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Project: Star Wars Coin Purse

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.

The finished coin purse using the imported acrylic resin clasp.

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 original and 3D printed copy. It really is a work of art!

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).

Oops – a back to front lining. Being self taught is all about trial and error.

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!

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Project: Sonic Triptych

You may have seen a little while ago that I made a little running Sonic the Hedgehog. I had been really fascinated by the different poses and expressions created for just one blue hedgehog when I checked out all the different sprites created for him. So I decided that it would be really cool to do a series of Sonic in Motion to really get to grips with his different poses but also to make a piece that really caught the eye and told a story. I was also desperate to stitch him tapping his foot impatiently!

 

The ‘spinning’ Sonic was the most difficult to capture because of getting an effective contour to the shape while giving it the illusion of being spherical and in motion. I therefore added the dust. Some sprites doing this movement show the ball leaning slightly but this would have made this section too wide for the mount. In retrospect, it would have been better to research the frame and mount before deciding on the piece itself as this really limited my choices when it came to presenting the work. Definitely one that I can chalk up to learning as I go!

I didn’t take many progress pictures with this make but I think the outcome is really good. I also found that spray mount is the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to framing sewn work. It means I can re-position before things get permanent and there isn’t a chance of things slipping and sliding about when framing. One for the tool kit without a doubt. This piece will now go in to my stock collection for people to purchase if they wish. Enjoyed this one!

 

 

 

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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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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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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!