Have you noticed more and more short videos on Instagram that are reposted from TikTok? I started seeing sewists participating over the past year and decided I had to figure it out. Should we all be on TikTok? Are we missing the latest and greatest way to connect with the sewing community?
Before starting to research this post, I asked the Sewcialists community on Instagram if you used/enjoyed/understood TikTok. Let me tell you, the answer was a resounding “No!” Only 8% of people who responded use TikTok.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a social media platform that focuses on 15-second video clips, often using songs or dialogue. Since that’s a very vague definition, you might find watching this 5-minute video worthwhile. TikTok is generally accessed through the phone app, but you can watch content on a web browser as well.
What kind of sewing content is on TikTok?
TikToks often have a lot more editing than your standard Instagram story. Here are some examples of the kinds of posts you might see!
Start-to-finish sewing process: For example, Erica Bunker (TikTok/Instagram) fits the whole sewing process from cutting to finished garment in just 15 seconds!
Styling tips: British pattern company Sew Over It (TikTok/Instagram) highlights different ways to style their patterns.
Comedy voiceovers: One of the big trends on TikTok is doing lip synch videos to audio from movies and TV. Shannon (Rare Device and Sew Queer) explained to me that she likes to take the audio that is trending and use it in a sewing context, like this! (I asked how this is done, and she explained that it is like using a filter on Instagram stories – when you see someone use a song or clip that you like, click on the name of the audio listed and then you can make your own video with it.)
Tips and tricks: Mood Fabric (TikTok/website) has short pattern adjustment tutorials and of course droolworthy video of fabrics!
Social justice commentary: Sewing is intrinsically connected to our identity, which of course you know if you read Sewcialists! Lots of sewing creators also feature content about race, gender, sexuality, age, size, ability, and all those other fascinating things that connect with our sewing. For example, here’s Mr. Domestic (TikTok/Instagram) riffing on homophobic comments.
Fun, right? So how can you get started?
I started by downloading the app and searching for hashtags and users that I know from Instagram. You can do this without creating an account, which I appreciate! However, the secret sauce for TikTok is its algorithm, which notices which videos you like and shows you more of the same genre. I think this is why people talk about it being so addictive. Unlike Instagram, you aren’t just seeing content from the people you follow. Instead, there’s an endless stream of more to watch!
What do sewing creators love about TikTok?
I reached out to some friends to ask what they liked about TikTok, and here’s what I learned:
- Rae from The Gnome Wife (TikTok/Instagram) says they really like how easy it is to build a following on TikTok compared to Instagram. “One thing I love about TikTok is that so many different people see my videos—not just my followers. It took me three years to get 1,400 followers on Instagram, but in six months on TikTok I hit 9,000 followers.” Rae also says that their followings on the two platforms have different focuses. “My TikTok followers mostly follow me because I’m nonbinary and queer and fat, whereas my Instagram followers mostly follow me for sewing and crafting. I really love both of the communities I’ve found.”
- Terrance Williams (TikTok/Instagram) says that TikTok is a great way to share the process behind a garment. “A lot of the time people just see the finished product and think it takes 5 seconds to create, but being able to see how we buy the fabric, cut out the patterns and piece everything together helps people see all the work that goes into it.”
No platform is perfect! TikTok tends to be very fast paced, with quick edits and few subtitles. As a result, I think it would be difficult for people with sensitivity to flashing images, as well as people with vision and hearing impairments. It’s also very intense and fast paced, and I personally find that the app makes me feel stressed and overwhelmed quickly as I try to learn my way around. All the editing that videos take would also be triggering for the pinched nerves in my wrists and arms.
- Jasika (Inactive TikTok/Active Instagram) says she deletes the app within a few hours every time she downloads it, but that “these days I have what I call ‘curated TikTok experiences’ where people send me the funny ones and I watch them through my web browser–that app is so overwhelming and don’t get me started on actually MAKING A VIDEO?? You need a Masters in the damn thing!” Rather than make her own videos, she likes to support people who are making smart content and putting their mark on the community.
- TikTok has been called out in the past for having a racist algorithm that doesn’t give equal opportunity to creators of colour. TikTok apologized, but some issues persist. Terrence says that “We also see this all the time with white creators doing TikTok dances and getting brand deals and going on national television and getting all of this recognition… but the dances they do, they were copied from Black creators and did not give them credit. And so, personally for me it is exhausting being on these platforms like Instagram that suppress content and certain creators and we are constantly having to work 10 times as hard for our content to be seen and valued.”
- It is time consuming to be a creator! All that filming and editing! Setting up lights and tripods, or bugging someone to film a 1 second shot of you sewing—that is all going to add up. If you take joy in that process, then you might love being a creator on TikTok. If you don’t…well, you can post simpler videos or just watch what other people post.
- If you like long-form content, then TikTok is probably not the platform for you. A short video clip is never going to contain the nuance of a blog post!
I started this post by asking, “Should we all be on TikTok? Are we missing the latest and greatest way to connect with the sewing community?” and my answer is, “Maybe?” If you are curious, I’d suggest making an account and giving it a try for a week or two to see if you like the user experience and train the algorithm to find you content that you enjoy. Watching videos is a good way to get started, and who knows, you might be inspired to create your own videos too. Most of all though, I’d encourage you to try TikTok if you feel left out by Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or any of the social media platforms that have gone before. If you feel like you aren’t getting engagement elsewhere, try TikTok! I’d love to see more sewing hashtags gain traction there, like #SewOver50 , #FatSewing, and #BlkMakersMatter, all of which are popular on Instagram.
So, what do you think? Are you curious to give TikTok a try?
Gillian is cofounder of the Sewcialists. She blogs at Crafting a Rainbow and is on Instagram at @craftingarainbow.
I think I’ll leave Tik Tok right where it currently is, in the Playstore. I really don’t think I need it in my life.