Episode 60. Sewing for Good with Sue-Ching Lascelles (@suechinglascelles)

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Sewing for Good with Sue-Ching Lascelles (@suechinglascelles) The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

In this month's episode, we're chatting with Sue-Ching Lascelles (@suechinglascelles), multidisciplinary artist and founder of the Close to My Heart Project. Follow the pod at @AsianSewistCollective on Instagram. For show notes and a transcript of this episode, please see: https://asiansewistcollective.com/episode-60-sewing-for-good-with-sue-ching-lascelles-suechinglascelles/ 

Links 

Patterns & Designers mentioned

Calvin Crop by Jessilous Patterns

Blanca Flight Suit by Closet Core

Moss Jacket by Helen’s Closet

Resources

Close to My Heart Project | Sue-Ching Lascelles

Sue-Ching Lascelles (@suechinglascelles) • Instagram photos and videos

Project Linus

Charity Navigator

Guidestar

Charities supported by the Close to My Heart Project

Beyond DV – Australia

Full Stop Australia

Dolly’s Dream

The Reach Foundation

Stop Cyberbullying

Minus18 Foundation

The Embrace Collective

Sewing Friends Mentioned:

@frayed_then_stitched

@fabric.mountain 

Transcript

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 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 the traditional territory of the US, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare brand. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing @i.hope.sew on Instagram. 

Nicole  

And I’m your co host, Nicole, I’m recording from outside of Chicago, Illinois, the original homelands of the Council of the three fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine American lawyer who loves to sew and you can find me on Instagram at @NicoleAngelineSews. 

Ada   

Okay, Nicole, it’s been a few weeks. What are you sewing if you’re sewing something right now?

Nicole  

I am. I actually we should have maybe an episode on how I’m actually toileing things these days even even like I don’t even know who I am when I look in the mirror anymore when I’m wearing my well fitted garment. So I am, I just finished a where it’s a wearable toil I had read that it was recommended. It’s always recommended to do but other folks were saying or making little adjustments. So the pattern is from Jessicalicious patterns. It’s really hard not to like give a little attitude when you say it. You know, it’s Jessicalicious. The designer is Jessica Capalbo and it’s the Kelvin crop. So as you described it, Ada, it’s very interesting. You would you call it youth. 

Ada   

Yes, I was like youth.

Nicole  

It’s youth. It’s adult sized. But youth, youth vibe is apparently what is I just thought it was really cute. It’s a crop top. And so it is semi it’s fitted so it wraps around from the back to the front, and it has a cross back. I’m not doing a great job explaining this. But you know, look it up. But it has a panel for the underbust and then some gathering right at the bust area. And that’s the part that needs a little bit of extra fitting. I just made a straight size 18 from some remnant, it takes a yard of fabric for most sizes in the size range and regardless of width the fabric, which is you know, so real scrap Buster or remnant Buster, but mine was a purple. It feels like a plain cotton weave. But it was dyed by my mother in law, Pat, in England, she was experimenting dyeing with grapes.

Ada   

Oh

Nicole  

She’s pretty sure that it’s like a grape mixed with some purple dye to get this really cool watercolor II effect perhaps it will be on the grid by the time this comes out. It does need a little bit of adjusting but you know, knowing that I was going to make this wearable toile. It probably needs a little bit more shaping on the side because of the bus. There’s a little bit of gaping there. I had already modified the arm, arm hole arm scye is that arm hole is the whole arm

Ada   

Arm hole because technically there’s no sleeve going in the arms.

Nicole  

 Right. Okay, well, I adjusted the armhole to give me a little bit more coverage on the side, because it felt like the pattern piece felt like it was sweeping down pretty far under my armpit. And that was some of the reviews were saying that, like that was an adjustment that they had made. So I added a little bit there already, which was the right move, but just need to make a couple of small adjustments to the bust and it should be pretty simple. Like once I get the fit right. It’s really cute and I’m going on vacation next week and it’ll be perfect because going to Key West and it’s going to be like highs of 79 and lows of 76. And I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is Celsius for our international listeners but it’s very temperate and moderate. So I just finished that and I’m hoping to get a second one that’s shaped better. So toiles. Maybe listeners if you want to actually hear about my toileing experience let us know. I’ll give you I’ll give you content. What are you working on now Ada?

Ada   

I actually just finished a wearable toile as well.

Nicole  

Look at us.

Ada   

Look at us. I mean I make wearable toiles is like kind of part of my process to try the pattern out to see if I’m even gonna like it. But this one my I had for work any big event or two weeks of big events back Back in March, so I wanted to make a jumpsuit, we talked about this in green, because that’s the brand color. And it seemed to be kind of the cool thing to do. You can really easily like personalize it embroidery patches, all the things, and I wanted to toil it first. So I made a short sleeved version of the Blanca, flightsuit and boilersuit from Closet Core patterns. And I believe I don’t remember what size I made it in, but I didn’t make any adjustments because it was just the toile and I was pretty close to the size of when I posted to the grid, which will be hopefully by the time this episode is out, I will make sure to note all the sizing stuff, I found that I will have to make adjustments in terms of like the torso will have to be shortened, the pant legs will have to be lengthen. And then the weird thing I’ve never actually encountered for myself as an adjustment is that my bicep was too large for the short sleeve.

Nicole  

Short Sleeve was too small for your biceps.

