Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sewing in Circles

I've listed various crafts that have been used to create or re-create a pixelated look before. And I'm always looking for ways to expand my craft repertoire. Which is why I love going to the library. There are SO many treasures of knowledge just waiting to be exposed.

And I found a new one to add. They're called yo yos. Not the toy, but a similarly shaped object made of fabric. They became popular in the 1920's because women could carry the little circles of fabric to stitch and gather when they had a free moment.

They've been made into quilts, decorated clothes, leis, dolls, and recently into jewelry. Grandmothers have used them to teach daughters and granddaughters to hand sew. They're simple to make and are quick to make up. I heartily recommend a search of 'fabric yo yo' or 'quilt yo yo' or 'yo yo fabric crafts'. There are way too many stunning  examples out there.

Simple if you can sew and use a hand iron. Iron, yes, sew - not so much.

And yet the lure of the yo yo called to me. So you can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a product by the company Clover called the "Quick" Yo-Yo Maker. It's a disc with a cover that you pop the fabric in and cut around it, then you take a needle and thread, sew in the guide holes in the cover, then take the fabric out, gather it up in a circle, and then tie a knot and hide the ends. I can make one in about 5 minutes or less. And it's not just circles in many sizes, but hearts, butterflies, shamrocks, and ovals, for anyone interested. (A bit like lucky charms, eh?)

So with the 'how to' solved, I've decided I want to make a wall decoration using yo yos. But now I have two problems.

1. What sprite should I make with yo yos?
2. Should I use plain colored fabric, patterned, or a mix?

I have a few ideas. I love Naruto the anime and I love the symbol of Konoha. I also love Ayashi no Ceres, or Ceres: Celestial Legend as it is known in the states, and the symbol of the Tennyo is beautiful.And there is the symbol of the Full Metal Alchemist that I've long wanted to do in cross stitch or something. Or a Fire Flower from Mario Bros.

I'd rather do something simple over a complicated character sprite, for a wall hanging at least. If I decide to make a blanket out of these things, I might make Articuno from Pokemon, or Samus from Metroid.

Ah the possibilities!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ta Da!

So remember my blackwork post? And the Pikachu pattern I posted at the end?  Well I did it.

It's not the greatest, and then when I framed it, it ended up crooked. But I like it. And that's my surprise!
I did the Pikachu, but then when I posted it at Sprite Stitch, it wasn't terribly well received - but that's ok, most of them hadn't heard of blackwork.

It didn't feel finished, so I added a scene. I thought if I did a digital-esque background it would compliment it. And I think it worked! ^_^

Anyhoo - see you next week!

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Have Failed You . . .


I was going to post a surprise today, but I just ran out of time doing 'real life' stuff with my family. In apology of NOT posting the article I wanted to post today, here's epic cuteness.

Don't worry, it's photoshopped, but CUTE ATTACK!!!

Oh and look --> I added a couple of small things to the blog. I now have a fuller list of the blogs that I read. All of them are good, and informative, entertaining and usually both, definitely both.

A really, really small thing - I finally have a profile pic. No, not of me. But of epic Pika cuteness! (Yeah, I'm a bit of a Pikafan.)

Anyhoo - I'm going to endeavor to get done TOMORROW what I should have done TODAY.  If you can find it in your hearts to forgive me, I'll be back later. ^_^

Thank you!

edit: Oh and I messed around with the layout. I like this a little better. The orange-y swirls were making my eyes go all funny. What do you think? 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Weblog Interview - Sprite Stitch

It is the Age of the Geek. The Age of the Gamer. The video game industry has never been as popular, with games for everyone from child to casual to hardcore gaming. Facebook makes a decent profit (understatement) on games that involve a lot of waiting around. Games now reach all ages and all professions.

And also all hobbyists.

Crafts are also enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Knitting, crochet, and all ‘old lady arts’ are being eagerly devoured by younger and younger audiences, male as well as female enthusiasts are making their own mark.

And these marks are making their way on to the internet.

Blogs, Websites, Online Communities - the Geekcrafters are finding one another, and learning that we’re many in number.

One such Blog/Online Community is my subject for today. I have mentioned it many times, and I am a member on the forums.

