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Bringing Sewing in to the 21st Century: An Ode to Twitch Creative

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.

 

 

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Blog: One Month Later

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since launch. It has been a steep learning curve and I just wanted to share a few of my experiences about starting out that you may find interesting or useful, especially if you are starting out on a similar journey.

Stock Items

I really hadn’t appreciated the advantages of having a 15-20 item stock range in place at launch. This would have helped me start an Etsy shop at launch as well. I have found that pre-made, small items go very well on Etsy whereas larger or bespoke items tend to be easier to negotiate directly on Twitter or via Email. Had I had a range of staple items, I think I would have ‘flitted’ less between several bright ideas and late night fabric spends!

Accounts

I would have been in sheer panic mode without my accounting software. It’s free but it offers me lots of ways at looking at the figures. I have been confused by a few aspects such as the terminology used or the names of various accounts that seem to have been generated. However I have found the help service was fast, efficient and was able to comprehensively support me to answer any queries. If you want to check it out, visit Wave.

Pricing my own labour

Ah the age old question – how much is my time worth? Am I paying myself minimum wage? No. Living wage? No. Why…because it is very difficult to make someone who doesn’t do what you do understand how long it takes. Especially now we live in a world of cheap, fast, mass produced items, it has been really important to show people that they are buying something akin to art than akin to something from the high street. Which sounds exceptionally pretentious. And then we go back to the beginning of this paragraph. I have found live streaming really useful in showing people the process of my work so that they appreciate what goes in to it. Aside from that, I think for now I have to pay my dues and work from there. Tough but necessary to grow.

Illness

I had a very scary, very dangerous bout of pneumonia in January of this year. So when I started getting chest pains and a rattly feeling, I knew I was in a little bit of a bind! It took me out for a week but was luckily caught while just a minor infection (on top of damaged lungs hence it took so long). Problem is, now I work for myself…I have to be really aware that there will be times when I have to put production on hold for illness, emergencies or time with the family. Its really not ideal, as I was in the middle of three separate conversations with different people about orders in different stages! I found being honest was the absolute best way forward – none of my clients had a problem and I took myself to bed for a few days while I cleared my lungs to a point where I could work again.

Post Office

Buying postage online…what is this sorcery!? Post offices in our area are disappearing faster than White House climate change policy, so when you have to go, you have to queue…FOREVER. Therefore I have taken to printing some of my simple postage online. I can then drop it at the post office or, if its little, pop it straight in the letter box. This is very exciting stuff. I even bought little ‘FRAGILE’ and ‘DO NOT BEND’ labels to look especially official. I use recycled packaging wherever possible so its great to be able to use labels and stickers to cover over any old addresses or branding on packaging and make it look smart.

Fees

Merchant fees are a lot more than you realise! Paypal fees, card payment fees, Etsy shop fees – etc etc. I need to either incorporate this in to my client estimates (as part of P&P maybe) or account for this in other ways such as setting aside a monthly pocket of money for the fees that accrue. Realistically, because the types of work that I am doing can differ due to commissions etc, planning ahead can be a challenge as you can’t always anticipate what you will need to put aside.

Streaming/Video work

I have loved live streaming my makes. It’s great to even just have people pop in for the odd 10 minutes to see what you are up to, and I already have a few regulars who do so. It is quite laborious though and I keep feeling like I should be commentating on absolutely everything I do. I think I need to research a little by looking at other creative streams and see how they present. It may be that there is no need to have sound but a background music would be fine. Perhaps just occasional comments. Maybe just chat based communication? I also really want to get on to making some simple YouTube tutorial videos. YouTube isn’t being kind to creators at the moment so I am just waiting a little longer to assess the landscape before jumping in. I don’t want to be spreading myself too thinly.

All in all, my first month has been successful. I made a real life actual (tiny) income. I have networked with loads of other creators and learnt masses from them as well as through my own trial and error. Here’s to the month ahead! (And yes…the featured image is a MS Paint speciality. Seemed fun!)

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Project: Abe from the Oddworld Series

Andrew is a good friend of mine and was practically chomping at the bit to get an order in. I have worked with him for over a year now in my other role at Orange Bison. In the end I decided that 7 days wouldn’t be a disaster and let him make the order early (I’m so nice lol!). It also gave me a chance to test things like live streaming and stage by stage commentary on Twitter. Andrew was up for this so we struck a bargain.

Andrew had a favourite character in mind – Abe. Abe is a character from a species called the Mudokon’s. He is seen by his race as a Messiah figure who will lead them out of slavery and to a happier life free from oppression. He is a big, green/purple, lumbering character who tends to be clumsy yet endearing. Recently, the franchise was re-booted for the PS4.

Andrew wanted a fairly large piece but had a budget which was helpful for me to work with. This dictated the level of detail I could work in, the size and the frame type. He took advantage of the launch discount which was great! Abe was sewn on white Aida and had approximately 25 different colours – DMC floss was chosen for this project with two strands sewn throughout. I used an 8 inch hoop to support the work to ensure the tension would be even throughout. I didn’t want the Aida puckering around the silhouette of Abe and ruining the effect.

