Made by me

Appropriation and representation in the sewing community

The Guardian has an article that sums up the recent discussion around cultural appropriation and inclusivity that has been going on in the sewing and knitting community, the latest being the reactions on Instagram around Papercut Patterns Kochi jacket (formerly known as Kochi Kimono).

The writer has done a well-rounded job in her reporting I think, and it’s not often that the sewing community is being featured in mainstream media, but I can see why because there is a bigger lesson here to learn for many of us.  

As a white “norm-woman” it’s oftentimes deeply unsettling to realise exactly how blind I am to my given privileges, and unfortunately, defensiveness or even dismissiveness can be default reactions when being reminded of these privileges. Which I think is one cause behind what we have seen lately on social media and on blogs.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do think it is incredibly important to listen emphatically and take in other people’s perspective – we always have to be open to learn and reevaluate our stands on things. Especially as a white person, since I was never questioned or marginalised the way people of colour have been. Hence why I, like many others in my position, have done culturally insensitive missteps without even realising it.

And to be honest, as a woman, I really should know better. Since I’m painfully aware of what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world, So when I get frustrated with how some men will not acknowledge their privileges, I should also hold up a mirror and reflect on my own values as well.

Because, to be honest, life can be unfair, and where we were born and how we look, will often determine the outcome of things. And while we all have our struggles, some of us have been given an easier ride than others in regards to some things. And that’s okay to admit.

For more perspectives on this, you can read my interview with Rumana of #sewincolour and in my latest newsletter, the interview I did with Michelle Morris of Sewn Magazine also addresses the issue of representation.


  • Corey
    June 7, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Read the article, with social media today, I find people overly sensitive and easily offended. I wanted to say thank-you for a few things;
    1. all your details on making jeans, that is what brought me to your site in the first place

    2. your active wear book (which i purchased a while ago), and i just came across the post on fabric for active wear, I am going to start making more workout clothing for myself, i need to invest in cover stitch machine. I think I might purchase the juki 1500, was looking at the brother cv3550, but i don’t like the loud clunky sound and feel of it. I have one of those 5 thread serger cover stitch machine (janome compulock 888 – love the auto tension) but don’t want to deal with converting all the time now.

    • Johanna
      June 8, 2019 at 10:43 am

      I think a big problem with social media is that’s it’s not always a great platform to have a respectful dialogue, since all the nuances of a face to face conversion being lost.

      And where a few choices of words can trigger off a whole slew of reactions, that’s hard to navigate sometimes.

      Plus the added layer of protection behind a screen, which can make people talk to each other in a way that they would never do IRL.

      And thank you for your kind words about what I do, it means a lot!

      As for the Juki vs Brother, I have not tried the Juki ( but heard great things about it) but I do think that the Brother could benefit from some improvements, for instance I found it less user friendly than my Janome

      • Corey Hill
        June 8, 2019 at 2:35 pm

        Yes I agree. I use to have a facebook and more social media contact in my life. After being other people get offended I dropped/deleted my profile. I did a work around and created a profile for my dog – Maximus the Westie. I have him out there and follow a few sewing groups, soi dog, and a few rescue groups. My dog also has instagram of which we just following a few again sewing and rescue groups.

        The Juki is the same as the discontinued Bernina Cover Stitch machine. The Bernina sergers and cover stitch machines use to be made by Juki. That is why I looked at them. The Juki was half the price of the Bernina and goes from 699.00 cdn dollars on amazon. One thing I did like about the brother was the top cover hem. That was very niffy. This year I hope to pick up maybe 2 more sewing machines, the Bernina 535 (replacement for my Artista 180) and the Janome 6700P, this machine has some series power and is a well equiped “semi industrial” sewing machine. The Janome 6700P can handle buttonholes on any fabric.

  • Judi
    June 8, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Johanna, thanks for sharing so much knowledge and so many skills; very encouraging.
    We went to meet our SIL’s family in India last year. They sent us saris etc to wear whilst there, we also wore bindis. Family were really pleased that we wore the clothes & we felt we’d been respectful to them; it certainly didn’t feel like cultural misappropriation.
    Keep up the great work Johanna x

    • Johanna
      June 8, 2019 at 10:51 am

      Yes there are many nuances to this and not everyone who stems from a culture will feel the same about appropriation. I think the biggest thing is just to listen and be respectful. Which is true for a lot of things in life! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!


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