Sandra Lee Chandler: Denim, History, Quilts

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,Sandra Lee Chandler

Sandra Lee Chandler specializes in making denim quilts and teaching the Sashiko and Boro methods of stitching. She travels domestically and internationally to provide virtual or live lectures and workshops for your guild. She believes every crafter can be creative. She finds joy in empowering her students to bring out their creative side. She loves teaching and speaking to groups about her creative process. She believes there is creativity in every one of us, and it’s her job to help you find it.

Lisa Woolfork

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

Insights from this episode:

  • Sandra’s sewing journey
  • Sandra falling in love with fabric
  • Studying sewing as an undergrad at Arizona State University
  • Lessons she learned at Arizona State University
  • Details about the lectures she offers
  • Working as an influencer
  • Understanding the value of our (Black women) craft
  • The importance of showing up
  • Celebrating Black History month through sewing

Quotes from the show:

  • “I was the person that walked in the room, and if she (her teacher) said, jump, I said how high?”  —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “For me, quilting and sewing are synonymous. Like sewing garments and quilt sewings go hand in hand, so I learned both at the same time in 7th grade home economics”  —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “Understanding the why before the rules are what I feel sets me apart from, or sets me in a whole lane of my own” —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “The past is precedent, and the past is evidence, and that we are walking in footsteps that have been traveled by our ancestors” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “We, as Black women. have to understand our value. I work at my craft.  You work at your craft” —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “When I go to conferences, if there’s a Black person that’s vending, I always buy something, even if I don’t need it” —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “Good enough is good enough. If you are able to get through whatever you are doing, just get it done.” –Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”
  • “Don’t major in the minors, live in the moment, get it done!” —Sandra Lee Chandler in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Sandra Lee Chandler


Instagram: Sandra Lee Chandler

Facebook: Sandra Lee Chandler

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:00

Hey, friends, hey. We are on the road to QuiltCon. QuiltCon is the Modern Quilt Guild's annual conference. And this year, it's being held in Atlanta, and Black Women Stitch is going. We will be there hosting an affinity space called Sew Black, but we gotta get there first. And that is what The Road to QuiltCon: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles is all about. How are you getting to QuiltCon? Are you flying? Are you driving? Or are you taking the train? Black Women Stitch is taking the train, courtesy of our friends at Amtrak and with generous support from Bernina. We're taking an overnight sleeper car on the Amtrak to Atlanta, and we're bringing our sewing machines onboard for the ride. Tell us how you're getting the QuiltCon. Go to Black Woman Stitch dot org in the upper right corner, you'll see a button that says "talk to us." You tap that button and you can leave a voice note letting us know how you are getting to QuiltCon. And we might even use it in the podcast or on our social media. So stay tuned for The Road to QuiltCon, courtesy of Bernina and our friends at Amtrak.

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 twenty years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And, as I say every week, this is a very special episode because this episode is us doing y'all a favor because I am here with Sandra Lee from Sandra Lee Design, and Sandra Lee Chandler is a hoot. And I can tell y'all right now we have been talking for an hour and thirty-eight minutes. And then I decided, "You know we should do, girl? Let's do this interview real quick. We could keep talking after we've had the interview." Because we were having a Kiki, let me tell you. And so welcome so much, Sandra Lee Chandler. Thank you so much for joining us. Welcome to the Stitch Please podcast.

Sandra Lee Chandler 2:33

Oh, well, just thank you for even asking me to talk about my favorite subject: fabric and textiles.

Lisa Woolfork 2:38

I am so glad. I am so glad you are here. And let me tell you something, y'all. One thing I love about the podcast is that it gives me a chance to talk to some of the most amazing and interesting people on the planet. If you know anything about me, you know I'm really proud of my over twenty years of sewing experience. But really my twenty years of sewing experience maxes out at about twenty-eight years. The person I am talking to, however, has about forty years of experience, which is kind of like twice mine, and she's not even that much older than I am. So if you are a Patreon supporter, you get to have this benefit of looking at us. Because I tell you, we look amazing. And when I tell you that Sandra Lee is apparently ten years older than I am, I say thank you so much, sis, for being a possibility model, because when I get to your years, I want to look exactly like that. So

Sandra Lee Chandler 3:30

Well, thank you.

