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From pixels to stiches: the crafty corner of geek culture

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Outside of the immersive realm of cosplay, “arts and crafts” may not readily come to mind when you think “video games”, least of all embroidery. Yet if you run a Google images search for “cross stitch”, there’s no escape; iconic sprites from titles such as Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. are mixed right in there with the flower motifs and folk art borders. As an important part of pop culture, gaming has seeped into everything, including cross stitch.

Cross-what?

Cross stitch is the oldest form of embroidery: it’s been a part of history in almost every country. The execution is simple; thread (embroidery floss) is used to make X-shaped stitches on a grid formed by evenly woven fabric. The patterns, on the other hand, can range from itty-bitty beginner projects to 115,200 stitch masterpieces.

Postmodern patterns have been rising in popularity for years now, especially amongst younger demographics. The notion that embroidery is just for old ladies is outdated anyway – craft is for everyone! Plus, when was the last time you saw your gran on reddit?

You got a grid, you got a cross stitch

There’s no mystery why geek culture lends itself so readily to embroidery; cross stitch is basically the original pixel art. The blocky graphics on retro video game consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Gameboy and Sega Genesis are easily adapted into grid patterns, and indie games like Shovel Knight have brought pixelated graphics back to modern platforms. Minecraft boasts a world of nothing but blocks on a grid. If it’s ever beeped or booped, odds are someone has recreated it in thread.

Getting on board

If you’re looking for the perfect hobby to pick up for the winter months (one which I can personally recommend to pair with Netflix) then cross stitch is for you. To get started, you can pick up a pattern or a complete kit on Etsy, or check out these websites for some inspiration and maybe even score a free pattern or two:

Trust me when I say you should have a pattern in mind before you head to your local Lincraft/Spotlight, otherwise you will want to buy every colour of thread there is (in multiple shades). Have a plan before you purchase.

Apart from your embroidery floss, you’ll also need these essentials:

  • Aida cloth or another even-weave fabric
  • Tapestry needles (more blunt than hand sewing needles – your fingers will thank you)
  • Seam ripper (everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to be prepared)
  • You may or may not need an embroidery hoop; 14-count aida is stiff enough to work with by itself, but other fabrics are not. Some people like also to set finished pieces in a hoop instead of a traditional frame.

Then all you have to do is start stitching! If you have some friends who are interested you could start your own sewing circle, or just hop into the online community with some “cross stitch” and “needlework” hashtags attached to your posts. Sharing photos of your finished work is part of the fun.

Do you have an interesting hobby that incorporates art & craft with tech? Let us know in the comments below.

The amazing pacman cross stitch you see pictured in this article was made by Gina Thompson. If you want to make one yourself, you can grab the pattern by clicking this link.

4 comments

  1. Anita says:

    Thanks Gina! This may give me the impetus to actually do it instead of just meaning to get around to it.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Gina, Enjoyed your x-stitch, the software on my Brother allows me to transfer all my designs into x-stitch which is cheating in a way but my eyes are too old to make up patterns, so much easier to press a button but I am going to give it a go. Thanks for showing us what can be done
    Regards
    Karen

  3. Brigitte Cox says:

    Not just cross stitch – folk and decorative art also benefits from the internet, and especially from Youtube videos which provide really good instructions for projects.

  4. Dorothy Block says:

    I always said that I could see no reason for a computer unless it could be used with a sewing machine, that happened faster than I expected. Now I digitise my embroidery on the computer then I transfer it to the sewing machine via a USB, start the sewing machine and walk away leaving it to do it’s thing coming back later to a beautifully evenly stitiched embroidery

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