Introduction: QR-Code Cross Stitch Patch

About: I'm a 33 year old librarian, who's into more things than I care to admit.

My partner and I recently got some fancy new phones and one of the applications on there was to use a barcode scanner to read QR-codes.  He showed me how by just filling in a little web form you can create this code and you can embed any kind of information in it in pretty much any language on earth.  I jokingly said, "man that would be perfect for cross stitch."  At which point the gauntlet was thrown and I had to do it.  So what follows are the instructions on how to cross stitch your own business card patch for your coat.

Step 1: Supplies

What you'll need to do this are:

* An internet accessible computer
* An image manipulation program (GIMP is what I use here)
* Paper
* Scissors
* 6 inches of Cross Stitch Canvas
* an embroidery hoop
* 1 skein of black embroidery thread
* an embroidery needle
* Heavy duty fusible interfacing
* Pencil
* An iron
* An ironing board
* White cotton thread
* (optional but highly recommended) sewing machine
* A red or orange marker (any color will do, but these show up best and allow you to see what you're doing)
* A rugged piece of clothing like a sweat jacket or coat

Step 2: Making the Code

A quick Google search for a QR code generator will yield a good chunk of results.  There are a couple good ones for making a business card.  In this illustration I use the example code from the ZXing website.  Super simple, just fill out the form, push the button and bam, you've got your code.  Next is the hard part.

Step 3: Scaling the Image

Using GIMP (the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, free software, free to download), open your image.  If you have Photoshop, I have no idea how to help you.

Resize the image to 500 pixels. This will make things uniformly sized.  To do this use the menu bar at the top go to Image > Scale Image  and you'll get the dialogue box.  Change both height and width to 500 pixels.  To finish click "Scale."

Step 4: Put a Grid on It

Now we add the grid.  From the menu bar go to Filters > Render > Pattern > Grid.  You'll want to make the width of the grid lines 1 pixel in both directions, the spacing between lines 10 pixels in both directions, and you'll probably have to play with the offsetting to get the grid to line up exactly right.  The one in this example had to be moved 4 pixels in both directions and 6 at the intersection.  Just playing around with the gridlines once they've been equalized is easy enough though.  Once you've got everything lined up click "OK."

Now save that image and print it out.  From there you've got your cross stitch pattern.

Step 5: Stretching the Canvas

Now you'll want to get out your cross stitch canvas, the embroidery hoop, black embroidery thread and the embroidery needles.

Start by unlocking the embroidery hoop, unwinding the little bolt at the top of the hoop to loosen the frame.  I use a wooden frame, but plastic is just fine too.  Now remove the springy hoop from the solid hoop.  Sit the solid hoop down on a flat surface like a table and place the cross stitch canvas over it so that has an even drape all the way around.*  Now take the springy hoop and press it over the canvas like a wood and canvas sandwich.  Press it down so that the two hoops are aligned and then tighten the bolt on the top of the springy frame.  

* Don't worry about the hoop being round and the canvas being square.  The hoop is just to give the fabric enough tension so that the sewing holds its shape.  

Step 6: Cross-Stitching Skills

Okay, now take out your embroidery thread and cut a length of it that's about 10 inches long, at most.  Embroidery thread is actually made up of 6 strands of smaller threads that are loosely wrapped together.  You'll want to pull out 2 of those 6 strands at a time to work with.  Be careful to pull them apart slowly so that it doesn't get all tangled up.  Thread those two strands into the eye of your embroidery needle, pull about two inches through and then flatten those two inches away from the point of the needle with the rest of the thread. 

Tip 1. I tend to use my own spit to moisten the thread and hold it together (that's what my grandmother taught me).  Just run the thread through your mouth until it holds together.

At the tail end of the thread you'll want to make a small but bulky knot.  I recommend doing a triple slipknot.  Basically make a circle and pull the tail end of the thread through that circle three times and pull it tight.  It'll make that small but bulky knot that won't pull through your canvas.

Now you're ready to begin sewing.

Now take a good hard look at the canvas.  You can see that it's full of tiny little holes that follow a grid pattern.  Those will be your guide lines as you follow along with the pattern that we made just a minute ago. 

Cross-stitch is probably the easiest sewing you'll ever learn how to do.  It's called cross stitch because what you're doing is making little X's (crosses) all over the place and those X's then make shapes, in this case they'll make a QR code. 

In the upper left hand corner of the fabric press the point of the needle through the bottom side of the fabric and up through to the top via one of the small holes.  Pull the thread all the way through till your knot catches in the back of the fabric.  Now press the point of the needle into the hole on the opposite corner of the square from where you began so that when finished you make a tiny little line like this: /

Follow the grid pattern you have printed out.