Lisa Woolfork 3:31

Welcome, Sandra, welcome, welcome, welcome. Sandra, let's get started with talking about your sewing story. How you got started. You had a really great teacher when you were like seven years old. And then this kind of took you into your sewing journey. Tell us about her.

Sandra Lee Chandler 3:44

So basically what happened to me is I was a new transplant to Orange County, California, from Los Angeles, and it was my first experience being in public schools coming from Catholic schools. I was very timid and shy, and I was a minority. I think they had three other African Americans in my whole middle school, and I went to seventh grade home economics. I came from a home where my mother and father were nerds. We weren't artsy. When I think back, my home economics teacher was just like everybody else's home economics teacher. She had a very short, boyish-type cut hairstyle. She wore clothing that the perception was of a older person.

Lisa Woolfork 4:26


Sandra Lee Chandler 4:26

She was very rules driven, very dry, very black and white. Little patience, kind of screamed or yelled at a higher pitch than necessary.

Lisa Woolfork 4:39

She sounds charming. She sounds really charming.

Sandra Lee Chandler 4:41

She was. Like I said, I moved to the Orange County, the 'burbs. Well, in the 'burbs, the wives didn't work. My mom worked because we weren't from the 'burbs. So Audrey went to work every day. So their mothers baked cookies and all this stuff. Well, I didn't have that. My mother has never baked cookies—ever. And she's eighty-three years old. My mother did make cakes, but they were boxed, which there's nothing wrong with that, but that wasn't my reality.

Lisa Woolfork 5:06

That's not her thing. That's not something that she enjoyed or was interested in.

Sandra Lee Chandler 5:10

And she tells you. Like she goes, "I don't cooking." You know...

Lisa Woolfork 5:12

Yeah, that's fine.

Sandra Lee Chandler 5:13

So when I walked into the classroom, I look back now, I think one of the reasons why the teacher liked me was because I was not raising my hands all the time saying, "My mother told me to do it this way."

Lisa Woolfork 5:24

Oh, my gosh, yes.

Sandra Lee Chandler 5:25

I was the person that walked in the room, and if she said, "Jump!," I said, "How high?" And so I think for her, you know, she's trying to teach you these skills. She's teaching you cooking and sewing and all of that. And you've got these know-it-alls that feel that they need to tell the teacher how to teach them these skills.

Lisa Woolfork 5:47

Well, you forget Sandra. They are in the seventh grade. So they clearly know it all. What are you talking about? What does a seventh grader not know? Let's be honest.

Sandra Lee Chandler 5:57


Lisa Woolfork 5:58

Seventh graders? I knew more as a seventh grader than I do now.

Sandra Lee Chandler 6:02

Yeah. So for me coming from Catholic school, I sat there, and I was used to you tell me—

Lisa Woolfork 6:09

Comply, yes.

Sandra Lee Chandler 6:10

—I do. Yes, very much so. And so and the other thing that when I first got into home economics and started sewing, I immediately fell in love with fabric. Like it was an instant—you talk about drugs and people how they get addicted. That's what happened to me.

Lisa Woolfork 6:25

Thank goodness that was fabric you found. I'm glad it was fabric you picked up and not some crack pipe. I mean, honestly, Sandra. Seriously.

Sandra Lee Chandler 6:32

Yeah, and it's legal. So there was a instant like, I like this. I don't know what I'm doing, but I like it. So she was really encouraging with me. She let me sit at the Elna everybody else we had one Elna and everything else was a Singer.

Lisa Woolfork 6:47

That's the good machine. Oh...

Sandra Lee Chandler 6:48

Why did she put me at the Elna?

Lisa Woolfork 6:51

Because you listened! That's why. You were a good student. You came from Catholic school. And when she said something you said, "Yes, ma'am." As opposed to, "Yes, sister."

Sandra Lee Chandler 7:00


Lisa Woolfork 7:00

And the other kids was like, "Why I gotta listen to you? My mama do it better than you anyway." Well, you know, however they would say it in their own tone. That's what they meant.

Sandra Lee Chandler 7:08

Exactly. So from there, at the same time, I was gifted a quilting class. My mother's best friend had gone to a fundraiser. And she won, you know, it was a silent auction type thing. And she knew that I was in sewing, and she gifted me quilting classes. And we had a quilting shop, a very phenomenal quilt shop in my neighborhood. In fact, I could walk to it. So for me, quilting and sewing are synonymous like sewing garments and quilt sewing go hand in hand. So I learned both skills at the same time in seventh grade home economics and in my private (audio cut).

