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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

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A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

I BECAME A STAR WARS FAN.

It was in May of 1977 when my love of all things Star Wars began.

As I watched the action of the original Star Wars movie on the big screen of our small town theater, the Force moved over me and I was hooked for life…

I wanted to join the rebel forces immediately and be lead by Princess Leia to defeat Imperial Forces of Darth Vader, the Storm Troopers on the Death Star. I wanted to stand side by side with Luke Skywalker and feel the force flow through me as I applied Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lessons to become a Jedi Master. I wanted to interact with the coolest robot droids ever, R2-D2 and C3PO. And who didn’t have a crush on the handsome and rugged Han Solo or want to fly the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca?

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It was a few years later, but still very much a long time ago in a galaxy far far away when my love for Star Wars increased when I said “I Do” to the husband who, believe it or not, was an even bigger Star Wars fan than I was!

And, it was still a few years after that big event that Star Wars would have a HUGE impact on my sewing, embroidery and crocheting skills.

 

R2-D2 Embroidery Design

This is the very first hand digitized design that I ever made! R2-D2 for my Husbands Shirt.

My first sewing and crafting Star Wars adventure began with the purchase my first embroidery machine a long time ago. And even though I now had the tools to put any design that I wished on any of my sewing projects, there was sadly a lack of pre-made Star Wars embroidery designs for me to purchase. This lack of embroidery designs was the beginning of a whole new sewing and embroidering adventure for me, learning how to create my own embroidery designs.

The Force was not strong with me at all as I began the task of digitizing my very first Star Wars designs, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But as time has passed, I have grown skilled in the Force and my digitizing skills have improved to where I have a very nice selection of Star Wars designs to call upon whenever the need arises.

Occassionaly other sewing Star Wars fans have appeared with some of their own embroidery designs to help increase my selection. I won’t bore you here with the details of how to create your own embroidery designs, but if you want more information on how to do that you can click HERE for my “How to digitize your own custom embroidery designs” post.

Star Wars Miscellaneous Embroidery Designs

Some of my current Star Wars Embroidery Designs!

Over the years, I have created, sewn and stitched many items for the husband and family members with Stars Wars designs embroidered on them. Many of these were made way before the days of blogging, so sadly I have no links for you to read about them, and for that I am sorry.

My favorite Star Wars sewing project so far though is the gray Darth Vader shirt that I made for the husband to wear while we were at a Star Wars Weekends event at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studio’s Park in Florida. img_0901

DSC06157And my sewing ego about burst as the husband received compliments on his custom made Darth Vader Star Wars shirt from several of the actors of the Star Wars movies while we were there including Anthony Daniels (C-3PO). Click HERE to read about the making of that shirt and click HERE to see my hand crocheted Domo Kun Plush having a great time while at a Star Wars Weekends event. And for an added bonus, click HERE for some sewing advice from Han Solo.

han-solo-300x240It wasn’t until 22 years after watching the first movie in 1977 with the release of Star Wars Episode 1 in 1999 that I was finally able to purchase my first piece of Star Wars fabric. It was a cotton print of a flaming Darth Vader helmet on a black background. I had wonderful plans for this fabric when I purchased it, but it was quickly brought home and placed in the precious fabric stash unused and that is where it still lives today.img_3405

But, the second piece of Stars Wars fabric that I purchased, a fleece remnant with Darth Vader on it, was used to make the nephew a blanket with when he was a youngling. And the Force was strong with this blanket. It was the first blanket that I ever crocheted and edge around and it was the beginning of my crocheting and amigurumi making adventures. To read more about this blanket, click HERE. Since then, I have always purchased Star Wars fabric whenever and wherever I could find it.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster copyToday, “As The Force Awakens”, you can find item from the Star Wars Universe like R2-D2, C-3PO, BB-8, Rey, Finn, Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren, everywhere including in the sewing and crocheting world.

