This Animation Is Made of Embroidery
It took a year and a half to create a short film using “embroidermation”
Arists are masters of showing something old in a new way, like turning embroidery into music. Now, delicate needlework has brought colored thread to life in a laboriously stitched animated short.
Animators Nina Paley and Theodore Gray teamed up to create a short film they call Chad Gadya, with the help of a traditional Passover folk song, writes Rebecca O’Connell for mental_floss (the short was first highlighted in Colin Marshall’s post at Open Culture). The song itself is a playful tune in Aramaic and Hebrew. Here’s the translation on Wikipedia.
Paley is no stranger to creating wondrous animation. Open Culture first drew attention to her work in Sita Sings the Blues, a feature-length film depicting the story The Ramayana and set to 1920s jazz vocals. Paley is self-taught and her embroidery-animation, or "embroidermation" as she calls it, requires a painstaking amount of work and time. She writes on her blog that the embroidered short took a year and a half to create.
On his blog, Gray explains his part in the process. He relied on a computer to stitch together Paley's art and the music, using the program Mathematica to first break down Paley's figures into a series of polygons, then figure out which way the stitches should be oriented within each polygon (see the images in his post to really get a handle on this). The result was stitched on an embroidery machine.
The final short has 516 frames, stitched six at a time into 86 matzah covers (cloth covers that hold the matzah during the Seder).
The short will serve as an intermission in Paley’s feature-length Seder-Masochism. And for embroidery enthusiasts, every stitching file used in the short is available for free at archive.org.