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.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I know I say this every week, because it's true every week: this is a very special episode. It's a very special episode. And this episode is the DC Frocktails 2022 episode, and I am talking with none other than the creative engine and the creative genius behind DC Frocktails, Naomi P. Johnson, who is joining us from her sewing space. And if you are a Patreon subscriber, you get to see her with her serger, and just her whole setup, and her beautiful self. So welcome to the program. Naomi.
Hi, hi. I'm so happy to be back.
Lisa Woolfork 1:25
Naomi is a frequent guest on the Stitch Please podcast, and I am very happy to say so. And today she is here with us talking about an event that's happening later on this week, though this is not the first time you all have heard of this. DC Frocktails has a very robust Instagram presence, and I have been getting excited up to the weeks leading up to DC Frocktails to see so many, just, little bits and nuggets of information that get dropped like every day. And like every time something happens, I'm like, Oh wait, oh, they're going to be there? Oh, wait, what? Oh that's so amazing. Okay, yeah. And so, welcome, Naomi. And let's get started with why a Frocktails, of all the things that you could have put your creative energy into? You could have done a fashion show; you could have done a movie premiere; you could have done a social chat. And it looks like the DC Frocktails might be all of those things and more. So tell us, why a Frocktails?
So, Frocktails started in New Zealand. And of course, I was reintroduced to selling through the internet. And so I went from Pinterest to Meetup to Facebook. And then when Instagram came about, back when it was still iPhones only, I started following people, the people that I followed on YouTube and on Pinterest, on Instagram. And so, like, my selling communities expanded, even then. And so, I first heard about Frocktails from one of the cities where it first started in Australia. Melbourne, or Brisbane; I can't remember. Whoever did it first. And I was like, Oh, that sounds fun. Like, a party where you wear what you made? That sounds like a great idea. And I said to Kate, We should do that. We should have a Frocktails party. And Kate, she's like, Yeah, we totally should.
Lisa Woolfork 3:29
And Kate is the owner, Kate is Three Little Birds.
And then I met you. And the the world opened, like, the world just opened up. I met you on the internet before we knew each other, as Lisa “Loves to Sew”. And so, I would always be looking for you. And it was so funny when you changed the name. I went to look for you, and I was like, Where is where is “Lisa Loves to Sew”? Where is she? And so one day, I finally, you know, I would be looking for you and get distracted by something on the internet as everyone does. Finally, one day, I was like, You know what, I'm going to search. And I searched "Lisa Loves to Sew." And it comes up, Black Women Stitch. And I was like, Oh, I've seen this on my timeline. What happened? And so I kept following, and then joined in for one of your retreats. So October rolls around, and I come to Stitch Please. So I entered some Instagram contests while I was at Stitch Please. The Spoonflower drawing - because Spoonflower was giving away a ticket to Atlanta Frocktails. I love Atlanta.
Lisa Woolfork 4:46
It's easy to get to from where you are, it's a short flight.
I big love Atlanta. And so, I found out after Stitch Please that I had won the Atlanta Frocktails ticket. And, you know, I went back and forth on whether or not I was going to go to Atlanta almost up until the last minute. I bought the plane ticket on Tuesday, took off of work on Friday, sewed all day and went to Atlanta. And I was in Atlanta for a whirlwind, like, 30 hours.
Lisa Woolfork 5:39
Now why were you up in the air about it? You had won this ticket, you knew you were interested, you had entered the contest. What had you up in - what was still up in the air? What was up in the air for you about going to your first Frocktails?
I hadn't made anything that was like, cocktail party ready. Like, I had made lots of stuff, but I didn't feel like anything I had made was, like, cocktail party ready. And I hadn't - I entered the thing and never looked to see how much a plane ticket would cost. In the end, I think my round trip tickets to Atlanta wound up being something like $130, $140. It was, like, it was nothing. But I paid more for my night at a hotel than I did for the plane ticket to Atlanta. Got there, and Atlanta Frocktails was so cute. It was so cute. They had food, and a DJ, and they had nice prizes. I wore this gorgeous, gorgeous sequined dress that I made. It was very simple: it had two pattern pieces, the front and the back. And the sleeves were cut on in the Simplicity pattern. And I had bought these flippy sequins, because I love me a flippy sequin. Oh man, I love a flippy sequin. And I went down there and left Frocktails saying, That was cute. We have to do this in DC. We must do this in DC. When I popped up at Three Little Birds, I was like, Katherine, darling, honey, we have to do this. Like, we must. We have to do it immediately. And she was like, What do you mean immediately? I was like, Right now. Right now. Atlanta Frocktails was on, like, November 1st or 2nd of 2019.
