I’ve been crafting in different guises for a few years now and I can remember when I was in my late teens and early twenties I would get a lot of giggles when I divulged that I enjoyed curling up and knitting or getting stuck in to a big sewing project. For me, the ability to craft was something I was born with. I was always drawing, painting, colouring and creating as a child and was encouraged to do so. I was always looking to learn how to make things in different ways. I won prizes and, being very socially awkward, would hide them away.
So what is the state of play like with crafting in a world that seems to be painfully digital? Even as I am typing this blog, I am getting texts on my phone, my Twitter notifications are pinging and I am receiving email. For me, crafting was and is about escapism. When I make something, I feel at peace. I relax which is a rarity. My family know if I have been making something because I am a much easier person to live with. I am animated when I talk about my creations. When I started Sew8Bit, I definitely wanted to intertwine my love of gaming, crafting and technology in one exciting bolt of modern crafting cloth. I really feel like I am starting to achieve that aim through the use of modern technology to showcase traditional techniques.
This week, I became a Twitch Affiliate. For the uninitiated, Twitch is a website where you can watch people do ‘stuff’. There are 3 main sections which are gaming (self explanatory), IRL (cooking, chat shows etc) and then there is Twitch Creative. You will find people doing any manner of creative endeavours such as game design, digital artwork, composing music, drawing, writing and crafting. Sew8Bit really lent itself to this medium because of the fact that it combines gaming with viewing. It would naturally lead gamers in to viewing because of the shared interest in games and game characters. The Affiliate Scheme, introduced in 2017, allows content creators to earn revenue for their streams (live content) by attracting subscribers and ‘bits’ – a unit akin to a Twitch ‘currency’ of support. To qualify, a commitment must be demonstrated by achieving certain benchmarks in your content creation. By transferring my 2 making days in to ‘Live Makes’, not only did I show my skills to a live audience, but I also was able to network with other makers, creators and potential customers.
Viewers often asked questions about the materials or equipment I was using and the techniques. It was interesting to find out that some people used to sew when they were younger but adult responsibility got in the way as they grew older. It reignited a crafting spark in them. Some began putting the stream on during the day while they worked from home or went about making their own creations. One viewer said it felt like an ‘art club’ and enjoyed speaking with other people whether they were like minded crafters themselves or just enjoyed the laid back atmosphere. Within the 30 day window required for Affiliate consideration, I had nearly 60 followers and streams that attracted viewers and chatters from 4 continents. Some are gamers who stream in the evenings (I have given up trying to do creative streams in the evenings as they tend to be just myself!) and some are craft streamers themselves. Some don’t stream at all as they prefer to watch. You can then follow each other and get ideas for developing and improving your own content or get inspiration for new projects. I’ve discovered stained glass makers, graffiti artists and woodworkers. I’ve also re-discovered Bob Ross…if you don’t know who he is I heartily recommend you go and enjoy some “happy little trees” with him. Through the means of a webcam, I can make my process accessible to those who are curious or want to learn. Maybe they are seeking their own project inspiration or just like the background nonsense I talk while they are doing their own thing at home or in the office.
21st Century technologies are making the process of creating much more accessible to those who wish to learn. I have helped a few people with sewing glitches of their own this week – and I only know the answer because I have created something similar myself or have watched it being solved elsewhere. TV shows like ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ were crucial to my developing some of the skills I have today because I watched other people demonstrate them first. And in discussing these solutions with people during the streams or on social media in general, it helps me generate new ideas for the direction of Sew8Bit (and some really exciting ones are coming soon!). I am part way through a diploma which is ticking the boxes in terms of understanding the right terms and distinguishing between types of fabric, but distance learning with something like art and craft does have its limits. I’m a visual, active learner and need to experiment, watch, do, and feel in order to understand. The diploma is doing the job of giving things the right names, but nothing (for me) beats watching, or better DOING what I want to learn to make. Is live streaming my work going to pay the mortgage? No…or very very unlikely anyway. Sewing isn’t one of the ‘big hitters’ in terms of creative live streaming. That is the preserve of digital artistry really (Photoshop, illustration, design, digital drawing). I have seen a couple of Cosplayers doing some tutorials but they are more aimed at things like armour and make up rather than sewing.
