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Cultured Expressions, a Rahway-based specialty company promoting the creative use of African textiles in sewing, quilting and other DIY projects, has chosen five deserving African Fabric Entrepreneurs to receive its first business grants.

We’re thrilled to announce the recipients of our first CE BUSINESS GRANT, celebrating African Fabric Entrepreneurship, which has exploded in the past two years,” explains Lisa Shepard Stewart, Cultured Expressions’ owner.  The growth of her own business (due in part to the heightened interest in African fabrics, along with and a pandemic-related rise in stay-at-home activities like sewing and quilting), prompted her to create a vehicle to assist like-minded creatives. 

The grant program was inspired by the many ways we’ve all had to adjust and pivot our lives in various ways in the COVID era; I felt it was the perfect time to connect with deserving individuals through our first Business Grant Program. It also gives me an opportunity to learn more about “who’s doing what” and to offer help to up-and-coming individuals in our special niche of the textile industry.”  The three-part support comes in the form of a cash award, a Cultured Expressions gift card, and business coaching by Shepard Stewart.

Thanks to generous spotaneous donations, the original plan to award three grants was expanded to incude two additional businesses, for a total of five.  The recipients are:

  • Holland Ngowi, owner of PlushXHolland (designer, bespoke home décor accessories)

                    $500 Cash Award    +    $100 CE Gift Card    +   4 hours of Artisan Business Coaching

  • Sheila Burns-Owens, owner of Her2ndStitch (designer, custom quilted pillows)
  • Kimberley Cartwright, owner of Kimberley Pierce Cartwright (instructor, quilting & fiber arts)

                    $200 Cash Award   +    $50 CE Gift Card    +   2 hours of Artisan Business Coaching

  • Lecretia Akines, owner of Dawning Day Creations (designer, sewing instructor, importer)
  • Kianga Jinaki, owner of Kianga Art (fiber artist)

                    $150 Cash Award   +    $50 CE gift card   +   2 hours of Artisan Business Coaching

Congratulations to the recipients! And thank you to all of the applicants, to our selection committee and to our spontaneous donors, as well as our customers and friends, who made it possible for us to “pay it forward” in this unique way,” said Shepard Stewart.

For further information, email info@CulturedExpressions.com or visit www.CulturedExpressions.com

The middle of winter is the perfect time to create new home decor, whether, we’re dodging the latest COVID variant, or just navigating the snowstorm du jour — spending more time at home is all the justification we need to create fresh home accents.

Luckily, our new PILLOW PERFECTION class is now available as our newest on-demand offering! In it, you’ll learn how to make three basic styles, with lots of tips & tricks, plus creative options. Together, they add up to an endless array of pillow styles with African flair, at a small faction of the ridiculous cost of store-bought pillows!
And… you can access the class anytime, in your PJs, with all of your fabrics and supplies within arm’s reach! #win-win-win.

Also be sure to check out our ANKARA STRING QUILT and FAT QUARTER POCKET POUCH on-demand classes, too!

Visit Cultured Expressions’ virtual class site Visit CulturedExpressions.com

With their vibrant colors, exciting colors, unique textures and cultural relevance, it’s no wonder that African fabrics continue to grow in popularity in the DIY sewing, quilting and craft arena.  Ankara African prints, bogolan (aka “mudcloth”), batiks, kuba cloth and other specialty textiles are becoming increasingly mainstream, making it easy to incorporate these treasures into our creative activities all year long!  These are just a few of the upcoming month-by-month celebrations of culture and creativity:

