Online Sewing Community with Aaronica Cole

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[00:00:00] Lisa: [00:00:00] Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please the official podcast of Black women's 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.

[00:01:00] Hello everyone. And welcome to the stitch pleas podcast. I am Lisa Woolfork, your host coming to you from Charlottesville, Virginia. And it is a true treat. Today, our conversation today is going to be with Aaronica Cole, also known as, the needle in the bell. And I did a little cause she's also known as the crunchy mama and she does so many other things already, but we are talking today with her about her sewing and her amazing looks as well as  this fantastic philosophy that she has about.

What it [00:02:00] means to live fully and wholly as yourself. And I see that in her beautiful images, in sewing for her family. And and for her husband is sewing for herself. Just, it's just really a true honor to have you on the program today. Aaronica. So welcome. Welcome. Thank you for being, thank you so much for having me, Lisa.

Aaronica: [00:02:21] I just love this community that you've built through your podcasts and your Instagram following. I just love it so much.

Lisa: I thank you for being here with us today. I really do. Cause this is just I could. Okay. I have like a million, a million billion questions to ask you, but I am going to start with just one.

Lisa: [00:02:36] Can you tell us about your sewing story? When did you start? When did you start sewing? and how does sewing help reflect the larger life that you've created for yourself? Yeah, absolutely. So I actually started sewing when I was 13. I have always had very busy hands and, sometimes busy hands can get you into trouble.

Aaronica: [00:02:56] So my mom, she, she is also a sewist [00:03:00] as well. And so she actually put me into a course. And I took one course and I came out with a drawstring bag and I was like, this is not what I am into. This is so lame a Gordon Gartrell moment. And I made my brother like a shirt and I was like, he was very proud of it.

It looks. Awful though.

Lisa: wait. So you made a Gordon Gartrell shirt and, but he liked it. So that's like an anti Gordon Gartrell.

Aaronica: I know. And it is anti Gordon Gartrell and I was actually so surprised that he liked it and he wore it to school and everything. He was very proud of it because his sister made it and, But I was like, yeah, I don't know if this is for me, because at the time I just couldn't understand patterns.

Like I didn't like the big four, I would look at them and I'd be like, is this Russia? what do you mean? And so I put something down for awhile. And then, as I was going through my, My divorce from my first marriage, I actually picked it [00:04:00] back up because my mom was trying to help me refine myself.

it's a sewing machine and I was like, cool. I'll just pick it back up. It's like riding a bike. This should be fine. And, I bought a pattern and I was like, what, what, what does this mean? I don't understand this, but I pushed through, I finished the pattern, the dress looked terrible. I still wore for new year's Eve party.

And I was like, Hmm, I think I'm going to put this away. So I put it back down again. And then after I, I was pregnant with my oldest and I started to make these applications for onesies because I wasn't working at the time I'd been laid off and I was making these little onesies and selling them and I would, so the application that I'd made on and I was just, cutting out these little cute little shapes, from fabric.

And then of course using, some interfacing to iron it on and then sewing it on. And I was like, ah, this is lame. Then I had a baby and I was a single mom [00:05:00] and I just didn't have the time to really, so like I wanted to, but then I met my husband and we ended up getting pregnant, with our, our second daughter.

And I was just like, I am not going to pay money. For all of these expensive maternity clothes. Oh, I would pray. I would go for a thing and I wouldn't be there. Fine men's clothes or, sizes that were just a little bit larder larger than mine. Not too money, too many sizes up. but I would thrift and then I would create, maternity clothes.

And, so that's when I started to so fairly consistently and my, my children are except for my son. He's just like big altogether, but my girls are very narrow. So my oldest, she was growing up, but she wasn't growing out and she was growing out of her like pants. So I was turning her pants into like skirts and, so I was just essentially upcycling things until I actually found the PDF.

Patterns in that community. [00:06:00] And, my first pattern that I tried to do was the patterns for pirates pegs, and yeah. Lisa, how did it go? It did not go great. It did not go great. I, in fact, I probably made about seven pairs of pegs before I finally got it. because of course, when you're working with leggings, you have to keep in mind stretch content and make sure that it's four way stretch.

Because if you have any vertical stretch that is not going to come up over your thighs and your boots, it is not in the negative ease part. Like all of that that's right. I didn't know anything about it. And at the time I was also like, just, I didn't know about knits versus wovens. And I was just like at work, you're moving like woven patterns out of knit.

woven, Pieces out of it like a knit pattern, it was all bad. until I really got into, into the PDF world, because the [00:07:00] instructions were just so much easier for me to understand they were like written in layman's terms. And I was like, Oh, okay. I understand this. And after that, I just couldn't stop.

I joined some fabric groups. I started buying all this fabric and I was like, this is the best thing in the world. after I had my second child, my body just didn't, I didn't have that snap back, and I didn't want to put the pressure on my body and try to make my, my body shrink into clothes that didn't fit, versus right.

And then I was also like, I don't want to spend all this money when buying a new wardrobe because I don't know how long I'll be this size. I might grow bigger or I might get smaller. And I was like, sewing gave me that ability to really create a wardrobe that worked for my body, wherever it is.

like I have a pair of leggings that I wore through. pregnancy and they still fit now, just like I have dresses that I've been able to wear during pregnancy and still wear now because stretch. So I'm okay. I was, I just [00:08:00] became very, very into sewing, sewing every day.

And I began to practice it like a craft, every day, four hours. And, I just fell in love. I fell in love with the community and now, I, I test patterns. I admin for groups. I so strikes, but more importantly, I've actually gained a lot of. some of the dopest friendships that I have now as an adult woman through this stolen community, specifically through the Black community for sewing, because, we have a way of loving each other and such a dope way where we can correct each other.

