Building a diverse and inclusive sewing community for all
We set up The Fold Line five years ago to create a diverse and inclusive sewing community for us all. One of the most wonderful things about sewing is all the possibilities of what you can make, from the choice of fabric to being able to fit clothes to our unique body shapes. A very important part of this is sewing patterns being accessible to everyone in the sewing community and that we see ourselves reflected in the designs being created. We want everyone to feel represented, included and inspired. We do understand how important this is and we are always striving to be as inclusive as possible. Being inclusive means ensuring we represent the diversity of makers within our sewing community, including but not limited to, size, age, race, gender, sexual orientation and ability diversity. Below we share with you the positive steps we have taken and the work we still want to do.
Pattern designs, size ranges and model diversity
We welcome all new pattern designers who are interested in selling their creations in our shop to get in contact. We work with independent designers that are committed to using an inclusive size range. We also ask that designers include a diverse range of models for their designs, reflecting the sewing community we all belong to. We know many designers are already making these changes, if they haven’t already done so, and we offer our support in helping them make these important changes in any way we can.
Whenever a new pattern range is released by a designer, we always stock the full size range. We also send feedback from you to designers we work with regarding all aspects of sewing patterns from fit to inclusivity. We have already approached a number of designers who create more size inclusive patterns to stock their patterns in our shop, for example Style Arc, Itch to Stitch, Paper Theory and Laela Jeyne Patterns to name a few. We will always share these in our newsletter and on social media as soon as they become available. We are limited some weeks to the styles of patterns being released and we are conscious that the content we share isn’t always as diverse as we would like it to be. If there is a designer you would like us to sell in our sewing pattern shop please email us: [email protected].
We have also standardised all the sewing patterns for women on our website using this size chart. When you browse for sewing patterns using our search tool, you can search for patterns from size ranges UK 2/ US 00 / EU 30 to UK 38 / US 34 / EU 66. We are all unique and not defined by our size – standardising the size search tool in this way is simply a practical tool to help us all find patterns we want to make.
Diversity and inclusivity on social media and the website
We are always actively looking to share a diverse range of new sewing pattern releases on our social media and website. We also do this with the sewing pattern reviews we share on our social media, blog and newsletters. We want to encourage everyone to contribute their reviews to our website so we can share as diverse and inclusive a range of makers as possible, so please do share yours! The bloggers we feature in the Sew Reporter are a mixture of creatives who regularly make and share their new outfits and reviews left on our website. If you visit the sewing pattern reviews page of our website you can see it isn’t diverse, we would like to hear your thoughts on this, is there anything stopping you from leaving a review or feeling part of the community?
Promoting inclusive sewing community groups and minority-owned businesses
Another great part of the sewing community is all the amazing challenges we can take part in. We are always looking for sewing challenges and hashtags raising awareness to share and particularly welcome those from minority sewing groups. We have collated a number of these sewing challenges and include hashtags on our website here, so please do take a look and get involved. These groups can be found on social media, where they welcome new members and share advice and inspiration for your sewing projects. If you are organising a sewing challenge or hashtag please do let us know by emailing [email protected] so we can share it to get as many makers involved as possible.
We offer free advertising slots in our newsletter for minority-owned pattern designers and sewing businesses. If you would like to be featured or want to recommend a business you love, please let us know [email protected]. To see the businesses we are featuring in our newsletter, you can subscribe on the homepage.
We are currently reviewing the events we are considering attending this year to ensure a diverse range of businesses, makers and judges are participating. You can discover all the minority-owned pattern designers we stock in our online sewing pattern shop here.
For a list of minority owned creative businesses and ally vendors, Jacinta Green has complied this comprehensive spreadsheet. There is also a list of Black pattern designers on Nateida’s website (Sew Natural Dane) as part of The Black History Month Pattern Designer Challenge.
Accessibility at events, on social media and the website
Each year we host an event called The Sewing Weekender in Cambridge, UK. This is an inclusive event – the College where we hold the event is accessible to wheelchair users and sewists with disabilities. Accommodation suitable for wheelchair users and sewists with disabilities is available on request along with onsite parking. We also ensure you have our personal contact details available over the weekend should you need any assistance along with 24 hour help from the College porters. In 2020 we hosted our first online Sewing Weekender, which makes the event accessible to those who are unable to attend in person.
Our video content is published on YouTube and this platform offers the option of subtitles for all viewers. We use black font throughout our website against a white background with Avenir font for the main body of the text (a sans-serif typeface). We include captions on our Instagram stories. We include image descriptions and capitalised hashtags in the text of our Instagram posts. We are currently working our way through thousands of pattern images to include alt text descriptions for the cover photos. The digital PDF patterns we sell are available to download as single PDF files, not .zip folders, so that makers who find using a tablet more accessible (rather than a keyboard) can open and view the files more easily.
We also attend a limited number of sewing shows throughout the year. We do our best to ensure before committing to these events that they are also accessible.
Gender and language
We continue to make changes to our website to make our use of gender language more inclusive. Most recently we changed the use of our language for children’s patterns and clothing. You will no longer see us reference girls and boys where styles split by sex but patterns grouped by garment type and age. We are currently looking at ways to do this for adults. We continue to seek new pattern designers who design for gender-free bodies. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive notifications of these new designers.
Each month we will be making a donation from our profits to a different charity, you can find details of the charities we will be supporting in our weekly newsletter. We will be donating funds to organisations who support members of the sewing community and emergency appeals to support disaster relief efforts worldwide.
We are always looking to support charities and regularly promote events in the sewing community that raise funds or create supplies through sewing challenges. We also provide advice to charities on accessing resources in the sewing industry and reaching out to makers. On our website we list charities who sew and knit to support vital work in our communities in the UK and worldwide. If you volunteer or manage a charity we can help promote please get in contact [email protected].
In 2020 we held our first Online Sewing Weekender, donating 100% of the profits equally between the charities NHS Charities Together, the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, Black Lives Matter and Mind. We both volunteer our time to grassroots charities in our local areas, from groups helping to provide food and shelter to homeless people to projects making an impact elsewhere in the world teaching vulnerable women sewing skills. We understand the vital importance of work by local charity groups and look to support them personally and through The Fold Line.
Charities we have recently supported: Red Cross Beirut Emergency Appeal, Show Racism The Red Card, The Samaritans, The Black Curriculum, Fine Cell Work and Macmillan Cancer Support. To see which charity we are supporting this month, subscribe to our newsletter on the homepage.
We also donate end of line stock to a charity local to us, Animal Rescue and Care, which they sell at events to raise funds.
We are proud to have been accredited as a Living Wage Employer. This means that all our employees are paid at least the London Living Wage. The real Living Wage is the only UK wage rate that is voluntarily paid by nearly 6,000 UK businesses who believe their staff deserve a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. Find out more from the Living Wage Foundation.
Our employees also work flexitime, this is a flexible way of working which allows members of our team to fit their working hours around their personal circumstances.
Businesses we work with
We always look to work with, support and promote other small businesses with the same values as us. We are particularly passionate about championing independent designers, where we can provide a platform for them to showcase their designs. We have long-standing relationships with the small businesses who help us to provide the services needed to run The Fold Line. When sourcing supplies and services we make sustainable choices where possible. For example, our sewing patterns are sent out in envelopes made from FSC certified and climate-neutral materials, they are also fully recyclable; our homes and computers are powered by Britain’s greenest energy company Ecotricity.