Over the last year, I have seen Star Wars sewing blog posts pop up everywhere as the Force is again re-embraced by the younglings. There are many new Star Wars related designs made with gorgeous new Star Wars fabrics to be seen and read about everywhere I turn.

Star Wars Fabrics

A few of the MANY Star Wars Fabrics I now own!

And I now see bolts of wonderful Star Wars fabrics lining Walmart and Joann’s shelves every time I enter their stores (And, YES, before you ask, I have purchased a fair amount of this fabric to live in the stash.).

And the latest thing I have seen is the new Star Wars Amigurumi crochet book and kit (And, YES, before you ask, I have already purchased that kit too) to let you crochet all your favorite Star Wars Characters for yourself.

SWCrochetBookNeedless to say in the 38 years since my “first awakening to the force” Star Wars sewing and crafting has come a long, long way. Far beyond the days of me struggling greatly while trying to digitize my first Star Wars designs because nothing else was available.

I am very excited for the new Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens movie to open on December 18th. I certainly won’t be the first person in line to see the new movie, but I might be the second :-).

I would like to be one of the first to start sewing and crocheting with the new fabrics and patterns that the buzz for this new movie has created, so hopefully you will see some fun new Star Wars projects from me on here in the very near future!

Until then, sew with the Force and crochet on! And may the Force be with you always!

 

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Happy New Year 2014!

Wishing you and yours peace, joy, serenity, and happiness in the coming new year.

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Yes I know this is the year of the ‘listicle’ or Top 10 Lists, but I’m not going to waste my time or yours by posting one for you like everyone else will do in their end of the year blog posts. I’ll leave that up to David Letterman who can do a far better job than I can. I also won’t bore you with any ‘selifies’ of myself for that matter, because lets be honest here, you really have better things to do than to look at that!

Instead, I will leave you with a photo collage of some of the fun things I did throughout the year of 2013.

I had a very busy year as you can see here:

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There was plenty of sewing, mending, altering, crocheting, costume making, designing and crafting, laughing, crying, and gnashing of teeth to be done as usual around here.

It was a lot of fun and I sure learned a lot. I hope that you were entertained and learned something new too by reading all of my crazy adventures this past year!

Cheers! And here is to an even better coming new year!

Skipping A Step

Or how not to do, what you think you should do, when you think you should do it.

Late last year around Halloween I started working on digitizing an embroidery design of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, one of mine and the husband’s most favorite Disney attractions. The plan at the time was to embroider the design to the latest shirt I had been making for the husband, but this plan went awry and it just never happened.

I did get the design completed last year and once it was completed I was smart enough to hoop a scrap of fabric from the husband’s shirt instead of the actual shirt to test it out on. This proved to be a very good thing. The embroidery test on the scrap did not turn out well at all. But, was it the design’s fault or user error? Had I not hooped the fabric tight enough? I was leaning towards poor hooping because the fabric was so stretchy but I returned to the computer and did some tweaking of the design anyway just in case.

Returning to the embroidery machine, I hooped another piece of scrap fabric with a top stabilizer this time and started to stitch my revised design. The design stitched much better but still not good enough to put on the shirt. Since I felt that I had hooped this scrap very well, I leaned more to blaming the design for the failure this time. I would have went back to the computer to tinker with the design but a little voice in my head kept saying that maybe this fabric was just too stretchy for this large of a design. Was this the problem?

Flustered, I picked a smaller design for the husband’s shirt and set the HM design aside for another shirt at a later date.

Well, the time had finally come to try again. This time the fabric I picked for the husband’s shirt was far less stretchy than the last one. I hooped a scrap of the fabric carefully and used a top stabilizer again. My revised design was stitching great on this fabric. I was greatly pleased. After stitching the first thread color which was black, I noticed that I actually liked the design with just that color alone stitched on this color of fabric. It looked kind of like how some black & white photographs looks better than their color counterparts.

