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Bad Habits – Cutting Corners And Skipping Steps

'Gee, I don't know. Can I see this in another mirror?'

I did something that I have not done in at least 15 years. I went to the store, picked out 6 pairs of denim pants in my size, took them to the fitting room, tried each pair on, selected the pair that had the most acceptable fit of the six, then purchased that pair of pants. This experience got me thinking about several things.

First, why was I buying Ready To Wear (RTW) pants?

As you can tell from the recent slow down in the frequency of my blog posts, life happens, and the only sewing that I have been able to do recently is a little mending here and there. Thankfully I knew quite awhile ago just when these life changes were coming.

life-change-aheadBecause of that I took the precious little sewing time that I still had left to make myself a couple of new pairs of work pants, but I did not get a pair of casual denim pants made before my time ran out. At the time, this was fine. It was still summer, and I was wearing shorts on my days off, but it’s starting to get colder now, and I need long pants to wear most days. Because of this I had to make a decision, either quickly whip up a pair of denim pants cutting as many corners as possible to save time, or to head to the store to  purchase a pair of denim pants. I choose the later.

My  first thought when I decided to purchase a pair of pants instead of making them was the famous minion refrain ”WWHHAATTT?!?” “You’re a seamstress! You have the tools, the fabric, and the notions! Get your butt in there and sew yourself a new pair of pants!”

'I knew there was part of the pattern missing!'

But, with the very little time that I had available to make the pants, I would have had to cut every corner possible to get them done in time. I would not have washed and pre-shrunk the fabric. I would not have finished the seams properly or completely, and I wouldn’t hem the pants to the proper length either. I would have just rolled the hem under and hope that it stayed with a quick ironing or a big safety pin.

This lead my next thought to be, “Is this really the way you want to sew something? Do you want to do a poor sewing job just to get the item done in the time you have available?” The answer was easy for me. No! I did not want to wear a pair of pants that were sewn that way!

deadlines-1p2cpw7There was a time long ago when I first started sewing that I sewed only for the end result, regardless of how poor of a job that I did. When I first started sewing, my mom, who is a advanced and skilled seamstress, trying to encourage me, would say, “Oh, it should only take 30 minutes for you to make that t-shirt”, or “You’ll have that dress whipped up in an hour.” She was trying to let me know that sewing was fun, quick and easy and, in no time at all that I would have a finished wearable item.

But, I misinterpreted my mom words at the time! I made sewing a timed event. When it took me 2 days instead of 2 hours to sew something, I figured I was a failure and that I was doing something wrong, so to compensate I would try to sew the item too quickly, cut corners, and skip steps to complete the project in the allotted time.

02d0fcf10d4a027a72e27973cf29abc7My goal was only to get the item finished in the proper amount of time. When I finally figured out that every sewing project did not have a deadline, and that I could take the time that I needed to complete a project properly, I enjoyed sewing a lot more. Sewing became fun and I began to enjoy the process, plus my finished items were of a much higher quality and they wore a lot better.

Another reason that I was willing to cut corners and skip steps to get the finished item completed quickly, was that when I was first starting to sew I grew tired and bored of a project. I just wanted it to be done and over with so that I could start on another project. I would often say “I should really unpick this and sew this again, but I’m not going to. I will just do better on the next project.” I quickly learned that when I did this, I was not pleased with the finished item, and I was not enjoying the sewing process at all because I knew I could have sewn it better.

SLIGHTLY Irregular Designer Jeans.

So, when it came to going back to poor sewing habits just to complete a pair of pants, I decided that I would rather use the little time I had to carefully sew a few seams on a current project, or thoughtfully plan a future project, or, if I just needed to sew,  I would just make a baby sleeper or two. For a needed pair of pants though, I would just see what the Ready To Wear world had available for me instead. I would leave the poor sewing in my past.

Hopefully, life will change again soon, and I will have more sewing time available to me in the future!

Until then, sew forth and enjoy the process on!

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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!

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 1

Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 1: How to get a usable graphic image ready to digitize.

(Updated: June 13th, 2015)

Happy Fall Everyone! I thought I would give all my lovely readers something great to start Fall, the 1st of October (my favorite month) and the weekend with, so without further ado, here it is!

Before I start talking about the software used to digitize your own designs, and how to go about digitizing on your own, I need to talk about the first step in the process.

And that step is to first get the artwork you want to use, and then making it usable to be digitized.

This is the most important step in the process, and if you do it correctly it will usually take the most time.

The hardest part of the whole process is getting good artwork and tweaking it so that you will have no problems digitizing it using your choice of software later on.

