Oh, to be young and insane.





Yesterday I stitched this play on the phrase "Oh, to be young and in love" on to an antique linen cross-stitched with a floral design my mum's colleague gave me... apparently it belonged to her mother (I'm not sure she'd be too impressed with my subversion of its glorious twee-ness!)


This may wind up becoming a part of my planned collaboration with my friend Jess, who has just joined the cool kids on Blogger.

Here's Jess enjoying the present I made her for her birthday. That's right, it is a chintzy floral tank.


Soon I'll post about my final university showing, but first here are some photographs of what Pip and I did today; messed around in the garden with my Polaroid cameras. I haven't got these babies out for years and years, I'm surprised the long-expired film worked so beautifully.

Here we are in all our soft-focus, light-leaky glory.

Taken by Pip on my Spectra



Taken by me with my Land 420
Pip again (there he is in the window) with the 420
And finally one my brother attempted to take of the pair of us, from which we are mysteriously absent. I still quite like it, though.


It was our six-month anniversary on Friday, and amongst other sickening gifts, I stitched Pip a letter on to a page from a Ladybird book of ducks and swans which Mark bought me.




I think I like the back better than the front.

(Pip calls me Pine Cone because I once sent him a pine cone in the post when I was pining for him... we share a weakness for awful puns.)

A Tangent


This cross stitch is a little something I've made for an upcoming collaboration with Jessica Anne Johnson; a top-secret project for now, but expect (literally) crazy goings on come January.

In other news, my embroidery/love potion making workshop is on Wednesday, and the ever-wonderful Emma Parker, aka Miss Stitch Therapy has sewn this love potion into her "stitchtionary".





I'm touched that this beautiful piece of work has been inspired by my workshop; such a clever reappropriation of an old dictionary!

Now I shall get back to stitching a "nefarious sea creature", as my friend Mark calls them...

Subversive Stitchery

Contemporary needlework comes in many guises; from the twee to the political via the subversive and disturbing. Mr X Stitch, "the number one contemporary embroidery and needlecraft blog" showcases the breadth of these (including my own embroidery). Mr X Stitch himself, the blog's founder, is Jamie Chalmers, a self-styled "manbroiderer" who gets a mention in Rozsika Parker's book The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.

Recently, subversive craft has really come into its own; taking the form of everything from sewn swear words to "craftivist" protest banners to knitted and crocheted graffiti.

Crystal Gregory's Invasive Crochet
Ami Grinsted, a recent graduate from Falmouth's Contemporary Crafts course, created an embroidered series on the Egyptian Revolution. Ami cross stitches on wilfully difficult surfaces; wood (which she drills holes into to sew through) and wire mesh. As a review of her work on Mr X Stitch says, "Ami chooses to increase the tension (of her sewn subject) by stitching through hard surfaces".



Embroidering a protest placard seems to my mind to be a reference to the old embroidered trade union and suffrage banners. Suffrage banners are a perfect early example of the "woman's work" of embroidery being employed for a subversive cause.



In the 1970s needlework was reclaimed by the Feminist Movement, for example by the fine artist Kate Walker. In The Subversive Stitch, Walker is quoted as saying that she has "never worried that embroidery's association with femininity, sweetness, passivity and obedience may subvert my work's feminist intention. Femininity and sweetness are part of women's strength. Passitivity and obedience, moreover, are the very opposite of the qualities necessary to make a sustained effort in needlework. What's required are physical and mental skills, fine aesthetic judgement in colour, texture and composition; patience during long training; and assertive individuality of design (and consequent disobedience of aesthetic convention). Quiet strength need not be mistaken for useless vulnerability."

My work (though possibly in a slightly more subtle way!) follows in the traditions of Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch.

A Subversive Cross Stitch pattern

My Don't be an art school arsehole embroidery

Though I choose to embroider on old linens, the sentiments I stitch upon them are new; this results in a fusion of past and present, acknowledging embroidery's lineage whilst keeping it contemporary. Like many other contemporary embroiderers, I take what could be a twee and cloying pattern and add a healthy dose of irony, with tongue in cheek punning and verse. In other pieces I embroider a line from one of my poems on love in the modern urban environment. I embroider on linens passed down to me by my grandmother, in turn handed down to her by my great grandmother. In this way I acknowledge embroidery's past as "woman's work" whilst simultaneously subverting it.

My work may not be overtly feminist (aside from the fact that it subverts what is traditionally thought of as "women's work"), but it is often subversive, sending up artist clichés in a humorous and self-deprecating manner.

One of my embroideries exploring and poking fun at the "tortured artist/writer" cliché
In The Subversive Stitch, Rozsika Parker explains how at one time embroidery was thought of as "almost a secondary female sexual characteristic". Today, "manbroiderers" like Jamie Chalmers and Richard Saja challenge that assertion.

Richard Saja's work
My embroidery is informed by that of my peers, particularly those, such as Iviva Olenick and Joetta Maue, who explore themes of love. I am incredibly grateful to the always supportive online embroidery community on mrxstitch.com, Flickr, and here on Blogger. They continue to inspire and encourage me.