Real Sewists of Atlanta with Nikki G

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00:14 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.

00:49 Lisa: Alright, hello everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please Podcast, the official project of Black Women Stich. I am so happy to be able to talk with Nikki Griffith today.. She is... I'm trying to summarize it in one word, what Nikki is.  And I think the only word I can think of is dynamo. And a dynamo is someone who can do all things, it seems equally well. She is an organizer. She is a sewist. She is a teacher. She is an expert sewist, and I am so glad to have her on the program today to talk about so many of the wonderful things that she is doing, because I think there's a great lesson for all of us in Nikki’s story, and in all the work that she is continuing to do. So, welcome, Nikki. Thanks for being here.

01:50 Nikki: Thank you, Lisa. Dynamo, man, I have to live up to that. Even if I may

01:56 LISA: You already are, that's why I said it. So let's talk a bit about, So we know Nikki, I was first introduced to NIKKI through Atlanta Sewing Style on Instagram and this wonderful program that she has created, but I wanna circle back way back to the beginning to talk a bit more about your sewing background. How did you get started? How long have you been sewing and what are some of the favorite things you like to sew? So let's start with the very beginning. How did you learn to sew? And when did you know that you loved it?

02:28 S1: Okay, Granny taught me all the needles when I was eight. I used to spend summers with her and she had an old Singer sewing machine and the young woman up the street, if I was eight, maybe she was 16. She was sewing and I would go and look and she had a sewing machine set up in the middle of the living room. And just all summer I kept begging Granny to teach me how to sew, you have a sewing machine, don't you? And she said that hers was broken. She taught me all the needles over maybe two years, sewing, crocheting, knitting and embroidery. And for a lot of years, crochet and sewing stuck. Then I picked up embroidery just a couple of years ago, and I love it, so that's how I got started. And I went from taking my jeans apart in high school and put them back together in skirts. Taking my mom's old clothes, and this was all by hand. Yeah, yeah, it was all by hand. I kept asking for a sewing machine, but I knew we couldn't afford one. And then we left Ohio and moved to Atlanta and that first Christmas

I got a sewing machine, I was 13.

03:43 Lisa: Oh my goodness, so the seeds of Atlanta Sewing Style were planted when you were 13. Well, they were planted before that, they were planted when you were 8 but you weren't living in Atlanta at the time. And then you got to Atlanta, you got a sewing machine, and it's kind of like the rest is history. So that's very impressive.

04:03 Nikki: Absolutely. Yeah, it's been fun. Interestingly, right in the middle, I had a disabled son 29 years ago, and it was a point where I was a full-time seamstress. I had a gang of customers, and it came to a point when he got older that I had to stop because my husband said, “Okay, you can't do both.” Because everyone who is listening knows how demanding it is to have a customer base when you're a seamstress and you do alterations. So I stopped, and I think I stopped for 20 years or so. I always, even in my moving around, I always kept my machine with me. I have one machine and one serger, and I had a small sewing kit. I gave away everything. And I had those things, and every now and then I’d pull it out. So with my son being settled as he is,  29 years old. When I came back to Atlanta five years ago, I looked for a house with a sewing room. That was my primary goal, to get a house with a sewing room, and my family was like, you're gonna so again? Yep, I sure am.

05:17 Lisa: That's amazing to me that you, in order to kinda concentrate on your family and to kind of meet some family needs, you said, Okay, I'm not gonna be able to do both. Because you weren’t just sewing for pleasure, what you were speaking about earlier, you were sewing as a business. So you're right. For folks who like myself, I don't have clients, I don't have customers, I do not wanna be bothered. But I can only imagine that having the alterations and the fitting that this is time-consuming work, it can be physically demanding, all of the changes that need to happen as you move a garment from one stage to the next. That can be a lot to do in addition to a family situation that's also demanding. So I can’t believe you gave away everything, you're just like, you know what, all of it. Did you feel like you had to drop it all to avoid the temptation of sinking back into it?

06:16 Nikki: Well, yeah, and then it didn't help that my husband was looking at me tapping his foot. Right, because I had to stay home with the baby. Our baby was medically fragile as well, so I had to stay home, and he knew how demanding it was because he knew how to cut patterns, he knew how to hem by hand, he knew every process. He knew how to help me roll out satin for promises, so he knew how demanding it was. And we just agreed. And I did, I gave away everything, even the customers, 'cause I work for an alterations studio here in Atlanta, and I worked with an extremely masterful tailor, and I love it. The trade-off was, I'll help your customers with their dresses, if you teach me tailoring. And it was a great experience, but I'm glad I got all that before I stopped, and it was just an amazing experience uo until that point. But even more amazing when I started again, because like you were teeing up in your intro,  and the things that have changed since then. Oh my God.