This Blog is Sprite Stitch - a blog that showcases Geekcraft in all its glory, both Johloh’s work and other good examples that he finds online.  And I had the wonderful fortune to get him to answer a few questions for my blog.

Johloh is a High School science teacher, and was recently part of a book published called World of Geekcraft by Susan Beal. It’s a 25 project book that covers the world of Geekcraft. It’s available Feb 23, and I, for one, am planning on getting it.

Me: When did you start creating pixel art? Was it always cross stitch or did you start with
a different craft?

Johloh: I started sprite stitch about 4 years ago, back in 2007.  I started cross stitching a couple of months before that...After I finished my first project I wanted to show it off, so I looked around the internet for other people doing the same thing, and didn't really find anything. So I decided to start up the site as a way of showing off my own work.

It was always cross stitch to start, but I've been branching out as I discover new
areas. Perler beads, wood carving, painting, etc...

Me: Did you imagine that it would grow into a community and a place for other geekcrafters out there?

Johloh: No, I had absolutely no idea how popular the site would be. I figured it would be another personal blog that nobody would read except my friends and family. Its been a huge surprise.

Me: Do you ever think “I’ve seen it all now,” and then find some new geekcraft that surprises you?

Johloh : Totally. I go through phases where I'm kinda unimpressed with the work out there, and blogging becomes a bit of a chore. But, every once in a while I get slapped in the face with a truly great project that really blows me away.  Lately seeing peoples stained glass projects has been the most impressive and surprising to me.  Also, just the size and magnitude of some of the stitchings/perler beads...people are crazy. They finish projects in a couple of months that would take me a lifetime to complete.

Me: Do you have any words of advice for other geekcrafters/ geekcraft bloggers out there?

Johloh: To geekcrafters: make your next project a new craft that you have never done before. My favorite projects are the ones where I've tried something new.

To bloggers: try to write a post every single day. If you write a post every day for a year, people will notice your blog...your stats will go me.

One of the extra benefits of Sprite Stitch and the forums are patterns. No fuss, no needing to guess at colors or make your own charts. For those that are not directly visible on the website, most can be viewed via KG Chart. Others are pdf files. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can request a pattern and it might pop up! If not, they’ll often post a link to where you can get a good sprite.

For those of you who haven’t found your way to my blog via Sprite Stitch, I recommend checking it out. And not just the blog. The forums hold a vast array of projects not only from Johloh, but from people all over the world.

Thanks Johloh and all the folks at Sprite Stitch!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I am a craft enthusiast. If it involves a needle (or pair of needles), I love it. I do beadwork, cross stitch, and knitting. Crochet confuses me, though I am working to correct that. I have yet to try quilting or applique, but I'm sure I'll get around to them eventually.

I am also an avid supporter of the library system. Especially in a recession when spare money for non-essentials like books on crafts doesn't come easily in my family. A library comes in handy - plus when perusing the craft book section, I occasionally come upon new sub-genres in my current favorite craft genres.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a book that described Blackwork, a history that goes back to the Moorish occupation of Spain, and perhaps even further. If you look at the original blackwork designs (or what remains in portraits) you will find a lot of them look like the geometric patterns of the Moorish architecture. It wasn't until Queen Elizabeth changed the patterns to a more 'English aesthetic' with fruits, flowers, and herbs that we saw changes to how blackwork was used.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

What is blackwork?

Blackwork is a form of counted thread embroidery that traditionally used black thread (I bet you guessed) in geometric patterns. Originally used for cuffs and simple decoration, this reversible style of stitching was hardly simple. It was also originally used with silk thread on expensive fabrics.

It reached England in the 1500's and possibly earlier (Chaucer included a description in the Canterbury Tales), but it is Catherine of Aragon who is attributed to bringing it over to England from Spain, which led to it being called Blackwork or 'Spanish work'. But trying to find a portrait of Catherine that has blackwork in it has been difficult. This is the best I could find. I'm sure the patterns on the sleeves and bodice are actually brocade or damask fabric (I could be wrong), but if you look around the cuffs you'll see a painter's hint at what could have been blackwork.

Can you only imagine the work that has to go in to such a piece? Since this isn't the greatest of blackwork portrait examples, I give you -
Jane Seymour - If you look at the cuffs you'll see beautiful black designs lovingly detailed by the painter.