Lisa Woolfork 7:54
So what happened in 2020?
Like, 2020, like, it has to happen. We got to do this quick. When can we do Frocktails? And she was like, Well, where are we going to do Frocktails? And I was like, That is a great question. Across the street from Three Little Birds was the Pyramid Art Center, where we had, in the past, when we had some bigger sewing classes or workshops, we had used their gallery space to hold the classes. And I was like, Oh, I wonder if we could do it there? I walked right out the door across the street, and I was like, Hey, can you tell me about hosting an event here? And they were like, What kind of event? When are you thinking? And I was like, As soon as possible, a Frocktail party. So we went round and round and found a date, and landed on February 1st. And that same day, I created a new Instagram account for DC Frocktails. I purchased the domain for DCFrocktails.com, and put the thing up that said, "Hey, y'all, Frocktails is coming to DC. Get ready." And that all happened within, like, a two week period, from me returning from Atlanta and getting to DC. And I just kept saying to Kate, We can do this. And we can do it better. Atlanta Frocktails was lovely. It was super cute. It was curious to me, though, that the Atlanta that I know and love wasn't in the room. And so I was like, I want to do Frocktails in DC, and I'm going to find a way to fill it up with Black people. Of course, there are other people in the DC sewing community, yes. But I wanted Frocktails to be representative of the sewing community that I'm a part of, with Cut, Sew, Wear. And the Cut, Sew, Wear sewing community was not a bunch of white women and me. There were many Black women, and many white women, and some Latinx women, and women of other backgrounds. And so that's what I thought Frocktails should look like. And boy, am I ever delighted because it's it.
Lisa Woolfork 10:28
It absolutely did. And y'all, there is an episode of the podcast from 2020. I think I called the episode "DC Frocktails, A Love Story." Because it was this beautiful labor of love. I was able to attend, it was such a great time. And I know I am certainly looking forward to this year's event. Now, what's funny about this event to me, Naomi, is your first Frocktails in 2020. You got the idea for it in like two weeks, you had the venue, you had all this stuff ready to go, and you pulled off a successful event. It was amazing. It was warm. It was a lot of fun. The cocktails were amazing. I loved the drinks; all of it was so so good. DJ was fire. It was amazing.
Oh my goodness, I cannot say enough about DJ DC Infamous.
Lisa Woolfork 11:24
DJ DC Infamous was fire. I love the tattoo. My first tattoo, and I'm very happy about it.
Let's see, I got a tattoo as well.
Lisa Woolfork 11:35
My first tattoo, and in case you were wondering, she cried like a baby. And it was completely -
They hurt. I did not cry. There were no tears, but it hurt.
Lisa Woolfork 11:45
Yeah, it felt like crying. It felt like crying, but just with words. And so it was beautiful. It was really beautiful. And now you're having another Frocktails in 2022. I'm so, again, excited and actually here for it as always. But you've had a lot of time to plan now. It's almost like the opposite. Like, the first Frocktails was like, "Two weeks! Idea! Two months - event! We're done, yay!" It was so fast. And now you've had, like, months upon months upon months. Or what feels like years, actually.
Knowing what I know now, and thinking back and looking back at DC Frocktails, I know for sure that COVID was here already. And so I'm like, Okay, all right. Well, we have this great party, and it was phenomenal. It was such a good time. We wound up having about - I think we wound up selling 130 tickets. And then there were the bartenders, and the crew, and the tattoo artists, and so there were about 150 people in there total. And we were packed, like, it was very cozy. I could not have dreamed a better party than it turned out to be. And then the news started to get more and more concerning about the Coronavirus. And a mere six weeks later, like, everything changes.
