Group stitches for social change

Liala Helal

Balls of colorful yarn, sewing and knitting needles, and sequins were some tools for social change Monday.

The Women’s Student Activist Collective began its annual Revolutionary Art Thing week with its first event, called Craft Your Ass Off. This year’s theme is “Fashion and Fiber Art as Social Change.”

Dozens of University students came together to knit, embroider and crochet to show others the variety of ways they can express themselves through fiber arts without supporting clothing factories with bad working conditions.

“It’s very hard to be a responsible consumer these days,” University student Annika Kaplan said.

She and others at the event said that instead of directly buying products made in factories with bad working conditions, consumers can shop at second-hand stores.

“To me, these garments are already made, so they shouldn’t go to waste,” Kaplan said.

She said people can also alter their clothes to fit their taste.

Global studies junior Elizabeth Schendel said she tries not to buy things made in sweatshops or factories with poor working conditions. But it’s hard to find places that don’t make clothes that way, she said.

“If you can’t buy clothes that haven’t been made in those conditions, then buy something that lasts a long time,” Schendel said.

In doing so, consumers won’t keep buying and supporting bad working conditions, she said.

Schendel said sewing also makes her aware of resources.

“You become aware of how things are manufactured and the time and patience it takes,” she said.

Schendel and others said they hope to spread awareness on campus of unfair working conditions in factories and sweatshops. Also, they hope to show each person can create social change by not supporting such industries, she said.

Schendel said it is important to inform others, rather than make them feel guilty.

“Everything you buy can have a positive or negative effect on someone else,” she said.

As Anna Brauch, a first-year women’s studies student, sat knitting on a couch, she said she hopes to make positive changes in society through fashion and fiber arts.

Later, Brauch taught others how to knit.

“Ultimately, what you’re doing is moving the stitches from here to there,” she said as she explained how to knit.

Participants also said they hoped to dismiss widespread stereotypes about knitting.

“I want to show people that it doesn’t have to be an anti-feminist thing to knit,” Brauch said. “It’s an art.”

Junior Joanna Solotaroff said she hopes the week makes people think about different ways to express themselves.

“It’s a way to explore yourself that people don’t really think about,” she said.

A photo exhibition and various forms of fiber art are on display in the group’s room all week.

The group is having a clothing swap Wednesday to show how one can trade clothes instead of supporting those industries by buying new clothes.

“Many women use fashion to make a statement about themselves,” University senior Cristine Poppert said. “But you can still express yourself without buying your identity from a store.”