Black Sewing Network

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:36:23 Black Sewing Network


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Carmen Green

Carmen Green is a stylist, an influencer, a community builder, an absolute fashionista, and a role model entrepreneur who always aims to learn not only about fashion and sewing but marketing as well. She is the founder of the Black Sewing Network on TikTok. She believes in building creative communities on social media not only by shifting the culture of Instagram to be more fun, relaxed and authentic but also by trying new platforms such as TikTok  to create a really inclusive and safe space like the Black Sewing Network where women from various countries not only learn to sew but are seen and supported in order to thrive.

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English, specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this Episode

  • How did Carmen start sewing
  • Carmen’s perceptions of the differences between TikTok and Instagram as a sewing community
  • Why TikTok is a great place to create a sewing community
  • How did Carmen achieve 5000 followers on TikTok in 30 days
  • Carmen’s thoughts on the aggregate value of her sewing content
  • Differences between going live on TikTok and Instagram
  • Explanations on why social media reproduce the white supremacy standard via algorithms
  • Why the Black Sewing Network is much more than a sewing space
  • Carmen’s opinion on the stereotype that black women don’t support each other
  • How does Carmen manage to organize her social media schedule
  • Carmen’s advice to help us get our stitch together

Quotes from the Show: 

  • “I think in the way that Instagram first was curating still images, you were meant to look at a picture and get all the information you needed and it was really about putting forward something that was already finished, it was like the end result, not about the process at all and what I think TikTok has done is that it has opened the door to real true learning-” – Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think people think Black Sewing Network is exclusionary, it’s not! We welcome everybody but the goal is…to amplify and celebrate black voices in the sewing community” – Carmen Green in “Stitch Please”
  • “There is not enough forward facing social media programming that right off the bat  says hey Black women, hey Black folks, I see you and I want you to see me and we’re gonna do this thing together and support each other” – Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “There’s a huge misconception that Black women don’t like each other and don’t support each other when it’s just like no…Black women have been the ones that had elevated me, pushed me forward, supported me, bought my sh*t, it’s always been Black women first” – Carmen Green in “Stitch Please”
  • “[About Black Sewing Network] I’m using my personality to push others forward, that is ultimately essentially my goal” – Carmen Green in “Stitch Please”
  • “Don’t be afraid to fail, everybody makes mistakes regardless of how long you’ve doing something, I’ve been sewing for ten years and I’m not afraid to make mistakes publicly, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in a safe space, Black Sewing Network is that space for a lot of people of various backgrounds…we’re not afraid to fail” – Carmen Green in “Stitch Please”

Shout out to Julian Collins of Julian Creates for the name Black Sewing Network

See Safiya Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression to learn more about why social media seems/is whitewashed

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Carmen Green

TikTok: Carmen Green

Instagram: Carmen Green

Amazon Store: Carmen Green

Facebook: Carmen Green

Black Sewing Community:

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:10

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.

Hey everybody, welcome, welcome. Welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork. And as I say every week, this is a very special episode, because this episode is going to introduce and reintroduce some of y'all to Carmen A. Green, @cagthemag, one of the founders and cheerleaders of the Black Sewing Network. Now, when I was a kid, we used to have fun cousins' houses and not fun cousins' houses. Everybody wanted to go to the fun cousins' house because it was fun, as opposed to going to the other cousin's house - we had to do like, all these chores, and you had to like, do the same rules that your mother had at your own house. And it was just like, you might as well stay home, it's going to be the same. But listen, TikTok is the fun cousin's house. And I should know because I lived at the fun cousin's house because we was the fun cousins. And the reason that TikTok, I call it the fun cousin's house, is Carmen A. Green, and the Black Sewing Network. Carmen, welcome to the show.

Carmen 1:40

Thank you for having me.

Lisa Woolfork 1:42

Huge fan, I'm so excited about what you've been able to build over at TikTok, and really glad to start 2023 with new options. You know, we never stop learning. We never stop growing. That's just part of life. And so, one of the things that we can do as we start 2023 is finding new ways to excite and delight ourselves. And for me, the Black Sewing Network is that. So Carmen, welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.

Carmen 2:13

Thank you. I am so humbled and honored to be here.

