Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt with Ebony Love, Latifah Saafir, Gyleen Fitzgerald

Register for the Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt here! The six-week class begins January 1, 2021. An early bird discount price is available until August 21, 2020. 

More about Ebony, Gyleen, and Latifah

Ebony: website, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube  Award-winning author and quilter Ebony Love is recognized as one of the leading experts in fabric die-cutting techniques who regularly contributes to magazines, videos, and television programs.  A founding member of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, she’s best known as the author of The Big Little Book of Fabric Die Cutting Tips, Binding Crazy Angles, and other books about quilting, sewing and die cutting. Ebony is fond of blindingly-bright prints and takes a contemporary approach to traditional designs. She’s also designed fabric lines in collaboration with Island Batik, including Primo and her upcoming release, Forecast

Latifah: website, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube  Latifah Saafir is known for her bold and innovative quilts. Combining her training as an engineer with her lifelong passion for sewing, Latifah creates designs that are graphic and contemporary, featuring challenging techniques with meticulous attention to detail.A co-founder of both the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild and the worldwide Modern Quilt Guild, Latifah currently teaches workshops to guilds around the world. She has a line of patterns and templates that she has designed to use her favorite techniques, including a line of patterns called Quilt Cadets that teaches kids how to sew!She has released three fabric lines with Me + You, the modern fabric brand with Hoffman Fabrics. She’s been featured in over a dozen books, magazines and newspapers.

Gyleen: website,Facebook, Facebook, Facebook,  Gyleen X. Fitzgerald makes quilts that blend color, pattern and texture to provide a contemporary essence in traditional quilting. She infuses engineering tools and innovative techniques to simplify visually complex geometric polygon quilts. An avid quilter, Gyleen has earned Best of Show honors. As an author/publisher, she is a consistent Gold Medal winner which included Polygon Affair…So Easy You’ll Fall in Love.  She is best known for inspiring Trash to Treasure Pineapple Quilts and the creation of the Pineapple Tool by Gyleen.

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Speakers: Lisa Woolfork, Ebony Love, Gyleen Fitzgerald, Latifah Saafir.

[00:15] Lisa: 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.

[00:55] Lisa: Hello everybody and welcome to the Stitch Please Podcast. I am Lisa Woolfork, your host And I am once again as always honored thrilled and delighted for a very special episode of the podcast. Today we are speaking with Ebony Love, Gyleen Fitzgerald and Latifah Saafir, who are bringing to the world, a fantastic project. This is called Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt. And all three of them are here in three separate time zones to talk with us today about this work. So, welcome, Ebony, Gyleen and Latifah, thank you so much for being here today. I'm so grateful.

[01:33] Yay. Thanks for having us.

[01:34] Yeah, thanks Lisa.

[01:35] Lisa: I want to start with, yeah, trust me you all. I am geeking out. I am so, like not calm right now. And it has nothing to do with the coffee that I drank this morning. Okay, so my first question is the project is titled, Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt. Can you explain Ebony what is a mystery quilt? I have a very basic understanding of it from being in a quilt guild. It seems like you're given fabric, you put it together. But other than that, the notion of what a mystery quilt is, is a mystery to me. So, can you explain what that is?

[02:13] Ebony: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think a mystery quilt is essentially a quilt where the host or the designer knows where the quilt is going, but you as the maker or the participant do not. So, in some ways, it's a leap of faith on the part of the person making the quilt because they don't know, they don't really know where it's going to end up. Are they going to like it, you know, those types of things? So, it can be a little bit nerve racking. And what we did with this quilt is we gave a couple of hints at just to ease people into it, but essentially, it's trusting the process. and trusting that we're going to lead you through and you're going to like what happens at the end, but it's just essentially an exercise in faith and trust.

[03:17] Lisa: I really like that because sometimes like when I purchase quilt patterns, like I look at the clothes like, oh my gosh, this is gorgeous, I love this so much, I want to make this. And I've yet to like, I don't think I've ever done a mystery quilt where it's like I go to the fabric store and pick up an envelope and it has a giant question mark on it.

[03:36] Ebony: Right.

[03:36] Lisa: And so, this is like, it really is about the process and I think it was something I find so exciting about this is that what you're doing is kind of almost I guess I could say reverse engineering. The process of what a final quilt is going to be, right if you think that you are buying a quilt pattern so you can make a thing instead it's like no, no, you have the skills you can make a variety of things. Come along with us, make this, trust us, and you're going to end up with something spectacular. And I love that hi, throw in the reverse engineer because you all, all three of these women that we have on the line, they are all engineers. So, how about that? That is incredibly impressive to me. And I'm sure I'm going to circle back to ask more about what you think about that discipline and how that applies to quilt making. So, how did you end up with the title Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt? I think Gyleen has a comment on this. How did you end up with that?

[04:30] Gyleen: Well, we were kicking it about when we first came up with the idea that we were going to teach together and we kind of backed into the name, because sometimes the name drives the design. So, if you have a concept of what you're trying to hit, and you start with the name, you can make it happen. Again, this is certainly speaking to how we normally design things and I think speaks to the fact that we're engineers. So, for me Parallel Universe is that plays, that's not on this universe, it's something that literally happens simultaneous to us. And I always say when I can't find something, it must have dropped into the parallel universe.