Lisa Woolfork 7:46

So in some ways, there's this false dichotomy, I think. This false division between apparel sewing and quilting. That they both have their own set of rules, their own thing, you know, the five-eighths seam allowance in the U.S. versus the quarter-inch seam allowance for American quilting and like all of this stuff. And you managed to think of these things simultaneously. So you were able to build, like you said, both set of skills at the same time. Do you think that that seventh grade experience shaped what you eventually started doing when you went to college at Arizona State University to study home economics? Like it's so funny you talk about this seventh grade teacher, who sounds kind of mean, but she was super nice to you because you were a student that really appreciated her teaching style. And you listened when the other girls were not listening. I'm assuming they were all girls. And now you decide I would like to devote my undergraduate education to this topic. How did you get there?

Sandra Lee Chandler 8:42

Again, my parents were educated. They had both gone to college but as adults. You know, my father went into the military and then got a GI Bill, because he knew that's the only way he could go to college. He was a graduate of Prairie View undergrad, and my mother, as an adult, was a teacher. And so when it came to high school, they said you got to go to college, but they didn't know what I needed to do to get there. And so I was able to follow the group of students that I knew were on the college track. So when they signed up for SATs, I signed up for SATs, when they did XYZ, I did whatever it was. And when it came time to major, in my mind, I was like, well, I'm good at this sewing thing. And I had taken all the classes. I ended up being my home economics TA because the minute I was able to get a driver's license, I had a car, and I literally bought all of her groceries for the next three years for all of her home economic classes or cooking class.

Lisa Woolfork 9:34

Wow.... Wow.

Sandra Lee Chandler 9:36

So, yes, I did that. And so I was like, well, I'm good at this sewing thing, and I like fabric. So it was kind of a natural, do what you like, and I've heard so many people say do what you're good at and don't worry about the money.

Lisa Woolfork 9:48

Yes, do what you love and the money will follow.

Sandra Lee Chandler 9:50

Right. And so I ended up at Arizona State. There was a couple of universities that had the major. My father had some criteria for us. We had to go somewhere that was far enough that we couldn't come home on the weekends because he felt like an education was about learning how to get along with your peers when you can make mistakes, but they're not going to be mistakes that carry on throughout your life. So they're kind of a training ground.

Lisa Woolfork 10:13

Yes, it is. Yes, that's true.

Sandra Lee Chandler 10:14

So Arizona was five hours away. It's one hour on the airplane. And so it met his criteria, and it met my criteria. I wanted to go to a school that had sports and social activities in a community that rallied around the teams. And that's what Arizone State had.

Lisa Woolfork 10:30

Oh, that is wonderful. It's so funny that you were able to go for the sports. First of all, that your parents had some criteria...that they were like, "Okay, she does not need to be treating this like high school. We do not want to see her coming home to wash her clothes and doing all this stuff. She is going to be in college and be there far enough away for an emergency to pop off, and we can be over there. But not that close. We'll want her to be able to kind of grow and develop."

Black Women Stitch and the Stitch Please podcast are happy to announce Sew Black, an affinity space, creative oasis, and live podcasting studio at the Modern Quilt Guild QuiltCon in Atlanta, Georgia, February twenty-third to twenty-sixth. Sew Black is made possible by major underwriting from Spoonflower. With over one million designs available on fabric, wallpaper, and home decor, every purchase supports a global community of independent artists. The Spoonflower community includes artists, makers, small business owners, interior designers, and you. Begin your next project with one Spoonflower's independent designers or upload your own. Go to spoonflower dot com and use the code Sew Black QC for twenty percent off your purchase. That's S-E-W B-L-A-C-K QC. We are thankful for the underwriting provided by Moda as well as the support of Bernina. If you'd like more information or to contribute to Sew Black, you can find the links to what you need in the show notes.

Now, do you remember, when you were doing the Home Economics program at Arizona State, what kind of things stuck out to you? Are there any lessons that you learned? Any discoveries that you made as an undergraduate studying this field that you still practice today?

Sandra Lee Chandler 12:27

Yes, there's several. So the major learning about the fibers and how they grow and the characteristics and all about fiber—definitely I use in all of my workshops. I've heard several students say like, nobody explained that understanding the rules. Like we had rules in the seventies and even in the eighties about you wash your fabrics before, about colorfast, about what colors, about, you know, how you treat your threads, and what threads and fabric and weaves that we now don't need those rules. We don't have to prewash your fabrics. You know, your cotton doesn't wrinkle anymore. Our dyes are colorfast.