Lisa Woolfork 2:16

I am so excited. I am absolutely delighted. So can you tell us a little bit about your sewing story? How did you get started sewing?

Carmen 2:24

Okay, so originally, I'm just hyper creative, as many of us are. And originally I thought I wanted to be a stylist. Funny, ironically enough. So this was back in 2009, 2010. And back then, it was really hard to get style designers to lend their clothes. Like you didn't have to pay an exorbitant fee to rent the clothes, or they were like no, for new stylists. I was like, I'm going to make my own clothes. So after grad school, I decided to actually go back to school again, and get a fashion design. So that's pretty much what happened here. I went back and I learned at a local community college in Baltimore when I was living there, and the rest is history. So that's how I started sewing.

Lisa Woolfork 3:05

That is amazing. Don't you just love Black women?

Carmen 3:07

I love us.

Lisa Woolfork 3:08

I do. I love us. Because it's like, you know what? You won't loan me no clothes? You won't let me borrow no clothes? Guess what? I'm going to make me some clothes. And then I'm going to style myself and get a whole degree in how to do it. Oh my gosh. And did, and did. And when you say, as funny as it sounds, you want to be a stylist; you are a stylist. Like, if you ever look at Carmen's images, her photos, the way that she designs and sets things up, and her creative space overall: stylist is just one of the many things that she does.

Carmen 3:42

Oh, thank you.

Lisa Woolfork 3:43

The thing that we're here to talk about, and the thing I wanted you to share with my listeners, and this amazing community of the Stitch Please podcast, is Black Sewing Network. Now y'all, I came through Instagram. Instagram was the place that I found community. It's where I built Black Women Stitch back in 2018. That was like the first post I ever made, and it was like, I want to find other Black sewists. And so Instagram was a very supportive space for that; I was able to find other Black women. And now, you are doing something very similar by pulling together Black sewists on TikTok. Can you talk a little bit about your perception of the difference between, like, Instagram as a sewing platform versus TikTok? And you don't got to spare nobody's feelings, because I don't give a shit. I don't lie. If you think Instagram is stuck up and old, or whatever, you can say that because that's totally fair. So just talk a little bit about the two different platforms, because some folks don't want to move, right? You stick with a thing, you stick with what you know. And it's like, well, why should I go over there if I'm happy over here? Talk a bit about what TikTok is and how TikTok is different.

Carmen 5:02

TikTok is very different, and it was very unexpected. Like you, I did start in sort of the sewing community, in the sewing space, on Instagram. So that's where I met a lot of amazing sewist DIY-ers. So no beef with Instagram, and I actually started going live and doing sew-alongs by myself on Instagram. So it wasn't a very engaging - so it's not like I didn't try. And that's not where I started, but something in my spirit told me to go on TikTok. Probably back in March. I challenged myself for 30 days to post four times a day. Gary Vee, I don't know if you've heard him, he said, 'Y'all need to post. If y'all want to get promotion, if you want to get yourself out there, post four times a day for 30 days." I grew 5000 followers in 30 days.

Lisa Woolfork 5:42

So in March of 2022, you said I'm going to commit to TikTok, and this is how I'm going to do it. I'm going to post four times a day for 30 days. Now y'all, we're telling you this in 2023 - things changed so much. Who knows what it's going to be now. But in 2022 of March, you were able to grow 5000 followers in about a month with consistent posting? And what kind of things did you post?

Carmen 6:08

I posted everything. So I'm a creative, so I like to do so many different things. I said, Carmen, focus on sewing. That's it. I said, I found my niche. And that's damn hard for me to do, because I love so many different things. You know, as a marketer - so I have an MBA, specialization in marketing. The lesson is, like, "niche:" it does help you grow faster. It just does. It is what it is. And I sort of committed to the niche of sewing, and showing people process from beginning to end. And those are the videos that sort of helped me, whether or not I was making clothes, whether or not I was making wigs. I just show: this is how I started, a little bit of the process, and this is the final result. And I was able to capture that in one video. And I also started announcing pattern sales So that's probably the two thing that brought me to, like - I'm not going to say fame, but, you know, sort of increased my popularity.

Lisa Woolfork 6:57

I'm going to say fame. You can say it. Listen, why you got to be humble? Humble is not for Black women. No, seriously, I really believe this - humble is not for Black women.

