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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: October Review

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.

Sensory Cushions

‘Mermaid’ Sequinned fabric with envelope closing. Removable weighted pad insert to support sensory based therapies.

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.

 

 

 

 

Hair Bows

Large bow size in hair for reference

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

The Switch case has a fleece lined pocket for the console plus space for 3 carts, a cable/headphones and a boxed game.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Personal/Development 

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.

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Blog: The Monday after the launch before

Well I wasn’t sure what I expected on launch day but nearly 250 hits on the website in 24 hours certainly slightly exceeded whatever I had in my head. First and foremost I want to thank everyone for an amazing first week. Although not much has been sold as such, I’ve gained around 100 more followers and am starting to build the brand up. All of my branded packaging came through this week as well as my gift vouchers too. They look so professional and I am simply thrilled with what Bison were able to do for me. 

I have really enjoyed broadcasting my crafting on Twitch and beginning to connect with fellow crafter’s using that medium. It’s also a nice way to keep a record of what I am doing without bombarding social media with photographs. This was particularity the case with the Abe piece that got a lot of attention through this joint medium. I also did a quick make of a children’s bow tie as well – very much liking the quick make concept so this might become another good live feature. When the summer holidays are over, I will definitely be able to commit to more in the way of a definitive schedule. 

Knowing where and how to sell pieces is the bain of every makers existence from what I can gather. From pricing makes to selling websites, it can be very difficult to find where the right place is to sell without getting stung on fees or tripping over regulations. I’m leaning towards Etsy as it is THE place for handmade items but getting noticed in a busy marketplace is quite a challenge. Definitely one to keep working on and researching. 

I got some new machine sewing patterns this week in a sale which I hope to have a practice of and add to my repertoire. Some are simpler than others so it will be a case of when and where I have the time available to actually sit and devote the time and concentration space to do this properly. It also helped me recall my hatred of pattern cutting (why is it so cumbersome?!). I need to win the lottery so I can build a big extension with a huge luxurious cutting table instead of using my floor I think!

This week I am very busy but hope to do some quick and small pieces to add to the collection that is available from stock. My thinking is that this will be the best way to open an Etsy store and then if any commissions arise, I can slot those in very easily. Once again, thanks for all the support and for keeping up with the blog. I’m excited for everything ahead, but I often wish there were more hours in the day to get it all done. If you have any tips for staying organised, I’d love to hear them in the comments. 

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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!!