Ada   

The short sleeve as drafted was too small for my bicep. Yes. And granted, I have been going to the gym more so like definitely have felt that change in a few other garments ready to wear that I own already. But I actually brought this I didn’t make it to making the whole green one. And I brought this just to like where’s an outfit on that trip. And so I wore it under crewneck. And I ended up getting like arm burn like severed on my arms after a one full day like morning tonight in that outfit. And I was kind of annoyed because not only did I get arm burn and I was like annoyed with the fit. So I might pawn it off to my sister. But also she gets everybody she gets all the good stuff. But also everybody was like everyone was wearing. Like the year they’re ready to wear boiler suits flight suits in like their other colors. So it’s like it’s not that special if everybody’s got one. So I might just stick to the monochrome brand green look that I have also done because I also did make some other stuff. So I wasn’t panic sewing a whole boilersuit Because I realized early enough that that was not happening. I did panic sew some other things that shouldn’t be mentioned.

Nicole  

I was gonna say say more about the panic sew. You know, I and our listeners love to hear about your panic sewing.

Ada   

I think we actually also talked about this when I made a Moss jacket, very Moss jacket by Helen’s Closet. Very, very adjusted like I size down to I think a size six with the original pattern packet. I think it’s like closer to a 10 or 12. And I had made, I believe a 10 in a knit from Sister Mintaka Sandeep’s shop online. And it was just like it’s this oversized comfy sweater that I keep around and I had one meter, I basically should have bought more. But I bought only one meter of this really fancy green linen. That’s almost the exact match for my brand color when I was in Japan and I was trying to squeeze the jacket out of it and there was no way I was going to squeeze it size it was bigger out of it. So it we ended up being a cropped kind of linen open face jacket. And it looks cute. I don’t know like it’s open so you can see my T shirt with the brand on it. Like it’s very pairable with other things as pairable is like kind of a very lime green. But yeah, that was the other panic sew.

Nicole  

Yeah, I feel like lime lime green or like a bright green or like a chartreuse is like I have not don’t I’ve not dived into that yet. I have the like bright green and I want to do it but I think it’s very, very matchable very wearable. And I love it. This is the importance of looking at the finished measurements as well like determine ease I actually finished a I had found an unfinished project in my pile of things when I was cleaning and it was a Seamwork Roan R-o-a-n buttondown it’s meant to be an oversized buttoned down and I cut it I remember when I cut it, I was probably like maybe 10 pounds larger, or no sorry. 10 pounds smaller. I am 10 pounds larger now. And I was like I think this will still fit and I just made it up because it’s really cute. It’s just like I used a cotton and it’s sort of it’s a wearable 12 But I’m gonna wear it like it’s it’s actually really cute. But I don’t remember what size I cut can’t find whatever. So I finished it and then I pulled out you know the measuring tape and it turns out, I had cut a size eight. And I’ve never I’ve been in the single digit sizes since I was like in third grade. I swear.

Ada   

Size corresponds to your age.

Nicole  

 Yeah, I’ve been I’ve been a 12 since like, fifth grade literally and you know, 11/12 13/14, but you know, whatever ready to wear, but I cut an eight on their scale. And but I measured until like a 16 or 18. And I And it still feels good, like oversized lesson is also look at the finished measurements, it may not be the designers intent for you to not have it as oversized, but make it how you want it.

Ada   

I love it love just embracing whatever size you want to make screw the numbers. Um, today’s topic is not related to that. I mean, kind of maybe we touched on size a little bit. But we’re talking about sewing for good. And what do we mean by sewing for good, we are basically talking about sewing for some kind of cause or usually a special occasion cause charity drive, usually something that would help other people. It’s kind of I don’t know if it’s the opposite of quote unquote selfish sewing or just sewing for yourself, or sewing for those in your immediate circle. But it’s sewing for others who you may or may not know. So that’s the topic for today. And we have a very special guest at Sue-Ching Lascelles, who you will hear the interview in a few minutes.

Nicole  

Yeah, had a really great time talking to Sue-Ching. And so I’m looking forward to hearing other folks or for other folks to hear about her project, Close To My Heart Project. And you’ll hear in a few minutes, but Ada, have you done any type of sewing for good, you know, by the definition that we’re kind of giving it.

Ada   

I’m kind of it’s like, I would call it like a hybrid. I have made some cancer beanies, which is basically just beanies with the merino wool that you actually sent me for a friend and their family going through chemo and kind of the whole treatment process. Because you know, you lose your hair and you’re bald, and therefore, no matter what climate you live in, can be cold. That’s probably as close as I’ve personally gotten to it, I have seen the results of sewing for good. Whether it was like I think someone or an organization made flannel like they’re called drain pouches. Basically, it’s basically a flannel pouch that you would have bias binding around to make a little strap to wear if you have to wear drains, whether that’s like post surgery, or if you have certain other like bags and things attached for you for medical reasons. It’s a cuter way it’s a cuter look. And there’s some certain groups that do that. So I’ve I’ve seen and been on the receiving end of those. I’ve also seen folks who have done similar things in the knitting and crochet community. Personally, I haven’t kind of dabbled in any of those. I’ve also seen actually, there’s quite a few groups that will do, they will offer to make memory quilts or memory teddy bears out of T shirts and whatnot from folks who have recently passed. And so those are really cool organizations, as well as organizations that will help you finish the project of somebody who’s recently departed or maybe not, you’ve you found their craft stash and WIP pile. But personally, I think the one that I’m contemplating right now is turning some of my giant scrap piles into thinner dog beds and cushions for rescues. My local Buy Nothing group has been talking about doing some bandanas with quilting fabric because there are people learning how to sew. And that’s a really easy, quick, so but there’s a lot of dog rescues here. We also just got a rescue puppy. So that’s been top of mind in terms of what I’m doing other things that I’ve heard of is donating me-mades. So like if you are donating your clothes to a charity drive or doing a clothing swap. The one thing with that is a lot of our remains we talked about sizing don’t have a size tag on them. And so it can be difficult for those who are not as familiar with their measurements or like eyeballing a garment for the size to determine if it’s wearable or not for them. So that’s something to consider if you can put in the measurement somehow that will make it go a lot further. And I’m sure someone will eventually appreciate that or make something that doesn’t require that like a blanket. And then I think it was New Craft House that hosted the Big Sew Off a few months ago, where Sandeep and ManYee who were both past guests participated in It’s a 24 hour sewathon, which boggles my mind to support mind charity, which is a mental health nonprofit based in the UK. And I think the stories from that day are still on Instagram if you go to either their highlights or the New Craft House highlights, to watch them. It seemed like a lot, but it seemed like a lot of fun. Nicole, what about you? Sewing for good? Have you done any? Have you seen any others?