Lisa Woolfork 12:35

Are different, yes,

Sandra Lee Chandler 13:01

Yeah. So understanding the why behind the rules is what I feel sets me apart or sets me in a whole lane—

Lisa Woolfork 13:09


Sandra Lee Chandler 13:10

—of my own. When people come to my workshops, they're like, "Well, nobody's ever explained that to us. Why don't we do this?" You know, all that type of thing. The other part was my education, a part of it was understanding once you have your goods or services, how do you market them? And how do you sell them? So for me, again, that helps with if I'm doing this workshop or if I'm producing this product, who's my audience? What is the profitability? What is the time? Should it be a hobby or should it be a business? And all of that.

Lisa Woolfork 13:36

Yes, yes. Now, I think that's wonderful. And what I'm so excited about is that because you had this education, because you had this training, I'm a big fan of study. I'm teaching a class that talks about study. Study is simply sustained attention, devoting time and attention and your resources to being deeply involved in whatever project it is. And so you have made a study of fabrics, textiles, quilting, and it shows in the work that you do. That's one of the things I find so powerful about your approach and how you're able to do kind of like what you're doing at QuiltCon. You're doing two lectures, and you're going to be bringing together what it means to upcycle things, what it means to kind of have sustainable resources, and you're talking about early African American quilts. And I think that both of these things really do complement each other. And what you've also shown is that we never stop learning. That study is a lifelong process. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about denim. I have several friends who denim is their jam, denim is their primary fabric. If the choice is between denim and something else, denim will be the choice. Then so let's talk about denim and the beauty of denim, the power of indigo. Catherine McKinley has a book that she's written, and it's called "Indigo: The Color That Changed the World." Or "The Color That Fascinated of the World," something like that. When we think about things like salt, you know, that salt changed the world. Salt changed the world. It absolutely did. Just salt, the selling of salt, the curation of salt, salt was a currency, people would trade salt for money, et cetera, et cetera. And something that we learned with Catherine McKinkley's work is that indigo was similar, right? And you tell us about this. Talk about indigo and its relation to denim. And indigo, which people just think, oh, that's just blue. And it's like, no, no, no, it's not just blue. It's something else. Tell us a little about indigo and why it's so important.

Sandra Lee Chandler 15:34

So when I started my research, I looked back at the indigo, the plant itself, and it started talking about before Christ days, before Jesus was on the earth. And they talked about the kingdoms and how, depending on who was the ruler, he would take... Indigo was like diamonds, it's a resource that was very, very expensive. It was highly looked after, or sought after. So there were times there was—nobody could get indigo except the ruling class. And then there are other times where they would let some out, and that was like the power of a plant. It's a plant.

Lisa Woolfork 16:07

Yes, girl.

Sandra Lee Chandler 16:07

The power of a plant. And then I started looking at how that changed the world, the society's back. And then, and then I went forward into indigo. And European denim was actually originated in Europe, right? It was a European weave denim. It's almost like a jacquard. There's white threads underneath it. Like there's so much complexity involved in denim. And then from there, I hip scotched up to jeans. Who was the first person that ever made jeans, and it was not Levi Strauss—

Lisa Woolfork 16:09

I believe that.

Sandra Lee Chandler 16:11

—which everybody thinks. So we talk about that story and the woman behind the jeans.

Lisa Woolfork 16:44


Sandra Lee Chandler 16:45

Got to come to my lecture and find out about the woman behind the jeans.

Lisa Woolfork 16:48

Yep, that tracks. Listen, y'all. She's giving two lectures. She's got one on Thursday, one on Friday the weekend of QuiltCon. So the denim one is on Thursday, right? The denim one is on Thursday, and on Friday, you're talking about early African American quilts, which is like I'm so excited. I have some things that I'm doing at QuiltCon, and they conflict with other things that I also want to see at QuiltCon. So there are some times when I'm either giving interviews in the Sew Black space, or I'm taking a class. I signed up for a couple of classes. And so it's not possible to get to everything. Thursday has so many amazing lectures all day long.

