Sunday, October 15, 2017

From Russia, With Guilt: PutinCrafts

I feel guilty.  I must confess. I made a Putin tote bag.

The back features Rasputin, and a matroyshka doll pocket.

Then, as penance, I made a Putin pincushion.

[UPDATE: It's just been pointed out to me that, with the pins, he looks like actor Ray Walston as...
 ...My Favorite Martian! Except MFM was a sweet guy. Image courtesy Wikipedia.]

How did I come to make crafts featuring a murderous and corrupt dictator who messed with the American elections by fomenting hatred on social media?

Well, in my weak defense, I ordered the fabric in December of 2016, when Russian involvement in the US election wasn't known. At the time, I was also experiencing disorientation from empty nest syndrome -  my youngest had just started college on the opposite coast.

Said freshman had surprised us by enrolling in a Russian language class, while writing a mystery novel set in Russia! So suddenly our whole family was thinking and talking a lot about Russia!

Although I've never been there, I've always thought of Russia as a country with many charms, including fascinating and brilliant people, matroyshka dolls, St. Petersburg,  chess players, scientists, The Brothers Karamazov, the Bolshoi, and treatment of my direct ancestors in ways that ranged from wonderful (forestry job for a great-grandfather, a medal from a Tsar to my great-great-grandfather), to the murderous (pogroms).

So in learning Russian, my daughter was returning to distant family roots. Even my Poland-born mother studied Russian in grade school; aforementioned great-great-grandfather was fluent, which did a lot to further his illustrious rabbinical career.

Thus, in December, when the custom printer Spoonflower (no financial affiliation!) offered a two-for-one fat-quarter sale, I had Russia on my mind, and my daughter was home for the break. We  decided to make her an ironic Russian-themed tote bag. She approved the fabrics. I bought the following four for the price of two (which came out to a little over $5 each! Such a deal!)

First, delightful matroyshka doll fabric by Scottish designer Kelly Legg of Floramoon Designs. The word means "doll". Find it on Spoonflower here.  
Second, this ultra-creepy "Putin Mirror Image" fabric, here.
Then we picked a fabric with Putin heads showing her/him as a woman, called "Putina on white dots," by Susanna Haestad, a Norwegian designer, sold here. Is this fabric sexist? Does it pose an interesting question: What if Putin had been born a woman? Arguably!
And speaking of awful people, for the fourth fabric, my daughter approved "Rasputin frames," by Peter Krueger, sold here
The four FQs sat for quite a while - 9 months. As the election investigation deepened, as I learned more about how the Russian leader operates, the idea of a tote bag about him seemed to be in worse and worse taste.  But then my DD's birthday approached, and she assured me she still wanted it. So I made it.  On her, he looks good.
I had a little fabric leftover, and of course began brainstorming what I could do with it. Putin is not cuddly, so no Putin pillow. But how about a Putin pincushion? This fabric has fascinating mirror images that surround each figure. So I started with this scrap: 
 Folded it good sides together:
Stitched around the three sides, leaving a turning gap on the right. Turned it right side out and started stuffing.

I tried to distribute the stuffing so more of it backed the figure, and less the background.

Next, I stitched up the hole with a needle and white thread. Seized an embroidery needle and red floss. Did a line of straight stitching along the figure on the front....
 ...and, at the same time, the figure on the back, which lined up pretty well...
Then I decided to fill the background with cross stitches and pseudo-cross stitches, necessary to cross stitch both sides at the same time.

 The reverse in progress:
And before long, it was done, front...
...and back...
That's blood on his hands
Now it occurs to me that someone who admires Putin might consider this a complement. Maybe the X's look like kisses? Maybe it looks like interesting thought balloons are coming out of his KGB-trained head?
OK, to totally assuage my guilt, I just made a donation to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and I urge you to do the same, whether you make accessories out of Putin fabric or not.

My tutorial for making a bundle-able bag out of any kind of fabric, tasteful or not, is outlined here.

UPDATE: By the way, Spoonflower fabrics can also be ordered as gift wrap. Can you imagine wrapping a present in the Putin or Rasputin fabrics above? 


  1. Omg! I am ROFL - your daughter has your sense of humor. What a conversation piece albeit creepy. But then so is putin

    1. My daughter's sense of humor is even better than mine. She thinks the tote bag is hilarious, whereas I'm ambivalent!