[05:13] Lisa: Yes, I have a lot of socks there. If you see some socks there when you're going there, please, those are mine.

[05:19] Gyleen: Yeah. When it comes out, I mean, sometimes when you find it, you're like, it's right there on the table. It was always there on the table, it's in plain view. So, was I in that parallel universe? So, the hint we gave them on the design, if they stare at it is two things almost superimposed on each other, but one is turned. And so, it's a visually challenging concept. But yet it gave us freedom to design everything or anything we wanted to within that space. So, once we had the full view of what it was going to look like, and we could break it down into what we were going to do and how we were going to present it. But I think with the term parallel universe, it allows us to be anything in the universe, and that it would happen twice, because it's parallel, it's running on the same track. And it seemed to be, you know it's a catchy phrase, it had everything we needed in it, it was easy to say, it looked cool. So, there you have it. It's Parallel Universe.

[06:30] Lisa: It’s perfect. And I think that you're absolutely right about, I love the notion of two things superimposed on each other and one is flipped. I mean, like that really does help you think differently about anything that's linear, right? That once you kind of flip it or reverse it, it does make you think differently about all the things you thought you knew. And so, I really do love this title, that's fantastic. And I also think that the boundaries that you've erected for yourself are so broad and so fluid, that there is still like a lot of mystery in the process to be revealed. So, that sounds really excellent. One of the questions I also had was about collaboration. I think the three of you all have worked together before, you have a robust partnership, a robust collaboration. Let's see if I can I ask you about why collaboration, you're three powerhouses, three engineers, three excellent quilt designers and four teachers.  What does collaboration give you that you can't get as individuals?

[07:36] Latifah: Believe it or not, this is, I think the first time all three of us have worked directly together. The first time I met Gyleen, I was actually a Janome educator in her classroom. Ebony and I have taught at the same show, but this is the first time we had a chance to all work together and when Ebony sent me an email or text message, I'm not sure which one and she says “hey, Gyleen and I were thinking that we should do a project together.” And I didn't even hesitate to say, “yes, let's do it.” The beauty of the collaboration is that we each have our own experiences in business and teaching and all of that. And we all do what we do very, very well. But now we're combining all three of those forces and the students and the participants, it gets a benefit from all of it. And I'm really, really honored to be able to teach with Gyleen and Ebony. And I'm really, really excited for January because it's going to be awesome. It has been a challenge for the whole world to kind of go online. So, we're kind of working through all of the dynamics of that, but we're so happy that we're able to present this program to you. And January can't come fast enough.

[08:52] Lisa: It is going to be here sooner than you know. I just feel like I don't know how time works anymore. And maybe that's why the Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt idea really appealed to me, because I don't know what universe I'm living in. Because like with everything with the pandemic, and all of this, the way that time works has just been so bent, it feels like I spent all the other day thinking that it was a Saturday, you know? And I'm like, “no, no, no, I think this is a Thursday,” like those kinds of things. And so, I guess one of the questions I had was, since each of you have such a robust profile of work that you have done everyone has such accolades for the organizations that you founded and created, the venues you've helped to build, the fabric lines that you design, the books that you've written, you've done so much. If you had to identify one thing that you are most excited to bring to your collaboration or to bring to your students. What would that be? And I think I'm going to start backwards. I did that very abruptly, surprise! Maybe start with Latifah. What are you excited about? You've done so much wonderful work with funding these modern quilt guilds and working at so many shows and teaching, what are you most excited to kind of bring forward and share with your students in January?

[10:15] Latifah: Out of everything that I do, and you know, when you work in this industry, you wind up doing a little bit of a lot of different things. But out of everything that I do, teaching is my favorite. Put me in front of a classroom or someone that's interested in sewing or quilting, and I just come alive when the student gets that, you know, when you see the click in their head when they get it. And so, just the opportunity to not only be able to teach, but teach with two other amazing teachers, it's kind of the highlight of all of this for me.

[10:46] Lisa: Oh, that's so beautiful, that really is. As a professor, and I really do, like teaching really does animate me and it just, it's so fun. And then the time flies by, again I'm just terrible at using time. I don't know. But like, you know, I'm the only one that seems to be like showing up late for Zoom meetings in her own house. But yeah, I do love this idea of connecting with students and connecting with, fostering their enthusiasm That's beautiful. Gyleen, how about you? What of all the things you know, you've done so much, you know, you write haikus, which of course, as an English professor, it just really speaks to my love language. Of all the things that you do, what are you most excited to bring to your students who are going to sign up for this class?

[11:30] Gyleen: Well, my strength is in technique and the technique teacher and I like technique because, I honestly don't care that much about somebody creating one of my quilts. What I want to do is empower them to find the artistry within them, to be that cheerleader, to pat them on the back and sometimes they have a vision in their head of their next quilt, and they just don't have the toolset to make that happen. So, taking classes with us put this one on one with them, so that we can empower them, teach them the techniques that we use. So, that the world is fully open, that they can look at any design, create their own design and know how it's broken down, because they can follow the path that we broke this down. And to me that is the power of it, it's really empowerment for me. That's the kick I get in the classroom is to say, look, there was women in wagon trains that were sewing under the least of ideal conditions that were able to pull off the most stunning quilts. Now, certainly with technology, rotary cutters, and the like, Why are we shying away from this mess? You know, begin, jump in. And here's the tool set that you can use the technology of the sewing machine, the accuracy or the in accuracy and how do you fix that. And that's what I think, not only do I bring to the table, but all three of us brings to the table. I think it's that engineering sense of putting things together to build it, and then to unbuild it, and it's that look that I hope that they get out of it. That is more of the empowerment of yeah, I can do anything, because I'm a quilter, I can do anything. Even though I'm having tough times in my life, I can create, and it looks beautiful. And I know why it looks beautiful. That is the power, it's truly to teach technique.

