Sew to slow the spread

Bib & Tucker expands their mission to educate people on how to sew their own masks and meet community needs.

By Jeana Durst, content director, JBMC Media
Photos courtesy of Bib & Tucker

“If you can stay home and sew, slow art saves lives.” That’s the message on the quilt hanging from the side of Bib & Tucker, a collaborative sew-op and nonprofit in the Crestwood area of Birmingham. Their mission is to cultivate skills and community for those who sew or want to sew (ages 9 to 99) where everyone can be both a teacher and a student. During this quarantine, their work has become central to health and welfare, as they show us how we can sew masks to take care of one another. It’s all part of their “Sew to Slow the Spread” campaign, which provides instructional patterns, education and resources for anyone who wants to join the cause. “If somebody says I need thread and I’m willing to help my community, then we will get them the materials they need,” Executive Director and co-founder Lillis Taylor says.

The masks produced by Bib & Tucker are custom-sewn, many of which include vibrant colors and patterns.

While the mission focuses on empowering others to sew for their neighbors, the artists of Bib & Tucker are also creating masks for front-line healthcare workers and employees of other nonprofits or small businesses who are working right now. At press time, they had handed out about 600 masks.

A special message hangs on the side of Bib & Tucker’s building.

Bib & Tucker has its roots in a friendship forged through sewing ten years ago when Taylor met Annie Bryant, who is also a co-founder. Taylor had returned from studying abroad and wanted to open a textile business, but had one problem: She did not know how to sew. After seeking out the Birmingham Quilters Guild, Taylor met Bryant who began to meet her every Tuesday at the Inglenook Library. Taylor was in her thirties at the time, while Bryant, an African American retiree, was in her mid-sixties. “Our experiences of growing up in Birmingham were very different She patiently gave me an education,” Taylor says. As she points out from early on, their sewing co-op wasn’t just about sewing. “It was about people coming together and learning about our commonalities rather than our differences,” Taylor says.

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