I showed the husband the result and he said that he really liked it in the mono color as well. But because this was a trial run, I decided to go ahead and stitch the rest of the colors anyway. I was using the same colors that I used the last time I stitched the design but as they stitched on this fabric, I did not like them as much. So half way through the stitching of the other colors, I started switching out colors to see what looked the best. When I was done, I had a pretty funky looking multi color design but a lot of colors for the husband to pick from.

It did not take much debating for the husband to pick the colors he wanted. He said that he liked the black only design the best on this particular color of fabric. This was great for me since it cut the number of stitches in the design by half, but it was a terribly odd feeling to stop the machine after the first color and say that the design was done.

I really like the results of the half stitched single color design on this shirt. It looks very rich and clean to me. How about you? Do you like the full color version or the black and white mono color version better?

I don’t think the black and white effect would work on every design I use, but in the case of this bright fluorescent yellow green glow in the dark color of fabric it turned out wonderfully!

It is a useful and helpful technique I will remember to use for another day.

Monorail Blue

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Well my husband is a huge train fan, and an even larger Monorail fan. I think at this point we have ridden most of the Monorails on the planet, multiple times. So for his newest blue striped shirt that I made him he said he wanted a Monorail on it. The Mark VII Monorail Blue from Disneyland to be exact.

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A Monorail?

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Was he kidding?

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Did he think I could just find a Monorail embroidery design on the internet somewhere, download it and just stitch it on his shirt? No, you cannot. So I decided I would need to digitize one to use from scratch. It’s painstaking work. Which would probably take longer than it took to create the shirt in the first place.

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Oh well, he can never make things simple, but I always enjoy the challenges he puts in my path to create something cool, new, and most of all fun!

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So I went through my Disney Pins and found one that had a suitable Monorail on it that I could use.

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There was only one major problem with it. It had Tinkerbell on it and he greatly dislikes Tinkerbell. So I decided the only thing to do was to use the pin as the basis of my design and figure out some way to remove the Tinkerbell from it.

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This was not easy. Since Tinkerbell was going, all of the fairy dust she was sprinkling on the pin had to go too. That wasn’t easy to remove either.

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It might have been quicker to just redraw the whole thing by hand.

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But in the end I think it turned out ok. What do you think? Did it turn out ok?

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 3: Creating a digitized design using Bernina Artista Designer Plus Software

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

As I mentioned in my previous post I’ve tried most of the embroidery digitizing software out there over the last 10 years or so, and even after trying the latest greatest I always tend to come back to my stand by software, Bernina’s Artista Designer Plus. In this post I will take you step by step how I use it to create my own custom designs which are then stitched on my latest sewing projects.

Step 1: Get ready! Get set! Start your software! GO!

Do you have it up and going?

Great! Here we go!

You will notice that when Artista starts up it will be in freehand stitch placement mode where you can just draw stitches or shapes in freehand mode. This is the mode most embroidery software starts in.

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We need to change it to picture mode so we can load our previously touched up artwork and trace the bitmapped image using the auto trace tool. To do this click on the picture tab up at the top of the design screen. Then click on the icon in the left toolbar that looks like a flower coming out of a folder. This is the Load Picture tool.

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When the file browser comes up you can select your touched up artwork saved in a variety of formats like BMP (Bitmap), JPG (Jpeg), PNG (Ping), etc. I will be using my Mickey Indy Graphic that I touched up in Part 1 of this blog series. Click on the one you want to digitize and then click the Open button in the file browser and your design screen should now look like this.

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The next step is to use the built in Artwork Preparation Tool on the left toolbar as shown below. Once you click on it the Artwork Preparation window will pop up and show you the number of colors in your design as shown below. You want to choose an amount of colors that still gives you good detail of the design, but no more than necessary. I never use more than 16, but I usually try to stay around 4-8 colors if possible.