This isn’t my usual style on this site as I tend to do things in a ‘casual journal blog’ type of format, but this was something I wanted to raise as a point for discussion. My husband uses Twitch Gaming to learn about bosses in World of Warcraft and get hints and tips about how to tackle them. I use Twitch Creative to talk about my creative process and share how to make things with others. I watch other makers on Twitch Creative for inspiration and tips. Have you used live streaming as a way to share or learn? I’d love to hear your views.
I really have been neglecting both the blog and the website. The thing is, I am enjoying the live interaction of social media so much that I sort of forget that its here! In the blink of an eye, I am 6 months in to the Sew 8-Bit journey and so much has happened that I thought it would be a good time to take stock and get things down on paper (well…digital paper) for prosperity, learning, sharing and just to remind myself of the journey I have been on. As with my other blogs I will probably sub-divide in to themed paragraphs in order to keep it clear. There will be projects that I go in to detail over in separate blogs too. I’d love to know which ones you would like to know more about.
I’m using the term traffic to refer to any ‘presence’ that I have online with the business and generally via word of mouth or events. Bascially speaking, the people who hear about the business and then any custom that is generated from that. As I mentioned above, the website has sort of been a bit of an afterthought these last few months. I think it doesn’t have the interactivity of the social media routes which makes it harder to remember to use. Actually it is getting a few hits a day…not many but then pushing content would generate more hits. Vicious cycle. Its an important method of sharing a ‘portfolio‘ of work and getting in to meatier projects. In future, I’d love some tutorials on here for basic sewing projects and to tie that in with YouTube and Patreon. However, as with all things, I am very limited on time until my son starts school in September (eeek!) so I think that is going to be the long game. In the immediate future though, assigning time to maintaining the site once a week is key. Social media ticks over anyway as its part of my daily habit over a coffee or three. I’ve also found people spotting my makes (such as my phone case) when out and about and its been lovely to gain interest about what I do. I have begun to carry a couple of business cards on my person as a result!
The cross stitching was initially the biggest part of what I did but it has now become more of a background. I think the labour costs for something like that can be off-putting so it is something people are more likely to save for and then purchase larger pieces. I have, however, sold some cards via my Etsy store in the run up to Christmas and worked with a client to produce a big Count Duckula piece as a gift for his mother but also in remembrance of his uncle. It looked really effective once completed and the initials embroidered on there really made it personal. Moving forward, I think I will stick to making small stock cross stitched pieces but nothing big/framed unless it is ordered.
Drawing is really not something I had intended for S8B. I shared a couple of drawings with friends and from there shared some publicly and then my mum got hold of one and it went from there. People seem to love having drawings of their pets! I completed a few before Christmas and they went off to become gifts – I’ve had feedback from one of them which was very positive. Some of my drawings of birds of prey will be made in to greetings cards to sell cheaply as a low cost item to go on the Etsy shop or take to craft fairs as they are a great way of making sales when people are maybe not as interested in the characters on fabrics or cross stitched designs.
I feel like I am growing with every little bit I stitch both in learning and confidence. I am getting more experimental as well, creating my own pattern for a Nintendo Switch case in one case and using new techniques such as pleats, darts, french seams and pocket making. I have also started considering how my sewing could help people. A while ago I noticed a plea on Twitter by a mum who needed a protective belt for her son who was tube fed. Working together, we talked through everything that the belt needed and I went away and created a bespoke item. Sensory cushions and ‘taggies’ (fabric with things to ‘fiddle’ with) have been a starting point for me as a woman with autism (and experience in education) but I am really interested in this area and am looking at ways of creating more ‘solutions based’ projects in the future. The people at Pimoroni have been particularly helpful in this respect as they have sent me some of their sew-able electronics to try on a cushion for a young lad with autism who loves light patterns, so I’d like to thank them for that. I’ll keep you updated with the progress on that one!
