Busy weekend!

I thought I might take the weekend off; I spend most of my “free” time playing with the embroidery machine either for the business or for fun, and I don’t want to burn out. But Friday night I had an idea, and I knew the way my brain works there was nothing to do but get it done.

I was playing around with a little bat pattern and was trying to decide how to most easily make quilting-cotton inner wings for it when suddenly my brain yelled “DO THAT ON THE PLUSH DRAGON” and here we are.

And then Mastodon yelled (well, politely suggested) “do that on the beanie dragons” and here *those* are.

And then my computer locked up and while I was fixing it I realized I had some stuff already cued up on USB.

I bought the Hogwarts-letter pouch from String Theory awhile back and converted it into a notebook cover. Showed it to my teenager who immediately pointed out that Kids These Days preferred a different envelope.

That’s the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate invitation (and a Smash Ball dangle), in case you don’t recognize it.

And then I finally got the last couple of plush dragons in the Pern colors done today.

And then, since I had cut a bunch of white, black, and ivory vinyls for notebook covers, decided to make a companion to the Dragonquest notebook. You can make them too, via the dragon snap tabs (just drop the final, outline thread) and the notebook cover files. If you list them on Etsy, let me know and I’ll link to them since I really should stop making notebooks and get back to that Celestial.

Delivery Truck Snap Tabs

As promised, here is the delivery-truck snap tab freebie. It fits in a 4×4 hoop.

All four trucks are included in one file, so you’ll need to run only the thread colors for the version you want. In the SVG source file, they’re in separate layers so if you prefer you can hide the layers you don’t need and use Ink/Stitch to produce the embroidery file.

Construction is the same as other snap tabs: float a piece of vinyl on top of your stabilizer and embroider on it. Just before the last color, take the hoop off the machine and secure a second piece of vinyl on the back of the stabilizer to cover the threads.

  • Placement Box – Optional; this will show you the size and placement of the top vinyl. I usually just advance to the first stitch and use the needle position to align the lower left corner of the vinyl.
  • Truck – This is the outline of the truck itself. I used gray for the two white trucks, and the logo color for the blue and brown trucks.
  • UPS – This is the shield logo, which should be run in gold.
  • Amazon – This is the arrow, which should be run in light blue.
  • USPS – These are three thread colors in one layer: blue for the logo, red for the top stripe, blue for the bottom stripe. It makes for an extra thread swap (I just jumped ahead to the second blue and then back to the red) but gives you the chance to skip the stripes altogether if you prefer.
  • FedEx – These are two thread colors in one layer: purple and orange, or purple and green.
  • Outline – Place the second piece of vinyl on the back side of the hoop before running this, which will stitch the whole thing together. Run this in the vinyl color – the bobbin thread will show so you may want to use a matching thread there too. It will put in a couple of stitches to indicate snap placement. Pull those threads out completely if you can.

Delivery Fob download (ZIP with DST, EXP, JEF, PEC, PES, U01, VP3, and SVG source file)

Delivery trucks

It’s been a little while since I did an embroidery design freebie, so I started working on one I should have finalized by Friday.

This one is inspired by goofing up a USPS scheduled pickup and making my mailman make a special trip to the door. I realized I owe all my delivery folks a nice Christmas gift.

Although it seems like I live at JoAnn these days, I still get a lot of stuff from Amazon (witness all the 📦 icons next to referral links here) and [Amazon-owned] Fabric.com. On which note: if you aren’t buying enough to meet the free shipping there but have Prime, go to Amazon and find the fabric, and check the other sellers: Amazon usually lists it itself but also with Fabric.com as a secondary seller so you get Prime shipping but Fabric.com’s cheaper price. Why does it work this way? I dunno.

So my UPS person has had to lug a couple of long, skinny rolls of marine vinyl (ironically, not that brown which was a JoAnn remnant) and all four of them have brought me an endless parade of things, including the embroidery machine itself (though I forget who got saddled with that; probably UPS again).

Anyway, the first draft came out medium-okay. The Amazon Logistics van was first, okay other than the fact that I didn’t run the truck outline itself in bean stitch. With that fixed, the UPS truck came out better, but the logo definitely needs more pull correction (especially on the softer walnut non-marine). The USPS truck is fine except I decided to run the truck outline in the same blue as the logo and I don’t think it looks as nice. I went with a medium gray for FedEx, and that’s better but next time I’ll go even lighter. That logo also needs just a little more pull correction.

Now I need the UPS guy to bring me a roll of brown vinyl so I can make him a proper one, because that was the last little scrap. Once that happens, I’ll run more of these and publish the design.

Playing catch-up

I upgraded my PC (Debian jessie to stretch to buster) and had some struggles with the video card, culminating in completely breaking it yesterday. I took a break from the frustration by stitching out a bunch of the designs that I already had on a USB stick, came back to it, uninstalled all the drivers and… somehow it fixed itself on a reboot. I’m not sure what happened but I’ll take the win.

Today’s plan is to take pictures of these (other than this one on my scarred, stained cutting table) so I can list them on Etsy and then run off to JoAnn to pick up enough of the metallic mini dots fabric to make the new, larger wings for the Celestial Dragon.

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.