If you don’t do this step first your end results will most often end in frustration and disaster.

I can not stress this point enough, if you don’t spend the time now getting your artwork in good shape before digitizing, you will spend hours and hours later trying to fix it.

Please don’t try to use badly photographed or the lowest resolution clip art that you have downloaded off of some website somewhere on the internet that is no larger than a postage stamp, you won’t like your finished results.

Try to make sure your artwork is clean and in a medium to high-resolution format. I usually like to start with something at least in the 300×300 pixel size range. Of course if you have some camera ready artwork of 1200+ pixels in size you should be in great shape and you should get some excellent results without too much tweaking.

ALWAYS REMEMBER! The lower the resolution of the item you are trying to digitize is, the more work you will have to do up front in a graphic editor getting it ready to digitize.

Of course you don’t need to have great camera ready artwork to start with. If you have a simple idea of what you want, you can just sit down with a piece of blank white paper and sketch out a simple design of what you are trying to create. I’m no artist, so I usually try to use something that has already been drawn by someone else and go from there. But if you cannot do that, just sketch something simple onto a piece of plain white paper and either scan it in or take a photograph of your sketch to get it into your computer to get started on the process of cleaning up the bitmapped graphic before you begin the digitizing part.

Here are a few photos to show you what I am talking about in the good art department.

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To the left is an original photo I found on the internet somewhere. I really wanted to use the Indy Mickey graphic for an embroidery design but I didn’t want to use the background since it is very complicated and it wouldn’t embroider well.

The first thing I did was extract Mickey from the background graphic. I won’t be describing the exact process or software I used to do this since almost any graphics editing software can do this process of snapping out an object from the background of a photo. Do a search on the internet for ‘remove a background from a photo’ and you will find several great articles and tools on how to do this.

Of course the most common graphics editors used to do this type of work are Adobe’s Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. They are great tools to use for this. But there are many others that are very usable and are available for very little money or for free in shareware and freeware tools.

Ok!

Now once you have the graphic that you want extracted from the background you should have something that looks like Image 1 below.image-1-2-3This is a good start, but it still needs to be edited by hand a little more to remove more detail before going any further.

This next step is a very important one too.

On most designs you will want to have a heavy black edge around the entire design to help with digitizing later on.

So if you look closely at Image 2 you can see how I traced around all of the lighter lines around the border and the light grey colored areas to make them thick dark black lines and curves.

This little bit of editing here will give you a nice dark satin stitch around the border of your design once we the design digitized.

Here is my edited image a little further on in the process.

image-4In Images 3 and 4 I am getting really close to the final bitmapped image that I will put into my digitizing software.

You will notice that I have continued to edit the graphic until I have changed the hair and teeth on the golden idol to more solid colors rather than the individual fine lines that the original graphic had. I’ve also simplified the shoe strings and shadows on the shoes since at smaller sizes these would end up being unrecognizable blobs of knotted up thread on your embroidery machine once it was stitched out.

And you don’t want that.

It’s a mess!

In Image 4 you can see that I changed some of the colors in the graphic to other colors that already exist in the graphics design to reduce the number of thread colors I would need to use when digitizing the graphic.

The fewer colors you have  in your bitmapped graphic once it has been tweaked, the easier it will be to get a good digitized embroidery design in the end.

When embroidering something on a machine that needs to punch thousands and thousands of holes using a needle into a very small area, fewer colors means fewer punches.

The fewer the punches that are needed, the happier you will be with your end results.

Luckily for you, most graphic editing software tools have a great feature that will reduce the amount of available colors in a graphic image easily or automatically for you by using color averaging.

It’s best to reduce the image you are working with to 256 colors or less before trying to digitize it.

I usually prefer to stick with under 16 colors in my embroidery designs. 8 is better still.

Sometimes you do need more colors than that to make your design work though, and that is ok too.

It just won’t be as sharp and precise of a design in the end.

Well I hope that gives you a pretty good idea on how to get your original ideas, concepts and designs into your computer and get them into a condition that will work well for digitizing.

The next step will be to get that graphic into your embroidery software and finishing the touching up and final digitizing of the design.

I will cover that in my next how to: Digitizing your own Embroidery Designs Part 2.

Part 2 of this series is HERE, Part 3 of this series is HERE.

My Sewing Machines – Part 2: The Embroidery Machines

Just in case you missed the first installment of this post:

My Sewing Machines – Part 1: The Beginning you can click anywhere on this to go back and read it first.