The other big sewing news is the new machine! Hooray I finally have a new machine and not the old tank. I will definitely miss the old girl and was so grateful for the loan while I got started but having a machine I can lift is, in itself, amazing! I chose a Brother Innov-is 55FE in the end. I had set my sights on something a bit fancier but after discussing it with a number of people, I came to the conclusion that there is no point in running before I can walk. That being said, the new machine is amazing and is so quiet compared to the Bernina; which was a 50 year old metal tank but will outlast the human race. The machine is digital too so it has little things that help me make my sewing processes quicker and simpler.
Craft Fairs and Networking
Using the fantastic ‘Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018’ booklet that came from Selina and Vicki at Project Love, I really drilled down in to the 2018 I wanted to have. One of the things on the list was to network with other makers. Part of this is coming from Guild of Makers which has helped me make some lovely connections. Aside from the online networking, I really want to try and get out in to the real world this year to connect with other makers and try to sell some things along the way. Easier said than done – I am quite the introvert! I did, however, find a craft fair in March that is in my local village hall. I don’t think it will earn me very much but the set up fee was very low and I think it will just help me get over the first anxieties and dip my toe in the water with talking to people about what I do.
2018 is definitely going to be a big year in terms of the development of what I can do and what I want to do. Watch this space!
The business is constantly evolving and tweaking at the moment. It’s strange as I always assumed I would have an idea and that would be it. However I’m learning very quickly that one task or piece can lead to another that is quite different yet still relevant to what you love doing. As I have made several pieces this month, I thought that doing a general monthly blog would be better suited. This will probably be the format for future blogs as it gives me a good quantity to talk about while still being manageable to fit in to my often hectic life.
As someone with autism myself, it was such a pleasure to be able to make these cushions for a family to support their children’s additional needs. Each one was made with a different front and back (we all know that kids want their ‘own’ item!) and had a weighted removable pouch inside. The weighting is very therapeutic for many with additional needs and can reduce anxiety and manage behaviour(s). I can tell you now that sequinned fabric is a nightmare to work with being that its so slippery! My machine went through the sequins with no problem, however the fabric often slumped or wrinkled without me noticing and its A LOT harder to undo than create a seam using this stuff! Another problem was maintaining my focus when working with the weighting and the sequins as they really appealed to me and relaxed me to the point where I just wanted to sleep! All being said and done though, they were really appreciated by the client and will be an exciting Christmas Day treat for some lucky boys.
I’m one of those people that loves to use every scrap of fabric. Throwing stuff away is definitely not in my nature – I’ve even been known to make products that reuse fabric (such as some pillowcases that I picked up that were unused but perfect for my Switch Case which I’ll show off shortly). Seeing as we live on a planet where it seems easier to throw away than recycle, I try to use everything to the max including reusing packaging. So I came up with the idea of using leftover character fabric to make bows. They have a simple ‘crocodile’ type slide on the back and require only a small amount of fabric. The bows have to be hand finished as its too small for the machine which takes a little more time, but its something I can do in bulk at the end of another project to use up any leftovers. It makes for a great pocket money item as well for those who want something fun but can’t afford a big spend – especially for the kids as stocking fillers.
Switch Console Case
One of my favourite makes ever, the Switch case was actually born out of necessity. I had a hospital appointment recently which involved waiting around for an hour to trial a new drug and see if it was suitable. The Switch was the perfect distraction but I had to wrap it in a hand towel as I had no case! I therefore decided to create my own case from the pattern to the finished product. It involved making a paper mock up initially as I wanted to be sure that the net I produced would go together and that the measurements would be correct. I do lack confidence when measuring and I’ve found that this is the best way to manage without wasting expensive fabric with wrong cuts! Inevitably there was a lot of swearing, shouting and frustration. Sewing things together doesn’t always mean doing them in the order you expect. I sewed the lining and then realised that my pocket needed to have been stitched to the top fabric first…very simple but impacts on the finish of the product at the end. I certainly learnt a lot by making my own pattern – especially about the need to learn how to effectively box corners which I can now do moving forward. I live streamed the make which I LOVE doing and then popped it over on my YouTube if you would like to take a look. It has been received very well and I’ve had a commission on the back of it which is great.