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Once you choose your number of colors and click on ok Artista will decrease the number of colors and smooth any lines in your design it can. It will also create large single color blocks if possible. This will provide the auto digitizing function with less work to do in the next step.

The next step is to take your prepared artwork and use the auto digitizer tool to insert stitches over your artwork. To do this click on the Design tab at the top of your design window as shown below. Then click on the Select Tool in the left toolbar. Next click on the prepared artwork image on the right. This will select it so it can be auto digitized. To do that click on the AutoDigitizer Tool on the left toolbar. It looks like a paintbrush with multicolored paint on it.

At this point you will see an AutoDigitizer window pop up where you can change your Fills and Details stitch types. I normally leave these settings at their defaults but you can use the different stitch types to create different looks for your designs. Choose your stitch types or leave it at the default and click on the OK button.

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Now you should see the bar at the bottom showing that the AutoDigitizer is creating the different stitch objects of your design. Once it has finished your design window should look like the screen below.

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If you click on the Artistic View tab you should now see a 3D representation of your completed auto digitized design as shown below.

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This is all looking pretty good at this point except you will notice that it automatically digitized the white background of the design.

I don’t want this to stitch so it needs to be removed.

So I click back on the Design Tab up at the top of the design window. Then I click on the object Select Tool on the left toolbar (it looks like a white arrow). Then I click on the edge of the portion of the white background and it will be selected and turn to a pink color to show it selected.

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Then I just hit the delete key on my keyboard and POOF it’s gone! It should now look like the screen below.

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You can click on the Artistic View Tab at the top again to make sure you are satisfied with the results. Now make sure and use the File/Save As menu option from the top to save your design. Artista offers several design formats to save to so choose the one your embroidery machine uses. I always save in the PES format since I have Brother machines.

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That is it! You are all done! Now you can change thread colors or resize your completed design to make it larger or smaller or rotate it, mirror it, or whatever else you would like to do with it using the built in tools.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post series, I sure had a lot of fun creating it!

Please let me know if you would like to see other topics covered or if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer.

If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE!

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here.

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2: Which Digitizing Software should I use?

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

First let’s get a few things out of the way.

The software you use to digitize your designs probably isn’t going to be a very important decision for you.

At first glance this might come as a surprise. But the reason I say that is simple.

Most of the embroidery machine makers usually have their own in house software that is made by a third party company for them. They don’t make their own software in house. There are only 2 or 3 major embroidery software creation companies in the world that create this embroidery software for them so they will all pretty much work the same way and have most of the same features.

So no matter what brand of embroidery machine you have, you can usually use whatever digitizing software you like or that suits you best for the job at hand.

Now they will tell you that you have to use their software so that you have the proper hoop support or the right thread colors, etc. but that is all bunk.

They are just trying to lock you into their particular product so that you always have to purchase their support, their updates, their supplies, etc.

Don’t buy into their hype and sales pitch.

I’ve been using a different manufactures brand software than the one that made my embroidery machines for over 10 years now without any problems whatsoever so use what YOU want to, not what they want you to use.

I have always only owned Brother embroidery machines (for why read this previous blog post),  but I dislike their PE-DESIGN embroidery software that comes with their machines. It’s seems too simplistic to me, and it will not allow me to do some things I like to do, the way I like to do them, so I use Bernina’s Artista (Now called Bernina Designer Plus) software instead.

Why do I use this particular software rather than another?

Well for me, it was because I spent a lot of time at different sewing machine stores trying out everything they had in software (digitizing software) and hardware (embroidery machines) before I purchased anything.

What I found by doing this was that after using Bernina’s Artista, Brother’s PE-DESIGN, Husqvarna Viking’s 4D/5D, Janome’s Digitizer/Customizer, Pfaff’s Creative 4D/5D, Singer’s PSW (Professional Sew -Ware), and several others along the way, I just liked the way the Bernina Artista software worked the best.