Nicole  

I’ve done a little bit. You know, I can’t imagine doing anything for 24 hours. Not even sleeping. And I’m like a real good sleeper. So it does sound like it could be fun. I don’t know, Ada are we gonna do, we should do a sewathon at some point. But for charity, so we’re not just up and sleep deprived for no reason. Yeah, back to like sewing for good stuff I’ve dabbled in. I have I have done some projects, something that, you know, thread that ran through what your thread very pun intended. What you were talking about Ada, it sounds like, particularly with the things that arise from dog rescues, and perhaps hospitals or Cancer Treatment Centers as you you need to go to you to find like, what those organizations are looking for, right, like a national thing where yeah, you sent it all along. So just like I guess a tip, if you’re looking to help just look locally, see who needs what, and make sure you adhere to, you know, whatever their specs are. Because I know that a lot of places have restrictions. So there’s another there’s an organization, oh boy, this isn’t on our list, it just popped into my head, we will look up I will in the show notes, we’re going to have like links to all these things, so you can check them out for yourself. But one of the ones is sewing pillowcases for kids in hospitals. Um, just using fun bright colors, you know, character fabric, and it’s a national organization. It but they have local chapters. And so you have to contact your local chapter to see if they will take flannel, you know, or if they if there’s certain things that are restricted. And so I contacted like a Chicago group and you know, they were like flannel, okay, so I’m thinking about doing that I’ll have to find the name of the organization. But I’ve done you know, I did masks donations way back in the day. And I also this is something that isn’t sewing for like a specific charity, but there is an Instagram user at frayed underscore, then underscore stitch. So @frayed_then_stitched. Her name is Bernadette. She’s a Filipino sewist, this actually met her over the weekend, for the first time we went wasn’t like, I wasn’t planning on meeting her. We just ended up at the same thing in Chicago. And she’s very sweet. It was really great to meet her. But she’s an occupational therapist, and she does home health. And I think she had commented on a story that I had posted about a U shaped neck wrap that I had made and filled with like rice and lavender and I made one for my grandpa before he passed. She’s just like “All my patients would love this.” And I just said, you know, well I have tons of flannel like, did you want some for your patients? I’m not going to fill them with rice because that would be very expensive to ship to and get to you, but I’ll send you you know, I’ll make up the U shaped things and leave an opening for you to fill. And she said yeah, so maybe I don’t know how many I made maybe just like 10 or so. But it came up over the weekend. Oh yeah, they loved it, you know they and you know, thank you for doing that. And so that’s not like a charity charity like nonprofit but it was something that you know I’m not gonna I’m not gonna meet any of these patients but I felt like yeah, I would love to give back in a way and it’s the type of sewing that isn’t you know, taxing on my brain so it fulfills the urge to sew but also to want to help others and one thing that is that was supposed to fulfill the urge to sew and be creative and help others but I ended up hating it was making no-sew blankets.

Ada   

Oh yeah.

Nicole  

I don’t I feel like maybe we talked about this on the podcast or off-pod. I just I got into my head last fall that I was going to do this like this for craft club buy flannel are bought by fleece and then we’ll make no so blankets. I hated it. I hated it. So you there are lots of organizations out there that accept blankets for various different reasons. One of the more well known ones is called Project Linus. So if you have a JoAnn Fabric near you, you may have seen a box where people will drop off like homemade blankets for Project Linus. But I was sewing for a local organization called Luggage for Freedom that provides luggage as well as like filled with necessities for people who are domestic violence survivors to like start, you know, anew. Blankets were on their list and I was like alright, let’s make blankets. Man tying a bunch of knots. Like so many knots on fringe and like I feel like I have a My fingers are quite thick and they’re nimble but they’re quite thick. Like I just Just thought I was like I give me a sewing machine. I do not want to do this no-sew thing, but I’m sure if you Google like there again, there are a lot of places probably hospitals you know again, there’s Project Linus with places that do these no sew things. And right around the holiday season, you’ll see that a lot of people are making these types of blankets both for gifts and for charity projects. But my goodness, it is not for me, I will I will probably never do it again I’ll make like whole cloth baby quilts or something I like the tying is just too tedious for me and some people love it. I’m sure I can’t get rid of this fleece fast enough. Have you ever done that? No sew blanket thing?

