strat investigates

The New Status Craft Is Embroidery

We’re several years into the ceramics craze — an era that kicked off in earnest around 2013, when, seemingly at once, all entrées began arriving in charmingly uneven bowls, a bevy of articles lauding independent makers cropped up in the “Style” section, and in Vogue, and in this very magazine, and all my friends began bringing smocks to work for their Tuesday-night wheel class in Tribeca.

Ceramics were not the first craft to break from Pinterest into a full-blown mainstream trend. Woodworking had its moment, as did terrariums. So did knitting, in the earlier aughts. (And again last year when suddenly thousands of women needed pink crocheted hats.) Now it’s 2018, and while our collective clay hysteria hasn’t yet died down, a new craft has achieved Cult Craft Status: embroidery.

Embroidery crept into my sight when I found and became enamored with Paloma Wool, a small Barcelona-based designer who makes sweaters and pants stitched with palm fronds and twisty snakes and naked female bodies. Then I saw it everywhere: at the Soho Converse store, where Brooklyn artist Brian Blakely recently spent a weekend chain-stitching cherries onto high-tops; in Rachel Comey on colorful needlepoint slip-ons and purses; on Connie Britton, who wore a Lingua Franca sweater embroidered with “Poverty Is Sexist” to the 2017 Golden Globes. It showed up in the art world, too (although to be fair, women have used stitching and embroidery in their art for ages), in Susan Cianciolo’s embroidered tapestries, Sophie King’s feminist messages, Maira Kalman’s portraits of her late mother sewn onto linen, and Jordan Nassar’s cotton-on-cotton depictions of arid Israeli deserts.

Instead of buying any of the above items, I decided to teach myself how to embroider. And I quickly learned that it is the most wonderful craft a person could ever pick up on a whim. It’s cheap (all you need is a needle and thread), and it’s not messy (like, for instance, covering your hands and forearms in wet clay). Once you run out of things of your own to embroider (you’ll know you’re at this point when all of your T-shirts have your own name stitched messily across the breast), you can begin making gifts for friends and family that will thrill them: In the last year, I’ve knit a tiny yellow heart on my mother’s jean jacket, my sister’s nickname on her overalls, and my boss’s initials on a tote. The act of it is deeply soothing: If your hands are busy making tiny stitches, you cannot check your phone, bite your fingernails, or crack your knuckles. Below, the two things you’ll need to begin your own embroidery project, a couple of cheap things you can try it out on, and a couple of pre-embroidered pieces to buy if you find this charming, but you already have enough hobbies.

Embroidery floss in all the colors. I tend to use the deep red and the goldenish yellow.

A 16-pack of embroidery needles for under $1.

A good canvas tote to practice on.

Stitch your name in red on this striped t-shirt. I did it, it’s adorable.

Or go crazy on this cute three-quarter-length tee.

Get these in the smallest size and stitch your name on the front pocket. If you mess up, that’s okay! Because embroidery is thrillingly easy to undo.


And even sweeter, perfect-for-Spring rose socks.

A “suuuuper” soft, hand-embroidered sweater from the very chic Paloma Wool.

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The New Ceramics Is Embroidery