Lisa Woolfork 0:09
Hello Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.
This is Lisa with Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast, and as part of our 100th episode celebration, which is today, September 15. And I am so excited to introduce Jill Bates-Moore, who, you might recall from last year, interviewed me on the occasion of the podcast's first birthday. And now today, September 15th, we are celebrating the publication of our 100th episode, officially our 100th episode. And Jill Bates-Moore, who is wonderfully amazing, is going to interview me again, and I am so excited. And y'all are going to love her because her voice sounds like hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. You know, with maybe some little sprinkles, too. It's just really delightful. You know, some people have those kinds of voices? She's one of them, she has one of those kind of voices. I am now going to step back and sit in the guest chair, but I wanted to welcome Jill and to introduce her to you all. And I'm ready to get started. Thank you, Jill.
Thanks for having me, Lisa. As Lisa said, I'm Jill Bates-Moore, I am a friend of Lisa's, and one of the original members of the Black Women Stitch community. Lisa, congratulations.
Lisa Woolfork 1:57
I am really excited. I am very excited about the - all of it. I'm excited that - I kind of can't believe that this is where we are, that I've done 100 episodes. That feels like a lot.
I remember when you were learning the software to mix the intro music. I remember when you were learning the setup to reduce the sound and the reverb. When you were recording, I remember when you were trying to figure out the logo and all of those things, and how you built the systems that make the podcast work. It has been a labor. And so I hope that you're giving yourself enough credit and grace for your actual work.
Lisa Woolfork 2:50
Thank you, I appreciate it. I really truly do appreciate it. Thank you for that. Because I do tend to, like, smooth it all out and just want to think, Oh, well, it happened and it's fine, and everything turned out great. But I think too often we want to skip past the things that are challenging, we want to just get to - at least for me, I tend to want to get to the happy outcome. I love happy outcomes. Or maybe you can appreciate them more deeply when you realize that a happy outcome also is the result of some hard and frustrating work.
Oh no, I'll take a happy outcome that didn't involve any work. Listen, I'm here for an easeful, happy outcome. I am here for, if the universe is listening, a happy outcome in the form of winning lotto tickets is fine with me, you can just drop that off. But I am thinking about the ways the world has a tendency to condition us to make invisible the labor of Black women and to devalue that in some way, right, and to enroll us, even, in that devaluation. And I just want to be a stand for spotlighting the success of this platform. And the achievement of 100 episodes came from somewhere, and that somewhere is Lisa whatever-your-middle-name-is Woolfork.
Lisa Woolfork 4:23
But yeah, I think you're absolutely right. And I think one of the things - what the 100th episode is bringing to me, is that it feels as though I'm part of a larger context of Black women who are claiming and naming. Not just a tradition, because of course we have that tradition of Black women who claim and name, right, who have built and created a way out of no way, right? You know, you think about the poetry of someone like Sonia Sanchez, or Alice Walker, are these women who were talking about their ancestors. And these women that built schools with cooking, and who funded revolutions with trays of food, and plates that they sold and donated, and you know, those kinds of things. So that tradition is very much alive and real for me. At the same time, I can also look around and see that there's a lot of Black women who are mobilizing to claim their time, to demand respect, to take risks, to take considerable risks, to make the world better for everybody else. Because when Black women, like, move the social needle, it tends to move it in the direction of more freedom, more liberation, more inclusion for everyone. And that is something that I feel as though the podcast is also a small part of, and that is a nice feeling.
So let's go back to the original idea. Do you remember when you thought of it, and what you were thinking of?
Lisa Woolfork 6:16
This was at our first beach week, remember, this was back in 2019. And it was in March, and we were talking and we had had such a great time, and I was looking for a way to continue the conversation. I was looking for a way to continue what we had at that in-person event. I wanted to extend that good feeling, and kind of keep that going. And I think we had had a conversation about maybe doing like monthly presentations, or like skill share, or something because we were --
Was I there for that?
Lisa Woolfork 6:53
You were absolutely there.
