When a solitary hobby becomes a group effort, community is built. Stitch-a-longs, or SALs, bring stitchers together around a common design, event, or theme. SALs can celebrate an individual, challenge stitchers to try something new, or inspire communities into craftivism. This month, the Moon and Stars For Pakistan SAL (#MoonAndStarsForPKSAL on Instagram) is raising money and awareness for flood relief in Pakistan. Please enjoy this interview with SAL organizers Nitya and Maryam; we hope it inspires you to join in!
Introduce yourselves and tell us how you got into stitching.
N: I’m Nitya (pronounced nith-ya), my pronouns are she/her. I started stitching when I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old. My family used to spend our Sunday afternoons at Frank’s Nursery and Crafts (I can still walk through the aisles in my mind and know exactly where to find every possible stitchy item), and I would pick out tiny cross stitch kits to try out. I taught myself using the provided kit directions. I’ve put down and picked up cross stitch at various moments in my life since then. In 2020, I saw my first Flosstube video and haven’t put down my cross stitch since!
M: My name is Maryam Arbaboon aka MarroomyCrafts on IG and MarroomyDesigns on Gumroad. I am a stitcher, a designer and a flosstuber. I was introduced to stitching through flosstube at the beginning of the pandemic and started stitching in November of 2020 and fell down the rabbit hole. I started designing patterns January of 2021 and started my flosstube June of 2022.
Tell us about the #MoonAndStarsForPKSAL and how it came about.
N: What’s better than a hashtag that comes with stitchy prizes! The moon and stars refer to the symbols on the flag of Pakistan, and PK stands for Pakistan.
If you read and listen to world news like I do, then we know that this summer has been dreadful in Pakistan. The flooding has been disastrous. A third of the country is under water. A country that has a deep connection with agriculture and farming has seen land and livestock decimated.
Every time there’s a human rights crisis, I always feel like we, being part of a crafting community, could somehow pool our resources together to help, use our love of craft and come together with this community that we’re building to do something good. What really got me to step up and do something was an interview that I heard on public radio with a Pakistani man. He was talking about how when your town is flooded, all you want to do is to float on anything and try to find land. But for him, there is no land. Everything for hundreds of acres is under water. He was being interviewed as he sat atop a levee. There was something in his voice that really stayed with me. So I put out an Instagram story asking if any cross stitchers would want to collaborate on a craftivism fundraiser, and Maryam responded. So here we are!
M: I feel honored that she invited me to join. Stitch and chat seemed a great way to gather some stitchy friends around a good cause and enjoy our craft.
How can we all participate?
N: First and foremost, donate. Donate $1 if that’s all you’ve got. (What I tell myself is that if I have money to build my cross stitch stash, I certainly can spare something to donate to a human who’s struggling.) Then, you can join in on one or both of the following events. You can stitch on a project that has moon and/or star motifs and post a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #MoonandStarsforPKsal. You can also come join a stitch and chat hosted by me and Maryam on Saturday, October 1 at 10:00 am Central time.
M: We invite all those who donate to Care.org and send us a proof through Instagram message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, to join our virtual stitch and chat on Zoom October 1st 10-11 am Central time. There will be prizes and raffles and all those who send us their confirmation will receive an exclusive pattern designed by me.
Do you have specific stitching projects for this SAL?
N: Anything with a moon and/or star(s) works. If you are looking for ideas (or to be enabled), check out video 23B on my Flosstube channel, Daybreak Stitchery, where I show off some patterns that I have in my stash with moons and/or stars on them. You could even chart out your own tiny moon or star and add it to a current WIP [work-in-progress].
Ideally, I would have loved to stitch on a pattern either developed by a stitcher from Pakistan or really anywhere in South Asia, but I haven’t been able to find one. Pakistan has a rich tradition of embroidery and even has a region that specializes in cross stitch. Maryam and I are still reading up and getting informed on this. It’s most meaningful to stitch on cultural patterns designed by someone from that culture, but in this case, we haven’t been able to find someone of Pakistani origin.
M: I will be model stitching using our hashtag to start things off.
What have you learned from doing craftivism fundraisers? Do you have any advice?
M: Craftivism is not easy. We all like to share posts but taking action is not easy. Craftivism without any meaningful and tangible action is just crafting. I also see how it brings people of different backgrounds together. Which is beautiful. My advice is to find Organizations that have their boots on the ground and do your research before donating. Also to start local. There are so many small local organizations doing great work. So yes, join these bigger events but don’t stop there, donate when you can and as often as you can even if it’s only a few dollars.
N: I’m simultaneously surprised by the kindness, curiosity and generosity of our stitching community while also wondering how a community of thousands strong hasn’t come together to do even more. Imagine the power of thousands of cross stitchers each donating even just one dollar to each of these causes that arises. We could have such a great impact. We have the heart to do so, but sometimes I sense a reluctance on the part of the community to take the next step. If a cause moves you and you are a cross stitcher, take the first step to ask the community for help. And when someone in the community asks for help, let’s come together and help. And whenever possible, let’s center BIPOC voices, voices of our queer friends, voices of our neurodivergent friends and learn from them!
You’re also both participating in the Marathon for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit (MMIWG2S). Can you please say a bit about that fundraiser?
M: Marathon for MMIWG2S is a great event for a great cause. Unfortunately murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and 2 spirits don’t receive the same attention as other cases receive. For more information check this page. If you are able to fundraise please make a pledge and reach out to your network to bring in more donations. I have pledged 100 hours of stitching during the months of September and October. You are welcome to make a donation to my page or Nitya here.
N: I participated for the first time last year, and I pushed myself to not only stitch, but to listen. Marathon for MMIWG2S should be about centering Indigenous voices and learning from them while we craft. We can donate, but we also have a responsibility to listen and to learn. When I record my end-of-September Flosstube, I’ll be happy to share some of the resources that I’ll be listening to while stitching for the cause in October. There are also some fabulous stitchers and Flosstubers out there who already reference Indigenous voices. Tarsier Stitches and Neat & Knot by the Sea are great places to start.
Note: Diversity in Stitching participants Mislaid Pages and The Knitting Nurse are also raising money through the Marathon for MMIWG2S. The fundraiser page for donating to any of the participants can be found here.
Thank you so much to Nitya and Maryam for organizing the Moon and Stars For PK SAL and taking the time to tell us more about it. Even if you aren’t able to attend the October 1 Stitch and Chat, we encourage everyone to donate if possible and to help spread the word on social media.