Pride Patch Tutorial: Aro Arrows

Six digitally-created versions of cross stitch pride patches, arranged in two rows of three, against a background of a textured partially-translucent aromantic pride flag. Text between the two rows reads Aro Pride Patches in black type. Patches include a rectangular patch in aroflux zigzag stripes, an idemromantic heart, an aro flag text patch reading "aro", a square in quoiromantic stripes, an arrow design in allo-aro colours and a second arrow in nebularomantic colours.

This tutorial demonstrates my pride-striped arrow design with patterns for two variants and recommendations for further modifications. If you’re comfortable with the additional back stitching and detailing required for the aro text patches, the simpler versions of this design require no additional skills.

A collection of arrow patches, finished and in progress, sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. All patches have a grey triangular arrowhead, brown or tan shaft, and fletching coloured in the stripes of a pride flag. One rectangular patch has aromantic flag fletching on a light green-yellow background with a grass green border; one rectangular patch has allo-aro flag fletching on a light mint background with a darker mint border. One patch, unfinished with raw aida edges, has the nebularomantic flag on a purple background. The last patch, an allo-aro arrow, is cut around the shape of the arrow and finished in a thick white border.

The patterns given are for a five-stripe and seven-stripe flag. Because I rotated the flag in order to place it along the fletching, this pattern will accommodate any horizontally-striped pride flag. The flag will appear in the proper orientation if you sew the patch in a vertical position with the arrowhead pointing upwards.

This, like the “aroace” and “alloaro” text patches, makes for quite a long patch. I don’t recommend sewing it on 11-count aida if you wish more utility in terms of how you place it on a bag or garment.

Patch Patterns and Stripe Modifications

The five-stripe arrow pattern is a rectangle 62 stitches wide and 17 stitches high. Assuming a three stitch border, as for my other patches, this means you’ll want a 65 x 20 block swatch plus any excess (if used unmodified).

A cross stitch pattern for an arrow design with an elongated triangle arrowhead in grey, a tan shaft, aromantic pride flag fletching and a pale green background. Outline stitching in a dark grey frames the arrowhead, with ligher grey lines of back stitching running down the head; the tan shaft is framed in a darker tan; and green stitches outline the fletching.The seven-stripe arrow pattern is also a rectangle 62 stitches wide and 17 stitches high. Assuming a three stitch border, as for my other patches, this means you’ll want a 65 x 20 block swatch plus any excess (if used unmodified).

A cross stitch pattern for an arrow design with an elongated triangle arrowhead in grey, a tan shaft, nebularomantic pride flag fletching, nebularomantic binding where shaft meets arrowhead, and a purple background. Outline stitching in a dark grey frames the arrowhead, with lighter grey lines of back stitching running down the head; the tan shaft is framed in a darker tan; and purple stitches outline the fletching and binding.

To change the stripe count, decide on how many stripes you need and how many blocks wide you wish them to be. Start counting from the furthest right-hand point of the fletching and move up the shaft, working from the last stripe to the first (closest to the arrowhead). You may need to extend the fletching along the shaft or delete some of the extant fletching, which is why I start from the back of the arrow and work forwards. Alternatively, you can cut a longer or shorter aida swatch and extend or compress the arrow shaft.

If I modify the five-stripe arrow for a four-stripe flag, deciding to make each stripe four blocks wide while keeping the same swatch dimensions, I’d mark up my pattern like this:

A cross stitch pattern for an arrow design with an elongated triangle arrowhead in grey, a tan shaft, aromantic pride flag fletching and a pale green background. Outline stitching in a dark grey frames the arrowhead, with ligher grey lines of back stitching running down the head; the tan shaft is framed in a darker tan; and green stitches outline the fletching. Red lines sit over the top of the fletching, showing how one adapts the width and position of the stripes for a four-stripe flag.

I’m now sewing fletching that’s sixteen blocks wide instead of fifteen, so I’ve moved the start point one block further down the shaft and extended the fletching into the background. By changing the position and width of the stripes, you can accommodate any horizontal striped flag with this pattern. Three stripes? Nine stripes? Up to you!

Materials and Colours

This patch requires more thread colours than any previous design. To simplify the range of floss needed, I stitch the arrowhead in the same grey as the aro flag stripe. You can omit the lightest stripe tan for the shaft (sew all five rows in the one colour) and the light/contrast back stitching across the arrowhead. I like keeping the darker grey and darker brown outlines, as these help the design stand out against the background, but they’re not strictly necessary.