And I'm like, nah, it's I love you. And that's the reason why I'm offering you this, your correction. Yes. Yes. I've been able to bond with these women and have just really grown some amazing connections. It's so beautiful to go from. A very unfortunate drawstring bag

and unfortunate drawstring [00:09:00] bag on a, in an unfortunate Gordon Cottrell shirt. But the thing I love about your Gordon good trail is that for most people, Gordon, good trails are just like spectacular failure, right? They're like, Oh my gosh, what on earth was I thinking? This was not what I thought. I'm just going to keep going with it.

Lisa: [00:09:13] Maybe it'll be better at the end you made this and your brother. Saw something in it that you couldn't see.

Aaronica: [00:09:20] Yeah.

Lisa: [00:09:21] And I think that, that's a good brother right there. Cause he was like my, he, he saw the love. I think he put it and that's why he wore it. And that's why he was proud. And you might not think it was tech technically well executed, but that's not what he cared about.

He was like, my sister created something out of nothing for me. And I'm going to wear it to school and tell everybody about it. And that just feels so good. And it's such a beautiful story. Similarly. the way that we think about sewing as a form of not just personal style, but also a form of free expression.

And that's something that I love [00:10:00] about your story as well. So when you said, that I can sew a wardrobe from my body, no matter what size it is, and not feel like I have to. Dove myself down into, the corsetry of, a big four pattern it's built on a FA built on a block that looks nothing like me.

and so that's just one of the things I think about that you've been able to develop all of these different technical skills that help meet goals that you want and help to reflect your vision for yourself and your life. And that is. Absolutely beautiful. So I wanted to think about how I know you said you he's did some sewing for little ones, like onesies and babies onesies and things like that.

How, what is your philosophy? It'll be about family sewing. I know I'm a big proponent of family sewing. I'm a big matchy matchy person. I think I'm starting to feel. Dialogic forward already because my youngest is about to be 17 and off to college next year. And my oldest is such a good sport that this baby, my oldest son has worn his first day of school shirt [00:11:00] and his Easter shirt every year.

I just mail it to him. He will put, he will put it on Veronica. He'll put it on and he'll get someone to take his picture either in his dorm room or outside on campus of him wearing his first day of school. I love that. I'm telling you. I love it so much. And both, both of my boys are wonderful. My youngest boy, I think it might be a bit of a sell for me to get him to wear his first day of school shirt.

When he goes to university next year, he's going to be like, Oh mom. Yeah. About that. What'd you say? He's going to be like, so about that shirt. Yeah. So about that shirt, I would lie and say that I didn't get the box, but I don't lie. I'm just going to say, no,

I am going to have to politely decline. Yes. I declined. I declined, but you are welcome to drop money into my Venmo. And I will buy a shirt in your honor. [00:12:00] Exactly. That part you like, have you met him? I feel like you know him. So what is your philosophy for. Family shirts. One of our family's sewing.

One of the things I was happy for was that I started my boys out very early with it. It wasn't when they were babies. And so they think this is totally normal. They think that everybody the can, so all their clothes that everybody's mom will do, like the things that I do. Sure. Mom make you a, a three tiered fondant.

cake with a water slide in it. Why wouldn't she make that for you? Why does it, why should, why wouldn't your mom make you Italian Italian cotton boxer briefs like I've made for these children? I wouldn't. Yeah, of course. Where else do you get your clothes? That kind of thing. So how did you get started with your kids?

Mine are very into whatever mommy has. So if mommy or mommy has something new that she made, they're like, did you make it for me too? And, so I don't, I don't do matchy  matching looks with, with [00:13:00] our family only because. I feel weird doing  matchy matchy looks, then I don't know why it's not, because I don't think it was good.

Cause anytime I see a family who does it, I'm like, Oh man, that looks amazing. But Because we all have such distinct tastes like I'm like, can we do everyone in leopard? And my husband is looking at me

am I part of this, everyone? I just want to confirm before I answer. He's am I in the family shot or no, because if so, I think we got to go a different direction creatively speaking, but, like my husband is very, I don't want to call him basic, but like he has a very plain Jane, like he likes to wear by now that we're, we're still at home.

He's like I am living in joggers and tee shirts and streamlined a very streamlined aesthetic, very simple streamlined, streamline. And even when he was going into the office, like he was very much so a polo. [00:14:00] Shirt or a button down shirt and nothing crazy. No, that's not too many bright colors, but like very, he's not crazy.

He's not very think outside of the box with his clothing then, like my oldest girl is, she's at this pre tween phase and is very into her tops and bottoms matching, If she has a tie shirt, she wants the tie back. If she's got a pink shirt, she wants pink bottles. My, and she's more into sporty aesthetic.

Whereas my middle daughter is super girly, wants to wear dresses all the time. The twirling you're the better. and then my son is just He is three and we'll wear whatever, but he loves dinosaurs. Like right now, in fact, he's running around in a set that I made him. He has like a dinosaur on a shirt and then he's got baby shirts on his, on his pants and he's very into, those two things and he gets excited, but yeah.

I think that it occurred to them [00:15:00] that this isn't normal, right? Because, I took my daughter to go see wicked on in Atlanta. We have our own little version of Broadway, which is not like Broadway. I'm a native new Yorker. And I'm like, this is not Broadway, but we get some live performances here at the Fox theater.

