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Craftivism’s Cover Story in Australia!

This happened today, which has made my weekend! It’s a cover story about craftivism in Australia, complete with interviews with Sayraphim Lothian, Casey Jenkins, and Tal Fitzpatrick!

Also, I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to participate in a show at the Fuller Craft Museum this May! For my piece, I’m going to be sending in YASVB signs that will be displayed during the show then given away to the community for free when it is over.

Here are some shots by my dear friend Cynthia to get you thinking…

Cynthia 1

Cynthia 2


And since this is in a museum show about the DIY craft community, I want to spread the word as far as I can within it. Therefore, I would love it if *YOU* helped spread the word! How can you do so? By clicking either over here (how the project came together, with a link to details) or here (just the details themselves_, which share project information, then clicking on one of the share buttons on the side of your screen!

You Are So Very Beautiful is TWO WEEKS away!

You Are So Very Beautiful commences TWO WEEKS from today!

A photo posted by Betsy Greer (@craftivista) on

I’m super stoked to be working with Mary on this, and for there to be coordinating drops in both London and Vancouver on the same day we have our event in Baltimore! To learn more about getting involved, have a look over here!

People have also been kind enough to write posts about it on Mr. X Stitch, Katherine Diuguid, KurbitsCrafting A Green World,  Monica Miller and Catherine West from Significant Seams also wrote posts here and here, respectively, and are the ones coordinating drops in Vancouver and London, yeah!

This project has reminded me of how important it is to bring joy into what you’re doing, and how sometimes all it takes to switch a bad mood to a good one is some peppy music. (For the past month, I’ve been listening to the 50 Most Blogged (Indie!) Songs over at Google Music as it changes each week!)

For a long time I thought that to create also meant you had to suffer. (I read a lot of stuff by the Beats in college, coincidence?) It took *this very project* to realize how much better it feels to create from a place of joy than a place of sadness or angst or lack. Although I’ve crafting and making for years, it wasn’t until I sat down and literally stitched dozens of affirmations onto cloth that I began to realize how that kind of making resonates on a higher level, a different plane. And it feels good.

I’ve written more about it in my weekly newsletter, that just came off a hiatus. You can sign up for it in the top righthand corner of my blog; I hope to see you there!

Stitching, Design, and Copyright.

So this article and stitching and plagiarism came up on my radar the other day.

I tweeted it and there was some interesting discussion about it. I made a little diagram of the ways that people act when they steal designs, and what I consider to be best practices. To see all of it, just click on the photo to expand it. (Feel free to tell me if I left something out or was otherwise in error.)



However, there are two things that got left out.

1. Figuring out a design from a company and then posting about it. Right? Or wrong? I’m not going to link to any examples because you can find them with a quick Google, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m calling them out for bad behavior. If it’s best practice not to take another designer’s design and tell everyone else how to make it vs. buying the pattern, what if the designer is a company? Is that okay? As you’ll see in #2, it’s legal to do, whether they’re a big company or a much smaller designer. But is it kind?

Personally, I think figuring it out and sharing it is more about ego than it is about anything else. It says, “look at me! I’m clever enough to figure out someone’s pattern! Now tell me how awesome I am!” And when that “someone” is someone in your community, don’t expect to be welcomed into that community. When that “someone” is a store or couture designer? Your figured-out design may help some people who couldn’t otherwise afford the finished store-bought item, which is good.

But it also opens some gray areas, because what if instead of figuring out a sweater, it’s figuring out how to make your own pumpkin-spice latte? Then it becomes a conversation about what we put into our bodies, not just what we spend money on. Then it becomes an issue of what we value and what’s been devalued. It stays an issue about handmade vs. store-bought. I don’t have an answer here, only that it’s blurry. And that I like making a pumpkin spice latte at home with purer ingredients than Starbucks’. And that these gray areas of life both infuriate me as much as they endear me to it.

Have thoughts on this gray area? Lemme hear them!