  • FEBRUARY – African American Heritage Month invites us to explore the beauty and versatility of African fabrics, regardless of skill level.  With no sewing at all, a gorgeous cotton print or batik can become a regal headwrap, a table runner, sarong style skirt, wrapped top, or a quick carryall!  More experienced sewers and crafters can make more detailed versions of these projects.  And in between, fusible (iron-on) and hand-sewn options increase the creative possibilities.
  • MARCH – National Quilting Month AND (and more specifically, National Quilting Day on March 19) encourage stitchers to indulge their senses in rich, colorful prints and batiks.  They blend in beautifully with one’s existing fabric stash, adding a pop of excitement to an otherwise familiar quilt project or technique.
  • MARCH – National Craft Month also takes place in March, the perfect time to try decoupage with African prints, or create unique jewelry with beads and brass embellishments imported from West Africa.  Get a time-saving headstart by decorating items you already own, or begin from scratch.
  • APRIL –  National Decorating Month is sure to be on the minds of many, as the stay-at-home lifestyle of the pandemic caused so many of us to update and decorate the space we now spend so much time in!  Now our décor has to not only look great, but we also need our surroundings to provide a feeling of calm and comfort in unsettling times.  The neutral palettes and handwoven textures in Bogolan, from Mali, korhogo from the Ivory Coast and kuba raffia cloths from Central Africa bring a soothing, earthy quality to any home setting, in simple pillows, sofa throws, bed runners, table toppers, seat covers and more.
  • APRIL 22 – Earth Day inspires us to Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle in creative ways.  African prints or bogolan scraps make excellent appliqué patches for “Trendy Mending” projects on your favorite denim garments and other casual clothing.  Or, try integrating already-recycled elements into an Earth Day project, like Krobo beads from Ghana, West Africa.  Krobo beads are made from recycled glass bottles, in a centuries-old, labor-intensive process that is still used today.

For many sewing, quilting and crafts enthusiasts, these unique textiles aren’t just raw materials for projects, they’re a lifestyle! And it’s clear form these few examples that anytime is the right time to get creative with these fabrics, whether it’s a month-long celebration or no reason at all – sew many opportunities to “Feel the Fabric and Embrace the Culture”.  For more inspiration and details on upcoming classes and events at Cultured Expressions, stop by the studio at 1417 Main Street in Rahway, NJ (open Wed-Sat) or visit http://www.CulturedExpressions.com. Phone 866-MUDCLOTH

We’re thrilled to announce our first CE BUSINESS GRANT, celebrating African Fabric Entrepreneurship, which has exploded in he past two years. Cultured Expressions’ owner, Lisa Shepard Stewart, explains that the growth of her own business, due in part to this new rise in African fabric-based businesses, prompted her to create a vehicle to assist like-minded creatives. “It also gives me an opportunity to learn more about “who’s doing what” and to offer help to up-and-coming individuals in our industry,” in the form of a cash award, CE gift card, and business coaching. Other plans are also in the works for all applicants.

Designed for those who own an African fabric-based business, the grant program was inspired by the many ways we’ve all had to adjust and pivot our lives in various ways in the COVID era, we decided the time was right to assist deserving individuals through our first Business Grant Program.

If you fit the simple criteria below, you’re invited to apply.

DEADLINE: December 31, 2021. (Recipients will be selected January 15, 2022.)

​ELIGIBILITY:

(1)     The applicant must have either (a) started the business in or around March 2020, or (b) made a significant shift in developing their existing business since March 2020.

(2)    The business must be focused on African textiles and/or embellishments, such as selling raw materials, making and selling finished items, teaching, etc.

The Main Recipient will receive:

 $500 Cash Award  +  $100 CE Gift Card  + 4-hours of Business Coaching

TWO Secondary Recipients will each receive:

 $200 Cash Award +  $50 CE Gift Card  + 2-hours of Business Coaching

DETAILS AND APPLICATION

Recipients will be chosen by a small panel of fiber art and business experts.

Questions? Email info@culturedexpressions.com

OK.. so, after months of being sworn to secrecy, we can finally tell you that Cultured Expressions Sewing Studio is one of the 10 featured quilt shops in the Fall 2021 issue of Quilt Sampler magazine!!! AND a shot of our interior was chosen for THE COVER of the issue!!

Used with permission from Quilt Sampler® magazine. ©2021 Meredith Corporation.
All Rights Reserved.

Plus, I created an exclusive project just for this issue…

Taking inspiration from various cultures, this hand-stitched applique pillow features vibrant African prints in a free-style composition.  I combined these unique fabrics with elements borrowed from the Siddi quilts, an African quilting tradition found in India, and from Japanese boro cloths.

