“I’m using my dead grandmother’s floss,” says Jade Nauss. “Before she passed away, knowing I was doing cross-stitch, she sent me a tin of her embroidery thread.”
“She had a sense of humor, she would probably appreciate it. She liked southern comfort and she swore a lot.”
After class, Nauss sits at home with her cats, watching Friends re-runs and stitches dirty words on fabric hoops.
“PULL MY HAIR,” “FUCK it” and “SPANK ME HARDER,” are just a few of the stitched statements Nauss has up for sale on various Facebook groups.
You may have seen such naughty décor on your friend’s dorm room wall or scrolling through Pinterest.
Subversive cross-stitching is quickly entering into the mainstream hobbyist world. Overthrowing traditional dainty, polite grandmother art that has been hanging in entryways for centuries.
Delicate and kinky
Traditional cross-stitches are often detailed, with sayings more soft than eye-catching. Today women are using their needles as weapons in the feminist revolution.
Subversive stitches are usually simple in design, with shocking sexual messages that break the rules of social acceptability and expectations.
“This is in conflict with the idea of a quiet, domestic woman sitting at home stitching initials on handkerchiefs,” says Nauss. “These are not quiet, they very much speak for themselves.”
The cross-stich topics are endless. Nauss and other artists are even inspired by bathroom humor like “HAVE A NICE POOP,” or “Don’t Pee on the Seat.”
“It is kind of ironic, it’s interesting, loud and obnoxious – and it’s also nostalgic and comforting,” says Nauss.
A labour of love
Five years ago, Nauss came across the cross-stitches browsing Etsy. At first she was just an admirer.
“I cross-stitched when I was a kid but hadn’t done it for years. Then I wanted to make some gifts for Christmas because I didn’t have money.”
She would start making them in the summer, working on them a few nights per week.
“My super-feminist friend got one this year that said ‘Patriarchy is for Dicks,’ and one of my best friends with a pretty raunchy sense of humor, got one that says ‘Shut your whore mouth.’”
“Those aren’t my words. I didn’t come up with those. I simply bought those patterns and reproduced them. The ones I sell now I do make the patterns,” she says.
Three Christmas’ later, they are still her hottest gift. This year she made too many and decided to sell them for the first time.
“I’ve had a lot of interest. The thing is I can only make them so quickly.”
Too hot for the HRM?
While most of Nauss’ feedback is positive, from time-to-time she will check back to see if anyone has commented on her posts and finds them reported or removed.
“There is a little bit of censorship,” she says. “One lady commented ‘they are very vulgar,’ and I said ‘thank you.’ I think she meant it as a negative, but I’m going to take it as a positive.”
Others are more welcoming.
“The Queer Buy and Sell group [on Facebook] never censored them. They probably have a higher tolerance for vulgarity and more BDSM-related humour.”
The next thread
Nauss says while she doesn’t want to get into the complicated world of selling through Etsy and other worldwide markets, she looks forward to continuing to fill the orders in Halifax, and is coming up with new ideas all the time.
“I have a bunch of ideas: something with squirrels and nuts,” she says.
“I don’t think animals and sexuality are supposed to be together. I like putting things together that aren’t supposed to go together.”