Oh, cool. No, we went to go see wicked at the Fox theater and her and her, her best friend at the time. I was like, Oh, I'll just make you guys some matching dresses. And I'm like, wait, what? If the show was in like three hours, I was like, it's fun. I have time. And she's what you just like, are you an actual, it's like, are you a wizard?

I just want to know. And her daughter was like, wow, like you did you just do that? And I'm like, yeah. And then my in Colima is looking like your mom doesn't do that. it's like your mom can make the mess and dresses next time before we go to the movies. And even, even now, like my oldest is mommy, none of my panties fit.

And I'm like, okay, I'll, I'll make some. I'm like, they know [00:16:00] that. And I think that they prefer things like that because just like for me, I make them their clothes that fit their body type. Because again, they're, very long and narrow and they are well endowed and the little booty area because they get it from their mama, so panties don't always fit them the right way, and, they liked that they liked that they can come into my office and be like, Ooh, this is new fabric. Can you make me something with this? If the answer likely be no, because I am like a fabric Scrooge. I'm like, it's mine. there are times where I call them in and I'm like, Hey, pick out some fabrics and, Or make me a list of things that you guys would like to wear this season.

let me know. Sure. Static is now because, my oldest shoes in this lace aesthetic for a very long time, and I was like, I dig it, but You're seven, This isn't what we're not called, like elementary school, the tire. But they absolutely love it. I, and I, it, I don't think that they know that that's not like normal.

but, but they really enjoy it. I did do recently a matching [00:17:00] set for the three of us. We're all in pink dresses and, It's for the, it was for the, the Ruby test by made for mermaids. And they absolutely loved matching with me. They were like, Oh, can we have more matching sets like that?

So I didn't know, they match with me. So now I would consider it, but, That's fantastic that they just they're so proud of, of what you've done and they want to be part of it. So I think it's just, it goes back to your brother wearing that shirt that you saw is so imperfect. They are just like, we, this is love.

It's just like you're helping them to develop a love language by showing them what your love language is. Oh, it seems to me. And that's what I think is fantastic. I was thinking about, as you were talking about, the unboxing about how you they'll come in and maybe see, see some fabric and say, Hey, come look at what I've got because I, several of your unboxings on Instagram and you are the person who I know now equate with the term double brushed.

Yeah, [00:18:00] some friends. I have a friend, Naomi P Johnson, and I'm pretty sure that that P and Naomi P Johnson stands for Ponty because they only, Pete Johnson loves Ponti whenever he's S wherever I hear the word Ponti, whenever someone says the word Ponti. I know, I think that's Naomi. I have another friend who loves denim and linen.

When I think denim and linen. The one, like you said, you get these associations in, in my mind when I hear double brushed poly, I automatically think of you. I know for sure. I have put some double brushed poly in my shopping cart. And I'm like, Lisa, you don't even know what this is. Your name is not a Ronica Cole.

I do not know why this is in your car. you love a cotton Lycra. Why are you buying double brushed, poly? What is going on? So you have to tell me, because I consider you my personal double brushed poly ambassador. Why do you love this? Oh, and just a bit about Naomi. It's funny because you relate her with Ponzi.

Aaronica: [00:18:57] And I always think of her as like the sequin connoisseur. [00:19:00] Yes, she does do her twins. And I was like, this is gorgeous. She was like, yeah, I just started this together before I went, I left and I was like, what? And Atlanta tales, She, but she came to Atlanta frack tails. So that's right. That's right.

That was like, you are amazing. I love you. Deborah's Pally is just so versatile to me and I know a lot of people talk about how it, like they overheat in it and how it retains their heat. I don't particularly have that issue with it. and of course like different fabrics correspond with different people just based off of texture and stuff like that.

But double brushed polyester is so soft and, it just feels so good on my skin. Very weird about textures. Like I remember when I first started, like with PDF patterns and joining the fabric groups, like Liverpool was so big. And that was like, let me buy cool, Lisa. I don't like the way that feels on my skin.

It feels so weird to me, but devil brush polyester [00:20:00] just feels so nice. Like it's so soft. It's so I feel like I'm always wearing pajamas whenever I'm wearing an outfit that I made. And I actually made some, boxer briefs for my husband. I use like some scraps. So these for rural, Double brushed polyester.

And those are his favorite boxer briefs. And he's it's so soft. The material is just so it feels so good on, and he, I have some more made out of this material. It's it just feels so nice. And it's so versatile normally, probably asked her a four way stretch at a hundred percent. Not all of them are, but that means that I can use it for leggings.

I can use it as a cardigan. I can use it for a dress. I can use it for a shirt. I can use it for a body suit because the recovery is good. It's just so I'm like, I can use my scraps for socks. I don't really like panties. I don't particularly like my panties out of them. but you can use it for panties, and I'm just like, it's such a versatile fabric that, you can literally make [00:21:00] everything out of it.

Lisa: [00:21:00] The sky's the limit. That is fair so that this see, and this is why everybody, she is my double brush poly ambassador. I actually have to report that I did indeed buy some double brushed poly. I ordered some from corners, his latest Black magic leopard route. And so I do have some double breast poly coming along the way to me.

Thank you very much for that endorsement. We're going to take a very quick break y'all and when we come back, we're going to talk to Aaronica about all the amazing work that she does in the digital sewing community, from her pattern testing, to strike sewing, to, group maintenance, all of the things that she does in the online selling community.

Just so you can, you can learn more about how complex and large that community is and how erotic has contribution is so significant. Stay tuned. Yeah.