We have kits available online, with 10 African fabric prints and batiks, nine balls of Eleganza perle cotton by Wonderfil Specialty Threads, in a limited edition CE box set, and background fabric to create a 16″ pillow.

Kits and magazines will be available beginning August 30 — pre-order yours now; kit quantities are limited!!

Actually, it’s been a busy year at Cultured Expressions from the start (which accounts for the lack of blog posts) but to get everyone up to speed:

First of all… the NEW CE WEBSITE was launched in early July!!! It will allow us to offer you more, so stay tuned for the latest developments!

AND we have a special exhibit coming up in nearby Woodbridge, NJ, at the Barron Arts Center. From September 10 thru 26, you can see “African Accents: Modern Designs from Traditional Textiles” mix of Cultured Expressions pieces – quilts, handbags, home accents — as a part of the center’s year-long event, “TEXTILES: Reimagining New Jersey”.

Opening Reception: Friday, September 10, 7-9pm (Face masks, social distancing will be observed)

An online version of the display will also be available once it opens (link to follow). ; ) Enjoy!! — lisa

More on the exhibit…

The 50-piece African Brilliance Collection (ABC) 5″ square pre-cuts available thru CulturedExpressions.com (assortments will vary)

Who Doesn’t Love a Great Ankara Print?

… And Welcome to all of our new list members, including new friends from the Global Quilt Connection event this past weekend!!
Is anyone else beginning to feel re-energized? Maybe it’s the weather, or the gradual lifting of Covid restrictions, or working through various CE tasks, with an eye toward the next ones — probably a combination, and I’m taking full advantage of it all. The colors and patterns of ankara prints seems to fit my mood perfectly and so I declare Spring 2021 as Official Ankara Season ; ) Let’s do this!!!

First, I’ll be a guest instructor this summer for two virtual (Zoom) events on Pattern Review! Join me on June 17 as I present “All About Ankara Fabrics”, discussing their unique appeal and cultural significance, how to mix the colors and bold motifs, and even a bit about their international history. REGISTER for the Lecture
Then, you can put this knowledge to practical use on July 8 as we create our new Ankara Charm Shoulder Bag together during a LIVE Sew-Along! Be sure to register by June 24 if you’re ordering the optional kit of pre-cut 5″ squares and instructions. REGISTER for the Sew-Along.

My finally-finished quilt, “Makola on My Mind” (above) is included in a ground-breaking exhibit of black artists at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. “Testimony: African American Artists Collective” is a collaboration between the museum and the KC-based African American Artists Collective (a Fabrigasm LIVE sponsor!!). The exhibit runs June 5, 2021 thru March 26, 2022, so you’ll have plenty of time to check it out. DETAILS...

This particular quilt (shown here as a work-in-progress) celebrates the unique energy of Makola Market in Accra, particularly the crowded, narrow, maze-like lanes of fabric vendors with Ankara prints. it’s my “testimony” to the richness of Ghanaian culture, mimicking the market’s everyday mix of colors and patterns that can only be described as Organized Chaos! 

PLUS…. There’s More Big News to Share but let’s save some for later ; )

Here’s exciting news!!

Fabrigasm® LIVE happens May 1-2, 2021, and wed love for you to be involved! It’s the ultimate Virtual Experience for Lovers of African Textiles… Picture Fabrigasm Magazine gone virtual, with informative panel discussions, inspiring presentations, creative demos and how-to’s, fun opportunities to Sewcialize, retail therapy and more.


Click on the registration link to check out the COMPLETE SCHEDULE

Choose from these TICKET OPTIONS:

All-Access BASIC – $15 Admission to all virtual presentations, demo, vendors and sessions on May 1-2. All

Access PLUS – $35 Includes Basic level, plus 10%OFF of (1) online order at CulturedExpressions.com thru May 9, 2021 and Pre-ordered Fabrigasm magazine issue #8, (Fall 2021)

All Access DELUXE – $85 Includes Plus level, and a World Premiere exclusive virtual sew-along to make the Ankara Charm Shoulder Bag (shown) at the end of May. Includes class and precuts

Fabrigasm LIVE – FAQs:


Is this going to be on Zoom? No, we’re using a platform called Hopin.com. You’ll need to create an account with your email address and a password to register for and access the event.