Sandra Lee Chandler 17:28


Lisa Woolfork 17:29

Rachel Clark, Candy Parker, you are going. There is so many people, amazing people going on Thursday. So it's like, it's so hard! Tell us about Friday. I don't want you to give all the tea. Don't tell all the goods. Listen, y'all, if you want to hear go to the lecture.

Sandra Lee Chandler 17:45

So it's about early African American quilters. But we're more than just being quilters. And so I dive into their lives. Like you see it a quilt, and you're like, oh, that's the Bible quilt. What's the story behind the woman?

Lisa Woolfork 18:02

Yes, yes, yes.

Sandra Lee Chandler 18:04

Her story. What was her family's story? So I know a lot of people are gonna be like, oh, we got to see that. Yes, quilts are what she produced, but who was she as a woman?

Lisa Woolfork 18:15


Sandra Lee Chandler 18:16

Because, you know, they talk about I'm just as good as the person that came before me. And unless I know my past, how can I go ahead?

Lisa Woolfork 18:24

That's right.

Sandra Lee Chandler 18:25

And we know the future. So it also, I feel, helps me as a woman when I'm having one of those hard days.

Lisa Woolfork 18:34

Yes, Lord.

Sandra Lee Chandler 18:35

My kids are acting crazy

Lisa Woolfork 18:37

Talk about it.

Sandra Lee Chandler 18:37

My head is acting crazy because I'm telling myself, "You're not really that good."

Lisa Woolfork 18:41

Girl, that's lies.

Sandra Lee Chandler 18:42

I could remember back to a quilter and her story, and go now, that's just the devil. I am as good as her.

Lisa Woolfork 18:49

And this is one of the things I find so powerful about what it means to look back at the past. That the past is precedent, and the past is evidence, right? And that we are walking in footsteps that have already been traveled by our ancestors. I get on the same thing. I get on, 'Oh, that's not gonna work,' or 'Oh, this is too hard,' or 'Oh, duh-dah duh-dah.' And then I remember that my grandmother was born in nineteen thirteen, which was the same year that Harriet Tubman died. We are talking that our story is not that far from the days of enslavement. And then I have to remind myself that every Black woman in my family before me was paid less, valued less. My nana had a career of walking through white people's back doors to work as a domestic. She sewed in these white ladies' shops doing the couture sewing. They would take out the labels and put their own label in, but it was her work. And so I tell myself, Lisa, you have all these resources, you have the internet, you have an income, you work at a place that your ancestors could not have even attended. There were laws against Black people attending the school that you are now a professor at. So let's stop all this crying and carrying on, okay? And remember where you came from.

Sandra Lee Chandler 20:11

Yeah, and I think for me, it's an inner mindset. So for instance, I have had opportunities where companies would reach out to me and say, "Hey, Sandra, what do you need? We'd like to give it to you." And I would be like, "Oh, well, whatever you want to give me," because in my mind, I'm thinking, I had to dig deep and go, it's not that I can't afford to get or have what they have. They're saying, because of your hard work, because of your ability to influence others, because of you, we value you, and we want to be associated with you.

Lisa Woolfork 20:45

Yes, they do.

Sandra Lee Chandler 20:46

I had to change how I looked at getting things or services versus oh, they think I can't afford it. So for instance, Singer last year for Black History Month, they were giving out sewing machines to some makers, and I was contacted. They said, "Hey, we'd love to give you a sewing machine." I said, "Okay, cool." I can always use a sewing machine, you know, help with workshops, I love doing workshops in the community with people. And I thought I need a Serger also. I need an extra Serger. And my mind was like, ask for it. All they can say is no. And I asked, and they sent me one. I had to change my mindset. Not that I couldn't afford to buy one.

Lisa Woolfork 21:22

No, not at all. Not at all.

Sandra Lee Chandler 21:24

Because I'm an influencer, because I have people, because they want me to use their product.

Lisa Woolfork 21:31

And this is something I was gonna ask about, because you have done a lot of influencer programs. You've worked with Aurifil, I believe. Who else did you work with?

Sandra Lee Chandler 21:38

Bernina. I'm a Bernina ambassador. It's so funny you say that. So I'm not really good at...

Lisa Woolfork 21:43

Celebrating yourself?

Sandra Lee Chandler 21:45


Lisa Woolfork 21:45


Sandra Lee Chandler 21:46

Because I was raised with that mom that was like, "Be humble. You're no better than anybody else."