Carmen 7:07

Right, right, right.

Lisa Woolfork 7:08

Humble is not for us. You know, we live in a society that's designed to humiliate us. So why would we participate by humbling ourselves before they get a chance to? No ma'am. yet

Carmen 7:22

You get the flex. It's going to be right here. Today we are flexing.

Lisa Woolfork 7:26

Today and all the days. So, this is gorgeous. And so you committed, and then the growth happened?

Carmen 7:33

The growth happened. It happened.

Lisa Woolfork 7:35

So the pattern sales - this is something that you do, you specialize in JoAnn pattern sales. It's not enough to get a flier in the mail; these people text me like I owe them money. I'm like, Bitch, are you Sallie Mae, why are you sending me all this?

Carmen 7:50

Right. Thanks for the coupons and leave me alone.

Lisa Woolfork 7:53

All right, we don’t go together no more. I’s married now. We don’t go together no more. Stop texting. Right? Yeah. But what do you think is so exciting? What do you think brings people back week after week to listen to you talk about the pattern sales? Because they do.

Carmen 8:08

Right? They do. Right? And I was like, this isn't going to last very long, right? Because it's pretty much a very routine thing, right? We know the iterations of which patterns are going to go on sale each week. Like, we have a rhythm. Everybody knows it.

Lisa Woolfork 8:20

It's like a cycle, right? It's like a cycle.

Carmen 8:22

It's a continuous cycle, the same thing over and over again. But I think what I tried to do is add value in each post, whether or not I'm like, okay, yes, Simplicity's on sale, Burda's on sale, or you know, McCall's, whatever. But here's the patterns that you need. So I'll let people know specific things, like things that, okay, it's not about going to the pattern sale. This is what you should be getting, this is what we will be sewing next. Or even like when Naomi came out, I'm like, ‘Alright, y'all, it's time to go to Joann’s and buy them out, like, sell them out.’ So I'm not just saying ‘oh, it's the pattern sale.’ No, because a lot of people inform the community of what a pattern sale is so I try to add additional value in addition to you know, ‘We getting these for 2 dollars, y’all.’

Lisa Woolfork 9:00

I absolutely agree with that. And I think part of it is your personality, but also your fashion degree, right? How often do you get someone who is interested in marketing and merchandising and styling and sewing to tell you when something's on sale, and how you can use that limited opportunity that month to get what you're going to need to move your sewing stuff ahead? I think that's gorgeous.

Carmen 9:24

Absolutely. Absolutely. So I grew up very quickly on TikTok, but I noticed my sort of following became stagnant. So what a lot of strategists said was, you need to go live. I'm like...I was scared shitless to go live on TikTok. I was like, I don't know, because TikTok can be, like, very cruel. There are a lot more people engaged. There are different types of engagement and attention that I didn't necessarily want. But I was like, you know what, I had to put fear aside and I started going live on TikTok, and that's when I noticed I increased to 10,000 on TikTok by going live and creating this Black Sewing Network community.

Lisa Woolfork 9:56

So tell us a bit about the difference between going live on TikTok and going live on IG.

Carmen 10:03

It is, like you said, it's a fun cousin's house. It's lit. It's a party, y'all. Like IG, it's very curated, very look-at-me look-at-me, it's not a very engaging environment. Like I said, people go there for the reels, the pretty pictures. But on TikTok, I feel like the community is - everybody wants to learn. So they're not afraid to ask the questions. I feel like on IG, people are afraid of looking like they don't know something. Whereas on TikTok, we're cool with not knowing.

Lisa Woolfork 10:28


Carmen 10:29

I don't know if Socrates, or who said it, but you know: the wise man knows that he knows nothing. And I've just feel like that's sort of what we exist, or that's how we present ourselves on TikTok versus on Instagram.

Lisa Woolfork 10:40

I think that's a really important point. Because I think in the way that Instagram first was about curating still images, you were meant to look at a picture and get all the information you needed. And it was really about putting forward something that was already finished. Right? It was like the end result, not about the process at all. And what I think TikTok has done, is that it has opened the doors to real, true learning. Not just in sewing, like, I know there's a lot of folks - historians, scholars, people talking about critical race theory, people talking about how to thread a fishing lure, all kinds of stuff you can learn. And that's the reason TikTok is the number one search engine in the world. Bigger than Google. People go to TikTok first.

