So if you follow me on Facebook (and if you don’t why the hell not? WHY?) you’ll have seen one of my latest creations. No, it’s not a bag or a storage system or even a brooch that reads ‘Bloody buggering Christmas’. Instead it’s something even more terrifying because it includes a picture of my face. That’s right, I made a mock-up of the cover of a sewing magazine, a mock-up that quite possibly made me look as if I should receive ECT. And here’s why I did it:
For the longest time now I have read sewing magazines. I have been lured in by the inspirational covers, the colourful ‘makes’, the promise of insider knowledge and quite often a pattern or brooch kit that’s been glued to the front of it. And you know what? I’ve gotten so excited about what lies within the covers of these creatures that I’ve saved them for a reading time that is just right. I’ve kept them for holidays, quiet weekends, evenings when my mum has been babysitting because I long to take in every word and come out of the experience a genius sewist.
There’s been a snag though. A rather big snag, actually. That’s because lately when I have read these magazines I haven’t come out of it feeling inspired and excited. I’ve come out it feeling demoralised, pathetic and very much like I want to give up.
You see I love these magazines but increasingly I feel as if I can’t compete with the people who feature in their pages. The features include crafters who look almost beatific in the pursuit of their craft. They work in beautifully lit and perfectly styled homes and craft rooms, they gaze out of widows that look onto romantic lakes, moors and rooftops, they sip their favourite tea from vintage tea sets, they coo at their towering craft stashes, they giggle to themselves as they sit at their cutting tables and they look as if a MacDonalds meal deal has never, ever passed their lips, such is the glow of their skin. Oh and don’t forget that if these women aren’t quintessentially British they have a distinctly Scandi bent.
That’s not all of the problem though. The problem is that at no point can you imagine any of them sobbing over a badly sewn seam or an inability to stitch chiffon without weeping. They never look as if they have punched their sewing machines in frustration, fretted over a lack of orders, had precisely no hits on their websites or panicked because they have no fresh ideas. They never look as if they’ve thought about chucking it all in and going back to nursing or that they have to struggle to pay the mortgage because they haven’t sold enough bags.
Yes, it is lovely to see such aspirational images and yes it is good to know what can be achieved when you mix craft and passion. Yet it is also wearing because it can be so unrealistic. Fact is that there are times when I want to see me reflected back at myself, not least for confirmation that I belong in this crafting world. I want to see fellow crafters who look panic-stricken, fretful and confused. I want to see sewists who have had an entire day of sewing fucked up because their kid has been sent home from school with a bump on her head. God knows, I NEED to see women say that the reason why they never make clothes is because they can never work out how to set the bloody sleeves.
Look at it this way: I stopped reading women’s mags decades ago because I never ever read one that made me feel better about myself. Yes, I felt fatter, uglier, more wrinkled, less shaggable and poorer but never better. And I’m starting to feel that way about sewing mags because, unlike the women gleaming back at me, I increasingly feel as if I’m not as crafty, pretty, exciting, imaginative, lucky or blessed with a textiles/ fashion/ art degree as they are. And keeping in mind that these mags are £5.99 a pop, that’s a lot of money to spend on making me feel shit about myself.
And that’s why I made my own, more realistic magazine cover, my antidote to the mags you see on the shelves. I wanted to say that THIS is what a normal crafter looks like. She looks tired, busy and panicked while wearing no make-up over skin that’s been peeled off her face four times for reconstructive surgery. That she can’t cram 36 hours into 24 however hard she bolts down her lunch. That there are parts of her life that she can’t control or handle to the point that she needs anti-depressants. That she does have days when her work looks like shit and she has to dump it in the recycling bin and that, yes, there are times when she wonders if she can ever keep up this level of work/ inventiveness/ enthusiasm without chewing on her own fist.
If you ask me the world’s crafters need a mag that supports them while conspiratorially whispering that, yes, there are days when everything you touch looks like shit because you’ve had three hours of sleep and rollicking period pain. That they may never stare out of a perfectly cleaned window with a beatific glow because they are living the dream but that one day they might sit at their teeny craft table in the corner of a cluttered box room with a cup of instant coffee and think, “You know? I’m doing OK. I’m not a Scandi beauty with a characterful terrier and a husband who knits but I’m doing OK,”.
So I’m going to keep on making my magazine covers because I’m convinced that I’m not alone. I can’t be the only woman who looks as these mags and feels an instant mantle of panic, envy, disillusionment and fear. That’s why my magazine covers will be designed to tell women that even if they are shit at their craft there is a place for them. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about screwing it up and then striking gold after hours of hard work. I shall be the Queen of Screw Ups and you can all join me on my throne. Now, who wants to be on page three?