For the past eight years Frances Conwell has experienced the ways in which crafting can bring people of all ages together. In 2004, Frances co-founded Sisters Interacting Through Stitches, a fiber arts club, at the Wynnefield Library. The group began by meeting monthly at the library, teaching each other how to knit and crochet. Over time their meetings have evolved to include workshops and conversations about social issues. Some examples include “How to Turn Your Hobby into a Business”, “Will Writing”, Black History Month Celebration, Women’s History Month Celebration, movie screenings, and veteran’s programs.
The group also partners with organizations to host clothing and menstrual product drives at the library. On the last Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, they partnered with the Girl’s Track program to make period purses for The Spot Period Hub on Germantown Avenue. Sisters Interacting Through Stitches and the young people in the Girl’s Track program sewed and crotched purses that the young people then stuffed with menstrual products.
It’s a safe space. That’s the most important part. All of us need to feel safe…for that one moment in time they are safe. They are comfortable and then they don’t even realize they are talking about issues that are important to them because they are not being judged. Frances Conwell
Sisters Interacting Through Stitches 13th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service Event
Since completing CPI in 2021, Frances has continued her work of connecting people through art. In February, Frances, and a group of 13 women began working on a quilt celebrating 20 years of One Book, One Philadelphia, a reading program through the Free Library of Philadelphia. Many of the members working on the quilt had never sewed before and were learning as they were making. Frances noted that the One Book, One Philadelphia quilt was such a “great project because people that didn’t even live in Wynnefield found out about it and reached out about joining.” The group worked on the quilt weekly at the library, and at their own homes when the library was closed, to complete the project by June.
One Book One Philadelphia Community Quilt and Participating Fiber Artists
On October 9th Frances presented a quilt she made for the Paul Robeson House and Museum during their “Arts in the Parlor” series. For two months Frances and her friend fiber artist Cassandra Gunkel worked on the quilt, “Paul Robeson’s Hats”, which showcased the many hats Paul Robeson wore during his lifetime of careers.
“My thing is making sure everything is intergenerational.”
CPI encouraged Frances’ desire to create intergenerational programs and conversations. “I’m always trying to take whatever they are offering in the community and bring it back, especially to young people.” Frances works to connect young people in her community to CPI alum that need help with their programming. Sisters Interacting Through Stitches, which is primarily a group of seniors, prioritizes partnering with organizations that are working with youth and encourage intergenerational dialogs.
“It’s an opportunity to have intergenerational conversations. Not only do we have arts and crafts activities, but we also talk about hard issues. We don’t just say ‘these are the issues we are going to talk about’ because then you won’t get anybody. But if you bring them in with art you can address a lot of issues.”
Picture from Cassandra Gunkel of Frances with the "Paul Robeson's Hats" Quilt.
Picture from Sherry Howard - Donated the "Paul Robeson's Hats" Quilt to the Paul Robeson House and Museum on 10/9/2022