Figuring out a 5×12″ hoop

One of the first things I bought for my machine was a set of four Embroidex hoops 📦. The Brother PE-800 comes with a single 5×7 hoop, which is enough to get by, but 4×4 uses up less stabilizer and, it later turned out, having a second 5×7 was useful for mass-producing. If you’re gonna do a design with forty-leven color changes, might as well sew at least two.

The other two hoops are a tiny one for pocket designs, and a 5×12″ monster with three attachment points. When I made the solid-color crowntail dragon, I sewed its wing piece in two hoopings because alignment (other than front-to-back) wasn’t that critical. But it would be really nice, with the extremely festive pre-printed ones, if I could carefully align it once, nail it down, and stitch it out. It was time to figure out that 12″ hoop.

If you look closely at that picture, you can see a bunch of white thread. That was a bunch of trial patterns wherein I confirmed that the attachment points are 6cm apart. Very good: the next step was to break my design up into two pieces that each fit in a 5×7″ stitching area, and move one 12cm onto the other (to the left, in the case of that wing).

The attachment points are in the bottom of the picture above, and the little arrows show where the two designs meet. The lower one, which ends up on the left when the thing is in the machine, was a perfect match. The upper two overlapped by an extra stitch. The larger hoop can distort more easily, so that may be what’s happening here. If it’s consistent, I may be able to find a rotation that corrects for it.

So, you may wonder, how does one take an existing pattern and split it up? Welllllll… I’m told commercial software can do it, but I don’t know which one or how. With Ink/Stitch, it’s a manual process, but it works on imported designs as well as native ones. Import the file if you’re not using your own SVG, find a natural break point, break the node and the path. Rinse and repeat for each run of thread until you have a piece that fits in your 5×7 hoop. Then take the rest of it and move it 12cm down or sideways (depending on the orientation of your design). Done!

Okay, not always that simple. If your color changes overlap, you might need to interleave the two designs, and switch mounting points to do all of one color, then all of the next. Not fun. Putting each run of each color on a different layer may help with organizing them, although you’ll have to remember to insert a stop (or a mock color change) between the two halves of the color so you have time to shift the hoop.

It’s going to take some more experimentation to figure out the most efficient way to do this, so stay tuned.

Extremely Festive Dragons

That’s the phrase I keep using to describe these guys because, I mean, just look at them. Their “proper” name is crowntails, because they’re inspired by the betta fish of that type. The purple one is a little ironic because that’s the color a lot of breeders aspire to but, to my knowledge, truly purple bettas don’t exist yet.

The blue-with-red is modeled after an extant betta color, and the black-with-rainbow was sort of a “well, why not go all-in?” I probably should have gone with two blue-and-reds, so that if I screw up some parts I might still end up with one complete dragon. But hey, YOLO, right?

Four art dragons in the shop

I decided to go ahead and list all four of the finished art-doll dragons, and put them on sale for “Smaugust.” (Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t invent these things.) It’s almost two months since any have sold, and I’m afraid the fancier ones are just too pricey. This is a shame because they’re really underpriced based on the amount of labor (and RSI damage) that goes into them, but maybe the market just isn’t there.

Of course, now isn’t the time to decide that… Spoonflower just had a sale on fat quarters and I sprang for a pair of extremely festive crowntail dragons, which are nearly as ornate as the greater sea dragon. So I’ll finish the purple one I’m working on and consider taking out some Etsy ads, and if that doesn’t work I’ll reluctantly move on to something different.

Tiny dragons

I honestly didn’t expect quite as many repeat buyers as I’ve gotten (I have people who want to collect every color of beanie dragon!). It’s been a bit of a race to come up with a variety of “favors” to include in orders. For smaller orders, I’ve started making tinier snap tabs.

The design went through some iterations to achieve “legibility.” This is the last pair of variations: I settled on the design, ran five bronzes, and then after struggling to neatly cut out the circle, revised it to an octagon. Ten fit in a 5×7 hoop, so I can stock up.

Of course, once I’ve gone through all five colors, I’ll need a different design, so I’ve already started on that. This is what the first draft looks like: if you squint, you can kind of tell what’s going on. What looks perfectly clear on the screen and even in the stitch preview can look a lot different when it hits the vinyl. It’ll take a few more revisions before I’m happy with this.

