Subversive Cross Stitch

I’ve been keeping this from you for the past few weeks, and now that this object has been gifted, I can finally let you in on the secret!


There’s nothing like a little subversive cross stitch to put a smile on your favorite feminist’s face. We Klebenows are a pretty political bunch, but we’re also about 95% ย in political agreement- a good thing, if there ever was one, even if the same cannot be said for the extended family (can it ever?). I get anxious in crowds, but my little sister Lill goes to all the protests. As her birthday was coming up I settled on an idea. One which, as an added bonus, might sufficiently weed out the weak from her potential suitors.

The first quote that came to mind was ‘Girls just wanna have Fun-damental human rights’ which is solid material, but not great. Then ‘well behaved women rarely make history’ which is golden but also somewhat overused. Then there was a cute little embroidery of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg I saw on Pinterest with a banner reading ‘The Notorious RBG’ which I loved, but I haven’t cross stitched since about the fourth grade and I didn’t want to start with a human face in a zillion shades of flesh tone. I fear I wouldn’t have done the Notorious RBG justice. (That was trying to be a pun…)


Then, the Women’s March on Washington happened. Lill made a sign that said “‘Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights’ – Fallopians 1.21” on one side and “This pussy grabs back” on the other. The first one, though appropriate, was too many letters for my hoop, and so a decision was made.

Design-wise, the text needed to fill the space and be as ‘loud’ as possible. The sort of thing you’d see from across the room. The flowery decorations I added are traditional cross stitch motifs and I’ve left it in the hoop specifically to emphasize that ‘traditional women’s craft’ thing that I devoted so many hours to studying in art history classes. I won’t get into the dichotomy here but if you’ve noticed – it’s intentional.


I designed the panel in Illustrator by creating a 6″ x 6″ grid and filling in the squares for each stitch with each of my eight colors. My fabric is 16 squares per inch, so it was pretty easy to make a template that would end up the correct size. I started at the center point at the top and worked my way out and down just in case.

I kind of thought this project was going to take forever, but as the majority of the stitching is just the black lettering, it was the perfect zone-out project at the end of the day to curl up in bed with, and it ended up taking only about a week and a half’s worth of evenings!


I’ve left space in my sewing area for a cross stitch in a hoop as well, although I’m having a mighty hard time deciding what I want it to say. So far, none of my ideas -including “Damn, it feels good to be a gangster”- have passed the Jon Approval test.


The nice thing about this as an international birthday gift is that embroidery hoops are lightweight and fairly shippable. I stitched a backing (some leftover woven shirt fabric) to the back, wrote a little to/from Happy Birthday note with an archival pen, and off it went! I think the fabric was more expensive than the shipping, which is saying something.

I may not be the one who goes to the protests, but there are plenty of other ways to make waves in the pond. As much as this little artifact has found a place on a wall in my sister’s apartment, it’s also hanging here – on my blog- because ‘feminist’ is a badge we Klebenows wear with honor. I haven’t talked in great depth about politics on the blog, and I don’t intend to (It’s a sewing blog. We all need an escape from the real world – this has always been mine – it’s just that sometimes ‘escape’ comes in the form of a cross stitched protest of the current state of our government). That said, it’s important to me that my silence isn’t mistaken for lack of concern or involvement.

I’ve added the PDF I made for my pattern as a download, so if you know a snarky feminist with a birthday coming up who might like aย wall hanging that grabs back,ย go forth and create. Just.. y’know. Tag me in the photos.


To make the cross stitch that grabs back, you will need:


As a side note, if you’re not feeling the cross stitch vibe, Maddie over at Maddie Made This recently released a free download of an embroidery with the phrase ‘Nevertheless, she Persisted’ and some equally adorable flowers and roses. If Feminist Embroidery floats your boat more than Feminist Cross Stitch, check out her design here!

Happy stitching! I’m back to my usual selfish sewing next week, promise ๐Ÿ˜‰


8 thoughts on “Subversive Cross Stitch

  1. Merry Pinbender says:

    Hi Ms. K,
    Love the vibe. I previously told Ciara over @Crabigail Adams how great it is to know women haven’t forgotten how to roar. Go little sis! If you haven’t already, go check out her feminist cross stitch jeans.
    Bart has been taking swimming lessons. How are you guys?

    • Kat says:

      Hi Merry!
      I shall go check out her blog! Feminist cross stitch jeans sounds like my jam!
      Sheep has not been on very many adventures lately – and neither have I, come to think of it. I need to squeeze a few beach weekends in before the rainy season starts! I also need to keep myself from making seasonally inappropriate things – it’s keeping me from blogging! We’re doing well though, I hope you are too!
      Kat ๐Ÿ™‚

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