Subversive Finds: Talking with Mr. X Stitch By Julie Jackson Jamie Chalmers is making a name for himself in the world of embroidery — and that name is Mr. X Stitch. This 6-foot-tall Brit regularly cross-stitches in public, mostly on the train to London. He’s a newlywed with an urban homestead and nine chickens who somehow finds the time to run the self-proclaimed “#1 contemporary embroidery and needlecraft blog on the planet,” MrXStitch.com. He’s a true believer in the modern craft movement “from both a relaxation and sustainability perspective,” and he’s known for such witty remarks as “men need to discover that you can get more relaxation from an x-stitch than an X-box.” His Flickr group, Phat Quarter, is wildly popular and has gained a lot of attention in a very short time. He was also invited by Leah Kramer to be the first guest blogger for Craftster.org. All this and he still manages to hold down a demanding day job and support a local charity that teaches needlework to prison inmates and sells their products (Fine Cell Work). He aspires to be the next Rosie Grier of the stitching world and was recently interviewed for Cross Stitcher magazine. Yet, despite all the hoopla, he remains humble, stating that he “feels very fortunate to be involved at this time when interest in embroidery and modern craft is only beginning in the UK.” If this is just the beginning, we can’t wait to see what he does next — meet Mr. X Stitch! (Remember to imagine the following answers in a charming British accent.)
How he started: On a trip to Canada five years ago, I saw these cross stitch kits and I liked the idea of someone my size doing needlework; I thought that was funny. Where his first cross stitch ended up: I got it framed and gave it to my mum, ’cause that’s what you do. About his first original patterns: I’d always really liked graffiti, and to be honest if I’d have been a bit more of a bad boy I’d probably would have tried to do some myself. I’m like a frustrated graffiti artist because I’ve never done it. But I thought it would translate into cross stitch quite well. The origin of Mr. X Stitch: We were on honeymoon and I came up with the idea of Mr. X Stitch because I thought it sounded kind of mysterious, like Mr. X. He actually cross stitched on his honeymoon: I did take some stitching, I finished one piece on honeymoon — I did an ‘A’ and a ‘J’ kind of intertwining, stitched onto a piece of linen, and Alissa has that hanging in her office now. About his day job: I work for a national children’s charity, where I lead an IT training team supporting 6000 staff. When the website began: August 27, 2008 is when I started the blog … and it’s gone a bit bonkers, really. The formative days of MrXStitch.com: I’d just been talking mostly about myself (why I liked cucumber sandwiches, how I arranged my socks on the washing line) then I came across Richard Saja of Historically Inaccurate and his work where he embellishes toile fabric and I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” Then I found Ulrika Erdes: she does little bits of graffiti on train seats and stuff which I thought was pretty clever. And then I thought, well, there are some talented people out there and it would be nice to mention them. The spark that started a fire: One of the big things was discovering Craftster.org and realizing there were a lot of people out there doing a lot of groovy things. Finding Craftster was quite important because it made me realize there was a lot going on when I thought I was operating in isolation with my daft idea about graffiti cross stitch, but there was this whole thing happening. So I owe Craftster quite a lot. On being the first blogger for Craftster.org: I started in March/April this year . It kind of blew my mind when Leah [Kramer] asked me. It’s a real honor! It’s nice to be able to share some of the needlecraft artists we’ve found with an audience that might not necessarily know about them. About his partner in crime: Bridget Franckowiak [Beefranck] started being involved in February and that’s when the site really took off. I met Bridget via Craftster when I asked for a copy of a pattern she’d created. Then I noticed her podcast and we got chatting. Then we started sending care packages (of junk food) to one another across the pond — highbrow cultural references! I got the nerve to ask Bridget if she could help me with the site and now she probably posts more than I do. She’s awesome. We talk daily on webcam or email and, between us, we deliver two posts a day every day. What you’ll find daily at MrXStitch.com:
- Sundays we have the Craftster Pick of the Week, where we choose our favorite new project from the week before.
- Mondays feature Beefranck’s Emporium of Embroidered Excellence and Splendiferous Stitchery, where Bridget showcases stitching that’s tickled her fancy, including themes like Flight of the Conchords and Star Wars.
- Tuesday is Too Cute For Mr. X Stitch Tuesdays, which Bridget curates and is self-explanatory — that stuff’s too cute for me to talk about, I’m afraid.
- Wednesdays are when I blog for Craftster.
- On Thursdays we have The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge, which features people who are creating stitched art or futuristic projects such as stitching on porcelain, metal, or concrete.
- Saturdays are NSFW Saturdays. Since people aren’t at work that day, we invite them to see something racy, but they have plenty of warning. We even provide a safety picture so that they don’t get upset by accident. Because we care.
- And then we have Stitchgasms all over the place when we see something and just go, “UH, that’s great!”
What’s next for the site? We’ve got the first anniversary of the site at the end of August, which will include giveaways and all kinds of nonsense. We’ve also got some new post threads lined up including a monthly post called Domestitchery, which will be all about embroidery in interior design, written by a blogger from that field. That’s the only thing I can disclose at the moment. You’ll just have to keep visiting to see what else we get up to! And what’s next for Mr. X Stitch? Who knows? This year has been such an amazing success that this time next year I’ll have a Bentley with cross stitch seats! No, really: I’d like to find a way to explore the field of embroidery on a more personal level. The Royal School of Needlework has started a new degree program in Fine Hand Embroidery and I would love to do the course and learn all the proper stitching rules. So that I can break them! And as far as the site is concerned, there will just be more of the stuff that we know and love: top quality contemporary stitching and embroidery. If you thought this year was good, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Any final words?: The Nu Craft Revolution is here — it’s awesome and I’m honored to play a part in it. About the Author: Julie Jackson is the creator of Subversive Cross Stitch and Kitty Wigs. Her new book, Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs will be released by Chronicle Books this fall.