Mary Cornwalis - This blackwork is showing Queen Elizabethan influence with the motifs being floral, and not on the cuffs (since there are none to speak of) but on the collar, sleeves and bodice as well. Since the sleeves and bodice were not meant to be seen from both sides, this type of blackwork was not reversible, and more of shapes outlined and then filled with the goemetric blackwork patterns which give it a shaded appearance.

And now for the Queen Elizabeth I herself - Beautiful blackwork covering sleeves and skirt. (I can only imagine the hours it took. @_@) Despite an unfortunate interest in the funky collars, Queen Elizabeth I was a fashionable gal. The portraits I have seen of her are amazing. This is the best I found with blackwork on it.

Sadly blackwork saw a decline after Queen Elizabeth I, but like all great crafts, never went away completely. Happily with the resurgence of interest in the 'old arts' blackwork, like many other crafts, are coming out of obscurity. And modern blackwork is no longer completely black. With the many colored threads available to us,it would be foolish not to branch out and use colors.

The more I discover about needle arts amaze me. Yet my abilities with the needle are still small - so I have designed a project more to my tastes, which I hope to finish in a couple of days. I am supposed to be working on a trade with a friend from Sprite Stitch but my q-frame hasn't arrived yet, I am fidgety.

Made by Faewren ^_^

I present blackwork Pikachu! I am a Pokefan and have been since 1999 when I first went to college. So a Pokemon felt like a good place to start. I designed him in the Elizabethan style with an outline first, then with filler. I used extra shading, and left in the facial details and the arms. I think he came out splendidly.

If anyone wants the pattern you can use it, but since it was designed by me I'd appreciate credit if you plan on posting this anywhere.

There are a LOT of awesome blackwork examples out there. And not all of them are from portraits of Medieval women. I leave it to you to look up the pretties.

I'll end with a quote that I found that seems to sum up blackwork adequately.

"Blackwork is black, except when it’s not. Blackwork is reversible, except when it’s not. Blackwork is a counted thread technique, except when it’s not. Blackwork is called “blackwork,” except (you guessed it) when it’s not."

Gripped by the Flu

Sorry about not posting last week. My entire family got the flu, from my hubby to me to our kids - so taking care of runny noses, vomiting and other bodily fluids has really eaten up my days.

But I'm feeling better now! ^_^

Which means that I have 3 articles planned for this week (yay!), and I'm going to work harder to get them written ahead of schedule so that my readers won't have to wonder if I've quit.

I haven't.

Thank for your patience!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thinking - or not thinking - About Art

This post really has nothing to do with pixel art, or really art at all, and yet at the same time it has EVERYTHING to do with art. (I know, confusing right?)

Ok, my husband helped me to stumble on to a website called Everything is a Remix, which I actually enjoy, because I love the quote, "Not even Shakespeare was an original". This guy is 'remixing' the idea that nothing is original we just alter, copy, borrow and outright steal our ideas.  But he's not condemning it. He's saying it's all right - and I agree with him.

I'm stealing a quote from his website -

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: "It's not where you take things from - it's where you take things to." - Jim Jarmusch
 Ok - so what does that have to do about thinking about art? I'm getting there.

There is an article on EIAR that links to an io9 article that discusses "white guilt" or "sorry about colonialism" movies. This one is talking directly about James Cameron's Avatar. I don't really care for what the article says, but I love the first comment under it. It is not exactly about the article but about the commentators on the web that say, "why can't you just enjoy it for what it is?"

As a former "just enjoy it"-er I used to say this when people complained about movies being copies of other movies/books/what-have-you. But the guy brought up a valuable point. Discussing it, analyzing it, seeking personal deeper meaning - this IS enjoying it for what it is. Not everyone will agree with you, not everyone will think the same thing is art. For example, I have issues about a certain soup can.

I'm never using the 'just enjoy it' argument ever again.

I'll leave you with a quote -

"So when you go out of your way to suggest that people should be thinking less -- that not using one's capacity for reason is an admirable position to take, and one that should be actively advocated -- you are not saying anything particularly intelligent. And unless you live on a parallel version of Earth where too many people are thinking too deeply and critically about the world around them and what's going on in their own heads, you're not helping anything; on the contrary, you're acting as an advocate for entropy.

