One of our main goals is to support the handmade and artisan movement - both through teaching and supporting handcrafts, and also by bringing the work of artisans into our shop. We recently added our exclusive Salem cross-stitch kits to the shop. They were designed by Junebug and Darlin, who create the fun and subversive cross stitch kits we carry. We wanted to get to know the women behind this brand a little better, so we chatted with Zoe Frost, who is one half of the creative force behind Junebug and Darlin.
I know you met while selling baked goods at a farmer's market in California. How did you go from baked goods purveyors to business partners?
I know it’s cliché, but our meeting was kismet. MaryLynne was one of the nicest people I had ever met and on the second day of working together, she had made me the cutest apron to wear to market. I was immediately in awe of her sewing skills and asked her to teach me all her tips and tricks. It was clear from the beginning we had to take our skills on the road. We had one year of magical skill sharing and scheming before MaryLynne moved back to Virginia to be close to family, and life got away from us for a bit. But after a few years of scribbling ideas into notebooks the perfect time arose. I moved to Klamath Falls for a bit, and with nothing but time on my hands MaryLynne and I started crafting the details of starting our business. The hardest part of starting was picking just one or two ideas from our years of brainstorming. MaryLynne had been stitching for a while, and after tossing some pattern ideas at her, she suggested I get some supplies and put my creativity to the test. The first pattern I made was the Moon Phases Kit. It must have taken me a week from designing the pattern to teaching myself how to cross stitch before I had our first finished sample (now I can stitch one up in about an hour). It was then my love affair with cross stitching began. It was clear from that moment we had our business venture, Junebug and Darlin. The name came from a combination of nicknames, Zoe is Junebug and MaryLynne is Darlin. A fun side note – if you love stitching, try re-making one of your first projects. The difference between my first stitch and now is unbelievable.
You specialize in subversive crafts. Can you explain what that means?
We knew when we started Junebug and Darlin that we didn’t want to do “more of the same.” We wanted our crafts to not only be great quality, but also share a special message and bring traditional crafts into modern times. There are some super great cross stitchers out there who use swear words in their designs, but we wanted to make something more targeted than just swearing because it’s funny on a cross stitch. We knew there was no better place to start than with words of empowerment for the queer community. That’s when our second cross stitch was created – Femme as F*ck. It turns out that making queer cross stitch patterns is a great way to stay connected with community while living in a small rural town.
I am always very interested in the intersection between feminism and craft, because they can really seem at odds with each other on the surface. Crafts in general are often dismissed as "outdated" or even "anti-feminist" because of their history. Why did you pick cross stitch as your medium?
For some time, fiber arts have been interchangeable with “women’s work,” which unfortunately means they are/were looked down upon. So, combining feminism and fiber arts was kind of a no-brainer for us. I have an art and art history background and knew that modernizing cross stitch was inherently feminist, but I wanted to take it further. There was a gap in the kit making world of Etsy for queer and radical crafters. It is important for us that we make designs that are not only eye catching in color and design, but have a message of empowerment. It’s for this reason we also have rotating kits that are created for specific non-profits. 40% of the proceeds from these kits are donated to places like Planned Parenthood, the Transgender Law Center and Southerners on New Ground.
I wish there was a more profound reason for why we chose cross stitch over embroidery or weaving or any other fiber art, but honestly, it stemmed from an intrigue of the medium and the fascination hasn’t waned yet. I think there will come a day in the future when we either start breaking into embroidery, or bring traditional embroidery stitches into our cross stitch patterns. I get really excited about blending multiple mediums and subverting the norms of what traditional fiber art is supposed to be on a variety of levels.
I notice that you sometimes combine very delicate and more traditional-looking imagery with subversive phrases, like in your Feminist kit. Is this juxtaposition intentional? How do you come up with your designs/make decisions about what images to put together?
The borders and floral designs are a mash up of traditional cross stitch samplers, art nouveau posters and Rifle Paper, Co. Oh how we love Rifle florals. I am trying to reach outside of my comfort zone a bit in some of the new designs I’m developing and I’m spending a lot more time trying to stay tender with myself. Only time will tell if the designs are a success or flop, but like the kits I make, it’s important to keep pushing the boundaries.
No matter the design, I don’t release anything until I feel confident having Junebug and Darlin attached to it. When I design a new pattern, I want to make sure it will be something that folks will want to make and display in their homes with pride. A lot of our phrases are inspired by radical activists movements and self-care affirmations. I know when I am getting ready in the morning, I really enjoy having a giant piece of artwork that says “You Are Enough.” And when I’m struggling in my office with either a failed project or a never-ending flood of emails, I gaze up at my “Stay Tender” piece. I try to design kits that inspire me in hopes they inspire others.
One of the best parts of crafting these forever pieces is hearing the personal stories associated with them. For some, the perfect kit is “Safe Space” for their classrooms or offices. And for others it’s “Nasty Woman” as a continued declaration for women’s rights. Our most popular kit is “Feminist,” and I hope that trend never passes. Seeing the variety of folks that purchase that kit or pattern for themselves and friends is so encouraging. Feminism feels very “on trend” right now, but we don’t make kits to be trendy. We make kits to inspire and engage with any community that feels they want to take part. Let’s elevate the conversation and continue the beautiful work that Marsha P. Johnson, Ruby Sales, bell hooks, Sarah Ahmed, and so many others have and are doing every day. The root of feminism isn’t trendy, it’s hard work. We’re happy to be contributing to the fight through craftivism.
Anything else you'd like to tell us about?
We just want to say thank you so much to everyone who has supported us in our endeavors thus far. Junebug and Darlin is only a year old, which feels ridiculous considering how much we’ve grown in this short time. We’re so grateful to the shops like Circle of Stitches who carry our kits and help us push the boundaries of traditional craft. Stay tuned – we’re always excited to share what’s next!
Thank you Zoe for chatting with us! We are so happy to support you and the craftivist movement.
Check our Junebug and Darlin kits on our website or in store!