Lisa Woolfork 21:50

Humble is not for Black women. That's my phrase. Humble is not for Black women. Black women have been too humiliated throughout our history. We owe flex. Our grandmothers were told to be humble. Our grandmothers were forced by law to be humble. We get to shine, and I'mma shine, baby. I'mma shine, and you are too. And I'mma show my light on YouTube.

Sandra Lee Chandler 22:11

Okay, so, I mean, I've been very fortunate. Hoffman Fabrics. Aaron works at Hoffman Fabrics, and I met him in Houston. And I was talking to him actually about his tattoos. I had two young boys at the time. And I was like, yeah, my boys want tattoos. So that tell me about these tattoos. And I was trying to get educated on them. And we walked away from there. And I remember him reaching out to me and saying, like, what fabrics do you want? And this is early when I was actually started teaching outside of my community. And I was like, what fabrics do I want? Well, how much you gonna give me, like, can I have a couple of yards? Can I have two yards, maybe three? Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork 22:45

It's like, look, girl, this fabric is not indigo. They got plenty of this fabric.

Sandra Lee Chandler 22:48

And literally, no matter what, they have sponsored me all the way through. Hoffman does not give me any restrictions. They are like what do you need? Let us do what you want.

Lisa Woolfork 22:58

I'm so glad.

Sandra Lee Chandler 22:59

There's no limitations. So I say that to say that we, as Black women, have to, like you said, understand our value. I work at my craft. You work at your craft. I work at my craft every single day because I enjoy it, because I want to work at it. But also, when you're afforded certain niceties, to be humble but to say thank you. And...

Lisa Woolfork 23:26

Yes, of course.

Sandra Lee Chandler 23:27

...speak what you need. Because if I don't speak to what I need or want, then I will never get what I need or want.

Lisa Woolfork 23:34

How will they know? How will they know? And like my sister is always reminding me, "You have not because you ask not." And so I have started asking, and my terms are very clear. Sometimes like for a project, it's useful to have goods and in-kind services, and sometimes I just need money. I'm happy to say that. I absolutely happy to say that

Happy Black History Month. You know that Black Women Stitch is going to be at QuiltCon, and we have a space called Sew Black. But even if you're not coming to QuiltCon—and, seriously, why are you not coming to QuiltCon? I think it's gonna be really fun. But if you're not coming to QuiltCon, you can still participate in Sew Black right from home. We are having a sew 'n' show, designed to amplify and elevate Black surface pattern designers who have created quilting fabrics. So in partnership with some folks in the Black Women Stitch community, we will be bringing you amazing garments and projects from fabrics by E Bond from Free Spirit Fabrics; Jen Hewitt and Rashida Coleman Hale from Ruby Star Society; and Nefertiti Griggs and Janine Lecour, from Spoonflower. You can participate in Sew Black by buying their fabrics and making garments from them. And in partnership with Bernina, you can be entered to win a Burnett thirty-three when you use the hashtag Sew Black QC. Sew Black QC is also a discount code, giving you twenty percent off at Spoonflower and ten percent off at Crimson Tate. We look forward to seeing the way you Sew Black.

So I am excited also because you are planning to do some fun sewing for QuiltCon, and you're going to come to the Sew Black space! The Sew Black space—I am so excited for this. It's our very first time doing anything like this. The MQG has been very supportive. I'm really excited for the space. We've got great sponsorship. That's what I'm looking forward to for QuiltCon. I'm looking forward to some of the classes I'm gonna take. I'm looking forward to the quilts. I'm looking forward to the shopping. Shopping is probably like closer to the number one spot than it should be because I have money saved up. I have a budget. This is gonna be my first quarter. I'm like I don't really need another sewing machine, but if there's a Serger that can self-thread the needles, I might be looking at another Serger, because them eyes is getting up there, and them Serger needles be hurting my feelings. What are you excited about for QuiltCon? Tell me what you're excited about.

Sandra Lee Chandler 26:27

Okay, first of all, this is the first conference—I've taught internationally. So I've taught at a Festival of Quilts in England, Birmingham, and I've taught at Quilt Canada, and of course in the United States.

Lisa Woolfork 26:37


Sandra Lee Chandler 26:38

This is the first conference that I have ever gone to where a Black woman is the headliner. Drop the mic. Okay, so for me, this means everything. If I had to walk to Atlanta, I would walk to Atlanta. I grew up in a household where my parents were very much into supporting our people. Will they always be perfect? No, no, but the other people aren't perfect either.

