Friday, April 1, 2022

Voice from the past

If you were reading my blog (or if you were reading the New York Times) during the summer of 2020, you may remember the silly series called Designer DIY that ran off and on in the Times, in which famous fashion designers came up with adorable sewing and craft ideas for readers to do at home.  Mending and embroidering garments were popular repeat subjects, but making flimsy "jewelry" and handbags also showed up, as well as making a dress out of a pillowcase.

One of my favorites was the feature in which you were instructed on how to embroider your name on your sock.  You were told to use an embroidery hoop, and here's a helpful drawing of work in progress:

from NYTimes Style section

You (unlike the artist or the editor) will notice, of course, that it will be impossible to put the sock on your foot, since the sides of the sock are now sewed together.

I came to love these features, because it enabled me to write snarky comments about how lame the ideas were, and more egregious, how awful the directions were.  If you have 15 minutes to fritter away on the internet today, you might want to read or reread these blog posts, guaranteed to give you lots of laughs.

The posts led to a bunch of comments from my readers, many of whom urged me to write the Times and tell them how awful the series was.  So I did.  Sometime in the summer of 2020 I wrote a long letter that spelled out all the things that they were doing poorly, and urging them to clean up their act.  

I wrote, in part: "If your purpose in this series is to win brownie points in the fashion community and give some designers a bit of free ink, then you have probably succeeded, especially among readers who don’t actually try to do the projects. But if your purpose is to give your readers projects they can succeed at and feel proud of, you are failing miserably. I suspect that the great majority of readers who do the projects are also failing miserably, which I can’t imagine is building warm feelings toward the Times.

"Perhaps things would work better if you let the designers come up with the ideas and let somebody who does actual handwork write the instructions. Better yet, let somebody who does actual handwork come up with the ideas too, so you could present projects that are doable and attractive." 

I received no response, until this morning!

When I found an email, saying "Thank you for contacting the newsroom of The New York Times.  We appreciate readers who share their feedback and help us report thoroughly and accurately.  Someone will read your note shortly, but because of the volume of notes we receive, we cannot respond individually to each one."

I am so gratified that someone will read my note shortly.

Meanwhile, if you want to embroider your sock, please use a darning egg, not an embroidery hoop.


  1. This message must have been traveling in a time warp... Or it was caught up in one of the darned socks.

  2. Wow - just wow! An automated reply that took two years to arrive.

  3. I loved your commentary on those articles! It brought so much laughter to my life during discouraging times. Or should I say "The Discouraging Times"! I can't believe they have just now acknowledged your response to the series--what a joke in itself. Keep writing, I love it!

  4. I miss your comments on that series also. And your note to the NYT was exactly right - nice press for the designers, frustration for the inexperienced attempting those projects. Considering how long it took them to send a non-reply, I estimate a real person will read it in about... never.

    I went back and read the sock post, now I have to wonder - did they ever say anything about actually wearing the socks when the embroidery was finished? Or was it just "tah dah - you have an embroidered sock"?

    Also, I see now Anchor floss is now on spools. I have conflicting opinions about that. On one hand, yay Anchor is available in-store at Joann. And there should be less tangling and snagged skeins on the display. But how many people have storage systems based on skeins that might not work with spools? And then there's yet more plastic waste.

    1. Gail -- I must admit, until I read your comment I hadn't thought of the possibility that you were just supposed to HAVE the sock, not actually WEAR it! Maybe I have been too hard on them....