Sew Modest with LaTerry Mohsin

An explanatory note: This audio was recorded using a new online audio recording program. It was a mistake. Not only did my input sound terrible, the software failed to upload (or backup) LaTerry’s audio. The only audio that the software managed to save was a combination of both of our voices, impossible for my limited skills to repair. All of this is to say that I apologize for the audio quality of this episode. It’s a podcaster’s nightmare. So I’ve tried to make it as audible as possible. As a bit of compensation for the poor audio, I am offering everyone access to the video of the interview.  LaTerry looks wonderful! And you can see part of her amazing studio in the background. Thank you for your patience and for your support. 

Learn more about LaTerry

Sew Modest Studio’s Lead Instructor and Founding Director, LaTerry Abdulnoor Yaseen Mohsin, is an internationally-trained Fashion and Jewelry Designer, having studied Fashion Design and Photography in London, England. After her undergraduate studies, she attained a degree in Business Management, Fashion Marketing & Merchandising with a minor in Public Speaking & Communications. She also has a master’s degree in Design and Technology.

IG: Sew.Modest

FB: Sew Modest Studio

Website 

There’s still time for Sew Modest Summer Camp

The Stitch Please podcast will celebrate its 100th episode on  9/15/2021. As part of that effort, we are looking to add 100 additional  Black Women Stitch Patreon supporters by the 100th Stitch Please podcast episode publication date. These funds will be used to build financial stability for the podcast while alleviating the pressure of a solo operation.  Will you join us? For as little as $2 a month, you can help Lisa hire consistent editorial and production support. We are 47 Patrons away from the 100 mark! Thank you to our new Patrons! Kati, Jody, Liz, MOnica, Heather, Christine, Amanda, Sally, Marianne, Mindy, Emma, Ada, Cat, Kristen, and Amy. Thank you!

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Episode Summary

Get in on the drama, the glitter, and all the glamorous multitudes of femininity with Lisa and the amazing LaTerry Abdulnoor Yaseen Mohsin. LaTerry is an internationally-trained fashion and jewelry designer, and founder of Shop Sumayya and Sew Modest Studio. She is also a Black Muslim American woman shaking up assumptions about what it means to be modest. Hers is a vision of fashion as freedom, stitching together community support, female empowerment, and fresh, fearless artistry. Modesty has never looked so fierce.

Episode Notes

An explanatory note: This audio was recorded using a new online audio recording program. It was a mistake. Not only did my input sound terrible, the software failed to upload (or backup) LaTerry’s audio. The only audio that the software managed to save was a combination of both of our voices, impossible for my limited skills to repair. All of this is to say that I apologize for the audio quality of this episode. It’s a podcaster’s nightmare. So I’ve tried to make it as audible as possible. As a bit of compensation for the poor audio, I am offering everyone access to the video of the interview.  LaTerry looks wonderful! And you can see part of her amazing studio in the background. Thank you for your patience and for your support.

Learn more about LaTerry

Sew Modest Studio’s Lead Instructor and Founding Director, LaTerry Abdulnoor Yaseen Mohsin, is an internationally-trained Fashion and Jewelry Designer, having studied Fashion Design and Photography in London, England. After her undergraduate studies, she attained a degree in Business Management, Fashion Marketing & Merchandising with a minor in Public Speaking & Communications. She also has a master’s degree in Design and Technology.

IG: Sew.Modest

FB: Sew Modest Studio

Website 

There’s still time for Sew Modest Summer Camp

The Stitch Please podcast will celebrate its 100th episode on  9/15/2021. As part of that effort, we are looking to add 100 additional  Black Women Stitch Patreon supporters by the 100th Stitch Please podcast episode publication date. These funds will be used to build financial stability for the podcast while alleviating the pressure of a solo operation.  Will you join us? For as little as $2 a month, you can help Lisa hire consistent editorial and production support. We are 47 Patrons away from the 100 mark! Thank you to our new Patrons! Kati, Jody, Liz, MOnica, Heather, Christine, Amanda, Sally, Marianne, Mindy, Emma, Ada, Cat, Kristen, and Amy. Thank you!

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:16

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.

