Subversive Cross Stitching at The MoDA

/səbˈvərsiv/ (adj.): Tending or intending to subvert or overthrow, destroy, or undermine an established or existing system, especially a legally constituted government or a set of beliefs.

The Museum of Design Atlanta is a well-known attraction, allowing Atlanta residents and visitors to not only view design exhibitions but to create their own DIY art. Among many of MODA’s workshops include MoDA’s subversive cross stitch workshop, taught by Jessica Lewis, a bubbly, charismatic, and patient teacher of the skill. 

Lewis introduced herself and went into the history of cross stitch and the significance it played in women’s lives, historically, and presently. She also expressed the importance of cross stitch attributing it to learning from her mother at a young age.

Jessica was a literature undergrad which was apparent in the perspective to which she appreciated the history of cross-stitch in literature, and showing us some of the first recorded cross stitch examples from between 100 and 500 a.c.

Lewis, who was taught the craft by her mother, who was also a boss at cross stitching. Lewis showed the workshop one of her mother’s works, two cute strawberries in the front, with a meticulous stitch with a perfect backing. A sign of dexterity, skill, and is incredibly hard to achieve without extensive practice. 

Lewis continued to explain that cross stitching was a hobby picked up by women in the past in certain cultures to signify submission and silence in addition to a time where women could focus and relax."Throughout western culture, especially in the last few hundred years, it has been a way for women to adapt in marriageability. It became a way in society to demonstrate, show, and judge someone in their womanhood and how acceptable they were. It was about the silence of her mind and the silence of her mouth." says Lewis.  

That history juxtaposed to the subversive, and occasionally raunchy messages such as “Nasty Woman,” “Reclaiming my Time,” “See you in Hell,” “Don't You Drop that Alcohol,” and limitless variations of boobs and ovaries is a form of feminine expression just the same. 

The class took turns sharing their experiences with cross stitching designs and messages they found funny. These designs, to the average conservative, would seem raunchy and unladylike but felt congruent with the all-woman in class and to the current time we live in, riddled with laws against women’s bodies, and long overdue realizations that women have opinions. 

Aside from the messaging evoked in cross stitching, many fail to realize the amount of math and meticulousness it requires. Lewis handed us all graph paper to count out and mark our stitches within the grid. An X was signifying each complete stitch, which needed to be strategically counted from the previous stitch to maintain an unflawed design.  

Everyone chose a different design, ranging from “Fuck Nazis,” adorned with flowers, “Fuck Politeness,” “Chill the Fuck Out,” “It’s Poop Again,” a Billy Madison Quote accompanied with a cross-stitched poop emoji, and “You'll Do,” from a soon to be bride.  

Despite the geriatric, and feminine stigma of cross stitching (apparent by the lack of males in the class), it is a viable skill. To have and a humorous approach to self-expression, therapy, concentration, and arithmetic in one hobby, I am sure it is a healthy brain game, sans smartphone. Or as they say in the cross-stitching community, an excuse to stab something 1,000 times.

If you would like to check out cross stitching at MoDA, there will be an ongoing meetup every month, subversively called Stitch & Bitch. Starting October 12th, from 6-8pm! Those who are interested can bring their latest stitching, while MoDA will provide embroidery floss and beer. The 21+ event is $15 for non-members and $10 for MoDA members.