Lisa Woolfork 27:04

No, they aren't either. Nope.

Sandra Lee Chandler 27:06

So I have a model. When I go to conferences, if there's a Black person that's vending, I always buy something.

Lisa Woolfork 27:13


Sandra Lee Chandler 27:14

Even if I don't need it. I always buy something. What's important to me about going to QuiltCon is they're in our house.

Lisa Woolfork 27:23


Sandra Lee Chandler 27:23

That's like what if somebody said, "Hey, we're gonna have a party at your house" and you didn't show up?

Lisa Woolfork 27:27

That's right. That's right. Y'all, she's talking about the fact that QuiltCon is in Atlanta, Georgia. To be in Atlanta, Georgia, in Black History Month, when all so much of Black history was originated from either the work of folks headquartered in Atlanta or in Atlanta itself, right? So you think about SCLC, you think about SNCC, you think about like all of these orgs that came through this place. All the organizing through Ella Baker and all of these folks that were connected through these networks, like to be in there and to have it be the tenth anniversary of QuiltCon. Now, Latifah Saafir, who's Black, you know. She was the headliner last QuiltCon in Phoenix.

Sandra Lee Chandler 28:06

She was, that's right. I'm sorry.

Lisa Woolfork 28:08

She was in Phoenix. But Phoenix is a different vibe for Black folks than Atlanta. That's just facts.

Sandra Lee Chandler 28:14

Latifah is, I would say, a modern quilter. Chawne is her message.

Lisa Woolfork 28:19

Chawn's message? Yes, her message is.

Sandra Lee Chandler 28:22

I hung around with her. She was in L.A. I was the person that we bonded. She is a woman. She speaks very softly. But that girl carries a big stick. Like...

Lisa Woolfork 28:34

Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.

Sandra Lee Chandler 28:36

I was in a room with primarily non–African Americans. And she did her talk. And basically she told them about themselves. And they all clapped and applauded after. I was like, girl, you get it, get it, get it. She is unapologetically a Black woman.

Lisa Woolfork 28:56

Yes. And that means something.

Sandra Lee Chandler 28:58

If I, as an African American woman, if I can go to other concerts, if I can go to whatever else I spend my money on, and I can't budget to spend my money to show up for another one of my colleagues.

Lisa Woolfork 29:17

Though, that's facts. That's absolutely facts. Because showing up is like the first step in solidarity. Just show up. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to even hold a sign or anything. Just be there, just be there.

Sandra Lee Chandler 29:29

I would love it if we show up. So showing up as one thing, showing out is another. So it's Black History Month, right?

Lisa Woolfork 29:36

That's right. It is.

Sandra Lee Chandler 29:36

We all know Target has all the Black clothes.

Lisa Woolfork 29:39

Target has some great stuff.

Sandra Lee Chandler 29:40

I got a baseball hat that has a Black power sign on it. We need to show up. I'm going to wear things that speak to who I am as a Black woman.

I love what you have on right now. "Racism has no home here"—is that what it says? So like, yeah, that exactly. Like they say, "Say it with your chest," right?

Yeah, I'll have to say nothing. And it's funny, so for QuiltCon, my whole thing is whoever can get there, show up. I know when I'm at conferences, I speak to every Black person, every Black person.

Lisa Woolfork 30:08


Sandra Lee Chandler 30:09

And then I ask, "Now where are you from? So who are your people?" Because that's what I say, "Who are your people? Maybe your people know my people." I mean, I don't know about you, but I feel like it's Christmas in February. The twenty-second, twenty-third, twenty-fourth it's gonna be Christmas. It's going down.

Lisa Woolfork 30:26

I am so excited. I am so excited. And there's so much Black excellence already in Atlanta just in the city itself, but also the QuiltCon program. We got four Black vendors. We've got like ten, I think, Black teachers or lecturers. There's a substantial list. And then there's other folks who are just going to be coming to hang out. And it's so wonderful. Like I was making a list, because it's just something that I would do as part of centering Black women, girls, and femmes and sewing, and at the quilt con as well. So I made a list of all the Black participants that I knew of either from the QuiltCon program, mostly from the QuiltCon program, but also some from other folks who were like, oh, yeah, come in. I'm coming. I'm coming. And it looks like it's gonna be a really great time. So I am looking forward to it. I really am. Even though it's gonna be a lot of work for me, because I will be recording episodes and stuff. But I do plan to have fun too. I absolutely plan to have fun too. And I'm also looking forward to meeting in real life because, y'all, we are clearly friends. This little thirty-minute conversation you're hearing is really the tip of the iceberg. We done talked about so much stuff already. Y'all missed it. Sorry.