We got a countdown. Here we go. Very fancy. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I am once again, as I always say, honored and delighted and so excited to bring up our guest for today, who I am going to welcome with Assalamu alaikum. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being here. I am here with Sew Modest Studios' creative director, owner, producer, manager, head designer. And teacher, professor, designer. I'm sure she also sweeps up at night. She does it all. Welcome LaTerry, thank you so much for being here. And so, Sew Modest is an amazing brand of stylish, beautiful, modest clothing that is really inventive and engaging. If you look at the pieces, they are so elegant, deliberate, well-structured. They're just amazing. It is exactly what you would imagine from a fashion designer, right? A fashion designer who's not just trying to reinvent the wheel or put a stamp on something that's already existed, she is actually designing. And I'm also so excited to have LaTerry here, because like my work with Black Women Stitch, her work with Sew Modest Studios is also a values-led project. Black Women Stitch centers Black women, girls, and femmes and sewing. And LaTerry Mohsin, her work is values-aligned as well. And so she is able to move through the world, and also help her community move through the world, in ways that are deliberate and beautiful and powerful and aligned with their values. So thank you so much. Welcome. Can you give us some idea about how you got started? What's your sewing story?

LaTerry 3:17

So um, I've been sewing ever since I could like, crawl. Like honestly, I started hand sewing when I was about five years old. I was that person that anything you gave me, I was stripping it naked and making something else out of bedsheets, socks, jeans. All of my younger cousins have participated in, like, some form of a home fashion show, or tied bedsheets and anything that they will let me cut and twist and tie and design them and dress. We would do makeup, hair, and gather everyone like, it's time for the runway show! So I feel like it's definitely something that's just been in me forever. I've always known that I've wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. So if you know a little bit about my background, I spent about 13 years working in HR technology, and from talent management to talent acquisition. And you know, realistically, I knew what my dream was, but I wasn't in a position to like, go to art school, right? So I couldn't risk missing my, you know, my scholarship opportunity, my chance to like, get out of the hood and then end up with an arts degree that nobody really took seriously. So my undergraduate, I had a triple major. I studied business management, fashion merchandising, and marketing with a minor in communications.

Lisa Woolfork 4:51

So four majors with the minor in communications, that's a lot. Even as a minor. Because I majored in communications, so even a minor in communications is a big deal. So you have four majors. Continue.

LaTerry 5:10

Thank you. Um, so I think that there was one part of that dream where it was like, this might end up being a hobby, and you need to have like a real career plan, real career opportunities, after so many years of working in corporate. And we can get into the tea, but a very, let's say, sexist and borderline racist, borderline Islamophobic boss... I always tell the story of like, if you watch - what was that show, Everybody Hates Chris - I had a "my marriage has two jobs," like...I don't need this!

Lisa Woolfork 5:55

Oh my gosh, yes. Tell it. I don't need this.

LaTerry 5:58

I don't need this. Oh, like we've always lived very much under our means, right? So it's like: yes, I was working at a high-paying corporate job, but we bought a small house without a mortgage, you know. I have a little hoopty car that...it runs. So it was like, all these things that forced you to stay into a position that you hate? And my husband's so supportive about that, too, it's like, being able to say, you know, it's time to pursue something else. And I'm very big on, like, words, so they're above my bed. And at home, I wrote, "If I can't follow my dreams, I don't know what to do." And I wrote that. And it just sat there for like, maybe five months. Um, and one day, I decided, like, I'm going to open a studio, like, I'm not going to go back to corporate. I'm not going to go back to corporate. Like, I'm not going to do this. Like, just having to tell myself that, you know, to convince myself like, it's okay to follow your dream, it's okay. You know, sometimes you grow up in environments where you feel like, you have to constantly remember survival, you know? So it's like, you're in a place where you can risk the steady paycheck nine to five, and really pursue that. You're not in a survival mode anymore. So really having those conversations with myself out loud, like, gearing myself up to follow this thing. To open the studio, to invest my savings, to buy machinery and equipment and mannequins, all this stuff. And then, three months after we opened, we were shut down for COVID. So needless to say, there was lots of tears, and lots of moments where I was just like, I don't know if we're going to reopen. I don't know what that means for anything, for this investment, but hamdulillah, you know, thanks be to God. That's what that means, hamdulillah. We had just such an outpour of people in the community that were reaching out to me even when we were in shutdown, and we weren't allowed to be open. They're like, “Well as soon as y'all open, let me know, cause I'll be there with a mask on, a ventilator, whatever I got to do.” Um, oh, it was just overwhelming. Like, I would sometimes just cry at night, because people were signing up for another class and another class and returning students. And I'm just like, I can't believe that. You want to be here. You know?

