Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

And by revenge on certain persons, I’m talking about all you publishers in 2010 who thought ducks in bonnets were en vogue, suckas. Let’s get some Lady Gaga, Ziggy Stardust,  and Iggy Pop into this, yes? No no, there’s no real revenge, here. But well, read on. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. Ch-ch-check it out.

In part of our effort here at to find better DIY projects, we’ve taken to the needle.

I mean the embroidery needle.

I used to cross stitch when I was thirteen or so.  My fingers moved fairly deftly with thread, and I happily bedecked various textiles with silly Beatles’ lyrics.  I even moved on to needlepoint in college, creating a pillow embellished with violets for my mother.  Of course, I knew nothing about blocking (a process that ensures that the canvass or medium is stretched into the right shape, as it shifts with each pull of the needle), so Mom received a misshapen throw that she’s spent the last ten years desperately trying to hide beneath a knitted afghan without insulting me.  It’s a delicate balance.  It’s amusing to watch.  She has the leaf/petal/blanket ratio down to a science.  Mom’s always been a sweet supporter of my crafting habit.

I hadn’t thought much about needle arts since the days of the flower bedecked pillow and the early morning hours spent stitching it while watching MASH reruns in my Boston apartment.  To this day I still think of Alan Alda when regarding threaders.

Still, some twist of fate recently introduced me to Ms. Jenny Hart, embroidery guru of the 21st century.  Her postmodern, funky designs took the bonnet bedecked ducks we see so often on table cloths and tossed ‘em back into the 1800′s where they belong.  Have you ever seen a duck in a bonnet?  Have you even ever tried to put a bonnet on a duck?  That cannot work out well.  There’d be much…pecking, I’d assume. I bet ducks are vicious.

When I was sixteen, I was followed by a group of ducks along a dirt road for about half a mile (this was in the country, and yes, this happened).  None of them wore bonnets, though I suspect they were about to jump me for the peanut butter crackers in my pocket.  There was nary a ruffle on these avian waddlers.  No one likes bonnets.  I freakin’ hate bonnets. I’d rather get a home perm than wear a bonnet (ooh, that’s bad – I’m still living down that perm I gave myself when I was 20 after my seventh shot of tequila).

So yes, I was thrilled to see a set of embroidery designs devoid of ducks, bonnets, baskets, and other forms of country kitsch.  I was smitten with Hart’s patterns, for their slight Vegas-meets-riot grrl flavor.  I’d never embroidered (think freestyle cross stitch with more room for error) before, but it seemed fun.  And well, if it was good enough for my Great-Nana Grace, it sure as hell was worth a shot on my end.

My first project was a tea towel for my best friend.  Cat deserved a tea towel worthy of her name, so I purchased Hart’s funky kitty pattern and went to work.  The result was pretty damn impressive, if you ask me.  Sadly, I forgot to take a photo before I gave the towel as a gift.  Oh yeah, here’s my downfall – I almost never keep a work I’ve created.  They go to friends and family.  I get so much more out of handing it over and seeing the expression on the recipient’s face than I would keeping my efforts to myself.  To this day I’ve only kept one tea towel for myself.

Next was an apron for one of the matriarchs in my family.  I went with a Hula design, and embellished with the occasional sequin.

Embroidery Gwen Feldman.  Pattern Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching.

Embroidery Gwen Feldman. Pattern Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching.

I think she dug it.  I hope so.  Who couldn’t fall in love with a blue haired hula chick doing her thang between a couple of palm trees?  Pass me the pineapple daiquiri, pal.

My mother turned 29 (so she says) last January, and as a birthday gift I promised to embroider a couple tea towels.  I couldn’t deliver on the day because I needed a consult with the birthday gal to figure out what she’d want on her towels.    Mom went with a critter friendly theme.  With some sketching, I planned out her tea towels.  One of them looked like below, along with various acoutrements that made the piece complete – what I like best is the navy-tattoo-inspired bluebirds adorning her piece:

Embroidery - Gwen Feldman.  Pattern - Jenny Hart, via Sublime Stitching.

Embroidery - Gwen Feldman. Pattern - Jenny Hart, via Sublime Stitching.

What I love about Jenny Hart’s company is that it’s based in our zeitgeist.  Jenny gets the fact that not all of us are into country kitsch, or shabby chic, or whatever terms are used by designers today to mask a half-assed effort to stay current. Some of us have a little funk, a bit ‘o style, and we want that reflected that in our work.  After all, does a gazebo bedecked in flowers scream who I am?  No.  Not that that kind of thing is always necessary.  It’s not.  But anyone armed with a needle wants to inject a bit of their own selves into it, and well, I’m anti-duck.  Let’s add a couple skulls, a guitar, a pinup babe, and (oh, dare I ask?) a zombie, and we’re rolling.

Hart has worked her magic.  Finally I can humbly provide my friends with the gifts they deserve.  After my mother’s critter towel is finished, I’ll be preparing a piece for a guitar playing pal of mine (and maybe something just as nice for his wonderful girlfriend).  Maybe I’ll whip up something nerd-related for my fellow Staycation Lab inhabitant.

Until then, I’ll leave you with what was a work in progress (it’s now done, but I lack any decent pics of the finished product).  When I found out that Cat got into veterinary school (which, by the way, is super hard) at Cornell (!), I had to grab a tote bag (to carry her text books!) and make it totally hers:

Patterns copy - Jenny Hart.  Work - Gwen Feldman

Patterns copy - Jenny Hart. Work - Gwen Feldman

Ignore that it’s rumpled.  Oh, and yes, this design is critter-friendly, but what can you expect with a future vet?  This woman is going to be caring for MY fur-babies, and I want to remind her just where her interests lie.  I keeed.  She’ll be great, and I want her to know how much confidence we all have in her.  She’s a superstar in my eyes.  I adore her.

*wipes annoying moisture from eye*  What was I saying?  Guh!  Go!  You!  Go out, check out Jenny Hart, grab some canvas and thread and try your hand at embroidering coolness!  Go!  I command thee!

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