Carmen 11:26

It's like a short form of YouTube. Before I went to school, I learned how to sew on YouTube.

Lisa Woolfork 11:30

Is that right? You went to YouTube University for sewing?

Carmen 11:34

I went to YouTube university for sewing before I went to school. So there's nothing - because people are like, do you need go to school? Absolutely not. You have a lot of resources at your disposal. Use them. Don't feel like you need to go back. That's just the way I learned. I need to be in class and I need to be graded. So that's the way in which I achieve learning, because I value grades, I'll admit it. And I wanted to go somewhere and get an A in draping and pattern and tailoring. So that's why I learned, because I'm not disciplined to do independent learning. I need to be graded. So that's why I went to school.

Lisa Woolfork 12:04

I love a class.

Carmen 12:05

I love a class!

Lisa Woolfork 12:06

I'm not sure I love grades. But I know I love a class. I love someone showing me and correcting me. You know, like, oh wait, you got this wrong, or your hand is in the wrong position, try it this way. Like, that's the thing I love. I love a class. I have taken class, honestly - picture framing, matting and cutting, like all this stuff. I mean, this room that I'm in right now, just showing you a little slice. The heat press is open, and then I got circular saws, Jigsaw, Cameo, all of that. It's honestly like, instead of being a Michael's, they should call that shit a Lisa's and come up here.

Carmen 12:42

Listen, open up your whole shop. Okay? Black Women Stitch fabric store and crafters.

Lisa Woolfork 12:49

Exactly, exactly. With expert instruction. So, I really appreciate what you've done, because in the same way that TikTok is, like, a predominant search engine, it has the same problems that all search engines have. And that is that they are designed to circulate around the needs of white people

Carmen 13:10

TikTok so white, yes.

Lisa Woolfork 13:11

This is not anything we are making up. If you want to check me, y'all,I know y'all tend not to, but Safiya Noble is a colleague, and she wrote a book called The Algorithms of Oppression. And in that book, she studied how these algorithms - even artificial intelligence - is designed to push forward the images of white people. This goes back to early photography. The reason that it's so hard to get a great photo of a white and a Black person in the same image is because the lenses and the lights were designed to pick up white skin and not Black skin. All this is old information. All these technologies reproduce the same white supremacist standard, that they then gaslight us and say it's for everybody. And when it doesn't work for us, we're like, oh, well, I guess it's something you've done wrong. Lies.

Carmen 14:05

Right. I will say I have a running joke for TikTok, I'm like, y'all got to get your followers up before they realize you're Black. I say that all the time. Like, when you start posting, post aggressively before they realize that you're Black or a person of color, because it will come to a halt. But that's why I said get your content out there quickly and get to that first 1000 followers, and that's my sort of advice for every content creator or aspirant on that. So go ahead.

Lisa Woolfork 14:29

Because that's one of the differences: is that, in order to go live on TikTok, you have to get 1000 followers. That is their minimum threshold. And I can say, being with the fun cousins and having them welcome me into Black Sewing Network, Carmen and those wonderful people got me my 1000 followers over there in a few days. Carmen was like "Lisa, you need to post more," and I said, "Yes, ma'am. I will post more And then she was like, "Okay, no we're going to get you." And they did it. And it was really wonderful. But when I first started on TikTok, I would put in "sewing," and it's always white hands. White people, white projects, white accounts; that's what comes up. I would have to put in "Black sewing," and then it would start to come up. But now we can put in "Black sewing," and Black Sewing Network is the first thing that comes up.

Carmen 15:19

Yeah, it's exciting.

Lisa Woolfork 15:24

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Talk about why that was important to do. Why was it important to make sure that we could see some Black hands, and Black men and women, and binary folks, you know, sitting behind a sewing machine on TikTok?

