Reflecting on subversive cross-stitch

I am currently taking a textile design course for the Art Education Diploma at the University of British Columbia. One of the requirements is that we keep a reflection journal where we record what we’ve seen and how we felt about it–of course it has to be textile related. I am really enjoying this two-semester long assignment as it is similar to art journaling but very focused (for me).

Another assignment that I am preparing for is a presentation on a textile artist or process, or historical movement, etc. I was online on the Vancouver Public Library’s database looking for books to explore a few topics and I was looking for the book by Rozsika Parker called The Subversive Stitch. I ended up also selecting another book next to it, Subversive Cross Stitch by Julie Jackson. I don’t have Parker’s book yet, so in the meantime I’ve been reflecting by responding to Jackson’s book.

reflection journal: cross-stitch

Pages from my reflection journal: reflecting on subversive cross-stitch. Copyright Laura Bucci

Jackson’s book was published in 2006 right around the time I was getting into knitting. She started her cross-stitch exploration sometime before that (obviously–it just doesn’t say when in her book) which culminated into a website in 2006 selling patterns and now also kits. Fast track to 2012, and the site is still live and kicking with new products. If I were to buy a pattern, it would be “Fuck you…Pay me.” As she says “This phrase seems to be more and more prevalent in our day and age. ” Agreed.

Ok, the question for me is: Is subversive stitching or cross-stitching still subversive once it has been absorbed into mainstream culture?

I am not one hundred percent sure that subversive stitching has been fully absorbed into mainstream culture–I just haven’t been following the craft, but my sense is that if enough people are talking about it online and are publishing books and websites selling products for it,  then perhaps it has become mainstream and it is not subversive anymore. Although…I can find fault with this argument. After all, you couldn’t openly declare some of the statements cross stitched about the establishment or systems we belong to. So maybe the subversive element continues to be powerful…still, I don’t think it is as much anymore exactly because of the exposure it has received. This doesn’t make it less worthy of doing. If it pleases you, you should do it. But it’s not as radical as it once was. In fact this transition is similar to art movements evolving and older movements becoming less favourable or interesting just because it has been done over and over.

What becomes interesting is to witness how cross-stitching will evolve. How can it continue to engage us in fresh and relevant ways? Could Miss Cross Stitch be showing us its evolution, progression? I like that she has taken the craft to the public sphere. It is interesting to see how the public responds to huge cross-stitches on park benches, fences, etc. Go to to see what she has done.

I am looking forward to getting Parker’s book and delve deeper into this craft.


Comments are now closed for this article

  • Interesting to see this post and hear your questions. It is amazing to me to see where the craft is going and how many people are exploring their own interpretations of what subversive means in stitching and in crafts in general. I love seeing it go in all different directions: some I wouldn’t dare do and many I’d never think of–these thrill me the most! Anyway, I hope you liked my old (practically antique at this point!) book – I’m hoping to have another one out in the next year or so. Thanks for the post, it was fun to stumble on accidentally!

    • Laura

      Great to have you stop by Julie! My ideas on subversive cross-stitch and crafts are continually evolving too as I continue to explore the medium. My latest explorations into craftivism have been very satisfying and given me much to think about. I think now that I’m working in the medium (actually using cross-stitch), I have a better appreciation of its outcomes both physical and emotional. I’m feeling very engaged in my first crativist project that uses cross-stitch:

    • . I look forward to your new book!

  • p.s. I LOVE Parker’s book. You should see my copy, it’s highlighted and dog-eared to death!