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North Texas artist says fiber art isn’t just for grandmas, thanks to Gen Z and millennials

Nosheen Iqbal.
Jason Janik
The Dallas Morning News
Nosheen Iqbal poses with some of her embroidery art at her home in Richardson.

Hear the words embroidery, macrame or weaving and you might think of a grandma in a rocking chair.

But fiber arts – creations made with thread, yarn and other materials – are getting a branding glow-up thanks to Generation Z and millennials on TikTok and Instagram reels. While fiber art blew up during pandemic lockdowns, it has remained a popular pastime that’s resonating with creators of all ages.

Think Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” playing over a TikTok video of an artist dyeing fibers or a video of a woman making felted soap to the viral “It’s Corn” song. Hashtags like #fiberart #fiberartist #crochettok #yarntok are a treasure trove of artists making all kinds of innovative designs from tufted landscapes to knitted tank tops.

Nosheen Iqbal is a Richardson-based designer by day and fiber artist by night. She creates embroidery on wood with patterns of geometric shapes. Iqbal said she’s seeing younger generations take the craft of fiber art in a new direction.

“You have these designers that are coming out embroidering subject matter that wasn't something that was embroidered by our grandparents back even 30 or 40 years ago,” she said. “They're really pushing the boundaries as far as how they can make materials work and freshen up what that subject matter looks like.

What Iqbal is talking about is embroidery that’s stitched with funny sayings that simply weren’t a thing of the past like “Motivated by spite” or “Bless This Hizzle Fo’ Shizzle.”

Iqbal’s theories for why fiber arts are taking off? There’s a way to reference fun pop culture and an underlying theme of sustainability with a rising interest in mending and upcycled materials.

Not to mention, the childhood nostalgia.

Dallas-based fiber artist Laura Davidson recalls cross-stitching with her grandma growing up. She returned to fiber arts as an adult with embroidery.

“Embroidery was something that I could do in my apartment, and it didn't take up very much space and I could put it down easily and come back to it. So that kind of hooked me back in.”

She likes including affirmations in her work like “It’s probably fine” – which is something she grew up saying as a camp counselor.

For Davidson, embroidery is about peace of mind.

“It's something I do as kind of a meditative practice to decompress. Like, I already have something in mind and since it is so time consuming, you can fill a shape for quite a long time. I’ll do it watching TV or just to decompress in the evening.”

Iqbal calls embroidery a slow craft, one that requires a lot of time to develop a skill set. She’s excited that fiber arts is no longer being labeled as a hobby only for grandmas.

“It really built momentum over the past years with this sort of resurgence of taking an old craft and how can we spin it in a new direction.”

Want to follow more local fiber artists? 

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.

Elizabeth Myong is KERA’s Arts Collaborative Reporter. She came to KERA from New York, where she worked as a CNBC fellow covering breaking news and politics. Before that, she freelanced as a features reporter for the Houston Chronicle and a modern arts reporter for Houstonia Magazine.