Over the course of the year I stitch a lot of Pixel People - like, really super A LOT -- but never have I had more fun doing so then when I stitched up these giant Pixel People! Don't let the super size fool you, stitching these mega pieces is really no more difficult than stitching them regular sized. I've had so many requests for a tutorial that I just had to share. So here's how to make one yourself.
What You'll Need:
One of our patterns. We recommend starting with a Pixel Person who doesn't have any fractional stitches on them. For our samples we stitched Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and Lumpy Space Princess.
A pegboard panel (often called 'perforated hardboard') It can be found at most home improvement stores. We get ours in 4x2 foot sheets for $9 each at Rona - a board that size is easily enough for a single, standard-sized Pixel Person. You can often get them pre-painted in white, or - more commonly - in the natural untreated colour.
White paint and a small foam roller - we used a high adhesive primer from Zinsser simply because that's what we had lying around the house leftover from recent renovations and it worked a treat, especially on the smooth surface of the pegboard. The paint is completely optional - if you're able to get pre-primed pegboard, or you don't mind the wood coloured background as is, you won't need the paint at all.
A jigsaw with a blade suitable for cutting masonite (that's what pegboard is made of). Most jigsaws come with an all-purpose blade which will cut just about anything - that's what we used and it worked just fine.
Fine grade sandpaper or a fine grade sanding block.
Safety glasses and a dust mask.
Worsted weight or bulky weight yarn in the appropriate colours. We used worsted weight yarn simply because, as a knitter, I already have tons of it lying around the house and it comes in such a wide range of colours. For this project I used mostly Caron Simply Soft - it's an easy to find brand and it's inexpensive. One skein of yarn in each colour will be more than enough to complete several giant Pixel People. There's no need to use expensive yarn for this project - just use whatever is cheap and plentiful!
Yarn needle - preferably one with a large eye.
Ready to Get Started?
|Just a girl and her jigsaw!|
Firstly, a quick note about using the jigsaw. If you've never used power tools before this might seem super intimidating, but I happen to think this is a great chance for you to start! I come from a long line of woodworkers, so power tools are nothing new to me and I feel comfortable with them. A jigsaw is a small and portable tool so it's a little less scary than the big table saws and it's a tool which I happen to think is totally within the realm of a first-timer. If you can use an electric mixer, waffle iron, or blender then you can use a jigsaw.
Please don't be scared of power tools. Please don't think that you aren't capable of using one. There's a certain kind of satisfaction that comes from mastering the use of such a tool regardless of your experience or gender.
YOU CAN TOTALLY DO THIS.
I cut out all my pegboard, by myself, without any supervision or interference, while wearing a dress and lipstick (and safety glasses and a dust mask - it was a good look). You got this, girl. I have complete faith in you. If, however, you're still not comfortable using a jigsaw by yourself, by all means find someone with some experience using it to help you. Once you see how fun and easy it is, you'll probably want to give it a try too.
You can use hand tools for this project, but you may have problems getting a hand saw in to the little nooks and crannies of the Pixel Person shape. The nice thing about the jigsaw is that the little, thin blade fits into the holes in the pegboard, making it easy to maneuver it to cut the wonky outlines of your Pixel Person.
Alternately, you can just use the sheet of pegboard as is, centering your stitching on the rectangular pegboard the same way you would a piece of fabric.
Step One: The Prep Work
Before you do anything else, you'll want to print up the pattern of the Pixel Person you'll be stitching. The holes in pegboard are most commonly 1 per inch, meaning that our stitches will be 1 inch in size. It's pretty amazing to see cross-stitches so big! The math for figuring out just how large a stitched Pixel Person will be at this scale is simple - if they're 14 stitches wide then they'll be 14 inches wide.
To get the look we're going for you're going to need to cut the pegboard so that it has a border of 1 square all the way around the figure. You need that border so that your stitches are secure. I found it easiest to first draw the cutting line out on the chart so that I could see how everything was going to look and then draw out the shape I wanted to cut directly on to the pegboard to give me cutting guides.
Trace one square all around the edge of the Pixel Person.
You may want to leave some extra 'rows' at the bottom to make your Pixel Person a little taller.
Copy the outline on to the pegboard, making sure it's exact. Don't forget you NEED that border of one square all the way around the design. Double-checking your cutting lines before you start cutting is recommended - once the pegboard is cut, it can't be changed so any mistakes need to be caught ahead of time.
Step Two: The Cutting
It's time to start cutting! You may want to do this step outside or in the garage as the jigsaw can be loud and the sawdust it kicks up does make a mess. You'll want to balance your pegboard on some workhorses or, if you're like me, on the edge of your patio table.
You should ALWAYS wear safety glasses when using power tools and especially when cutting wood. Yes, I know those safety glasses and that dust mask aren't sexy, but safety is -- so embrace it! Masonite pegboard is comprised of pressed wood fibres and when you cut it fine sawdust tends to get everywhere. It's very nasty and abrasive if it gets in your eyes and it can do some serious damage. I do also recommend wearing a dust mask when you cut too - just to keep your beautiful lungs beautiful and free of sawdust.