[00:22:00] the stitch please podcast is really growing. I want to thank you for listening to the podcast and ask a favor. If you are listening to this podcast, a medium that allows you to rate it or review it, for example, Apple podcasts or iTunes, please do. So if you're the point of the podcast, if you could drop me a five star thing, if you have something to say about the podcast and you wanted to include that a couple sentences.

In the review box of Apple makes a really big difference in how the podcast is evaluated by Apple, how it becomes more visible. It really is a way to lean into the algorithm that helps to rake podcasts. So if you had time to do that, to drop a little line in the review feature of the podcast, that would be really appreciated.

[00:23:00] It would help us to grow even further and faster.

Welcome back, everybody. Welcome back. You are listening to the stitch pleas podcast and I am very fortunate and honored to have as my guest today, Aaronica Cole from the needle and the bell. And we're going to talk now about the very vibrant. Sewing community that is persistent and growing in the online spaces.

And we've seen these, we see them in Instagram, or I see them in Instagram and on Facebook. And not sure if it's popular on Twitter because I'm not a Twitter person, but I know for me, I learned a lot about Veronica and from Aaronica on Instagram, [00:24:00] as well as in a variety of things. Facebook sewing groups that she is a part of Aaronica.

How would you describe the landscape of the digital sewing community? Do you find Instagram and Facebook to be very different? Do you find one to be strict longer for, deep probing conversations and another one would be better for learning ideas? Like how, how does, how, what, how would you characterize that community?

Aaronica: [00:24:28] I really think it's ever changing. and it's, it's evolving. Like I feel like now, I feel like our sewing community is very dependent upon social media. and I do see a lot of the businesses doing more with email lists and stuff like that. So in that sense, it's, it's consistently evolving, but I feel like Facebook fosters more community engagement.

Just because of the nature of groups and, that sort of thing, because you can be in different groups [00:25:00] based off of different sewing, interests. So you've got your plus sized still in groups. You've got your Black sewing groups, you've got your sewing groups that support different patterns.

So in that sense, it's very community based. Whereas I feel like Instagram is a lot of inspiration. I love to just get on Instagram and scroll to see like my fellows. So is just out here making these dope creations, because what that does is it really makes me want to change or, add new, new pattern designers to my own collection.

And it introduces me to so many other, people who are out there sewing. I do think that I like. I like a lot of Instagram because I can make a post. And the post will garner a lot of questions. And one of my favorite things about being where I am in the sewing community is because I have the ability to touch and help.

So many people really [00:26:00] develop their love for this craft. sewing has truly been life changing for me because not just of the community that I have and, am in part of, in the friendships that I've developed, but it is. It fulfills me in such a way, because and you get this Lisa and you take a piece of fabric and either an hour, a couple hours later, now you have this garment.

Right when your body, And it's not something that you've bought off of a rack. There is a process that goes along into it. And a lot of times that process forces you to slow down in life and force it to live in the moment as opposed to be planning for future or thinking about other things.

And I really liked that because in this microwave society that we live in now, where everything is moving in a New York minute, it's often hard for us. To calm down and to really be able to focus on something. So I love that sewing is that for me. and I love that I can, I have these communities that, that, that serve me in different ways.

[00:27:00] In fact, the other day on, in my stories, I having to just do an accidental marathon, and people had questions and I love that there were the questions and the interest out there. On, where they see I can help them take their craft further into the next level. and I really, really, really just liked that.

And I just also love the conversations that I'm able to have on Facebook. I love that my Facebook groups, while they are sewing base are just sewing based because now we have comradery. Now we have, these friendships, now we're watching each other's children grow up and it's very much so that level of connective that, connectedness that we really need, And I, and I really loved that my first degree and psychology.

So I was think back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs of needs, how these, how we're able to meet each other's needs based on these communities that we've developed, within the stowing community, we have, help each other by machines. We have. helped each other pay for things for our kids.

We [00:28:00] have done charities and raffles and fundraisers to make donations so that we can come together and make larger donations to important, groups and important movements that are currently happening. and I just love that we're able to do that in both of these spaces, in, in that, that community, feeling,

I do I do

Lisa: [00:28:22] I so much know and agree with so much of what you're saying.

I was thinking back to my own, one of the reasons I started sewing as I guess sewing 2.0, which I, I didn't start sewing really until I was in graduate school and I was writing my dissertation and it was taking forever. And I just said, I just want to finish something. I just want to be able to tell myself that I can.

Dark with something being one way and take a few steps and ended up being something else. And that is why I started sewing. I needed something that was a, not that, that was a short term project that had a beginning, middle and end. And at the end is [00:29:00] something dope. But then it's now I have a duvet cover for my bed that I didn't have before.

And then I can't go by. And I also love this beautiful claim that you're making. And it reminds me of something that Najah Carroll talked about on the program about self care sewing. She calls it selfish, sewing, because she's reclaiming the word selfish. And I know, I believe that Tiffany from Tip Stitched also talks about selfish sewing.

And for me, the self care that's involved that you describe, it's like, it's like taking a slow, deep breath.

Aaronica: [00:29:30] Yeah.

Lisa: [00:29:30] I can take this piece, a fabric that is really dormant. it's beautiful. And it's speaking to me and I can help it be something that's going to be meaningful to me through the work of my own hands.

And I think that that is, that's not something that I get to do a lot in other parts of our lives, depending on the work that we have. And so this there's something about that, that I do absolutely love the transformative properties of sewing and pairing those with the self care part of the part that's affirming of oneself, [00:30:00] is something that I find very meaningful about sewing.

So it's not it's. In addition to making like some dope ass clothes. It's also it's all I know. Some people say it's sewing is my therapy. For me. Therapy is my therapy. But  sewing is something that I absolutely love to do. It is a love practice for me. It is really something that I just absolutely love.