I mean, I know I was at beach week, but was I part of this conversation?
Lisa Woolfork 6:57
You were absolutely part of this conversation.
Talking about a monthly presentation. I was doing that?
Lisa Woolfork 7:02
...Yeah. And that monthly presentation did not come from your mouth. But what did come from your mouth, I will not forget, was the phrase "Get your stitch together." You said something like, we should call the podcast "Get your stitch together," or we could have segments, and one of the segments could be "Get your stitch together." And then I started talking about a fall retreat. So that was one part of the genesis. It was that conversation. And then I remember also talking to my therapist later about the fall retreat, I wanted to do a fall retreat. And I was going to call the fall retreat Stitch Please. And she said, you should call the podcast that, because that's funny. And I was like, You think so? You think I should call the podcast that, and not just the retreat? And she was like, Yes. I was like, oh, okay, then! Such a good title.
And so it had a name.
Lisa Woolfork 8:06
And so it had a name. And then of course, you know, your mind just starts running. And I have some other segments. I've never segmented the podcast before, but I have some recordings of my irons for a segment called Pressing Matters. So it's like the sound of the steam irons. I had something, Stitch Better Have My Money. Another little segment about like, yep, about saving, about shopping, and discounts, and promotional things.
You know how I feel about us getting our rate.
Lisa Woolfork 8:38
I do like people getting their rate as well. So that was one of them, Stitch Better Have My Money. I had all sorts of little segments. And I still do. I mean, that's one of the great things about the future, is that it’s unplanned. And I can, you know, do what I want to do. Like, do I want to do segments? Sure. Let's put some segments. And I've not done that before. But again, these are options that I'm thinking about for the future. But we were talking earlier about again, that moment about feeling like the Stitch Please podcast is part of a larger conversation about Black women claiming their time, claiming their creativity, claiming and establishing boundaries around their lives that serve them and nobody else.
You can say that again. Is there a way to just put that on loop? If so, just loop it and I'm making a ringtone. [Playback] "...Claiming their creativity, claiming and establishing boundaries of their lives that serve them and nobody else."
Lisa Woolfork 9:33
I mean, honestly, I'm not sure if it's just with my age. I don't think it is my personal age - I'm not saying it's like oh, it's maturity. I don't think it's that. Because when I look at Black women that are making such important headlines for doing this, Simone Biles pulling out of the all-around competition for her own safety and mental health, you know, and still being the greatest of all time. If you're the greatest of all time, you don't have to prove that. And she knows it. And everybody else knows it too. And yet, they want to try to shame this girl, to push her, and she's not being pushed.
I just want to add that you don't have to be the greatest of all time if you belong to yourself. Because you belong to yourself, first and only. Then you do what preserves you.
Lisa Woolfork 10:39
That's right, that is absolutely right. And that's one of the things that you say that I want to put on a loop. That's my ringtone. I have a lot of favorite Jill-isms. But one of my favorite Jill Bates-Moore quotes is: "You belong to yourself first." And it is such a powerful reminder. And I know that there are some people listening right now who probably recoil when they hear that. What do you mean, I belong to myself? Because so many of us have been conditioned that our life is about service, and it's about somebody else. Like either a performance of service, or just service, you know? Like, oh, no, no, you know, if you're raised in a certain religious tradition, you're taught to put God first. And this is not a contradiction, you can put God first and yourself first. So belonging to yourself first, I think that some folks find this incredibly controversial, for them to say that they are choosing themselves. Because that's not how they have been raised. That's not how they have been encouraged to be in sociality, or in community with people. That self-preservation and selfishness, they see them as the same thing, you know, and it's not the same thing.
Right. This is a matter of freedom. We've had this conversation, or some version of it multiple times, but the bottom line sort of comes down to, you know, white supremacy doesn't really have a way, it doesn't have a mechanism of appreciating a thing without owning it. Right? And so when Simone Biles, or Naomi Osaka, or Lisa Woolfork, or Aaronica, or Faith, or Naomi, or Alicia or Katrina, or whomever, right, says, "I don't belong to you." Then there is all kinds of backlash, right? Like, what model do we have to process that?