Ada   

No, I have seen many of them. And I know how to do them. And I have no interest in doing a knot all the way you’re talking to somebody who did many years of Chinese knotting like those like, I don’t It’s not Brocade. It’s like that like silk cord. Those fancy so quick. I did that as my like after school after Chinese school activity for many years. You’re talking to somebody who’s tied a lot and not and is not about to tie some fleece knots.

Nicole  

Never again, right? You could just never do it again.

Ada   

Yeah, yes.

Nicole  

So I mean, that’s like I’ve I’ve so I will continue to do things like sewing for good. Like I like I like the idea of, you know, helping out rescues. I know, the dog bed thing is something that I have thought about. And I haven’t approached any rescues yet about it. But I do the organization that I’ve mentioned a couple times on the podcast that has a Sewing Studio, I just I was there for work again, but I brought a big bag of scraps. Because I knew because I’d spoken to the person and they make dog beds there, it’s just part of their again, something to do like keeping keeping the people who use the studio busy and you know, off the streets for lack of a better way to put it, teach them a new skill, but then they’ll make dog beds and stuff on. So I will continue to sew for good. I think it is rewarding, you know, and I am the type of person that doesn’t really need to see, like the fruits of my efforts. I think for me, I would just want to make sure that I know the organization that’s doing that, like, you know, know where what your where your efforts are going toward something that is a is something that like, I am weary of our faith based organizations. And that’s not a whole cloth thing. I mean, the whole… Yeah, I know, gosh, I’m full of puns today. It’s not like a full on, you know, ban that I just from my personal experience, I worry about mission and faith based faith based missions, proselytizing in places that like, you know, they’re not the dominant religion, and they’re trying to convert and you know, as someone who was devoutly Catholic in the past, you know, it’s something that I like to think about, it doesn’t that doesn’t mean I don’t work with or donate to faith based organizations. There’s one in your near me that does, I donated some materials to them, because they support they have an artisans guild, I think, for lack of a better way to put it where they teach refugee recently arrived refugees, how to sew, and to become proficient as like an artisan. And also to use like industrial machines, if that’s something that they want to, you know, small batch production get into in the area. And they’re faith based and they just know who you are working with, so that you know you feel good that their mission aligns with your personal goals and like what you believe to be important. But anything else you want to add about sewing for good before we move to our interview with Sue-Ching?

Ada   

I would say as somebody who has worked in the nonprofit development space before, if you are based in the US, Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two great websites where you can look up the charity to see, you know, did they file their taxes on time? And where’s the money going? And it will most of the time give you for for large enough organizations. It’ll give you a good breakdown of where those funds are going if you’re donating money, or, you know, if you’re donating goods in kind, hopefully they’re going to the right place. But yeah, if you’re in the US, those are two great things to use to look up the organization also just like do your homework, like Nicole said. Maybe look up what their Google reviews say or what their other reviews say if folks are, you know, speaking kindly of working with them or donating to them, whether it’s cash or in kind Definitely keep that in consideration that kind of goes across the board for any organization where if you’re not in the US, but I just know those two websites off the top of my head for kind of vetting where your money is going, which is helpful and listeners if you have the equivalents in your country, definitely send those our way. We will be happy to add those to the show notes as a resource. But yeah, without further ado, let’s get into the interview.

Nicole  

Welcome Sue-Ching multidisciplinary artists living and working and Meanjin also known as Brisbane, Australia, traditional lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people from her website suechinglascelles.com: She is predominantly working in textiles and soft sculpture. She turned her creative and anxious energy to making garments in the first COVID lockdown in 2020. Welcome Sue-Ching founder of Close To My Heart Project.

Sue-Ching  

Thank you for having me. Hello.

Nicole  

Thank you for being here. Good morning. And good evening from where we’re from because it’s the magic of podcasting

Sue-Ching  

From the other side of the world. Yes.

Nicole  

Yeah. So let’s start out with your sewing origin story. When did you start sewing? Who taught you and what did you learn how to sew?

Sue-Ching  

It’s kind of like a it’s like a dappled story. So I mean, growing up, my mom always sewed at home. So I, It wasn’t unusual to hear the sewing machine going on to say Mum, can you can you make me something for special for a school excursion or something. So it was always around and she would we would work together to design things together. Whether I wanted to put googly eyes or make something extra fancy or special we would say it was it I was I was a very crafty kid growing up. And naturally, I went on to study art after high school. And it was there that I actually honed in and focused in on textiles. So as me I guess as a means to an end, I started sewing to produce my artworks, but I wasn’t formally trained. It was very hacky and creating these 3d Soft sculpture works. And like you said in the intro, I really turned to sewing garments in 2020 during the lockdown, up until that point, I had really just been working it out. So I’d get a ready to wear garment, I’d trace it and I would I didn’t know anything about stay stitching or know the grain of the fabric all the all of those little things that you learn by learning to read a pattern, sew a pattern and all of those skills sort of come with it. So I think 2020 I had a friend who was sewing and posting on Instagram shout out to my friend @fabric.mountain. And I thought oh wow, that’s she’s really doing some beautiful things. I didn’t know anything about the sewing community at that point. And but I just felt really inspired by that and thought you know, I’ve always wanted to learn to sew properly or how to read a pattern because I didn’t know how to read a pattern. And so I yeah, I just we had all that time at home during lockdown I thought you know, this is the time and from there I just the sense of achievement and the learning of new skills and it just ,my heart just set on fire. I felt like all of the things that I love to do had been brought together in that one kind of craft or making and doing and of course I discovered the community online and yeah, and that’s how it all sort of, it’s a bit of a dappled story. That’s how it all came together.

