Threadsteading: A Hex Control Game For The Sewing Machine


Going through the Indiecade awardees/winners from last night reminded me that I hadn’t written about Threadsteading. It’s a territory control strategy game you play out on a sewing machine, embroidering hex tiles onto a piece of fabric. I watched it being played at GDC earlier this year but didn’t write about it because I wasn’t sure what platform you would even call that. Today I’m opening the floodgates for RPS to write about all future sewing machine games by going “sod it, it’s really interesting, a computer is clearly involved, let’s go!”

Threadsteading is a Disney Research project created by Gillian Smith, April Grow, Chenxi Liu, Lea Albaugh, Jen Mankoff and Jim McCann. They use a Singer CE-200 Sewing Machine with an embroidery attachment and a custom-mounted controller. I found it in the Alt.CTRL.GDC section which is where you’ll find alternative control methods and alternative ways to play being celebrated. It’s the bit where I also found the space exploration game you play by licking flavoured ice pops. The idea with Threadsteading is that you both are trying to scout out a hex-tiled domain marked out on a piece of fabric:

Players act as competing commanders of a team of royal scouts tasked with exploring a hex-gridded domain of varying terrain difficulty. The commanders are forced to journey together, but each want to take credit for the territory they find for themselves. Players must scheme and strategize to find the best path to take over the terrain to maximize the territory they each control while making sure to explore as much of the map as possible. As they explore, a physical map is sewn showing the paths taken by the commanders, who each have their own symbol embroidered atop the territory they are exploring. The winning commander takes home the map.

Here’s Lea Albaugh explaining a bit more about how it works:

There’s a larger version that exists which is run on a quilting machine but given it is enormous and makes full size quilts it wasn’t exactly possible to stick that one in the GDC booth. I also tried to find out what else the textiles group might be doing specifically but man, Disney is REALLY SECRETIVE about those projects! Anyhoodle, Threadsteading won the technology award at Indiecade, so congrats!

Threadsteading’s Disney page doesn’t seem to be working right so here’s a cached version.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Looks like Disney are running out of good material O:>

  2. Simbosan says:

    Haha, you got me in stitches. Is this going to be the best thread ever? Tell me it’s sew!

    • Premium User Badge

      Serrit says:

      This certainly reeled me in. I’ve just spun up a Singer CE-200 VM to give it a go, but it’s pushing the needle on my CPU.

  3. Amazon_warrior says:

    I see the other commenters have lost the thread!

    Joking aside, as someone who likes computer games *and* sewing/quilting, the only way this could only be more relevant to my interests is if the map is subsequently used in a D&D or skirmish minis game. Yay, more please! :D

  4. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    Amateurs, they haven’t even implemented multi-threading.

    • gillian says:

      Multithreading gets very knotty on embroidery machines.

      [But in all seriousness, I’m one of the developers for Threadsteading, and am happy to answer any questions folk have!]

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