The Fourth Wall

1.30.09 Stitching with Pixels

With the Blogosphere Christmas Police breathing down my neck for leaving my holiday lights up too long, I bring you the next post in our series: Pixels Are Everywhere. Sometime back, former staffer Sarah Ensminger posted about pixelated Army camo uniforms among other things that brought to mind the way designers have to think about images in these digitized times. This week, while we were iced in at home (no school! yippee!), and as I was ruining my eyesight by cross stitching on black fabric I realized: Aha! Pixels again! These suckers are EVERYWHERE. More about cross stitching in a sec.

Above, one of my earliest and most cherished Etsy purchases, a series of needlepointed portraits by the ingenius artist, Tiny Rat. Look at the edges of the curves here… they’re crude, just like when a missing image file pixelates. Along with being visually brilliant and humorous, the kicker with these is the subversion of an artsy craftsy activity of yesteryear… needle-pointing with childishly hued chunky yarn on plastic. But instead of kittens we have fabulous fat dead drag queens, snarling punk rock superstars, and pop culture weirdos. I LOVE IT! Who is pictured here? You tell me!

Here is one of my first cross stitch pieces, from a kit by another crafts genius, Julie Jackson of Subversive Crossstitch. I created this for my daughter Molly, who didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did. Mooooooooom!!!! When Julie and I first connected we traded one of my custom charm bracelets for one of her subversive samplers. It’s too subversive for this blog, but you can see it at So Charmed by clicking on one our collaborative pieces.

This close up will allow you to see the pixels. What’s really cool is that (duh!) depending upon how many squares to the inch make up your fabric, the image will enlarge or reduce accordingly. Whatever was done on Aida 14 (cross stitch jargon for fabric with 14 squares per inch) which is easy on your eyes. Fabric is also available in 11, which seems huge when you finish with it but is a good way to learn the craft. Again, it’s the subverting of this old, traditional, “women’s work” craft that really makes me smile.

This is the sort of thing you probably think of when (if?) you think about cross stitch. Super cutesy, sugary sweet animal portraits, sometimes with annoyingly sentimental sayings like: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Yuck! (Although the doggies are kind of cute aren’t they??)

But make no mistake… like anything, cross stitch can get WAY (way) out of control. I love this partially completed Mona Lisa, which is, in a way, unintentionally subversive. What would Leonardo think? Probably not much!

And, BTW, just to let you in on the insanity of this craft, we are discussing counted cross stitch. What this means is that the pattern is printed (see above) on a piece of graph paper and you are left facing a blank white piece of fabric with which you will be counting each and every itty bitty square as you stitch. So, it’s not as mindless as it seems. It’s actually pretty challenging. In a semi-mindless sort of way.

Here is one of my works-in-progress. I’m using cross stitch on little pairs of mismatched cuffs created from reclaimed men’s shirts… adding lots of lacy goodness and other crap Jodi-ish embellishments. I’m selling these cuffs at So Charmed and Courtney Love Cobain bought one of the first pairs!

Here is a finished pair… I love the juxtoposition of the oxford shirt fabric with frilly ventian lace. Cross stitch alphabets come in all kinds of crazy fonts too, including lots of sans faces, Celtic-influenced calligraphy, and super fussy monogram styles. Alphabets, and other patterns are often available free on the Internet.

I’ll leave you pondering Stitching with Pixels with one last Tiny Rat piece (really, you MUST visit her shop). In this case, there’s perhaps less subversion… I think Andy Warhol would have absolutely LOVED this, don’t you?