I’m really proud of this creation which is an admission that I’m not always prepared to make. The idea came about when I saw some acrylic resin purse clasps on Ebay back in September. They were made in China at a very low cost so I took the risk and ordered one to see what they were like. Then I forgot about it. Fast forward 3 months, this suddenly turned up on my doorstep (yes it took that long) and I was extremely impressed with the quality of it. It has the feel of something 3D printed but it very smooth with a beautiful soft finish. The frame is sturdy and would withstand repeated use which is obviously important.
Fast forward again and its January. I have a craft fair in the first week of March, so I decide that more of these frames would be perfect to make some cute purses for the fair. I wouldn’t have time to import from China but that’s ok…surely someone in the UK would make something similar. Ok, ok….someone in Europe? Disaster. I can’t actually source these anywhere BUT China. There were some shiny, not so attractive plastic alternatives but at over £6 per frame, would be way outside the parameters of being able to charge anything sensible to the customer to make the money back let alone with any cover for the fabric and labour.
I took to Twitter and many people recommended 3D printing a frame using a similar design. Not my forte and I don’t own a 3D printer. Then a lovely friend offered to have a go using his 3D printer. He didn’t have a template so he designed one himself. He drew up the designs based on photographs of the one I had already and then reproduced a rough copy. Oh my goodness, the man is a genius. Apart from being a slightly different material and obviously a rough finish, it is identical. He is definitely one to follow on Twitter if you are interested in that sort of thing because he managed to unpick my rambling explanations and even let me take photos of it against a ruler so I didn’t have to panic about the measuring side of things. Thanks Brian!
The make itself uses the orange, white and grey BB-8 Star Wars fabric. Only a minimal amount is required so its a really good make for using up odd ends of fat quarters. I chose a grey fabric for the lining. I hadn’t stitched a lining before, so this element didn’t quite go to plan. Instead of seaming the lining separately, I somehow got it in to my head that the lining would simply attach to the outer fabric with a normal seam, forgetting that this would be on show by the time it was turned out. As with so many makes, as I am self taught, its really a case of making something and learning by ‘doing’ (kinesthetic learning).
At the end of the make, the definitive finishing touch was the BB-8 Lego Star Wars key ring that attached to the little loop on the original frame. It really bought the design on the fabric together with all of the other elements and gave it a real edge – almost like a phone charm (that takes me back a few years and more!). It got me thinking about superhero fabrics matched with corresponding key rings or charms to add an extra ‘something’ to the makes. I think I am going to ask Brian to make a couple in each colour (obviously I’ll pay for his time and resources!) – we need to find a suitable method of screwing the frames together first of all! Long term, importing the frames is altogether cheaper and more efficient – especially if I buy in bulk. However this really saves the day when it comes to finding out if it is indeed something that would be ‘saleable’ by taking them to a real sales situation. Lesson learnt – plan ahead…and then some!
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!
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!
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:
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
An extra press of the iron to define the shape of the bow is helpful
Hand sew any tiny areas to avoid a messy result
Have a proper fastening method for adult bow ties – Velcro isn’t going to hold its own on a grown up neck
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!
BREXIT IS COMING
We have no information as to how duty will work after the inevitable exit from the European Union.
This may result in an increase in costs for postage outside of the UK. Please be assured that any cost passed on to you will be kept to a minimum. However, you may wish to order ASAP if you wish to avoid any possible increases.