I lost a good two weeks this month to my back problems yet again. I’ve been assessed by a physio and am looking to get treatment. It does however really have an impact on my mood (if I can’t make things I’m sad) and naturally the business as well. Then my son was really poorly with this horrid virus going around and that was, as you might expect, all consuming. My parents are moving house (today in fact!) owing to their health so that has been very much an ongoing factor in life at the moment. All of this added up has also made my anxiety pretty rubbish but I’m finding that making really is the best therapy for this. I hit 300 followers and surpassed it on Twitter this month and the #MakersHour hashtag run by @GuildofMakers (Run by @DrLucyRogers) is really helping me build up like minded contacts which is always good for a lift but also inspiration for new makes. I’ve had some particularly great interaction this month with Rachel (@KonichiwaKitty) and Tash (@CaffinatedCraft) who make pieces that really motivate and inspire me. I’m undertaking some coaching with the lovely Tim Nicholls (@Guessonomics) who is a good friend and mentor. I’m finding it really great to bounce ideas off a fellow maker and generally have a giggle and socialise (be it via Skype owing to the distance) – its good, as Tim discussed on Twitter this month, to find an effective way of making your work and your life one and the same in a positive and healthy way. I’ve got something really exciting in development as a result which I’m hoping will take off and underpin the Sew 8-Bit brand. It really is so exciting when an idea starts to form that you can really see working out. I’ve also started uploading ‘Live Makes’ to YouTube and ordered my very first set of Sew 8-Bit tags for sewing it to makes which felt very pro! Let’s see what November brings.
I thought I would write a little blog with some gift ideas for the forthcoming festive season. I’m very (VERY) aware it is only September but for a one man band, this is when we have to start pedalling our wares in order to meet (hopefully) high demand in the run up to Christmas. That and my sons birthday is the week before Christmas. It gets very frantic. With that in mind, if you intend to order something for a loved one and it isn’t a stock item, please don’t delay! Ordering details at the end of this article. I may end up having to close my order books if things look tight so please think ahead. If you aren’t sure if you will want to order something or even what to get, in at number 10 we have…..
10 – The Gift Voucher
My gift vouchers are gorgeous if I do say so myself. They have shiny foil block bits and everything. They also have a variety of uses that you may not have thought of. Yes, they do first and foremost make a great gift – especially for the gamer who has everything or loves everything. But they also could be used as a secret Santa gift for the awkward office colleague. What about on your own list to give to Grandma Mildred who otherwise would buy you doilies again? What about as a savings scheme…if you want something you can’t afford right away but don’t want to risk frittering the money on an impulse purchase, buy a voucher once a month or a couple of times a year. I keep a record of all the voucher sales so even if you lose your voucher, I can look it up.
9 – The Christmas Card with a Twist
The last time I sent a Christmas card was so long ago because I used to write them, pop the stamps on and forget to post them. However this card is a card and gift all in one. You can write inside it just like a regular card…it even has an envelope. But when teamed with a funky picture frame as an accompanying gift (sourced by you or by me) you also have an individual and unusual gift. The card also doesn’t have to be Christmas themed so it can be displayed all year round.
8 – Framed Pieces
Framed pieces look so good on the wall and can be absolutely customised to your hearts content and to suit your budget. They can also be personalised with text or dates for that extra special touch. You can go as wild as you like (well…depending on your budget obviously) to include anything from glitter thread and Swarovski crystals to multi aperture framed character studies. These pieces tend to take a while to get finished to the standard I am happy with so ordering early is imperative.
7 – Cushion Covers
I don’t know about you but I think cushions are so boring. Well….except the cushions I make because they are gaming cushions and guaranteed to get noticed. They are slip covers so can easily replace your existing covers or I can source the filling pad for you. Always washable too – none of this dry cleaning nonsense, plus they are guaranteed not to contain any cheesy inspirational phrases or itchy motifs. Cushions should be made to be squishy and snuggle-able so lets keep it that way.
6 – The Pouch
Sounds wrong but it’s sooooo versatile. From glasses to phones and Joy Con to scissors, a pouch can be made from any fabric and be left open or have a variety of closures fitted on request including magnetic clasps, Velcro, drawstring etc. These are the very simple version of the more luxury line of portable console protectors, but nonetheless very handy. A great little stocking filler.
