Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled to welcome Julie Jackson back to CRAFT! Her monthly column will feature fascinating crafters from all over the world.
When I first discovered the work of Steotch.com, I felt like I had found my long-lost siblings. If I could anoint the next generation of truly subversive stitchers, they would definitely wear the crown. Matt and Emily Fitzpatrick live and stitch in a small town in rural Northwest Connecticut, an area (according to them) “rife with traditional New England handcrafters and dorky rap-quoting white people.” The photo on their Who We Are page shows them dressed as their alter egos: an old-timey crafty lady and a straight-out internet thug. I have such an internet crush on Steotch because their work is deliciously smart. They’ve got serious traditional cross stitch cred (it runs in the family) and the way they combine it with internet memes, rap lyrics and anything else that makes them laugh results in pieces of art that are truly hilarious. You’ve probably seen Steotch online recently: their work has gone completely viral thanks to a post on Reddit and coverage on sites including Boing Boing and Huffington Post. I had to know more about this brilliant couple and find out where they’ve been all my life!
[JulieJ] Tell us a little more about where you’re from and your stitching history.
[Matt] I’ve got old Yankee roots that go back to the Mayflower, and I grew up in a house where the walls were covered with cross stitch samplers done by my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. I think we had twenty samplers up, at least. The only sampler we have up in our own home is a picture of our house, done by my grandmother a few years ago.
[Emily] I learned to stitch from my grandmother, growing up in Los Angeles, so I bring the flavor of the westside to Steotch. I’ve lived here, and been part of Matt’s family long enough to consider myself a sturdy, New England stitcher. We both come from good, crafty stock!
[Matt] My mom actually runs a pretty popular crafty blog of free patterns for handmade bibs and stuff.
[JulieJ] Does your mother know what you’re up to, young man? [M] Oh yeah, Mom’s down. [E] She doesn’t always understand the samplers, but she’s our biggest fan.
[JJ] What finally made you carry on the family tradition and put your own ideas into stitches? [E] Well, I’ve been stitching since I was a little girl, but my craftiness has taken many forms through the years. I did a lot of cross stitch when I was young, and then again in college, but I had been spending my time in other fiber media for the last decade or so. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and we’d long been brainstorming ideas of something I could do that might bring in a little extra income. We had a few other thoughts for funky Etsy shops, but once the concept for Steotch hit us one night, I couldn’t start stitching fast enough – this was something that really, really excited me. [M] Actually, I was reading an article somewhere about a guy who bought up old secondhand paintings and added little science fiction elements to them – like, a seascape would suddenly have the Deathstar sort of nonchalantly hanging out in the corner. My original idea was to go out and find some secondhand samplers, and do the same kind of thing – add a little Yoda or Gollum on the edges. We had trouble finding old samplers, though, and as we talked through the idea, one night Emily was just like, “Why don’t I just make the whole sampler from scratch?” And I think that night we busted out like ten or fifteen ideas right off the bat. [E] Yeah, Matt’s definitely the idea guy… most of the time. [M] Every stitch of every sampler is by Emily – and she does most of the design work on the charts. I offer feedback and occasionally draw something, but my role is yelling out ideas, framing the finished pieces, and handling the website. Em’s the one with the, ah, talent. [JJ] I really love that you’re interpreting internet memes into cross stitch. How do you decide what direction to take and when you’ve really hit the mark? [M] Every sampler has to be funny – funny enough to make me laugh out loud – and almost all of them have a joke that is in some way directly related to it being a sampler. If you’re not familiar with traditional samplers, you might not get some of the references we’ve done – weaving the lyrics to “Never Gonna Give You Up” into a border, an alphabet ending in “XYZKTHXBAI.” All the jokes depend on each sampler standing on its own as a unique design. I think our masterpiece is the one with Hugh Laurie’s face underneath the words “Bless This House” – it’s the perfect sampler joke – but it only works if Emily totally nails the face. The face on that sampler needed to look exactly like the image of Dr. House that’s emblazoned all over the web, but also be just cross-stitchy enough for the sampler to have a slight wisp of campiness to it – and she nailed it. [E] Matt’s more web savvy, and we both have love for old school hip hop music, so those generate a lot of material for us, but far and away, our best ideas come while we’re working out together in the early evening – that’s when the brainstorming magic happens. One of the greatest parts of Steotch for me is that it really is a project that we continuously work on together. I’m grateful to get to do something like this with Matt. It’s been a lot of fun for us to share. [M] It’s definitely a collaborative process. Our TSA sampler (“If you touch my junk…”) was one we wrestled with constantly even while Em was in the middle of stitching it. Originally it was supposed to have a rose along the bottom, but by the time the lettering and the border was done, we just felt like it wasn’t quite “there.” We’re working out together, throwing out random ideas: A bird? A plane? And Em says, “How about a blue-gloved hand giving the peace sign?” And I say, “The Shocker!” And the two of us just stand there laughing for ten minutes. That’s the moment we try to get to with each piece – where it just cracks us up.