To start cutting I recommend finding a long stretch of outlined area to start with first. With the jigsaw off, nestle the blade in to one of the holes of the pegboard.
To cut your outline all you need to do is turn the jigaw on and cut from one hole to the next, trying to keep the line as straight as possible - go slowly and take your time. My jigsaw has two cutting speeds - fast and faster. I prefer the lower speed because it gives me more control. Depending on the size of Pixel Person I'm cutting out, this step takes me about twenty minutes start to finish.
I like to stabilize the pegboard with my left hand while the jigsaw is held in my right. Just remember to keep your left hand fingers far away from where you are cutting!
When you get to the end of your straight line turn the jigsaw off but leave it in place. Then just turn the corner, turn the jigsaw back on, and cut to the next turn - repeat that until you get all the way around the lines that you drew.
I like to think about cutting the pegboard as 'connecting the dots' with the jigsaw blade.
Make sure you turn off and unplug the jigsaw when you are done with it (or remove the battery pack if it's cordless). Never ever leave a power tool plugged in when it's not in use and never leave it unattended around children - even when it's unplugged the edges of the blade are sharp and can cause cuts, so please use caution. Power tools should always be stored away from where curious little hands can reach.
Step Three: The Clean-up
|Smooth those edges.|
Before you can start stitching you'll need to clean up your piece of pegboard a little. Depending on your jigsaw blade you may find that the edges of your piece are a little ragged. A quick sand with a fine grit sanding block (or sandpaper) will take care of that little problem. The masonite sands really easily.
Cutting your pegboard kicks up a lot of dust so you'll want to wipe it down with a damp cloth to get off all that dirt and dust.
|Uh Oh! Scratches!|
I was working with pre-primed pegboard to make Lumpy Space Princess, so it was handily already white - but the pegboard I had for Spider-man and Wonder Woman wasn't, so I primed it with my Zinsser primer after I cut out the shape I wanted. It took three coats to get complete coverage.
If you did use pre-primed pegboard you may find that your jigsaw has scratched a little of primed surface while you cut. Mine totally did. So I used a small foam brush and dabbed on a little white paint to cover those scratches.
You can also - if you like - paint the edges of the pegboard white if the raw wood colour bothers you. I did that for Spider-man but don't really think it's necessary. Most people are so focussed on how cool the giant cross-stitch is that they don't even notice the edges.
Don't forget to let all your paint dry before you start stitching!
Step Four: The Stitching
Yay! Congrats for getting this far. All the scary and loud work is over. Now comes the familiar part. Stitching a giant Pixel Person really isn't any different from stitching a regular sized one. Whether the cross-stitches are 14 per inch or just 1 per inch, it's all the same process!
I stitch my giant Pixel People at the kitchen table. For me it was easiest with the pegboard standing vertically. I put a towel down to protect both the surface of my table and the edges of the pegboard. It also make it nicer for clean up, since you may notice that a bit of sawdust has snuck in to the holes of the pegboard and having a towel down catches all that mess.
From here on out things are pretty standard. For my projects I used two really long strands of Worsted weight yarn held together and then doubled over to make four strands -- so you'll want to use a yarn needle with a nice big eye to help you thread it.
If you're not a knitter/crocheter you may not own a yarn needle - you can find them in the same aisle of the craft store as the knitting needles. I like the blue plastic Susan Bates ones - they were just the right size.
When juggling a project this large in size you may find it easiest to use the 'loop method' of anchoring your first stitches (rather than the 'stitch over' or 'waste knot' methods). Doubling over two long strands of yarn gives us a chance to do this.
It may take a few tries to find a length of yarn which works for you and which you find comfortable. Just remember to take your time and try to get all your yarn strands to lie as flat as possible against the pegboard. This is a process known as 'railroading'(because the flat parallel strands of floss look like railroad tracks). People ask me all the time why my stitches look so full and this is my secret: I railroad them. It takes some practice to consciously create your stitches this way, but the more you do it the more proficient you become at the skill, and honestly it makes such a huge difference. You may find this YouTube video on railroading helpful (she starts the demo on railroading at 2:04) - the way she inserts her needle in between the floss strands is exactly the same way I do it. It honestly becomes second nature after a while. It's a little trickier with 4 strands of yarn than it is with 2 strands of floss, but with the stitches SO large on this project, it's well worth the effort.
From here on out all you have to do is cross-stitch, baby.
|Lumpy Space for life!|
The finished project is well worth the effort! We'll be using ours as display pieces when we do conventions and craft shows but they would equally as cute in a kid's room or craft room.
We want to see your giant cross-stitch projects! If you post them on Instagram or Twitter please use the hashtag #weelittlestitches so we can see them too - or post photos on our Facebook page so that everyone can enjoy them.