07:33 Lisa: And the fact that you had this basic foundational knowledge that was supplemented by tailoring knowledge, and then you took a pause, and now it's been five years and you are back into the thick of things. You are sewing like nobody's business. I'm gonna ask you about one of your favorite projects, but before I do, I have to ask you about one of my favorite projects of yours that you have made. And I have a friend and we were preparing to go to DC Frocktails, and there was some kind of blazer challenge, and my friend wanted to make a blazer to wear t DC Frocktails and I was like, no sis, this is Frocktails. This is not some like business expo, why are you gonna wear a blazer to Frocktails? I'm gonna pick at you my own self, what is going on? And then I saw your blazer that was made out of sequin, and I was like, okay, now I gotta shut up, because this is a bad ass blazer.  And someone who made this could totally wear this to Frocktails because it's gorgeous, and you really made me eat my words. So that blazer,

08:44 Lisa: and did it also have pants? Was it a pant suit as well? Nikki: It was, it was.

Lisa: Oh my gosh. It is incredible. Oh my gosh, and I was like the first thing I thought was, Okay, now I have to go apologize to my friend and let her know that this is a possibility that you could wear a blazer as formal wear, and it can be amazing. And then the second thing I kept thinking was my poor eye, because I keep imagining sewing those sequins, and one of them hit the needle and fly out or hit me in the face. I was thinking about the hazards of that project, but it turned out so beautifully. So that's one of my favorite sews that you have made. What's one of yours? Nikki:I do share that I got so much response from that make. I have. And it's not like I had never worked with sequins before.

09:36 Nikki: I had, but I had never really, like you said, put my tailoring knowledge along with the bling, the fantasy of it all. So, I knew I wanted to make something sequin because I treated myself to some fabric, and I went to Fine Fabric here in Atlanta and bought a bunch of sequins. I don't know what I'm gonna make, but I’m gonna make something really fabulous and I bought enough. And I just, I have a pant design that I make over and over again. And the pants were my first idea and I made the pants. I would love to wear some sequin pants. And after I felt so at ease working with that particular sequin. I thought they were soft enough and it was fabulous enough, and it was December that I said, okay, this will be an amazing New Year's Eve outfit. And I knew I was going out, and so I decided to make the jacket and

10:41 Nikki: I love it. That is one of my favorites. And I think as a category, you will always find me making a coat.

10:52 Nikki: There's always a coat in the cue. There may be even one on the table that I go back to because I'm really slow sewing it, but you will always find me making a coat. I have a trench coat that I made in 1988, a bold pattern because I worked at Cloth World back then.

11:16 Lisa: I remember Cloth World from when my mother,  my mother, because I graduated from high school in 88, and I remember even before then when I was little little, we had a Cloth World. I'm from South Florida. We had a Cloth World, and boy did I used to cut up when I used to go into that boring ass store, let me tell you. Oh my gosh, somebody poke me in the eye with a fork. This is the most boring thing a person could do to another person.

11:45 Nikki: My daughter will say the same thing. She says, I spent so much time in Cloth World, but that's the only store that was around, and that was our community. That was our social media, that was all we had when we came together at work. Lisa: Right. Nikki:And in the 80s was when the pattern companies started partnering with designers. Yeah, this was during that time, so if you learned how to sew you were cutting your teeth on both patterns. Lisa: Yes, yes. Nikki: So I have a lot of Vogue garments that I had made back then. Several of them still in my closet, little things, but I just love making coats, so that's another category that you'll see me make.

12:39 Lisa: That’s pretty fantastic because for me, I do a lot of outer wear as well, so much so that I had to stop because Nikki, I was giving away like two coats a year that I had made. I mean because I was just making them because I like making them so much, it's like, Lisa, it's not that cold here, and it's way more cold here in Virginia than I know it is in Atlanta. So what do you do with all these coats, friend? Where are you going? Do you wear like a different coat, like every Friday is just new coat day because you know it's not cold there?

13:12 Nikki: It's not. It's hot and then cold and it is only cold for a little while, but it gets extremely called. I have my mother's fur and I still wear that, but I have... and when I say coat, it may be, it's an outer piece, but it may be a cardigan, it may be a lightweight this. It may be a heavy, this or that, but yeah, I’ll give them away. I do the same thing, I'll just give them away, here's a coat. I may give it to my daughter, may give it to a friend, and I remember I left a coat at an ex-boyfriend’s house.

13:47 Nikki: And I bugged him, and bugged him. Lisa: I would have been parked in the driveway like, look, as we all know, I no longer want you, but I do want my coat. Nikki: And I finally got it.