Ada   

Before we go more into the sewing side of things, what other forms of artistic expression do you do right now?

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, so I mean the sewing is the main part and I I look at it as my art form. So although I am you know, I studied art in a traditional sense and I have been a practicing artist for many years showing my work in galleries etc. I look at my sewing practice now making clothes, making fashion, as my art practice where I put all my creative energy into but besides that I other than doing you know crafts with my young son I really do put all of my creative energy into what I’m doing right now. Yeah.

Nicole  

Oh I love that. I think I’m not at a place where I feel like my sewing I could be this it could be considered an art form but I love how you know sewing for you is that creative expression and of course you’re a professional artistt. It’s really cool that I’m exhibiting in galleries and everything. That’s fascinating. And I would love to talk to you more about that someday. I think that’s really neat.

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, I love. I love that I’ve been able to bring everything that I know and love from textile art. Not everything, but a lot of the stuff like seeing the world in sculptural form and print pattern and color. And I’ve been able to kind of marry that with garment making, in some sense. It’s, yeah, it’s wholly satisfying, and really just love the creative fulfillment that I get from it.

Ada   

I feel like a great example is the croissant. Was it a bag? Or was it a headband? Or was it both that I saw on your grid?

Sue-Ching  

I really thought with the headband, I was like this is I made like the stuffed bread loaves as well. And I was thinking, I’m really kind of working back into my soft sculpture elements, really is, it honestly is just the most delightful thing to be able to cross both into each other. And it just, it really does bring me so much joy when I create those things. And I just have them and it even just seeing my son at home just loves it and just delight as well. And yeah, it’s really fun. It’s really fun.

Nicole  

No, I love that. And in an interview about your Close To My Heart Project, which we will definitely talk about, you discuss your experience growing up as an Asian kid in Australia. So just to start off, can you tell us a little bit about your Asian background?

Sue-Ching  

Sure. Yeah. So I, for those listening at home, I am mixed. Asian Australian, so my mum is Chinese Malaysian, and my dad is Australian. And yeah, they, they met, my dad was working in Malaysia, and they met and married there and then moved back to Australia. My mum migrated to Australia, which I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve grown up, you know, Australian, as you know, it’s been, it’s, it’s one of those things, it’s hard to navigate. When you’re two things, I know a lot of people to go through this. It’s only the older that I get, the more that I can kind of try and make sense of it. When you’re young and your, your Yeah, you you’re doing one thing at home, you’re seeing other things out at school. And what’s the question? Again? I’m so sorry.

Nicole  

No, I mean, you answered it beautifully. In a way I just asked about your Asian background, and you shared, you know, where your parents are from and how you grew up. And I’m not mixed race. So I can’t speak to that experience. But I know that we’ve had some guests and we have some friends that are mixed race, Asian and another race and they share, you know, similar thoughts in terms of sorting through how that impacts their identity. So, um, I can’t speak to that experience.

Sue-Ching  

It’s, it’s that sense of belonging, I think I and I, I think especially in the last few years, like I said, the older you get, the more understanding you can have of the world and the people in it. And I have been really reflecting upon, you know, where I fit, how do I fit and I think anytime I get invited to speak or be recognized for my Asian-ness is very validating for me, in a sense that I have been encouraged even by my mum to be as assimilated as possible out in society. There was, yeah, my mum would try and just say like, be like everybody else would, but then at home behind closed doors, we would celebrate, you know, Lunar New Year, we would eat rice dishes on the table every night. And, and then I would go to school and I would get teased, and I would think, you know, be like them be like them. And so at school, or by my peers, I often felt that I wasn’t 100% belonging, but then we would go also we would go back to Malaysia and we’d visit family there and they would look at me like a white person. So, of course they love and embrace us, but there was also that sense of not 100% belonging there either. So it is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in recent years, and where do I fit? How do I belong? And not to get too existential about it? I think a lot of people probably go through these thoughts naturally anyway, but just I guess being mixed race is adds another layer to that sense of belonging for my personal story.

Ada   

I love it. Thank you for sharing. And like Nicole said, we have had a lot of guests and friends kind of share similar experiences, whether they’re mixed race, Asian or grew up somewhere where they were not, you know, the predominant majority. We do ask this question of all of our guests, regardless of their background. Does your heritage or your identity at all influence your sewing? Or like any of your creative practices? Or was that at all? I guess an influence at home when you’re going to school for art full time?

Sue-Ching  

Hmm. I’m not sure if it influences my sewing practice, I think in in an indirect way. I think my obsession with like, pop culture and consumerism and that kind of kitschy that fun, quirky stuff. I think that comes from  the Asian part of me, like the packaging design, and just just that fun, bright color aesthetic. Yeah, I think that there’s an influence there. And so definitely, through my art practice, and then it’s sort of naturally flowed on into my work through sewing, what I’m doing currently, and in, in the past, I have made artworks that have referenced my Asian background, one of the last artworks I made for a gallery, which was a few years ago now because I’ve been so focused on the sewing stuff that I’m doing now, not so much the gallery stuff. But yeah, I, I sort of did a piece that was about my mom and reflecting on my Asian heritage, and I made some soft sculptures out of what we would know is those Chinese laundry bags, you know, the Hessian tartan bags.

Ada   

The crinkly plastic?