My Sewing Machines – Part 2: The Embroidery Machines

(Updated: June 13th, 2105)

My first embroidery machine:

I watched the evolution of the electronic embroidery machine with close attention for several years before I finally bought one. I was always stopping by my local sewing machine stores to see what all the different manufacturers of embroidery machines were up to, and what great new features they had been adding. And of course asking for demos of these wonderful new machines to see what they could do first hand. Embroidery machine technology has moved forward at a very rapid pace since the 1990’s. They haven’t advanced quite as fast as computers have advanced since that time but it’s close, since the computer control of the machines motors, steppers, cutters, and the robotic embroidery arm were the most important parts of the embroidery machines.

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My first embroidery machine was a Brother PE-200 Snoopy Design machine.

Brand new it was $1500, but I got it used for about $800 with shipping and I just loved it. I could have gotten the PE-150 or PE-180 models for less money but it wouldn’t have had the Snoopy designs in it and at the time, that was important to me. It had about 24 Snoopy and Peanuts designs and about 24 other designs built into the machine.

All of the designs were 4″x4″ (4 inches square) or under in size.

At the time that was the largest design that any embroidery machine could create in one field without using special hoops and tricks. It is comparable in 2009 to the Brother PE-750D Disney machine. Because it was an embroidery only machine, you had to have a separate sewing machine if you wanted to sew something once you had done your embroidery with it.

The problem with this machine and other smaller less expensive embroidery machines that you might purchase is the small number of built in designs they have and the high cost of purchasing more designs.

To stitch designs other than those that are built into the machine, you needed to purchase designs on design or memory cards that could be read by the machine directly for somewhere between $50-$150 each for 10-15 designs per card, or if you wanted to download designs from the internet or take some off a cd or design your own, you had to have a card reader/writer and a blank writable memory card to get the designs from the computer or cd onto the card and then to the machine. To get the box you had to purchase the very expensive software that went with it for another $500, which you needed anyway to digitize or resize your own designs. Luckily for us home embroiderers, things have gotten better, easier and less expensive. Besides putting out all the money for the equipment, you still have to figure out how use it all. Thank heavens for my husband and his skills on the computer because he did all of this hard part for me. He tried on more than one occasion to show me how to create and transfer the designs myself to those fiddly memory cards, but I just could not get it. So when I needed something new he was kind enough to put it on a card for me and all I had to do was stitch it out.

It did not take very long before I had outgrown this machines abilities.

It became apparent to me early on that as long as your design had only 3 to 5 colors like Snoopy or Mickey Mouse you would be ok with the 5″x1.5″ inch monochrome screen, but after purchasing a teddy bear card where each design had 15 to 20 colors per design, it became very difficult to figure out just what color I needed and which part of the design was going to be stitching next. So, with all the knowledge I now had about embroidery machines and knowing a little more about what I wanted in a machine, my search for a new machine began.

My second embroidery machine:

After much research and debate, especially on my husband’s part, I became the proud owner of a Brother Ultimate 2001 on Christmas Day 2002. Wow! This was such an upgrade from what I had that I was overwhelmed with everything it could do! This machine is a combo machine, and could do both embroidery and sewing just by removing the embroidery arm, so that was the end of my original little Brother sewing machine. It was moved to the attic for storage just in case.

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From an embroiders point of view, it exceeded the little Snoopy machine at every turn.

It had a large color touchscreen display making it easy to decipher a design with 15 to 20 colors or more. Designs were easy to load from a computer to the machine by using a normal 3.5″ floppy disk which I even finally learned to do myself. You could also still use your older design cards from the older Brother machines if you wanted. Designs could even be edited and resized directly on the machine using the touchscreen, something the Snoopy machine could not do, and don’t forget the much larger hoop size it offered. The larger hoop now allowed for designs up to 6×10 inches in size to be stitched all at once in one hoop.

From a sewing point of view, the machine was wonderful to use as well.

It had a top loading bobbin and a sensor to tell you when the bobbin was getting low. It had many built in stitches and a ton of other features that my little Brother did not have.

I was in heaven and it changed my sewing quality and quantity dramatically.

Previous to owning this machine, my sewing always involved a fight between me and the machine. With this new machine, the fights were less and when they did happen they were less severe. This is when I truly began to enjoy sewing. Life was good but then the Brother Innovis 4000D came out and replaced the Ultimate 2001/2002 model.

My third (and still currently in use) embroidery machine:

Although I loved and still do love my Ult-2001 machine, the Innovis 4000D offered many new embroidery features that I wanted. When I purchased the 4000D in 2004 I paid  just under $5000 for it. This was quite a deal at the time as they were selling in the shops for somewhere between $7500-$9000 depending on what accessories that you got with it.

