Threadsteading: A Two-Player, Single-Line, Territory Control Game for Quilting and Embroidery Machines

Project Members

Jim McCann (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
April Grow (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Chenxi Liu (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Lea Albaugh (Disney Research Pittsburgh)
Gillian Smith (Disney Research Pittsburgh, Northeastern University)
Jennifer Mankoff (Carnegie Mellon University)

Threadsteading is a two-player game for a modified quilting machine. The quilting machine is a computer-controlled longarm quilting machine, which moves a sewing head around a 12′ x 2.5′ area to stitch 2D paths.

Threadsteading-Image1Our custom input controller is attached to the sewing head, so it is always located just under the fabric surrounding the needle’s position. We’ve also reverse-engineered the control to the machine so we can send sewing paths directly to it. The game is thus played entirely on the quilting machine, and each round of the game results in a permanent physical artifact: a quilt.







Hardware mockup

The quilting machine would be unwieldy to travel with, so we’ve also built Threadsteading Portable: the same game, running on a tabletop embroidery machine. The game is scaled to fit on the smaller sewable area of the home machine and the output is more like a scouting badge than a blanket.






Threadsteading-Image3Gameplay is turn-based and designed around the unique constraints of the platform. Because the output is essentially a single “pen” position over time, each turn must pick up where the previous turn left off; because the final artifact is a quilt, the rules should encourage an even spread of lines across the surface—ideally, a quilt has neither large unsewn portions nor multiple stitched lines on top of each other.

The game also plays off the historical practice of stitched chronicles. (Conveniently, hex tiles are a common aesthetic in both turn-based strategy games and quilts.)



In Threadsteading, players act as competing commanders of a team of royal scouts tasked with exploring a hex-gridded domain of varying terrain difficulty. The tiles cost between one and three points of effort to explore, and six of them are marked as towns that must not be missed. The scouting corps leaves at the beginning of the game from the castle at the center of the territory and the players take turns choosing a direction to head in. The scouts travel in the assigned direction until they are tired (four points of effort), marking the territory with the insignia of the current commanding officer.

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