In the latest entry of The[Crafty]Gamer, Oakland native Dan Rouse explains how to piece together a complex pillow highlighting one of gaming's biggest icons.

Full name: Dan Rouse

Age: 43

Hometown: Oakland, CA

Occupation: Landscape designer

Creation: 8-bit Mario Pillow

Tell us about your work. What’s the inspiration behind it?

The pillow was a Christmas gift for my Mario-obsessed five-year-old nephew. He is unbelievably good at Super Mario Bros DS. I've spent an embarrassing amount of time playing Mario games over the last 30 years, and I'll never be as good he is. This year I made an effort to sew most of my holiday gifts, and a Mario theme was the obvious choice for my nephew.

Please describe the process of putting the pillow together. Also, how long did it take to make?

First, I made the design based on a few images I found on the web, then I selected the fabrics. Quilting is a natural fit for pixel art because the grid layout of the screen translates well to the grid layout of the fabric. Most of the pixel quilts I've seen use solid fabrics which offer a more direct representation of what you see in the game. I chose to use various prints to give the pillow a bit of variety and texture, and possibly a slightly less juvenile feel. I also like that the pillow looks very different depending on your proximity. Up close it seems like a cheerful collection of scraps -- It can be kind of hard to see the little guy. He appears when seen out of the corner of your eye or when viewed from across the room.

Most of the fabrics came out of my scrap bag and I did a little shopping to round out some of the colors. Cutting the fabric is my least favorite quilting task. I use a rotary cutter, self healing cutting mat, and acrylic ruler to measure and cut precisely. It probably took two hours to cut the 225 pieces. One thing I always forget when I start a project like this is that complexity is a function of the number of pieces, not the overall size. The patchwork front of the pillow is 15x15 squares, or 225 pieces. If the squares were 6" instead of 1 3/4", I would have had a nice sized blanket with only slightly more effort.

Once the pieces were cut I arranged them on a design board, then started sewing. I sewed pairs of squares together, pressed the seams, then sewed the pairs to form blocks of four, more pressing, and so on.

With the patchwork assembled, I pinned it to a layer of cotton batting and muslin, and quilted with straight-line stitches parallel to the patchwork seams. The batting shrinks a bit when you wash it, giving the pillow a soft, crinkly appearance. I sewed on the back of the pillow and inserted a 24x24 pillow form.

Adding up the cutting time, a few more hours for the piecing and a couple more for quilting and finishing, the whole project took maybe eight hours.

What sorts of challenges, if any, did you come across when crafting the pillow? How did you resolve them?

My biggest challenge was putting a zipper on the back -- my first zipper. For some reason the idea of sewing a zipper was very intimidating, but I followed a tutorial by Erin Harris and it turned out great.

Will we see more video game-themed projects from you in the future? If so, what are you thinking about making?

I'm not sure what's next. I've done one other project with a gaming theme: a quilted blanket with a street fighter applique of Ryu  and the hadouken on the back. I cut pieces of patterned fabric, ironed them onto the quilt backing fabric using a product called Wonder Under, then satin-stitched additional detains around the applique edges. The blanket now lives on a chair in front of the gaming console. People respond very positively and nostalgically to gaming images so it's tempting to do more.
Any other information you’d like to share about yourself?

I'm mostly a puzzle gamer, though I recently sunk into a deep Dragon Age hole.

Any Web links to other work? Online store?

Maybe I'll have a store someday. For now I make stuff for friends and family, and occasionally on commission, and write about it on my blog, piece and press.

The[Crafty]Gamer has officially moved from the Editor Blogs section to the Features section. Check out our previous entry on Robert Mangaoang and his impressive prints inspired by the PlayStation Move. I'm regularly looking for new entries, so if you'd like your work featured, please send me an e-mail to express your interest and I will follow up with details: