Name change for inclusivity and value: from the #fussycuttingsewalong to the #focuscuttingsewalong

The changes that we made to our sewalong to be more inclusive explained:

The #fussycuttingsewalong started way back in 2018 and you can read more about the origins here:

In October 2020 I made some changes to the sewalong’s stucture with the 2 key changes being:
1. We became the #focuscuttingsewalong (instead of the #fussycuttingsewalong) – you can read more about what focus cutting is here:
2. I started using the term Paper Piecing (instead of English Paper Piecing) – you can read more about why I am using Paper Piecing instead of ‘English Paper Piecing’ here:

The sewalong started in 2018 and it is a strong, supportive and creative community which I am so incredibly proud to be a part of as we stitch our focus-cut blocks with a different weekly prompt. By October 2020, there were 13.2k uses of the #fussycuttingsewalong hashtag on Instagram from stitchers all over the world. As protective as I am over this sewalong and its origins, I am also aware that I want it to be inclusive, accessible and valued. As such, we’ve decided to change the name of our sewalong to reflect this.

On the 8th October 2019, a stitcher on the #fussycuttingsewalong (someone whom I’m feel so honoured to have got to know digitally and in person through the sewalong) shared a post on Instagram saying:

This post stayed with me. I’ve spent many years fighting for inclusion through my family offering respite for children and young people with disabilities, as well as working with children and young people with disabilities in schools, and children and young people in the youth justice system. I don’t like using the term “fighting for inclusion” but that is what it is: a fight. Words have such huge power and they can devalue and silence people as well as invigorate and energise people. Time and again I have seen the negative impact of words on the children and young people I’ve worked with. Words that can ultimately devalue, exclude and dismiss people. I’d never considered whether the language we use in the sewalong excludes people, whether the language we use devalues what we do and whether the language we use devalues what we share. I stand for inclusion and I want to use language that strengthens this.

Many of us in the sewalong are used to the term “fussy cutting” because of how we use it in our sewing but, ultimately, that doesn’t change the actual definition of the word and the actual definition of fussy is not a good one. I also don’t think we should ‘reclaim’ a word with such negative meanings. If we’re explaining what it is we do to someone who doesn’t know the sewalong, what impression does it give off if we call ourselves “fussy cutters”? It implies we’re picky, that we’re difficult, that we’re not easy-going or creative. Ultimately, it devalues who we are and what we do. It is these thoughts that have continued to buzz around my head since reading that post in October 2019.

In September 2020, after reading extensively as part of my PhD about women’s voice, inclusion and sewing, I increasingly felt uncomfortable continuing to use this term. This was further cemented when I posted on my Instagram in a series of stories explaining my concerns and I received the following message:

“I actually put off joining in the #fussycuttingsewalong in 2018 when I came across it because of the connotation of the word fussy. It was the first time I had heard about fussycutting & I thought anyone who was fussy about the sewing would be super critical and point out the flaws. I was sooooo wrong”

This immediately made me realise it was time for change, and it was time for change now. The sewalong is a positive community, it is a creative community, it is a valued community and I wanted a term that demonstrated that and reaffirmed how much I value those who take part, their time, their stitching and their making. We aren’t being fussy, we are being focused. Focused on a specific part of the fabric to create a new design, focused on our activity, focused on us through engaging in a supportive community and more. So, at the start of October, I started giving a heads up to those taking part that we would soon be renaming the sewalong to the #focuscuttingsewalong and the response has been incredible including posts like Rachel’s:

I definitely feel a sense of loss over changing the name from the #fussycuttingsewalong as it has grown so organically as a community of stitchers from all over the world united through a shared love of hand-sewing, focus cutting and humour. I also know that the community itself will remain unchanged as it is the name that is changing not the actual group and what we stand for. The fact we are an international group is another key aspect of the change in language within the sewalong from “english paper piecing” to “paper piecing”. I have written about the fact that this technique did not originate from England, nor is it used exclusively in England, so the accuracy of the term is questionable. You can read more about that here:

As such, I have tried to stop using this term as I feel it is historically inaccurate and it was historically used as a term as the ‘English’ way was seen as fashionable which, for me, raises very large concerns around colonisation and patchwork. It was not a technique only engaged in by English people and using that name continues the perception that its history is English when it isn’t. We are an international community, and the technique is used internationally, so I feel it is really important to stop using “English Paper Piecing” and instead use “paper piecing”.

So, those are the 2 changes to the sewalong: from 4th October 2020 we changed from the #fussycuttingsewalong to the #focuscuttingsewalong name and we’ve changed from an ‘English Paper Piecing’ sewalong to a ‘Paper Piecing’ sewalong.