fi. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and allows us to give back to our all volunteer team. You can make a monthly or one time donation at KO-FI.com/AsianSewistCollective, you can find this link in our show notes on our website and on our Instagram account. Check us out on Instagram at Asian Sewist Collective. That’s one word: AsianSewistCollective, 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, Google podcasts, Pocket Casts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Nicole: All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website. That’s AsianSewistCollective.com And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at AsianSewistCollective@gmail.com This episode is brought to you by your co host Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was produced by Ada Chen and Esther Lee and edited by Shilyn Joy and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our Collective who made this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist collective podcast and we’ll see you next season.