I worked in picture framing for half my life, which is no mean feat, given that I'm 35. For the first seven years or so, across the street from the shop, was a small business called Our Friends Count. This business catered to the embroidery crowd, surprise surprise. Next door, and I promise this is completely true, was a brothel called the Bamboo Hut. Eventually, the building burned, and the ladies of the needle and the night went their separate ways. The woman who ran the cross-stitch store was one of the least pleasant people I've ever had the opportunity frame for. The woman who did pet portraiture in chalk may have been meaner.
So I've framed me a lot of cross-stitch, and most of it is doomed for a sad end in the thrift store. Tip to crafters: if you need pattern books and the like, try the Sally Army. A truly alarming amount of really good stuff ends up there, when families dispose of Grandma's things. This is depressing and morbid, but then who really wants alphabet samplers? I don't mean this rhetorically; I can't tell why they'd be fun to do.
My brilliant friend Liz gave me this book for Christmas a couple of years back, and I can honestly say it's changed my life. I'd done cross-stitch as a kid, under the tutelage of Grandma. I gave it up to be a sallow, incurious teenager. But it had never ever occurred to me to strike out on my own and do what I want, samplers be damned. And cussing in embroidery is even better than cussing in public.
I've done several patterns out of this book, but I've also used it for parts, adapting patterns to my own purposes. She has a nice introduction to basic embroidery techniques, but could have included stuff about the lazy daisy or French knot. It's not like they're hard. My favorite line: "No knots! Knots are for babies." They are. Her patterns are pretty simple, and sometimes in a bad way. Why the serif font all the damn time? This isn't a newspaper. And why are some of her designs frustratingly not centered? Just two more rows over! Gah.
So, this is the kind of book that is all about the idea, and the idea is a great one. I'm kind of fascinated by handwork, all that dreary busywork pushed into women's hands to keep them from thinking. It continues to be not easily replicated by machine. Jackson has a bibliography in the back that lists books about subversiveness in women's work going back. I haven't read any, but they look really interesting.
In sum, to quote the cross-stitch my cousin's wife did for my birthday this year: go fuck yourself. Now imagine that surrounded by flowers and bunnies. Pretty good, huh? This is my most recent creation, and the first I've done for myself. It's a favorite saying of mine, and works well in almost any situation: