In 2016, Zoe Frost was struggling in her new home in southern Oregon after moving from Oakland. She went from steady employment to a place with minimal job opportunities, and felt detached from her queer community.
So naturally, as one does, she turned to cross-stitching.
Frost enjoyed hand crafts, and embroidery was rising in popularity. Cross-stitching, though, seemed like an untapped market, particularly when it came to adult-themed cross-stitch kits.
There was only one problem: Frost didn’t know how to cross stitch. So she went to the nearest craft store, gathered all the supplies she needed, and started to figure it out, using her already developed craft skills plus the occasional YouTube tutorial. Within a month, she set up shop on Etsy, and started her business: Junebug and Darlin.
Frost says she focused the “energy of the business to making queer and subversive crafts and really inclusive designs,” all while creating a way for her to connect and stay in touch with the queer community. She even channeled her frustrations following the 2016 presidential election into her designs: “I was feeling very angry and very political and really needed an outlet for that, so I took needle to fabric and went for it.”
Her designs take inspiration from traditional, vintage, and heirloom cross stitch patterns, and then she adds her own twist, like “incorporating more traditional designs with curse words” because it’s “a fun critique on how far we have come. My favorite design is the “A lady should” kit that features the phrase “A lady should wear modest dresses wear whatever the fuck she wants.”
Another favorite: A “three moth” pattern that Frost says has a hidden message. The moths were chosen to challenge the traditional idea that butterflies are beautiful and transformational creatures, while moths are their ugly step-sister. Her underlying message here is that moths can act as a symbol for the queer community, because “no one really sees them but they’re all there and do the same things as butterflies and can be more colorful and beautiful and have more purpose.”
After moving to Portland from Klamath Falls later in 2016, she began to sell her kits at various farmer’s markets. Frost further expanded her reach in 2018 after Pittsburg small business reached out and asked to sell her kits in store. She now sells to around 75 businesses throughout the United States, as well as some international locations.
Owning the business has allowed for the connection with the queer community that Frost craved from the start, she says, especially when she hears stories about crafters using the messages to share support for LGBTQ+ friends. It’s important to her, Frost says, “to connect one on one and share those stories of how my products are making an impact.”