14:00 Lisa: Oh my gosh. Now that is very funny. So, I wanted to transition really quickly to talk about something else you've been making a lot of, that is not outerwear. For those listening, we are recording in April 2020, which is for us now, the age of the coronavirus and a lot of measures of quarantining and a global pandemic. Hopefully, when people listen to this episode in 2021, this will be a thing of the past, but for where we are now, to mark our current moment, we are in an age where maybe three weeks ago, the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, has issued a recommendation that everybody wear face masks in order to protect themselves from the virus. I could go on and on and I will not about how face masks are actually ineffective. However, they are necessary for medical professionals and to supplement the personal protective equipment that they are given in their clinical settings, and Nicki has done an absolutely tremendous job of these masks. I think that if you could think about two people on the total opposite spectrum of mask making, it would be her and me, because me, Lisa does not like sewing masks. I find it joyless sewing, I find the whole problematic stuff about the social issues involved, the failed capitalism, the medical establishment that is choosing not to protect its workers, blah, blah, blah...

15:53 Lisa: But this is not my interview. This is Nikki's interview, and she is on the complete and opposite end of the spectrum for me on this question. So, I want to just give you the opportunity to shock people by telling them how many masks you have made and or contributed to making in the Atlanta area and that's through the larger group sewing masks for area hospitals that you're working with, so what was that number? What's the current number for what you’ve been doing?

16:26 Nikki: The current number for the group sewing masks for area hospitals is right at 25,000 contributed to area hospitals. And everyone that first started making masks, they did it because their friend, a nurse or doctor asks for their help.

16:48 Nikki: And it sounded like this, you sew don't you? Yes, that is what it sounded like.

Lisa: No, what is sewing? I don't know what that is.

17:00 Nikki: So that's how the masks wave started. Yes, it started helping doctors and nurses, and then it went into response to the CDC's recommendation, and the US thinks they had a shortage of people in their workforce, of people that sew. See, this is my little soap box on it. We’ve been making masks for six weeks, I started, and I feel because of my leadership in my community, the sewing community that is. I have to be an example, share and help cut through the noise because in the very beginning, that's all it was. We gotta make masks, we gotta make masks. Social media groups for just popping up like crazy. And I couldn't mobilize myself until I could cut through the clutter and have some intention about it. So that was my approach, and I said I did research and I read and I talked to people, talked to nurses. I watched the news to get whatever I could from there, but you can imagine what that is. That's a whole nother podcast, right, Lisa? Lisa: Indeed. Nikki:So, after I was able to cut through the clutter, my message was, do what you can. You have 100% cotton and you have a sewing machine. Find out where you can drop these masks off if you make a group, if you wanna make them for your family and friends, go for it, but do what you can

18:40 Nikki: because you do have this talent. And that's the thing, the people that sew, we weren't a part of any workforce, the bulk of us do it because we enjoy it, it's an ancestral craft, and now the USC is like, wow, that's where the workers are in the US, we've been given our work to China and Mexico. So anyway, we don't have to get on that. I think personally, I've sewn about 2000 masks.

19:13 Lisa:  Oh my gosh. That is so impressive. And part of me thinks, well most of me thinks that's amazing. Do you know that this whole group has made 25,000 masks, and you have personally made 2000, and I was like, why couldn't she make 2015 and make the ones for my family so I didn’t have to make them. Because she's way more cheerful about it than I was, and even though I don't want to and I don't love doing it or even enjoy doing it very much, I am still making them. I made two for an elderly neighbor who called me in a panic a few days ago, and it's like, well, how do you say no to the elderly neighbor who calls you in a panic. It's like, fine. Or My cousin who works for the UN and has two little kids, and I'm like, of course, yes, yes. You know what I mean? Like these little, tiny things are things that I can do, and that, like you said, is... I love this phrase you use though. It’d an ancestral craft. I absolutely love that. And that is so beautiful, and to kinda think about transforming that into something for the public good,

20:28 Lisa: does feel good. That absolutely does feel good, even though there's a lot of other issues and tensions and feelings, oh, that's wrapped up in it. And so yeah, that's wonderful. So, I wanna take a quick break, and when we come back, we're gonna talk about Atlanta Sewing Style. I love that project. I'm so excited by it, and you've done such great work, so stay tuned everybody and we will be back in a bit here.

21:10 Lisa: It's Stitch Please. The official podcast of Black Women Stitch. We talk a lot about sewing, but if you want to see and not just hear about some of the things we've been discussing, feel free to join us on the socials, you can find us at Stitch Please on Facebook, and you can also find us on Instagram at Black Women Stitch. You can find photos of projects that we've been working on, really interesting social commentary, and on Thursdays at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, if you can join Black Women Stitch for a live Instagram chat. Again, that's every Thursday at 3 PM, so find us on the socials, follow up with us, we are happy to hear your direct messages, you can reach out to us at the Black Women Stitch page on Instagram, and we will help you get your stitch together.

