As part of my Make Good series, I’ll be featuring craft businesses that support their community. Local independent fabric shops often donate to charity, assist with community projects, and provide space for group meetings. This type of grassroots philanthropy that starts in our knitting circles and quilting bees can have a tremendous impact, connecting people and building community.
One such business that serves its community is gather here, a fabric and yarn shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Owners Virginia and Noah recently relocated to a new, larger space and have renewed their commitment to support meaningful issues.
A hate crime over the summer made them consider how their personal belief in equality is not just ancillary to their business, but in fact an integral part of what gather here represents. When a 12″ swastika was carved into their shop window, Virginia and Noah channeled their anger into action. They shared the incident on social media and received an outpouring of support from customers and neighbors. Virginia describes how she suddenly realized that her personal values were intrinsically connected to her business:
But in that one act of hate I realized that WHO I am, my identity is linked to WHAT gather here is. That swastika wasn’t just carved in our front window. It felt like it was carved on my body. On the body of my half-Jewish partner. WHO owns gather here is a public statement now. And acts of hatred in our community are immediately condemned. Our business has embraced making political statements because we cannot shy away from WHO we are.
Since the incident, they have raised money for victims of a local fire, collected handmade winter accessories for low-income families, supported the Southern Poverty Law Center, and now actively promote gather here as a welcoming place of inclusion with a 7′ tall cross stitch advocating hope, love, respect, equality, and community. And like many open-hearted businesses, they have posted a sign to let everyone know that people of all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, and genders are welcome in the shop.
When a member of a gather here knitting circle died unexpectedly last year, their group knit a memorial piece that hangs in the shop, reminding us that the connections we make through craft are genuine and meaningful. The places where we gather to make things can become social spaces, mourning places, and even centers of action. In this time of uncertainty, it is reassuring to see principles at work in business.
This month I’m donating 50% of my Etsy shop sales to the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.
I’ll also begin a weekly series featuring nonprofit organizations that use handmade to help others and highlight ways that you can get involved. To get things started, here are a few organizations that accept donated quilts:
Project Linus for children in crisis situations.
Quilts of Valor for service members and veterans in need of comfort.
Quilts Beyond Borders for under-served children around the world.
I’ve been making more experiments, this time with paint and pleats. For the quarter-circles above, I painted and stamped some linen and cotton fabric. Below, you can see I’ve been playing with pleats on half-square triangles. I’m thinking of combining the two methods next to create some clean-lined blocks with painted fabric.
I’m stuck on these simple, cut paper designs, even though I realize that I should move on to something else. But now I’m cutting freezer paper to make stencils. Lots of time for a stencil that can only be used once, but that’s part of what I like about them. Since I’ll be doing just one collection for Kokka per year, I’m using this time as an opportunity to focus on other projects. Right now that means I’m experimenting without a clear direction, but I will explore and find a path. Above is one that I’m working on right now and below is one that I made a couple of months ago for a book proposal that seems to be going nowhere.
I’ve also been interested in following the MQG copyright discussion provoked by this post and also the controversy surrounding this quilt. These two issues, for different reasons, are good examples of why I haven’t felt fully comfortable in the quilting world. I don’t consider myself a quilter, but I am often disappointed by the attitudes in this field of craft. However, I’m excited to attend QuiltCon for my first time this February. Thought and discussion are the best ways to propel the art of quilting forward.
QuiltCon East will be in Savannah in February! I’m thrilled to be giving a lecture and I hope you’ll get there early to hear it! My talk is Thursday morning (February 23) at 10:30 am. The focus of my talk will be on exploring your creativity through fabric experimentation. Here’s a summary:
Explore your creativity with fabric! I often find that sewing from instructions leaves me feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. In this talk, I’ll discuss ways to experiment with fabric, break through creative blocks, forget about the rules, and listen to your own voice. Our fast-paced, interconnected world can cause us to rush through life, focusing on the day-to-day tasks without stopping to reflect and create. I will offer practical tips for discovering and nurturing your creativity, plus techniques to begin your journey in experimentation. By viewing your sewing practice as play without focusing on the end result, you can develop your own ideas and explore fabric in an innovative way.
In addition to the painted techniques shown below, we’ll explore fabric piecing, pleating, layering, stitching, and dyeing to help you expand your creative thinking. We’ll talk about the ways that artists experiment to find their style and how you can apply the same techniques to your sewing practice. I look forward to seeing you there!