CheyOnna Sewell on Crafting a Better World

CheyOnna has lived much of her adult life split between the city she grew up in, Kansas City, MO, and the city where she found her second voice, St. Louis. She now lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband and two cats. In 2014, she founded The Yarn Mission, an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-oppression knitting collective to support and organize for Black Liberation. The Yarn Mission has shared the art and (sometimes) calm of knitting with others through community knitting sessions and facilitating learning at self-care events and workshops. As a criminologist, she have done work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in an effort to combat systemic racism within the criminal (in)justice system. Through her academic work, she strives to be intersectional and critical. Her time and energy is devoted to her arts (knitting and crocheting), cats, family, The Yarn Mission, Black Liberation, and working on a dissertation in criminology and criminal justice. She believes that all of those things, people and animals are intimately related.

At Midwest Craft Con, she’ll be speaking about: Racial Justice and the Role of Knitting.

Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do so that I can keep doing what I do. Specifically, creating things keeps me inspired and diligent in all areas of my life. It allows me to finish and appreciate things that I create so that I can keep doing long-work where progress is difficult to see. Being able to share creative abilities is fulfilling and helps me feel like I am contributing to the amelioration of society.

What’s your earliest crafty memory?

My mother taught me how to crochet when I was little, around 8 or so. I also remember doing art projects including illustrating books that I wrote in school as well. I considered it so great and challenging I never thought anyone could consider such things frivolous.

What advice would you go back and give your younger self?

I would say, “Love, you are capable of so much. Create. Share. and keep going.”

What’s your favorite craft book?

Stitch and Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook by Debbie Stoller was central for me developing my knitting abilities. I keep gifting it to others.

How did you get where you are today, in 10 words or less?

Through beauty, love, trauma and tragedy; these things are integral.

What are your goals for 2016?

To keep going. I hope to document and build my way through 2016. I want to take more pictures so that I can remember the things I do and who I do them with. I also want to help The Yarn Mission develop infrastructure so that it can be sustainable. Also, I would like to learn Spanish.

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