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July 26, 2023 Stitching a New Form of Progress: Lessons from Sewing, Letter-writing, and Origami Art

Nell Johnson

Marketing and Programs Engagement Manager

What if, instead of focusing on the “forward-ever, backward-never” ideology, we took a step back as a way of progress?

Meagan Woods, Girl Be Heard’s Afterschool Partnerships Co-program Manager, thinks we should.
It began with a sewing machine, just as Covid swept through the globe.

Ms. Woods cemented her fixation on the sewing machine’s reverse pedal, how it went backward to anchor rather than undo. A multi-disciplinary artist who works in dance, theatre, and costume design, Ms. Woods wondered where dance might fit in these backward sequences. These curiosities soon launched her investigation into other reversal processes. Her illuminating thesis is available for free here. 

Ms. Woods went on to do a TEDx talk that reimagines perspectives on progress by exploring how sewing moves in reverse to secure and sustain each stitch. Through a dynamic talk that utilizes footage of various sewing techniques, her talk, Stitching a New Form of Progress, considers how we might apply these productive backward methods to reinforce our personal, social and environmental efforts whose seams we do not want to fray.

Learn more about Ms. Woods and watch her TEDx talk. 


Meagan Woods (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist who works in dance, theatre, and costume design. She is passionate about using art to spark awareness and action around social and environmental justice. Meagan holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Simon Fraser University and a BFA in Dance from Rutgers University, where she earned the Margery Turner Award for choreography. Meagan has guest taught at both her alma maters, as well as The New School and Montclair University. Meagan is currently a collaborator for the research project Moving Matter: material-led collaborative choreographies and an artist with Once She Dries: an experimental opera about coral reefs, which will be presented at the International Biennial for Paper Fibre Art at the NTCRI in Taiwan starting November 2023.