At a Glance
- Perfectly mimics raw sewing machine lettering.
- Spotty showing of lowercase characters.
There’s more than stitch wizardry behind this display font.
Note: This font is no longer free and has been
removed at the developer’s request.–Ed. 08/15/2011
When you see the word embroidery do you think kitschy kittens on
potholders in grandmother’s kitchen? Stop right there. NCD
Embroidery Comp Size, by London designer N Downey, is far from
domestic. This display font is a rule-bending pixel construction
with a touch of military style.
What’s the story? One day a graphic designer decides to
reproduce an 18th century military jacket using his girlfriend’s
sewing machine to mimic historical embroidery. His project leads
him to explore zigzag stitching formats even as he spots an
announcement for the FontStruct Handmade Competition. Many hours of
pixel manipulation later, Downey sends in his entry–a home-sewn
style complete with punctuation!
Downey has been a presence on the FontStruct scene since 2008,
when he fell in love with typographer Rob Meek’s brilliant online
type-building application. Using FontStruct, designers can arrange
collections of pixels (aka bricks) in gridded groups to create
surprisingly diverse letterforms. The resulting “fontstructions” are then
output in Truetype (.ttf) format for both Macs and PCs. A dynamic
community of enthusiasts (aka FontStructors) meet on Meek’s site to
create, comment, share tips and custom bricks, and engage in
In September 2010, Rob Meek staged a contest with FontStruct
fans in mind. Could they break down FontStruct’s systematic grids
of bricks to create styles with hand-drawn visual appeal? Could
they squiggle, scribble, and scrawl electronically? To meet the
32-pixel height limit, Downey chopped and sliced an earlier version
of his NCD Embroidery font, then reworked the shortened forms
deploying an inventive combination of stacking and compositing. The
final effect matches the stabbing zigzag motion of his girlfriend’s
sewing machine quite nicely.
What can be done with a font like this? Plenty, especially if
characters are sized at 30 points or higher to take advantage of
the style’s stitchy lines. Use NCD Embroidery Comp Size to add a
tailored touch to report covers or arrange to sleep in with custom
“sewn” Do Not Disturb door hangers that are so much more than
When working with the set, mix the limited range of lowercase
characters with caps for headlines and slogans with a playful feel.
Since the smaller rotated “n” forms creating the serifs will begin
to look less “sewn” in sizes above 60 point, try adding shadow or
fill color behind the letters to unite small details with their
NCD Embroidery Font Size is registered under a Creative Commons
Attribution Non-commercial/No Derivatives license. Whatever you
make, keep it personal and give credit where credit is due.
Thinking of going commercial? Contact Mr. Downey for
Now that you know the rules, use NCD Embroidery Comp Size to
stitch up a look of your own. With a few sharp turns at the
keyboard and a little custom tailoring, you’re sure to find a fit
that suits the job.
Note: To use this font, unzip the folder and
install .ttf files in the folder C:WindowsFonts. Note that the
fonts won’t appear in your applications until you close and re-open