If you took up sewing as your lockdown hobby, whether it was to learn a new craft or make our own masks, we’ve got good news: there's a brand new place coming to town to show off your fancy stitching skills—Portland’s first nonprofit community sewing space, Sincere Studio. Headed by executive director Frances Andonopoulos, the studio will be open to people of all ages and abilities, so there's no need to be an expert sewer.
“There used to be so many ways for people to connect and gather," Andonopoulos says. "And this of course has a lot to do with the pandemic, but there just aren’t a lot of spaces to connect with your community. And it can be hard to get into a sewing circle, so there’s a desire for a space like this.
Andonopoulos, who uses they/them pronouns, says they are currently in the process of raising funds to get the physical studio space up and running by December. In the meantime, they say there are plans to hold classes at another studio that has offered their space.
So why sewing? For many, it runs a lot deeper than simply learning how to make a cute winter hat. Sewing has also been used as a way for communities to come together and bond, or, on a larger scale, to stir a social movement—such as the Freedom Quilting Bee of 1966, when a group of Black women in Alabama formed a quilting cooperative to make and sell quilts in order to generate income for their families.
Andonopoulos’s obsession with sewing began about 10 years ago, when they took up quilt making. And it only grew after viewing an art exhibit back in 2017 in Chicago that featured panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a community arts project in the 1980s that served as a memorial to those who died of AIDS and also brought more public awareness to that pandemic. “I just burst into tears when I saw it because community art can be so powerful and healing," they say. "And it’s just so amazing to bring people together who don’t know each other but may share the same struggle.”
With the Sincere Studio project, Andonopoulos is hoping to create a space for the community to gather, with classes that range from beginner to advanced, with a focus on useful skills, like mending clothes or sewing curtains. There will also be community projects such as groups coming together to work on a quilt, and classes just for kids, too. Open studio time slots will be set aside for BIPOC-only folks, teens, or elders, along with other affinity groups . Everything, according to Andonopoulos, will be on a sliding scale. There are also plans for scholarships.
Right now, the non-profit is taking donations that include everything from sewing tools to fabrics, and is also planning to hold some fundraisers in the near future. “I really feel like this is my life calling,” says Andonopoulos. “I think people are really excited about spaces where they can walk in and make a friend. And if we can empower people in other cities to start a space like this, how cool would that be?”
Sincere Studio is currently accepting donations here. The studio is holding a BYOP—bring your own project—sewing meet-up at Laurelhurst Park on Sunday, September 17 from 1-3 pm.