Lisa Woolfork 8:56

I think, LaTerry, what your story is showing me, is that what you're sharing is what it means to step out on faith. And what it means to also remind yourself that what you want for your life is important. And that I think that sometimes coming from a background of financial marginalization, or where you're used to struggle, or used to, like, oh, no, no, I can't let go with this because then I won't have that, you know. And I think that's such a dangerous idea because it kind of says, Well, only people who are rich can afford to dream, right? Only people who are rich can afford to take chances. Only people who are rich can do blank. But if you are a working person and you are working for a living, all you can do for the rest of your life is plan to work. And your dreams, your pleasure, your joy, none of these things are important because you are just meant to survive. And that's it. And that is not who we are. That is not who we are. We are not people who are just meant to survive. There is far more to us. And I've been thinking so much about pleasure and joy, and basically how we practice freedom. And I've been going with Alexis Pauline Gumbs, she has this idea that says freedom isn't a secret. It is a practice. Freedom isn't a secret. It is a practice. And when I heard you saying, you know, when I went to college, I had to get a job that would pay. I had to get a job that would guarantee a source of steady income. And whether I was happy or not was secondary. Right? You know, you paused, and you said, I don't know if that's true for me. Because what you said is, if I can't follow my dream, I don't know what to do. That your dream was so central to the life you wanted to have for yourself. And thanks to your family and your husband and your community, people came together in response to what you wanted, right, to help support your vision. And that's the thing I'm so excited about. I just saw this today, this woman I really love, her name's Octavia Rahim. And she says, some people are afraid to speak out loud what they want, because they're afraid it won't happen. Right? But then she says, the thing that you want, also wants you and that the universe is conspiring. And what you're telling us right now is proof of that. Right? You wanted to have the studio. COVID said hell no, you can't have no studio because everybody's staying at home forever. But you have people contacting you, even when the studio was closed, saying, "Hey, can I give you some money now to buy some classes ahead of time? What can I do to help you get going? I want to be there." And it really is a great example, I thought, of these two, you know, what you want and what the community also needed, came together.

LaTerry 12:16

What's also really beautiful, Lisa, like, I feel like there's even another level to that, right? Because I have been a practicing Muslim only for seven years, right? So I was studying fashion and like, went to London and did all these things before becoming a Muslim. And then after I did my Shahada, which is like, you know, the statement of faith, there was this sort of risk of like, well, you can't be a fashion designer and be a modest woman. You can't, you know, be bold with beautiful colors, and, you know, still hold on to these conservative values. And so that was another level that I felt pushed me away from the dream, away from really pursuing that, and made, like, corporate make sense. Like, it's easier to exist in this corporate space, and not really, you know, take up too much space, not really do the things or wear the things that I want to wear, express myself in the ways that I want to express myself. And so that's like, even another layer. I always say like, it's really so many layers to the process. But one thing that you spoke about is, like, saying things out loud. Like to me, I am such a huge person on words. Like I just, even in my studio, I have pictures, I have like tons of quotes mixed in. You go in the bathroom, there's like, quotations all over the walls. It's like one of those things where I feel like: I need to be reminded to live out loud, I need to be reminded that I have permission. When I became Muslim, one of the big things was, like, not losing my identity. You know, I am not an Arabic woman. Even though I'm married to an Arabic man, I am not an Arabic woman. I am a Black woman. I am very proud to be a Black woman. I am a Black American woman and I dress as a Black American woman. And so it's like, when you google modest clothes, what do you find? You find Indian wear, you find Arab wear, you find African, like central to the continent African wear, but you don't find much that really represents like a Black Muslim American.

