Sewing circles have existed for hundreds of years. They innately bring intimacy and community amongst stitchers, which makes it the perfect environment for the work of eradicating our internal biases. “Do Your Whitework” is a course that uses embroidery to create an intimate and vulnerable space in which participants can open themselves to radically new ways of learning about themselves and their positions within white supremacist systems. The course teaches two basic embroidery stitches, the back stitch and the satin fill stitch, while guiding participants through a discussion on white supremacy and white people’s complicity in racist institutions and systems.
Do Your WHITEWORK is a toolkit that comes as a Tshirt or a totebag. Scholl begins by demonstrating the basic stitches, so everyone can get to stitching the word WHITEWORK. Filling in this word is a slow, repetitive process. During this time she guides participants through a discussion of their own complicity in the racist system we exist in today. We wrap up by brainstorming 5 ways we could have responded differently in those moments, or ways we can do better in the future. For example, maybe it would have helped if we sat back and listened to someone else’s experience, or spoken up to someone saying something hurtful or oppressive. This list will then serve as the content for stitching phrases anywhere on the item. Participants end the course having advanced their stitching skills, and more importantly having embarked on a journey toward confronting their own complicity within racist systems and committing to eradicate white supremacy. The stitchwork they take home serves as an ongoing reminder of this commitment.
Heather Marie Scholl is an artist and activist specializing in embroidery and racial justice. This course combines her two loves. It builds on her fine art series, Whitework which uses whitework embroidery to explore white women’s roles in white supremacy, and the skills she has honed developing and facilitating the workshop Confront White Womanhood, which seeks to encourage white feminists to examine their own complicity to create a stronger, more intersectional movement for feminist liberation. Her work has been featured on i-D, Cosmopolitan, Bust, Huffington Post and Vice. She has traveled around the country with both projects.