Stitching for Change


Embroidery thread and sewing needles have become indispensable tools for provoking social change at USC. 

Craftvist Shannon Downey, better known as BadassCrossStitch on Instagram, led several workshops with UofSC’s School of Visual Art and Design classes over the previous semesters.

“I introduced students to craftivism by providing them some larger context around the use of craft and art as a tool of activism,” Downey said. “We talked about the long and amazing history of these mechanisms from the ancient Romans to Gee's Bend to the Suffrage movement to the AID's Quilt. I offered them questions to consider when deciding when and how to get involved in the modern craftivism movement and introduced them to a myriad of modern craftivism projects. I then taught them to embroider and invited them to consider using their hoops to explore their thoughts on an issue that is pressing for them.” 

According to Downey, the goal of hosting workshops around the United States is for participants to feel inspired to explore different ways that they can impact social issues and politics.

“You leave her workshops feeling like you can do it!” Naomi Falk, a professor at the School of Visual Art and Design, said. 

Eight years ago, Downeys’ work as an activist and as an embroiderist fused. 

“I quickly realized that craft could be an outstanding tool for community building, organizing and mobilizing,” Downey said. “My community introduced me to the term craftivism and I've been working in that space for about 8 years now.” 

Launching in the Spring of 2022 by the College of Arts & Sciences DEI Committee, the Sewcial Mending Group will offer participants a safe place to learn basic embroidery and mending techniques while exploring political and social topics.

“It is a time to relax and destress and fix old clothes or make something more unique to show your style,” Professor Falk said.

Falk explained that based on the group's comfort level, political and social topics can be discussed and even encouraged to fuel art projects. 

“If people wanted to do something or say something politically that would be more outward facing in the community, then I would be totally down for helping figure out what to do and how to do it,” Falk said. 

Any USC student, staff or faculty, with or without sewing experience is welcome to join. 

The first meeting of the Sewcial Mending Group will occur on January 21 at 2:30 to 4 P.M. in McMaster room 239. 

To register for free:

Pictures Credit: Meena Khalili.

Context details: ARTS245, Typographic Design 1, McMaster 323, Professor Khalili.