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The historical connections between radical activism and crafts are both strong and important. Before women were able to vote the guise of home crafts was often used as an excuse to get together and plot. Suffrage didn’t take away the need for women to discretely organise and handicrafts continued to provide a useful cover.
Unfortunately the radical potentials of crafts seem to have not been fully explored over the last few years. Sure there’s been a resurgence in crafts such as knitting but the application of these crafts has been pretty limited to practical needs. It is totally radical to make your own clothes instead of buying them. It is even more radical to make your clothes out of recycled materials. It is damn revolutionary to collect the wool from fences on farms and spin the wool yourself…
But what we are underutilising is the potential for crafts to express our rage at the stupidity of the world, demonstrate our vision for how to do things better and at the same time honour our mothers, grandmothers and great-great-great grandmothers.
When I started cross stitch I looked around for an on-line resource for radical cross stitching there wasn’t really anything all in one place so I decided to do it myself (that’s what the internet’s for duh). So consider this a permanent work in process. Feel free to make suggestions and start sending in your patterns and finished bits!
Firstly I want to honour and acknowledge Julie at Subversive Cross Stitch. Seriously cool work sister and a constant inspiration to me.
For those of you who don’t know what cross stitch is the best place to start is the wiki page. You could try places like crossstitch.com but there’s way too many fluffy bunnies and home sweet homes over there you’ll probably start retching like I did.. The wiki page has an excellent description of everything you need to know like fabrics and threads and stuff. Or you could just go into Spotlight and randomly pick stuff off the shelf and hope, like I did.
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How do you make cross stitch radical?
If you spend a minute searching cross stitch patterns you will see that 99.9999 percent of the patterns are of wanky slogans, awful farmyard scenes or nauseatingly revolting marriage commemorations. There are a couple of exceptions and you can see their links below. What is needed is cross stitch with imagination and a message. How that’s done is of course up to you as we are all beautifully creative creatures. On this site I’ll put up some of my patterns (and the finished result when I get around to them all…) and hopefully some of yours when you get all inspired to make your own.
How do I make patterns?
There are tons of programs out there that make patterns. Of course most of them you have to pay for but that wouldn’t be very radical now would it… So ones I recommend are:
For basic stuff use Dark Lilac. This is seriously cool. It is web based so you don’t have to download any programs and you get a saved, printable pattern. The only downside is that the files need to be pretty small so you can spend a while pissing about with the picture before you run it through and you can’t really edit it during the process.
For slightly more complicated patterns I’ve been using PC Stitch demo version. You can’t print or save these patterns but there’s always the print screen option…
There’s a Mac Stitch here which also has a demo version but you can print from it with patterns that you don’t alter. Which is very useful for small basic patterns! And it’s for Mac’s which are of course, far superior ;)
If you’re doing stuff that doesn’t require a complicated pattern, just use a blank grid and go nuts. If you need words it’s best to use an alphabet chart. There’s a great selection at free patterns.
I made an alphabet chart for Cachex. Feel free to use!
UPDATE: Found this awesome summary at Laden With Stitches. Yay now I don’t have to do it ;) But will probably add reviews…
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OK I’ve got my threads, now all I need is inspiration…
I am about 50 percent of the way through my first one. It will take me ages as it’s quite an extensive project (it’s for my baby..). I’ve managed to get some finished in the meantime, check out the xstitch tag to find them or my newly added Gallery. But I’ve thrown together some patterns below including the motivation behind them. Or below that I’ve got some links to some seriously groovy cross stitchers that you can check out for inspiration.
The main thing to remember is to start off simple. Try and keep curvy lines to a minimum. And it’s probably best to start off with just one or two colours until you get the hang of it. Stencil designs are always a good place to start ’cause they’re designed to be easily cut out!
Honouring stonkingly cool women
I’m going to make a series of revolutionary women cushions made to honour all my most inspiring women activists. This of course depends on finding the right images to play with but here’s a pattern of Eva Rickard to give you an idea.
Ooh did another one!
I made a pattern of an old suffrage poster. Back in those days women would spend weeks making the most beautiful objects of political agitation. This is my way to give a bit back.. But wordpress reckons the file is too large so if you want it you’ll have to email me and ask for it..
So I made a white camelia pattern in honour of NZ Suffrage Day 2006 (19 Sept). It’s a complicated and large one but will look cool in 2010 when I get around to making it!
It’s an oldy but a goody. Had to make this one in four parts so it would be big enough. This one is for the dedicated and bored cross stitch posse members! Each corner is a different part of the pattern so click to see the big bit. You will need to exercise a small amount of creativity to piece this together. (secretly: this creativity test is here to confuse the infiltrators, shhh..)
I’m slowly making a series of patterns based on stencil art and other cool images I’ve collected along the way.
This one is based on an image I picked up years ago, so can’t remember where. But it’s an image my inner geek quite likes..
This one I found on the net one day, and it’s pretty easy looking pattern. And it says it all!
I plagiarised this one from an image I found on the SchNEWS site. I’m hoping to get it done by the G20…
In honour of the seriously cool people who let me camp out on their land.
NEW! A nice warm fuzzy one. Click on it for a big one.
NEW! I had to get around to making the trusty ol feminist logo, but it’s slightly more interesting than the usual.
I had to make this one to honour my political roots…
I made this one for a friend. OK I admit it’s not very nice but she’s been going through some seriously unneccessary crap so it’s appropriate for some. (WARNING: Contains the word poos). And I actually managed to finish it too! Doesn’t it look even prettier in a frame!
NEW! I had to make a pattern for the Linux Penguin. Might shrink it and put it on a bib… Sorry it’s in two bits, couldn’t be bothered glueing it together..
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Other Cool Sites for Inspiration and Guidance
Firstly check Subversive Cross Stitch don’t bother talking to me until you have.
Then you MUST see everything on the endfile site. The church cushions had me awestruck! Kate also has a very groovy link list which is where some of the next links came from…
The Bikini Queens have some cute stuff. It’s not exactly radical but definitely a good example of imagination being engaged. It’s in Japanese but has pretty pictures of bugs!
For a more three dimensional feel, you have to check out the Tattoo Baby Dolls. I want one so badly!
If you’re looking for a good resource for conscious crafting which includes more than cross stitch, check out craftivism.com
Want a bit more punk in your life? Threadymade.co.uk isn’t overtly political but has a very clever gift idea!
Kate Westerholt does some cool stuff for those in need of a bit of funk inspiration.
If you want to support some good artists, craftrevolution.com is a good place to start
” … ‘indie’ is an informal version of the word independent.
… symbolize originality and forward-thinking, especially in music and design.
… not associated with a large company. Indie can also define the indie shopper, who chooses to support small business rather than big-box stores. “
If you want some good ol fashioned political stencils to use as starting points, check out Stencil Punks, they have a great selection! Also I recently found Outlines of a Revolution which has heaps of stencils. And there’s Spray Paint Stencils. They’re not political but you might need a picture to go with your radical slogan!
Someone who definitely shares my feelings about cross stitch is Bitter Stitch. You can even buy patterns there!
Totally down with my philosophy of art and politics is the Open Source Embroidery Project. Show us ya back!
For something to do while traveling, try some random acts of embroidery with Ulrika Erdes. Go on, it’s good for you!
So that should be enough to get you inspired and get you stitching. I will be adding more stuff as I find it or as you send it to me. So get stitching!