An improvement to the notebook covers

One of the most annoying parts of making the mini composition book covers is getting the pockets to stay on the underside of the hoop. The edges like to hang up on the embroidery arm, the “grippier” vinyls like to dig in their heels and let the hoop go on without them, etc. I’ve come up with a solution that also saves on vinyl and bulk.

Rather than adding the pocket, I have started cutting two slots in the backing vinyl itself. Once the notebook is inserted, the raw embroidery back is hidden; if you don’t like it being visible through the slots, you can add an inner lining. A piece of decorative paper cut to fit just inside the topstitching line, or even another piece of stabilizer, will work.

I cut the slots before the topstitching, though if you’re brave and careful you could probably do it afterward. The slots need to be about 3″ apart, and about 4 3/8″ long (adjust it if you’re using a different notebook insert). I mark the four points and then use a small leather punch to cut circular holes, which I then carefully connect with a rotary cutter. Usually I finish the connection with scissors, because I don’t want to cut past the holes — part of the point of them is to stop the slots from tearing further at the ends.

When it’s time for the final topstitching, I make sure everything is squared up and temporarily put a bit of tape across the middle of each slot to keep it all flat during sewing. It sews much more smoothly, and I like the feel of the notebook covers better.

I’ve acquired quite a few more fun designs. These haven’t had the corners rounded yet. I’ll do that when my new corner chomper 📦 arrives. I’ve been trimming them by hand, but I’m hoping this will do a neater job.

More composition books…

… but no more freebie designs yet, sorry. I’ve gotten kind of hung up on stitching out other people’s designs instead. There are some Urban Threads/Embroidery Library ones there, some String Theory Fabric Art ones, and that’s about it. The white sticky-outy one there is a Wichita city flag, so I guess if anybody really wants it I could put that one out there.

Not pictured is the stack of five or six goofs. I promised a Traveler’s notebook style option, but after experimenting with it I’ve decided it doesn’t quite work with the mini composition books. It would, but not in a 5×7 hoop – putting the composition book on an elastic instead of tucking it into the pockets means it wants to hang out past the edges of the cover.

If you’re sewing on a conventional machine that’s an easy fix: just make the cover about an inch wider. But that would push it about an inch outside the maximum size for my machine (at least, until I got around to figuring out how to align things in the 5×12 hoop).

In any event: I’ve sewn a bunch of them, and am putting them up in the Etsy shop as I get pictures taken. I’ve also put up the standing dragon plushie listing, though right now there’s only one brown dragon in it.

I have a display tablet!

Even the vertical mouse hasn’t really helped my wrist lately (probably because I tend to clutch it tighter than the horizontal one, negating any benefit of the wrist angle). I noticed the XP-Pen Artist 12 📦 had come down to ~$200, less a 5% coupon, so I sprang for it.

It’s going to take some tweaking to get it set up the way I want it, but it has enough buttons that I should be able stop bouncing back and forth to the keyboard soon.

I’ve been working on a few more composition book cover designs, including a Midori Traveler variant. I should have those in Friday’s post, unless I get too wrapped up in playing with this new toy.

Mini composition book covers

I spent the weekend making little vinyl covers for dollar-store mini composition books, mostly for my nieces’ back-to-school care packages. It’s one of my favorite designs: the pen loops also hold the notebook closed.

You can make them on a conventional machine if you don’t have an embroidery machine (or yours is too small), but you can make them entirely in the hoop of a 5×7″ machine.

They also don’t have to be vinyl, just something non-fraying and sewable. Felt, leather, tree leather, plastic bags ironed together to make a fabric; there are a lot of options. You may want to use a different fabric for the cover than for the interior, especially if your main cover is a heavy vinyl or leather.

Some fraying fabrics can be stabilized with Heat N Bond 📦 or the like. If you’re using something lightweight like quilting cotton, the outside piece should probably be bonded to some heavyweight interfacing 📦.

You also don’t have to use an interior piece of fabric other than for the pockets, especially if you don’t have embroidery showing on the back of it.

Prepare your pieces

Download the template.