And you want more people in particularly more Black women, girls and femmes to do and be celebrated and uplifted for. And so one of the questions I was going to ask you as well about the world of pattern testing, how would someone get involved in that if they wanted to do that? I know I did an episode last year just explaining about custom fabrics and what a strike team was, and we know what testers do.

Can you tell me about why or what, why it's important for, for you to pattern test for maybe for Black women to pattern tests for women of plus size the pattern tests. what do you think is represented? Cause seems to me like an [00:31:00] act of almost like an act of community care or mutual aid, right? For pattern company, it seems like this is a community investment, right?

If you are investing all your time and energy into helping a company that's different than helping a big four company or a company that's raking in, tens of millions of dollars or whatever. I don't know. W what is your foot, do you have a philosophy about pattern testing that might reflect some ideas about the community you described?

Aaronica: [00:31:27] let's see, to answer the first question. How do you get into pattern testing? make clothes.

Yeah, literally just make dope garments and post them, share them. that's how people find out about you. I know specific the first pattern group that I tested for was patterns for pirates in I'd actually emailed them, letting them know I wanted to test for them. And they were like, we're not looking for testers and.

I was like, maybe they just don't know how cool the stuff I make is

Lisa: [00:31:59] they don't know who [00:32:00] you are . They don't know that it's wait a minute.  maybe you weren't accepting regular basic bitch  testers, but I am a bad bitch. And we need to revalue this whole conversation.

Aaronica: [00:32:11] Let me show you what you're missing. And so that's what I did is I was just out there and I, like I said, I had started out with, The pegs and I failed many times with that. but what I ended up doing was I ended up just making a lot more of their patterns in posting them. And then I started to hack their patterns.

cause pattern hacking is actually one of the. One of my passions. Like I love to take a pattern and just really make it my own Hackett and do something completely different with it. in fact, I did that and the designer that I did it for was like, those aren't my pants. And I'm like, but they are. And I just put my flavor on it.

You know what I mean?

yes, they are your pants and you're welcome.

Okay. You're welcome for making them look this dope. but they, you get noticed that way. They're like, Oh, snap, this person looks really great. Let me follow them. And [00:33:00] that's what they do is they begin to follow your mates and after they see what you've made, then they're like, yeah, let's invite her or let's invite them.

I think pattern testing is really important because there are so many different bodies. not just for body types, because, whereas right now I'm an hourglass figure because I've gained weight. I am normally a pear shape. So your bodies change over time that your body's changed when you have kids, your body's changed after, as you get older, your body's writings because of covid, your body's changed because you decided that she wanted to become a runner.

your body is constantly changing and. When your pattern testing, or when you're developing a patterns of fit these different types of bodies, you need them to try them on that, your body to see what changes need to be made. And of course, there's standard sizing. There's a standard block, but when you get into PDF patterns, The beauty of it is that [00:34:00] they have the ability to change that book.

They have the ability to say, Hey, let's make some, some differences. So like a made for mermaids and patterns for pirates are typically designed for curvier women because the pattern designers are curvier women. like they have boobies, they've got breasts. They have, they have these things. So they designed patterns for bodies that are more curvy.

And if that fits your body type that's okay. there, what they do is they want to make sure or that, either they can teach you in the pattern testing, how to make those modifications for your body and them willing that it also helps them practice to cater to their own customer base. But it also helps them to make sure that they have instructions on how to do that in the tutorial.

And I spoke to, I couldn't like even now, Like I'm considered, I'm not considered a beginner, but I opened up a mccalls pattern and I was like, yeah. So I'm still not able to read these directions. [00:35:00] Yes. They are still printing them in ways that make no sense to me, but okay. But it's important because they are able to create these tutorials.

Where people understand. And so as we're pattern testing, we're not just taking a look at how the pattern fits. We're also reading the tutorials to make sure that they read yeah. In a way that it makes sense to more people. What they want to do is make sure that a beginner so is, can pick up their pattern.

And read those directions, follow the directions and get the end garment. That's so important because, so many of us can get turned off when we just don't understand it. or,

and sewing can be so frustrating. And that's why I think it's just amazing that you stuck with it. I'm serious. Like for some people that horrible drawstring bag would have been it like, nevermind.

and forget it. And then, so you, you, you get your fabric, you get your patterns, you drum up your courage to say, okay, I can do this. You'd look at your measurements. And you look at the pattern and depending on the pattern, it's okay, [00:36:00] I just wasted some money because my hips are outside of the range of the size.

So I can't. And so there's plenty of reasons that sewing can be challenging. There should be more reasons that it's fun and rewarding, and you are helping to do that by testing and posting what you do.

Thank you. I also think it's really important to have representation for people who look like me, where it is with Black skin or whether it is with a big booty.

You know what I mean? yes, I do very important that when people look at patterns, they can identify. Themselves in them. And I remember, I didn't think it was that impactful until, someone recently told me they were like, if you didn't show how you looked in them, I would never buy these patterns because our body types are similar.

And I buy because I think they look so good on you. So I know they will look that good on me. And it's so important that we're able to see ourselves in these patterns and in [00:37:00] these and the people who represent them. it's really important, to make sure that the patterns actually fit our bodies and all body types, not just plus size, but also the straight size and also the curvy size and also the Apple shape and the pear shape in the triangle shape, whatever.

However, we're classifying these different shapes. It's really important that they're able to fit because we all have a right to look good in these things. You know what I mean? . Yeah. Yeah. If we're going to take the time out to make the pattern, we should look. Amazing in them. And I think that pattern testing also helps it so that we're able to step in and help the community as well.