Lisa Woolfork 14:37

The sensibility, yeah.

LaTerry 14:41

And so, that was another element too, another layer that I felt like I had to really push through. And a lot of that was talking to myself out loud, giving myself permission and just realizing like okay, there's always going to be somebody who don't like it. There's people who complain, like, why don't you use this in your show? And it's just like, it's my show, so. [Laughs]

Lisa Woolfork 15:04

Yes, exactly. This is why I use it. Because you already answered your own question when you said, "Why do you?" The answer is in the question: "Because it's mine." When you do your show, you can do it any way you like. And you could believe I will not come over there and ask you why.

LaTerry 15:25

Right? I'm going to support or I'm not going to support it.

Lisa Woolfork 15:28

Exactly. Let me ask you this. What I recognize in your work is that you are making really important interventions and conversations around modesty, fashion, identity, right? And that's something that I really love about the ways that you have mantras and motivations and inspirational quotes written, inscribed in your space to remind you all the time and to remind your clients and students all the time. What are some of the differences in your mind in a Black Muslim American woman's sense of modest fashion? Versus someone in Dubai, or someone in India, or someone in other parts of the Arabic diaspora? How do those concepts - how do you make it Black?

LaTerry 16:21

Um, I think one part of it is color. So I lived in Saudi Arabia for a year, and I swore when I moved back, like I would never wear black again. I was like, this is never happening. And um, that was one thing that I missed so much. There's so much expression and joy to be had in the color of something. Um, I think for me, I love a little bit extra. And it could be extra anything. Glitter, give me the glitter, give me the sparkles, give me the poofy sleeves.

Lisa Woolfork 16:57

The drama, the drama. I want the zhuzh. I want the zhuzh and the drama.

LaTerry 17:04

I want all of the femininity and I want the flirty silhouettes. And to me, it's like, you know, sometimes it's redefining because if you say oh, it's a sleek, flirty silhouette, it doesn't have to be, you know, a mini skirt. It can be layers, it can be volume, it can be ruffles, it can be floaty and feminine. And still very much in line with what I see myself as a full coverage designer.

Lisa Woolfork 17:32

Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And so, I wanted to ask about - I believe you're connected with these two other young Muslim women Aint Afraid.

LaTerry 17:45

Ah, my sisters, I love them.

Lisa Woolfork 17:47

I love them. I love their music. I love their energy. So do you know them at all? I don't mean this to say all Black Muslim women know each other. I saw them on your page, and so I think you all had connected, because I had written to them last year saying oh my gosh, I'd love to talk to you on the podcast. And like "Oh, it'd be great. But we're so busy, and we got the album, and we got this..." And I was like, Okay, later, later. And so when I saw them with you, I was like, Well, of course they know. Of course they know LaTerry. I mean, of course they know LaTerry. They are two amazing young women who are sewing and designing and recording amazing hip hop music. And LaTerry is also the bomb dot com and just straight fire. So why would they not know each other? And so I guess the question is, what do you see in terms of your own work and influence on the younger generations of young Black Muslim women? Because I feel like you are imparting something to them about what it means to navigate what many can see is a very secular field, a style that kind of requires you to, you know, to show skin or to do things that are not in line with your values.

LaTerry 19:11

Um, I think that not to speak particularly about them, but just in a general sense, I do get a lot of like, oh my God, I would have never thought to put that together. Or like, this is allowed. Or comments, even - when I do shows or like campaigns and things, I get a lot of non-Muslim models that are just interested in working with me. And I've had people say like, “Wow, I've never thought I could feel so beautiful without showing anything.” And that to me is constantly the message that I want to reiterate. It's like, there's an option. And I'm not dissing anybody, like if you feel beautiful in your nudity or whatever you decide to wear, I'm not trying to negate that. But I think that there is missing that balancing piece to say, that's not the only option. The only option of female empowerment is not, you know, nudity. It's like, I'm also empowered. I'm also strong. I'm also in love with my body, in love with myself, like, okay honey?

