PlanetJune Craft Blog

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classic Tetris in cross stitch

tetris cross stitch embroideries

I like to have a relaxing craft project to work on over the holidays, to give me a complete break from work and designing. In December 2011, I’d hoped to do some knitting, but you have to learn to keep plans flexible when you live in Africa: the knitting needles I ordered from my local shop in November didn’t arrive until the following March(!), so I had to change my plans. Instead, I returned to one of my oldest crafty pleasures: cross stitch.

Long before I taught myself to crochet, my crafts of choice were polymer clay, candlemaking, and counted cross-stitch. I used to buy cross stitch kits, and then, later, bought software that let me design my own charts. Now I know my way around Illustrator, I can design my own charts, from scratch – much more satisfying 🙂

I like the idea of 8-bit art – basing a design on pixelated video game graphics makes it so easy to replicate the original – but I wanted to give it my own twist. So, I came up with a Tetris design to stitch in 4 shades of green to mimic the original classic 2-bit black and white (actually light green and dark green – or ‘pea soup’ colours according to Wikipedia!) Game Boy version.

And here’s the result: 10,000 perfect little stitches of geeky relaxation.

tetris cross stitch embroidery

To give this design a very small amount of meaning, the falling block has a little built-in life metaphor: do you take the easy road by dropping the block straight down and completing two lines, or do you hold out for the big rewards by shifting it one space to the left first, and hoping a straight piece comes along soon so you can complete a tetris? (I’d hold out for the tetris every time!)

The original Game Boy Tetris is still the best version of the game (although I may be biased – it was my only game for months, until I could afford to buy Super Mario Land too – and I’ve probably logged hundreds of hours of gameplay on it). I have a Tetris game for my DS, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the classic music and Russian dancing men from the original.

I considered making a companion piece showing the full band and all the dancing men, but that would need the full height of the Game Boy screen (144 pixels) – almost half as many stitches again as the first piece! I decided that’d be too much work, but, when the holidays next rolled around, guess what I started designing..?

tetris cross stitch embroidery
Can you hear the music?

I’d figured out how to draw symbol-coded cross-stitch charts in Illustrator and charted each piece fully before I started to work on it:

tetris cross stitch chart (partial) by June Gilbank

Doesn’t my chart look great? I’d hoped to eventually release both patterns as Donationware, but the issues of trademark infringement and unlicensed patterns made that idea too difficult to pursue further, so I guess my charts will never see the light of day. But at least I know how to create perfect professional-quality cross stitch charts now – you never know when that’ll come in handy!

This turned into a really long-term project. During my second Christmas of working on the second piece, I posted this wip photo (rotated so as not to give the game away):

tetris cross stitch work in progress

I was still working on it last Christmas, and it’s taken until now to complete, wash, press and mount both pieces.

tetris cross stitch - back
The back of the second piece – I love how the back of cross stitch embroideries look almost as good as the front, and have their own patterns that you don’t see from the front.

And finally, 4 years of holiday crafting and 24,800 stitches after I embarked on this project, they’re ready to hang in my office/studio! It took a lot of patience to reach this point, but I think it was worth it:

tetris cross stitch embroideries

They’re a perfect fit for the narrow wall space to the right of the window. The only question left is which should hang above the other: like this…

tetris cross stitch embroideries

…or like this…

tetris cross stitch embroideries

I really can’t decide! Which do you prefer?

Either way, I love them. And now I’ll get to see my Tetris wall hangings every day, and have a moment of happy nostalgia every time I look at them. 🙂


  1. Yaney said

    Wow! These are just amazing! I loved playing tetris but hate it that my younger brother always beat my score. I prefer the first layout with the falling bricks on top.

  2. Jenny said

    Oh, and I forgot to mention: It depends on how much trouble I’m in…if I’m close to the top and need to free up some rows quick, I might go straight down there, but here, I think I’d wait for the stick. I might also even flip it and put it a few spaces over to the right. That’d have to be some quick button pushing though, it’s already a bit low for that move.

    Let us not forget the shgloo shgloo sound of rotating the shapes 😉

  3. Jenny said

    Oh. My. God.

    I am sitting here breathless. I want that Tetris piece. Specifically, I want to make a wall-hanging of my own.

    June!!!! What an inspiration! I can’t tell you how deeply satisfying those perfect crisp clean lines are. I was a Tetris nut. N-U-T. Nut. Maybe not as much as others, I never did beat it, was there even a way to win besides just personal bests? I don’t recall the dancing men, so I’m wondering if they appeared when you won? Or perhaps they are from a different version? I had an original gameboy (and so did my brother, but I only got mine so he wouldn’t have to share his), and my mom was generous enough to buy me a few more games for it (she’s quite generous still to this day). Anyway, I spent a TON of time playing Tetris and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

    Many years later, about 4 years ago, I found my brother’s gameboy, Tetris and SML2 in my mom’s attic. Believe it or not, the batteries still had juice, so I fired up a game of SML2. Still just as enjoyable.

    Anyway, I don’t comment here much, but your Tetris piece is so moving. I’d say I prefer the second layout myself, but I’d off-set the two pieces. Top one a bit to the right of center, the bottom one a bit to the left of center, but that’s me. I like a little asymmetry and subtle movment in my decor. Plus, in this case, I feel it would nicely complement the stair-stepping happening in both pieces.

  4. Margo said

    I never played Tetris on a Gameboy. The only game I played was a 3D version called Frac, until I updated to Windows 7 and the program wouldn’t work. I really miss that game. I prefer the first arrangement.

  5. Ruth said

    These are great -I played Gameboy tetris too! My preference is picture one, the square above the rectangle. Looks as if the tetris piece is going to fall all the way down into Super Mario Land.

  6. Becky said

    So very cool! I wish that you were able to sell the patterns. I would definitely be interested, even though I never had an original Gameboy, so I don’t get the dancing Russian men music one. Anyway, I agree with others – the second option of the wall hanging seems more right to me.

  7. Deborah said

    I love the colors. I fondly remember my son playing on his game boy on long car rides. These turned out fantastic

  8. Carol said

    I agree, these are absolutely incredible! I remember playing this is years past and enjoyed it. I hope you have fond memories when you catch a glimpse of them during your day.

    By the way I like the second way you displayed them. Somehow it just seems more congruent.

    All the best.

  9. Lindy said

    Absolutely incredible! Wonderful meticulous work – really beautiful. So glad you enjoyed making them, and now they look brilliant hanging on your wall.
    I think I prefer the second photo, but they’re both great.
    Love, Lindy xx

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