Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mario Pillow - Finished!!!

At long last, the infamous "Mario Pillow" is DONE!!!

Mario Pillow (1)
Mario Pillow (5)

I began this project last June, intending to finish it by the end of the summer -- HA!!! I had come across Gege Crochet's "Mario Obsession Blanket" while rummaging around Ravelry, looking for a good project. My husband was sitting on the couch with me and looked over and saw the picture.

"OH MY GOD!!!" he shouted. "Can you make that?!?!?!" "Um . . ." I replied, "maybe not a whole blanket, but maybe a smaller version of that, ok?"
I started reading through her blog posts about it, seeing if she had patterns or instructions, and read that she had used Tunisian crochet. "Nevermind," I said initially, as I didn't know how to crochet, nor had I ever HEARD of Tunisian crochet. But I love my husband dearly, so I overcame by fear of the unknown and of failure, and ventured on.
Turns out, Tunisian crochet is so EASY! For those of you who have never tried, it's basically a cross between knitting and crochet. I won't try explaining it, but I learned it in about a day, thanks to the gods at YouTube.I also found a Tunisian group on which also answered a lot of my questions once I got started.

The great thing I learned about Tunisian crochet, and why it is such a good technique for video game patterns like this, is that the stitches are square. Knitted stitches are rectangular, so a pattern with square pixels will look stretched out when knitted.


I let Chris choose which Mario "scene" he wanted, and he chose a castle level fighting King Bowser. I found some great background and character images online, and for most of them I was able to copy and paste them right into the Photoshop.

I did a small test to figure out my gauge, and played around in Photoshop to see how much of a "scene" I could fit onto a small, pillow-sized pattern. I calculated that for a 30"x30" pillow (big and huggable!) I would need a pattern 100x100 pixels. Here's what I came up with!

(Mario has just jumped over Bowser and is about to WIN!!!)

In order to take digital patterns with me, I do the following:
  • Turn on the grid in Photoshop (a grid line for every pixel, and a thicker line every 10 pixels) and zoom in all the way
  • Click "print screen" on the keyboard and paste the picture into Microsoft Publisher (I find it easier to print and manipulate in Publisher, though I guess you could paste it back into a printable-sized Photoshop file). This way, you can print the image with the grid easily visible. It takes a few screenshots to get the whole image, because you're zoomed in so far.
  • Position the images on the document and print. I ended up printing this project on big 11x14 paper on the printer at work.


I have a confession . . . I like cheap yarn. I don't make fancy sweaters for fancy people. I make hats and gloves, meant to get snowed on; I make quilt squares for charity blankets, meant to be tossed on the floor by rowdy teenagers; and I make baby booties and jumpers, meant to be puked on. I don't waste my money on fancy yarn. And as I began to realize how big this pillow was going to be, I realized I had to do some comparison shopping for cheap yarn. I settled on Vanna's Choice, mainly because they had all the 8-bit colors I needed, and because I could order it in bulk from I had some Amazon coupons, and I stumbled across a "buy 3 get one free" promotion, plus the free shipping -- pretty good deal! I was so excited the day the shipment came!

And it begins!

I started the actual crocheting at the beginning of June 09. It was not difficult, though I messed up counting a few times, and it's nearly impossible to go back and fix mistakes in Tunisian. I had to learn about to keep all the colors straight, as there are a lot of stripes and back and forth at the beginning. I ended up creating little "spools" out of plastic chip clips, which helped keep the skeins from getting tangled.

I brought the project with me on vacation, and was able to finish all the crocheting by Labor Day!

Unfortunately, because the hard part was over, my gusto was gone and the thought of assembling the damn just exhausted me. I was able to sew the sides together, and gather the materials I needed for the rest (Velcro for the closure, fabric for the lining). But to my dear husband's disappointment, the pillow sat folded over the back of the couch for MONTHS!!! I hate sewing, by the way, and I don't have a sewing machine, so I had no desire to spend hours stitching the lining and attaching the Velcro by hand.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. We are moving in June, so I am using up yarn and finishing projects, just so they don't get lost in the shuffle. I figured it would be easier to move a completed pillow than to move the pieces (including 2 bags of stuffing). After much grumbling, I measured out the fabric and started sewing. It wasn't as bad as I anticipated, and some of my favorite DVDs helped pass the time. Finally, my friend Emily needed a project last night, so she helped me finish up.

It feels SO good to have it done, and I'm very proud of how it came out. Chris is pretty happy, too.


Lisa-Marie Bellmore said...

You are the shit! My husband wants one now. ;)