If you've tested the pattern, about that pattern instantly, because chances are, we have gone through at least one to two different re revisions. We've asked the deep and hard questions about pattern. about fabric choice. we know what notions you need. we know what potential difficulties you might be having, and we [00:38:00] might've had it and found a way to push through.

And now we have personal advice to offer, people who are having trouble with it. so I think that the pattern test itself is it can be really rigorous and it can, It can be a little cumbersome and tiring, but I think it's so necessary because the groups who don't pattern tests, you can tell a difference in their grading.

You can be the best pattern grader in the world, but if you don't see what it looks like on someone's actual body, you're missing out on an opportunity to make something better.

Lisa: [00:38:33] Exactly. And I think that sometimes software can have limitations if you think that. Okay. And, and for those of y'all who aren't familiar with, pattern grading, what we're talking about here is moving between sizes of a sewing pattern.

And so grading is when you. When you move from, say a size, a size six, for example, but you really need to have that be a size 26. It's not just a matter of [00:39:00] sliding the ruler out to the left or the right. you, if you want it to fit, you really need to see it made up and put on a person. and I think that this notion of.

Pattern testing. It's a way to develop trust. That's what I often think about when a pattern has been tested by people who I know are people who have shaped similar to mine. I'm just like, Oh, okay. All right. Okay. I think I can do this. I think I can do this. I can. I'm looking at her. I see. Okay. Yes. Yes.

Okay. And that is the type of, I think for me, because I'm, and again, I don't mean to keep harping on the big four turned into the big four, but I guess that's, that's where I began. That's where I live. That was the only thing that was available when I started sewing about maybe 25 years ago, there was not like the PDF pattern industry was not what it is now.

If it existed at all, yeah. When I was in,  now, I sound like a really elderly person, like back in my day, back in my day, all we had, [00:40:00] no, but like back in my day, for real in graduate school, like you could guess anybody's email just by knowing their last name. like email was new. this was pretty, and all you had to do was add email, their last name and the name of the school

And you would find that person right now if they had an ability to check email who's to say, but. It was not a big thing at all. And so I just wanted to think about that. So this whole PDF pattern industry, even PDF documents, all of that stuff  was not available widely in sewing. And so , the thing for me that I think was just so interesting is that.

There's that sewing because of the challenges there is such a need and that affirmation can be sometimes hard to come by, but on Instagram and on Facebook, it is far easier. And I know I find myself, if I'm looking at a pattern, I'll put in the name of the pattern or the pattern number and put it in Instagram and flip through and see what [00:41:00] comes up.

And I'm like, Oh, okay. Or I'm flipping through a designer. And I'm like, wow, everybody on this entire page is very thin. And unless I plan to time travel to the time before I got my period, I will not be able to wear. Any of this stuff, this person is making. so these see it. And so I think that that is such an important, such an important it's such the representation is vitally important for that reason.

and so that's, I think that is so true. I think that's just so true.

Aaronica: [00:41:38] Yeah. I also think it's a wise business decision to, I actually had a consultation. I also do marketing for small businesses. I had a consultation in which I talked to a brand and we talked to about. Just how, when you open up that market and are more inclusive, you and you have people who are out [00:42:00] here sharing your product because it included them.

That's free marketing.

Lisa: [00:42:04] It is, it is. Absolutely is it absolutely is. And, and then that also develops, loyalty and trust. And so people are like, yeah, okay. These, this company sees me, this company, isn't just using me for money. This company seems to give a shit. Like they seem to actually care and they're willing to put their money where their mouth.


Aaronica: [00:42:28] and that matters. That matters, it matters. To plus size community. It matters to the Black community. It matters, and I hate it when people just say things like, Oh, it's just sewing, but it's more than that. we're putting our time, we're putting our money into these things.

And so it was a more than just that. And just like how a white, straight size this woman deserves to be seen and represented. So do people who look different than her.

Lisa: [00:42:54] that's right. That's right.

Aaronica: [00:42:55] It's not a more or less, but it's an issue. It's an in addition to we also deserve it. [00:43:00] And

Lisa: [00:43:01] it's also about, for me dismantling that idea that only white CIS, straight up and down lean people are, one's not just worthy of representation, but the ones that exist.

I think for me, the thing, that's the hardest part. Is to de naturalize these ideas, right? And this is something that's talked about in class a lot, like about how whiteness gets marked as invisible, That white people don't have race, just, Black people and people of color have race. it's the same kind of idea.

Men don't have gender and women have to, it's just it's, it's just weird because everybody has all of the things, but because of the way that the media landscape has worked for so long, Only those people who are seen as visible, the ones that are seeing worthy of mattering, and that is a complete lie.

And then yeah, that we have one of the things that's, I'm grateful for in this age is the heightened visibility that does a good [00:44:00] job. I believe in dismantling these dangerous, false narratives about who is present in a space who is worthy of recognition in a space and who is entitled to take up the space.

And that's one of the things I just love about the Instagram sewing community.

One of the things I love is the ability to mute some people and. And that's well, first of all, mute.


Yes, I am a fan of the mute and the block, the mute and the block.

Yeah, it is. our two assigned my favorite things, but I think something I would encourage folks to do if they're not doing this already is to look at your news.  Look at your Instagram news feed and see what it looks like. Yup. and something I say, it's funny, I did this the other day and, how they have the little dots on the top of the Instagram newsfeed. Like when you open up your thing. And I think of in my, I was looking at my dots and it was, you were on a dot and I think I'm busy peach.

