Life Buoy Potion

As #secretsofselfpreservation / Apothéké progresses, one week's potion is beginning to have a dialogue with its predecessor.

This week's continues a thought which making last week's Piggy Bank Potion elicited; that self care is an ongoing process through which you save yourself every day.

So I have stitched, simply, "Save yourself every day", and accompanied it with a miniature life buoy. 

This is as much a feminist statement as a therapeutic one; in the age where we are fed drivel such Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey it is perhaps more pertinent than ever that women take their destinies into their own hands and seek self-salvation rather than waiting around for a knight on a white horse to come riding in (particularly if these fictional "knights" we are supposed to swoon over are thinly veiled abusers). I'm very glad I have left my years as a submissive, passive damsel in distress behind.

It's summed up in a quote I have seen floating around the internet: "I don't want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself".









Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Between The Waves: Experiences at the 2014 Feminism in London conference

The Feminism in London conference made me feel uncomfortable. It also made me feel elated, disgusted, relieved and confused. And in that regard, I would say that it did its job. Feminist conversations are oftentimes uncomfortable.

However, as I am what some people are terming a "fourth wave feminist", I sometimes feel caught between, or perhaps under the various waves of feminism. And I must admit, I'm not entirely satisfied with any of them. That perhaps, is also the point. Feminism must move forward as it encounters new barriers to the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

I felt particularly caught between these waves when listening to the opening speech of the conference by Gail Dines. She called for a return to radical feminism, which originated in the 1960s with the rise of second wave feminism. Radical feminism's fly in the ointment is patriarchy; male domination over all aspects of society. Now, as a modern day intersectional feminist, I have a bone to pick with this idea; for example, what about race? What about class? Sexuality? Trans rights? I would argue that as a white, middle class, heterosexual woman, I have more privilege than a black, working class, lesbian woman; I get a bigger slice of the pie. Intersectionality is about being mindful of this and supporting all our sisters in their struggles against the multiple oppressors they face.

 I also believe that men have their place in this too, and can effect positive change, so long as they don't attempt to dominate a movement that is primarily about women's rights. Case in point the recent cock-up with Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg wearing "This is what a feminist looks like" t shirts which were allegedly made by women under sweatshop conditions. If true, this is certainly an  utter outrage, but to my mind also rather begs the question: what were these men doing making the feminist conversation about them? At which point we return to the issue of patriarchy. These men are the living embodiment of the word, taught to believe everything is always about them. It's up to "scrappy upstarts", i.e. the thousands of women who attended and supported the Feminism in London conference, to remind them that it's not. This is a message from the speeches at the conference that I wholeheartedly embrace: that feminist revolution is a collective effort. That we must pull together to make our voices heard.

There was a strong focus on the increasing "pornification" of our culture at the conference. The next day, I was idly scrolling through Tumblr when I happened upon a fashion editorial advertising a new line of Barbie-themed garments. One of the t shirts proclaimed the legend "This bod's for you." Many women today claim that they don't need feminism; some because they think feminist = man-hater, some because they believe there is equality now, so what's the point of feminism? Well, I would argue that when our own bodies are not for us is precisely the point at which we need feminism. That's not even taking into account the disparity in what men and women are paid for equivalent jobs, to give but one example of inequality.

A young woman who is painfully aware of this inequality is Freya Pigott. In Freya's own words: "I am a 16 year old student with a love for standing up for what I believe in." And what Freya believes is that injustices committed against women have to stop.


As part of The Art of Feminism exhibition which made an appearance at the conference, Freya exhibited a textile piece entitled I wish the content of this would age quicker than the fabric will disintegrate.

The mismatched fabric squares making up the work are machine embroidered with statistics related to gender inequality and observations on the misogyny Freya encounters in society today.




I found the below the most harrowing: More people would dial 999 if they were to witness animal rather than domestic abuse.






Creating this piece was a considerable act of bravery for Freya; some of her classmates criticised her efforts, asking what the point was, and stating that "it wouldn't change anything"'; as if art has never changed the world!

I was invited along to the Feminism in London conference by Catherine of Significant Seams, to document a discussion on how craft can change the world.

Catherine was joined by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective and Deadly Knitshade to present the talk Crafting Politics. Creativity couched as craft rather than art was important here; the speakers concluded that art is less accessible and more exclusive than craft, which is a form of creativity which transcends class, gender, and race divisions. Of course, the particular forms of craft discussed by the speakers, stitching, knitting, and patchwork, are to a large extent still gendered female, though "manbroiderers" such as Mr X Stitch are doing their best to debunk this. However, as Roszsika Parker notes in The Subversive Stitch, the very term "manbroidery" wards off the associations with "trivial" femininity embroidery still holds.



Through her work with the Craftivist Collective, Sarah Corbett has encountered some male activists who say of Craftivism that it's "crap"; that activists need to be angry, to shout, to effect change. Sarah argues that she is channelling her anger to reach the right audiences, and simultaneously creating joyousness out of anger. This reminds me of a glorious cross stitched quotation I saw once: "I sublimate my rage through needlework". Craft can be political in unexpected ways, partially as consequence of its "girly", "fluffy" associations.

As Deadly Knitshade noted, when you tell people that you are protesting or raising awareness through needlework or knitting, they relax and say "Oh, that's really interesting". In a similar way, colleagues in a school I was working in recently couldn't seem to reconcile the fact that I wear a lot of pink lace with the fact that I'm a "rampant" feminist; my feminism and Craftivism are thus both slightly stealthy forms of politics.