22:17 Lisa: So we are back and I am talking with Nikki G of Atlanta Sewing Style and Sewing My Style and so many other projects. And this, in this section of the podcast, we're gonna talk about Atlanta Sewing Style.

22:33 Lisa: Like I said, one of the first introductions that I had to Nikki on Instagram was this gorgeous photo shoot of all these women and these absolutely beautiful outfits. And so can you talk a bit about Atlanta Sewing Style? What made you start it? And what makes Atlanta such a unique location for people to have a sewing style or style in general. Nikki: Yeah, this is the coolest thing that exists in Atlanta in this community. Before I was a sewist or before I am a seamstress or whatever our word is, I love entertaining people. And so when I'm out, I instruct at Top Stitch, one of our local sewing studios, and we have Sip and Sew on Wednesday nights. After doing that I thought gosh we gotta do more. We've got this social media platform, we know each other through pictures and hashtags, but when we came together, it was so much more. So, I just kept thinking, brainstorming, and I talked to the ladies that I already knew. It was like, what if we got together more formally? We make clothes, we take pictures, we talk about it. What if we got together more formally and did that together?

24:01 Nikki: Did it as a group. And Sewing Style is my brand, Sewing My Style is my handle throughout social media, but sewing style, those two words I always keep them together because that's what it is. You not only have a style, a fashion style or things that you buy, handbag pair of shoes, you have a sewing style because you made it. Lisa:Yes, yes, yes. It's more personal. It's more unique. It's more reflective of who you are. Nikki: Absolutely. So it just became Atlanta Sewing Style, and everyone loved it. So I created the social media platform and just started shouting out. And it just grew, and grew and grew. And as you joined the group, I just featured

you on the page. But then our signature then is a quarterly photo shoot.

24:58 Lisa: Yes. Oh my goodness. And you all have to go to their page on Instagram and see some of these photos. There's a lot of wonderful individual project photos on the page, but the group one is really, oh my gosh. Tell me more about that. Like that's the thing that's just, it's so striking.

25:19 Nikke: Right. So there's a theme every one. And this is, we're going into our second year. So we started with spring dresses because we gotta make it easy. It’s still just sewing, we still want people to be able to feel comfortable about participating, there is no skill level necessary to do anything with Atlanta Sewing Style. So we just come together, we have a professional photographer that we actually pay and he takes our photos, he takes group photos, he takes individual photos. The photos belong to the group. You can go into the drive, pull your personal photos out, do whatever you wanna do with it. It's the same thing that we typically do, which is doing it together. We have so much fun. So the themes have been, rock your style. That's another thing we do. Rock your own style. Come on, show up. Spring dresses. We've done all white. We've done all ankara. We’ve done denim, jeans or denim or whatever, however your denim shows up. We have kids in Atlanta Sewing Style. They’ll show up sometimes. It just depends. So this year, again, with the social distancing being the umbrella over our social activity in 2020, we're gonna kind of reinvent how we take group photos throughout throughout this year. And I'm already thinking it's not gonna be a surprise, but I'm already thinking of how to illustrate social distancing in a fashion shoot.

27:06 Lisa: Oh, that is interesting. Well, it does present, this time does present a lot of interesting challenges. I was thinking so much about your community, and I was thinking about in particular, because I have a friend who moved from Massachusetts to Atlanta, and she was just a bit concerned about going to a new place, and I was like, Oh my gosh, this is gonna be great. You’re gonna have so much fun because Atlanta Sewing Style is in Atlanta. It's gonna be great, you're gonna have a great place to land and to fit in because look at all the stuff that's available. And so it's such a wonderful resource and community that you've built. And looking at the photos, I love the denim photoshoot. I love the use of light and space, you know, that’s something that a photographer can help you figure out, that's their job. But it really does show the work in such a beautiful light that is completely worth celebrating. And I also like how you say that the photos kind of belong to the group, and so if somebody wants to put a professional photo on their Instagram, sometimes that can be difficult, like professional photography is expensive.

28:13 Lisa: And so if you have a group that can do it and then provide that resource to you, that's another benefit. I’m always joking that when I die, my funeral program is gonna have a picture of my driver's license because I'm not in any photographs. I'm always taking the photograph, you know moms take photos of the kids, blah, blah, blah, but I did get a tripod, so that really has helped me a lot. But it's nice to have a professional documentation of the work that you're creating because that just helps you to get more connected to your sense of style, and you get to see how it looks through an objective lens. And that's what I love about the professional photos that you've put together. Though, there's a good deal of editorial in it as well. I was thinking about the shoot from, was it October when you went to the Tyler Perry Studios and it was all the old timey cars and stuff?