Who's a  crocheter was on the [00:45:00] dot. And I think maybe Naomi was on dots at the top. It was all Black women. Yeah, all Black women who sew and craft and do needle arts or whatever. And I was like, you know what?If your Instagram feed doesn't look like this, what are you doing? What are you even doing?

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

before we wrap up, can you tell us about what some of your next steps are? What do you have planned? What are some of the things that you're excited about?

Aaronica: [00:45:32] Everything. No, I'm just joking. so I've been using this time to try to decide whether or not I am going to, so for other people, so I've started a doing preorders for clothing made by me.

Actually the first preorder was with Queenora's Black girl magic, just in supporting her. yeah. her fabric so dope. Like I got it in that bamboo leg and it was everything in the world. I wear my dresses all the time. so I [00:46:00] started that. I had also doing some fabric design. In addition to that, I had a couple of pieces printed.

I've got a couple more coming. just having a little bit of fun, trying to see if it's something I want to get into. Again,

I saw your rainbow fabric. That was so cute. I

love the rainbows  the girls are waiting for their rainbow sweatshirts. cause I did say that I was going to make them stuff with it as well.

So we will be matching matchy in that, Lisa style, but just, I am looking forward to learning. to read patterns that are for knitting and crocheting. I also learned, I know how to write and crochet well, but it's something that I've always wanted to do as well. Needlepoint, embroidery, like I want to handle it in broader things.

I just think that it is so beautiful to add those details to your garments. It just takes it to that next level. so just working on that as well as continuing to fine tune my craft, my blog will be more active. Active. [00:47:00] now that I'm feeling more inspired, of course, when you're creative and you're going through stressful times, a lot pandemics and things like that, and watching people consistently being killed and no one seeming to care about it, it takes this toll.


and. Even though we learned it's either flight or fight, but there is also freeze. And I've been in that freeze moment for a really long time. So I'm, warming back up and getting back into the things I love writing. I love being able to share, what I know that so that it will help other people, I do have a class, a sewing class right now, it's, it's hosted on Marco polo channels, but I'm going to be shutting that down and shifting it to a different platform because, I think that with sewing, we really need to be able to answer questions in real life.

And, within that platform of Marco polo channels, it's just not enough high touch. [00:48:00] For me as high touch as I could get being virtual. So I'm, I'm working on deciding on a platform for that as well. so really, really just of help as many people who would like to learn to sew as I can. That is so it's amazing.

And it just felt to have you out there doing the work that you're doing, doing what you were saying at the high touch, contact and interaction is really very valuable. I know that there's going to be so many people who want to learn your techniques to learn how, you make modifications and adjustments.

If you do it all, trying to find patterns that are more, friendly. like friendly seems like a weird basically for a pattern. Like it don't be hostile. Don't be hostile.

not just  friendly, but that are here for you.

Lisa: [00:48:48] Aaronica, Could you tell me a bit of your thoughts about diversity and inclusion in the sewing community?

There's been a lot of talk about that these days. and I know for me personally, I find that that phrase, [00:49:00] diversity and inclusion, to be very limited, I find it to be, it feels very hollow. It feels like almost that diversity and inclusion has it. Self become a form of tokenism. And what I more prefer is to dismantle systems of oppression.

what I prefer are things that might be more uncomfortable for white people, more comfortable for people who are used to being in the majority and not have to question things or even in terms of size, right? if you can walk into a Joanne's and pick out a pattern and it's gonna fit you and you don't have to worry about it.

That's a type of privilege that you have that other people do not have and is including one plus size person gonna disrupt that entirely. I don't know. What are your thoughts about what it means to build a truly holistic truly whole or complete someone community?

Aaronica: [00:49:53] So I feel like diversity inclusion and inclusion are just the trend words right now.

They don't actually [00:50:00] hold weight. There's, there's no substance there because, diversity doesn't actually mean, Oh, we're just going to kind of like have some pepper sprinkles in here,

Or some numbers, that's not what means diversity is having someone in a place of power that looks different.

Or is different than the norm or what our society has deemed as norm. just having a Brown person here and there is not diversity, but having someone in a position of power to make decisions, then this business is definitely. Diversity and the same thing with inclusion, right?

Inclusion is almost like, yeah, we tolerate you. And who just wants to be tolerated? that's not okay. Inclusion, inclusion is, is now just becoming, the thing of, we said we were cool with you. no, that's not what I want. Inclusion, the true meaning of inclusion that holds some weight is making [00:51:00] others feel welcome and wanted in life.

Their differences are celebrated there, their presence and their likeness are celebrated and desired.

It's it is in essence saying we welcome you into our space. Thank you for sharing a space with us and making us feel. Like we are wanted, right? no one just wants to be like, at no point in time, do you just want your spouse to be like who you're here? nah,

Lisa: [00:51:28] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's not Oh yeah, we got, gotta go sit over there in the corner somewhere. We are including you in this conversation. Yeah, you are in the room, you were in the room, isn't this,

congratulations. You are in the room instead of outside, you should be grateful.

And it's well, I have a capacity to create my own room actually. And my own table. with people who will not just, say here, come on. They'll, they'll find a seat that's comfortable for me. They will. Serve me things that they know, I appreciate eating. [00:52:00] they will, they will show some care for who I am and my whole story. And not just, if I make them look good on a brochure or not.

Aaronica: [00:52:09] And in my head, it's very much And I'm going to throw it back and I know you'll go back here with me, but it's very much What is it? with Patrick Swayze, nobody puts baby in the corner. Okay. Don't put me in the corner, pull me out and let me showcase who I am and be celebrated for it.