5 – The Cross Stitched Phone Case
My phone case is like a walking advert for my business. Everyone immediately wants to talk about it, feel the stitches and ask questions. They are made of a silicone-like material with some very small holes that can be sewn through. They make several versions for different phone brands and sizes so I will be able to try and get a fit for your device. These would be really cool as a gift for someone getting a brand new phone as a present. Anything that survives my handbag and pockets is a good indicator of longevity so I can tell you from experience that these are made to last.
4 – Gamer Scarf
I’m running an awful risk here because I am having to publish this before I have finished an example. However the gamer scarf is, in my opinion, essential winter wear that keeps your head AND neck warm. It could be designed with different franchises in mind and adapted for your needs (I suffer with cold extremities so pockets will be needed on mine I think!). You get the gist from the illustration on the pattern but it really can be made to your liking. They are made from fleece materials so they are warm with the no-itch pain of woollen scarves.
3 – Bows and Bow Ties
For all genders – the bow has become a staple of the wardrobe either as a hair accessory or as a piece of formal attire. My bows are different in that they can be themed around favourite game characters. If you are thinking of a bow for a bow tie, hair clip, Alice band or even as a pin brooch to complement a bag or outfit, I am able to make one that would be reflective of your love of gaming. A great gift or stocking filler.
2 – The Luxury Pouch
Luxury pouch sounds even more wrong. But this is a high quality item for your portable device. This one is sized for the New 2DS/3DS XL but can be adapted to fit retro portables such as the Game Boy or Game Gear or other modern portables such as the PS Vita or even the Switch. Luxury pouches can also be used to house controllers that need a little extra protection. I’m a big portable gamer so I know the needs…my luxury pouches are soft fleece lined, double seamed on the corners to prevent splits and strong thread is used. The closure can be one of your choosing such as drawstring, Velcro or toggle/button. They are excellent for preventing damage through scratching, knocks and bumps. A really ideal item if you are a commuter who games on the go or just want an additional level of protection.
1 – The Dock Sock
Yes I spelt that right…hot tipped to be high on the lists of gamers everywhere is a Nintendo Switch. Even those who already have one might want a dock sock because of the inherent risk of screen scratches when docking and un-docking the screen section to game on the go. The little stick on screen protectors are OK but I know that I will get an air bubble in mine every single time. I also know that replacing a scratched screen isn’t an option. Enter the dock sock. Its a very simple little rectangular sock that pops over the front panel of the Switch and thereby reducing the risk of scratching when the screen is moved. They offer protection while being thin enough not to interfere with the charging dock mechanisms. They can also be made with your favourite games in mind and are small enough to store easily so that you could buy a few and change them as often as you change your own socks!
There hasn’t been a blog this week for a couple of reasons but mainly because its been 30+ Celsius all week long. I didn’t fancy adding to the sweat patches by poring over a hot computer and I was too tired and flustered to sew!
That being said I have had some awesome deliveries this week. The lovely team at Jaycotts sent me these beautiful patterns which I love and can think of so many ways of working with. I may use some of my scrap box to make some mock ups with as I think buying any more new fabrics at the moment wouldn’t be advised. Its a difficult balance to have enough to show what you can do while at the same time not eating every penny of your savings. I don’t know yet what people will and wont like so I’m trying to be sensible with my outlay.
I also went hunting on Ebay for more remnants which turned up some lovely Zelda and Pokemon fabrics.
I also got a generic ‘gamer’ motif with a game boy style picture but I’m not sold on the fabric it is printed on. Going to have to think carefully about what that will suit. I must also diversify my subject matter a bit. Always far too tempting to buy ‘safe’ fabrics or patterns!
The Aztec style Zelda print will be used to up-cycle a lampshade which is looking good so far and has been quite a discussion point on Twitter this week.
