Fancy Twist on an Ancient Game

     In high school Latin class, I learned a game that scholars believe was played by Roman soldiers.  It is similar to tic-tac-toe, but uses a circle as a game board rather than a 3 x 3 grid.  Signs of the game were found in ancient Rome but we don't know what the Romans called the game.  Modern scholars call it Rota, the Latin word for "wheel."  You can read more about the game and its rules at this website.

     On a recent visit, I taught my 7-year-old grandson how to play Rota.  I drew the game on paper and we used some checkers for markers.  He LOVED the game!  He caught onto the strategies immediately.  I told him that when I went home I would embroider a game for him.  He picked the fill patterns he wanted for the circles, and also the colors for the design, the markers, and the fabrics.  When my other grandchildren arrived, my grandson taught his 7-year-old cousin to play; she loved the game, too.  She picked the fills and colors for her game as well.  I embroidered her game while she was visiting at our house and then made the game for my grandson (he lives in a different city).  I used my 200 x 260 mm hoop for both games.

     As I did for my chess and checkers games, I made markers from felt and added lines for cutting the markers out with special cutwork needles.  I also added  pockets to the bottom of the game boards for storing the markers.  A mitered fabric frame completes the project.  We'll talk some more about the Rota games in just a bit, but take a look at the pictures for now.

     I didn't leave the other grandchildren out of the fun.  I made a little purse for the 5-year-old girl and a tote bag for the 3-year-old girl.  I used the same swirl design for both, but with slightly different colors.  The tote swirl has magenta and turquoise instead of red and blue, giving a jewel look to the swirl.  (My daughter-in-law suggested that change after she saw one of my other swirl projects.)  When I gave the little one her tote, she climbed on my lap, patted my face, and said, "You're a good person."  What a compliment!  Here are pictures of the two gifts.

     For the 1-year-old boy, I made a mat with some animal designs.  You may recognize the turtle, bunny, and teddy bear; I "borrowed" them from my jigsaw puzzle collection and sized them to fit together in a hoop.  The fish are the creation of my daughter-in-law.  I stitched them on fabric and added a 260 x 360 mm version of my mug rug outline.  The loops on the side will allow the parents to fasten the mat to a high chair or stroller.

     Now, back to the Rota game.  When I posted pictures of my gifts to my Yahoo embroidery groups, some members mentioned that they would like to make the game for grandkids, too.  I was happy to arrange the designs.

     By moving the game's name to the corners, I was able to fit the embroidery into my 200 x 200 mm hoop.  (I like saving stabilizer, don't you?)  I also made the circles bigger so that the markers could be bigger, too, and widened the connecting lines between circles.   I sized the game for 150 x 150 mm hoops and then enlarged the circles to be about the same size as on the larger games.  Now all the game board designs can share the same marker designs.   Finally, I gave the same fill pattern to all the circles in a game, and then made different versions of the game with different fill patterns. 

     The game boards and markers are available in 6 fill patterns:  basket weave (basket), cathedral windows (CW), key, radial, shell, and stipple.  You can use the same fill for game and markers or you can mix and match.  (You can also cut 1 1/4" circles from plain felt in two colors, or use coins or buttons in two colors.)  Here are a few pictures to show all the fills available.  The first picture shows one of each marker variety.  The second shows two 144 mm games and two 190 mm games; each game shows three of the fill patterns.

     As you can see from the game design picture, there are 5 colors in each game.  The instructions included with your purchase suggest some arrangements.  In the Large game below, I used Superior Rainbows #817 thread for the game and white for the ROTA labels in the corners.  The markers are stitched with the same Rainbows thread.  I omitted the fill pattern for three of the markers so that they are the same color as the felt.  For the Small game, I used Rainbows #813 for the game and alternated red and blue for the labels.  The markers use the same red and blue colors to coordinate with the labels.

     My friend Pauline tested my design and instructions for me.  She added her own creative touch by setting crystals into the centers of her cathedral windows markers.  Don't they look great?

     The complete set includes all 12 game boards and 6 marker sets.  The designs are also available in -design packs- and as individual designs.  To purchase a Rota board design pack, choose Small for the 144 mm game boards, or Large for the 190 mm game boards from the drop down menu.  The Rota marker set is available here.  To purchase an individual Rota game board design, choose the fill pattern you want and then choose the Small or Large size from the drop down menu.  Individual Rota game boards and marker designs can be found here.

     Each purchase includes instructions for embroidering and constructing the Rota game board and for making the markers.  If you have a computer or internet tablet in your sewing area, I recommend viewing the instructions on screen rather than printing them.  You will save paper and ink and also be able to zoom in to see the photos more clearly.

     Speaking of instructions, I tend to write mine so that they are beginner-friendly.  I add a lot of photographs so that the instructions are as clear as possible.  You may feel the instructions are more detailed than you need.  Nevertheless, I suggest you read through them at least once, even if you are an experienced sewer.  You may prefer to construct your game a different way in the end, but you will have less risk of missing something important if you see what I had in mind first.  

     Click the link below to download a guide to all the designs, with stitch counts and dimensions.

Guide_to_Rota.pdf (306.6KB)
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