Cut a piece of your main cover material 5 1/4″ by 7 1/4″, and a piece of the lining material the same size (optional). Cut two pocket pieces 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ or, if you’re using quilting cotton, cut two pocket pieces 5 1/4″ x 5 and fold around 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″ pieces of interfacing so that the folded edge will be the edge of the pocket.

If you have a 4×4″ embroidery machine, embroider your design now, centered about 1 7/8″ right of the center line. The same goes if you’re appliqueing a design, or using any other decoration method that will show through the back of the cover.

Cut three pieces of elastic about 2 1/4″ long. This will fit G2 or Zebra pens; if you’re using a different size of pen you’ll have to experiment to see what works for you. Cut a piece of ribbon (optional) six or so inches long.

On an embroidery machine with a 5×7″ hoop

In the download archive, you’ll find ready-to-use embroidery files as well as the source SVG. You can insert your embroidery design in the Design layer in the Inkscape SVG, centered on the guide line, and use Ink/Stitch to produce a complete embroidery file to use on your machine. If you use different embroidery design software, insert your design before the final stitch color.

Hoop a piece of any type of stabilizer and stitch the outer placement line (optional) and elastic placement marks. Fold your elastic pieces in half and tape them down over the tackdown lines. Tape the ribbon in place at the top. The raw edges should extend about 1/8″ in from the tackdown lines. If your ribbon has a right and wrong side, the right side should face the same way as the main cover (so that it faces up when folded over into the notebook). Try to keep the tape either all the way inside the topstitching line, or more than 1/8″ outside it.

Stitch the tackdown lines (they will go right over the placement stitching), watching closely to make sure nothing gets bumped out of place.

Float your main cover piece face up, making sure it extends at least 1/8″ past the outer placement mark, or 1/4″ past the tackdown stitching. Stitch your cover design if you haven’t already.

Take the hoop off the machine but don’t unhoop the piece. Turn it over and tape the lining piece onto the back with the two pocket pieces at each end. If you’re using bonded quilting fabric, make sure the sides with the fold face each other on the inside.

Put colored bobbin thread on if you’d like — it will show on the inside of the cover. Replace the hoop on the machine and stitch the topstitching. Pay particular attention when the machine is stitching the left side (the bottom edge of the cover, closest to the hoop attachment on most machines), and make sure that edge of the pocket piece hasn’t gotten scraped loose/folded under.

Don’t let this happen to you.

That’s it! Now skip to the end for trimming notes.

On a conventional machine

Build a sandwich of the pieces. The main cover and lining go right-sides-together, with the two pocket pieces at each end. If you’re using bonded quilting fabric, make sure the sides with the fold face each other on the inside.

Using the SVG from the download as a template (you should be able to print it from a browser even if you don’t have Inkscape), fold your elastic pieces in half and pin or clip them in place along the sides, between the main cover and lining. Pin or clip the ribbon in place at the top. The raw edges should extend about 1/8″ in from the tackdown lines. If your ribbon has a right and wrong side, the right side should face the same way as the main cover (so that it faces up when folded over into the notebook).

Make sure everything is properly aligned, take a deep breath, and carefully topstitch all the way around the outside. You can follow the SVG as a template and round the corners, or you can just sew a 6 7/8″ x 4 7/8″ rectangle.

Trimming the cover

You can use a straightedge and rotary cutter to trim the entire bottom edge, about 1/8″ or a little less from the stitching. For the other three, be careful and skip over the elastics and ribbon. Then take conventional scissors (applique duckbills work well), carefully fold the elastic/ribbon down, and trim the cover piece. Then fold the elastic/ribbon up, and trim the stabilizer (for embroidered covers) and lining/pocket pieces.

You can cut the corners off at a 45-degree angle, or carefully round them with scissors or a heavy-duty corner rounder.

Now you’re done! Tuck the covers of your composition book into the pockets, slip a pen in the loops, and that’s it.

More standing plush dragons

Now that I have a breeding pair, getting the shop stocked with these should go much faster.

All the new colors of beanie dragons have been eating up my time, but hopefully I’ll get the conventional machine out this weekend. I’ll sew the larger version of these and see what needs tweaked in that pattern.