Okay. It's hard because, of course I want to see everyone win and I do. but first the first people who I want to see when are Black people, that's who I want to see win. That's how I want to see you doing well. I want to, I want us to, we celebrated, I want us to win. I want us to be in not just included, but welcomes.

and I celebrate and I want to see the glow above of small businesses because they're my passion as well, but not before Black people, not before, people who have been oppressed, we deserve. We deserve this, we deserve our shine. and so the [00:53:00] diversity and inclusion, these are just our trendy words that make try that are attempts to make Black Brown, or our speckles of pepper and rainbow sprinkles feel like we are wanted, but it doesn't, that's not, that's not it.

That's not saying, Hey. Thank you so

much for being in my space or, Hey, we miss you in our space

Lisa: [00:53:27] is really important. It's because our space is not the same without you.

Aaronica: [00:53:31] Exactly.

Lisa: [00:53:34] Yes. Yes. Let

you know, you were missed. And for me it felt like one of the things I love about your work so much Aaronica is that it requires us to, and I'm about dismantling big time, but it requires us to divest our energies in some things and reinvest them elsewhere.

, that's just what it requires. And it's going to require for some people to be willing to, do [00:54:00] things differently, to, adapt to a new way, and that's fine. But I think for me, because my approach is so Black centered, it's about for me talking to other Black women, About other Black women lifting us up, celebrating the ways that we lift each other up.

we got this. we have ancestral knowledge. We have, like we, we have been in this country for hundreds of years surviving and thriving in conditions made to destroy us. Yes. Yeah. And so for me, some little bullshit on some white person. So in group, you know what, okay, fine. I can't come back to your retreat.

That's okay. my grandmother was born the same year that Harriet Tubman died and she sewed pretty much her entire life. And so I don't need you to tell me things. I don't need you. I can figure it out on my own. And I can build a community of people who not just who won't tolerate me, [00:55:00] but who will love me, who will correct me, who will support me, who will teach me

Aaronica: [00:55:05] exactly.

Cause we're worth more than just being tolerated.

Lisa: [00:55:08] Amen.

Aaronica: [00:55:09] We are worth more than being, just being tolerated. We're Murph worth more than me being made to feel that we have to shrink to fit in someplace else or that we have to whitewash ourselves to be accepted. We're worth more than that.

Lisa: [00:55:24] Absolutely.

Absolutely. And our peace and our dignity are priceless.

Aaronica: [00:55:30] Yeah. And if that means that white people have to get a little uncomfortable, that's okay. It's worth it. Yeah. Like we'll see patterns that only have white women or that only have skinny testers and. pattern designers, they'll be like, well, that's all who signed up.

And I look at pattern designers who say things like that. And I'm like, you didn't have not one Black friend that you could be like, Hey girl, listen, I need some more pattern testers. Can you do me this solid? Or you didn't have not one chunky friend who you were like, Hey girl, look, you look so dope. I need [00:56:00] for you to test this pattern because I know this is going to look amazing on your body and I want to make sure it does.

and if you don't have a friend that way, then what's that saying about diversity in your actual life? Like you can share with me about diversity, but all your friends look like you. Exactly exactly your children about what true diversity actually means. if, if you can't walk the walk, I do have white friends who I can call and say, Hey, if I would like some white representation, on something where I could say, Hey girl, can you, can you make something with this?

I don't have, I have. Asian friends who I can call and say, Hey, can you make this? I have friends who are members of the LGBTQ community, who I could easily call on and be like, Hey, I need for someone who looks like you, because I want to make sure you are represented and whatever it is that I'm working on.

And if you don't have that, then you are not actually believing in diversity. And that's not what you really want. You just want that money. You don't actually want that diversity.

[00:57:00] Lisa: [00:57:00] Yes. And there are people out there, who, the only color they see is green. And, I would much rather invest my dollars with someone whose values align with my own.

and I think you're absolutely right that we are long past the time where we need to shrink ourselves in order to on the off chance or the chance of being accepted or included. That's not, that's not liberation, that's not living fully and wholly. it's not. It's it's just, and also this is supposed to be fun shit, right?

Like it's supposed to be fun. And I can not have fun if I am feeling like I am waiting for the next microaggression to fall out of somebody's mouth.

Aaronica: [00:57:42] Nope. Nope. No, no. Oh no, no, no.

Lisa: [00:57:49] Aaronica, this has been such a delight. Oh my gosh. You have no idea how grateful I am.

hopefully you do know because I've told you several times, but tell us how can people find you on the [00:58:00] socials? I will be, I'm going to include all your social links and stuff in the show notes, but where can people find you just to, just to let us know?

So I am found on Instagram, under needle and the bell, and that's with an E.

it's definitely a play on words there. My maiden name is Bell, but I also in the South. So now I'm a Southern girl. so on Facebook as the needle in the bell, my website is the needle in the bud if you're interested in like green or crunchy living or motherhood, or just more general lifestyle, you can find me at Aaronica B Cole on Instagram, the crunchy mommy on Instagram and the crunchy

This is amazing. Thank you Aaronica so much. This has been great. Y'all check up, check out her stuff. I always get great inspiration. I know I've definitely made some clothes because I saw you wearing them. So thank you for that.

And this has been, thank you so much for having me, Lisa. It's been an honor.

[00:59:00] 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

If you'd like to support us. Financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon P a T R E O N. 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 pie cast directories or services allow for reviews, but for those [01:00:00] who do for those that have a star rating, or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us at 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.

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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