Sandra Lee Chandler 31:31

But it's okay. We'll see you at QuiltCon. And especially in the space that is for Black women, where we can literally talk and not have to worry about whispering. We can talk.

Lisa Woolfork 31:43

No, exactly. This is a no-whisper space.

Sandra Lee Chandler 31:46

And so that's what's going to be exciting about QuiltCon: the fact that we all love and appreciate fiber. You don't have to be a quilter either to go to QuiltCon.

Lisa Woolfork 31:56

No, not at all, not at all.

Sandra Lee Chandler 31:58

You can just be, 'I just wanna be me.'

Lisa Woolfork 32:01

This is what the affinity space is for. It is to be. It is just for Black folks to be—Black men, Black women, Black queers, Black femmes, Black everybody, everybody Black. That is what the Sew Black affinity space is centering and celebrating. And so I'm so excited that you're excited about it, and that you're gonna come!

Sandra Lee Chandler 32:19

Yeah, I'm gonna be there. And also, we need to make sure, um, I'd love it when, if you know something that's happening, please hit one of us up. Use our social media. If you know of a group that's gathering somewhere, we need to keep the communication lines open so that we know what's happening.

Lisa Woolfork 32:36

So we can hang out. So we can find each other.

Sandra Lee Chandler 32:39


Which is one of the great things people like to do at conferences. And also, this being like one of the first maybe more populated in-person events since things are starting to thaw out a little bit. And I'm still very COVID cautious. I still wear masks, even though I'm all vaccinated and everything. I still am cautious about that. Because I do not want to get sick. I don't want it. I'm gonna be doing that. But people are still willing to travel and to move around and to kind of hang out and to connect. And I think there's something about the energy of in-real-life connection that is really hard to replicate online. You know, it's hard to replicate that. So the idea of being able to go and sit and listen to you talk about early African American quilters in an audience and see the slides and learn the things that I didn't know. Those are the kinds of things that I'm really, really excited about. I'm going to ask you one last question. And it is a question that I asked everyone on the Stitch Please podcast. The slogan—she's surprised now because I didn't tell her this part. The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. What is your advice? What advice would you offer us to help us get our stitch together? And this could be for anything. It can be for just in life in general. It could be for our creative lives. It could be for anything to help us get our stitch together.

I say just do it, get it done. My students know good enough is good enough. If you're able to get through whatever you're doing, just get it done. And I'm not saying sloppy, but don't major in the minors. Live in the moment, get her done. And then the next project you can get better at or the next whatever you're doing, use that original situation as a foundation, but get her done.

Lisa Woolfork 34:19

I'm taking away is don't major in the minor. Girl, that is a word. And on that note, we are so thankful to Sandra Lee Chandler. Thank you so much for this wonderful first interview. You cannot talk about all that Sandra Chandler does in thirty minutes. So sorry, it's not possible. So this will be our part one. We had our part one interview in February of twenty twenty-three. And then we will have our part two, three, four interviews a little bit later on. That's what I'm imagining. Tell us where we can find you on the socials, and we'll put the links to all your things. Do you have classes coming up later on for twenty twenty-three? Where can we find you beyond seeing you at QuiltCon?

Sandra Lee Chandler 34:55

So all my social is the same: Sandra Lee Design, with no S. So if you pop up Sandra Lee Design, it'll go to all my socials. I'm actually kind of taking a step back from teaching. I will be doing some online, but I'm really this year. I'm not going to any other conferences after QuiltCon. I may do Long Beach, but I'm kind of thinking no, because I really need to get back into my studio and get some work done. But I will do some online things. So if you just follow me on social media, I always advertise them.

Lisa Woolfork 35:25

Listen, y'all come to QuiltCon, this might be your only chance to see Sandra Lee Design, IRL. And when I tell you it's going to be worth it, it is going to be worth it. Thank you so much, Sandra Lee Chandler, for being here. I'm so grateful to y'all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for listening. And remember, come back next week, we'll help you get your stitch together.

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

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

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

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