In 2003, Julie Jackson stopped by a craft store to purchase a truly ornate cross stitch sampler – the kind with a guide for sewing the alphabet so it could be personalized as a wedding gift – like a kind of art therapy. She was stuck in a job she hated and, as she sat down to sew, she decided to give up the model.
“Instead, I used the alphabet to sew ‘f ** k’ down the middle and it really made me laugh,” Jackson said. “I was quite familiar with the DIY movement that started with knitting, so I decided to create a website and sell my own kits.”
This is how Jackson’s viral brand, Subversive Cross Stitch, took off.
She normally sells models that guide people through tailoring phrases like “Bite Me”, “Consent Is Sexy” and the adorable “Dang It All to Heck”; but after the new coronavirus was declared a pandemic, she pivoted to publish new free PDF templates.
“I started a series of free patterns: the first one was ‘Don’t Freak Out’,” she said. “Then I did a combo in ‘Wash Your F ** king Hands’ and ‘Don’t Touch Your Damn Face.'”
After that, she released a model for “Stay The F ** k Home” because she was so frustrated that people kept violating shelter-in-place orders. This one has had 5,000 downloads so far.
“When the quarantines started in early March, I was thinking about how I could help people stuck at home deal with their frustration and have a good laugh,” Jackson said. “Sewing is notoriously therapeutic, it’s what I could bring to the table and give away for free.”
As people spend much more time at home – while undergoing unprecedented stress – there has been a noticeable increase in interest in what could be classified as “urban homesteading” activities: raising baby chickens, create a victory garden, bake bread. Jackson’s subversive coronavirus-themed cross stitch patterns seem like a natural extension of that movement, but she’s not the only one using cheeky takes from this traditionally domestic activity to while away the time at home.
Cynthia Hasenbein, an experienced embroiderer, has just completed a piece that features the silhouette of a plague doctor and the phrase “Wash your hands”.
“I saw [that piece] floating, both as original art and as others were starting the piece from the free Reddit template, ”Hasebein said. “My 12 year old son was a plague doctor for Halloween – we’re a quirky family; my husband and I are old punks – and I thought the piece would look great framed in our downstairs bathroom. ”
Hasenbein explained that she was first drawn to the art of fibers because of an embroidered tablecloth that was given to her as an inheritance. For this reason, she considers every piece she creates as a possible heirloom for the children of her children.
“It also makes me feel connected to my ancestors, and to those who came before them, who surely worked on sewing through all kinds of pandemic diseases and other world-changing events,” he said. she declared. “I imagine they have the same calm feeling that I do when sewing.”
Kate Tollefson is the owner of the Etsy Makin ‘Today Your Stitch store. She has also designed coronavirus-themed templates for her clients. These include a titled “Social Distancing Tour” (designed to look like a concert poster, it features “acts” such as “Garage & Day Drinking” and “Guest Room feat. Craft Supplies”) and a which reads “Remember Your Mask and Disinfectant.”
The cross stitch, Tollefson said, gives her something productive to work on right now. If it’s a bit irreverent, so much the better.
“The cross stitch community – well, the younger, less stuffy side of the cross stitch community – is an amazing, sarcastic and creative bunch of people,” Tollefson said. “It was very cool to see so many people joining us now that everyone is stuck at home. It gave me strength and inspiration at a time when both are pretty low.”