The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

Welcome to the The Funk Files. I’m Jen Funk Weber from Funk & Weber Designs, and I’m here to explore textile and embroidery frontiers. I plan to look up, chase down, and chat with the most adventurous and creative textile, fashion, and embroidery students, and I will trek around the world to investigate the earliest and latest textiles and embroidery.

I live and stitch in Alaska, The Last Frontier. Exploring, learning, and new experiences are some of my favorite things, and I’m thrilled to undertake this adventure on the embroidery frontier. I look forward to how it impacts my own sewing and embroidery and yours, too.

A Disclaimer

While I’m comfortably well-versed in sewing, textiles, and embroidery, when it comes to fashion, well . . . personally, that’s not my strong suit. In fact, I can trump the first fashion card played. Fashion and I, we go together like couture and RefrigiWear. (You don’t even know what that is, do you?)

In Alaska, I wear long johns pretty much year round: two pairs in winter, one pair much of the summer beneath clothes large enough to fit over them. It’s a special day when I’m long john-less. I maintain that my stunning, many-layered ensembles always match: You just never know which layers I’m referring to.

No one in Alaska bats a false eyelash at one’s attire. Alaskans are all about individuality and adventure.

These are the kinds of students we’ll talk with here: Individuals exploring their studies with a sense of adventure. If you are such a student or you know one, please give me a shout at jen {at} funkandweber {dot} com. I look forward to improving my fashion sense with these up-and-comers, expanding my own stitchy horizons—and yours. Perhaps there’s a future for me in fashionable, embroidered, rural-Alaska, uber-cold-weather wear.

Adventure Stitching

Speaking of embroidery, adventure, and Alaska . . . there’s an embroidery adventure happening in Alaska, August 5–11, 2015, and you’re invited.

Stitch In Alaska Tour, August 5-11, 2015

The Stitch In Alaska Tour is a seven-day, all-inclusive trip exploring wild places on the Kenai Peninsula while visiting three wilderness lodges: three nights at Kenai Riverside Lodge, situated along the bank of the beautiful Kenai River; two nights at Kenai Backcountry Lodge, a historical and ecologically managed lodge; and a stay at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, the first and only lodge in Kenai Fjords National Park.

We’ll enjoy guided activities such as hiking, rafting, and kayaking, and we’ll squeeze some stitching in between, while hearty, home-cooked meals are made for us and the sauna heats.

I’ve partnered with Alaska Wildland Adventures (AWA) to bring this trip to stitchers. AWA (pronounced “AA-wah”) is a first-class, ecotour operator. Trips are limited to 12–16 guests, and offer the best of adventure by day and the most relaxing, comfortable Alaskan lodge experience by night. Oh—ours will also offer embroidery!

Our trip is a customized version of the Alaska Wildland Collection. You can check out the detailed itinerary here.

Black bear, fireweed, and bald eagle in Alaska

Non-stitching friends and spouses are welcome: All the usual lodge activities will be available, so there will be no shortage of things for non-stitchers to do. In fact, stitchers should plan on not sleeping if you want to get a lot of stitching done.

Your guide for the trip will be yours truly. I first came to Alaska twenty-five years ago to be a natural history guide for Alaska Wildland Adventures. I’m dusting off my guide boots for this trip! Don’t worry, I don’t think they’ll let me row you down the Kenai River on Day 2, but I could.

I camped with and cooked for the builders of Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge seven years ago, and there are photos at the lodge to prove it. I caretake at the lodge in the fall and sometimes in spring. It’s a place I know and love well, and I look forward to sharing it with you, fellow stitchers. We’re going to have a mountain of fun!

I invite you to join us this summer in The Last Frontier. You can see and experience Wild Alaska-wear for yourself and do some adventure stitching with me. Learn more about the trip here.

I’ll see you back here next month with an award-winning student on the embroidery frontier.


It's Blast From The Past From Mr X Stitch

Once again, this months BFTP comes courtesy of Joetta Maue and her Future Heirlooms column. in 2010 Joetta wrote a blog post about the embroidery work of Meredith Grimsley. Of all the work in the post, her artworks of hands really captured my attention.


Excerpt from original interview:

What are the differences for you, as the artist, between the full figure works and the hands/feet works?

(Also see reference to Phylacteries above).

I found a photograph in a box of old things my mother had given me of a distant family member. She was a farmer in rural Georgia during the depression. Her life and work were hard and terribly uncertain. Yet, in her photograph, her hands, her face and her feet were steady. Her energy resonated with me not because of her posture, her face or her body. The feet and hand pieces seemed to be enough to describe finding steadiness in turmoil. The rest of the body wasn’t necessary for the particular focus on ritual that I was examining in works like “Lovely Bind”, “I’ve Washed and Eaten” and “Undertow”.

The full figure works are newer. They are slightly less about the “interior and unseen” aspects of my studies. They are a more poetic approach to direct sensory experiences.

You can read the full interview and learn more about Meredith’s work here.


Exploring Etsy with loadofolbobbins!

