Forever21’s Thread Screen

Contemporary embroidery art via Mr X Stitch

Some pretty clever stuff for you in this Edge post. Clothing Company Forever21 commissioned the Thread Screen, an amazing device that used 6400 reels of coloured thread to project Instagram photos. I could try and explain it to you, but I’ll just leave it to the designers…

Forever21's Thread Screen

A Feat of Engineering
Over a year and a half in the making, the F21 Thread Screen is one of the most complex machines ever built for a brand. It’s comprised of over 200,000 parts – over 8 times what you’d find in your car. Every component, from the thousands of motors and gears, to the 600 pounds of milled aluminum, to the lathed wooden spools – all have been custom designed, engineered, and manufactured from scratch. Despite the massive complexities living under the hood, the result is a beautiful and simple looking display that is mesmerizing to watch.

Forever21's Thread Screen

How it Works
Each spool has a 5 1/2 foot long piece of threaded fabric that rolls over top of it, similar to a conveyor belt. The fabric is made up of 36 colors, each 1 3/4 inches in length. Instagrams that are hashtagged with #F21ThreadScreen are automatically captured and optimized for the screen’s 80×80 resolution, then each spool’s motor drives the fabric to it’s appropriate color. Each ribbon also features a reflective strip which is scanned by an infrared sensor, which tells the machine the color each spool is currently showing, allowing for corrections for any slip that may occur.

Some Stats
• 200,000 total parts – 8 times what goes into a modern car
• 6.7 miles of threaded fabric – enough to cross the Brooklyn Bridge 6 times
• 6,400 spools – stacked on top of each other, they’d be taller than the London Eye
• 2,000 lb / 900 kg

It’s a massive technical project and it’s worth watching the behind-the-scenes video to see how they did.

I believe it’s still running, so why not add #F21ThreadScreen to your instagrams and give everyone a treat! There are loads of examples on the ThreadScreen YouTube channel as well – they’re so clever!


The Cutting (& Stitching) Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery,
the contemporary embroidered art book curated by Jamie Chalmers.
Featuring 30 textile-based artists from around the world, it’s a must have for needlework fans.
Click on the image to buy your copy from our Amazon store!