I’m not available all weekend. Can I access a recording afterwards? Yes, we will send the link to registered individuals upon request. The event will be available for limited time following the event.


I’m considering the Deluxe ticket. When will the virtual class be held? It is tentatively scheduled for Friday evening (EST), May 28. If you are not available for the sew-along, a recording will be made available to you afterwards.


What are the “Creative Critique” sessions? For each of these sessions, we invite attendees to come on live and show a current project, to get peer suggestions or input, or to just collect compliments! Share your work and make new friends!


What else do I need to have handy? You’ll want to keep a notebook nearby, and a yard of your favorite ankara or batik fabric to wrap your head with Lecretia on Saturday, or work on a cloth doll along with Kianga on Sunday! We invite you to work on your own projects thru the weekend, or just sit back, relax and soak it all in. Check out the full schedule and plan your projects accordingly!

Questions? Contact info@CulturedExpressions.com

We’ll see you soon!

Black History Minute / Sewing Edition 🤗
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Most of us know that American inventor Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light, and an early version of the gas mask…
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But, did you know…
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He began his career as a self-taught sewing machine mechanic, and developed improvements to the machine mechanism, including the ability to create a zigzag stitch?!
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Later, he and his wife, a dressmaker, ran a sewing business.
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So, the next time you sew a stretch stitch, buttonhole or decorative stitch, think of Mr. Morgan ❤️🖤💚🧵

BlackHistoryIsWorldHistory #sewingmachinehistory #garrettmorgan #zigzagstitch #blackhistorymonth #americaninventors #blackinventors #blackownednj #funfact #sewingtrivia
Vanessa customized her pillows thru shape, color, pattern and firmness!

Back in March of 2020, little did we know how long our new shelter-in-place lifestyle would remain in effect. And through the past year, collectively, we’ve grown to realize the increasing significance of a comfortable home, as it evolved to also become a workplace, study space and entertainment hub for many as well.  For some, this monumental lifestyle shift pointed up the need to create (or update) the home as a true oasis, a place of safety and well-being, and yes, even style. So it’s no wonder sewing is enjoying a resurgence right now!  It’s a creative, practical, fun and economical way to upgrade your décor.  In addition, It could be the mental health boost – and the colorful distraction — you’ve been looking for!

Likewise, you can sew plush, oversized body pillows for lazy lounging while streaming your favorite shows and movies.  (Don’t forget a dogbed for your best furry friend!) By sewing your own, you control not only the fabric choice, but also the amount of firmness, the shape and size, as Vanessa learned during her recent class at Cultured Expressions Sewing Studio in Rahway.  Plus, you’ll enjoy the bragging rights that come with “I made it myself.”

Table toppers are another great choice for creativity, from full table cloths to runners, right down to placemats, cloth napkins, mugrugs and coasters.  Any of these would be a perfect choice for beginners, and can be made by machine or hand sewing, or with no-sew methods using iron-on products.

Window treatments are still another way to customize your home with ease.  When you choose fabrics with lots of visual impact, you can sew the simplest styles, letting the fabric provide the “Wow” factor.

For the bedroom, quilts are by far the most striking room-transforming choice, created in your favorite color scheme.  If you don’t have the time to devote to a full-sized bed quilt, consider stitching up a cheerful wall hanging to greet you in the morning, or a bed runner and a pair of quilted pillow covers.  The Winter 2021 issue of Fabrigasm® magazine includes a feature on creative headboard ideas, and tips and tricks for using handwoven fabrics.

Finally, be sure to get the kids involved in your home-enhancing projects – creating with fabrics, beads, needle, thread and glue can expose them to a fun new hobby as well as an important life skill.  And maybe more important, it gives them a much needed break from the excessive screen time demands of their online lessons.

For information on private sewing classes, fabrics, kits, Fabrigasm magazine and more at-home DIY inspiration, visit the Cultured Expressions Sewing Studio in Rahway or call 866-MUDCLOTH. You’ll find info on online classes at SewcialDistance.com.