A Quick One Because I’m FUMING

Although looking at this is making me feel slightly better

No time for a long tutorial this week. I went out drinking 3 nights in a row and they were all excellent fun, but then Monday morning came and the pain-pleasure balance kicked in. Consequently I’ve been having what shall henceforth be known as The Week of Fail. Basically I forgot how to computer, and since computer-ing is my entire job description things have mostly sucked your ma’s left one.

Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ is not at the top of the post simply to soothe me, although it does. It’s there to illustrate what I’m currently working on. My long-term project is a replacement for the hideous Beatles tribute which once hung in the bathroom of my flat. The medium? Cross-stitch. Obviously. I’ve been at it with my little pattern-generator again, and here’s what it came up with:


Just shy of 40,000 stitches of 15th century Renaissance gorgeousness, made tacky as all hell and hung above a toilet. Because that’s how I roll.*

Slight flaw with this plan: 40,000 is a lot. It’s a big number. As in, I’ve been working (granted, sporadically) for a few months and this is what I have:


A bit of the sky and a bit of a wing (that brown thing on the left). I’m doing the boring bits first on purpose, clearly. I’m determined it will be finished one day though, so I’m off to work on it a bit more right now whilst watching the Sopranos and drinking tea. I will also be praying to the abyss that this trinity of relaxing pass-times reduces my urge to destroy all life. As should you.

* Get it? Roll? Toilet roll? Sorry, I couldn’t let a post pass without a footnote. They’re kind of my thing now. I feel guilty for making you come all the way down here though, so interesting fact: I don’t roll at all. I’m totally a scruncher. BACK


De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

Personal tastes are not for disputing, is what that bit of Latin means. Unfortunately it’s not an ancient Roman saying, the French came up with it a couple of hundred years ago, although I really wish it was. Imagine thousands of years ago the people who conquered most of Europe having a saying that means “It takes all sorts”, or “Each to their own” – whichever translation floats your boat. So once they’d finished subjugating a populace using their renowned stabbing-and-maiming skills they’d let their newly acquired serfs carry on about their business, worshiping whatever bat-shit crazy thing it was that they’d been mooning over pre-serfdom. Actually they really did mostly do that. Which was kind of groovy of them. Kind of. No?

Anyway, I find it absurdly amusing we have a slew of sayings that mean: “Don’t give people shit for liking things that you don’t, because it’s rude and also pointless”,* and yet no one is listening to any of them. The end result is that we mostly stick with people who like the same things, just to avoid the pointless arguments. And that’s a shame, I think.

Does no one else find it bizarre that our social groups are often dictated by our music tastes? We don’t really know why we like the music that we like, but we know that we mostly like other people who like the same things for reasons that they also don’t understand. Doesn’t that feel a bit arbitrary? I mean, I like olives. I don’t know why, they just taste good to me. Should I filter out potential friends based on their feelings about these bubbles of salty deliciousness?**

I’m too neurotic for this minefield. I’m at the point where I no longer tell people what I like in case I have to engage in a fruitless argument about why I shouldn’t like that thing, or worse: see that look in someone’s eyes as they regretfully must consign me to the “not one of us” section of their brain. That look cuts deep, man.

Clearly I have strong feelings about this. Strong enough that I wanted this saying on my wall, and now I have it there, framed in a crunchy halo of free newspaper – the ultimate purveyor of opinion-dressed-as-fact.***

Anyway, let’s not stare too deeply into that pseudo-intellectual-conceptual-art-bollocks-rabbit-hole, here’s a tutorial!

Silicone Glue De Gustibus Stuff

You need this stuff. More specifically: a bit of Aida big enough for your text (count the stitches), some fabric glue, newspaper squares of two different sizes, a tapestry needle threaded with embroidery silk of your chosen colour, a canvas, and some silicone glue. And also ribbon. Ribbon was a last minute decision so there is no picture. If you don’t know what ribbon looks like – tough tits, and also yes you do, stop lying. LIAR.

I was planning on going into exact detail about how to cut your newspaper squares, but then I realised that that’s really dull and that I should let you figure out some things on your own. We’re all adults here.**** I will only tell you that you need two sizes and they need to be squares. None of the lesser quadrilaterals will do.

The frame is made up of two layers of newspaper petals. Large ones go on the outside, smaller ones within. Here’s how to fold them (click to en-big-ulate):

Go easy on me, it’s my first job as a hand model

Use the silicone glue to keep them folded, then trap them under books or something overnight, or until you’re really sure they’re dry (I recommend books and overnight but, like I said, adults).

In the meantime, figure out what you want your cross stitch to say and plan your lettering out. I used graph paper, like so:

De Gustibus Pattern

I don’t recommend that you get it wrong as many times as I did, but if you get it right first time I shall gift you a shiny cookie. Because counting is hard.

Once you have a pattern, cut your Aida to size, and line it up very carefully against your canvas so that your message or image will sit where you want it. It sounds easy but it’s actually worth taking some time over and doing some more counting. Check your work!

Once you’re all lined up start stitching.


Luther Helps
This is Luther. He likes to help, especially when there’s string involved.

Once you’ve stitched your message and your petals are dry, pick up the silicone glue again and start assembling.

De Gustibus Assembly 1 De Gustibus Assembly 2 De Gustibus Assembly 3

Again, I recommend you leave this in a safe, cat-free place to dry for a few hours. Then you can take out the fabric glue and add your ribbon. Don’t worry about making a bit of a mess, it should dry clear. Unless you bought the wrong glue. On your own head be it.

De Gustibus Ribbon 1 De Gustibus Ribbon 2 De Gustibus Ribbon 4

De Gustibus Ribbon 3
Let each length dry before folding your corners, things get slippy otherwise

Once your ribbon is stuck down all the way around, wait for it dry. There’s a lot of waiting around in this tutorial. I’m sorry about that. I’d come round and make you a cuppa and kill some time with you but that’d raise all kinds of awkward questions.

Anyway, all that’s left to do is tie a bow where the ribbon ends meet, and hang your new motto on your wall for all to be puzzled by.

If you want to try this, but are behind the curve on chosing a personal motto (for shame!), and you also think it’s best to say it with dead languages, there are some good ones here.

Next week: Skulls, tee lights and nail varnish fumes! Goth times!

* Hey look, I just invented another one! Catchy. BACK

** Serious question. I’m inundated with applicants to be my 335th Facebook friend and I can’t decide between the following:

  • Two pleasant-looking people who I have nevertheless never met and whose motivations are consequently suspect
  • An account for a band that I have never heard, and
  • A guy who inbox-ed me to say “Hey xx” last July, and, when he got no reply, waited an entire 12 months to send the same message without the kisses, as if he’d been hurt by my prior rejection and had stewed on it all that time before deciding to give me another chance. More fool him! BACK

*** Print media is dying, ergo profits are down. Opinion pieces are cheap. Proper journalism is not. It’s a simple formula equating to tragedy. BACK

**** If you’re not an adult then get someone else to wield the scissors, and then stop reading this blog because I swear a lot. BACK *****
***** Are you sick of footnotes yet? I still like them, but I didn’t intend them to get this out of hand. ******

****** I don’t seem to be able to stop.

Butterfly Cross Stitch Pattern

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.

artThe art was so bad I barely noticed the couch.

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:


Into 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.