Why you absolutely must embroider a QR code

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If you’ve been venturing out lately, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a bit of tech you might not be familiar with: QR codes.

This contactless medium of data transmission has seen a surge in popularity over the past two years as the need for a hands-free environment has become critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19. And because they’re so convenient, they’re probably here to stay.

But QR codes (an acronym for Quick Response) go beyond stickers and restaurant menus, making their way into the fabric. Crafting groups are now buzzing with the all new QR code support: cross stitch.

What is a QR code and what can it do?

Just like a barcode contains the name and price of a product, a QR code contains data. However, since devices can read this type of pattern both top to bottom and left to right, it can contain much more information, up to around 4000 characters.

They are easy to use. Open your phone’s camera, center the image, and your device will display the information in the pattern, whether it’s a plain text message, website, or app page in the application store for your operating system.

Why cross stitch?

In recent years, cross stitching has evolved from a primitive and appropriate pastime into one who can be quite subversive. People all over the world are come together in a community who likes to complete nontraditional, irreverent, or sarcastic stitches.

This trend has led to the creation of a plethora of science-related models which lie at the intersection of technology and craftsmanship. Cross pointers find inspiration for designs everywhere, so it’s no surprise that they’ve taken up the challenge of QR codes. After all, the geometric nature of codes is practically asking to be reproduced with tiny pixel-like dots.

Choose your code location

QR codes can lead a user to many types of data, from a simple text sentence to a multimedia presentation, which is why translating them into a cross stitch pattern is so fun.

If you want to dive into this trend, you can start by searching online for a basic but aesthetic pattern that when scanned leads to a traditionally sewn phrase like “The sweetness of the home.” If you want to improve your game, you can create a personalized code to help guests find important information, such as your Wi-Fi password.

[Related: How to easily share Wi-Fi passwords]

You can also use QR codes to enhance the experience of a sewn work of art. For example, you can assemble codes in the corners of a project to direct viewers to an online photo album (think family or wedding gifts), or even a song file (think Happy Birthday on a stitched greeting card). The patterns are even available with apparently harmless images this link to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” YouTube Video, in case you want to Rick Roll your friends.

Finally, you do not have to present your QR code in cross stitch framed in a hoop if you do not want to. You can embed QR codes on anything that can be sewn, such as clothing or a handbag. You can use it to make a card or bookmark, or even sew it onto plastic canvas to turn it into a coaster or patch that you can then attach to a jacket or magnet. As for the possible applications, your imagination is the only limit.

How can I create my own cross stitch QR code?

Once you’ve decided what you want to create, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your finished room is functional.

Get what you need

If you are sewing from an already tested pattern – and I recommend this route if you are new to cross stitch – you only have to buy the material to get started: the pattern, a hoop, embroidery thread, needles, and some uniform weave fabric. I recommend Aida over linen for beginners, as the right sewing holes are easier to see.

If you want to be absolutely certain that the devices can read your code, it is better to glue with black thread on white fabric. However, as long as the yarn is dark and the fabric is light, you can play around with the color a bit to enhance your project.

Master the point

If you are new to this craft, you will be happy to know that many patterns come with instructions on how to embroider in cross stitch. But if not, don’t worry: there is only one type of stitch to master in this technique, and off you go. You can learn the basics by watching a YouTube tutorial or by reading books like The new cross stitch bible by Jane Greenoff or The Mr. X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch by Jamie Chalmers.

Create your own QR code

If you are up for a challenge and want to create a personalized QR code, there are plenty of free apps that will generate a digital file for you. Most of these apps are similar and will do what you need, so try not to be overwhelmed by the number of choices.

Convert your code to stitches

Once you have a digital file of your code, you will need to convert it to a cross stitch pattern.

Keep in mind that unlike other forms of embroidery, this type of cross stitch (also called counted cross stitch) is done without transferring the design directly to the fabric. Instead, you use your design as a map, counting the number of stitches on the paper or screen and sewing the same amount onto the fabric.

Whichever way you decide to create your design, I recommend that you test the code on a piece of fabric first to make sure it scans accurately before creating your final piece.

[Related: Knit a temperature scarf using climate data]

There is a wide range of software, both paid and free, which can help you turn your QR code into a template. But with the use of a computer program comes the additional challenge of defining the correct dimensions for your code, which can get complicated. For example, the width of a QR code affects the optimal distance from which to scan, and the amount of data can sometimes also affect the size. Patience is a must if you go this route, but it can be done.

Alternatively, you can print the QR code and draw a grid on it to guide you as you embroider. You can also use good old grid paper to translate the image into a design by filling in the boxes.

When you’re ready to begin, simply find the center of your fabric by folding it in four and making a slight crease at the folded corner. Next, identify the center of your pattern and use the two points as a reference to reproduce the code. You can then move to the edges by sewing according to the squares of the rows and columns of your pattern.

From there, it only remains to prick.


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