[13:44] Lisa: I really love that. I love that. It's like you're reinforcing people's creative independence. Rather than like, oh, here, you buy this pattern, you must do it exactly this way. It's saying you buy this pattern. You do it exactly this way so that you can practice this technique to do your own thing, that you have all that you need already. You just need guidance and encouragement to be able to do it in a way that's going to be for a really powerful and structurally sound design. Now, that's wonderful. Thank you so much. Ebony, how about you? What are you bringing? You again, as an engineer, incredibly creative, powerful, working in the industry for quite some time. What are you most excited to share with your students at the class?

[14:29] Ebony: So, it's such a great question, and I have plenty of time to think of an answer. I think that for me, one of the things that really speaks to me is this, this opportunity to build community through shared experiences, and anytime that I get the opportunity to make those connections and bring people together and create those experiences that people can really get behind and kind of mutually, it's like a feedback loop, right. And when we're having a good time, we're creating kind of these memories that we can look back on and kind of cherish. And I think the other piece is just the opportunity to use technology as a vehicle for that artistic expression for people, I think it hits on my buttons, right. So, I think, that just the opportunity to you know, we're creating community through our collaboration, and we're expanding that community by inviting people in to share that experience with us. So, I think that's the thing that I'm really excited about.

[15:46] Lisa: I was thinking about, well, I guess I have a couple of questions that I'd love to follow up on. What and have you ever met people and I'm sure I'm not going to--So, I have met some people, some sewists, new sewist, either apparel sewist or quilters who express legitimate or at least it seems legitimate to me, fear, actual fear, f-e-a-r, fear about someone, something. They'll tell me, oh my gosh I'm afraid to sew, I'm afraid to sew a dart, I'm afraid to sew with a curved dart. I'm afraid to make a bra, I'm afraid to do and I'm like, it's a sewing machine, Sis, like it's not, I mean you drive an actual car, that's way more dangerous than a sewing machine. What do you think that fear comes from that that students might have when they tell you they're afraid of fill in the blank? What do you think that comes from? Have any of your students ever communicated these types of ideas or thoughts to you that they were afraid of something, some technique, something in the quilt world, that they just were somehow overwhelmed by or daunted by and didn't want to try?

[17:02] Gyleen: This is Gyleen. I would say absolutely and all the time. And I think that is the power of the mystery quilt. If you saw the, quilt you would probably ponder and may back away and may not think you have it. But if we break it down into its piece parts and it builds up to that image, you're like, holy smokes, I did that, and it's a different look. I mean, I think, as women, we are forever asking people, what do you think? What do you think? What do you think and why? Because you're opening up for the criticism. If they love it, they're going to tell you anyway, you don't even have to ask them. And if they hate it, it's not theirs anyway. So, you have to kind of get in the zone that I'm doing the best. Most people approach projects that they're going to do their best, it may not look like mine, because my best is on a different measuring stick, but it's their best. And we have to celebrate their best because with any of, I'm going to call it the needle skills, the hand skills, you don't get better until you put the time in, on anything of that mastery. We have it because we sew, we design constantly. So, it's easy, it's fast. But if you're doing it as a hobby and you don't get to do it that often, then I don't necessarily expect yours to look like mine, but yours still looks presentable. So, you got to look at what satisfies you and we got to stop criticizing each other's work because life is critical enough.

[18:51] Lisa: Yeah, yes.

[18:53] Gyleen: We're putting each other in a box, and this is, at least for me, my happy space. So, I want it to be somebody else's happy place when life really craps on them, I want them to say let me go where my sewing machine is because I'm instantly happy, because I can produce something, I can create something. And at the end of the day, I can look at it and see my achievement.

[19:23] Lisa: Yeah, and I--

[19:24] Gyleen: And that's a philosophy, you know, of why we're in that classroom.

[19:31] Lisa: Ebony, do you have something to add?

[19:32] Ebony: Yeah, I'm sorry. I don't mean to keep interrupting. I'm over here just like vibrating. And so, I think what struck me is that I think a lot of us sort of grew up with this, you know, I can't draw, I can't paint, I can't play music, I can't sing. All of these, I don't have a creative bone in my body, right. I think just even as children, we start this comparison process and the creative pursuit is supposed to be kind of this pursuit of excellence, just like, excelling in math, you also have to excel in art, instead of just making art because you can, you know, or are just making it a hobby. So, I think a lot of times we bring that into adulthood, and we bring those insecurities with us after a lifetime of thinking that we can't do something. And like Gyleen said, part of this mystery is really like we're not going to sit here and tell you, you can't do it. You can't sit here and say you can't do it because you don't know what it is. So, it just opens up that space, I think, for people to just let go a little bit and I think that at the end, because I've done, I know Gyleen you've done mysteries before, but at the end, sometimes people surprise themselves. And we hear from our students, like, I never would have attempted that if I had known where this was going. But I feel so great about being able to make this, you know, that I made this beautiful thing, you know, at the end, and so I started thinking that part of getting into the mystery quilt is helping you to get past that block, that mental block of not being able to do something.

