Participation Type

Experiential Presentation

Session Title

Madame DeFarge's Subversive Grandchildren

Session Abstract or Summary

Women and fiber arts go back to pre-recorded history. But in what ways have women used "the gentle arts" of spindle, distaff, and needle to voice sentiments less accepted in larger media? How subversive, how honest, how expressive, can cross stitch, crochet, and sequin sewing be?

Pretty damn subversive. Three fiber artists discuss raising money for causes, causing mayhem with samplers, and sampling ways in which women make ourselves strong through beauty and treachery. Included in the discussion are the Chilean arpilleras smuggled out prison camps and online fora such as Mildly Offensive Fiber Arts and Black Sheep Crochet (a group created entirely out of people ejected form the 70,000-strong Crochet Forum).

Men participate in fiber arts, and while this will be included in discussion, the focus of the forum is women's voices and how they present them, overtly or subtly, for causes, self-expression, or the intertwining of both.

Susan Hamrick is a cancer survivor who advocates for health care reform, Melanie Pratt is a craft store employee who makes space for women, and Wendy Welch is an ethnographer who runs a bookstore. Each has seen ways in which women make fiber arts into resistance, from pussy hats to samplers requesting people not snort cocaine in the restroom. They will present photos of various projects, discuss the underpinnings of how women use this "safe" self-expression to be anything but, and invite audience members to discuss ways in which they have participated in or witnessed women giving voice through fiber arts.

Presentation #1 Title

Making Space, Making Time, Making History

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

How women have recorded history, made space for themselves, and scared men into silence once they realized just how often and intensely both those things were happening.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Melanie Pratt is a storyteller and cross-stitch champion living in Columbus, Ohio. She specializes in stories of women's wisdom and cross stitch patterns that dazzle the eyes.

Presentation #2 Title

Silliness Hides Strength

Presentation #2 Abstract or Summary

A sampler asks "What was I thinking?" and answers the question with language not usually stitched in gold thread using a decorative font. Women overcoming debilitating health odds send each other crocheted hats bedecked with flowers. With laughter and tears, women create art and memories for themselves and for each other, some sweet, some silly, some salty - all of them done with threads that don't break.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Susan Hamrick is a cancer survivor, health care professional, and advocate. As a cat rescuer and "casual" stitcher she has divided her time between relaxing and relaying messages using fiber arts.

Presentation #3 Title

Hey Y'all, Watch This!

Presentation #3 Abstract or Summary

Crocheting is sometimes associated with age, cats, overfussy decor like toilet paper roll dolls, and musty regrets in life. But not by the million-dollar industry participants in yarn manufacturing, craft book publishing, or kit design. Or by the women who have become independent designers and rail against (or become) so skillful that they can replicate a pattern just by seeing the object. From the Bailey Bear cowl to Jayne hats, how do women not only hold their own, but make money, friends, and enemies in an industry that has regulations without rules?

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #3

Wendy Welch owns a bookstore that was the subject of her 2012 memoir THE LITTLE BOOKSTORE OF BIG STONE GAP. It has been a gathering place for crafters since its inception. Welch has a PhD in Ethnography from Memorial University of Newfoundland and travels widely, meeting women fiber artists and exchanging ideas.

Conference Subthemes

Diversity and Inclusion, Economic Development, Education, Health

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Making Space, Making Time, Making History

How women have recorded history, made space for themselves, and scared men into silence once they realized just how often and intensely both those things were happening.