Lisa Woolfork 12:50
Exactly. The Blacks are doing it now? Now the Blacks are saying that they don't...what, what?
Well, who do you belong to? Who do you belong to? Right? I think Rick James asked the question. [Laughs]
Lisa Woolfork 13:02
Exactly. But I think you're absolutely right, especially when you pay attention to civil rights history, and the way that those stories have been told, and passed on. Not from the people who were doing the work, but from the people who maybe are reading some of the books. This notion, I think, about auditioning, that's one of the things that helped me: the notion of auditioning. When I decided that I was not going to audition my humanity for anyone. I was not going to audition. When I say audition, I mean: in what ways do I need to behave in order to be accepted and enfolded into majority white space? That's the audition.
Ah, so: what ways do I need to perform in order to test out whether that performance of my humanity will be acceptable. "Did I get the role? Did I get the part?"
Lisa Woolfork 14:02
You got it right. That is exactly it. And that is quite often what it felt like. When I described what I call "sewing with the whites," it felt like I was clearly accepted, but only to a point. And that's something that Sara Trail from the Social Justice Sewing Academy, she talks about that as going from pet to threat. You know, as long as you're "their colored girl" who doesn't make them feel uncomfortable, you know, who goes along to get along, who just wants to, you know, sit and sew in silence and not want to engage in these conversations or whatever, then that's fine. One of the things I get so frustrated with myself about - and again, timing is everything - is that I really do wish that I had not wasted so much of my time doing that, when I could have been doing this.
You know, I've got to tell you, I am grateful for all the ways that we save our lives. And I don't think that there's any perfect way to do that. I'm grateful for all of the ways that we access, enforce, and live out our freedom. And I don't know that there's any perfect way to do that. Right? I don't think that anything is wasted. I think that - I totally understand your looking back on that time where you were sewing because it's your love, and it's an outlet, and you know, all of these things that it allows you to access within yourself and within community. And that you felt like this space with folks who didn't fully see you, and didn't fully make room for the fullness of your humanity, I can totally see how you look back on those experiences and say, You know, I wish I had been doing something else with that time. But also, I find myself wondering, when would you have been fed up? You know what I mean? I'm not saying that we need to suffer in order to be motivated. I am absolutely not saying that. I would like to refer you back to my earlier comment about having happy results without any effort at all. But I am saying that the motivator that was so powerful for you, came from a level of dissatisfaction with that experience, and that space, that said, Never again, I absolutely refuse. Whatever it's going to be, it won't be this.
Lisa Woolfork 17:14
That's right. No, you are absolutely right. And it also seems like I had to have had those previous experiences in order to know what I didn't want, so that I knew what I did. And that was also a really helpful frame for me. I mean, I don't know why I did not think that I could, you know, I didn't think that I could host my own events. I did not think that Black Women Stitch could even be a thing.
It just never occurred to you. It didn't sound to me like you were actually thinking that you could not do that thing. It sounded like it just never came up.
Lisa Woolfork 17:55
No, it did. Oh, yeah. Oh, my God.
Say more! This is a part of the story, y'all, that I don't even know. So I want to know this.
Lisa Woolfork 18:12
So even before the big disillusion in 2017, which was the result of white supremacist terror attacks in my community, sewing friends that I had that were white just were unable and unequipped to deal with that. And that was the thing that really propelled me to do my own thing. But even before that, I would be part of these different groups on Facebook, and then something horribly racist would happen, and I would say, This is horribly racist. And they would say, Oh, no it's not ,just ignore it. If you don't like it, scroll by, blah blah blah. There was always so many exceptions made to accommodate racism in these groups, and no accommodations made to talk about anti-racism at all, You know, so, it was really painful. And so I remember once, like, I had gotten put out of a Facebook group because I was complaining about somebody's, like, Confederate flag craft project or some shit. Girl...these people are making Confederate flag prom gowns. They are making, you know, We Love Trump bumper stickers and saying, Oh, what do you think? Or anti-Black Lives Matter propaganda and police propaganda.
