Sisters gather for the First Annual ‘From Headpiece to Hem’ Sewing Conference

Sister Ermine Muhammad of Atlanta, Ga. looks on as instructor Jennifer I. Muhammad demonstrates pattern cutting techniques.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. ( – “Sewing is not just sewing,” explained the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan to the women in the Nation of Islam in a recent address. “It is learning how to cut your life out of a pattern after God.”

Those words confirmed for the organizers of the First Annual “From Headpiece to Hem Sewing Conference 2007: Sew Beautiful, Sew Creative, Sew Perfect” held here July 26-29, that they were on the right track.


For co-organizer Sister Jennifer Muhammad of Chicago-based Exclusive Designs, Inc., the weekend met all of her expectations.

“I was very pleased with the response from the Sisters. Their energy was contagious. When you saw someone complete something and receive that applause from the rest of the Sisters, it inspired each to complete something also,” she told The Final Call.

The conference retreat brought over 80 women and girls from all over the country with one goal in mind–to learn to sew–and for those who already knew how to sew, to learn to sew better. Also lending their sewing expertise as instructors were Brenda Muhammad, LaWeeda Muhammad and Linda Muhammad of Chicago; and Valerie Muhammad of Houston. Teachers aides included Isabel Muhammad of Buffalo, N.Y.; Virginia Muhammad of Indianapolis, Ind.; Miyoshi Muhammad of Baltimore, Md.; and Renee Muhammad of Chicago. Patricia Muhammad of Atlanta, Ga. served as Registration Coordinator. All of the instructors wore aprons monogrammed by one Intermediate Class member, Sister Lenore Muhammad of Chicago.

Skill levels ranged from those in the advanced class who brought their sewing machines and sergers, to those in the basic classes, like one Sister who didn’t even know how to turn the machine on. By the time the retreat was over, she had made a pair of pants and a headpiece.

For Marie X, getting to the sewing retreat meant driving 22 hours from Phoenix with her 10-year-old son.

“I had to be here and I had to drive–my father died recently and I couldn’t afford to change the ticket, but I couldn’t afford not to be here either. This has meant so much to me,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Sister Marie was the first one to complete her garment in the Intermediate Class taught by Sister LaWeeda Muhammad and Sister Brenda Muhammad of Chicago. For accomplishing this, Sister Marie received an instructor’s apron as an award.

“This was a spectacular event. I was the first one to register,” explained Sister Shari L. X from Chicago to The Final Call. “I heard about this in my M.G.T. class and had to be here. I’m so happy. Look at this! All of us want the same thing. We love beauty and creativity that we are doing ourselves.”

‘Take it out!’

Those were the dreaded words that sent many a sewer back to starting place, or rather, back to her seam ripper to begin again. If it wasn’t right, it wasn’t passing the “Sister LaWeeda Test.”

“I told them from the beginning if it wasn’t right then they would have to ‘take it out.’ I also told them that we would be sewing our hems by hand and not on the machine, because if you can’t hem by hand, you can’t sew,” said Sister LaWeeda, owner of Chicago-based Sew Smart Designs.

The spiritual rewards

Rows of tables filled with sewing machines, ironing boards, irons, sewing notions, pastel colored fabrics greeted the sewers who were determined to complete their assigned tasks. Each day started at 5 a.m. with prayer-–after that, it was non-stop sewing for 19 hours. The Sisters seldom took breaks other than to make their prayers and to eat dinner, and even during the breaks, sewers worked on their projects or attended other instructional classes offered, such as knitting, beading, shoe covering, sewing children’s clothes and fabric stenciling.

“The spirit here was just incredible,” said Tarissa Muhammad from Detroit, Mich. “This retreat was as much spiritual as it was about skills. I am very grateful for being here and I look forward to next year.

Just the beginning

“I am so thankful for the support of the National M.G.T. and G.C.C. Captain, Sister A’ishah Muhammad, who encouraged the M.G.T. classes across the nation to attend,” said Sister Jennifer, who, along with the co-organizers, have already begun planning for next year’s retreat where more specialty classes will be offered.

–Nisa Islam Muhammad

(For highlights from the First Annual National Sewing Conference Retreat, please visit, or to join the online sewing group, visit