For every black square you will make a line: / and for every white square you will leave it blank.  Do this until you come to the end of the first row of boxes in your pattern.

Tip 2. scrape the tip of your needle along the back side of the fabric to help give you a visual aid so that you come to the proper hole.

Once you have completed your row of ///////  / /  / /// / / etc., then you will start to double back to make the X's.  In the hole directly below the top of your last /, press the needle up and through that hole in the canvas and down through the hole on the opposite end of the square to make a line \.  Continue back down the entirety of the row until you have crossed every line you made.  Your finished line will look something like this:


Tip 3.  Always stitch in the same direction.  If your lower stitches start from bottom left to upper right, then always make that the lower, and bottom right to top left for the upper stitches.  This will make for a cleaner looking piece, and people will think you've got skill as well as fancy style! 

When you come to the end of your thread (usually the last 1.5-2 inches, you'll want to bind it off in the back side of the fabric.  To do this you run the needle and thread through the back side of the work you've done to lock the loose thread in place.  Be careful to not run through the canvas or to the front side of the piece as that can mess everything up.  Once you've got a good piece of it .5 inch at least locked under previous work you can trim off the remainder and not worry about it falling out or pulling out from the front side.

Tip 4. To make binding your thread easier, find the places where the back stitches have created X's and run the thread up between those strands.  They're easy to get under, and they'll tighten the front up a bit too.

Step 7: Using the Grid Pattern

Each line in the QR-code is unique, but because it's all just black and white it's very easy to get lost in the white noise of the page.  As you finish off each row in the piece, use a red or orange marker to cross out the lines you've completed.  I recommend red or orange for two reasons:

1. They're bold colors and easy to see and
2. They won't obscure the squares above so that you don't lose track of easy reference points as you go along the new line. 

Step 8: Making the Patch

Alright, you've finished sewing your QR-code cross stitch.  Pull it out of that frame and lets make it solid. 

Get out your fusible interfacing.  I recommend getting a thick, heavy one that requires a hot dry iron (Pellon is what I used here).  Thick and stiff are good, because it means the patch will want to lay flat as much as possible which will make it easier to scan. 

Place your finished QR-code cross stitch piece under the interfacing and using a pencil draw a border around it on all sides that's about .5-.75 inches.  Pull out your cross stitch piece and set it aside.  Now cut your fusible interfacing as you've drawn it.

Place the fusible interfacing on the BACK side of your cross stitch, centering the interfacing over your QR-code giving it the full half inch margins.  Now fold over the loose ends of your canvas using the interfacing as a guide, and press those ends with your thumbs.  You'll want to fold the corners in and under the long sides.  Pull the interfacing out of your piece and continue to press those sides until they start to hold that shape.  You may want to trim off some of the excess canvas, but make sure you leave at least a half an inch on the back side as well as the front.  You don't want the piece to come unhinged or start unraveling.

Step 9: Fusing

Get our your iron and ironing board.  Make sure that there is NO water in your iron or it will totally mess this up. 

Make sure your iron is nice and hot, because we're doing pressing and heating. 

Place the canvas cross stitch piece without the interfacing on the ironing board.  Press the edges and corners of your canvas so that they lie relatively flat.  Put the iron to the side for a moment.

Align the interfacing so that it covers most all of the piece including the folded bits, but does not run off the edge.  If it does go off the edge, then trim it again so that it does not go over.  Place it shiny side down onto the back side of the cross stitch canvas  Now press and hold the iron onto the piece slowly moving it back and forth until the interfacing has solidly fused to the canvas.  

This will hold all your stitchwork in place as well as keep the code part flat on a garment. 

Step 10: Binding

As an extra precaution I would also recommend using a sewing machine to bind the edge of the interfacing to the canvas.  This step is optional, but again, recommended.  I set it to a zig-zag stitch going around the outer edge where the interfacing met the edge of the patch.

Use white thread so that it won't interfere with the barcode reader.

Step 11: Adding to a Garment

Once you've completed the patch you can then attach it to a piece of clothing like a jacket, coat, or even a pair of jeans.  When attaching always use white thread only, so as not to interfere with the barcode reader.   I've put one on a coat pocket and one on the chest on a sweat jacket.  I'm thinking that the back of a jacket would be best because it would have less tendency to warp or bend on the back.  That is unless you wear a backpack of course.

Keep in mind when placing the patch on a piece of clothing that if you spill something on it that obscures the code it may no longer be readable.  So be careful!

That's it.  I hope you enjoyed it.