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Much More than it ‘Seams’

Bib & Tucker Sew-Op advocates for equality through quilt-making

For the past decade, a community of sewists ranging from ages 5 to 89 meets to laugh, learn new sewing techniques, catch up and create quilts. Bib & Tucker Sew-Op, a community-based cooperative founded in Woodlawn, uses textile arts to empower, educate and spread the artistry of sewing. This year, through their Recycled Runway fashion show and the March Quilts exhibition, the Sew-Op is proving that learning to sew is much more than it seams.
What drew you to Bib & Tucker Sew-Op?

I first learned about Bib & Tucker Sew-Op when my husband and I moved to Birmingham in 2016. I had just had my daughter, Amina, and was a stay-at-home mom. I was looking for an organization where I could volunteer and meet new people. In 2015, I earned my master’s degree in art history from Bowling Green State University, and I wrote my thesis on LaShawnda Crowe Storm’s “The Lynch Quilts Project.” I was interested in exploring how quilting is used to advocate for social justice causes. I found Bib & Tucker by reading an article online about the March Quilts project. I immediately saw parallels between that project and my thesis. I reached out to the Sew-Op, and the rest was history! I immediately loved Bib & Tucker because it was so diverse and so welcoming. 
Could you speak on quilt-making as a form of activism?

Quilt-making has long been a form of activism, particularly in the United States. Quilts have been a way for women, especially marginalized women and women of color, to express their feelings and ideas while also advocating for themselves and their communities. Quilters were at the heart of the abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement. The Freedom Quilting Bee, the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, The Lynch Quilts Project and the Social Justice Sewing Academy are all ways quilters and sewists have used this art form to raise awareness and mobilize around critically important social issues. For example, the Freedom Quilting Bee was a coalition of African American quilters in Selma, Alabama who sold quilts to raise money for the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. Meanwhile, the Names Project AIDS Memorial quilt included 1920 names of individuals lost to AIDS and was displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The total quilt was larger than a football field!
What has been your favorite project or event that the Sew-Op has done?

I think my favorite Bib & Tucker project has been Recycled Runway because it is such a wonderful event for the community. In 2022, we partnered with Magic City Fashion Week to present “Recycled Runway: On the Mend,” an upcycled fashion and design program for middle and high school students. Students took part in a series of workshops and then debuted their upcycled designs during a runway show at the Birmingham Museum of Art. It was amazing to see these young people rock their looks on the runway in front of nearly 2,000 people. We are doing Recycled Runway again this year, and the theme is HOMEGROWN. Students from across Birmingham will take part in eight weeks of sewing and design workshops, and they will debut their looks at the Birmingham Museum of Art on April 14.
What tips would you give to someone interested in quilt-making or beginning a journey in textile arts?

I would absolutely say that they should pursue those interests! I recommend seeking out other quilting organizations or sewing groups and connecting with them. There are several in Birmingham in addition to Bib & Tucker, including the Riley Center Quilters, the Birmingham Quilters Guild and the Evening Star Quilt Guild. There are also some wonderful quilters and textile artists on social media, and often you can find cool ideas for projects and patterns there. If you can take a sewing workshop, do it! Workshops are a great way to learn new skills and meet other sewists and sewing enthusiasts. 

Also, keep an eye out for quilt shows and exhibits. The beautiful thing about quilts is that they are loved and appreciated by those of all ages. They are a part of who we are as Americans and especially as Alabamians. It’s important that this art form continues to be passed down and taught to future generations. 


The March Quilts: Stitching Community 

The March Quilts is a project created by the Sew-Op that started in March 2014. Members of the community work alongside members of the Sew-Op to learn the fundamentals of sewing and create quilt blocks expressing their ideas on various topics related to social justice and human rights. The Sew-Op hosts various open sewing sessions at community centers, schools, libraries and places of worship throughout the state to create the quilt blocks. Then, these blocks are stitched together to make one large quilt or multiple quilts. 

In 2022, the Sew-Op celebrated eight years of The March Quilts with the theme A(MEND). This theme encouraged participants to create quilt blocks on any community justice issue they were passionate about. A total of 179 blocks were sewn by community members from across the state, ranging from Montgomery to Pickensville. On April 29, the quilts from A(MEND) will be unveiled during an exhibition of The March Quilts collection at the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch. The show is called, "The March Quilts: A Celebration of Art and Activism," and it will run through June 29.

"Quilters were at the heart of the abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement." - Ratcliffe 

  • One of the March Quilts, "Environmental Justice," with blocks sewn together by Sew-Op members to depict a tree in a healthy environment.
  • One of the March Quilts, "Loving vs. Virginia," sewn together by Sew-Op members to depict a multi-racial heart for love.