When the Sew-Op closed our doors to the public last March, we didn't know we'd never again gather in our Crestwood home for Tuesday Group, Magic City Seams Jr, The March Quilts, QUARK, or any of the other programs the Sew-Op continues to offer virtually.
We knew we needed to keep spirits up in the neighborhood while also needing to stay in touch with members, so we applied for funding to create a lending library and member mailbox. Bib & Tucker Sew-Op received funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts to visually represent our neighborhood footprint. We are thrilled with the results of this grant and want to tell you a little about the artist and woodworker who helped us achieve our vision.
Artist Erin LeAnn Mitchell was commissioned to create a modern interpretation of a barn quilt, which now lives at the site of our former brick and mortar. In creating her design, Mitchell incorporated the ethos of our longest-running program, the Sew-Op Quilters (informally known as "the Tuesday Group"), in her design: intergenerationality, diversity, transmission of skills, and tenacity.
Mitchell's relationship with quilting involves her use of textiles, stitching, and patterning to create large scale multimedia works on canvas. The long history of Black women quilters inspires her textured paintings that tell stories and protest injustice. You can learn more about Mitchell and see her work at www.erinleannworks.com
Bib & Tucker Sew-Op commissioned a local Crestwood craftsman, Samuel Fisher, to build a structure that would accommodate secure storage and a free library. The structure is meant to both act as a conduit for members who want to share supplies and patterns while also reminding the neighborhood of the Sew-Op’s existence as it waits out the pandemic.
A native to Birmingham, Samuel has been working wood for over a decade and recently moved back South from NYC to explore furniture craft in Alabama. Samuel is from a long line of textile artists, his great grandparents worked in the textile industry in East Lake at McCain Manufacturing and downtown Birmingham at Liberty Trousers. A graduate from Auburn University's Industrial Design program, Samuel has studied the “Art of Furniture Craft” in Alabama, Taiwan, New York City, and Pennsylvania. He is thrilled to be able to contribute to the neighborhood and craft education in Birmingham.
See more of Samuel’s work at sfwoodworker.com and Instagram @samuelfisherwoodworker
If you find yourself in the neighborhood, please feel free to peruse the lending library and take a book or leave a book. From time to time, we will also have sewing projects, mending kits, and other goodies available for free. If you'd like to become a member and receive additional perks and access to the Member Mailbox, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We continue to cultivate skills for those who sew or want to sew and we'll see you down the road - in person! - when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, let these beautiful works of art serve as a little reminder that Bib & Tucker Sew-Op is here.
Evolution of a design...
Painting of the structure goes slowly (it's been a rainy, blustery spring, y'all!) but we did put a little quilty bling on one panel of the Member Mailbox + Lending Library. Which is your favorite iteration of the design?
Sleeve for iPad/Tablet
In the spring I ran out of coordinating fabrics. I have a lot of old dyes, at least 18 years old, that I “rescued” versus it going to the landfill. So I started dyeing fabric to improve my technique and to see which dyes were good. The center dark green block was the result of dyeing over a block that didn’t dye well the first time. The yellow border is scraps of a border I dyed for another quilt made during the lockdown. The green flap (& back) are scraps from the flower blossom baby quilt we made this fall. The sleeve is lined with a pocket. Batting between fabric layers provides padding. Velcro is used as the closure. The sleeve is larger than my tablet because I didn’t want to cut down the center block.
I am just finishing the original quilt project. I have one column yet to quilt and then the binding. The original quilt uses reproduction fabrics from the 1920s that were also used/seen in the Downton Abbey PBS series. I am straight-line quilting using a walking foot on my domestic machine. At the time of the original fabric purchase, I thought I might include more blacks which is why I had these pieces left. I took close-ups of the pieces in the quilt that I used to make the tote.
Wall-hanging + Owl
The Wall-hanging consists of fabrics left over from the elephant quilt and from the backing on that quilt. I sewed 18 prairie points on this piece. I used several orphan squares left from the corners of the elephant quilt. The two kitty blocks were orphan blocks from another wall hanging I did of kitty cats. Notice on the yellow kitty in upper left, I placed the bow tie that belonged to my sweet Auggie who died in 2020. A keep sake for me for sure. If I were to label this piece, I would call it Kitty Pandemia 2020. The Owl - Ollie Owl - was a pattern from a book entitled, Sew Modern Baby. To make this as a gift for a child, the pattern would need to be revised so that all raw edges are sewn to the inside and not like the pattern, which leaves all of the feathers' raw edges exposed. This would not be safe for a child due to the possibility of strings unraveling where a child could possibly swallow them.
I keep pretty much all of the scraps left over from sewing projects because I really love the idea of "zero-waste sewing". The concept actually comes from the garment industry and the idea that a pattern might be laid out on the fabric in such a way as to reduce the amount of waste left over. I'm not there yet, so I keep the scraps in the hopes of using them in other projects. Here are some patches I made for my husband's favorite winter garment. I like patches that are visible because I think they illustrate that a garment is loved. Sewing patches on is not my favorite activity - it can be tricky to line things up right - but I appreciate that it makes me stop and be still a minute...
Here at the Sew-Op, we want to give major props to Sonya Muhammad. She is the program lead for Magic City Seams (the parent program of Magic City Seams Jr, MCS Jr). And last year, she ran a successful season of MCS Jr with 5 high-schoolers in the Sew-Op's shop. Students met with Sonya after school and created pajama tops and bottoms from scratch, learning to read and alter a pattern to fit them.
Because of the high number of applicants for the June session, we quickly put the gears in motion to offer a July session. Three of our June participants ended up returning, and when that session ended, 4 of the 8 participants finished with an 80% or higher, sewing skirts from a pattern. Sonya chose a pattern with lots of variations and as you can see from the screenshot at the beginning of this post, the students explored those variations quite successfully! All three returning participants went a step beyond the assignments and created additional garments. One even braved "pleats" and followed the math instructions she found online.
The virtual version of MCS Jr was so successful this summer - funded in part by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts - that we are launching a September session that is not grant-supported. We've priced the cost of this session competitively so as not to create too much of a barrier for participation. If you would like to purchase a scholarship for one of the students on our wait list, you can do so HERE.
Our virtual program even managed to keep our favorite part of MCS Jr: Designer Fridays! Each week, Viola and Sonya scheduled a new guest for students to learn from. Guests provided tutorials relating to their field of expertise and then students got to ask questions about the industry. This is a really great part of the program because young people get to learn - first hand - from local designers about the opportunities available to them in the fields of design, fashion, merchandising, and more. Designers and entrepreneurs who helped out with Designer Fridays but aren't pictured below: Miriam Omura, Daniel Greer, Lacey Woodroof, and Aaliyah Taylor.