Ronnit Keha has brought her sewing machine to today, though she’s not an expert at using it. Her goal today: to make a case for it out of an old, sturdy zip-up Ikea bag that’s been lying around at home. She announces her project to the group, and immediately people are ready with suggestions, getting up to examine the materials she’s working with and strategizing with each other about the best way to complete the task.
The group is at SPACECRAFT, a craft store and workspace at 355 Bedford Avenue. Opened by Williamsburg residents and mothers Cristina Dodd and Stella Metzner in October 2008, SPACECRAFT functions as a retail store and drop-in craft space, hosts events like birthdays and bachelorette parties, and offers a variety of workshops and classes for both children and adults. Finally, they host community workshops and events, such as the Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off, and tonight’s monthly Sewing Rebellion NYC series.
“We do a lot of stuff that involves us with our community. Both of us have lived here for twelve years in Williamsburg, so we’re definitely tied to the community and the people in it,” Dodd said. “We have the opportunity to rent out the space to people, but we always end up getting involved in one way or another. With Sewing Rebellion it just seemed right to do. We’re happy to be a part of it; it’s definitely along the lines of what we’re doing.”
Tonight, about a dozen women have brought in various projects to work on—from knitting and embroidery to mending and altering clothes. Those who haven’t come with a project look for one, perusing through giant bags of material that Dodd has brought up from the basement. The workshop is appealing to participants who enjoy the social setting and ability to exchange advice and ideas with others. It also provides the time and mental space to give attention to projects they wouldn’t otherwise work on at home.
One participant, Lucy, has pulled a black and turquoise patterned shirt from the SPACECRAFT bag, and works on altering the sleeves and shape of it.
“When I saw this group was meeting I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my skills back,” she said. “Also, Rather than throw things away, I can make use of something that would end up in the landfill.”
“It’s also very relaxing, and this way I won’t look like everyone else,” she added.
Another participant. Elisabeth Rucell is mending the finger of a camel-colored glove. Her great aunt taught her how to sew when she was young, and she’s starting to pass on the skill to her daughter.
Cindy Rosin is making a pair of pajama pants out a flannel sheet that had torn. She has started coming to Sewing Rebellion after the Freegan sewing workshop she used to participate in lost its space.
“It’s been great. The mix of people willing to share the skills they have, and having space for projects, all while being in a social setting, is excellent,” she said. “Coming somewhere where there is space and an allocated time set aside to do it is great.”
Marci Senders, who knits and also does illustration work, is working on knitting a striped pair of fingerless gloves.
“A lot of my art, I can’t work with people around,” she explained. “So it’s nice when I have knitted projects, and I can have that social interaction.”
Iviva Olenick, works on an intricate embroidery project. She has a blog for her embroidery projects, wereisobesodden.blogspot.com.
“It can be helpful,” Olenick said of the series. “It gets lonely [working at home], and it helps to have noise other than music or some bad sitcom.”
Sewing Rebellion was started on the west coast by Frau Fiber, a textile worker, artist, and activist, who hosts workshops and invites people to emancipate themselves from the garment industry by developing their own skills. The NYC chapter has been meeting at SPACECRAFT since the Fall.
“[Frau Fiber] started these as a way to get people to reclaim basic skills that people had maybe a generation or two ago,” explained Amelia Massucco, 27, one of the Sewing Rebellion NYC organizers. “Now, people buy something at Kmart and it gets a hole in it and they go and buy another one. That’s problematic for a number of reasons. It’s supporting the worldwide garment industry, which is extremely exploitative, so that we can have cheap stuff that breaks. It’s contributing to everyone looking the same, and it’s holding up some of the worst elements of the fashion industry, which has a chilling affect on creativity and people evolving their own personal style.”
“It also forces people to deal with sizing, which is total bull, as most people know,” she continued. “Buying clothes that are pre-sized is frequently very frustrating. You spend a lot of money and you look like everybody else, and you’re helpless when things break or don’t work. This is just a simple way that you can be more self-sufficient.”
Sewing Rebellion is just one of several similar series that SPACECRAFT hosts, including the Church of Craft, Bags for the People, and Crafter Hours. Those interested in Sewing Rebellion can visit sewingrebellionnyc.wordpress.com. To find out about more SPACECRAFT workshops, classes, and events, visit spacecraftbrooklyn.com.