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, those woven the blue and white and red checkered bags. So I created a sculpture from those, and was thinking heavily about some experiences I’ve had, traveling through Malaysia and being with my mom, but it’s still something that I am. And there’s, there’s, I feel like, there’s more to unpack there. For me, I think that I haven’t made, I haven’t focused so much on it in my art practice, because I haven’t been sure about how I could do it in a meaningful way that would be meaningful to me. So I think if I, if I want to talk about it, it’s so personal, if I’m going to do it, it needs to, it needs to be with really true intention and purpose for me. So I think there’s more to come, there’s more to do. It’s just how and when I’m gonna do it.

Nicole  

I know that feeling I feel like, like my Filipino heritage, I, I want to incorporate some of the like, my own personal history, and then also some of the cultural aspects, but then I’m always thinking about, like, how can I do this with meaning. And I also don’t want to just throw it out there. And you know, just have it be shallow, maybe it’s like the best way to put it, but also, so I’m torn. Right? You can […] but also like, but I am a Filipino descent and I’m proud of it. So I own it. But I do still, you know, think about okay, well, why am I doing this? Who am I honoring? How does it make me feel to think about these things. So I do put a lot more like, like, mental energy into when I’m thinking about, you know, Filipino aspects and culture and history and how I want to express that. So I know I know the feeling and we look forward to seeing you know how that manifests in your practice in the future.

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, definitely.

Nicole  

Yeah, just to pivot. Today’s topic is sewing for good. So Ada and I talked about it a little bit before this. Our chat and I found you through Instagram. I think just part of the sewing community. I joined in 2020 as well also discovering what community means at least on Instagram, and I was drawn to your sewing in general you can have dramatic silhouettes and bright colors. This is what I associate with you. So when you talked about how that might be part of indirectly your heritage, I was like, oh, yeah, this feels you. And then I discovered your Close To My Heart project so perfect for today’s topic. In 2021, you started the Close To My Heart Project initially to raise money for asylum seekers. Why did you feel moved to start that project?

Sue-Ching  

I think it all started when I made what I refer to as the “life changing tea towel dress”, when I made that dress, and I posted it to Instagram, it was a dress that I had upcycled from a bunch of amazing details that I had acquired, I think through Facebook marketplace, and I was like, Well, I don’t know what to do with these, make them into this dress, it was kind of I was really excited about making it but also bit nonchalant as well. But when I posted that the response was amazing. Like, I just thought it was so much positivity. And I think as a wider kind of top note to all of this, when I started sewing and I became part of the sewing community via Instagram, I think for the very first time in my life, I actually started to feel like I was being seen for who I was in this kind of I know, it’s all through this app. And it’s kind of a lot of people said it’s not real life, but I was I was being vulnerable, I was putting my work out there for people to judge and see. And people were just embracing it. And being the sewing community is just something else. And I felt so supported, encouraged. And when I made this tea towel dress, and I had that amazing response from the community. And that coupled with how that community made me feel, personally, I thought what I would love to be able to create something positive with this and and what sewing has done for me changed my life. It’s been almost a salvation to me at times when I’ve been anxious or low and the people in the community are just the icing on the cake. You know, they’re just the best one of the best parts of it. There’s so much there’s so many good things about it. I just wanted to take some of that good. And give back and give back in a way that would also help to give me me purpose and meaning as well, which is something that we we’ve spoken a lot about already. And yeah, was another way for me to kind of incorporate that.

Ada   

So for listeners who haven’t seen the project on Instagram or on your website, or who haven’t been following, can you explain how it works? Is it just once a year?

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, that’s right. So yeah, so it started in 2021, like you said, and because the idea originated from the tea towel dress, I wanted to work in collaboration with other designers and specifically, I found some amazing people that are local to Australia that were producing modern tea towels, there were artists, designers producing contemporary tea towels, so I partnered with them, they donated their goods, and I turned them into these, you know, amazing, just amazing tea towel dresses, and they were auctioned off that first year. And then the project’s been an evolution. So each year it changes a little bit. I work with different people I sort of change up the mode a little bit. So the year after that, I worked with artists who painted directly onto fabric and they were like walking works of art that were the most stunning dresses. So truly one of a kind, all the dresses are one of a kind, but they were truly one of a kind with the original artworks. And last year, I partnered more so with fashion brands and Marimekko been, you know, iconic home home wares brand. And I the angle was using some of their samples, they’re off cuts and repurposing, you know, their show their samples, whatever they had into these dresses, so not producing new fabric, just what they had from old collections. In the case of Marimekko They sent me their Yeah, their showroom samples to work with and all some old stock and some of the other brands like OBUS had just some samples that they’d had from old collections. And yeah, so I turned those into some really lovely dresses. And each year, I choose a different topic, or charity that is that resonates with me. And it might be something that’s quite topical happening in the media. Or it might be just something that I feel extremely passionate about. You know, I always feel passionate about all of them. But yeah, and that’s how we it’s, it’s kind of very, you know, fly by the seat of my pants, but it’s it comes together. And it’s always, Yeah, amazing.

Nicole  

That’s one that’s incredible to be able to impact the world with your art, and also support causes that are dear to your heart. Some might say close to your heart.

Sue-Ching  

Exactly.

Nicole  

Pause for dramatic effect. So in 2021, the program, are the proceeds from the auction went to raise money for asylum seekers, what cause the project support in 2022?