It's violence. That is violence.
Lisa Woolfork 19:31
It is. It is. And it is a predominant mode of how white crafting groups on the internet operate. That's just a fact. Ravelry made a huge deal - I think they made a thing about it in 2018 or 2019 - when they banned this in the knitting community. They banned any mention of Trump or the Trump administration, because they got tired of seeing these, you know, Go Trump, you know, knitting projects, and they're like, Not here, do it somewhere else. And that was really shocking, because if you look at these Facebook groups, and any ones that are predominantly white, and many of them are, you can go through the archives like clockwork, and put in some racist nonsense, and it will be there. You know, google Confederate, or heritage, when you go into those groups, and you will find some kind of conversation. It's just a mess.
Are there craft groups out there, y'all, that are not racist? Right? That's all I want. Pretty low bar. And my brother-in-law was like, Lisa, forget them people and start your own group. He was like, start your own group, start your own group, start your own group. And to me that felt like - instead of feeling like an invitation, it felt like, I don't know, that my first response was despair, right? It was like, Oh, my gosh, what I have here is not something I want. But I can't imagine a way to make it better. I don't know how to make it better. And I don't know if I have the time. I do have another job, I can't take on something. And no, let me just go ahead and just nibble on the edges of this, whatever, it's fine, I will not try to bake my own cake, I will not try to set my own table, I will just sit back here or sit over here and enjoy what's enjoyable, and leave the rest behind. And then it was again, based on that trauma, that it became the case that that was no longer possible. I can no longer nibble at anybody's edges, I was not interested in that. I was definitely committed to saving my own life, and to preserving my own health and to move in ways that could always sustain me, no matter what. And when I started to build that, that's when I realized that there were other Black women in a similar position, even if they weren't sewing with the whites in ways that were horrible, but that were interested in developing a community of solidarity and love and intimacy among Black women creatives. And that was what Black Women Stitch, that's what it has become. That's what it is for me.
So I didn't know about the prequel, where you were having these ideas, or at least having it suggested to you, that you just go and do your own thing. And your description of your despair, even at the suggestion that you create your own freedom place. It just, it makes my heart weep. And also, I understand that so deeply. And I think that's part of the reason that it makes my heart weep, because of what it is, right? Like with everything else, this was my outlet place. This is the place where I go to actually get away from, or to blow off steam from, or to have some sort of release from some of the other labors and pressures of the rest of my life. And now in order to, in order to access even that, I have to labor and work and actually build a path.
Lisa Woolfork 23:43
It felt exhausting and overwhelming. And it felt like, you know what, damn, why can't I just have something? Why can't I just have it? Why do I have to make it? Why do I have to build it? Why can't I just roll up into Facebook and find a group of people who share the same values, who, you know, share my ideas about, you know, our love of Black folks and celebrating us and, you know, and celebrating these creative gifts. And you know, why can't I just have that? That was part of the frustration. I was like, Why do I have to work for everything? You know, Why does everything have to be work?
Yeah, and white supremacy and oppression doesn't seem like it has to work for anything.
Lisa Woolfork 24:25
Oh, my gosh. No. It seems not. Like, they always forever rolling out the red carpet. You're right, you're absolutely right. But once I got past that, I realized that it was very much a therapeutic process to build the community that I needed, because with every step, I was thinking about what was missing before. And that has been something that's been really helpful to me, because I feel as though if I'm able to say, Hey. When we set a table, what does it look like? What are some of the things that are important? What are the issues that are important to us? What are the feelings that we want to have? How do we generate those? And we know how to do it. And that's just what I started to do. And it worked. And it seems like the podcast is an extension of that, of having these conversations of sharing our love and comfort and support and standing next to each other in outrage, and holding each other up in, you know, in frustration and rage and fear and whatever. It's a true community. It's a true solidarity. And that's something that feels really great.
