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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 Update 5: All the Things No-one Told You

It’s been bedlam this week. Not only am I trying to organise the arts and crafts for a big church community event this weekend, I’m also trying to finish my costume for said event and cope with a vicious series of migraines. All (apart from the migraines) are super fun things to be doing, but the first time I have done them so its been a learning process. That being said, I’m so close to launch now I can almost taste it (or that might just be fear lol!). 

At this stage of the game I’m hitting the “all the things no-one told you” wall. No-one told me there would be a delicate balance of running a business and running a home and if you got it wrong you would find yourself with no clean bedding, several (in my case) truly spectacular meltdowns and mad rushes to the shops for food, birthday presents and toilet paper. Seeing as I have difficulties in organisation and time management anyway, my husband and I have been working through some strategies to work on this including a system of colour coded post-it notes, to-do lists that pop up on my computer screen, a pin board and by streamlining all of my accounting/invoicing systems. I’m a really visual person so the more colourful things dotted around, the better really.

 

 

Something else no-one ever told me – how to price your time. I can price materials with no problem at all, but time is something completely different. Are people going to pay me minimum wage for hand sewing? Am I over/under selling myself? From my conversations with fellow makers via the Guild of Makers #makershour on a Wednesday night on Twitter, I have found this is a huge hurdle for so many people wanting to start out as well as jargon in setting up and finding your own little niche in the market. I know a good friend and fellow maker Tim Nicholls is hoping to prepare some guidance about the subject of pricing hand made items in the next month or so. I’ll point you in the direction of it when its published. If you are a new maker either as a business or hobby, I’d really encourage you to get involved with Guild of Makers to meet like minded creators and just share the ups and downs of making. You get some really good ideas and inspiration to boot.

 

 

There’s been some great firsts this week. I hit 150 followers on Twitter, send my first bespoke piece estimate, officially registered for my self-employed status and started conversations with a few people about the work they are dreaming of ordering. Fingers crossed. Not long now.  Oh and yes these photos are entirely random – just some nice photos showing a bit of my life outside of the sewing machine for your entertainment really as I don’t have much to show sewing wise today!

 

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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!

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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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Project: Zelda ‘Link’ Cushion

Hi there. It is such a hot day here that having an old and hot sewing machine really hasn’t worked to my advantage but I successfully sorted a project out that I’ve been waiting to do for ages. Now that we have moved things about at home and I have more room to get my machine out whenever I want to, it is so much easier to snatch opportunities as they arise.

 

 

My current machine – Bernina Minimatic 870. It’s old and temperamental but we have an understanding!

I ordered a remnant from eBay quite some time ago now that was just screaming to be used. It was a ‘fat quarter’ size but didn’t have very straight cuts so it needed thought as to how best to use the fabric. I decided that as I had some poly-cotton oddments in black and this Zelda fabric, a cushion cover would be a safe bet. I had a spare cushion pad that measured 40 x 40cm which was ideal for the fabric pieces that I had. Plus, I’m ever the one for using every scrap of fabric possible and hate to throw anything away. This size left me a nice simple strip of fabric over from the Zelda fat quarter which I aim to turn in to something new soon (I have a plan but I need a pattern).

 

Peekaboo! The motif is vibrant without being garish.

This project took about 2.5-3 hours as I wasn’t using a pattern (although I had made this type of cover before). The two pieces of 40 x 40cm were the first to be joined (with a standard allowance added when cutting) using a simple black cotton and a running stitch down the bottom of the cover and 1/3 of the way up each side. I then attached the overlap flap to the top of the cover and joined it to the remaining open sides. All visible seams were made neat before the joining process so that where the overlap was looked tidy and crisp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not a particularly challenging project but I think the pattern looks well centred. The range of colours in the print are going to compliment lots of different existing decors and the design is really pretty without being too feminine.

I realised as I turned the item out that the bottom flap overlapped the top rather than the traditional vice versa. I considered unpicking but actually it looks perfectly fine and there is no sag or puckering as a result. I haven’t added a Velcro fastening because as someone who has animals, a child and cushions with Velcro on…it collects hair, cheerios and fuzzy felts. The cover fits the cushion I have well, however there is a little wiggle room to account for any variation in the chosen filling (Feather cushions tend to make a much plumper cushion for example).

 

Looks gorgeous on my office chair!

 

I will be selling these in the shop either as stock or to order and will be available with or without the cushion filling (useful for those wishing to recycle existing cushion fillings or keep costs down a little). I’d love to hear what you think and what sort of cushion you would order for your own home!

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Project: Princess Peach Phone Case

One of my followers on Twitter alerted me to the amazing invention of a stitchable phone cover. I was really excited by this so I popped over to Ebay and spent a small amount on some iPhone 5 compatible cases in black, white and pink. I think the delivery was free which was an advantage and they arrived within a couple of days.

Image and Purchase courtesy of Ashford-Clearance store on ebay Visit their shop

 

The cases are like a silicone rubber which are very flexible and have tiny little holes punched in them that would cover the back of the phone. There were well aligned button coverings and openings too. I love pink and I love Princess Peach (of Mario fame) so I set about some experimentation with a pattern that didn’t use a too wide a palette just in case it all went horribly wrong.

©Sew 8-bit

The actual ease of sewing was surprising. The case is rigid enough to be easy to sew on to while not having the obvious challenges posed by fabric flopping around and getting caught. I had to use a sharp, very narrow needle which made threading an adventure.

 

 

©Sew 8-bit

 

One thing I did find was that the brand name threads are essential for stitching this type of project. The more economy threads simple couldn’t cope being pulled through the silicone holes and just very quickly fell apart. You also have to be very neat with fastening on and off to avoid lumps and bumps when it is fitted on the case.

 

©Sew 8-bit

A really great project that was economical but looks very effective. I’m going to investigate the full range of models I will be able to offer so that this can go in the project catalogue!

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Pre-Launch Post 3: Branding and Site Launch

Well what a week it has been here. I’ve juggled a lot including family emergencies and a poorly child so its been mad but very productive. The main thing you will have noticed is that the branding is now in place! I’m absolutely thrilled with the result which looks really clean and professional, while at the same time getting across what the business is all about. I applied this across all the social networks and the site and then decided to launch these in order to grow some interest.

While I am not actually beginning official trading until august, it has been great talking to people about what I am working on and towards. It has also kept me grounded and free from anxiety (the little voice that screams WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! at 3am when you are trying to figure out font coding problems!). It’s definitely a learning process. I think people are enjoying seeing the bits and pieces I’m adding to the range as well. The phone cover went down REALLY well with over 50 re-tweets on Twitter in under 5 hours.

Next steps for the week ahead? Well, the branding needs to be on some stationary now so I’m ordering stickers, cards/compliment slips (not sure whether to do one or both yet) and a booklet with some gift cards/certificates as I would like these to be available for sale but also so I can give back to the community through donating an amount to fundraisers. After that, it’s a case of sewing my socks off to get some stock together to photograph and advertise. I found a light box type photography tent on Amazon that I think would be useful for that so it has gone straight on the wish list!

Once again, thanks for reading and do get in touch if you have any questions!

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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!

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Pre-Launch Post 1: Welcome

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!