Hey folks, welcome to the latest ‘Exploring Etsy’. Pixels though they be but small in size are most certainly mighty in stature. Those of you familiar to the world of Mr X Stitch, know this all too well, just take a peak through the glorious work that has been shared across the site, everything from quilts to cross stitch harnesses the power of the pixel. Today’s featured seller Laura Swaddle has mastered the pixel with her delightful custom pixel portraits available in her shop ‘Scarlet Pyjamas’.

Large Family Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Large Family Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Drawing and creating since she could hold a crayon, Laura studied Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University. When her studies were complete she returned to her native North East England where she now works as a Designer and Illustrator. A few years ago after setting up her own design agency she got bitten by the crafting bug and can’t imagine her life without it, (I’m sure we all recognise that feeling!). Laura stitched her first portrait in 2011 and has been keeping busy ever since sending them all over the world.

New Home Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

New Home Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Custom Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Custom Wedding Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

What is your earliest stitching memory?

I’m sure I dabbled in crafts as a child, but my first real memory of sewing was trying to learn blanket stitch at Girl Guides. My effort was, frankly, shocking – something only a mother could love (in fact she still has it!)

Custom Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Custom Wedding Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Custom Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Custom Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

What fires your imagination?

I am a complete and total magpie – things are always catching my eye! I spend a lot of my time in museums and galleries which are huge sources of inspiration, but at the same time, something as simple as an amazing pattern or colour scheme spied on a passerby’s outfit can set my mind racing. I’m drawn to bright, zingy colour schemes, so the work of artists like Mary Blair and Alexander Girard are endlessly inspiring. Oh and Pinterest. Lots and lots of Pinterest…

Extra Large Family Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Extra Large Family Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Extra Large Wedding Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Extra Large Wedding Pixel Portrait by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Extra Large Wedding Pixel Portrait (Detail) by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

Extra Large Wedding Pixel Portrait (Detail) by Scarlet Pyjamas (Hand Embroidery)

I love the attention to detail in every single one of Laura’s portraits, you can tell that every one is created with such care and the resulting work is always delightful and chock full of character. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching what could be more perfect than a lovely pixel portrait for your amore – her shop is a mere click away!


Jessica Taylor aka Loadofolbobbins is a Textile Artist and Illustrator based by the sea in Portsmouth. At her happiest with a needle and thread, with a passion for genealogy she often explores old photographs in her textile art. With her fingers in many creative pies she loves to experiment with new techniques, creating illustrated and stitched goodies for her new Etsy shop.


Millinery Operations with Emily Moe

Several months ago I wrote a couple of posts about the troubles that milliners are having on Etsy (The Category Problem and Etsy vs The Milliners). It’s gotten quite a lot of attention from makers of all kinds, organizations that help those makers and from Etsy itself. The latter (actually) responded with a letter trying to make the case that Etsy is for us, not against us. But the letter also told me that I was not to share its contents with anyone else. I guess I can’t share the letter. Of course this lack of transparency is probably the most important and disturbing problem with the whole organization, but it’s very hard to talk about that because whenever it comes up in conversation on the site, HQ has a tendency to shut that conversation down.

Nonetheless, it is a vital conversation to have and one that could help the milliners, Etsy and the whole of the maker community. A pity that it can’t happen within the Etsy community.

But it can happen off of it.

As I said, since writing the infamous post, I’ve had communications with a host of people and organizations that want to help. The one that’s really stood out is the Academy of Handmade. Their mission statement is pretty great:

Our vision is a thriving handmade economy, where makers are celebrated, respected and successful as not only artists, but as businesses. We aim to honor those who make with skill, artistry and love.    

Our primary goals are to:

  1. Celebrate and recognize those who are making significant contributions to the handmade economy. 

  2. Strengthen beginning and existing handmade businesses.

  3. Connect the handmade business community through meaningful relationships.

To that end, tomorrow, January 26, I will be participating in a panel discussion moderated by Sharon Fain of the Academy of Handmade along with other milliners who have been involved with our fight. I use that word “fight” with great care. We have been advocating the needs of the milliners to HQ for years. Literally years. I think it’s been at least five. That’s a fight.

We’ll be discussing the unique needs that milliners have on Etsy and off, what can be done to fill those needs and what the future holds for us. Obviously these are big questions that will prompt other questions which will prompt others… This discussion will end up as a post on the Academy of Handmade’s blog, available for all to read. Ready for the world. When it is up and going, I will write a quick follow-up on this post in the comments to make sure that everyone who gets to Mr X Stitch can find their way to this extremely important discussion.

In getting ready for that event, I’ve been doing a lot of research on Etsy and research also about criticism of Etsy. I have found that sites that criticize quickly and suddenly go dead. I have also heard of critics’ shops being shut down on Etsy. The people participating in this discussion are aware of problems that may arise for us personally by speaking out. We’re going to speak anyway. I hope that Etsy reads this post and that discussion as constructive criticism. Many of us are trying to find ways to sell in other venues because selling on Etsy has become increasingly problematic. We desperately want that to change. We want to remain on Etsy. We do not want to run away or be forced to close.

But know this. If there are any negative outcomes to any of the people that do speak out, I will let the audience of Mr X Stitch know. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you how impossible it is to get me to keep my mouth shut.


Mr X