[21:37] Lisa: Yes. You know, I wanted to hear about this, and I'd love talking to quilters about this because I know this is something that and I'm not sure if it relates to what Gyleen was saying about how there's a lot of like fear that sometimes gets internalized or as you were saying Ebony like we might have had ideas from early childhood like oh, I'm not an artist or I'm not creative, or I've been doing it wrong, I can't color outside the line or whatever. But I wonder if that's related to, I'm sure this is a phrase you all have heard, the quilt police. The quilt police who are out there apparently roving the streets trying to find somebody who has a raggedy ass, quarter inch seam or like, oh, you did your quilt wrong or back in my day, you know, no one would ever attempt a New York beauty in this way. And we're supposed to do these prints, etc. I wonder, Latifah, do you have any thoughts on where that comes from? And why it's so destructive? And does that somehow ever pop up in your classroom? I mean, I'm not saying that, I can't imagine any of you would be quilt policing. I'm just wondering if that's another internal idea that people have or that people, I always wonder why people say that or do that, we get that a lot. Also, in the apparel sewing world, someone's like, oh, you didn't do it this way, or you're supposed to do that. It's just like, look, nobody asked you, friend, you know. So, what are your thoughts on the quilt police? And, I don't know, that takes us, it's a huge question, because of course we have juried shows and there's certain standards that's set, that's not what I'm saying. I'm talking about the quilt police in the sense of some really harsh scrutiny that really shuts down or is aggressively critical of the creative possibilities of other people's work. Do you have any thoughts on that Latifah?

[23:36] Latifah: Absolutely. So, I think that the loudest quilt police for a lot of quilters is their internal voice within themselves. And it's because a lot of quilters are adult learners. And we have this extreme need to be perfect. And so, that's been my personal experience. There are quilt police that are out there that are something I do not allow at all in my classroom and I don't even allow people to talk badly to themselves, if they're doing it out loud, I ask them to excuse from my classroom. And I have a personal philosophy, this is the way that I teach all the time, is that nothing is difficult if you take it one stitch at a time, because even the most complicated sewing, it's done one stitch at a time and one seam at a time. And so, we've been welcoming beginners into the Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt, and people of all levels, we chose not to put a skill level on it because we're going to walk you through step by step by step. We each have a tool that helps us with making the cutting and all of that easier. And we're all professional teachers with many years of experience behind, so we're able to walk every student through to make this quilt successfully. So, there are quilt police out there that does exist, I think you have that in any kind of creative or art kind of based community. But I do find it within the context of a classroom that the loudest quilt police are our internal quilt police.

[25:12] Lisa: Break: You're listening to the Stitch Please Podcast and I'm speaking today with the creative team behind the Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt, that's Gyleen Fitzgerald, Latifah Saafir and Ebony Love. When we come back, we'll continue to talk with these creative amazing quilting teachers and engineers and find out more about how engineering can affect or influence your quilt life. Stay tuned.

[25:45] Lisa: Thank you for the role that you've played in helping the Stitch Please Podcast to grow. By listening, you are helping and contributing, and I thank you for that. I also wanted to ask a favor, if you listen to this podcast on a medium that allows you to rate and review it, please do so, a five star rating on Apple, a review that says a few sentences about the podcast are helpful ways to shift attention of the algorithm that rates the reviews podcast globally to let them know about the Stitch Please Podcast. So, we have a couple of things to say about it, that would be really great. And thank you again for your support, your listening means a lot. Thank you. And now we're back to the show.

[26:45] Lisa: Welcome back to the Stitch Please Podcast, we're talking today with amazing quilt designers, teachers and engineers, Ebony Love, Gyleen Fitzgerald and Latifah Saafir, who are talking about their amazing new project, The Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt. Listen in to find out more about how engineering helps to influence their design process and creativity for you too. Stay tuned.

[27:10] Lisa: Yeah, I think that's a really excellent point about adult learners who really doubt themselves. And how you know, like they speak that doubt aloud. I was at a church last weekend, well, not at the building. I was at zoom church last week, and it was a guest pastor and he said, worry is the mind set on self-destruct? Isn't that good? I kind of wish I could tell people that I said that. And I'm like, oh, it seems kind of bad to kind of like plagiarize the words a bit faster. Like, that seems like really like, you know, some bad energy. So, I won't be claiming his words as my own. But like, I think that's absolutely true. And I think that it happens to a lot of us in creative endeavors where we feel like not particularly secure, because we're still practicing. Now each of you have, I'm sorry, go ahead if someone else has something to add before I change the question.

[28:03]Gyleen: Latifah, was talking about, you know, these adult learners. The other thing I think, which makes our combination so sweet is with engineering, you progress by failure. If you don't fail, you don't grow to the next level. If you discover something on the first path, you have no idea how to make it better because you never understood it to begin with. So, I am so accustomed to failing as an engineer, that it's not a big deal, you fail, okay, I know that iteration doesn't work. But in that failure, I have designed new techniques. I'm like, oh, wow, I would have never thought to do it that way. And look how that came out when you're trying to say something. But it's through the failure, at least for me where I see the growth, but as adults, they think all eyes are on them. And then they want the perfect A. And I'm like, the stronger student may be the C, because they know so much more.

