While shopping in the Broad Canvas crafts store in Oxford in July 2003, Lauren Wood and I cooked up the idea to do some stitching projects for the XML conference that year. While I was grateful to see that the selection of ready-made kits in the store wasn’t limited to pictures of puppies and kittens doing unbearably cute things — I ended up buying a kit for stitching Stonehenge — I couldn’t help noticing the relative paucity of, shall we say, technically oriented patterns. We had to design our own.
My XML 2003 artwork exhibit entry: The Infoset is a Unicorn – It doesn’t exist
I ended up acquiring a program called PCStitch to put together my first design, and I’ve used it for several others since.
Snippet of the PCStitch pattern for Infoset Unicorn
Now, when I say “design,” I’m really talking more about piecing together elements found elsewhere than invention from the ground up, though sometimes I do need to do work from scratch. There are quite a few free patterns online, sometimes in PCStitch format or the format of another program, but often in badly scanned PDF form. (We need XSML — Cross-Stitch Markup Language…)
I usually input raw stitch data into PCStitch by hand because I need to assemble a whole bunch of pieces from disparate sources, play around with colors, print out large-size color versions for the tricky bits, etc. The unicorn head came from a free pattern that was a bit more extensive (and very hard to read in its native form).
I found the “fancy alphabet” used here online as well. The input process pays off particularly well with alphabets, which PCStitch can treat as a cool “stitched font” that lets you literally type your text into the design, center it, and so on. Victorian sampler-stitching maidens never had it so good.
Of course, I have to design nonalphanumerics such as ampersands, angle brackets, and semicolons myself since they’re never included. (I wonder why that is?)