Lisa Woolfork 20:24

Yes, absolutely. I love that about the balance. This is what's exciting to me, because there is a way that the predominant conversation about women's empowerment, girls' empowerment, has to do with allowing girls and women to have full control and autonomy over their bodies, period. That is what everybody should have, in my opinion. Every girl, every woman should have that right. And yet, it seems to me that because of our Islamophobia, or racism, that when we have our Black Muslim sisters who choose to cover, you know, who choose to wear hijabs to school, or to work or to whatever, it becomes something that's not allowed because we think that that's not...and it's appalling. And it's really just racism. And it's really just because some people, you know, Islamophobes, feel anxious when they see a Muslim woman in a hijab in the same way that some racists feel uncomfortable when they see a Black person walking around alive, minding their own business, you know? Just existing.

LaTerry 21:51

Excuse me, I exist, and I'm going to continue existing. I'm not going to apologize for it.

Lisa Woolfork 22:01

Hey, friends, hey, the Stitch Please podcast is about to publish its 100th episode. That's right. 100 episodes. As part of the celebration, we are launching 100 by 100. To help us get 100 more Patreon supporters by the 100th episode publication date on September 15 2021. 100 additional Patreon supporters will give us the financial stability we need to hire editorial and production help. You can find the links to our Patreon in the show notes. Thank you so much for considering this, and thank you current and future Patreon supporters.

That is the absolute answer. That is the absolute answer. And so - I want to talk to you more about volume. You talked a bit about color, and how the importance of color can kind of brighten things up. And one of the contrasts you noticed from Saudi Arabia to now, when you're making your own decisions - not decisions but the style, the more predominant style is the full black hijab, the full black outfit. For you, you're like, okay, I did that for a year, now I'm back home, and I'm going to get back to my roots in terms of color and style, while maintaining and observing these traditions. What role does volume play? Because I don't think people think enough about the volume. Because I guess when we think about designing a silhouette that's flirty, for example, the flirty is either like, I have like exposed shoulder, or exposed knee, or whatever. And you're saying no, you can still maintain full coverage, and still get flirty with ruffles or with... Can you talk about volume, because that's something that - oh my gosh, that outfit that you had on just the other day, the black one with the cape? I think it had a cape. It looked like it had wings. I don't know what all it had on. It was amazing. Can you talk about volume, because I tend not to think about volume. I just love that. Can you tell us more?

LaTerry 24:18

So yeah, I think like, when you look at a lot of the silhouettes that are considered modest, right? Like, you kind of get boxed in, right? Because it's like, well, it needs to be high color, it needs to be this, it needs to be not too tight. And so for me, it's like okay, these are, you know, the restrictions that I accept. Like, I accept that I want it to be a high collar, I accept that I want it to not be super fitting. Okay, now outside of these parameters that I accept, what are the things that I can play with? And it's always texture, it's always color. It's always volume. I am just a sucker for a good sleeve because I'm always gonna wear sleeves! You know, like every outfit I have has long sleeves. So give me poofy shoulders, give me ruffles, give me a good modified bishop. Add some extra stuff to it like - let me move my head. Let's see, you can see that a little bit.

Lisa Woolfork 25:16

Yes, yes, yes.

LaTerry 25:20

You see the bottom, like, the rosettes? And so for me, I feel like, yes, I have my parameters that I that I work within based on, you know, my understanding of my religion. And everything else is just up for expression. So a lot of times, I'm just playing with whatever fabrics and materials I have in my studio. I always say I do this for fun, I do this for work, I do this for therapy. Like, I actually love it. And so I could be draping on my mannequin going, Oh, I like the way this sticks up. Now how can I make it stay? [Laughs] What kind of fabric, how much? I don't know if you saw that, like beach shoot that I did?

Lisa Woolfork 26:14

Yes, yes I did. Yes, I did. Y'all, I'm going to put the link to LaTerry's Instagram page in the show notes. Do yourself a favor, and follow her and go to her reels, or her saved. I hope you saved that as a highlight. Because whoa.

LaTerry 26:34

I've got to get my highlights together. [Laughs]

Lisa Woolfork 26:39

So friends, don't worry, she's going to work on her highlights. By the time this airs, she will have that video shoot in there so you can go look at it, because you will not want to miss it. So about the shoot, you were saying that that was like a part of this vision that you were working on.