29:13 Nikki: That was a commission for us, a member’s husband of the 100 Black Men, that was their project, and because Tyler Perry Studios had just opened this was their first private event and it was Concours d’Elegance. And they asked us to model beside the cars. So we matched up, we were matched with a period car, a 1962 Ford or the Packards and the Bugattis. All of these amazing cars, and we made garments, some of us rented them because that was easy also, and you want to be as authentic as possible. Right. It was fun. We got so much attention off of that, and you talk about our professional photographers, these guys do such a good job, and you know, professional photographers call us and ask to work with us. We have one that we hire, but we could take our pick, really.

30:22 Lisa: Well, of course, I mean, have you seen you. I mean. As it should be, as it should be. As we all aspire. So that's really wonderful, and something that I do think, again, about the project is that Atlanta Sewing Style is also involved in so many other things. I know you said that you had a few people who were making masks, but there's other types of things that Atlanta Sewing Style does. So you wanna share a little bit about that? I think Project Sew, and there's a branch of Project Sew, which is from That’s Sew Monica and originated in Texas. And so she kind of expanded, and I think one of the first cities that she expanded to was Atlanta, and was that because of the connection to Atlanta Sewing style that she could know that there was a place that would be a good landing spot for that project?

31:16 Nikki: Absolutely, Monica and I, it all started because Monica and I were friends. We had become friends through social media and just me participating in her online platforms and her being a fan of mine, we just connected. So when she talked about Project Sew expanding, we were always just brainstorming and so we started Project Sew in Atlanta. She came, launched it, and again, just looking at the brand and making sure it was copied from Dallas to Atlanta. It is mad fun. It's one of the events that Atlanta Sewing Style hosts, and that way we get new people. Cause, yeah, the very beginner. Someone who has never heard of Atlanta Sewing Style. They'll see Project Sew, come sew all day from nine to four. So that's one of the things, and I do wanna mention after that, we now have Dallas Sewing Style and Philly Sewing STyle, and Cola Sewing Style. That’s Columbia, Lexington, South Carolina. So the brand, the Sewing Style brand will continue to grow as well.

32:35 Lisa:That is amazing because it's such a great model it really is. Now I’m just like, Oh, who could I get to be in my Charlottesville Sewing STyle. It's just gonna be me. Yeah, no, no, no, we are not nearly as cool as Atlanta, and Philadelphia and Dallas, it's so small.

32:54 Nikki: You know what Lisa, the Sewing Style community, the brand, it's one of those things, you build it and they do come.

33:02 Lisa: I suppose, but yeah, I got enough on my plate. I think I’ll let somebody else do that. You know my mother used to tell me, she always tells me, Lisa, you don't have to do all the work. You should let some of the other people do some of the work.

33:16 Lisa: So I'm gonna see, hopefully there's some Charlottesville people listening to this podcast right now who are gonna be so inspired that they are going to host, they're gonna contact you about connecting to create Charlottesville Sewing Style. All I want is to show up for the photo shoots and get professional pictures.

33:33 Lisa: That’s all I want. So I'm just gonna be straight mercenary about it. Yes, I will support your community in so far as I can get some pictures. Yeah, and so. No, I think that's fantastic. Oh my gosh, and another thing that I realized about what you did as well, you were so responsive to our current age that didn't you all Project Sew online? Did you do a virtual one? I forgot what you, was it called something different or just like a sub-title or something?

34:04 Nikki: It was Project Sew in the Zoom Sewing Room.

34:07 Lisa: It was called Zoom room or something.

34:09 Lisa: It was like a sewing Zoom room. I thought that was so clever. Nikki: We, our next one, we didn't disturb our dates 'cause our dates are always laid in for the year. And we do projects, so anyway, in the Zoom Sewing Room. So our next one is, it’s  this Saturday. Yeah, it's this Saturday. It’s May 2, 2020.

34:34 Lisa: Oh my gosh, can you believe it's almost May? I do not know how time works anymore. Nikki: You know what scared me even more Lisa? Lisa:What's that? Nikki: Mother’s Day. Lisa: Oh that’s not Sunday is it? Nikki: No not this Sunday, it’s the next one. Lisa: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, okay. Yes, times a wastin’. Oh my goodness, that's right. Someone did say that Mother's Day, I saw someone post about that, they're like, Mother's Day is in two weeks, and look all you all dads out there, kids don't have school, so they're not making their hand-made greeting cards, so you better get creative and come up with an actual gift this year. I thought that was really funny.

35:18 Nikki: Put it in the mail.

35:20 Lisa: Exactly. So let's take another, just another quick break, and when we come back we can talk about your Facebook group. Like I told you all, this woman is a dynamo, I could talk to her for two hours, but we are gonna talk at our next break about some of the in-person, sewing teaching that you do and how that has been translated to Facebook. So stay tuned everybody.

