As we tumble down the rabbit hole of daily current events, the combined phenomenon of doom-scrolling and media fatigue makes it difficult for us to extend our empathy and attention to every conceivable issue — especially when those issues become our realities rather than abstracted sentences we read through and cast aside. Founded in 2012, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP), a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to humanize inequality” through journalism, grapples with this very issue as affiliated writers engage with topics ranging from culture and labor to housing and education to mobilize readers into questioning the status quo.
So what can be done to mitigate media fatigue? What is the most effective way to keep the public invested and activated instead of barely processing the news cycle? Stitch artist Diana Weymar, creator of the Tiny Pricks Project (2018–ongoing), recommends embracing more traditional modes of accessing media — through embroidery in particular.
Weymar collaborated with the EHRP on Moving the Needle (2023–ongoing), a series of curated hand-embroidered quotes from articles, poems, and other writings by various EHRP contributors tackling economic and racial justice. It’s through this craft that Weymar and the EHRP are able to combat the easy slip-and-slide track to digital escapism that accompanies the impermanence of receiving news via social media.
Weymar utilizes vintage handkerchiefs and other hand-me-down or donated fabrics as her surface, noting the irony of their gentle floral motifs in contrast with the heavy-hitting quotes that anchor the stitch works.
“There’s also that empathy — that compassionate gesture of offering someone a handkerchief during a hard time — that really becomes clear in this project,” the artist told Hyperallergic. The delicate and labor-intensive handling of these quotes also works to stop people in their tracks, either digitally or in-person, for a closer investigation.
“It really gives people different ways to approach different subjects through material,” Weymar continued. As a mother of four, she also highlighted the portable nature of the medium working to her benefit, but also drew further connections to the greater focus of EHRP and working with what one has available on hand.
EHRP Executive Director Alissa Quart, also quoted in the Moving the Needle project, was excited about this collaboration because she’s always encouraging people in the media “to do more imaginative things with nonfiction.”
“One of the things that strikes me when I go to museums and studios is how little the featured work really does address income inequality,” Quart explained. “I’m hoping that along with this, there is another rare art project that does deal with these topics because I love when artwork confronts who is often left out of the museum culture and arts culture. I think that it’s really important that it’s not just journalism doing this. Really, it’s just fun to think more creatively about some of these issues.”
Journalist and author Reniqua Allen-Lamphere, whose EHRP-supported Esquire piece is quoted in one of Weymar’s stitch works, conveyed to Hyperallergic that she thinks the project captures something different from what print media can encompass. Her story addresses photojournalist Gordon Parks’s widely popular documentation of the segregation-era South and its impact on one Black American family. The quote from the article that Weymar embroidered was “It has always been a radical act for a Black woman in America to dare to dream,” a reference to Allie Lee Causey, an Alabama teacher who spoke out against the segregation of schools in the 1950s.
“The work depicts Black women in a medium that in many ways can be read as soft, delicate, and intricate — things that often aren’t synonymous with the stereotypical Black woman,” Allen-Lamphere specified. “I like that the project pushes boundaries and perceptions and I think it honors the spirit of the main character in my Esquire & EHRP piece.”
Jen Fitzgerald, another stitch-quoted EHRP writer and poet whose work delves into labor, solidarity, and personal experiences with pandemic-induced housing insecurity as a fifth-generation New Yorker, said she could think of few things better than embroidery to immortalize a line from her poem “American Landscape: Inheritance,” published on Literary Hub in 2020.
“The beauty and delicate nature of embroidery with the contemplative violence of the woman, alone in her space, stabbing the sharp needle through and through the fabric, dragging the thread and forming a small world from her work,” Fitzgerald illustrated, is an honorable way to etch her personal experiences into a tangible permanence.
“With this thread, I’m connecting all of these ideas and connecting people to each other,” Weymar noted. “Paint mixes, but the thread is still thread and the textile is still textile — I think that translates well in the art of nonfiction writing.” Moving the Needle is a continuous collaboration with no slated end date.