“We Know Them”: A Cross-Stitch Journey

Early 2020, the Church History Museum (for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) announced the theme for their 12th International Art Competition: “All Are Alike Unto God.”

As an occasional cross-stitcher, this seemed like a great opportunity to dive back into the hobby. I was immediately inspired by the “If The World Was A Village of 100 People” concept. This isn’t a new idea, but this infographic by Jack Hagley is a good introduction.

An image detailing statistics of the percentage of people with access to various services, their religion, gender, and more

I wasn’t sure how old this data was, and I also wanted to develop my own set of characteristics, so I did some of my own research. The categories I decided to include were: eye and hair color, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, continent, country, ethnicity, and age. Most of the characteristics involved searching out a wide variety of sources to make sure I had the most accurate information.

My gender categories includes not only male and female, but also intersex, transgender, and nonbinary. Sexuality includes heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual orientations. Disabilities included physical, mental, deafness, and blindness. This category I feel is most underrepresented, but since most disabilities are invisible, I’m okay with my limitations in portraying disabilities.

Continents were easy to break down by population percentage, but country, ethnicity, and age were all tied into my continent breakdowns. Ages were determined per continent, grouping males and females into under 15, 15-64, and 65+. (Intersex, non-binary, and transgender people were selected from these groups afterwards to ease in calculations.) Countries were determined by population percentage within the continents, but when percentages got small enough to only equal one person, I randomly selected from the smaller remaining countries. Ethnicities were then determined by the highest percentage ethnic group within the country, divided if necessitated by the size of the country.

With my basic statistics calculated, I wrote a Python program to randomly assign attributes to each of the one hundred people. This was a good start, though it needed some minor tweaking afterwards, especially regarding religion in some countries (e.g. Christianity is significantly less common in China, and Hinduism is more prevalent in India). 

The next step was creating patterns for each one of the people. I used Stitch People templates, including their religious and cultural patterns. However, my desire to incorporate national dress meant I spent a lot of time developing my own designs after researching typical or traditional clothes of the country and/or ethnicity each person was from. Each person took an average of an hour to design, including the research process.

cross stitch pattern of a chinese man in traditional clothing cross stitch pattern of a romani woman cross stitch pattern of a brazilian woman in a traditional dress

During the design process, I gave each person a name chosen from their respective cultures. Although these names aren’t visible in the final project, I saw myself as how our Heavenly Parents see us—They know our names and our lives even if we can’t know the lives of everyone around us.

The next step was stitching the people themselves; these took an average of two hours per person. I chose white linen, as linen is one of the few fabrics mentioned in the scriptures. I intentionally left the backs visible as a reminder of the complexity of our lives, no matter how put together we may seem on the outside. I embraced the imperfections in my stitching, embedding the imperfection of the human condition.

After they had been stitched, I added borders in silver and gold thread to prevent significant fraying. The silver and the gold are representative of our Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father respectively. 

These are the figures before I hung them up.

Asia—China:

18 cross stitched people dressed in primarily traditional Chinese clothing

Asia—Assorted Countries:

cross stitches of fourteen people dressed in the traditional clothing of their respective countries

Asia—Countries with more than one figure

ten cross stitched figures in various traditional clothing

Asia—India:

seventeen cross stitched people dressed in primarily traditional Indian clothing

Africa (grouped roughly by country for those that have multiple from a country)

seventeen cross stitched people in a variety of traditional African clothing

Europe:

ten cross stitched people dressed in traditional european clothing

Latin and South America (including Mexico):

eight cross stitched people in primarily latin american traditional clothing

North America (United States and Canada):

five cross stitched people from the US and Canada

Oceania:

a cross stitched woman from Australia

I also included figures of Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and Jesus Christ. These were stitched without features, providing a blank canvas for people to provide their own interpretations. Heavenly Father was stitched in gold thread, while Heavenly Mother was stitched in silver thread; Jesus Christ was stitched in a combination of the two. They were also stitched at double the size of the other figures.

Three stitched figures with no particular features

The next step was to hang them into a mobile. My intention for doing so was to keep any one person from being more important than any other. A mobile requires all of the pieces to be in balance with each other. The Heavenly Family is placed at the top, connecting us all to Them and balancing through Them.

Each embroidery hoop (traditionally used for cross stitching) holds the figures for one continent. Countries with multiple figures have the figures attached along the same string. Even though some figures seem to be above others in the country, they are still all needed for balance, and none of them hang directly from another person.

cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile
cross stitched figures in a mobile

I’d like to hope that people are able to see elements of themselves in the figures, as well as find where they balance in the world. I believe that our Heavenly Parents know us even more intimately than I know these figures that I created. 

1 thought on ““We Know Them”: A Cross-Stitch Journey”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.