UPDATE 11/15/2016: I’m updating this pattern to reflect the results of the election, and how much work we still have to do to bring about social change. Stay tuned!
I created this new design in response to several things in the 2016 presidential election. Well, actually, too many things to count but I’ll stick to just a few. First of all, there is the now-famous ‘Nasty Woman’ meme, you know where it came from. This has become a rallying cry for women all over the United States who have patiently and quietly kept smiling while insults and abuse were heaped on their heads.
But this election season seems to have brought out some of the absolute worst things lurking in the corners of American society. There have been far too many things said and written that are dismissive, demeaning, disrespectful and sometimes downright abusive towards women (along with minorities, immigrants, refugees, etc.), and there are too many women who’ve had to put up with it, silently, for far too long.
Throughout this year I have been increasingly angry and worried, for both the U.S. and the rest of the world. Now that we are finally nearing Election Day, I’m putting out a message I made in a particularly feminine medium, one that yet showed the toughness women possess in the face of demeaning, dismissive, disrespectful, and sometimes outright violating experiences. ‘Nasty Women Vote’ is now a women’s call to action.
I made my sample on pure white women with blood-red thread, stabbing away at the fabric (very therapeutic, actually) and trying very hard not to get any actual blood on it. Oh, yes: if you’re feeling a bit stabby because of everything going on in the world, embroidering something blood-red onto a piece of cloth can make you feel better in more ways than one!
When I made the design, I was also thinking of the traditional way of life that produced the old embroideries, of a world in which women’s creativity was confined to household crafts like embroidery. By thinking of the embroidering women of old, I’m calling on us to respect these women of yore, to honor the creativity they put into simple materials and household objects, and the way they found ways to infuse their often tough everyday lives with beauty whenever they could. After all, we still call on their strength to take us forward to the better future that they wanted for us.
And then there is the bird. Remember the birdie that flew onto Bernie Sanders’s podium in Portland, way back when? Oh and there was of course Portlandia’s ‘put a bird on it’. Finally, there used to be a Hungarian children’s animated series. Each episode was a folk story, often with women who outsmart others figuring frequently, or the underdog winning against pretty awful odds, and in general good conquering evil. The beginning sequence showed a bird singing the title of the story into existence. Somewhat like this bird thought bubble. Although to be honest, I’ve sometimes wondered if the little birdie wasn’t actually screaming rather than singing. As when women reach a limit, like now. A bit along the lines of ‘not waving but drowning’.
Materials: I used white handkerchief linen for the background fabric, and bright red #8 perle cotton thread. I used a Romanian thread I had on hand (the one with the kitty-cat, yes!), the Canadian brand Valdani makes nearly identical Perle cotton and you can order most colors online. Alternatively, 3 strands of DMC floss in color #321 would be a really good match.
I framed this piece in a large embroidery hoop but I plan to stitch this design onto a t-shirt as well, if I can find (or have time to make) the right one.
Download the Nasty Women Vote Birdie Thought Bubble (or screaming bird) embroidery pattern here! Free through November 9th.