So tell me about your favorite podcast episode.
Lisa Woolfork 25:52
So I think some of my favorite podcast episodes, one of the ones I love--
Don't try to reform my question.
Lisa Woolfork 25:57
I'm so sorry.
I heard what you did there. [Laughs] Like, I don't want to choose my favorite among my children, who's your favorite? But okay, go ahead and do it your way. Your favorite episodes.
Lisa Woolfork 26:15
Let's see. Um, I liked the episode "Stitching Truth to Power." I really love that episode. I loved it. Not because I was like reading the riot act to the white quilting establishment, and those really violently horrible white quilters who were using their quilt blocks as gaslighting, and in the most oppressive and violent ways that was good for that. But mostly, I love it because in talking about the Social Justice Sewing Academy project, I got a chance to see how it flourished in response to the controversy. And if y'all aren't familiar, just go back. I think I forgot the episode number, but it's called "Quilting and White Fragility." And it's about this controversy at the National Quilt Museum and about the Social Justice Sewing Academy and how a lot of the white quilters were up in arms about, you know, the most silliest of nonsense and ,you know, racist foolery. But the Social Justice Sewing Academy started their own Block of the Month Club in response. They started this huge project, a huge memorial quilt project, for Black and Brown folks who had been killed either by the state or through other forms of violence. I believe she's actually working on a book, talking about this. I mean, it's just really - so that has been wonderful to see. I also love the episodes, the "Sis I See You" episodes, part one and two, that was a group episode where we were talking about the beginnings of Black Women Stitch, and what the community meant, and you know, how it got off the ground and what some of the next steps were. But the reason I love that one is because I got a lot of feedback from Black women listeners who felt like they, too, were part of that conversation, that the things that we were talking about, you know, were things that they too talk about. So that was another one that I thought was really, really helpful, and just really important. Oh, you know what I did love, I did love making "Fat Quarter" episodes, I decided that my podcast episodes were way too long. And so I made some shorter ones deliberately. And those are called Fat Quarter episodes. And they are between 18 and 22 minutes long, that's the size of a fat quarter. And so that made me really excited, to find a new format. So those are some of the things I love. But they've been some really moving and touching conversations that people have reached out to me and talked about and just said, you know, thank you for doing this. Thank you for having this conversation. I never knew about this. I hadn't thought about that. And so that's something that feels really great.
I love that you struggle to identify a favorite, because it just speaks so much to the benefit and the loveliness of the podcast project itself. Right? That there's so much goodness in there that it's difficult to even identify a singular favorite. I think that's wonderful. And that's a testament to to you and the work that you've done here. But, you know, but Blue Ivy's internet is global. And so I am curious to know about feedback, reach, stories' impacts from outside of the United States that the podcast has contributed to.
Lisa Woolfork 29:58
When I started the podcast, I thought that maybe me and my mama would be listening. I was like, Ma, do you listen to the podcast? She's like, Sometimes. And my boys had already said straight up, We are not listening. So, I do absolutely love knowing that the podcast has been heard in more than about 146 countries. And one of the things I absolutely love is about having this larger audience beyond, like, one's family or one's community, or someone who might take a class, or someone who might become a client. It's really about having a larger audience of very receptive Black listeners. The things that I get excited about when I start to think about what a larger audience is, it's reaching more Black women, girls and femmes. That is who I'm speaking to. And anybody can listen, everybody can listen, you do not have to be a Black woman, girl or femme to listen to the podcast, of course. But I think you also have to come in with the understanding that the work that the podcast is doing is for a specific demographic, for specific historical, political, and social benefits. I really am happy to look back as a whole, and to see that I have put forward a beautiful and powerful and very rich archive of...
Of the narratives, right? It's the narratives of Black women, girls and femmes. And I find myself wondering - well, I find myself stricken by that, and also wondering where, if anywhere else, such an archive exists? I mean, just - especially first person narratives. Yeah. Yeah, I'm struck by that.