2.  OMG. Just tell me already, am I stealing when I “copy” someone else’s design? 

When it comes to things that fall under the frame of fashion? If you’re in the United States, the answer is NO.

When it comes to your stuffed animals or paintings or coin purses? That gets tricky. But, the long and the short of it is this, is your product making you a good stand-up craft community member? Or are you straight-up stealing someone’s ideas for profit? Would you feel good about showing your design to the person who made what you’re trying to emulate? Or does that idea make you feel sick? Because with making things, you become part of a community. If you want to be part of it, stick to your own ideas.

So, that being settled, I went looking for some proof of the first question. I found this, on this blog post, the entirety of which is pretty helpful:

In current copyright law of the United States, there is no prevention of copying of fashion designs. Copyright may protect elements of a garment like the patterns or prints in their textiles or other materials, but garments and accessories themselves are usually considered functional and thus unprotected.

I went looking for more. And more I found. Here and here are two helpful posts in this area. Here is an example of this discussion on Etsy wherein people come to the conclusion that people who steal are lame (because they are) and that the best thing to do is go make something better.

There was very little information on the interwebs about this from an actual .gov address, y’know, something that showed what the actual deal is. Then I came across this little beauty of a post, which included this information:

“Features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of [clothing]” can be protected by copyright.

The bit in quotes is from a .gov domain, a domain no less, and appears on a page entitled Protection on Fashion Design. I haven’t read the whole thing, but was intrigued that it mentioned something called “hull splashing,” which sounds weird in the context of fashion design. However, looking further into it, it’s actually not very exciting in reality.

So, wait a minute. What did we learn again?

That stealing is lame, except perhaps in the case of the DIY pumpkin-spice latte.

And that yeah, you can “steal” a design when it comes to fashion if you’re making something utilitarian.

However, if you’re planning on being a part of an actual community, it’s a pretty crap idea. And as anyone who has ever designed something for themselves knows, the thrill of making something your own? It beats the feeling of stealing any day.

And Just Why Should We Create A Craftivism Manifesto?

People have long been proud of crafts, whether they make them or they buy them. I love this example of craft love in this photo below, of a Czech-Slovak crafts booth in 1922 by Harris & Ewing, where people are wearing handmade crafts and showing them off.

albanian crafts

Last week I wrote about creating the craftivism manifesto, and this week, I wanted to write a little bit more about why this is important. If you’d like to participate in its creation, check out the details here.

A manifesto. A call to action. A welcoming invitation to be one of us. A thingie. A feel-good version of what we’re doing. A weird idea. Something that should have been done years ago.

Despite championing craftivism for over a decade and writing definitions and essays and books, there are plenty of days where I have absolutely no idea of what I’m doing. I vacillate between wanting interested parties to take craftivism to where it needs to go and putting my hand more firmly on the steering wheel. I am in awe and humbled by the fact that craftivism is real.

Because without you, it wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t have the chance to travel and talk about craftivism at times to people who believe in it. There would be no book, no craftivist groups around the world.

In an email recently, I wrote about how every act of conscious craft falls under the craftivism umbrella, because the seed of craftivism, the intention to make a difference with your craft skills, is still there.

It’s this seed that I’m hoping the manifesto holds, for you to take and grow and give thought to how your craft skills can help other people in the best way you can. Your actions may be blogged about or tweeted or texted. Or you can choose to keep them to yourself. No matter which you choose, you’re manifesting the power of craft as you work.

Your actions do not necessarily have power because of social media, they have power because they have soul. Soul that connects you to craft practitioners going back thousands of years depending on the discipline. We may not know the names of the people who made those early crafts, but our hands know their work.

We do not gain real sustainable power through broadcasting, we gain it through connecting again and again with the stitches, the clay, the wood. By choosing to work with these materials in a world that could easily have made them obsolete, you are choosing to make instead of blindly accept. To fabricate over taking pre-built items from the shop. To ask and explore instead of ignoring the connection between what we have now and what we had before.