Carmen 16:48

You know what's crazy, it was an idea that was started off a whim, and I have to credit Julian Creates for actually coming up with the name. Because initially I was thinking, like, network, because I wanted to start like, a TV network for sewists on TikTok. Think about having time slots and stuff. I'm like y'all, I'm going to start a TV network on here. And so we were throwing out names, and Julian was like - I was like, TikTok's not a network? And then I was coming out Julie was like Black Sewing Network because me and Julian are the same in that regard, where we are pro-Black life, you know, all Black, okay? And so I was like - you know what, yes. So I decided to do the sew-alongs, and I made a dress. It was a bold dress. And I was like, Okay, I want to bring other people into the fold, and let's start having, like - you know how they had The View, or The Real? I wanted people of different sewing backgrounds to come together. And originally it was just on Sundays, where we will sew a project and show our different styles of sewing. And it was just a panel of Black people, Black women, Black men, regardless. It's hard to get the men, though. Recruiting men if you're out there, but whatever.

Lisa Woolfork 17:47

They're out there.

Carmen 17:48

And so it was an amazing experience. Our first live, it was lit. I was like, "Damn, all these people here to see us?" I was not expecting it. And it was just so much love, and it was filled with Black people, white people, Asian people, like, I think people think a Blacks-only network exclusionary. It's not! You know, we welcome everybody. But the goal is, like you said, to amplify and celebrate Black voices in the sewing community, whether you're a quilter, garment-sewer, bag girlie. We're here to promote, because we're in an environment that disenfranchises us and doesn't promote us, and you don't find us, so we needed a Bat signal to find other Black sewists like ourselves. So that's why I created this, no beef, just in a positive space. We just wanted to say, "Hey, where the rest of us at, where are you at?" Because you know, we're comfortable around each other. Shit, like, can we support each other?

Lisa Woolfork 18:36

And that is okay. And I think it's worth admitting that TikTok, just like Instagram and other platforms, have their thumb on the scale for white users. There's a way that white mediocrity is used to outweigh Black excellence. It just is. White mediocrity on social media platforms, as in life, like Congress, is often used to outweigh Black excellence. And the thumb on the scale is white supremacy. And that shows up in search results. It shows up when I want to make a dress or I want to make an outfit and I put it into Google, and what comes up is a bunch of white women. And then sometimes I'll put in Black sewing, and it'll be a white lady and a black dress. I'm like, Stop playing with me. Playing in our faces. Terrance was also a wonderful supporter of Black Sewing Network. Terrance, he's delightful.

Carmen 19:31

His last video got us over that thousand. I was like, Lord Jesus! But yeah, listen, it needed to be said. And that's I know we're on to something, when certain people are just upset about our existence. They were not checking for us at first, like, so we were kind of flying under the radar. We were cool. Like, having a good old time, like you said, at your cousin's house. But, you know, with progress comes certain - you know.

Lisa Woolfork 19:52

Yes, it absolutely does.

Carmen 19:54

It tends to block what we're doing. But we're on it.

Lisa Woolfork 19:56

They try to block the blessings. And you know what's so funny to me, I find it hilarious that some people, some white folks - and I can say that because this is my platform and the folks who listen to me know what I do, they know who I am. They know I do Black studies, they know I talk about Black shit all the time, and that this podcast centers Black women, girls and femmes and sewing. And part of that centering means we don't have to look over our shoulder before we say something. Because I'm talking to you and you're talking to me, and anyone can listen to this podcast. Anyone, it's available worldwide. I got listeners in every state in the union, and about 83% of the world's countries. Anybody can listen. But what they are privileged to listen to is this honest conversation between us.

Carmen 19:56


Lisa Woolfork 19:56

One of the things I find hilarious is that TikTok is the only time these white folks will speak up. They don't talk to their sister that votes Republican all the time. They don't want to interrupt their racist uncle to make Thanksgiving uncomfortable. But they will do a whole video and ride against Black Sewing Network for causing division on the app.

Carmen 21:07


Lisa Woolfork 21:08

And I'm like, "Why don't you talk to somebody in Georgia? Why don't you talk to some of those white voters in Georgia about division? Why don't you talk to some Trump supporters, your own actual family members?" They won't say anything to the people that live in their own house, but they will jump two feet on the back of Black Sewing Network because of "division." Get out of here.

Carmen 21:33

And be quick to quote Martin Luther King, but if he was alive now, y'all wouldn't like him either.

Lisa Woolfork 21:36

I mean, honestly, the man was assassinated. People need to stop playing. Do you know what assassinated means? He was murdered.