More than anything it fit the way I seemed to want to work. So many of the embroidery software packages I tried just kept putting up road blocks and getting in my way. The Artista software never seems to get in my way, it let’s me get in and get what I need done, get out of it and get on with actually stitching out the design on my machine.

Most of the embroidery software comes in what they call modules. What that means is if you want to do resizing you have to load a single program to do just that. But then say you need to change the colors or maybe digitize something? Well that will require that you close the program you are in and load another one instead. And you have to continue to re-load the same design into the different modules over and over again.

That was a real pain in the keister!

The Viking and Pfaff software really suffer from this since the same company makes them both. I think they have something like 14 modules in all to let you use all of the different features they offer.

The Bernina Artista software has all of the modules built in to the same program and will allow you to switch modes by just clicking a button in the toolbar. Simple, reliable, and easy to learn.

Bernina’s software is created by the world leader in embroidery software Wilcom, who also makes their own commercial software called Wilcom Embroidery Studio (Wilcom ES) for the big embroidery houses to which they happily charge $5000.00 PLUS for a license to use it. I’ve used a demo of the Wilcom ES software and I can’t see anything I’m missing in my Bernina Software. Not for a personal home user anyway.

Now I am sure many will disagree with my choice of software and will say how much they love this one or that one because of this or that feature.

And I won’t disagree with them. I’m sure they love what they use.

I am just telling you why I use the software that I use. I’m not saying that it is better than one software or another, just that it works best for me and how I like to do things.

I should mention at this point that I am an Apple Mac user and that most of my embroidery software is used on my Mac using Virtual Machine software running Windows XP.

Unfortunately for us Mac users, there is very little native Mac compatible embroidery software available, and the Mac compatible software that is out there is VERY expensive and is only made for commercial embroidery designers.

There are a couple of bright spots on the horizon though.

A friend of mine, Matthias Arndt, in Germany has for the last few years, been creating a Mac compatible embroidery software capable of letting you resize, recolor, flip, convert designs between several different formats and much more. His software is called StitchBuddy. It still will not let you fully digitize designs but it may in the future. It is shareware and can be tried out for free before you need to purchase it at a cost of $50. I was a beta tester for the early versions and I think it is coming along fine. He seems to add new features to it a couple of times a year. He also makes a Quick Look plugin and a Spotlight Importer which he provides for free to let you view your embroidery designs and search for them in the Mac’s Finder. All very, very cool tools and they have decreased my need to start up Windows on my Mac far less than I previously needed too.

One other company called BriTon Leap has recently started converting their Windows embroidery tools to the Mac, but they are close to 3 times the cost of Matthias’s Mac tools. Still they are much less expensive than something like PE-DESIGN or Bernina Artista, etc. They make a Quick Look Plugin called Embrilliance Thumbnailer, a design converter called Convert it, mac, and what seems to be the first steps of a full blown Mac compatible digitizer called Embrilliance Essentials.

BriTon Leap also has a new product called StitchArtist which runs on the Mac and will let you do more complete digitizing than their Essentials product will. I have not reviewed this product yet, but once I do I will add my thoughts on it here.

They also have a demo that you can download to try out their software before you have to pay for it. Clicking on any of the links above will take you directly to their respective websites for more information on their products. I wish I could say I was making money by linking to them here, but I’m not. I’m just trying to help out some friends I believe in and pass the word to other Mac users.

Ever since the smartphone (iPhone and Android)  and tablet revolution (iPad and Android) of a few years back, there have been several new tools released to help you digitize and convert designs on your smart phone or tablet. Both Matthias Arndt with his StitchBuddy HD and BriTon Leaps AirStitch app’s look interesting. I am currently trying out several of these new app’s and I will report back here and in a new post reviewing those tools specifically at a later date.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series where I will take you step by step through a typical (for me anyway) digitizing session where I take the touched up artwork I created in part 1 and convert it to a fully useable, stitchable design.

If you missed Part 1 of this Series, you can find it here. Part 3 of the Series is here.