[29:16] Lisa: Yes, yeah.

[29:17] Ebony: I think that we celebrate mistakes and failures and in my classroom, because it's critical to the process, that's how we learn to grow. So, I'm with Gyleen 100% on that one.

[29:30] Yeah, we love that. And I think that goes back to one of the questions I was going to ask you all about how engineering informs your quilt practice. And so, Gyleen I really appreciate this about like, basically about experimentation, that experimentations don't always result in successes because if they did, they wouldn't be experiments, you would know it was going to work the first time. Are there other like gems or others, either strategies or techniques from the engineering world that shapes your approach to quilting?

[30:04] Gyleen: Well, I'm probably the oldest. So, I'm old school. I go to my computer last, I start with fabric, I start like a garment, local draping, I start with fabric, start cutting shapes, that I'm on a table surface, take a lot of pictures of it when I think I have it. Then I cut it out of the fabric I want to see the block in to build it and last I go on the computer to scale it. And it's just, I guess, because, my life in quilting didn't start on the computer, you know, to type it. And so, that's just what is not necessarily my biggest strength. So, I'm more hands on more tactical early in the game.

[30:56] Lisa: Oh, that's great. And so, you're saying that your drafting takes place like by hand and sketching. What do you study, you said you start with the fact that the fabric speaks to you in some way?

[31:05] Gyleen: No, I'm just moving shapes it's like, it's literally like Tinker Toys. It’s like an Erector Set. I'm just looking around and saying when I look at it, do I like what I see? And if I like what I see, I translate it to cloth. And do I like what I see. And if I like what I see, how do you build it? How do you make it? And then finally, once I can construct it, then I have to write a pattern so I can--

[31:32] Lisa: Teach somebody how to quilt.

[31:34]Gyleen: Okay, what software am I using to do whatever I want to do? Because I have to break it down in teachable steps on how to construct what I deconstructed.

[31:48] Lisa: Yes. Oh, that's wonderful. Ebony, how about you? Are there any specific aspects of engineering that show up in your teaching or in your own creative practices?

[31:59] Ebony: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think that at the end of the day, I like to solve problems. And creating a quilt is like, it's like solving a puzzle or solving a problem because you put all these shapes together and then you have to figure out, well how do I communicate this to someone else? Or how do I, if I boxed myself into something, how do I get myself out of the box into something that somebody will actually want to make? Right, because you can do anything and fabric create, but how do you get it to the point where it's this interesting, complex thing that you can actually break down into steps and develop a process around. So, I think for me, it's typically why I tend to do things that are very grid based, I love graph paper.

[33:01] Lisa: That's something.

[33:02] Ebony: Yeah, I was such a fan of graph paper and I actually start with the sketch. But it's a digital sketch that I start with and I start with my graph paper on the computer. So, it's kind of you know, it's a different process that Gyleen and I have, but I think we're all you know, ultimately we are solving the puzzle of the making. So, but yeah, I just bring them in solving the puzzle, that's the engineering part that I bring.

[33:37] Lisa: Excellent. Latifah, how about you?

[33:40] Latifah: I love this question and I love to hear how you can talk to 10 different quilters and get 10 different answers and a lot of quilt designers and teachers, you'd be surprised how many of us do come from technology or math based. So, it's kind of interesting. But when Gyleen and Ebony we're both talking about it, I was having flashbacks to our early designing of this quilt. Can I learn half this excellent concept and it included like pick up sticks and these random lines falling in place? And she sent us a sketch which ended up being very close to the stuff that you guys see right now. And Ebony and I both looked at it and we're like, that's great, but how are we going to put that together? And it was so amazing to see the three engineering minds come together and figure out how to put it together in a way that once you guys see the final quilt, you're not going to believe how it's blocked. It ends up being a block based quilt and it's very streamlined and all of that. But I think for all of us, engineering usually is about solving that puzzle, I have a mechanical engineering background. So, for me it was how do things fit together. And my process is actually very different than Gyleen's and Ebony's and that I literally throw the problem and some to the back of my mind and I let all of my mind kind of work through all of the details. So, when I finally either go to fabric, or go to my computer, it's completely figured out and sketched out and everything in my mind. So, everyone has a slightly different take on it. But the engineering part let us figure out how to take these more complicated shapes, and images and figures and put it together in a way that's streamlined and easy to teach to others as well. So, I can't wait until you guys get to see the quilt, because you're going to be like, are you serious?