Lisa Woolfork 13:36
You are teaching second grade, all of a sudden, in your sewing room.
Yes, school is closed, I'm having second grade from this seat where I'm sitting right now. And it is, like, not awesome. Um, it is just a scary, scary time.
Lisa Woolfork 13:56
Now I, of course, I'm remembering all those times, and I'm remembering all that time, and I'm remembering that the feeling that Frocktails was like one of the last fun things. Would you go so far as to say that if Frocktails was kind of like the end of, you know, the good times, fun times, and the beginning of the pandemic; do you see this current Frocktails that's coming up, the one that's happening this this weekend, is that in some ways a sign that we might be, you know, able to thaw out a bit? I'm not saying that this is marking the end of the pandemic, but it does feel like there's people coming together again, and that Frocktails is the event that can bring people together.
Yeah. At this point we've gotten to May. We have been able to have school in person with relative success for the whole school year. With the availability of vaccines, and not just vaccines for adults, the vaccines for children, younger children, like, really truly, any day now.
Lisa Woolfork 15:21
Yes, because kids over five can, but kids under five can't.
Yes. So like, at the elementary school level where I am, we still have children in the building who are not yet able to be vaccinated. And that's a major concern for me. It is a concern because I am a member, not just of the sewing community, I'm also a member of my school community, and my neighborhood, and my city, and, you know, the world, right? So, I know that people, myself included, have been ready to come together again.
Lisa Woolfork 16:16
But so now this sounds like people are moving around, things are starting to thaw. And now you have this gorgeous venue, the venue from last year from - I'm sorry, I keep saying last year, but it's been years. Well, the thing from two years ago was a community event, it was a community arts organization or arts location, it was right across the street from the store. But now the new location, it also seems like a community hub, and the store is new.
The old store was a very, very small space. It was tight, and not a space that could be opened for shopping if we had a camp. And that's because of the size of the space, and the county regulations on capacity being limited due to COVID. And so there wasn't going to be a way for us to have camp, and have the store be open at the same time. So we started looking for a place to have camp. And in the process of looking for a place to have camp, we also found a place to have a bigger, much, much bigger store. So last year, in the summertime, we actually started to think about, Oh, maybe we could do Frocktails again for 2021, and we would just do it as an outside party in the summertime. But we became consumed with moving the store. And so relocating the store, renovating that space, and all of that, that took over. There was no capacity for Frocktails last year. So we started back to school, and when kids five and up were able to be vaccinated, then we were like, are we ready? Do we think we are ready? Like, we had that conversation over and over again. And we were like, You know what? We're ready. Let's do it. So the venue is a place that you and I and Queenora found on February 2nd, 2020. Oh, you know what you should include in the show notes? You should include the pictures that we took that day. They were fun. They have this gorgeous, um, Instagrammable wall, and we were like, Oh, we should do Frocktails from here. And then this door opened, and it was like a banquet room. And I was like, like we could for real do Frocktails in here. This could work. On February 2nd, 2020. So this past November, when Kate and I started talking about it again, I was like, I think we should check out the hall in College Park. And she was like, Oh, yeah, I've been down there. That could work. Let's find some dates. So we started thinking about dates. May seems about right, like, school year's winding down, like, I'm really close to being done with it.
Lisa Woolfork 19:52
Right, it's time.
Yeah. So we landed on May 14th. And we updated the landing page on the website and created a little graphic that said, Hey, DC.
Lisa Woolfork 20:12
Get ready. One of the things I loved about last time's Frocktails was you had so many sponsors and prizes and giveaways, and it was incredible. Do you have lots of folks who are going to be coming back? And is there anyone new you're excited about?
We have lots of returning sponsors. And that is so, so sweet. Every time somebody writes back and says, Yes, we're interested, we're in, I'm just like, oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh, you guys, thank you so much.
Lisa Woolfork 20:51
Your event is being organized by a person and not a conglomerate, because a person is incredibly glad and grateful for everything.