Carmen 21:43


Lisa Woolfork 21:44

I mean, you don't murder somebody you love. Stop lying. Y'all, please. The same folks that hate Black Lives Matter now would have hated Dr. King then. So you're not going to play in my face about Black history. I'm not going to be gaslit by somebody who don't know shit and who hasn't read.

Carmen 21:59

That part, that part.

Lisa Woolfork 22:00

I refuse. And so, the beauty of Black Sewing Network is the way that you're able to pull together so many people. And I think you've harnessed some of the great benefits of the TikTok platform itself. Because before Instagram allows for this kind of multimedia sharing, you're able to get like, what, four to eight people on one screen to sew together? Can you talk about that?

Carmen 22:22

Yes. Basically, you're able to get a grid of people who can talk to each other and everyone's in their own - it's like watching like a little Brady Bunch box, everyone's in their own little box doing their own thing. It's really amazing.

Lisa Woolfork 22:34

Can you talk about that? I love that process.

Carmen 22:36

Absolutely. And TikTok has been a leader in terms of the way these lives are happening, like Instagrams may copy. And so you know when Instagram starts copying, like, oh yeah, TikTok, y'all onto something. So this grid feature, it's good because we get to show different people's processes at the very same time, real time. So you can hear the conversations that we're having with each other. It's a good sound quality; all those things matter. We can play music, that's a big thing. Black folk, we love music. We love music. TikTok does not block the sound of the culture, of the community [unclear] and hip hop. If we want to listen to gospel, we listen to gospel. If we want to listen to hip hop, we listen to hip hop. TikTok does not block the blessing of conversation and music, and how music adds value to that conversation and the process of sewing. So we're showing our process, we're having these conversations about sewing, about life; not just sewing, about life, while we are all doing the thing that we love. And that is what makes, I think, the live experience so much different on TikTok, versus Instagram or Facebook. Facebook has it, YouTube has it, but the music is what brings us together.

Lisa Woolfork 23:44

Yes, it provides this kind of really gorgeous ambient background of rich happiness. And just like, you know, reminds me of when I was a girl, that we would have Saturday morning cleanup. We would get up in the morning, and we put on the music, either gospel in the start, and soul or whatever later. But that was part of how we did our work. The music was going. And that's also - a lot of us don't just sew in a silent room in our house. You know? Some people sew, they got the TV on, or they're listening to a podcast, or they're mostly - background music is just that. It is background music, and it just kind of lifts the whole spirit of the thing.

Carmen 24:21

It does, just like a movie. It's like watching a movie, like you know, you need this sort of score for the movie to give the emotion to the environment and the setting that you're creating. And my mom's a music teacher. She's a music teacher, a choir director. So that sort of contributes to the selection of music that I use. Like, I'm so thankful that - y'all probably see the piano in the background that sometimes we get. So music's always been a very important part of my life and to who I am as a person, and I think it's sort of has added and created like, such a special place in TikTok and our lives.

Lisa Woolfork 24:51

It absolutely has, and I really do appreciate how you are so attuned to the TikTok platform. That you've been able to take the things that are allowed, but also expanding them. There's so many people that come through a live, for example, and I just love how the network is connected but also open. And the way that you say, "Look, anybody can come, anybody can listen. Anybody can comment, anybody can watch. No one is stopping you from watching." Right?

Carmen 25:21

Right. Watching and stealing.

Lisa Woolfork 25:23

Girl. Please, tell the truth. Tell the truth and shame the devil. Tell about how they've been using the Black Sewing Network handle, or hashtag, but not really being about the Blacks or actually being Black.

Carmen 25:37

Listen. They want our rhythm but not our blues, Lisa, they want our rhythm but not our blues.

Lisa Woolfork 25:39

They take everything but the bird. Everything but the bird.

Carmen 25:44

But we have this - I don't mind, take it, take it all. Be inspired, still. But we have the sauce. That's why I never get bothered. People come to me and they're like "Carmen, did you see this? "And I'm like, "It's okay, it was kind of lackluster." I don't get upset by that. In the history of everything, our sort of culture, our sort of way of doing things, they tried to recreate it. But everything that is imitated can't be recreated. That's all there is. And I'm thankful for being a Black woman and having the sauce because nobody can do what we do. And that's just what it is. Like, nothing to take away from anybody else. We have the sauce. That is where I find confidence in what it is we're doing.