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Since the 4000D is also a combo embroidery and sewing machine, it was meant to replace the Ult-2001. But that didn’t happen, and I’ll tell you why a little later in the story.

From an embroidery stand point the 4000D did surpass the Ult-2001 with great new time saving features like auto threading of the needle, auto cutting and knotting of jump stitches, and a faster stitching speed. It also had better precision in the stitched designs and a better bobbin sensor with a larger bobbin. A larger mega hoop was also included which let me now stitch designs as large as 7×12 inches in size and it had a larger/brighter touchscreen which was nice on my aging eyes. Loading a design into the 4000D machine is now done using a USB memory stick thumb drive or a normal SD memory card, which are very inexpensive and available everywhere unlike the older brother memory cards which required a special reader/writer and were very expensive to purchase.

Although it will still take the older 3.5″ floppy or brother memory design cards if you wish to use them.

You can also load designs directly from a CD-ROM drive plugged into the machine. My 16 gigabyte USB memory stick will hold thousands of designs and you can file them into folders to find them easier, plus it is fairly easy to load the designs on to the stick from a computer. The new PE-Design digitizing software for the 4000D had improved in several places as well so I decided to pick it up too. The cost to upgrade the design software from my old version which I got with my Ult-2001 machine to the new version was $500. If you were not eligible to upgrade it was $2500 to purchase it new.

From a sewing stand point, the Innovis 4000D slipped a little in my opinion.

The biggest issue I had with it as a sewing machine was the manual threading of the machine when you wanted to use a double needle. This is due to the new auto threader. A feature that added to the embroidery part really took away from the sewing part. Without  having the cover stitch feature on my serger, sewing with a double needle is important to me in the construction of my husband’s shirts and other knit projects that I make. I just do not prefer to sew on the Innovis. Lucky for me, the Ult-2001’s were not selling well used since everyone was trying to get rid of theirs to purchase the new 4000D machine, so my husband decided that I could just keep both machines, one to do embroidery with and one to sew with. And this worked out way better than I ever thought it would!

Life is good once again. Really good in fact!

I now have a serger that I have loved for years and is still going strong, a sewing machine with fabulous features that does exactly what I want, and a very fancy embroidery machine that does everything I want it to do as well. And if I ever needed or wanted to I could use either machine to sew and/or embroider with at the same time! It hasn’t happened yet, but in case one of them needed to go to the shop for repairs, I always have a backup machine. Over the last couple of years, Brother has introduced a few new embroidery machines but their features have not enticed me to purchase one over what I already have. I must admit though that the built in camera above the needle so you see a zoomed in view of what you are stitching on the touchscreen is a cool feature in the new 6000D, but not worth me coughing up another $7500+ for it. I also had a demo of the new Viking Designer machine that has a 15×14 inch hoop. That’s BIG! Now keep in mind it does this by using a special hoop and tricks like making you sew half the project and then flip it around and then sew the second half. In my mind I can do that on my machine too by using my current 12″ hoop without having to go through the hoops and using the tricks. So in conclusion: As you can see, I really like the Brother embroidery machines. I have tried and read and researched the pros and cons of all the other brands through the years and I like the Brother’s as they seem to have the features that I want and need.

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Keep in mind here that I am not a quilter, and if I was I might have chosen a different brand of machine like the Viking #1 which was a beautiful sewing and quilting machine, but I never felt like it had the embroidery capabilities of the Brother’s. Today looking at the quilting features of the new Brother Innovis 6000D Quattro I think I would still choose the Brother even if I was a quilter, but I probably wouldn’t have 10 or 15  years ago as several other brands of embroidery machines back then had better quilting features than the Brother’s of their day did. Now as you are deciding to purchase an embroidery machine for yourself, you need to decide what you’re going to do with it.

Here are some great questions to get started in your journey:

Would you be limited by the features of the smaller less expensive machines? Will you be quilting more than sewing? Do you just want to try this as it might be a passing thing for you and a little machine will work just fine as a starter machine? Or, are you in this for the long haul and a larger fancier machine would be money better spent? One note I would like to make here is that if you don’t require the support of a dealer for help and classes you can do some digging on the internet and ebay and get a new or nearly new embroidery machine for thousands of dollars off of the retail (dealer) price.

They will still have the remainder of the factory warranty on them too which any dealer will usually honor.

I personally have never lived close enough to any dealer for support so I have always searched out a deal to purchase my machines rather than purchasing them from a local dealer with support included.

Coming up next week: Part 3 and the Art of Embroidery.