Sue-Ching  

the project focused on domestic violence. And that year, I supported a local charity called Beyond DV. And they, they support women, survivors from domestic violence. And they create these nurturing environments, they have housing available, they put into place, job opportunities, counseling, when there’s children involved, they can help there. It’s an amazing organization. And actually, the money that we raised that year. They what they did with it is they put into place an art program, a therapy art program for as a little ode to the creative, the creativeness of the project, and it was just I think I thought was a beautiful way to use the money. And we also donated to a national organization called Full Stop Australia, which is more of a national organization that supports domestic violence survivors, so yeah, it Yeah, it was very fulfilling that year, obviously, violence against women is a big issue. And I often say on almost daily basis, like when will it end? When is it going to stop? So we need change to happen. And until then, we need to support so yeah.

Nicole  

That’s definitely a cause that is something that I think about on a regular basis. So the legal clinic that I work at has a DV practice, and I’m just we’re always busy, you know? So yeah, when will it end? And I see from your website, that last year, you focused on anti bullying projects. And so why was that cause particularly important to you? And who did you end up supporting?

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, so last year, I think it was particularly close to my heart as I spoke a little bit about growing up. And last year, I almost didn’t run the project. I was had a lot on my plate. I was up, you know, tossing between whether I would do it or not, whether I’d have the time. And I something happened, I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and I, I came across a post by a girl from high school or Yeah, an old person, an acquaintance from high school, and I was reading through the comments on her posts, and I saw her name there. And it was it was my high school bully. And I thought like, I’m a grown woman now I’m where I’m way out of high school long time out of high school. But seeing that person’s name just reeled me back, like I felt the blood drain away from my face. And just all of the memories of the trauma that I went through in high school just came flooding back. And I started to think far out, like, I’m, I’m grown I’m so far out of high school yet this shit still lives on and it just stays with you know, this is it never goes away. Whether it happened 20 years ago, 30 years ago, whatever it is, it just, it never goes away. And and that made me feel really impassioned about bullying. And I thought you know what, yes, I am. I’m gonna run the project. I’m going to run the Close To My Heart Project and I’m going to focus on causes that support youth mental health and bullying and so it was, yeah, so well Last year was a little bit different normally where I focus on one to two charities. Last year I dedicated, I had five dresses, and I dedicated each dress to a different charity. So while the donations for each charity weren’t as high, I wanted to spread the awareness, using my platform as much as I could to bring awareness to each of the charities and the great work that they’re doing. So they, yeah, there was five charities, and they ranged from, you know, youth suicide, cyber bullying. We had support programs for, you know, endangered youth. Yeah, they’re five amazing charities, I’ll just list them off. We had Dolly’s Dream, we had Stop Cyber Bullying, the Reach Foundation, batyr Australia, and Minus18 Youth were the five that we supported. So all fantastic.

Ada   

That is impressive.

Nicole  

There’s also, there’s also a great article on your website, the suechinglachelles.com, that talks about the Customer project, and specifically the 2023 project. So we’ll definitely link to that in our show notes. And everyone go check it out. And check out these organizations. You know, like money, of course, is important for causes, but like you said, using your platform for awareness is, is just as impactful.

Sue-Ching  

Exactly, and I just want to say to each year, when I run the campaigns, I, the women that model, the dresses are everyday people who have been impacted in some way. By what what what we’re focusing on that year. So the first year, I had some beautiful asylum seeker, refugee women model the dresses, the second year, I worked with survivors from domestic violence to model the dresses. And then last year, I called upon anyone who had experiences of bullying, to come and help out with the project and model those dresses and also share their stories, which is so important, and really give a voice or, you know, show that there are people behind all of these things that are real people. And they have stories, and they’re all important stories to share. So that is the number one of the besides supporting the organization’s meeting, the women that I get to work with through the project is just one of the most amazing experiences.

Ada   

Definitely highly recommend reading the stories. They were great. They were I was actually like, pretty moved when I was reading them. Not to put any pressure on you for this year. But can you share any plans for 2024? Is it happening? It or do you want to drop a hint?

Sue-Ching  

It’s Oh, yeah, again, I started off the year like, oh, this year’s looking busy, am I gonna be able to do it? It’s because it you know, to be fair, it’s a lot of work, or I’m one person and coordinating people and suppliers and the photoshoots. And the whole campaign and doing the PR and media is a lot of work. On top of all the extra work all the other work I have in my daily life. But obviously, very worthwhile. I love doing it. But just sometimes I’m like, Oh, can I do it? Can I do it? Is it going to be a push? Is it going to kill me? Is it going to be okay, and I was still going, you know, going through that in my mind. And actually Marimekko reached out to me. I think it was at the very beginning of this year and said we want to do something again for the Close My Heart Project. I was like it’s on, it’s on. And so we did, yeah, we’ve already done one project together, and there will be another one in the second half of the year. So this year is going to look a little bit different. And while I’m still going to aim to run the main campaign as well, which will happen later in the year. I’m still trying to work out what that’s going to look like and how it’s going to run. Again. I’m going to change it up a little bit this year, hoping to this year I want to do rather than just one main campaign. Yeah, I’m going to try and look at doing some smaller fundraising activities as well. So working with Marimekko on a smaller scale to do direct fundraising activities with them and work out other ways that I might be able to incorporate other other whether it’s local fundraising activities or selling other types of products. I’m not sure yet I don’t want to give that too much away because I haven’t got anything really set in stone yet. But this year, I will say we are the project is going to be supporting an organization called the Embrace Collective, which is in Australia In charity, that is body positive body neutrality, movement, basically removing the stigma around body sizes. And, yeah, it was amazing when we, I did the I didn’t input the in person event for Marimekko. a month or so ago, the people that came along, we auctioned off a dress there. And the people that came along shared some of their stories with me about growing up. Or, you know, one had a daughter who was living with an eating disorder. And I just thought, yeah, like, even for me, like, I’ve, I’ve grown up straight sized, but I have often thought about my body. And, you know, the clothing I wear and how I feel in it. And I think I have to be honest, and say, since sewing, and being able to sew my own clothes is pretty much the first time where I could say, now I can make the things that make me feel good. And that’s been very empowering for me, and also has, I don’t lead me not to think about my body so much. So it was, I really connected with the messaging from the Embrace Collective, and I would love to know more about the education that they do, particularly with teens and young children. Like I said, I’ve got a young son, and I know that he often even at this point, he’s six, and he talks about his body, like he’s conscious of his body. And I just think, yeah, like, maybe you don’t need to worry about that, you know, just have fun. Don’t Don’t worry about. So. Yeah, I would love to see a world where there was a non issue. And yeah.

