Attribution note: In this post, I talk about the board game Wingspan, illustrated by Natalia Rojas, Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo, and Beth Sobel. My goal is to contribute to visual culture inspired by the game and honor their artwork, not copy or take credit for it in any way. I noticed that there are not many images online of Wingspan cards, which I am guessing is to preserve intellectual property. I included one below that is a _mockup_ not a photo or a screenshot in the spirit of “a picture is worth a thousand words.” All respect to the artists and game designers. Please buy their game and artwork and never rip it off!

Long time readers may notice that it’s been quiet around these TDAA parts. All I can say is that my family is going through an intense grieving process and it’s too much to share on the internet. I’ve missed blogging and I’m not sure how/when I’ll be back hitting my stride here, but my goal has always been to write from the heart and not on a schedule. So I guess, I’m still living up to that ideal.

Also, I’ve historically written about learning new (to me) technologies that I’ve tinkered with, like…

So in that spirit, I offer a post that’s not about Salesforce, it’s not about nonprofits, it’s not even about spreadsheets (well, in a way it sort of is… but then again EVERYTHING is). It’s about crafting, and coping, and playing, even in the worst of times.

Outside of the game SET and occasionally Sushi Go, I’m not much of a board game player and certainly not a fanatic. But that has begun to change since my partner and I have begun to play a daily game of Wingspan. Friends, we are hooked. We bought all of the expansions, the art prints, and Etsy storage hacks. Our cards are not yet as dog-eared as our dear friends who introduced us to the game… but they aspire to be! As we stumble toward the routine of this daily habit, a slight competitive streak has emerged. My partner and I are vying for top spot, but what does the victor earn?

Hence, I devised a project plan to make intricate cross stitch hoops of our favorite cards, such that the winner gets to hang their hoop on the winner’s hook, and both parties are stuck with the winner’s hoop until the underdog achieves victory.

Friends playing Wingspan.

New creative process, new platform

Turning board game paraphernalia into high-kitsch is not such an easy premise. It required careful math, tradeoffs, visual fallacies, and attention to detail. Two monitors helped, too! This is what led me to the software platform FlossCross, which lets you upload images and use a platform to turn them into pixelated cross stitch charts.

First, I needed to select my favorite card from the game. I used Wingsearch database hosted on Github to narrow down my cards by my favorite attributes (in this case, I was looking for a bird that lives in the Forest or Grasslands, counts for at least 6 points, has a Brown Power, has at least 4 egg slots, and is visually interesting). That is how I ended up with the White-Crested Laughingthrush. Since Wingspan cards are not available online, I found an alternative ornithological illustration in a similar style and combined the image with the card (from Wingsearch) in a Powerpoint slide. I have no training in photo editing, but I know I can do the basic layering in Powerpoint even though more “power-ful” tools are available.

Next, I started my design in FlossCross. I needed to identify the dimensions of the chart, which would ultimately translate to the dimensions of the finished project. I decided to make a chart that 100×140 stitches. With 16 count aida fabric (16 stitches per inch, fairly tight fabric), my finished product would be a little over 6×9 inches. That seemed like a reasonable size to me, without sacrificing too much detail. (Smaller hoop = fewer stitches = less detail).

Next, I uploaded my design screenshot to the FlossCross tool. I wanted to see what the generator would come up with on its own… and… the results were pretty dismal. All of the text was blurry, the “background color” was assigned a stitch (even though I am just going to choose offwhite aida fabric), and the bird had way too many shades of grey (albeit less than 50, thank goodness!). This is what I am calling a “visual fallacy” – even though the direct copy of the card rendered curves a particular way, they didn’t look good to the naked eye, so I had to change the proportions and distort the original scale to get the chart to look the way I want it to, making my best guess about how it will transfer to a hoop when I do the stitching.

Before I worked “by hand” (aka clicking one pixel at a time, or using various “fill” tools in FlossCross), I wanted to reduce the number of colors that FlossCross was allowed to use, because the default produced too many similar shades. It’s just not worth it to buy that many colors of floss and I don’t think the gradations are very visually interesting for a pattern like this (which is not meant to look anatomically realistic). (FlossCross has the advantage… over a tool like MS Paint or even a spreadsheet… that all of the colors are integrated with the color library of the most robust embroidery floss company).

Once I had the colors limited to gallery of 15 choices, I went back in with detail tools and hand filled the lettering areas, making the letters bigger (proportionally to the source image) and taking some liberties with the font (keeping the same mood). I also reshaped the curves for the eggs and the cup nest and simplified the food icons. Later on, I decided I would be replacing the food icons with three dimensional charms that I would sew on, so I did not add the food icons to the bottom area of the card.

Here’s what I came up with!

(Hopefully I can update this blog post in a few months when the hoops are complete).

Lo and behold, a tech community emerges

As I was researching more about FlossCross for this blog post, I ended up on a Reddit forum where devotees of FlossCross ask the developers/product managers for feature requests, support, and general discussion.

A community – created exactly 2 years ago (by the time you all read this, it will be March 6 or later!) – to ask hard questions and grapple with technology and creative process. How neat is that?!

I really enjoyed scrolling through questions such as… “Will you ever consider open source for the platform?” (answer: probably not, boo) and “Can you include a thread yardage estimator?” (answer: probably yes). I also learned that one of the tools that I used in FlossCross (straight line generator) is a relatively new feature!

This blog post is nerd^zillionth degree. I hope you all found some quirk or connection here that will bring you happiness in the week to come. My big lesson is… it’s ok to take a break from blogging and soothe myself with deep crafting. And when I get into deep crafting, perhaps it brings me back to the blog after all!

Wishing you warmth and goodness. Not sure when I’ll be back here, but I hope it is soon for all of our sake! xo

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