Lisa Woolfork 32:02
Yeah. And it's my hope that as the podcast continues to go forward, is that that archive is going to get deeper, right? It's going to get broader, it's talking with more people. I'll be talking about more things, talking about more issues, raising other concerns, in some ways as a legacy. A legacy so that, you know, some new person who was coming into sewing, never has to think about where the Black people are sitting. Where are these stories, you know, that there's a way you can look back and say, Oh, I wonder a bit more about how 19th century Black women were doing quilting. And we have an episode about that with a Black woman whose great-great-grandmother was enslaved, and she has her quilts. The fact that she knows that story, and was able to share it with so many other people so that we could look at our own past, look at our own history, and have that as a guide. Similarly, it's very difficult to become something you've never seen. And I like the idea of the podcast presenting to people a variety of possibility models. Talking with Florence Taylor, or with Aaronica Cole, or with, you know, with some of the other people that I've spoken with, and it's hard to say 'cause I've spoken with so many. And there's still so many out there that I am looking forward to talking with. So there's just so many other ways to - I don't know, I just feel like the podcast is thriving, it's flourishing, and I'm really happy about it. And I'm excited to see where it goes next. But I'm also really proud and happy with what has already been done, and hopefully inspiring other people to claim their creative gifts. And to claim permission to build what you need.
To build what you need. And also to tell your own story about it, right? There's an artist, Black woman artist, Alisha B. Wormsley, famously says, There are Black people in the future. And what I hear you saying is that part of the importance of this, of the work of this podcast over the past 100 episodes and the episodes to come - but frankly, even if you never did another single episode, right - part of the power and the work of it is that those Black people in these future moments have an archive from which to access their past selves, and to be able to see that we've always been here. And we've always been creating and telling our own stories, which is a powerful thing. That is a powerful thing. But I would be remiss if I didn't ask what you see for the next 100 episodes. How is the podcast changing, shaping, growing, continuing, and what feels like the next stage of its life?
Lisa Woolfork 35:34
My hope is that I'll be able to continue in the ways that I have gone, but also by doing new things. So I'm thinking a lot about reformatting. I'm thinking about, you know, maybe adding segments, trying to see what folks are interested in, and hearing more from the audience, to help the audience kind of help shape a bit more of some of the programming a bit. But my hope is that we've got enough support that will allow me to actually hire a production team to help me, because I'm so excited about what's happening next. And I also know that I personally have limits on what I'm able to physically accomplish in the course of a day. And so the reason that I've been doing the Patreon drive is to be able to hire people to help with the podcast, to make it - I still love it, and it's still a labor of love, I would just like to do more love and less of the labor. I'm also really excited about the arrival, soon, of the Black Women Stitch website, and newsletter, so there's all these things that are coming. But again, these things are a labor of love, and I've got a lot of love. And love is renewable, that's a renewable resource. But my energy for labor is not similarly renewable. And so I definitely need some support around those things, and so that is what I'm looking forward to, so that when we get to our 200th episode conversation, we'll have much more of a public face, and more forward facing engagement in, you know, through the website, or newsletter, or whatever. But I'm so excited about what's happening. I'm so excited to see so many Black women thriving in so many different directions, you know. Operating these fabric businesses, brick and mortar stores, online stores, pattern development, design, sewing, all of these things that are continuing to happen. And I'm just really grateful to be able to tell that story. Well, not even to tell that story, to let them tell that story themselves in their own voice, and to put it in the archive alongside other stories.
Lisa, thank you so much for allowing me access to your beloved platform today. Thanks for what you've made here, and for the love that you pour into it. And for what you do to make it a real impact in the sewing community. Thank you, my dear. And congratulations on 100 episodes, and here's to 100 more.
Lisa Woolfork 38:25
Thank you. Thank you for this, Jill. Love you. Thank you.
You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at Blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, and you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do, for those that have like a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the Stitch Please podcast, that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.