As crafters, we are soul seekers. We mold and wrap and forge and play as we make because creation is a delight, especially when you can brew a cup of tea or wear it in the cold or use it to slurp soup later. Our work may go on walls or on shelves, but it is best loved when it’s put to use, because it is for use.

There is little real worry if they break, because we can make them again. We can start anew and either make something better and different or the same old thing again and again. We get to choose.

We take time out from our keyboards and friends and pets to create what we can buy at Target for much less. We take time because we know the value of holding something we’ve made in our own two hands. Because  we have a put a bit of our soul inside, and choose to lend a bit of ourselves to each thing we churn out.

Our choosing to make gives others permission to also follow their dreams and interests. Our return to shape something into existence that once was not there and may never be again shows others that there is little to be scared of in the act of making, because there is no wrong answer. There is only making and learning.

These are the things I want to convey in the craftivism manifesto and about making itself. Because there is magic in the making, each and every time we turn our hands away from our screens and towards our imaginations.

Feeling fired up about crafts and craftivism? Come check out how you can help make the craftivism manifesto!

Exploring Craftivism History: Sweetheart Pin Cushions

Sweetheart cushions. Not exactly craftivism… but, as they were helpful projects that connected soldiers and sailors to their loved ones, I’m going to say they are craftivism adjacent. Projects like these can be extraordinarily helpful when dealing with trauma and loss, because you’re thinking of designs and loved ones and things beyond what is happening all around you. Interestingly, some websites say that these pin cushions were made by women and sent to the soldiers and sailors, when, in fact, it was the men who made them instead.

I’ve been digging a bit into how they started and come up a bit spare, so if you know anything, please let me know! Additionally, I’ve started doing historical posts again, because I’m ramping up my own research for various things. Once I get to 48 of them, I’m going to retroactively number the posts so that 48 Acts of Historical Craftivism will live here in full. Due to dealing with my own trauma issues, putting up a research post every week last year wasn’t feasible. That being said, if you’re ever putting out work to the public, be kind to yourself if it doesn’t work. If it’s important, you will come back to it again. Sometimes we’re not fully ready to do a project, so it’s best to put it down for a bit and take care of our selves first.

This post takes you a bit down the rabbit hole of textile research, as it gets confusing and all of a sudden you find yourself looking at photos of Queen Victoria and see if they match a photo in a pin cushion (below), reading information that doesn’t add up, finding completely different theories than any other text mentions, and other fun stuff. So, welcome to a post with lovely photos that also explores how one explains something that no one seems to know a whole lot about. Be sure to click on the photos to see them in real size. Additionally, none of these photos are mine. They are either from the link in the related text or from Pinterest.

So, how did these sweetheart pin cushions come about? A lovely piece in Slate about them suggests:

“Nancy Mambi, librarian at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, Minn., which mounted an exhibit featuring sweetheart pincushions last year, says that the tradition began in the nineteenth century with Queen Victoria. The Queen was an amateur practitioner of textile arts, who thought that soldiers might find quilting or needlepoint a great distraction while far from home.

Most of the ones with dates that I found coordinate with WWI, although some text also noted that pin cushions were also sent by soldiers and sailors during the Boer War. So, a little look at history, the first Boer War (and actually, if you were Boer, you would call these wars the Wars of Independence, learn all about it here) was from 1800-1801, the second Boer War was from 1899-1902, and Queen Victoria was queen from 1837-1901.

I did find a photo of one marked 1896, but I’m not exactly sure what war it was for. However, it does have an amazing tassel fringe, so it simply must be shared:

fringe pin cushion

I don’t know about you, but this leaves me confused about why these pin cushions were still being made during WWI (1914-1918) with photos of Queen Victoria, or at least it looks like Queen Victoria over Alexandra, which the eBay listing seems to think is on there:

queen vic pin cushion

And it definitely does not explain who this dude is (but I *so* want to know!):

stranger pin cushion

Also, this search led me to discover hussif (“housewife”) rolls, which were made by women for their soldier or sailor. Check them out here.