There were quite a few challenges with this piece. Many of the colours looked similar on the software I had used to build the pattern (to my eyes). I therefore need to ensure that I am using coded patterns with a key as opposed to colour patterns. The colours were very scattered and so it look a lot of time to build the image up as there were very few solid blocks of colour. This also meant that my original estimate for the time the work would take was much less than the actual time taken. I think this is a positive learning curve though and showed me that it would be quite valuable to track the hours that I do put in to a piece so that I am not just estimating all the time. I will then be able to give a more accurate measure of my speed across different sized pieces of work.

I have to say I really enjoyed the ability to live stream myself creating on Twitch. Not only was it great that Andrew could watch the development of his piece, but I also spoke to other sewers too and we had a great chat. Definitely something that will become a regular feature for Sew 8-bit!

The piece was framed in a deep frame to preserve the stitching (on big pieces, glass against the embroidery can make everything look a bit mushed) and selected a black painted 20cm square wooden frame. I’d love to know what you think of the images in the gallery – taken at each stage completed. Drop me a comment!

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Project: Legend of Zelda Bow Tie

This lovely fabric was bought as a remnant from Ebay absolutely ages ago and was originally intended to cover a lampshade. After much deliberation, swearing and an accident involving glue, I decided that it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue at the moment – I tend to try and add too many feathers to my bow (is that the phrase – or is it arrows in a quiver?) and felt it better to sideline this for the time being.

So instead I did a really sensible thing and agreed to do something else that I hadn’t done before which was even harder! This all came about after posting the fabric to my Twitter feed and asking for some opinions. Sam the scientist got in touch and asked if I made bow ties…he is quite the bow tie aficionado! I replied that I hadn’t but I would certainly be prepared to have a go if he was willing to let me use him as a guinea pig for what could be a Frankenstein’s monster creation. Deal struck and I went pattern hunting.

Finding a pattern for an old fashioned, hard to tie bow tie was really easy, but finding something concrete for a pre-tied bow tie was a little trickier. In the end, I found that Pinterest and other sewing blogs were really invaluable. I literally read through tons of these and picked out a few bits I liked and mashed them together to create myself a little bow tie set up.

The bow itself was the easiest part of the make. It needed interfacing otherwise it looked very floppy and didn’t hold any sort of shape. The dapper gentleman obviously doesn’t want that (!) so an iron on interfacing was added. Then a rectangle was sewn up and pinched at the centre section in order to get the shape right. I pressed again at this point to really fuse the interfacing and get a crisp shape to hold.

I then sewed a strip of fabric for the neck strap and another for the “knot” of the bow to make it look very authentic. I initially intended to use a Velcro fastener but the anxiety about the fit (especially if the fabric gave a little while wearing) led me to decide that it would be best to order a proper bow tie fastening kit in order to provide neck measurement adjustability and a smart hook fastening. With kids bow ties, Velcro is much preferred as there is no danger of swallowing it or any sort of lethal eye injury from the hook and I wanted this to be a smart and sophisticated piece while having the fun gaming element in the design. Velcro on an adult bow tie just didn’t fit the bill so I ordered a black metal fastener set which was just a couple of pounds from Ebay and arrived within 48 hours.

Now this was the bit that took the time. It was really, REALLY hard to find clear instructions for how to attach the fastenings to the strap so that the darn thing would be adjustable. I must have spent 3 hours JUST on this part of the make. Most instructions gave a sort of verbal diarrhoea of twists and turns and I ended up going back to what I do best which is plain and simple experimenting. There was nothing else for it because I needed to trust my instincts. Mercifully I finally got the hang of it and finished the make just in time. It will now reach Sam the scientist in time for his science conference at Google this coming week.

 

I’m just hoping it sits well when worn and isn’t too ‘forward heavy’. Perhaps the collar of the shirt itself will help with this (having never worn a bow tie, it was difficult to know if this was the case!).

Lets hope Sam enjoys his piece and can I thank him for his patience with a longer making period than first predicted. It doesn’t do to send out a product you aren’t happy with and so I wanted to take my time to get this one just right. Here are my top 5 tips for a bow tie creation:

  1. Always have a trial run of your make with some old scraps of fabric and not your best and final. This makes experimenting less painful
  2. An extra press of the iron to define the shape of the bow is helpful
  3. Hand sew any tiny areas to avoid a messy result
  4. Have a proper fastening method for adult bow ties – Velcro isn’t going to hold its own on a grown up neck
  5. Make sure there is a plan B, particularly if you have a deadline to work to.

Hope you enjoy the pictures, feel free to comment if you’ve ever made a bow/bow tie and have any top tips of your own!

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Pre-Launch Post 4: Working out the finer points

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!!

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Pre-Launch Post 2: Big Steps


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.

Thanks for reading!