It’s been a year and two days since I started this project.
I have loved Voltron since I was a kid. Even though I am firmly on Team Sven, there was something appealing about the fact that they let A GIRL into their cool robot lion club! She wears a pink spacesuit, which is kind of bullshit, but whatever, she’s flying that lion like a badass!
Also, lions are cool. And 5 lions that form a giant robot? What’s not cool about that?
I have Voltron coloring book that managed to survive all these years. I can’t currently locate it because I am a hot slob who will certainly become a hoarder eventually, but I do have one. My original plan for this was to find a good image of Voltron in the coloring book and scan it to the pattern-making software and add color that way.
Since I can’t find the coloring book, I had to think again. There were surprisingly few usable images of classic Voltron online. There are TONS of the reboots and offshoots and fan-made art and all sorts of other things (and I fell into a slightly disturbing fan-art hole that had a lot of um, group sex scenes), but not the image I was looking for.
After probably a solid three hours of scrolling through images, I found the one I wanted.
At some point, I lost the original info about it so I can’t give credit to the originator of this image but I’m grateful that it’s out there. I uploaded this image to a pattern-making program called C-Stitch. It’s a super-ultra-basic open-source thing that takes an image and digitizes it.
It’s not the smartest bit of code, because it doesn’t just see “black,” it sees 50 shades of god knows what, from lightest grey to actual black. So the image as uploaded was messy and fuzzy and had I known going into it how much work it was going to be JUST TO GET A USABLE IMAGE, I might not have done it.
But I am nothing if not determined, and this has been a project I’ve wanted to do in some form or another for well over a decade. AND, a year ago I was just over a month from graduating college, so it was OBVIOUSLY the time to procrastinate schoolwork and take on a giant craft project.
Eventually, I settled into a rhythm with the image editing. I limited the number of colors to 50 (down from something like 300 in the initial upload) and that made some of the details blocky, but I could work with that. I homogenized a lot of the color blocks and smoothed out some of the fuzzier bits, and I went all the way around and changed all the fuzzy 50-shades-of-“black” outlines to ACTUAL BLACK. Finally landed on 43 colors.
Holy shit, that was a lot of work. It took approximately 50 hours to edit this thing. At the very very very very end of the process, when I was trying to do the final tweaks and edits, the pattern file decided to shit its pants. Praise be to Past Me and whatever gods of my ancestors that I was saving regularly (make a change, save. Make a change, save. Lather, rinse, repeat) and I had a good file that was about 99.5% edited. It’s not perfect but the things that aren’t quite perfect are easy enough to work around. It’s mostly rogue stitches here and there that didn’t get changed to the right color. If I’d had to start over from scratch, I’d be writing this from the insane asylum because I’m pretty sure I would have gone completely ‘round the twist.
But it was stitchable, and that’s all that matters. 237 pattern pages.
Cross-stitch fabric (Aida) comes in different sizes. Most of what you’ll see in big-box craft stores will be as low as 11-count (squares per inch) up to 22 or even 24-count. The number of squares per inch determines how big your finished image is going to be, so I had to do some math.
The pattern ended up being 564 stitches wide by 1129 stitches high. It’s MASSIVE. I put my numbers into an online calculator for 14-count Aida and it basically laughed at me. So I fiddled with it until I came up with a fabric count that would be almost reasonable: 22-count. Any number higher than that, and I’d go blind trying to see what I’m doing.
It was not at all surprising that I had to special-order that fabric.
Then I ordered all the floss. With the help of the internet and the pattern software telling me how many stitches of each color I would eventually be making, I was able to do a whole bunch of math and figure out how many skeins of each color floss I would need.
$250 later, I had what I needed. Almost 200 skeins of floss. Some colors I needed 12 or more of, and those came in boxes. The rest of it came in a bag all jumbled together, which is AWESOME, let me tell you.
So I got my special-order fabric that had been woven by elves in Norway or similar, I got my six billion miles of thread, I had some needles and bobbins and a cool box to organize it all. I had three papers to write and two exams to study for, so obviously I started stitching.
Lots and lots an lots of cross-stitchers start in the middle of the fabric and work their way out to the edges. Looking back, that is probably what I should have done but whatever, I live dangerously. I don’t knit gauge swatches and I don’t start cross-stitching in the middle! I started at the top of the sword, after A WHOLE BUNCH OF MEASURING and some praying and some math and a few choice swear words.
That’s the first stitch. May 10, 2018.
Below is the most recent pic, from March 25th, 2019. I have made a bit more progress since this was taken but I haven’t taken another full photo yet.
That’s a pink Starburst (the 2nd-best flavor) for scale. This photo represents 10.5 months of active stitching, averaging around 2 hours a day. I don’t work on it EVERY day, but sometimes I get in a groove and stab away at it for hours on end. So this right here is roughly 600 hours of work and it’s about 25% done. I think I’ll finish it sometime in 2022.
The finished object is going to be 27 inches wide and 53 inches tall. It is 43 colors. It will be over 250,000 stitches.
What am I going to DO with it? I have had offers to buy it, but there is NO WAY I’m selling this. Ever. When it’s done, I will clean it and pray the colors don’t bleed, and then I will frame it, and change my last will and testament to ensure that I AM BURIED WITH IT because I am 100% taking this with me when I go.
If you’re interested in following along via Instagram, I’m @pieceofyourlife. You’ll get shots of Voltron in progress along with too many pics of my two idiot dogs and my jackass cat.