A sweetheart pin cushion from a soldier in The Royal Norfolk Regiment owned by the Museum of Technology. The entry for this cushion starts with: “pin cushions, were a very common memento sent home by the troops to their loved ones during WW1. As with this one, they often incorporate the name of the soldier’s unit – here the insignia, of Britannia and the regiment’s colours can be seen,” and ends with a description of a battle the regiment endured if you want to click over and read more.


So, these pin cushions feature a variety of cool things that I learned about along the way, such as cigarette silks, which came in cigarette packets:

“A Cigarette Silk is a small piece of printed (or woven) satin (almost never silk) given away free inside yesteryear’s cigarette packets as a marketing ploy. There was an assortment of subject matter and they had silk ‘issues’ depicting animals, flowers, motor cars, and railways. The list was endless, but with the outbreak of World War I; Military Badges, Regimental Colours, Uniforms, Medals, Flags, and War Heroes became all the rage, especially with male smokers.”

Additionally, all those beads you see were put individually on straight pins, which were then stuck in the cushions (that were stuffed with things like sawdust) to create various designs. I like the masculine element it gives these sweet pincushions, because maybe I’ve missed something, but I’ve never seen a women’s version of this technique. Who knows if the technique was created because of what they had lying around or was by design? (No, really, I want to know.)

There are whole boards on Pinterest dedicated to these pincushions, like this onethis one, this one (which has some contemporary versions), and this one. A lot of the photos are from old eBay auctions.

norfolk regiment


good luck pin cushion

heart grow fonder pin cushion

The artist Janet Haigh has photos of some good ones here, too. Additionally, she has some photos of a mending job done on an original WWI pin cushion!

prince alberts pin cushion

If you click on the photo above, you’ll see that the text for this Pinterest pin says that these pincushions were “often made from kits given to soldiers recovering from their injuries.” The text for the photo below says the same thing. The photo is taken from the Imperial War Museum’s collection.

essex pin cushion

think of me cigarette silk

The cigarette silk above I saw on several different examples, and in its linked post, found another theory about the pin cushions’ origins.

Most pin cushions, like the one below, were offered in several different places on the internet, with no information at all about them.

forget me not pin cushion

Although there was the occasional luck with text, like the post that included the following photo and text:


As a teenager I worked in an antiques shop in Allerton, near Wedmore, and Dorcas Elliott who ran it gave me a First World War sweetheart pin cushion. What I did not understand was that it had been made by a man. 

The tradition started in the 19th century when Queen Victoria decided that soldiers might find quilting or needlepoint a great distraction while far from home. Soldiers made beaded pincushions during the Boer War from cloth taken from wool uniforms. Decorative pincushions became very popular during the First World War when injured soldiers and sailors made thousands of pincushions to express their love for home and country. 

 The Imperial War Museum says that some of the cushions were made out of commercially sold kits, while other examples were sewn using feed sacks and scrounged thread. And mine, I think, is one made from a kit, which was available to serving soldiers and sailors. 

As you can see he was a member of the Army Service Corps, which provided backroom services including administration. It is now part of the Royal Logistic Corps. 

And since we’re speaking of love tokens and being far away from ones you love, I also discovered that there are convict love tokens. Whoa. As well as a period of time where pillows for babies were embroidered with phrases like “Welcome Little Stranger,” which is just about perfect.

I also found the photos below, which are notable given that they are made during the same period, with similar messages. The post they came from added the following accompanying text:

canada beadwork 1

canada bead work 2

These pillowy treasures got us thinking about even older Canadiana, specifically Haudenosaunee beadwork purses and pincushions. These beautiful souvenirs began to appear not long after Loyalist Mohawk troups resettled in Canada after the American Revolutionary War. Haudenosaunee from both sides of the border found themselves living on reservations, cut off from their traditional land and way of life. The communities sought out new ways to make a living, and the women began making souvenir beadwork.

Most of it was sold around Niagara Falls but examples that bear the names of towns like Toronto and Montreal can also be found. Contemporary sewers still create stunning beadwork, but we have a soft spot for the sentimental Victorian versions.

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