Craftivism is neither high (elitist) art or confrontational (scary) activism. It is Craftivism; activism using craft in a quietly beautiful way.

Returning to the theme of second wave feminism for a moment; Catherine argued that textile crafts were thrown under the bus by second wave feminists in the 1970s, just as research was beginning to indicate that they were the most effective hobbies for better mental health and deeper relaxation.

 I concede that during the second wave domesticity was in feminist firing lines, and needlecrafts were part of this domestic sphere (hello, the enduring phenomenon of Jane Austen). However, during the 1970s a number of feminist artists turned to textile craft as a means of self-expression and manifestation of "the personal is political"; the collaborative work of Judy Chicago particularly springs to mind. During each wave of feminism, craft has played its part; think of appliquéd Suffrage banners in the first wave; of Womanhouse and The Birthday Party (both instigated by Chicago) in the second; of Craftivism, and the reclamation of craft as an undervalued, gendered art form in the third.

In each wave, in each era, there is much to be proud of in the efforts of feminists, craftswomen, and women who fit into both categories (why, hello there). I think there will be much to be proud of in the waves which follow, as well.

Rose Tinted Brooches







Pip and I did a little photo shoot in my garden this solstice day to get some decent photographs of the new brooches I've made for my Etsy shop. They're all up, for you to peruse (and perhaps purchase!) at your leisure.







I'm currently working on some top-secret bunting which may be finding its way into the Etsy shop in the next week or so; I'll be stitching it all day tomorrow, while sat in front of Orange Is The New Black, my latest addiction.

DIY Cultures

I'm still buzzing from tabling at my first ever DIY fair at the weekend. My dear friend Hannah Hill invited me to share a table and give her a hand at the second ever DIY Cultures Fair at the amazing East End cultural space, Rich Mix, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Hannah was selling a variety of her wares, from stickers to her Ghoul Guide patches to little ghostly brooches (I just had to snap one up at the earliest opportunity!) as Hanecdote. I joined her as Poesie Grenadine, displaying my pop feminist/body positive lino patches for sale.


I must say I think our products looked very cute together, in their colourful array. And, if it's not too smug to say, we looked pretty darn cute too, Hannah in her sugary tough girl get-up and me in my Ghoul Guides dress, bedecked in patches.


Even if I hadn't sold anything, I still would've had a lovely day; it's always a pleasure hanging out with Hannah and her hilarious boyfriend Gerrard, and Pip came along to watch the stall whilst Han and I listened to a talk about anti-capitalist fashion. The talks were really interesting and varied; from "De-colonize It Yourself" to alternative mental health care and the difficulties of trying to shop ethically. Lots of varied views to listen to while we presided over our produce!

Uber-cute Poesie Grenadine business cards that I gave out at the Fair.


It was great to meet other makers and have some chats about mutual interests. I've been watching my pennies a bit lately, but I picked up two zines; the first issue of Hysteria: A Collection of Feminisms, partially for the name and partially due to the fascinating conversation I had with one of the women running the stand, and Poems Underwater: essays and photographs from mermaid haunts around the east of England. I've been reading this zine today, whilst bedecked in my Caitlin Shearer dress, and it is quite unlike anything else I've ever read. Very inspiring.


One of the babes who picked up one of my most popular patches (Thunder Thighs Are Go, of course!) posted a picture of their haul on their Tumblr.
How fab does all that look?!

Speaking of fab, my adorable little Ghoul Guide takes pride of place on my Suzy Bishop dress.


A wonderful day of positivity, with a really strong, engaged female presence; I felt proud to be a woman, and an artist and maker on Sunday, and it's good to hold on to and remember that when there have been such atrocities committed against women recently, from the Nigerian school girls to the women gunned down in sheer misogyny in America over the last few days. If we can, through the phrases on our hand-crafted creations, engender pride in one's womanhood, if we can motivate, come together to create and talk and protest, then we are in some small way standing up to such horrors. We are women, and we will not be silenced.

Independent Women - selling my wares at the DIY Cultures Fair this Sunday

I've spent all day printing over thirty five lino cut patches from the comfort of my loft, with 6Music playing, bedecked in my pyjamas so my pretty dresses didn't get covered in ink.

This is all in aid of the DIY Cultures Fair at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Sunday, where I will be sharing a table from 12 - 7 with my dear friend Hannah Hill, the designer/artist behind Hanecdote, an indie label that produces everything from silk screened feminist tees to badass Ghoul Guide embroidered patches. It's fair to say I'm a little bit excited about this opportunity. Below are the linocuts I will be selling at the event. Hope to see you there!










Radical Ma'am

My addiction to lino printing rages on, with many trips to Hobbycraft to satisfy my cravings. This latest print is based on an embroidery I did a couple of years ago.



 Now for sale in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop for £5. I shall be adding some more vintage threads to the shop tomorrow.






Thunder Thighs Are Go

Despite currently suffering from a throbbing thumb where I've gouged a chunk out of it with a blade, I've become addicted to lino printing! It's so immediate and fun. I think I'll be taking a trip to Hobbycraft to pick up some more linoleum in the next few days!

I couldn't resist printing a lino patch of one of my favourite slogans I've ever embroidered, "Thunder Thighs Are Go":





Learning to love my thunder thighs is an ongoing process for me, so I feel this patch is particularly poignant. I hope it speaks to some of you, too; it's now up for sale in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop, alongside my "You Didn't Cry" trophy lino patch.