Three in progress patches, sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. All patches have a grey triangular arrowhead, brown or tan shaft, and fletching coloured in the stripes of a pride flag. One rectangular patch has aromantic flag fletching on a light green-yellow background and no back stitching; one rectangular patch has allo-aro flag fletching on a light mint background with a darker mint border, incomplate. The last patch, an allo-aro arrow, has no background and is sewn on plain white aida.

The aro and allo-aro sample patches I made have different transition-shade greens, yellows and greys back stitched in lines between the different fletching stripes. As this requires even more colours, I left this off the pattern. If you have extra floss colours available to you, this will give the fletching a little more pop, but they aren’t necessary to make a cute patch. You can leave them off or just sew the single-coloured fletching outline.

You can also sew all the outlines in the one related or contrasting colour, as done on the text patches!

If you wish to copy my aromantic arrow patch as is, the colours used are as follows:

  • Edging: DMC 907
  • Background: Sullivans 45194 (DMC 772)
  • Arrowhead / Aro Flag Grey: Sullivans 45059 (DMC 318)
  • Arrowhead Outline: Sullivans 45090 (DMC 414)
  • Arrowhead Stripes: Sullivans 45091 (DMC 415)
  • Shaft Dark Stripes: Sullivans 45097 (DMC 436)
  • Shaft Light Stripes: Sullivans 45093 (DMC 422)
  • Shaft Outline: Sullivans 45092 (DMC 420)
  • Aro Flag Darker Green: Sullivans 45162 (DMC 702)
  • Aro Flag Lighter Green: Sullivans 45163 (DMC 703)
  • Aro Flag White: Sullivans 45001 (DMC blanc/white)
  • Aro Flag Black: Sullivans 45053 (DMC 310)
  • Fletching Outline: Sullivans 45310 (DMC 989)

You may note the many related shades, something difficult to source from thread packs. Unless you buy one of the larger eBay lots, you’ll need to buy floss for these patches by the skein. I also set aside a new or nearly-whole skein for the edging, as the longer patches use up at least half of it.

Background Modifications

Stitching the background of this patch is tedious: it’s just straight lines in a single colour! If you don’t have an abundance of time or tolerance, or you’ve run out of TV to stream while stitching, you can avoid it.

The easiest way is to cut out your rectangle and embroider your edging over the raw edges of the aida. This does look unfinished if you’re working on white fabric, so you can colour your aida with dye, fabric paint or markers. Once you have coloured the fabric and stitched your arrow, pick a matching or contrasting floss for the edging and sew as usual.

I have an old set of Stained by Sharpie fabric markers with brush tips, and they’re easy to use, dry immediately and are relatively low-odour. The only disadvantage is a mottled streakiness, but this may be desirable for a green (grass) or blue (sky, water) background. I prefer alcohol-based graphic markers, particularly the chisel-tipped knock-off Copics: they apply the most colour with the fewest strokes. The colour is still a little uneven (more than fabric paint, less than fabric Sharpies), and they are not odourless, but graphic markers are available in many colours and dry quickly.

(My Aldi graphic marker set advises that they “may be permanent” on fabric. I soaked my aida swatches under the tap with zero leeching or change in colour, so I’d assume treated fabric is at minimum splash or rain-proof.)

Fabric paint offers custom colour options and smooth laydown, but it takes longer to dry and changes the texture of the fabric. I dislike puffy/dimensional fabric paint and glittery dimensional fabric paint, as they clog up the holes in the aida. I prefer Birch’s regular (flat, non-dimensional) fabric paint: it goes onto the fabric smoothly and evenly, only has a slight chalkiness after drying, and leaves most holes open for easier stitching.

Three coloured aida swatches sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. The top two swatches have been coloured purple and gold with alcohol-based graphic markers; the bottom swatch has been coloured in sections with a black fabric marker, pink fabric paint and glittery green dimensional fabric paint. Test stitches in squares, rectangles and arrows sit atop the coloured sections.

I struggled to neatly sew the edging on unsewn aida without the rows of cross stitch beside it to serve as a guide, as shown on the bottom swatch. This may not be a problem for folks (not me) who can sew straight, even lines!

The difficult/advanced way involves cutting around the shape of your design, leaving an approximate three-block space between the edge of your stitching and the scissors. You then sew the edging to follow the shape of your design. This is harder and longer to stitch than the edging on a square or rectangular patch, as you need to work around curves, corners and angles, but it is quicker than sewing both the edging and the background.

