A few of you may know that I make patterns and write for a few magazines. For the space-themed issue of one of these, I explored the relationship space has with art, and the various (and frankly numerous) art installations held in space. However, during my research I kept coming back to a single question:
Has cross stitch ever flown to space?
Well, the answer was a resounding no. BUT sewing and embroidery have.
Astronauts are a superstitious bunch, peeing on bus wheels, eating peanuts and watching Russian movies aside, they have one tradition of note. During takeoff, especially in the Soyuz spacecraft, astronauts look directly up, with everything strapped down to avoid it floating once they reach space. However, if that’s the case, how do you know when zero gravity starts? In comes the cuddly toy!
In order to show when you’re in space, you dangle a cuddly toy from the control panel. Now, these are genuine tools used in space, don’t be confused with their cuddly exterior. Whilst they used to be plastic pens, as time progressed astronauts let their imaginations go wild and picked a whole series of things to travel with. Many include sewing and embroidery in a series of styles. I looked through hundreds (I’m not joking) of toys to see if any had cross stitch. Nope.
In addition to toys flown from Earth though, there is one other interesting example worth exploring.
In 2013, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg brought to space an idea; to craft. Using tools found around the International Space Station Karen created a small stuffed dinosaur to bring back to her son on Earth. Now, this isn’t the greatest sewing on earth, however, let’s just think about something for a minute. There are no needles in space. There are no scissors in space. There are no threads in space. Karen managed to make her tools while she was up there too. Now that is impressive.