Stitching / XML · 2004-12-28

Stitching project design

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.

The Infoset is a Unicorn - It doesn't exist
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
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?)