LaTerry 26:56

And that dress, each sleeve for that dress was like two and a half yards of fabric. Just because I was like, Oh, what if it got bigger? What if I added more ruffles to this? What if I added more ruching. Um, and just playing around and experimenting until it got to a point where I was like, Oh, I absolutely love this. And this is doing everything I want it to do. Um, and so for me, a lot of it is...I do some sketching, I do enjoy sketching, but a lot of it is working and making decisions on the fly, as I'm working with the fabrics and the materials and looking at how things look together, and how, like, I can drape and manipulate.

Lisa Woolfork 27:49

That's one of the things I love about the way you talk about volume. Because it's such - when someone says, like, "modest," that does not mean "small." To be so modest is not to be so small; it's not to make yourself smaller or to shrink. And that's what volume to me says: "Look, I am here, I am really here. And my dress is so fabulous that I'm going to zhuzh into the room. And you will see, like, the train of my outfit. And as I'm walking, the train is dragging. And then when I turn around, the train is still dragging, and I'm still..." It's like, it's not a dress, it's an event. I mean, honestly, an event. The whole thing, it's just gorgeous. So I appreciate that, and at the same time that you're doing these very - I consider very radical moves, I think, to draw attention. Rather than like, you know - I just find them very attractive, and attractive in the sense of being very beautiful and very pretty. But also I tend to, when I see some of your pieces, I instantly lean in, because I want to see the rest of the details. Because I know I'm going to see a really experimental sleeve cap and I'm gonna be like, how does she get that to stay up there? Or, you know, the ruching. And the pleating techniques. Like, all of these are, like, fundamental sewing basics that when manipulated can create something fantastic, which is what you've shown us to do as well. Do you think there's a message there for sewists in general, around how learning some of the fundamentals can be really helpful to creating something spectacular? Do you have any ideas or thoughts on that? What do you think?

LaTerry 29:45

Absolutely. So, like, the way that my classes are structured is I'm teaching my students how to think about sewing, how to think about design. Very rarely do I actually say, Here's the project, and guess what, all of us are going to make this exact project, and here's step by step by step by step. Now, oh, you executed it, go away.

Lisa Woolfork 30:09

"Get out. And tag me in your picture." [Laughs]

LaTerry 30:15

My method was always to teach people how to make decisions, like, what is going to happen if I make this design using a chiffon versus a velvet? What is going to be different in the way that it looks, and the way that it flows, and the way that it drapes? Thinking about how to make decisions, while also gaining those key skills. Here's how you do the action. Now try it on this fabric, try it on this fabric, try it on this design. And look at and think about, like - in my intermediate class, we go through a pretty in-depth, like, list of fabric swatches. And I'm having them go through, and we're looking at, you know, here's a sketch of a design. Now, if you use this fabric, how would this ruffle look? How would it lay? How would it hang? Or is it going to be more volume? Is it going to be more, you know, like... So, how to make decisions, how these skills - like, you're going to learn the core fundamental skills of sewing - how these skills translate into other things. And how you can take that, and manipulate patterns and manipulate, you know, the store-bought things to really create something that is your own. And to really understand, like, what might happen.

Lisa Woolfork 31:28

Yes, what might happen. And that's, again, it goes back to the way that your work empowers people to do that which seems best and right for them.

LaTerry Mohsin 31:42

Right.

Lisa Woolfork 31:42

And I really appreciate your teaching style, because I learned in the way that you don't teach. I learned from: Okay everybody, we're making a tote bag. All right everybody, now we're making a table runner that looks a lot like a tote bag, but without the straps. And now we're going to move up to the placemat, which again, looks like a tote bag, and a table runner. But like you were saying, you are giving people the skills. And once they perfect the skills and understand the skills, which is a form of deep knowledge and deep learning. Like it's one thing to draw something and to sketch something. It's another thing to turn that vision into a reality. So not only are you doing that with your work, you are teaching other people how to do that. And that is an amazing and precious gift that you have, and that you are extending, and I just want to thank you for that. I find it just incredible. Absolutely incredible. So tell us, LaTerry, what is next for you? What is coming up next, what is around the corner and down the street for you?