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37:15 Lisa: Welcome back, everybody. I am talking with Nikki G. of Atlanta Sewing Style and more. And I wanted to talk to you about some of the in-person teaching, sewing instruction that you give, as I was saying before, I have a friend that moved out in Atlanta and she took for her birthday present was to make a sloper with you.

37:37 Lisa: So can you talk about what a Soper is, what the benefits of having one made just for your personal body, how those are beneficial and how you guys started on that as a form of teaching? Nikki: Yeah, thank you. So I'm an instructor at Top Stitch Studio, and we teach everything from beginner to advanced lessons. I also teach privately myself from my own brand, and when you visit my website, you see the classes that I offer, and they're all private. The classes offered on my site are all private, and I did private lessons at Top Stitch. Unfortunately, we're gonna have to reinvent all of that, particularly at Top Stitch because it's a public space, it's a retail shop, and there’s a bunch of people. We have anywhere from 6 to 10 people in a class, and teaching sewing is a very near experience. I’ll highlight the sloper. Back to when I first got started and I stopped sewing and then I started sewing again, I didn't, the YouTube was like, bam, just hit me in the face. And like, Wow, look at the sewing community, and I knew I could be started again, would be easy, so...

39:03 Nikki: Okay, oh wait. All I gotta do is jump on this train. Because it was moving fast. And just as I got into the community and knowing what people are wanting and everything, it was all about how do I make my own pattern? Because fit is just next to impossible with commercial patterns, our bodies are all different.

39:25 Lisa: That's right.

39:27 Nikki: So I tried my hand at all of the YouTube tutorials about how to make a sloper. They were all different and none of them worked. And then I said, well, I need to get my own instructor, which is always, continuing education is always valuable. So absolutely, my lifelong instructor now is Kenneth King out of New York, a professor at FIT and he is a delightful individual.

39:58 Lisa: He’s pretty cool, I took a bag making class with him years and years ago.

40:05 Nikki: Yes, Yes. He's still teaching bags because he designed his own sewing bag kit thing. I took a couple of classes with him and he now teaches me as an instructor because he knows what my goals are. And basically what it is, is teaching you how to make your own pattern. We take your actual measurements and create a muslin garment out of it from the shoulders all the way down to the hip. It zips up the back, and they are your exact body measurements, and that's what's called a moulage, it’s the French word for mold. So we're actually taking your actual body measurements and making this molded piece of fabric onto your body, because they're your exact measurements. No matter how many curvess you have, no matter how small your arms are, your shoulder, your waist, whatever. Regardless of what your body looks like, you can make an actual pattern of your body, and then we take it and we create, the common word is sloper, it's a bodice block, it's your actual bodice pattern, and it goes all the way down to the hip, because at that point of the waist, all the way down, that's a skirt.

41:26 Lisa: Oh, that's awesome. Yeah, I love this idea so much because for those of us who are trained in big four patterns as I was, it can really wreak havoc on your self-image to feel like you are somehow failing to measure up to a sewing pattern.

41:44 Lisa: And so I think that there's been a lot more work on size inclusivity in the last 10 years, there's been a lot more pressure from sewists on to the big four patterns to change and expand their size ranges. There has been, fortunately, a lot of independent pattern companies like Cashmerette, for example, that have risen up to meet the needs of sewists whose bodies aren’t,  for the sewists for whom their bodies does not match the pattern, because the pattern doesn't really match anybody, right..

42:23 Lisa: The people have to make all types of adjustment, it's designed for like a B-cup, if you don't have a B-cup, then that's not gonna fit you in the same way, so you have to do a full bust adjustment. So, once we've gone through all these steps for modifying a big four pattern, that same energy might have been used to work with you to learn how to make a sloper or to make a moulage or something that's gonna help, that’s gonna be your body, that's gonna help you. And it's gonna make your sewing, tt's like what you're saying about sewing your style, right, like this is for your body, you hang it up on a rack and it's not gonna fit anybody else in the same way that it fits you. And that's one of the things I completely love about the stuff that you teach.