Lisa Woolfork 26:18

And also, you should find confidence in the outcome. The outcome. There has been such an outpouring of support and gratitude from Black people. And to me, that's who I listen to. I don't care how many white people are unhappy with the idea of me having an organization called Black Women Stitch, or a podcast that centers Black folk. I don't give a shit. And I don't care.

Carmen 26:46


Lisa Woolfork 26:47

What I care about is Black women coming through and speaking to me. Black folks that I can amplify their work and share it as widely as possible, because anybody can listen, but it's another thing to feel seen. And there is not enough forward-facing social media programming that right off the bat says, Hey, Black women, hey, Black folks, I see you, and I want you to see me. And we're going to do this thing together and support each other. And that's going to be not just as a backup, not just as an also-ran, but as a primary way to celebrate ourselves and each other.

Carmen 27:30

And you know why I love the name of your podcast, and - well, the name of your handle, I know it's called Stitch Please - but why I love Black Women Stitch so much in this sort of environment that both of us are creating, because Lisa, you're a pioneer. I don't know, whatever, like I had you, Black Makers Matter, like, those platforms and environments and groups are so important and pivotal to our community, right? But the reason why I love Black Women Stitch in particular is, that was a huge misconception that Black women don't like each other. First of all, people don't like each other, and we have different personalities. I'm not just going to like everybody, and that's okay. But there's this huge misconception that Black women don't like each other and don't support each other. When it's just like, look at other community, and I'm not going to say it, but Black women, we ride for each other. And that's sort of been my experience. Black women have been the ones that have elevated me, pushed me forward, supported me, bought my shit. Like, it's always been Black women first. So I want that sort of conception, I want that just to go out the window. Like, come on, people are not going to like people all the time, and that's sort of the difference. So the narrative that we don't like each other, and don't support each other, it's complete bullshit. In fact, we are the community or the group of people that people come to when they want to be elevated, regardless of Black, white, Asian, Latino. We are the ones that come to light gas. We are the ones- the colloquialism that we use the speech that we use- like rival words and started that shit. You what I mean? So it's like, stop playing in my face. Y'all know when y'all want the juice, y'all know who y'all come to and it's Black women. And that's one point blank and a period.

Lisa Woolfork 27:42

You're so right about that. And the myth that somehow Black women are each other's enemies, I don't give that any credence at all. When someone says that, I feel sad for them. I feel sad for them. I mean, there is no way that we could have survived as a people starting in 1619 if Black women didn't look out for each other for Black children, for Black men, for other Black people, this idea, it's nonsense. And at the same time, the same culture will promote this idea of rugged individualism, Horatio Alger, I gotta be one person to get my own individual success, fuck everybody else. I'm like so on the one hand, you praise people, some people, for being pioneering individuals who care about no one. And then on the other hand, when Black women are just basically living their own lives somehow we are disloyal to each other. It makes no sense at all.

Carmen 29:59

No sense at all.

Lisa Woolfork 30:00

It's just toxic misconceptions that really benefit everybody but us. So I don't listen to lies. I say 'you can lie to yourself, but you can't lie to me. I refuse. I won't accept it. I won't accept it. Not what I know history.' I mean, I don't even have to go back 400 years. I can go back 100.

Carmen 30:18

You can go to yesterday.

Lisa Woolfork 30:18

Or yesterday. I mean, honestly. So as we wrap up today, Carmen, y'all don't worry. I know this is a short conversation. I just wanted us to start 2023 so that y'all would know about the Black Sewing Network on TikTok. So you could go over there and join and follow and support and get onl the posts so that you can find out the schedule. The Black Sewing Network absolutely operates in the way that Carmen envisioned it. You have a whole week of programming. Tell me how you come up with that kind of schedule? How does that go?