And most annoyingly of all, you're contributing to the conversation yourselves when you make your stupid, stupid comments. You are basically saying, "I think people shouldn't think so much and share their thoughts, that's my thought that I have to share." If you really think people should just enjoy the movie without thinking about it, then why did you (1) click on the post in the first place, and (2) bother to leave a comment? If it bugs you so much, GO WATCH A FUNNY CAT VIDEO."
 And for me, pixel art is a perfect example of 'stealing with authenticity'. It either may directly steal - Mario world 1-1 anyone? - or borrow - 'evolution of Mario', but either way, each one becomes a personal work of art. And isn't that the point anyway?

Friday, February 4, 2011

From Sprite to Stitched, part 2 'Making the Pattern'

Ok. Now you have your sprite. Now what?

I usually use Paint, since it's easy to use and comes with just about every computer out there (sorry to you Mac users, I'm a PC person!). Some people use Gimp or Photoshop, but I'm not a computer genius, so I stick to what I know.

Most sprite sheets I know of have weird color backgrounds, so once I've imported the sheet to Paint, there's a small amount of clean-up that has to be done.
This is an awesome sprite sheet of the Octorok enemies from The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap by Sblaka. The great thing about these sprite sheets is that you have so many angles, colors and sometimes even effects. For my pattern though, I chose the simple front-facing red octorok.
The only problem is that the sprite is TINY!!! So further modification is needed to make this work for your eyes (I do not promote eye-strain, doing stitching and beadwork has already made me near-sighted).

You have a few choices. You can either find an online cross stitch program, buy a cross stitch program, or enlarge the pic, print it out on a color printer and try to eyeball the colors.

If you're wanting to get an online program, a good one is KGchart. It is simple to use, and it tells you your thread colors! ^_^  For a list of other chart programs I defer to the wonderful folks at Sprite Stitch. Also from Servotron at Sprite Stitch a wonderful 'how-to' on KGchart.

For those of you who just want to print it out and so on - here's how I do it.
Step 1: Enlarge the sprite - it makes it easier to see.
Step 2: Figure out how many colors it needs.
Step 3: Make a color grid going from darkest to lightest.
Step 4: Print and go shopping.

After that it's easy. One square equals one stitch. 14 count is the most common fabric (at least at my store) which means 14 stitches to one inch. The Octorok is 15 x 16 stitches. Perfect as a bookmark design or a magnet. (It's still 9 colors and 174 stitches in total so it will take at LEAST an hour for beginners.)

There is some argument about using white in a sprite vs. stitching on a white surface. Personally I don't always use white fabric, so I always stitch it in. It give the sprite a solidarity, and there's no holes in the middle of the pattern. Although if you wanted a slight 'relief' look to it, or if there is a background color that there is a LOT of (like the blue in Super Mario Bros. World 1-1) then not stitching may save you on thread, patience and sanity.

And that's it, you've got your sprite, you've got your pattern - now go and get your supplies and voila! You have a happy self/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/friend/significant other/WHATEVER!!! ^_^

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From Sprite to Stitched, part 1 'Finding the Sprite'

So you want to make a cross stitch of a video game character do you? Dating/Married to a gamer? Or are you a gamer yourself? But wait - where do these people get their patterns? Is there a website?

Actually there are a LOT of websites. Look up 'video game sprites' on Google and you get hundreds of thousands of results. (As of today I got over half a million results - and that was just websites not sprites.) The key then is to find the good websites out there. No website has all the sprites you might want, so Google searches and the like are your friend. But it is nice to have a place to start from.

Here are a few websites that can start you on your spriting journey.

The Spriters Resource - An excellent website with lots of games. This resource seems to be the site that collections go to when other sprite sites give up the ghost, plus they update regularly.

The Video Game Museum - They have some wonderful screen shots. An excellent place for opening shots - for those of you who like stitching the giant projects. Plus they have a lot of systems to choose from.

Video Game Sprites - Over 30,000 sprites, plenty of game systems to choose from.

Deviant Art - This site is a treasure trove of custom sprites as well as ripped ones.

Just a word of caution though in using sprites. For the most part, you will not own the copyright to characters (even original custom sprites). Selling the crafts you make with the sprites can get you in trouble. It's better to not chance it. However, if you post your stuff in a gallery format, you should be fine.