North St. Louis County sewing center wants to help people of color heal from trauma
Kacie Long remembers watching her grandmother sew for a living and for her family members. But it took her decades to pursue sewing and learn how much it could help her deal with life’s struggles.
Long, 41, began honing her skills in 2016 at a sewing center and later started offering one-on-one classes in her home. Four years later, she began teaching group classes to help people learn new skills that would help them destress.
Her love for sewing and building a community for people of color who face daily affiliations led her to creating Sew Hope Community Sewing Room.
The Florissant center is a space for people to release pain from past trauma and spark creativity, Long said.
“Sewing is a way that can bring healing. It can bring peace,” she said. “Studies show that when you sew, serotonin is released in the brain, confidence is built up, and stress is decreased as you are sewing and working on a project with your hands.”
Long said many African Americans can benefit from sewing therapy, particularly those who have faced the pain of racism and inequality.
Sew Hope offers sewing, quilting and craft classes for children and adults.
The 2,600-square-foot building at 630 N. Highway 67 is equipped with five sewing machines, sergers, sewing supplies, embroidery machines and craft tables.
“Sewing is a door that can open to so many different possibilities, and I think representation is important,” Long said.
She hopes the center will inspire young Black people in north St. Louis County to aspire to careers in design or to want to open their own creative studio.
St. Louis designer Olivia Davis saw an increase in people buying sewing machines and becoming interested in taking sewing classes during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Davis, who owns ORD Academy design school in south St. Louis, will teach classes at Sew Hope.
She said sewing can be therapeutic for Black Americans because it allows them to forget about their frustrations for a period of time and create a project with a needle and thread.
“Sewing is really important for Black people, especially now because it gives your hands and your mind something to focus on that isn't negative,” said Davis, 23.
During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Davis saw many Black people using the sewing machine to create protest art to decry racism.
The sewing center will offer entrepreneurship workshops for people who are interested in pattern making, design, alterations or the business side of design. It also will offer programs for formerly incarcerated women to use the space for support or to learn how to sew as a primary or secondary source of income.
“[Sew Hope] really just gives you a place in a community where people come together and accomplish a task,” Davis said. “It's just a nice place to have an outlet to just relax and focus on something other than your problems.”
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