Code your own embroidery with Turtle Stitch

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Coding with Embriodery

If you are looking for a super fun way to get kids interested in coding, Turtlestitch is an awesome solution. Turtlestitch is an online coding platform that allows users to literally stitch their code on to a piece of fabric. This Turtlestitch tutorial will get you coding quickly while making fun pieces of art.

By now, you probably know how effective block-based coding like Scratch can be. Turtlestitch is based on a coding language called Snap. Snap is similar to Scratch, but has some extra features.

Turtlestitch takes the Snap language and incorporates a fun turtle sprite in the output window – among other functional changes to allow the turtle to move like an embroidery machine.

One of the reasons I like these two programs when teaching kids to code is the visuals available. Kids can see right away if their code is successful, allowing them to fix any problems quickly, and on the same page.

How to get started coding with embroidery

Learning to code with embroidery may not sound intuitive at first, but Turtlestitch has made it so easy even young kids can benefit from learning with it! When you first get to the Turtlestitch front page, you can start by watching the tutorials, or you can just jump right in like I did! 

Create an Account

Before you get in too deep, know that Turtlestitch does have the capability to save projects, but you have to create an account to do so. I was able to create an account for me, and then let my boys work on projects with me. Being able to save their designs for later means that I have time to save up some money for an embroidery machine! 

Start Experimenting

To start coding, you will want to click on the “Run” option in the top, right-hand corner of the page. This will pull up a coding platform that will look very similar to anyone with Scratch experience. The individual blocks are separated into categories by their function, like motion, control, embroidery, etc.

Some coding blocks I would certainly suggest finding fast would be the “When flag clicked” and the “Reset” blocks. They are part of the “Control” section of blocks. These two blocks will help you know how to start and re-start sequences when helping your kids code with embroidery. 

Code your name

To continue working on basics, you will probably want to work with the “Motion” section of blocks. This is where you can find movement, turns, and even text writing. My little coders loved seeing the turtle spell out their names! 

Start Drawing

Turtlestitch is great for kids who code because you can see the effects of changes in code immediately! Try this sequence of actions to get you and your little one off and running:

  1. Open the “Run” page
  2. Find and click on the “Control” section
  3. Drag the “When flag clicked” block into the project space in the middle
  4. Drag the “Reset” block into the project space (Not connected to any other blocks)
  5. Drag the “Repeat 10” block into the project space, connect it under the “When flag clicked” block
  6. Find and click on the “Motion” section
  7. Drag the “Move 10 steps” block into the project space, place it inside the “Repeat 10” block
  8. Drag the “Turn right 15 degrees” block into the project space, connect it to the “Move 10 steps” block inside the “Repeat 10” block

At this point, you should have something that looks something like this:

Congratulations! You’ve created a basic algorithm. This algorithm contains a loop in that the instructions are repeated 10 times before the algorithm is finished.

From there, your kid coder can manipulate any of the numbers they want, and see an immediate response. Click on the action block to run the code, and the reset block to set up for a new run. This simple activity can help introduce you and your child to the world of coding with embroidery.

Drawing Challenges

Now it’s time to try out creating your own shapes and patterns. Have your kids complete the following coding challenges:

  1. Draw a circle
  2. Draw a square
  3. Draw a triangle
  4. Draw a flower

Example Answers -Multiple correct answers are possible

Circle

Square

Triangle

Flower

How to move from the screen to fabric

In order to move the embroidery from the screen to a piece of fabric, you will need an embroidery machine. Specifically, you should be looking for one that can read a file with a .exp or .dst extension. Something else to consider would be a thumb drive, SD card, or another way to transfer files from your computer to the embroidery machine.

Here are some of our favourite empbroidery machines:

Important notes about Embroidery with Turtlestitch

There a quite a few nuances when it comes to teaching your kid code with embroidery. For example, the number of “steps” a turtle takes directly relates to the size of the stitch. Anything over 12, and the stitch will be too loose. Anything under 8, and the stitching may be too dense. There are also sewing techniques and best practices to follow, like not crossing lines of embroidery too often. These ideas are spelled out on the Turtlestitch FAQs page, as well as throughout the Turtlestitch projects section of the site. (Fair warning – I don’t think there are many parent eyes on the projects in there. Explore at your own risk, and maybe without the kids at first!)

Final Thoughts

We all know that coding has benefits way beyond the screen. Before discovering Turtlestitch, I’m not sure I would have ever thought of embroidery as one of those benefits! What a wonderful way to incorporate some real-life learning and creativity into drag-and-drop coding! Have you ever thought about teaching your kids code with embroidery? What are you most excited to try first? Let me know below, I’d love to hear your ideas!

Pin for later!

Now you can learn to code and create beautiful emobroidery at the same time! Learn how to program your own embroidery designs with turtlestitch. Turtlestitch uses block based coding to let you draw and create amazing embroidery patterns with basic coding concepts. Read our turtle stitch tutorial here.

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