Male Embroiderers

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Marshall Thompson - X Annie Stretch

Marshall “Sailormouth” Thompson is one of the few embroiderers I’ve seen who incorporates the frame as a part of his work, making them from scratch to add to his clever cross stitches. It’s a great idea and I hope it inspires others to try the same.
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It's another Stitchgasm from Mr X Stitch - the home of contemporary embroidery

Big up to fellow manbroiderer James Fox, who produced this epic quilt called “The Way” for submission to the European Patchwork Meeting International Contest. It’s dope as hell.

James Fox- The Way - Quilt


Gear Threads Is The Mr X Stitch Machine Embroidery Column - Presented By Urban Threads!

There’s something magical about the combination of embroidery and animation — each frame slowly and artfully crafted, adding up to an embroidered work that comes to life in in a unique way.

Elliot Schultz is an animator and digital artist living in Melbourne, Australia who studied as an exchange student at the Rhode Island School of Design (where artists can study machine embroidery). All of this has rolled together in a truly stunning project — a collection of embroidered zoetropes.


A zoetrope is a filmless animation technique that uses a rotating series of images to created the illusion of motion. Schultz embroidered fabric discs with several such series of images, then “played” them on a turntable to reveal the pictures in motion.


See more about the project on Colossal, and read the story behind it at Schultz’s site!


Urban Threads - Unique and Awesome Machine Embroidery DesignsGear Threads is brought to you from the offbeat gals at Urban Threads. Created by illustrator Niamh O’Connor, Urban Threads is revolutionizing machine embroidery one edgy, elegant, innovative, and/or offbeat design at a time. Discover the future of digital stitchery at



eMbroidery – Johan Ronstrom

by Mr X on 18 July 2015

eMbroidery - A Series Of Interviews With Men Who Stitch

Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Johan Ronstrom.

Johan Ronstrom - Mario Xmas Upcycled Cross Stitch


Johan Ronström


Stockholm, Sweden

Main embroidery medium:

I go to thrift stores and buy existing cross stitch projects that look unwanted and sad. I then modify them by removing subjects and then adding 8-bit game sprites.

I like to challenge myself in finding subjects and colors that best complement the original, so it is the the thrift store loot that dictates each project.

Johan Ronstrom - Metroid Upcycled Cross Stitch

Noteworthy projects or pieces:

I haven’t done a lot yet, but the piece I get most reactions to is the Pokémon Wall Hanging. That is also the one that took the longest to make. I considered using my personal favorite Pokémon (Ponyta, Jigglypuff, Vulpix and Oddish), but I ended up choosing the characters I knew people would recognize the most (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle and Pikachu). The one I was most surprised getting a lot of reactions to is the Angry Bird. That was my first non-8-bit one, and it’s also the one that interacts the most with the original subject. The most recent one is of course a favorite too, Samus and the Metroid, where I’m really pleased with how the colors work together!

How did you come to be an embroiderer?

I remember trying out cross stitching with my grandmother when I was 7 or 8 years old, and I thought it was fascinating, but I didn’t have the focus to get in to it then. I also didn’t feel like I could relate to any of the subjects.

It was when I realized that I easily could cross stitch pixels, and saw what other pixel-people was doing with perlers, mosaic and needlework that I gave it a try.

The first one I did was the “Old School” Megaman. The reason I did it on a second hand cloth was because I was to cheap to buy something new. I really didn’t think it was a big deal, I still don’t, but the reactions I got made me do more of them. I realized quickly that the funnest part for me was to merge the sprites into the folky originals. I also felt like while others also cross stitch pixels, this was kind of my own thing.

What does it mean to you?

For me, embroidering is the perfect combination! It is relaxing and not overly demanding, great both after a day of sitting in front of a screen and before a night of performing on stage as a musician. I get to make things with my hands that don’t require a lot of space and power tools. I also don’t feel the pressure as I do creating music.

I love the simplicity of the 8-bit sprite, as I do the 8-bit music (I also have had a 8-bit band), and the way it marries the traditional expression is perfect for me! It’s great how the relatively small amount of work can make such an impact.

Johan Ronstrom - I Want To Believe Upcycled Cross Stitch

Where do you like to work?

At home, or when traveling. Mostly in the couch, in front of HBO.


How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?

People are mostly surprised, positively surprised, but surprised nonetheless. The surprise can be fun, but it’s also quite tiresome. The first reaction is mostly “Oh, do you do embroidery!?”. I reckon this is the same feeling my female friends get when they tell guys that they are gamers..

I do a lot of stuff that could be considered “un-manly”, I play traditional music, I dance folk dance (and even did classical ballet for a while). I like to cook and tend the garden, but the embroidering seems to be the thing people have the hardest time wrapping their head around. Perhaps people are more used to guys experimenting with ballet, than willingly do needlework like some kind of Sansa Stark.

Who inspires you?

The most obvious inspiration is of course the graphics of the games, anyone that can do so much with so little.

But what inspire me the most is people that can give new meaning by remixing, like for example Banksy’s street art!

A few other’s I’m into right now is Shawn Wasabi’s mashups, OMFO’s remixes of Romanian folk music and Pogo’s Alice in Wonderland video remix.

A big inspiration right now is working with my band “Folk All-in Band” that does big band arrangements of traditional Swedish folk music! It’s super inspiring!

Johan Ronstrom - Jul - Upcycled Cross Stitch

Are your current images new ones or have you used them before?

I do all sprites exactly as they are in the games, I spend quite a lot of time finding the ones I think fits canvas best, but I wouldn’t want to do the same sprite twice.

How has your life shaped or influenced your work?

In every possible way! I’m a gamer nerd since childhood, and embroidering has given me a chance to re-connect with my old time friends Mario, Link and Samus. I’m also a folk musician who has played folk music since childhood and been in close contact with all sorts of folk culture since then. My embroidery is a merge between the two.

What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work?

I had to learn to appreciate the work of the original artists who convey a lot of information with very limited tools. Computer graphics has evolved immensely the last decades yet the old games communicate great stories with a lot less pixels than you see today.

I really try to get the feeling of the original embroidery before I choose subjects, yarn, colors and technique, and I have learned a lot from studying the originals I buy.

I like to think about how “pixel” stands for “picture element”, and how stitches has been picture elements long before computers came around.

Johan Ronstrom - Angry Birds Upcycled Cross Stitch

Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you?

Perspective and art history interest me, but not their concerns 😉

I don’t see myself as an artist, in the same sense the people who created the traditional folk embroidery pieces probably didn’t. I do remixes of folk art, as opposed to fine art. However the way people react when they see the subjects mixed together is greatly rewarding, and maybe that’s where the art is born.

What do your choice of images mean to you?

The game sprites I choose are mainly nostalgic. The games meant a lot to me as a child and still do. But I also choose images that people will recognize to get a reaction. People that see my work may get the same nostalgic reaction as me, either from the 8-bit part that I added or from the original folk embroidery, so different people react to different aspects of the pieces. I also choose the images that will suit the material that I found.

Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us?

Don’t look at the back of the embroidery 😉

Johan Ronstrom

How do you hope history treats your work?

I hope they don’t cut away my work, like I did… 😉

Maybe that they people are inspired to do further remixing.

Where can we find you and your work?

Right now most of my embroideries are on display at the National Museum for Science and Technology in Stockholm. But usually they hang in my own apartment. On my website I have posted before and after pictures, and wrote a little about every piece. Also feel free to follow me on twitter @johanronstrom.


eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.

If you are, or know of, a male embroiderer that we should interview as part of this series, contact us!