I moved in to my flat nearly 3 years ago. I won’t expose the murky contents of my soul, but it was a very bad time and I had been staying with my mum for a week or two. I wasn’t even sure if I liked this place. I just needed to move ASAP and my landlady said it was mine if I could get her the deposit that day. So out of desperation rather than enthusiasm I did so, and totally sniped this place out from under the nose of someone who had probably fallen in love with it. I hope they went on to win the lottery and live in a palace made of gold. I hope they’re no longer bitter.
Back to me – my first impression was not helped by my landlady’s choice of art.
In the living room she had not one, but two canvasses featuring pebbles. These images mostly make me think: Why pebbles? Why not porridge oats? Or sand? Really commit to your blandness, if bland you must be.
In my landlady’s defence, she may have felt that bland was the way to go after the frankly terrifying Beatles tribute hanging in the bathroom. Above the toilet of all places. As much fun as I had showing my bare arse to these hideously mangled local legends a couple of times a day, I was half convinced that they’d climb out of the picture and eat my ovaries if I missed my rent. Especially alternate-universe-train-wreck-survivor-George Harrison.
It all had to go.
For a while I had nothing on my walls, and as much as this was an improvement eventually I decided the place needed more character.
It was about this time that I started playing with an extension for Java called Processing. It lets you create images and animations using a few simple lines of code. You can do some really fun things with it straight away (I highly recommend the tutorials on their website), and some very clever people have done some amazing things with it including music videos. I’m not that clever though, so I just used it to write a program that generates cross-stitch patterns from images.
Yes, using the incredible power of Processing in conjunction with the humble tapestry needle I managed to turn this:
Yeah, it doesn’t look so great next to the original, but it beats the shit out of pebbles and didn’t turn out to badly for my first ever cross-stitch.
If you fancy trying your hand at cross-stitch, and are an absolute, clueless beginner-numpty like I was, here’s a list of things I would’ve found useful when starting out:
- Aida Fabric is the name for the most common type of fabric used in cross-stitch. It has a wide set weave to give you an obvious grid pattern to follow
- 22 count, 18 count, 14 count, etc. – the counts on an Aida fabric indicate how many stitches a stitch stitcher can stitch when a stitch stitcher stitches an inch. In short, 18 count Aida will give you 18 stitches per inch
- Tapestry needles are what you will stitch your stitches with. They’re like regular sewing needles but much chunkier so you can thread embroidery cotton through the eye
- Speaking of embroidery cotton, I use the six-stranded cottons. I cut a length and then separate the strands into two sets of three, so I end up with two lengths of half the thickness. This works just as well and the cotton goes further that way. The threads come in skeins, are pretty cheap, and available in all colours of the rainbow from a normal haberdasher
- Stitch a full line of forward slashes, and then fill in the back slashes. Don’t do each individual cross one at a time. It saves cotton and time
If none of that made sense, try this video which says everything I just said in the inhuman, incredibly monotonous tone usually reserved for flight safety information videos (please-attend-to-your-own-oxygen-mask-before-helping-others, and so on). It also says a lot of other useful things I didn’t think to.
If you want something to practice on, my butterfly pattern is below. Right click and save and it’s all yours. You lucky thing.