13 January 2014


A few weeks ago, I found a book at the library about the return to "Americana" in the US. It's called "The United States of Americana" by Kurt Reighley. I am trying to re-purpose my life into a much simpler one, so the idea interested me. And it seemed kind of cool, at least in the description, but then I started to read the book.

Stupid me skipped ahead, because I saw it referenced needlework. I know most of my readers stitch, and I know we've all dealt with the "I used to do that, but I don't have time." or the "That looks so hard, I just couldn't do it and I don't have the time."  (I must be a magic person, I work 60 hours a week, run a house and have a toddler and OMG, I find time to stitch. I stitched during Downton Abbey last night. So I was hoping that they'd at least pay cross stitch a respect.

UMMM, no.

Apparently this book is written for hipsters, for whom something must be cool or ironic to be worthy of their attention.  The description of cross stitch is "The medium of all those cutesy kitchen wall hangings. (Want hip alternatives? Investigate Julie Jackson's world of Subversive Cross Stitch) . . . Can be taxing for those with a touch of ADD (Reighley, 200-201)."

How nice to have my chosen form of artistic expression reduced to an anachronism. A hard anachronism.

First of all, have you seen a sampler like the ones that the author references designed in the last 10 years? I realize a lot of what I do borders on the "cutesy," though I prefer to call it "whimsical."  But it's my preference. The harder, more impressive stuff is out there. I know. I collect it, and put it away, because I have a lot of hard stuff started. And I know that vintage samplers from the 20th century were not always works of art, but they aren't something to be mocked. They were made by women sitting down, after a hard day's work, making something to beautify her house and her life. Sound familiar?

I also don't like the implication that Subversive Cross Stitch is aspirational, or something us oldsters--because Gen X is turning 40, y'all--couldn't appreciate. I've looked on that site. I don't care what people stitch. I just choose not to stitch that myself, having made a conscious choice not to decorate our house in a profanity motif (but if they start showing it in Southern Living, I'll think about it, but probably not. Fbombs don't go with my lighthouses theme). And as I am getting older, being ironic and snarky is less and less attractive to me. I don't look good in snarky, just like I don't look good in skinny jeans.

And maybe it's just a general frustration that cross stitch gets no respect. None of the needlearts get the respect they deserve. It's like people realized they can sew with the advent of these TV seamstress shows--how did they think clothes got made? But instead of taking the time to learn how to sew well, Pinterest is full of "cheat projects."  Needlepoint is reserved for those stockings you can buy for Christmas with the name machine-embroidered on it, and cross stitch, well, we're too freakin' busy to make little x's.

Maybe the real issue is that the general population is too busy to sit and appreciate a well-crafted item, or that they've been conditioned to think they can't create it. What are we chasing that we're so busy . . . what do we value that our time is too valuable for an outlet? Stitching for all these years--since 1988, a little over two thirds of my life, has given so much more to me. I think I've said it before, but it gave me comfort when my grandmother died, and when my father was in Shock/Trauma, unsure if he'd survive. It has helped give peace to my broken hearts, given me confidence when mine was low. It's given me a means to be creative and enjoy the creative process. It's given me a means to take a breath, to slow down. If I've learned nothing over the past almost two years, the ability, the desire to slow down and appreciate that life doesn't have to move so fast, is so precious. We will never get today back.

And so that's me. I'm gonna keep reading that book, if only because I feel I should read the whole thing if I am going to criticize it. Maybe my opinion will change? 


riona said...

Or perhaps they are too busy because they spend so much time texting and tweeting or posting snarky comments on FaceBook walls or watching reality Tv or any number of other plugged in activities.

Personally, I am at a loss to understand the obsession with electronic devices is a worthier use of one's time than working with needle and thread. I guess I am just not trendy enough.

However, I do like one or two of the subversive charts ... but then I am an aging hippie, a child of the 60's ... and some of the charts are nostalgic. I am not sure I'd ever stitch one and if I did, I'd display it one of the private spaces in my home [bedroom, my craft room]

Robin said...

Very well said, Rachel! Off to see about the book you mentioned.

Happy New Year!

Robin in Virginia

Meari said...

Thanks for your comments about the book and xs in general. I, too, have used the creative process to get me through tough situations. I have pieces that I worked on during the years my Dad was in and out of the hospital with heart problems and surgeries. Some that I stitched during the Olympics. Every piece has a memory or place in time attached to them. You're correct in that it helps you to slow down, breathe, and relax. It's more than making a bunch of little x's.

I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped--Frederick Perls