LaTerry 33:01

Um, so I can't not talk about my summer camp girls. I need to mention them because like, like, oh my God, I'm just watching them progress. So okay, let me back up a little bit. So the summer camp, we are in our fourth week now. And so what we do every day, our sort of model is, we're journaling, we're talking about some mental health-related topics. So we've talked about, like, managing anxiety. And these topics are also laid out when they would be the most needed. Like I noticed that my students get super anxious on fabric cutting day because they're like, I don't want to make a mistake. So on fabric cutting day, before we start cutting the fabric, we're talking about anxiety and we're talking about ways to manage our anxiety and we're talking about coping mechanisms. And how to recognize in ourselves like - even how to recognize that we're feeling our mood is shifting, our anxiety is rising. Like you know, are you having trouble breathing? Or do you feel that your physical temperature in your body's changing? And so, I'm having these conversations with literal five- and six-year-olds.

Lisa Woolfork 34:33

I wish that someone would have given me the vocabulary for these kinds of conversations when I was a six-year-old, you know. Because, you know, strong girls become strong women, and not strong in the sense of "strong Black woman," not like that, the way that they're always basically blaming us for surviving, right? This whole "strong Black women" thing and how we get flack for fucking living, like, "look at these strong Black women over there being so strong and stuff," and I'm like...

LaTerry 35:05

You expected me to curl up in a ball and die like, is that what you expected? Because that's not what was going to happen.

Lisa Woolfork 35:14

How about instead of like praising us for, you know - calling us "strong Black women" is a backhanded compliment, if that. Look, think about the conditions that we have thrived in, and the conditions in a country that was not built for us. Built by us, but not for us. And all these systems and institutions that we helped to support that gave no, or very little recognition, and even less money and intergenerational wealth from, we survived. And then they still mad. You know what? Stay mad. But what you are doing is telling these girls that of course you have these feelings, this is totally normal, right? But this is not the whole story. That anxiety is a part of life, and it's giving you information, right? But it's not good. It's not a prediction of a true and real outcome. So hey, you know, girls cut the fabric.

LaTerry 36:05

Right. There's no mistake we can't fix. You're not alone in this process, we are doing this together, and here's no mistake that we can't fix.

Lisa Woolfork 36:21

Exactly. And there's no mistake, because what you're doing is in this active process of constantly learning and growing, so sometimes it's like, "Thank you for making that mistake. Thank you for asking that question. Because now we have --"

LaTerry 36:40

Yup! That's what we call them in class, "Oh, that's a happy accident, 'cause that looks cuter than what you was planning to do when you first started."

Lisa Woolfork 36:50

I love that so much. And also thinking about, at least something that I often think about is the notions of creative liberation, and that for so many Black women, we have had to build the things that we need. You know, we have had to build the things that we need. Okay, so what we're talking about is, in what ways do black women and look, I got to see your whole outfit! Thank you for doing that. Y'all, you wish you had a Patreon subscription. And honestly, if you don't have one, it's like $2 a month. And everybody knows I'm worth way more than two doggone dollars a month. But you got to see this amazing outfit with this mid sleeve, right, it's like a mid sleeve? And it has pockets! It's in my favorite color. It has pockets. The sleeves have drama. What I love about your sleeves is that they have drama, and they're short sleeves. Because I love a drama sleeve, but I also will get my sleeve in my food anytime I eat. But that mid sleeve is perfect for me. I can handle it. Oh my gosh. So, the summer camp girls are just setting it on fire, they're doing great things, they're making things. And then I see your work with adult clients as well, or adult students, who also come in and learn basically about, you know, the draping and sewing techniques and skills. And do you all do a show at the end of the year? Are you working on a show right now?

LaTerry 38:33

So the end of August, we're gonna have a show and we'll have a showcase with all of the summer camp girls in their gowns, because we're doing formal wear. And oh my God, like, I have some pictures I need to post, like, they really do not hold back. I always, I laugh with my adult students, right? Because I told my kids, they'd never sewn anything before; I was like, We're making gowns, and they were like,"Hell yeah, okay, let's do it!" I tell my adult students, We're making gowns. They're like, "I've never worked with that material before, um..."