I’ve also been ironing out the finer points in the admin department too. Terms and Conditions are now finalised. I’m waiting for the stationary to go to print as my husband hasn’t had a spare moment to set it all up but its not too urgent (yet!). I’ve started building a pricing structure and have considered a few more product lines as well which is good progress. One of the final steps will be formally registering as self-employed after my contract finishes on 21st July. I’ve been doing some fantastic networking with fellow creative minds via the Guild of Makers chat on a Wednesday evening on Twitter using the hashtag #makershour. I’ve had a lot of insight and support from fellow creators (business owner and hobbyist alike) and I’d really recommend that for anyone with a creative mind. Some of the talent out there is staggering and gives me a lot of ambition.
I’ve a very busy few weeks coming up including a church fun day with a Star Wars theme. The costume is nearly finished so I will show you my creation when it is done. We also have multiple weddings, birthdays and summer meet ups to come so a good work-life balance will definitely be essential. Don’t forget that you can now subscribe to the newsletter to get a monthly digest of makes, competitions, coupons and more. I also have my Patreon running now and would love any support there as an ongoing subscription or you can donate a one off gift via the Amazon Wishlist. All this will help me during my start up period where things are going to get legitimately crazy I think! I also need to plan my first live Twitch Creative stream as I can’t wait to get that off the ground. I do need a second camera for that though and some sort of contraption to dangle it from! If only there were more than 24 hours in a day!!
Well the logo designs are coming in thick and fast now from my husband. We have a panel with 12 designs to go through that we are taking to show some like minded people this weekend for their opinions. It’s been quite difficult making the branding come together when 8-bit and sewing aren’t usually two things you would put in the same situation.
I’ve found a fantastic accounting software called Wave (https://www.waveapps.com/) which is a very simple to use, free software that is useful for start-ups such as myself. The only thing you get charged for are the payment processing fees (which you would via PayPal in any case) so I’ve been busy adding my services to that and beginning to learn how to generate estimates and invoices.
I’ve also written some terms and conditions for my services. This is really important when a lot of my work will be commissioned. Definitely makes me and any potential client feel more secure if they know exactly where they stand.
I need to produce an inventory of all of my stuff so that I can track when I need to buy more of particular thread colours or fabrics. It will also help me keep a track of the equipment I own so that I don’t go out and purchase something I already have.
Aside from this its pretty much all the legal bits – registering with HMRC, sorting the banking side, checking if I need to pay NI contributions and also updating any agencies that I am going to be self-employed. That’s a really important one to consider so that you don’t miss out on any entitlements but you also don’t receive any sanctions (especially if you claim anything that is means tested – I don’t but I like to cover my back!)
I’m also working hard trying to bring the website together and go back to find photos of anything I’ve made in the past. Some photos are MUCH better quality than others so I’m hoping they will do me a turn until I produce newer things that can be photographed properly.
Welcome to Sew 8 Bit! I don’t launch until August so I want to use the time in the run up to keep you up to date with how the business is coming along.
This is my first business and I’m very nervous but excited. I’ve bought domains and secured social media spaces so far which is a big first step in the journey of the brand. Self employment is ideal for me as I have a young family and autism. Working in this way will allow me to feel useful, earn money and contribute to society a bit without causing myself undue worry, stress or anxiety. The dot com domain will be patched over the WordPress branded domain a little closer to launch to keep my costs down a bit just in case things get delayed.
This week, I’ve been researching the complex world of the self employed person including HMRC, Tax, Self Assessment, Branding etc etc etc. Little bit freaked out about doing my accounts and taxes but I’m sure I will learn very quickly. Building the brand is pretty much being taken care of by my husband using his background in graphic design.
I’m self taught in sewing for the most part. I’ve embarked on a distance learning sewing diploma which has both theory and practical modules. Mercifully have passed the first 3 I’ve submitted so I know I’m not totally useless 😀
A little more about me? Well I taught primary school children for 10 years before leaving to have my son and reconsider my options (it wasn’t doing my health much good). After being loaned a sewing machine for a project I was quickly hooked. Iv’e been a cross stitcher (as in sewing crosses not being a grumpy sewer…usually lol!) since a child so I had that string to my bow and it all came together from there. I also occasionally dabble in other crafts such as Hama Beads, drawing and knitting.
I’m looking forward to the venture and in keeping you updated about the progress towards the launch. Until next time!