[35:36] Lisa: Oh, my gosh. This is amazing. And so, I'm getting really excited. I'm like, oh, my gosh, I can't wait to see my quilt. I was wondering, a couple of questions, I guess, because of the way that I approach things. I'm not at all scientific, I'm very humanities based, very literary and cultural studies. And so, for me, I'm like, let's talk about the stuff, let's talk about the fabric we're going to be using and I am excited to hear about these tools. You said that there were two, I think that's the thing for me as an outsider, I think speaks to the work that you all have done in terms of engineering like the clamshell tool that you have. Latifah, like the other tools that are involved in the making. And I have to confess this, I am a notion, I love notions, I am a notions fan, I am a fan of notions that you would not believe. Well, I know I don't have as many rulers as any one of you, I can say that for sure. But for someone who is not like, you know, first love quilting, second love apparel. For someone, whose first love is apparel, whose second love is quilting, I've got a ton of rulers. I feel like somehow, like I found out that a ruler exists in the world and I'm like, I must have it, I must absolutely. At least you're not going to make anything with that, that doesn't matter, it's not the point. The point is that one day I might want to and I can't because I don't have the ruler. So, can you talk about some of the tools that you have created? Are there specific tools for this project, are they some of the tools that you've used in earlier patterns or other work?

[37:07] Gyleen: Yes, to all of that.

[37:10] Lisa: So, you all are tool fanatics too? Just want to make sure we're all on the same page.

[37:14] Gyleen: Yes, and yes.

[37:17] Lisa: Okay, good.

[37:17] Gyleen: So, we were known for certain types of tools. So, we wanted since this is our first collaboration, to bring that to the table to show that integration. Tools for me, as an engineer, you use tools to be effective and efficient. Effective cutters and efficient cutters, if you can start with the cut of the shape, then you've got more flexibility in the sewing of the shape, because fabric moves gives has bias thank God and it make stuff fit. But with the tools, you get that simplicity and once they learn how to use the tools, that takes one thing off the table and all the engineering is in the tool to make the process simplistic. So, I think with us and I am a tool junkie, I own, I see it, I buy it, I usually see it, buy it, analyze it, and like, why did they do this? Because this is inefficient, or I--

[38:25] Ebony: You should have consulted me I would have helped you.

[38:27] Gyleen: You know, you try not to minimize people, but you do because I'm like, clearly they weren't an engineer because they would realize that that made no sense. You know, I'm using a tool, and I look at all that waste, you know, that's not an efficient cut. So, that does jump in the process. But we're known for tools, so we brought them to the game.

[38:49] Lisa: And the fabric. So, the three tools that I'm seeing, so you get the clammy, the polygon, and the Key West block set. So, it’s like I'm taking a dying class soon, and I'm actually accumulating all the materials and stuff for it. And it's just like, I have no idea what I'm going to do with any of this stuff. But I am very glad to have it now. You know, I'm very glad to check off the box from my list. And so, this is incredibly exciting and also for the opportunity to work with the people who design the tools, it's really just such an added benefit. That's really exciting. And I'm also thinking about the fabric that you chose. So, there's two types of fabric you can use, solids, I see you have some Kaufmann solids and then you have fabric the Primo which is, are these batiks? Are these replicas of batiks? Like how, Ebony, how do you talk about the fabric that you have that's involved in the project?

[39:46] Ebony: Yeah. So, Primo is a batik line. It's through Island Batiks, and it's my debut fabric line. And you know, it's--

[39:55] Lisa: Congratulations!

[39:56] Ebony: Thank you, thank you so much. And so, I was just you know, and how we sort of came to because I was actually thinking, well let's just use the solids. And, you know, both of them were like, no, let's use your fabric too, you've got the fabric, let's do it. So, the fabric line I think for me this line, it's just it's a lot of different geometric shapes, repeating shapes and shapes that kind of travel through and travel across the different lines and then of course, incorporating. When I designed the colorway, I was thinking of exotic ice cream flavors, like lilac, and mango and things like that. So, that's kind of the inspiration behind the color story. And then what we did, so we started with the batiks, and then just selected the solid colors to complement them just to make it easy for people to kind of figure out, okay, if I don't want to use either of those, at least I have a sense for the values and the play between the lights, the mediums and the darks. So, that's kind of how that went. And, I think it just happened because both Latifah and I design fabric and I think it just, it also ended up being to just, we don't, we don't typically have lines out at the same time. So, it's just, you know, who's gotten ready to ship the thing. So--

[41:36] Lisa: I'm listening. Go ahead

[41:42] Ebony: And if you were wanting the batik fabric, you should put your order in right away, of the fact that they're selling like hotcakes. There's quite a few of the Kona bundles left but the batiks are really selling. So, if anyone's interested. Don't wait too long. Yeah, that's all I have. Yeah, because I had to bump up--

[42:03] Lisa: Go ahead Ebony.

[42:04] Ebony: No, I was going to say I've already bumped up that order and I had to call in a personal favor. And because, you know, while I said what fabrics are ready to ship, it actually takes two to four months for the fabric to land stateside. And so, I've already called in my favor to bump up that order. You know, so--

[42:21] So, you don't have many more personal favors left to bump up the order again, right?

[42:28] Ebony: And it's really just, when is it going to ship? So, anything, you know, the fabrics are going to land here in November. So, it's like, what can we get here in time for the January one start? So, we're very low on the batik kits. I'd say like, you know, even if there's any left, by the time somebody hears the sound of my voice. So--

[42:55] Lisa: Right.

[42:55] Ebony: Yeah.

