Experimenting with Cross Stitch
By Liu Chen-Kuo & Sarah C. Ko ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver
Jan 16, 2024

Author-Illustrator Liu Chen-Kuo in His Own Words

My workplace is sometimes like an illustration lab. I like to experiment with different artistic disciplines such as sculpture, papercutting, contemporary ink painting, abstract drawing etc., and combine them with my original ideas about shape and color, then contemplate how I can use it all to produce new and interesting illustrations.

Years ago, I bought a guide to cross stitch patterns and it felt very warm and tactile which firmly planted the idea in my mind that I would use it in an illustration someday. Then, as I was creating a picture book for young children which eventually became Who Wants to Play Hide and Seek?, I had this instinct that I should experiment with cross stich, so I started by drawing it on paper before trying it out on a computer, and then I ended up buying a cross stich kit so I could actually make it for real.

When I finally had a few illustrations that had taken shape a few months later, I turned to my wife who was hard at work mopping the floor and asked, “Does the way I used cross stich make the images feel warm and tactile?” She glanced at it, then her eyes widened and she said, “Yes, I think it does!”

So, every day I started to patiently create the embroidery on my computer by using my mouse to thread each stitch. I often needed to wear farsighted glasses for this process so that I could alter the size of the squares. I thought about how to incorporate the rules of cross stitch and did a lot of calculations, asking myself questions like: how many squares would each of the octopus’s eight legs take up? And how many squares there would need to be between them? Now that the book is out, I really hope you all enjoy the end result!

A Recommendation from Children’s Literature Critic Sarah C. Ko

Veteran picture book creator Liu Chen-Kuo’s new book Who Wants to Play Hide and Seek? masterfully demonstrates how to turn complexity into simplicity and has that all-important trait of a great children’s picture book: it’s simple without being monotonous, and clear without being superficial.

With smart humor and an elegant aesthetic, this little book takes babies and toddlers through a fun game of conceptual imagery: numbers, time, space, colors, shapes, similarities, differences, and so on. The texture of cross stich is like a soft fabric which suits the sensory imagination of toddlers and creates a cozy atmosphere that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. This is a book you can really play with, in the same spirit as the works of Eric Carle and Gomi Tarō, all the way through to its satisfying, and surprising, conclusion.