The threads of journalism
Hannah Wise transforms comments and rants about the news into artworks of stitches and fabric
After three days of covering the Dallas protests and fatal police shootings last summer, Hannah Wise, engagement editor at the Dallas Morning News, just needed to unplug.
"When I finally got time off, I didn't want to look at screens. I couldn't get myself to read,” Wise said. “I wanted to do something with my hands."
Wise (j’14) realized that she had been so busy with work that she had forgotten to get her friend and co-worker something for her birthday, so she dug out her embroidery hoops, needles and yarn. She and her friend had been laughing about a reader’s comment on a recent story, and Wise started stitching.
"So I stitched it up, put some little flowers on it, put it in a frame and gave it to her,” Wise said. “And Sew Many Comments was born as just a kind of coping mechanism for myself and my colleagues.”
Sew Many Comments is Wise’s Instagram account that showcases her journalistic embroidery. Wise takes comments about the news or journalism, stitches them into artwork, and shares them on the account, which has more than 1,200 followers and counting.
Wise creates her designs first in Photoshop, makes adjustments, and then prints them out and traces the designs onto fabric. Then, she starts stitching. She said she keeps the designs simple so that each piece doesn’t take too long — an hour or two. Once she is done stitching, the artwork is already ready for hanging because Wise thinks the little wooden embroidery hoops are a perfect frame.
“The comments can be really funny and really ridiculous but also really true, and so being able to immortalize some of those in fabric is a really fun thing to do," Wise said.
One of Wise’s most recent designs says “Journalist: Enemy of the American People,” a comment inspired straight from the president of the United States. That design has proven popular, and Wise sold 10 of those on an Etsy page that she created to market her art. She made that design available in a limited quantity, and she sold them for $25 each, which covers the materials and her time. Other designs have sold for as high as $50.
Wise is also planning to start selling her patterns on Etsy and to start offering stitch instructional videos.
"For my sanity, I keep it pretty limited," Wise said.
After all, she does have a full-time job and she spent five days at the Poynter Institute in February. Out of 300 applicants, Wise was chosen along with 27 other women to attend the Poynter Leadership Academy, a leadership workshop.
"It really is geared toward helping shape the next cohort of women leaders in digital journalism," Wise said.
Wise shared her stitching skills at another recent conference she attended – the Online News Association in Denver for which Wise stitched the logo. Organizers took suggestions about what “un-conference” sessions to offer, and attendees voted on which ones they would like. Wise pitched one on stitching, and it was a winner — 25 conference goers attended and learned how to stitch.
"Now I help people from that stitch things for their newsroom, and they'll tag me on Instagram and I'll repost them. It's really fun," Wise said.
Wise even stitched a new logo that accompanied the Dallas Morning News website redesign, but the whole point of her stitching is that it isn't work — it's a hobby for her to do something fun and different that she enjoys. She listens to audiobooks or podcasts while she stitches, and she even hosts craft nights with friends and colleagues where they get together and work on their different projects and chat.
"Journalism is a really tough career to go into,” Wise said. “It's really demanding, and so I think that having a relief of some sort — my colleague does triathlons and I do sewing and yoga — just being able to practice some care in this way is an important thing for working journalists but also for students to learn how to do."
–– Julie Adam