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.

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.