Because I find it easiest to sew my heart patches upside down, I’ve long thought that I should use these patterns to create an ace of spades design. Aro Week feels like the perfect time to take a cross-stitch pattern that isn’t particularly aromantic and transform it into the best-known symbol of aro-ace identity!
This tutorial showcases the steps for making an ace of spades patch, with patterns available for flags with three, four, five and seven evenly-spaced horizontal stripes.
You’ll need familiarity with cross stitch (full and quarter crosses) and backstitch to make the raw-edged patches, along with a buttonhole/closed blanket stitch (or a neat over stitch) to make the closed-edged patch. The first instalment of this patch tutorial series demonstrates cross and blanket/buttonhole stitch, while the second covers backstitch.
One shouldn’t attempt this patch without first reading through my heart patch tutorial, which covers techniques for cutting, treating and colouring aida for making unedged patches. It also includes detailed photos showing how I sew a buttonhole stitch around curves, corners and indents, for those wishing a more finished-looking patch.
Notes on Pattern Structure
Each pattern shows two variations: a pixel-art-inspired design sewn in traditional cross-stitch and a rounded-off design sewn in traditional and quarter cross stitch.
Full coloured blocks indicate a full cross stitch.
Solid outlines indicate backstitch.
Blocks divided on the diagonal by a line of backstitch, each half a different colour, indicate quarter stitches. Please see my first text tutorial and my heart patch tutorial for more information on backstitching outlines and placing quarter stitches.
Space allowed for edging your patch is not shown in the patterns below. You’ll need to allow additional blocks for this when cutting your swatch, depending on how narrow or thick you like your edging.
Patch Patterns and Stripe Modifications
I refer to these patterns by their height, as they accommodate more than one stripe count.
My borders are roughly 2-3 blocks wider than the section of cross stitch, so I cut my fabric into squares or rectangles approximately 4-5 blocks wider and taller than required for safety. If you’re making an unedged patch with decorative backstitching, like my purple/green aro-ace flag design, you may need to cut an even larger swatch.
The 20 block pattern is 20 stitches high and 17 stitches wide.
It can be evenly sewn for flags with four and five horizontal stripes, including several aro-ace, electio, oriented and angled pride designs, along with many flux, demi and grey aro-ace flags. Should one wish to use it with a ten stripe design, divide each stripe from the five-stripe pattern (four blocks wide) in two.
This pattern can be adapted for some flags with additional design elements, like the aro-ace spike and jump flags:
The 21 block pattern is 21 stitches high and 17 stitches wide.
It can be evenly sewn for flags with three and seven horizontal stripes, including many aro-ace and agender aro-ace pride designs.
The 21 block pattern includes three variants for the base of the spade, featuring minor changes to the height, width and shape. Folks with a three-stripe flag who prefer the look of the base on the first or second seven-stripe spades can swap the stripe count between designs!
All patterns can be sewn in a solid black, like that from a traditional deck of cards, or any other colour.
Sewing Your Ace of Spades Patch
Unlike the heart patches, the ace of spades design is not sewn upside-down. Lay out your floss colours in flag stripe order and work your way down the pattern from first colour to last.
The sewing process is almost identical to that of my heart patches. As before, I fold my fabric vertically in half to find the midpoint, count down enough empty blocks to fit my edging, and begin sewing the spade from its uppermost point, changing colours with each new stripe.
Once I’ve sewn the spade, I outline my cross stitched rows with backstitch. If you’re sewing a traditional/pixel art (no quarter-crosses) variant, this step is optional. You can go directly to cutting and trimming your patch. If creating a patch without a closed edging, you may find that a backstitch outline helps give it a more finished look.
If you’re sewing a rounded (with quarter-crosses) variant, you’ll need to outline your spade before filling in the gaps left by diagonal back stitches with quarter-crosses, as shown below:
Unless you want to keep your patch square–perhaps filling in the background with a solid colour or the stripes from another flag–you’re now ready to treat and trim your patch.
Trimming and Treating
As outlined in my heart patch tutorial, I rough-cut around the edges of the patch before treating the edges of my aida with fabric stiffener. This prevents fraying and makes it much easier to cut clean, curved lines. I sewed my three buttonhole-edged patches on thin aida from a cheap cross stitch kit, and treating the fabric before sewing was absolutely necessary to keep any kind of shape.
Please be aware that if you create a raw/unedged patch on painted or (alcohol-based) marker-coloured fabric, your stiffener may cause some discolouration, as shown on the edges of my purple/green ace of spades patch (below). Always test your stiffener on a scrap piece of painted/coloured fabric before using it on your patch!
To create a spade-like shape, you can cut slight, rounded indents between the curve and flared base of the spade, as shown on my oriented aro-ace patch, or cut a straighter line with a slight angle towards the base, as shown on my green/purple ace of spades patch. The indent is the trickiest part of the patch to cut and sew evenly, so you may prefer to avoid it altogether.
When cutting, use a pair of small, sharp scissors. I now use Semco’s classical scissors for all my patch trimming, as they’re nicely sharp and a little larger than crane-style embroidery scissors. You may like to mark guidelines on your fabric with an air-erasable fabric marker before cutting, which will help in keeping your cuts even. Because I didn’t think of doing this while making my examples and cannot eyeball this, none of my patches have even, perfectly matching indents:
(A bit of wonkiness is just fine. It makes every patch truly one of a kind!)
I usually cut and sew my patches with three blocks’ width left around the edge of my cross-stitched section. For the ace of spades, I found a narrower edge easier to sew, both in terms of ease of placing stitches around curves and not creating (too many) lumps in my buttonhole edge. The wide edge around the base and tip of the oriented aro-ace patch was quite difficult to cover without my stitches piling up on each other; the black spade, with its thinner edge, was much easier!
Sewing the Edging
This process is identical to the heart patch, in which I sew the border twice. The first time, I focus on creating a neat line of knots, using my buttonhole stitch, on the outside edge of the patch. To create an even line, I leave gaps anywhere my stitches start to sit on top of each other in order to cover the raw aida. This often happens in the corners where the curves of the spade flare out to become the base:
For my second go-around, I fill my gaps with a satin stitch, working up from the inside of the edging and down towards the outside, sliding the needle underneath the knotted edge so my new stitches finish inside the line of knots left by my buttonhole stitch. The edging will look neater when your satin stitches run in the same direction as your buttonhole stitches, but this may not be possible in the tight corners between spade and flared base.
(Darker floss helps hide a fair number of lumps, bumps and unaligned stitches!)
Once the edging is completely filled-in, I resew any of my backstitching that got caught beneath my edging. You can see this when comparing the right-hand side of my patch, above, to that in the photo below:
And that’s it! The rounded-off versions of this pattern are a little trickier to sew than the heart (but not as difficult as the shaped version of my arrow patch). The spade is a lot quicker to stitch up than my text patches, and its small size makes it ideal for filling up odd spaces on a backpack or a pride patch jacket.
My next patch post expands my text pattern selection for identities with three, four and six horizontally-stripped pride flags … but my fingers are itching to create a watermelon patch for abro and aroflux folks!