A cross-stitched arrow patch with a grey triangular head, tan shaft, allo-aro pride flag fletching sits on a blue microfibre blanket. The patch has been cut around the shape of the arrow with no background, the edging embroidered in a thick frame of white. The patch sits on a blue microfibre blanket.

This is an early version of my arrow pattern, perfect for testing out this new trimming and edging method. The floss sat more smoothly when I allowed myself to focus my thread placement on the edge of the patch, creating an even line, rather than trying to fill in all the curves in one shot. This left many gaps around curves and corners, but I got less bunching and lumping by filling in said gaps afterwards and tucking the ends of the extra stitches underneath the rest of the edging.

I’m excited to practice this technique, but it was difficult enough to execute neatly that I don’t recommend it for folks on their first (or second, third or fourth) patch. Squares and rectangles are a lot easier!

Sewing Your Arrow Patch

For the purposes of the rest of this tutorial, I’m sewing the “aro” design with no additional modification. Your stitch order is optional, but I find it easiest to first sew the arrowhead, shaft and fletching in that order, followed by the background colour and then the back-stitched outlines. This gives my outline a crisper, bolder look with no parts being covered over by the other stitches.

I use the tip of the arrowhead (a row of eighteen stitches) as my starting point, as it forms the vertical midpoint of the swatch. Once sewn, I count out my rows above and below.

A rectangular white aida swatch sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. A grey arrowhead--an elongated triangle--has been stitched onto the aida on the left-hand side of the fabric.

In sewing the shaft, I stitch twenty blocks across on the top and bottom rows, and then fill in the three middle rows of stitches (alternating between the darker and lighter tans) so all rows finish at the same point. The shaft is longer, but I find it easier to finish the rest once I’ve placed the fletching.

A rectangular white aida swatch sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. A grey arrowhead--an elongated triangle--has been stitched onto the aida on the left-hand side of the fabric. A tan shaft, sewn in alternating stripes of dark and light, is now attached to the arrowhead.

I start either side of the fletching from the midpoint row where the first stripe (dark green) sits flush against the row of lighter tan shaft stitches, working up or down the fletching in diagonal rows of three for each colour. Each row is indented from the one above or below it, so you should have a one-stitch gap left between the fletching and the top and bottom (darker tan) shaft stripes.

A rectangular white aida swatch sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. A grey arrowhead--an elongated triangle--has been stitched onto the aida atop a tan shaft, sewn in alternating stripes of dark and light. Behind the shaft sits two sections of fletching sewn in the five dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag.

Once I’ve completed the fletching, I fill in the gaps between shaft and fletching, sew in the centre of the shaft in the darker tan and add the base of the arrow, remembering to continue my darker/lighter stripes.

A rectangular white aida swatch sitting on a blue microfibre blanket. A grey arrowhead--an elongated triangle--has been stitched onto the aida atop a tan shaft, sewn in alternating stripes of dark and light and finishing a little past the base of the fletching. At the back of the shaft sits two sections of fletching sewn in the five dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag.

This is followed by the background stitching:

A cross-stitched arrow design with a grey triangular head, tan shaft, aromantic pride flag fletching and pale yellow-green background sits on a blue microfibre blanket.

Finally, I sew in the back-stitched outlines. You can keep this simple by only sewing around the fletching or you can increase the detail by adding contrast lines along the shaft and down the arrowhead.

A cross-stitched arrow design with a grey triangular head, tan shaft, aromantic pride flag fletching and pale yellow-green background sits on a blue microfibre blanket. Outline stitching in a dark grey frames the arrowhead, with ligher grey lines of back stitching running down the head; the tan shaft is framed in a darker tan; and green stitches outline the fletching.

To finish the patch, I trim the swatch and embroider the edge as usual. A larger design like this, if you’d rather not make a patch, could also be inset into a handmade card or frame!

shaft, aromantic pride flag fletching and pale yellow-green background sits on a blue microfibre blanket. Outline stitching in a dark grey frames the arrowhead, with ligher grey lines of back stitching running down the head; the tan shaft is framed in a darker tan; and green stitches outline the fletching. Grass green stitching now borders the rectangular patch.

This design is easy to customise: you can change the length and width of the shaft, the width of the fletching and the width of the arrowhead. You can add decoration to the shaft, as on my seven-stripe pattern, or stitch it in a single colour. I’m wanting to make one with pansexual flag fletching so I can tell the world via pun that I’m a pansexual aro!

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