Reminiscent of our maternal ancestors’ sewing bees, our gatherings have been a source of community building for all who come to sew.
For us the idea of “craft as action” began at a potluck—a regular gathering of a local group, called Huddlebury. At that meeting, four or five women decided to try making cloth bags to support a local ballot initiative to ban single-use plastic bags at check-out.
For our first sewing bee we met at Marita’s house, where we figured out how to arrange space and equipment. We set up two tables for eight sewing machines (as well as notions, thread, scissors, etc.), an ironing board and iron, and two tables for cutting and pinning the fabric everyone brought from home (a fabric potluck!). We brought extension cords and power strips (essential) and made sure we had plenty of outlets to run machines and irons.
Typically, around fifteen women (and occasionally men) come and go, each spending the time they can over four or five hours. Soup and bread, coffee and tea help us stay focused. Some people cut fabric, others pin and iron, others sew the entire time. New sewists sit beside someone with experience.
After 3-4 sewing bees in houses we began brainstorming ways to engage more people. We held a “pop-up” in an empty downtown store front that had been converted to a flexible space for workshops and events. To publicize all this we contacted the local newspaper, reached out via email to existing climate action networks, as well as the local ballot initiative group. We also posted on the Vermont online community bulletin board Front Porch Forum.
We are excited that we inspired a group in a neighboring town to start Sewing for Change Bristol. Check out Eco-bags in Vergennes too.