43:11 Nikki: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, and people are so happy when they see it for the first time, because as long as they've been sewing when they put this moulage on, and zip it up they've never seen a garment sit every part of their body prior, regardless of their size or shape. The big four patterns and typical patterns, they are designed, the base of their design is a standard they use the word standard for 5’4” tall model with a B-cup bust line. Lisa: And no booty, and no hips. It’s built for a person that is built like a straw, and I am not  straw. I think that there's so many ways to manage that, and that's what all the wonderful fitting books and stuff are for, but to kind of completely just step outside that by doing something with you, to learn how to make this sloper that really fits, it's just, it's just pretty amazing. And that way, I know people are, at least for myself, I'm often looking for what they call the T and T, the tried and true patterns, so you can make it again and again, this is actually the real deal, original tried and true pattern. This is a thing that fits you, this is a thing that fits you and you alone, because it is you, and your body is unique, and I love how the sloper  process you describe really honors that. And so that's pretty amazing. Let's transition to you how your Facebook group is working. Your Facebook group has 45,000 people in it. I guess you just don't do things that are small, that's just what I'm learning, I make maybe 20 masks under all sorts of emotional duress, you make 2000.

45:09 Lisa: I have a small collective and you have a Facebook group with 45,000 people in it. So let's talk a bit about that, and the name of your sewing group is Sewing Projects for Beginners. Is that right?

45:21 Nikki: That's right. I saw what was missing. I'm always looking for what's missing. I'm a salesperson at heart, so anything that I create will come out of my sales background, but I saw what was missing. There was sewing for beginners, there was just plain sewing, but that was ... Facebook groups are designed to just create a community, but what's the next step? How can I engage with these people? So, if I was always focusing on sewing projects for beginners 'cause sewers wanna learn how to sew, but tell them exactly what to do. Here's a little thing that you can make and this is how you make it, so that's what the group is for, and I encourage members of a group to share at the same level. Not all of them do it, but you'll still get some that kind of get it. And the challenges are, it's Facebook, there's algorithms, there's rules, there's processes, and Facebook is a money-making entity, so you've gotta follow their rules and everything, so now I am at this point, and the quarantine is who I've gotta thank for it. The idea is, How do I engage with these people? These people who have millions of questions on a daily basis, now everybody knows with Facebook groups, you've got a good percentage of bots in there and you've got some fake advertising going on, even that has increased in the past eight weeks over March

46:57 Nikki: and April 2020. So having to figure out, okay, I'm not gonna be teaching one-to-one for a while and need to be able to monetize, even helping these people who wanna learn how to make a mask, or who wanna learn how to make a dress because they just got a sewing machine. So we're gonna start some virtual classes with these guys, and one day I went on and went live and just sat there and started answering questions. It's always amazing, and I love teaching. So I think that comes from, I love teaching and the more people I can teach, the better I feel about it, and so we've got some new and fresh ideas that we're gonna do with this group.

47:51 Lisa: That's really exciting, and I like the idea of having this group and I think that when you popped on to the live, just to say, let me just try to knock out some of these questions in person, instead of trying to write back to everybody or to address these questions that are coming through in different threads. I will sit here for a couple of hours or an hour, however long it was you were on the Facebook Live and answer questions. And I'm sure people were incredibly relieved. Someone recently contacted me because they had just got back into sewing and they were like, this pattern has two dots, and I don't understand what the two dots mean. And I was like, oh, oh, okay, so you know how this pattern is multi-size, it's an extra small and a small. In the same way, you have these lines that are nested, these dots are also nested, so you don't have to worry about both dots, just worry about the dot for the size you're cutting. And that person found that really helpful, and it didn't take me long to do that, but I could imagine from your perspective, you've got all these thousands of people who might be generating hundreds of questions just like that, and if you can answer that on video and they can go back and look at it, that could be very reassuring.

49:08 Nikki: Absolutely, absolutely. I always have to remember, I was once a beginning sewist. It was a lot, I didn't know. I think back, even when I see the questions.

49:18 Nikki: I’m like yeah I remember when I learned that. The thing is, you know how Facebook works or any social media platform, you could ask the question in a group that you really need the answer to, you're sitting at your sewing machine, you're not gonna get that answer right away. So you gotta wait like, okay, who is gonna see it, does my have to be approved? Is the right

49:42 Lisa: person gonna answer it? Lisa: And I only have 45 minutes left to sew this doggone  thing, hurry up and answer my question people who know more about showing than I do. You know I'm in a hurry.

49:54 Nikki: So what's the next step for that? How can we get these questions answered sooner? So that worked. It worked. If more people engaged, of course, I would need help to get other people to answer the questions, and then I think the bandwidth kind of slows things down also. I’ll see new questions after I hang up, so yeah you gotta deal with all of that. But I've got some solutions for what's next after just going live on, I mean Jada Pinkett Smith figured it out. Isee, I can figure it out.

50:36 Lisa: Yeah, and I think it's great and that through you, in the same way that she figured it out and you are figuring it out, this is helpful for other people to figure things out too, and so I think that you are being a teacher and a model. So that's fantastic. So tell us about the Facebook Live sewing/ What is that gonna be about?  I'm excited, I hear it's gonna be starting tomorrow, like what? Say more please.

