Can needlepoint help normalize weed? Goodness knows that the devil's lettuce has never looked less threatening than when stitched in thread.
Cannabis embroidery amounts to more than just kitschy cottage-core decor; it's a welcome departure from the “stoner aesthetic" that is so often stereotyped by old tie-dye t-shirts and dated comedy specials.
Below, check out cannabis in this unique art form.
Weed as a serious artistic subject
Many of the best examples of cannabis in needlepoint emulate the style of UK-based tattoo artist and embroiderer, Chloe O'Malley.
O'Malley formally trained in embroidery arts at Manchester Metropolitan University and progressed from stitching traditional floral motifs to depicting stunning cannabis nugs with surprising realism. She's amassed more than 24k followers on Instagram since stitching her first cannabis hoop in 2017 as a gift for her partner. “He's an avid smoker, so it seemed like the perfect gift!" she told CannabisNow in 2019.
Made with thread, these flowers take on a sculptural quality; flat stitched sugar leaves overlaid with French knots to add dimension. The execution offers a chance to observe and appreciate the diversity of different cultivars; the unique physical attributes, bud structure, and color gradients.
BC-based budtender and embroiderer, Lucky Saumur, shares the same sentiment, “since I started sewing flower I've noticed bud structure and colors in a way that I haven't before. I'm used to the usual green and purple tonalities but when I would look closely for reference there's a hidden rainbow."
Some of the most amusing examples of cannabis embroidery channel the aesthetic of Victorian-age botanical illustrations used in studies of plant anatomy. Others maximize the medium's potential, illustrating feathery plant stigmas in 3D threads in a way that could never be captured in 2D.
Cannabis embroidery and its therapeutic potential
Similar to how Subversive Cross Stitch creator Julie Jackson describes her expletive-laced artwork “as a form of anger management therapy," embroiderer Kaitlin Earl, a.k.a. @HealTHCareEmbroidery, says that she began stitching French knots to calm her anxiety, “Something about watching a flower grow from the thread and fabric [calms me] when nothing else soothes the stress and panic that comes from the day."
And while its rise in popularity happens to coincide with the onset of the pandemic, cannabis embroidery isn't just another analog activity to occupy oneself in the middle of a lockdown. The popularity of cannabis-centric crafts signifies changing attitudes towards weed and weed culture.
Cannabis embroidery sort of counts as a subset of “craftivism," a term coined by Betsy Greer to describe the intersection of craft and activism, often re-appropriating traditional "women's" hobbies and decorative arts that were, as Bust puts it, “originally used as a way to market a girl's domesticity and femininity."
It's that very familiar, genteel aesthetic that makes cannabis needlepoint work so, well … inoffensive. A loving gaze, the attention to detail, the nuanced observations all serve to soften the public image of the once and still outlawed plant.
And by contrast, seeing talented women (and crafters of all genders) own their affinity for the plant helps challenge classic — and often unflattering — stoner stereotypes. It's kind of like that time that I found a pack of leopard print rolling papers in one of my Grandma's drawers. That moment simultaneously normalized weed for me and made my Grandma seem even cooler.
Already, DIYers and decorators from across the globe have embraced the craft with patterns and commissions proliferating every corner of Pinterest, Etsy, and the r/embroidery subreddit. “I've stitched for people all over the world, including, but not limited to, the US, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Finland, and Mexico," said Earl. “I have customers who work in the cannabis industry as breeders who request specific strains … clients that are dispensary owners and workers, growers, and just about anyone who loves this plant."