Nicole  

Body neutrality is a term that’s newer to me, instead of body positivity, you know, it’s like, well, body neutrality, it’s just more like, This is it. Like, this is, you know, it’s not about size, or, you know, it’s just, this is my body, this is this, you know, doesn’t have to adhere to any standards in particular, I may be getting that wrong about what body neutrality is as a concept, but I think I get where you, I understand where you’re coming from, with regard to that, and we’ll definitely have links to the Embrace Collective in our show notes. And, you know, a lot of the your work is amazing. And, you know, acknowledging that it is a lot of work. And you’ve yourself have said, Ah, I don’t know if I can do this, but you keep bringing yourself back to it. How can people contribute to your project or get involved apart from bidding and you know, buying the dresses themselves? Is there another way that the sewing community can help you out?

Sue-Ching  

Yeah, well, I think the sewing community has always been my great, greatest support, and I’m so grateful for that I have felt supported through my sewing journey every step of the way, including through the Close My Heart Project. So I think the most powerful powerful thing anyone can do is share via their socials. Like, comment, share all of those things because the more people that see it, the bigger the audience we have, the more we can spread the word about the causes the charities, and of course, helping to raise money every year. Also, alongside each campaign I do set up a donations page so if anyone ever wants to I actually haven’t set it up for this year yet because I’m still putting everything into the pipeline, but there will be at some point donations page set up so that any, any amount always helps. I know that the charities are always so grateful to have the support. So I think yeah, like I said, the greatest thing you can do is interact with the project online or through socials. And if you and if you can buy a dress if you can’t, that’s I understand, or small donations are always great as well.

Ada   

Okay, I have to add this question. Have you ever seen one of the dresses from the project or your regular collections like out in the wild on on a person?

Sue-Ching  

Oh no, I haven’t that. I mean, I’ve I’ve been waiting for that day. I have to admit, though, I’m pretty. I’m quite reclusive. So maybe a little bit of may not going out as much but and also, I’m, I’m in one part of the world and my dresses go Everywhere they go all over the world, so only a very small portion of them actually go to the city where I, you know, I might sell to the people in the city that I live in. But it’s amazing. It’s amazing to think that all of these creations, walking out all over the world, stepping out making people feel good. And yeah, I love that.

Nicole  

That’s amazing. If you’re a listener, and you have one of the dresses, take a picture and send it to Sue-Ching.

Sue-Ching  

Yeah.

Nicole  

Post it and share to build awareness, but also so that she knows when she sees,.

Ada   

Or I was going to say, since it’s all over the world, we have listeners everywhere. So if you spot one, ask for permission before taking a photo, then send it.

Sue-Ching  

Do it do it.

Ada   

Is there anything else you have going on in your sewing practice right now?

Sue-Ching

I think I feel like I’m, you know, one of those spinning plate people, I’m just kind of, I’ve got this place, meaning again, I’m going to just start spinning this one. Now. The mind of a creative person is a very interesting organism. It’s like how do you know what ideas are good and whatnot. But yeah, I am working through a very big project, which I haven’t announced yet. But stay tuned, that is coming very soon. And also, I’m continuing to work through my limited edition collections that I think I’ve done three. Now I’ve just wrapped up Brunch Club, which was just my last one. I’ve got another one in the pipeline, which I’m really excited about as well. And just my regular sewing stuff, which I love to do, which is just creating new ideas and experimenting, of course.

Nicole  

Okay, well, so we can be on top of all the announcements, where can people find you on the interwebs? And we’ll have links to everything in our show notes, of course.

Sue-Ching  

Well, yeah, the best place to find me, of course, is through Instagram. That’s where I share all of the stuff that I’m mainly working on, although I’m finding it difficult to share so much these days. But, you know, making content, keeping a business going, working on a charity project, it’s all a bit of a juggle. And, and then my website, which is my little online shop that I tick along, is another place, you can find what I’m doing sewing-wise as well.

Nicole  

Okay, and we’ll have those links. And that’s suechinglacelles.com. And we’ll, we’ll find we’ll find you there. And we’ll find you on Instagram. Well, thank you so much for talking to us today about Close to My Heart, your sewing experience. And then just you know, getting to know you was really wonderful as well. So thanks for taking the time today.

Sue-Ching  

Oh, thank you so much for having me. Really appreciate it so lovely to meet you both.

Ada   

Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on coffee by becoming a one time or monthly supporter or by buying or selling labels. Your financial support helps us with our overhead expenses. The link to our coffee 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 at @AsianSewistCollective That’s one word AsianSewistCollective. You can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would also appreciate it if you could rate review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts 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. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this episode a reality. Thank you Shilyn Joy for your editing help on this episode. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next time.

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