Oh, my God. So I'm been studying the community for a while. Like I didn't just start like you said, even though TikTok likes on network kind of started in a random way. I had been building community onTikTok, like I said, since March. So I recognize what people's talents are, their interests, if they make bags, if they're in a cosplay, if their plus size representation, even within our own community is very important to me. So I recognize people and their gifts and their talents and their specialties and, to what you said previously, people want to be seen. By elevating other people, it elevates me. That's how I find sort of energy. That's how I find joy. I just had to find the right community and the right tribe to promote and not be [unclear]. They value me just as much as I value them. So when I come up with an idea, and I know people's talents, they know that, yo Carmen's gonna go hard for me, I'm going to promote, okay. Well you just do this sew along for me, but I'm going to promote you, your business, your platform. We're gonna blow you up. And that is ultimately what my goal is. Not to like, yeah, I do have a big personality, but I'm using my personality to push others forward. That is ultimately essentially my goal. Eventually [unclear] to me I love sewing, I know, but Lisa, like, I love seeing an introvert coming to their own. I love people that people ignore, I love bringing them to the forefront like 'no baby go to the front of the stage.' I'm that mama, or that sister or I'm that auntie. Like, that's how I come up with the programming because I'm aware- I know I'm loud, but I'm very observant as well. And seeing people their talent and when the world needs to recognize them as well.

One of the things I really love how you've captured is when you all work on a project, for example- let's all make this pattern, let's all make this bag- you make sure that nobody is left behind, if people have questions. Because sometimes sewing together can be difficult to do. You know, like you have to pull all your stuff together. You go to the library or whatever, but on this virtual platform, it works so beautifully.

Carmen 32:41

That's another great thing. It may be five, six people sewing, but we are also engaging the audience. Because Tiktok has this feature, they don't allow pictures. But Julian was like, 'Okay, send me the pic on Instagram.' And he was helping different people like work through the live while we're continuing to sew on a live. So it was a very integrative and engaged platform over there. So yeah, I just wanted to put that in. We help not only the people on the live if you're in the audience you're sewing as well, because everybody can get on the stage at one time.

Lisa Woolfork 33:06

That's right. When they say engagement, it's not just people dropping a smiley face. There is, like, two parallel tracks happening on a Black Sewing Network live stream. There's the people talking to each other on the screen. And then there's a whole new journey in the comments. Yeah, like the community is just cutting up left and right in the comments. It's delightful.

Carmen 33:30

Y'all do be cutting up, Lisa. Won't be acting up.

Lisa Woolfork 33:34

Oh it's so much fun. It's so much fun, and then Carmen or someone will look and be like, 'wait, what ya'll talking about? What's this?"

Carmen 33:41

It goes so fast. You know, it goes so fast butt we're literally on there for hours, hours. Like we're doing shifts. And I'm like, 'I'm sorry to miss my job." We will get to that point. But we have like serendipitously build infrastructure without doing it. That's the organic nature. Like we have a team. And it was not even initially designed. It's just so organic in nature, like the fraud department for the box. We have people that, like moderators, we have so many people that have fell into their roles organically. That is just like, yo, this was meant to happen by the universe, by God. And for that I'm truly thankful.

Lisa Woolfork 34:13

I too am thankful. I am absolutely thankful for it. And y'all need to go over to TikTok, follow @cagthemag, follow Black Sewing Network, and I've got to ask you this last question. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. Right? We will help you get your stitch together. I'm gonna ask you, Carmen Green, one of the founders of Black Sewing Network, here we are at the start of 2023. What advice do you have for us to help us get our stitch together?

Carmen 34:43

Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to fail. Everybody makes mistakes. Regardless of how long you're doing something, I've been sewing for 10 years, I'm not afraid to make mistakes publicly. So don't be afraid to be vulnerable in a safe space. Black Sewing Network is that space for a lot of people of diverse backgrounds, but we're not afraid to fuck up, publicly, and we enjoy it. We get good laughs about it, but we learn from it. So don't be afraid to fail and learn from your mistakes. Use them as lessons.

Lisa Woolfork 35:11

And on that note, Carmen, this has been such a delight to talk about Black Sewing Network. We will have you back to talk about you. But thank you so much. It has been a real treat.

Carmen 35:24

It's been an honor as well for me. Thank you for having me. I'm truly humbled to be on your amazing platform.

Lisa Woolfork 35:30

You are wonderful and humble is not for Black women. We are flexing and celebrating your amazing greatness.

Carmen 35:36

Thank you so much, Lisa.

Lisa Woolfork 35:37

Thank you, friend.

Carmen 35:38

All right, bye.

Lisa Woolfork 35:42

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at $5 a month. Your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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