[42:55] Lisa: So, this episode is going to be released on Wednesday, August. 26 and that is five days before the class closes. So, if you are hearing this episode and you're excited as I'm excited, sign up for the class and buy your fabric or maybe buy your fabric and then sign up for it. But definitely sign up for the class, but I'm just saying that there's more space in the class. Is the class going to close at a particular--? I know you have a date set for the closing of the registration, which is about five days from now. But is there a capacity number that you might close it any earlier?

[43:40] Gyleen: Now the only thing that's closing is the pre-registration. There's a discount if you come in by August 31.

[43:49] Lisa: Oh, that's right. I see. I'm looking at the website now. So, if you register within the next five days, you get a $20 discount, and everybody knows that a $20 discount is just $20 you could use to buy fabric. So, why not sign up now, early and save $20 to buy fabric with later?

[44:12] Gyleen: Absolutely.

[44:14] Lisa: Definitely. My goodness, definitely. I had another question I was interested in. I know we are getting near the end of our time, and I don't want to keep you any longer. But I just have to say, one of the reasons that I was so excited about what you all are doing and so grateful for it, is to see three Black women really taking on building something that I don't think I see often enough. You know, Black women, Black women Engineers, Black women quilt teachers, Black women leaders in the quilt industry, changing stories, changing perceptions and perspectives. And that's one of the things that really drew me to this project and just got me so excited. It's like, wow, I don't, like I have had some Black quilt teachers, but I had to go to the African American and quilt Guild, which was, the one I went to was the 54-40, which is in the east coast of Virginia. I believe they're in the Hampton Roads, Norfolk area. And it was a wonderful conference. Oh my gosh, it was amazing. And for someone like myself, who's formative instructional years in quilting, when I apprenticed for someone when I was in graduate school, as well as the courses I took, I was always the only Black person in the class. And so, to have, not just one Black quilt teacher, but three is incredibly exciting to me. Do you all think about that at all? Does that kind of shape your approach to this to this particular offering or any of the other work that you do?

[45:55] Gyleen: Wow, we are silent on that one.

[46:01] Lisa: Okay, go ahead Gyleen.

[46:03] Gyleen: Yeah, it's interesting, and it's timing. I mean, not only have we each paid our dues in the industry to get where we are, it's the timing, that, you know, in our classrooms, we don't see very many minority or people of color. When we see each other at a big conference, it's noted because there's so few of us maybe one or two of us, but we know each other exists. We know more exists, but we don't see them on the main stage, and on other stages, they're doing art gallery and stuff. I mean, there's some fantastic African American quilters out there that have their own genres going and are incredible, but it's the timing. It's time for us, and especially with the big shows that are happening virtually or whatever they're doing, there look, we have nothing to lose by doing this, our audience knows we're Black, they already know that, they already know who we are. And yet, when they enter our classroom they've embraced it, they embrace it, we're from the city, we're from this, but we're so like them in so many ways. And so, for me, it was, you know, and we were on the phone and we were on a zoom, and I was just on my computer and I was checking Facebook, and I said, hey, Ebony, we have 54 friends in common and then I did it with Latifah, hey, we have 70 friends in common, then Ebony did it, and I'm like, wow, imagine a class where our full following base has an opportunity, and we can cross fertilize.

[48:14] Lisa: Yes.

[48:15] Gyleen: And that's what we're seeing on our registration. So, that is incredibly exciting.

[48:22] Lisa: But yeah. Yes, absolutely. And I think for me, because you are industry insiders, you've worked in the industry, I'm not sure how much of an insider you feel, but I feel like you have the experience as you said, Gyleen, you've paid your dues. You really have, you've done the work, you've done the trainings, you are incredibly skilled and just powerfully, vibrantly talented. And so, I'm coming at this as someone who is a bit of an outsider like this is obviously the industry stuff, it's not something I'm particularly you know, I don't have sponsors or anything like that, and I can feel free to say what I'm about is the business of getting more Black women girls into quilt sewing, and emphasizing, highlighting, praising those who are doing it already. Like that is what I do, that is what I care about, that's where my heart is. And so, and that was the thing that just made me so excited. And I love your point about timing, it is your time. And I'm so glad that you know that you all are doing this, I really, really am. Does anyone have anything else you'd like to add?

[49:31] Ebony: I just want to say, and just take the opportunity to say, just how grateful and honored I am to be in the room with Gyleen and the Latifah and teaching together and just like I think Gyleen's point about timing. I think with everything that's going on, we got a chance to pause a little bit and that created space for us to be able to come together because we're all kind of on our own. You know, hustling and working the business and not kind of taking a step back and going, all right. You know, we don't have to do this by ourselves, we are absolutely capable of doing it by ourselves. But we don't have it ourselves. Right. And so, I just, I don't know, I just marvel every day at what we have created in the community that we're building and just the vision that Gyleen initially had, and just how we've all brought these complimentary skills to the table, and it's just, I don't know, it's just so beautiful. And I wish we had done this sooner.

[50:38] Lisa: Yes. Latifah, any last words, anything you might like to add on this or any other thing we talked about so far as we start to wrap up?

[50:46] Latifah: Absolutely. It's funny, 2020 is one of those years that it's one for the books, for sure, you know, pandemic to the big Black Lives Matter and the impact that had on the quilting and craft communities and not being able to meet in person, but there's great benefit that's also come out of all of that. And one is that it's allowing us in so many ways to kind of rewrite our narrative. So, we're able to--

[51:15] Lisa: Say more about that. I love that, say more about rewriting the narrative.