I'm grateful for every single thing. You know, I sent dozens and dozens of emails. Like, saying, Hey, you don't know us from a hole in the wall, but we're trying to do this thing, and we'd love it if you could help us out. And so many people were like, Yep, into it, onboard. And so we have lots of those people coming back as sponsors. We have tons and tons of new people. We've had people reach out to us and say, Hey, I heard you're doing this again, and we want to be a part of it. we want to be included! And some of the people who, last time, ignored us or gave us quick no's, have even come back and said, Oh man, we regret not being a part of this last time. We're in it this time, like, we are there. And so even that has been good to see. And so we are you know, we are plugging along every day, sending emails and receiving emails and reaching out to local, national and international organizations to make the swag bags sweet for y'all. Because, you know, you got to have a swag bag. I'm so excited.
Lisa Woolfork 22:44
Very excited for this. I am incredibly looking forward to it. I mean...
What I'm looking forward to more than anything is the 360° camera. Like, if ever there was any event made for a 360 degree camera, it has to be Frocktails. You get see what I made from all sides, not just the front of it. Oh, how lucky are you?
Lisa Woolfork 23:17
It is such a celebration of community; a celebration of the sewing community; a celebration of making; of the spirit of resilience and creativity for making. I for one am super, super looking forward to it. It is just in a few short days. And so I am looking forward to seeing you in person and in real life, and seeing all those other folks who are going to be coming down, and so much swag. How can people find out information about this event if they haven't already? If this is for some reason their very first time ever hearing about it, how? But if it is, how do they find out more information, especially if they might be local and could come?
If you are local, if you are not local, if you are going to happen to be in DC this weekend, check us out on Instagram @DCFrocktails. You can visit our website to peruse our sponsors and to purchase tickets at www.dcfrocktails.com. You will find there information on the hotel, though the room block is closed at this point. The hotel is literally across the parking lot from the venue, but you will find information on transportation to the venue. You will find links to all of our sponsors, you'll see pictures from 2020. There's a message board to be in communication with other Frocktails attendees. One of the things that I really loved about the message board last year was, there were people who carpooled together, because some people were like, Oh, man, I just really don't want to drive from way out in Virginia, or way up past Baltimore. And what several people did was found a friend on the message board. Somebody was coming from Loudoun County, and so they carpooled together. That might be a little bit more challenging, given people's COVID comfort, but you know, that exists as a possibility. It exists. There was somebody who found someone who sews who lived in their same development. Like, they found a new sewing friend in their development.
Lisa Woolfork 25:59
Right in the neighborhood. Wow.
That's the point for me. And so, I'm just so excited to be able to be back doing it again. I know that there are some people who are a little bit grumpy with us over our COVID safety procedures. I don't have any real regrets over the choices that we've made. Again, I'm a community ass bitch. And I'm not just a one community ass bitch; I am a community ass bitch for all of my communities. Whether it is Black Women Stitch, whether it is the Three Little Birds community, whether it is my school community; and part of being a community ass bitch for all of those places is that I have to think about all of the places where I need to be across my days and weeks. And knowing that I still have to be, in order to do my work, I have to be in contact with people who are not yet able to be vaccinated, makes me say, This is what we have to do for now. I hope that in 2023, we don't have to do the same things that we have to do right now. But this is the best way forward for right now. Hopefully, the people who are not comfortable participating with the way things have to be for right now will, you know, rejoin us in the future. And if not, I hope they find their people somewhere else.
Lisa Woolfork 27:49
Well, as someone who is attending, I am very grateful for the COVID protocols, for all that you all are doing in in an effort to mitigate as much risk and as much harm, you know, so that people can kind of come and feel safe and comfortable doing so and so I'm grateful for that. So thank you for disappointing people who don't believe in science.
You know, what are we going to do, we're going to do the best that we can.
Lisa Woolfork 28:20
We do. And on that note, I say thank you very much to Naomi P. Johnson, the creative heart and soul behind DC Frocktails. And thank you so much for sharing this with us. And those of you all who are going to come to Frocktails, including myself, will get to see Naomi in person in just a few days. So we will see you then.
We will see you soon. I'm so excited. Bye.
Lisa Woolfork 28:45
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 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.