Taking guesswork out of embroidery

Cross-stitch: M&R Technologies' PCStitch 5 allows users to create patterns from scratch.

July 12, 1999|By Ruth Hakulin | Ruth Hakulin,Sun Staff

If you're one of the 250,000 men, women and children who enjoys the ancient art of needlepoint, you may have a high-tech friend you never knew about -- your computer.

As an avid cross-stitcher who occasionally dabbles in embroidery, I've bought hundreds of counted cross-stitch books, charts, patterns and kits over the past 40 years. But I've always run into a problem -- it's almost impossible to create needlepoint pictures of family, pets, friends or special items from scratch.

For example, I have a relative who wants me to create a Russian Orthodox cross in shades of blue and gold. Try finding that one in the pattern catalogs! Well, the problem is solved, thanks to a $59.95 program called PCStitch 5 from M&R Technologies of Dayton, Ohio.

Besides allowing you to create a pattern from scratch, the latest version of this software turns a scanned picture (a photo, magazine print or your favorite drawing) into a charted pattern -- complete with symbols for each colors and the corresponding floss numbers (regardless of whether you're using DMC, Anchor or Coates brands of thread).

PCStitch tells you how many skeins of each color floss you need to complete the project. Once you're done, all you have to do is buy the materials and then sew to your heart's content.

What do you need to get started? First you'll need a personal computer running Windows 95/98 with 8 megabytes of memory, 15 megabytes of hard disk space and a CD-ROM drive. To use your pictures, you'll need a digital camera or scanner -- or a friend who has one and can scan the photo for you. Some photo-finishers can also perform this service. You may also find a photo you like on the World Wide Web -- just save it to your hard drive.

Once you've installed the PCStitch program, simply scan the image you want, following the instructions -- which a novice can follow -- and in a minute your charted pattern, in black-and-white or color, is ready.

I tried an earlier release of PCStitch four years ago and loved it, but Version 5 is much more capable and easier to use.

Besides scanning capability, Version 5 provides an improved design screen with a grid of squares and a variety of painting and drawing tools that allow you to make your pattern, choosing your colors, stitch types and symbols.

At any time you can switch to a viewer that shows you what the finished pattern will look like when it's stitched.

The manual drawing process is time-consuming, but the results are impressive. I used the old version of PCStitch to enter a contest for DMC's 100th anniversary. To meet the deadline, I need an original cross-stitch design, charted pattern and a photograph of the finished product. I learned I was a finalist and later received an honorable mention certificate. I was elated -- and I couldn't have done it without PCStitch.

If you don't want to create a pattern from scratch, you can buy patterns on disk from M&R and several other vendors. Many users also post their patterns online.

Whether you do embroidery or cross-stitch for relaxation, therapy or as a business, PCStitch can eliminate guesswork and produce some amazing results.

A nonprinting demonstration version of PCStitch is available on M&R's Web site (www.pc stitch.com). For more information, call 800-800-8517.

Ruth Hakulin is newsroom administrator of The Sun. Send e-mail to ruth.hakulin@baltsun.com.

Pub Date: 07/12/99

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