[51:18] Latifah: I mean, Gyleen mentioned earlier that we see each other at shows, but very often, we're the only Black teacher there at a show, and we rely a lot of times and opportunities that are presented to us from other people. But now we're creating our own like, this is the first, I don't know if it's the first time but as far as I know, like a fairly visible mystery quilt along with three quilters that are established in the industry and have come from three different experiences are coming together from all races, and we're working together and it's been wonderful. I mean, I've loved the moments where we disagree, because the fact that we were able to have those conversations worked through, it was like, okay, we're good at the end of this, because we all do our businesses differently. And we create differently, we design differently and all of that. So, there's been compromise and everything, but it's been a beautiful experience. And then to see that spill over into the Facebook page where the students are getting excited, and we're offering this wonderful start to 2021. So, we're taking, it's like the best of taking lemons and making lemonade out of them. Because we're like, okay, this is what the hand we've been dealt. This is who we are in the industry, and you know, the Black Lives Matter impacting the quilting world. And a lot of ways it's just shown us what we've already known, but it's in our face now. And it's been uncomfortable and we're to deal with, but we're like, okay, this is where we are, what are we going to do? And we've decided to create this sort of magical space and this magical project, and I'm really, really happy to be here.

[52:58]Ebony: It's a parallel.

[52:59] Lisa: Yeah, I think you created-- Yeah, that's what I was going to say, I've got to say you've created a Parallel Universe, and now all of you get to live in it. And it's amazing, and you get to set the rules and you get to help support people in love. And you get to teach and to give people confidence and empower them and their own beliefs about their work and their abilities. And I think it's really wonderful. And for me, it really does speak to some of my greatest ambitions, for Black women stitch is to have like three Black women, three amazing Black women, engineers, teachers, pattern designers, fabric designers, writers, like all three to have access to all three of you all at the same time. I mean--

[53:44] Ebony: Priceless?

[53:46] Lisa: Yeah, exactly. Priceless. It's priceless, and it's $20 less. Yeah, I am so thankful for you all being here today and talk with me on the Stitch Please Podcast. Where can people find you on social media, I'm going to include the links to your website, but where's the best way for people to reach out to you?

[54:10]Gyleen: Facebook, and generally only Facebook and I've had the fortune of a very odd name. So, if you get to Facebook and you just use that search engine for Gyleen you will find all my pages.

[54:26] Lisa: Okay, excellent. Ebony, how about you? How can people find you on the socials?

[54:31] Ebony: So, for me I have the opposite where I do not recommend that you Google my name. Instead--

[54:41] Lisa: Is there? That sounds like a story, like that sounds like, don't Google Ebony Love because it's going to come up with, never mind don't tell me. I'm going to do it later and being really delightedly surprised.

[54:56] Latifah: Everyone's going to be Googling Ebony.

[54:57] Ebony: Yeah, please do not do it at work, that is all I ask. Please do not do that at work. It's not it's not suitable for work.

[55:10] Lisa: Put the kid filters on.

[55:13] Latifah: Put the kid filters on. Yeah.

[55:15] Ebony: Yeah, that is the story. So, I have love books too.

[55:18] Lisa: And your name is so beautiful.

[55:20] Ebony: Yes.

[55:20] Lisa: It's such a beautiful name and I'm just like what? Okay.

[55:24] Ebony: You know, this is why we can't have nice things.

[55:30] Latifah: Yeah, yes, I believe it, I believe

[55:34] Ebony: So, on the internet I am, Lovebug Studio, it's on pretty much every platform. So, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, you know, it's lovebugs Studios everywhere you go.

[55:48] Lisa: Okay, great. Latifah, how about you? How can people find you on the socials?

[55:53] Latifah: I am Latifah Saafir studios everywhere. So, Facebook, Instagram, my web page, YouTube.

[56:01] Lisa: Excellent. And I will put links to all of those things in the show notes. So, if you're listening to this podcast on Apple, for example, all the show notes will show up there and you can have direct links to the Parallel Universe Mystery Quilt. I'll put that link as well as all their social media handles. So, you all can find them and follow them and sign up for the class. And again, don't forget to get your fabric, because if you want a batik it's Tom's away stick. So, be sure to go ahead and grab that before it's too late. Thank you all. Yes. Really quick. The website for the Mystery Quilt is, paralleluniversemystery.com.

[56:40] Ebony: Perfect.

[56:41] Latifah: And I know you're going to link it below, but just to call it out. It's paralleluniversemystery.com.

[56:45] Lisa: So yes, just to reinforce what Gyleen just said. If you're interested in looking at the quilt and sign up for the quilt class, go to, paralleluniversemystery.com.

[56:56] Ebony: Yes.

[56:56] Lisa: Is that right?

[56:57] Ebony: Yes. Yes. Perfect.

[56:59] Lisa: Thank you all again so much. This has been a real honor and a delight. Thank you so much.

[57:05] Gyleen: Thank you Lisa for the opportunity.

[57:08] Latifah: Thank you. This was awesome.

[57:19] Lisa: 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, Black womenstitch@gmail.com. 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 woman stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So, I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do, for those that have like a star rating, or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us, and the Stitch Please Podcast, that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

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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