51:04 Nikki: Okay, so well, you know this Lisa, you probably have this happen to you also. When you're in the middle of the night, the answer comes to you, this was that, and what if I can hang out in the sewing room online and get all my questions answered while I'm sewing.What if I can engage with people, live in that moment and so listen to others, have a drink. Because we've been doing that anyway, all of March and April, we have been getting together sewing and hanging out with each other. Sewing Lessons Live is just that. Weekly, we are going to open up, and you know what, let me not say weekly, let me take that back. Regularly, the live sewing room is going to open for you to just come in and hang. You can get your questions answered, you can get guidance. Every now and then, we'll have a project that we're all working on, so maybe at the beginning of the month, so okay, we're gonna work on this project. It may take two weeks, it may take three weeks, it may take the whole month. Just depending on who's working on what, but regardless of any project, you can always pop in.

52:27 Nikki: Get your questions answered. Hey, I'm working on something and I know you guys were here. Can anybody help me with this? We're gonna start that. Tomorrow the 30th, we are exclusive for the Facebook group, and then the big announcement is we are going to open the sewing lessons live for the public, and it's free, and you can come in any time. I'll put it on it on a calendar and the Facebook page will show the dates, and if we work on something specific, we'll put that there, but it's for anyone and everyone, but mainly beginner sewists because we'll keep  the conversation at that level, and if we work on any projects, there'll be projects that beginners can really just get started in.

53:25 Lisa: That's really fantastic. It's a really generous opportunity, and it's kind of taking some of your individual personal sewing instruction to a larger, even global level, 'cause I'm pretty sure you have people in the group that are from all over the world, and that's one of the reasons that you probably get questions in the middle of night because someone is maybe writing in from somewhere in Nigeria or somewhere in Turkey or something. You know, some people are writing from all over in so many different time zones, and so that's pretty great to think about how you can meet those needs and meet those questions. That's really exciting. So it's gonna start tomorrow, which is Thursday, so if you all are in Nikki’s group, which is called Sewing Projects for Beginners, you will have access to these and there'll be lots of information there, and if you are not in that group, why are you not? You could sign up, or you could just wait a week, and then next week it'll be available for everybody to pop in, so I think that's really great. Well Nikki this has been so wonderful to talk with you. So before we go can you just tell us where we can find you on social media? I know you have probably an entire paragraph of places where people can find you

54:48 Nikki: Well we’ll start with my website because that's where everything about me is, and you can get to know everything, and all of my, well the brand is Sewing My Style, so Instagram is Sewing My Style. I also have the Atlanta Sewing Style page is on Instagram, Atlanta Sewing Style, and I have another Instagram page, Sewing for Beginners. Obviously, it plays into my instruction. Nn Facebook, it's the same, Sewing My Style is my personal page, and Atlanta Sewing Style has a page, and then the Facebook group, Sewing Lessons Live, and then Sewing Projects for Beginners. Yeah, that's it. I'm on Twitter, not that active, so nothings really there, but yeah, you can find, you can find everything on my website, sewingmystyle.com

55:50 Lisa: And I've been talking with Nikki G. of Sewing My Style and Atlanta Sewing Style and soon Facebook Live Sewing Lessons, there's so much she's doing. Thank you so much for being with us today, Nikki, we are so appreciative.

56:04 Nikki: Thank you, Lisa. This is wonderful. I've always listened to your podcast, never even had a thought that maybe I would be on it one day, but I feel so privileged and this was fun.

56:17 Lisa: You’re fun, It’s awesome, right? We had a good time. Thank you.

56:27 Lisa: Thank you for joining us for this week's episode of The Stitch Please Podcast, the official Podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group, where Black Lives Matter. There are a variety of ways that you can support the program, and you're doing it right

56:40 Lisa: now, by listening to the podcast, it does help us grow. Another way to do that is to rate the podcast, review it, subscribe to it. All of these things are ways that you can support the podcast without having to spend any money at all. If you would like to spend some money to support us, there are ways to do that as well. You can make direct donations to our Patreon site for monthly contributions, as well as one-time contributions to PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo. And finally, we have another cute, very adorable way for you to support the Black Women Stitch project. It's a pin, an enamel lapel pin that's very cute. It's about two inches wide and one and a half inch tall, and it's of the Black Women Stitch logo, and that is 15 dollars with free shipping to the US. And so if you drop 15 dollars in the PayPal, Venmo or Cash App accounts, and then send me your mailing address to my email, either at blackwomenstitch@gmail.com, or you send me a direct message on the Black Women Stitch Instagram page, we will put the pin in the mail to you.

58:00 Lisa: Again, free shipping, 15 for the pin, and all of this goes to support the Black Women Stitch project.

58:07 Lisa: Thank you again for joining us this week. Come back next week and we will 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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