I graduated from MIT in 2011. Upon graduating, and while living alone in a city where I knew nobody, I filled my time with new hobbies and copious amounts of work. Some hobbies didn’t stick (trampoline dodgeball and skating are two notable ones) but some DID stick … and with an abundance of stickiness. Cross stitching was the stickiest. File this post away under “things alums do in their free time.”
In late 2011 I taught myself to cross stitch using a kit from Barnes and Noble. Nine years later and I’m still stitching, designing patterns, and generally injecting cross stitching into my life.
For those unfamiliar, cross stitching is basically textile pixel art. You stitch little x’s onto a perforated piece of cloth using a needle and different colors of thread. I took an instant fancy to it. Why?
- I suck at actual art. You know, the kind with shading, swoopy stuff, and actual artistic talent. I prefer, instead, sprite and pixel art. It’s blocky and my brain grasps it. I can also create reasonable pixel art if I work hard enough at it.
- I love crafts and making things. See MIT MechE degree.
- It’s something I can do, mindlessly, while watching TV or listening to books.
- People seem to enjoy what I make and the joy of others brings me joy.
Let me take you on a brief tour of my cross-stitching career!
For nearly 2 years back in 2011 I spent almost every evening and every weekend cross stitching or designing cross stitch patterns. I was on a pretty serious South Park bender at the time and the art in South Park lends itself to cross stitching so a lot of my early work was South Park themed. I began by working on a HUGE South Park mural.
I usually worked on the big mural in my apartment just because of the size and infrastructure required. When I needed to get out and actually be around people, usually in a coffee shop, I took smaller projects with me. I created patterns for a host of South Park characters and worked on those when I was remote.
Once I felt pretty comfortable with my skills I started doing some commission pieces for people on Reddit. Here are two of my favorite.
The more and more I designed and stitched the more and more I tried to figure out a way to monetize cross stitching. What’s better than getting paid for a hobby you’re doing in your free time!? Patterns were an obvious way to make some money but I don’t own a lot of intellectual property so there was always that risk of copyright violation. I sold a few South Park patterns but it never amounted to much. Stitching custom pieces was almost impossible to turn a profit on – it’s slooooooow going when stitching. The market can bear about $2.50/hour. Yuck.
Then I thought back to a few stitchable iPhone cases I’d bought from China a year prior. They took months to arrive and I loved them. This is when I began incorporating some video game art into my repertoire. And, of course, more South Park.
I looked into importing the cases from China and becoming a US distributor and the finances made sense so I went for it. I did this for about 5 years, as well as selling kits, and made quite a bit of extra cash on the side.
A few years into selling cases, 4-5 years into my cross stitching career, I became an official DMC Cross Stitching Mentor. DMC is the organization/company that sells all the cross stitch thread (“floss”) and fabric. Check out the fancy legit pin I got.
My biggest cross stitch moment had to be when I met Grumpy Cat and got to present her with a cross stitch catnip pillow I designed and made. Here we are! No, I didn’t apply the blur, I blame whoever published the photo.
I also cross stitch a lot on flights (like this poop that I stitched while over the North Pole, flying to Dubai) …
… and when I’m alone in some other city on a work trip (which is where I made this Tesla logo).
I even worked on a cross stitch for my son Cooper’s nursery while my wife was laboring (but only while she was napping after the epidural kicked in, I’m not a monster). On a side note, the light that they use for, well, appointments women have and men don’t, is an AMAZING light for cross stitching. Comes right out of the ceiling!
And that gets us to today! I’m just finishing up the cross stitch for Cooper’s nursery (I know I know, it’s been over a year, but having a baby kinda takes away all your free time) and I’m venturing out on a new cross stitch venture … Livestreaming! Yes, seriously, I’m going to see if there’s anybody out there crazy enough to watch/listen to a livestream of me stitching. I was part of a mass-layoff at work a couple weeks ago and have been filling my quarantine time with copious amounts of Animal Crossing AND getting a livestreaming environment put together. Check out the awesome “I barely have any idea what I’m doing” setup I’ve got going on in my basement!
AdMITs attending the virtual CPW this year will be the first to experience the livestream. Who knows – if everything goes well maybe I can continue streaming after CPW. And, if it all goes poorly, we can just pretend it never happened.
There’s so much more I’ve designed, stitched, sold, and gifted and I want to share it all but I think this is enough for now. As you can tell, I really enjoy cross stitching. You should try it sometime! If you have questions about how to get started just join the livestream and ask. Otherwise just leave a note or a question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.