How Sewers Can Change the World

I first encountered the word ‘craftivism’ from reading a blog a few years ago, and whilst I didn’t immediately grasp the concept, I felt very drawn to the idea that making and creating, a thing I love to do, can have some greater good to bring to the world. I’ve since delved a bit deeper, and in turn discovered the ‘Craftivist Collective‘, a social enterprise founded by Sarah Corbett that “aims to change the world with deliberate, thoughtful actions that provoke reflection and respectful conversation instead of aggression and division“. This to me is a very beautiful and aspirational thing.

The idea is simple but powerful, that through the thoughtful and deliberate act of crafting, it is possible to bring about positive change in the world. And if that sounds a bit far fetched, consider this very real example;  through making beautiful, handsewn handkerchiefs for the 14 board members of Marks and Spencer (one of the largest and most influential retail companies in the UK), the Craftivist Collective in partnership with ShareAction was successful in encouraging the company to pay their staff the Living Wage.  These board members attested to the fact that they were moved by the heart-felt sincerity of the gifts, and the subsequent fair, honest and empathetic discussions that ensued lead to real and significant change.

How inspiring is that?!

They all told us if we were standing outside screaming at them, and not being gentle in our protest, they wouldn’t have even listened to us, never mind had these discussions with us.

Sarah Corbett

So how do you become a craftivist?

The Craftivist Collective has a host of projects on their website that can help you get involved in their #GentleProtest; from their ‘Don’t Blow if Hanky‘, to their ‘Heart For Your Sleeve‘ kits, you can find something that lends itself to where you are at as an individual, the issues you feel most passionate about, and how you feel most able to engage. There is also guidance around hosting your own craftivist event, or indeed hiring someone from the Craftivist Collective itself.

I opted to have a go at the ‘Footprint Kit‘, a little project containing everything you need to engage in a thoughtful exercise of stitching and contemplation, considering the ways in which the footprints you leave in this world could harm or help. I was most drawn to this particular kit because I have always aspired to be the change I want to see, that first and foremost I need to consider my own actions in this world before taking too strong a stance on the actions of others.


And I found myself thinking deeply; what impact do my actions have? How can I tread more lightly in this world? Be more ethical in my decision-making, more mindful in my choices? For example, I cannot stand the thought that my little girl is running around in clothes that may have caused harm to another person, or to the world itself, during the manufacturing process, but I also truly recognise that a simple lack of awareness, or indeed money, is often behind the choices that many consumers make. I am actively trying to source sustainably and ethically made fabrics for my sewing. The very act of making clothes for myself and my family, and in turn helping others to do the same, feels a good way be that change I want to see. But I don’t feel drawn to making a placard and shouting my opinions outside certain high street shops. Thanks to discovering craftivism I realise I don’t have to.

If we want a world that is beautiful, kind and fair, shouldn’t our activism be beautiful, kind and fair?

Sarah Corbett

And this is one of the most powerful differences I have found in craftivism. Because I am often able to consider the many and complex issues behind a lot of the challenging circumstances in this world, and would never feel comfortable to protest in more traditional ways. Which has lead me previously to believe there is no place for me within activism, that I don’t care enough, or that I am somehow lacking as a person. Thanks to Sarah Corbett’s most inspirational TedTalk, Activism Needs Introverts, I now feel completely validated in being who I am (introverts out there, please watch this talk), and that there is most definitely a way to ‘speak out’ on issues that I feel strongly about. And for this to be achievable through sewing, well that just works perfectly for me.

For my footprint I chose to embroider a quote by William James, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does”. This resonates with me on many levels, and my footprint is now pinned to the noticeboard above my desk so I see it daily.


For anyone interested in finding out more, Sarah has written ‘A Little Book of Craftvisim‘, which introduces her approach to craftivism in more detail, and provides ideas and starting points for ways that you can get involved.


And if you feel inspired by this post, please do spread the word about this wonderful form of #GentleProtest by sharing my pin below, thank you.

If you love to sew why not sign up for my Creative Sewing Challenge? You get a lovely prompt each month to inspire your sewing, along with some ideas and free sewing patterns. Find out more here or sign up below.

And here’s that pin I mentioned…