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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: 6 Months Later

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.

Traffic

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!

Cross Stitching

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sewing

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!

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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: Sonic the Hedgehog

I had a bit of a wake up call the other day when I realised that all I ever seem to sew is either Pokemon or Zelda themed. As a bit of a Nintendo collector, I think I’d been a bit self centred in terms of interests! I decided this week to breach the comfort zone and try something Sega; and who better than the beloved Sonic to start with.

Lesson of the week number one: I need to remember that I can’t distinguish tone! Its a sensory processing thing and I have disordered processing so I need to stop trying to “match” colours to what I already have. Luckily my husband is practically a savant when it comes to colour (useful in the print trade!) and is able to determine colour saturation tweaks on a printer to the nearest 5%. He tried very hard to stifle his giggles and then explained where I was going wrong. So off to the shops I went and picked out the proper thread that I needed using the chart. I am usually and Anchor user but decided to give DMC threads a try as the pattern was set up in that way (you can use a converter to switch between brands but I was already flustered!)

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. There was no fraying and very little knotting or snagging. The colours were vivid and the thread was soft while being strong enough to manage the repetitive action of cross stitching. I learnt the hard way after buying in bulk from Ebay last year, that only the real deal is going to cut this type of sewing. It’s definitely best to buy from somewhere reputable where you can be certain that you aren’t buying 20 skeins of thread that simply falls apart even as you try to thread the needle. As the old adage goes, “if its too good to be true, it probably it”.

This piece was made on 16 count white Aida using DMC branded thread and two strands. I want to do a couple more showing Sonics range of movement and expression so I’m not going to frame it just yet as I’m not too sure how I want it to look yet. Any suggestions would be very welcome!