Lisa Woolfork 39:16

Am I involved in this, or is this really you doing it and I get to watch?

LaTerry 39:21

So the summer camp girls, they have their own segment in the show, and they're going to model their gowns. And then the show's also going to be featuring two up-and-coming designers; both were my students. So they're doing full collections. And then I'll be also presenting a new collection of pieces.

Lisa Woolfork 39:43

A big day. So is there any way that we can see this? Or are you going to have live features? Or is there any way that someone from the general public who's not in your area can enjoy the show, or participate, or support?

LaTerry 39:56

Um, so I'm working on videographer or photographers in sync, like what their capabilities will be as far as like live streaming? I had some, like, really scary, terrible experiences in the past, where I was like, Oh, this is really terrible. So it's like, I need to talk myself over that and then try it. Like, it doesn't have to be perfect, we're going to keep trying.

Lisa Woolfork 40:23

And the technology and accessibility questions are changing all the time, right. So if you try to do a live show or live stream in the past, the technology might have been more challenging, or the support might not be there, or the advice, or whatever. But now it's so much more prominent, people are doing this so much more, that my hope is that you'll be able to get it in such a way that everyone can see it. And I'm saying that just for purely selfish reasons so that I can see it. I don't care, really, if everybody else sees it, I just want to make sure that I can see it. And I'm just pretending like I really care about other people and their ability to see it. So I'm just going to pretend like I'm a good person. It's like, oh, you should do it for the benefit of humanity and myself. But the act of watching your students grow into independent artists, how does that feel?

LaTerry 41:20

Oh, I just brag. I don't even hold back. You don't even have to ask me, I'll just be like oh, let me tell you! So I'm out to eat at like this local sushi place, and I see a lady wearing a design that I know my student made. And I'm just sitting here like, Oh my God! Oh my God! I, like, sneak and take a picture of the lady, like, crop her face out, I text it to my student like "Look what I saw! She was wearing your design! You're famous!" [Laughs] I can't! I'm constantly overwhelmed with joy. Um, I think, you know, like I said, my goal is to teach you how to make decisions, to teach you how to make your visions come to life. And so seeing that, oh, I'm over the moon. Talking about my students... I know people tired of me, but it's okay.

Lisa Woolfork 42:32

Because we need you to do what you are doing, so you can help sustain the radical and gorgeous and just beautifully empowering designs that you make, you know, so you have to be the one talking about it. Because who else is talking about it, you know? And I am just so inspired, by the way that you have built what you needed, and how you went out on a limb. And you did this, you took this risk. And it's paying off in, like, multiple ways. Like, it's giving you something, it's showing your child what it means to pursue a dream. It's showing that the students that you have to come through, that you can be yourself in any way, and in any space, and in any direction that you want. It's just all around a really wonderful project. LaTerry seriously, it's just amazing.

LaTerry 43:34

Thank you so much. That really means a lot. I mean, that really does.

Lisa Woolfork 43:39

Alright, so we're going to wrap up y'all, and what we're going to do is, I'm going to make sure - LaTerry, tell us where we can find you on the socials. I know you have a YouTube channel; tell us where we can find you.

LaTerry 43:49

Okay, so my YouTube is Sew Modest. My Instagram is @sew.modest. And you can also find me on Facebook, it's Sew Modest Studio on Facebook. And that's all my accounts. Oh, I'm also on Clubhouse but I don't really know how to use it yet.

Lisa Woolfork 44:15

Black Women Stitch has a club on Clubhouse. Yeah, so we should definitely extend the conversation there too. I would love that. Thank you so much for this wonderful conversation. This was so generous. Thank you for taking the time out of your day.

LaTerry 44:30

Thank you, thank you. I really appreciate the invitation. Like I said, just you, personally, as I've been following you and following your story, and the way that you share and empower and and really bring your full self to the craft. I was just like, this is exactly the space I want to be in.

Lisa Woolfork 44:50

Thank you and same. I am a mirror. I am reflecting this, this is what I see in you. So I thank you.

You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at Blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon. And you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts, and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, 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, 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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