[JJ] Tell us a little more about where you stitch and if you have any pets who participate. [E] You’ll find me up stitching into the wee hours of each night, sitting on my sofa in the living room. My old dogs and cat keep me company while the rest of the house sleeps. It’s quiet and peaceful, save for the snoring animals.
[JJ] You guys have gotten some amazing press so far (e.g. BoingBoing, Huffington Post). What has brought your site the most traffic? What’s been your favorite part about fame so far? [E] At first we were a little worried when we heard “Bless This House” was going to be featured on Regretsy. But it turns out they really, really liked it, and we have mad love for our crew over at Regretsy. Time and time again, they have brought us lots of visitors, and had very kind things to say about our pieces. We’ve been featured across the web, in magazines, and shared over the radio, as well. It’s been a lot of fun to see our little project get so much positive publicity, and we’re really honored. [M] Totally randomly, some kid was babysitting at a house that had our “Rapper’s Delight” on the wall, and he took a picture of it that quickly became the top post on Reddit for about half a day. Someone way down in the comments recognized it as ours and linked to our page, which obliterated our record total for visits for that short time period… then they all disappeared. The interwebs giveth, and the interwebs taketh away. [E] Yeah. It went okay. [JJ] I’m so glad to see that you’re finally selling some charts of your designs on Etsy, by popular demand. How’s that working out? [E] Yes, we’re trying to publish as many patterns as we can over on Etsy, but we’re limited by the fact that we do a lot of one-of-a-kind, improvised samplers that are really hard to recreate (especially the ones with human faces on them), and wouldn’t lend themselves well to patterns.
[JJ] I know. I want that “Yo Dawg” piece really bad! Do you still sell finished pieces? [E] YES! I’m stitching as quickly as I can! It’s hard because I have a very full-time job here at home, so most of the work is done late at night. But I love to stitch, and Steotch makes me very happy, so I hope to get to do it for years to come.
[JJ] And I will be right here cheering you on! So I guess custom work is out of the question? [E] Right now, it doesn’t fit into the shape of Steotch. I’m spending all the time I have on new material, and while I really love getting kind notes from people asking me to make special pieces for them (some of the ideas are really creative!), I have to turn them down. It’s a bummer, and I hope that someday, I’ll have more time to do custom work. [M] I love it when we get notes from people who say, “You’ve inspired me to start designing my own stuff,” and then they send us pictures of these crazy little samplers. That’s the best.
[JJ] No doubt! The response to your work has been swift and very passionate – I’ve been watching it unfold with glee! So where do you see Steotch going, in your biggest dreams? [M] Our own cable network! 24-hour all-novelty-cross-stitch programming! A media empire! [E] We have an idea for a very Steotch-y book, which is my biggest dream, but for now, I just want to keep things going. Each sampler takes weeks to go from an idea to a finished piece, and it’s hard to keep the momentum going strong all the time, when the rest of life goes through its own seasons, but I’m not going to stop stitching, we’re not going to stop thinking of new samplers. (You should see the list of concepts just waiting to be Steotched!). [M] We’ve had marketing groups approach us about deals with corporations, but we’ve really shied away from anything that pulls us away from focusing on our funny little gallery – from continuing to make ourselves laugh. [E] I hope that our followers and fellow stitchers will continue to cheer us on. [JJ] Well, I for one think you kids are the bomb and I can’t wait to see your empire expand! Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at what makes you tick. Keep up with Steotch on their blog, Facebook and Twitter.
About the Author: Julie Jackson is the creator of Subversive Cross Stitch and Kitty Wigs. She has also authored two books: Subversive Cross Stitch: 33 Designs for Your Surly Side and Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs.