Most people would be offended to see a gift they’d handmade pop up at a yard sale. But Julie Jackson was thrilled when she saw a familiar, framed cross-stitch appear at Stephen Colbert’s televised yard sale. The founder of Subversive Cross Stitch had made a custom sampler for Colbert, one of her favorite celebs, emblazoned with his catchphrase “Truthiness.”
“He wrote me the nicest thank you note, and told me it was on the shelves in his office,” she tells Yahoo DIY. “And once I even read an interview with him and the reporter mentioned the sampler. In one of his last episodes, Colbert sells the show memorabilia in a yard sale, and the “Truthiness” sampler was one of the items to get snatched up by lucky fans.
Jackson wasn’t worried about the fact that Colbert was passing on her work. “Actually, it was just really cool to see it after all these years,” she says.
Jackson’s business, Subversive Cross Stitch, sells kits and downloadable patterns emblazoned with irreverent and sometimes profane words and sayings. It started more than a decade ago, when Jackson took out her frustrations with a horrible boss by working on an ornate wedding sampler for some friends, stitching the word F**K in the center where the pattern indicated the alphabet would be. Her friends loved the irreverent gift and Jackson started stitching more projects, and then putting them up on a website to show them off.
Next month, an expanded reissue of her 2006 book, Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 F*cking Clever Designs for Your Sassy Side, comes out from powerHouse Books, with additional patterns, designs and other new content.
The designs she’s developed range from pop culture memes (“Thanks Obama,” and “Twerk It”) to the silly and profane (“Look who’s a MILF” and “Be my bitch”). But there are sweetly funny designs, like a “Welcome, tiny overlord” design for a new baby or a tattoo-inspired heart with “Mom” stitched into the middle. Jackson says the most poplar designs are “Don’t be a dick” and “Go F*ck yourself.” She doesn’t mind raising eyebrows, but she says she tries to avoid politics and religion.
“My thing isn’t to be offensive; it’s to be clever and to make you laugh,” Jackson tells Yahoo DIY. “I want people to be able to take my ideas and make them your own. Relax, have fun with it!”
Other fun designs include, “FML” (look it up if you don’t know), and an AK-47 emblazoned “Say hello to my little friend.” She also has a “bad grammar” series, with the gem, “Mind you’re own business.”
One of her patterns, “F*ck cancer,” has had some unexpected results. “People write to me about that pattern, the stories are incredible,” says Jackson. “It’s really therapeutic for them. They might not say that words aloud but stitching them is another thing. When you’re stitching, it’s like you’re stabbing the material.”
She’s heard of women working on the project while sitting at the bedside of a sick loved one, or even of someone burying the finished sampler with her husband.
Colbert isn’t the only celeb that Jackson has gifted with a custom sampler; she bestows them on some of her favorite personalities: Margaret Cho got a piece that said “Candy Ass” (“She sent me a picture of herself with it,” recalls Jackson). And Graham Norton requested a “Homo Sweet Homo” sampler for his desk.
Jackson has also done custom projects, such as book and magazine covers (She stitched a cover for Parade magazine), and collaborations with other designers and product developers. There’s a Flickr group devoted to subversive cross-stitch designs, too.
(Jackson’s self portrait.)
The crafty entrepreneur showed a knack for Internet entrepreneurism even before Subversive Cross Stitch. You might seen one of her other “pet” projects, Kitty Wigs, popping up in your Facebook feed at some point. Beginning as a website featuring photos of her cats dressed up in wigs she custom-made for them, it evolved into a book and a line of cat wigs available for purchase.
With both her snarky crafts and silly kitty projects, Jackson clearly knows what catches people’s attention online. As one of the designs available on Subversive Cross Stitch wisely notes, “The Internet is made of cats.”