Compact cutting-machine Advent calendar

Curious about the contents of the Etsy listing? Scroll down past the spoiler for inside pictures of the green set.

It’s been a little while since I’ve done any cutting-machine designs, but I needed an Advent calendar that fit nicely in a USPS flat-rate shipping box.

As with the embroidery machine, I use Inkscape to design these. Your Cricut or Silhouette software probably takes SVGs directly, but because I use Linux I just have a plugin in Inkscape directly. It runs Silhouette machines; there’s probably an equivalent for Cricut.

There are files with and without scoring; if you’re doing it manually,

Assembly is pretty easy. Each box takes six 8.5 x 11 sheets. Cut a lid and base, and fold the short ends inward on the score lines and glue the “hem” down over the flaps from the long ends. Then fold the long ends in and glue their “hems” down. Cut four sheets of pluses, and fold their arms in.

The number sheet is a single-line font if you want to use a pen in your machine to draw them rather than running the sheets through your printer and trying to align them.

I bought a bunch of dice in different styles of six different colors, and some of the calendars have ended up in the Etsy shop.

Spoiler alert: if you want to buy one of my dice advent calendars without ruining the surprise, stop reading now!

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It’s still autumn

I know I made a couple snowflake dragons this week, and we did have some snow happening at the time, but it’s still autumn daggonit.

A recurring theme for me has been “what happens if I put THIS in the embroidery machine?” and silk flowers/leaves has been on my list of things to try for quite awhile. This is just the usual embroidery for my tiny plush dragons, minus the subsequent “add another piece of minky rst, sew, and turn” bit.

The real question here was whether the wings would support their own weight (answer: barely, I should have extended the “wing bones” to meet up with the spine), and whether the leaves would hold up to embroidery (answer: pick sturdy ones and, if necessary, space the stitches out so they don’t cut the leaves apart). I used colored bobbin thread, and I should have busted out the black tearaway stabilizer 📦 but the undersides don’t really show anyway.

I’m still trying to decide if I should trim the leading edges of the wings.

I am not a photographer

I have found something that’s harder to take pictures of than black velvet dragons in a house with white cats: chrome vinyl.

I ran across this awhile back and picked up a yard of it, and decided to see how it stitched up. Verdict: pretty well. It’s a soft backing with a stuff surface – much heavier than, say, Duro-Last’s reflective vinyl, or the adhesive-backed stuff that you’re much more likely to find mirror finishes in. Stitching tends to cause it to bubble but that actually works well for “burnout”/debossing effects. Getting a good photograph of that is hard, though: either you get a nice reflection of the backdrop and can’t tell that there’s dimension there:

Or you get dark reflections that blend right into the stitching:

The work light doesn’t fit inside the light tent, so if I use that I end up with lovely diffuse lighting that makes the chrome look matte. Also, the light tent is just too small.

I have a handful of 1/2″ styrofoam insulation sheets because the gas fireplace in the family-room-turned-workroom blows a cold draft all winter long so it’s wrapped in plastic and has a shelf full of nice insulating fabric in front of it. So I built a comical foam-sheet fort around my photography area, and that’s how I got the top picture. It needs some tweaking, but I think I’ll get passable product shots out of it.

I’ll probably be adding the vinyl itself to the Etsy shop soon, because it’s fun stuff.

Back to notebooks

I’ve been putting together some sample mini composition book covers with professional “crests” on them, with the notion that they’d make good gift card holders for holiday tipping and whatnot. These will go into the shop tomorrow, with options for made-to-order ones.

I’ve been kind of tempted to mix them up: engine block with Framing hammers. Running shoe with shovels. Hair dryer with wrenches. Probably the most adventurous I’ll get is replacing the hair dryer with a barber pole.

Water Bottle Carriers

It was an unseasonably warm Halloween here, so among other treats I gave out chilled mini water bottles and juice packs. It was recycling day so there were plenty of carts at the curb to drop empties into, but I also made it easy to hang onto the water bottles by making little snap-tab carriers for them.

I kept things super-simple: each file of eight carriers (the 4×4 version only has two) was just a little over 3,000 stitches. The designs are from The Noun Project, specifically Saeful Muslim’s Line Animals. I copied them into the blank fob design and just used Path->Dynamic Offset to bring the two sides of the line closer together. I broke the paths apart and trimmed out any superfluous pieces to minimize jump threads. I made three different sheets, and did each one on four different colors so there are no two exactly alike and siblings (or classmates) won’t get their bottles mixed up.

There is a Lite version of each size with simple outline stitching, both to cut down on stitch count and to keep the outline from overwhelming the design since except for the two sheets of black designs I stitched everything in white to keep it streamlined. If you want the outline thread to show up more, the non-Lite version uses a bean stitch.

Cutting them out is labor-intensive, but the supplies are fairly cheap in bulk. They’d make good booth filler (especially at a hot outdoor fair), classroom gifts, or freebie items to throw in with your Etsy orders. If you’re not giving them with a water bottle, loop a label around the O-ring that says “let me hold your water bottle!” or the like so people can figure it out.

I got most of my colored vinyl from Designs By Little Bee, and the snaps from KAMsnaps.com. The hardware came from Amazon: a 100-pack of O-rings 📦 and a 100-pack of tiny carabiners 📦. You could also use swivel hooks 📦 which are nicer but considerably more expensive, or split rings instead of O-rings to make keychains.

Note that those carabiners have very narrow ends. It’s a bit hard to tell in the picture above, but the design file includes notches to accommodate them. If you’re using swivel hooks, you may want to edit the design to remove the notches (pretty easy) or use smaller swivel hooks.

Enjoy!

Aldi is selling fabric now?

(Totally not a sponsored post; I just found it interesting.)

I have liked Aldi since I lived in Wichita; they’ve been making inroads in South Jersey and there’s now one five minutes from my house. If you aren’t an Aldi regular, know this: they are tiny stores with limited selections, but they have a couple of aisles of changes-on-a-weekly-basis specials so if you wait long enough, everything you might ever need will pass through. Usually there’s a theme, often seasonal.

This batch was sewing, which I think they’ve had before. A $15 house-brand sewing machine. The Single Simple 3232 (I think) for $80 which beats the Amazon and Walmart prices. This is pretty typical when Aldi gets a name-brand item; they’ll sell out fast, and although these are listed in “Upcoming” on the Aldi site, stores get things at varying times. My store usually has new things out on Wednesdays and Sundays, which is to say most of the “Upcoming” items are out the day they turn up on the website, and the rest come out a few days later.

I have more than enough sewing machines though, so I was curious about the fat quarters. They’re about what I expect at $5 for 6 quarters (so, a yard and a half): a little thin, a little coarse, and will probably shrink so pre-wash them. But I don’t have much in the way of coordinated cottons, so I picked up a pack just for the novelty value. There are five more colorways, all of them somewhat retro-feeling.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to make with them. Maybe a fat quarter wallet, since my existing wallet doesn’t fit in the interchangeable-flap purse (yes, working on that tutorial). We’ll see.

South Jersey represent!

I made a Lots of Pockets crossbody purse awhile back, with some KAMsnaps to let me put on different flaps. I decided I needed to make one for my upcoming Disney trip. I have plenty of ways to rep Philly, but I’m actually over on the South Jersey side and, it turns out, Philadelphians are particular about whether you’re really from Philly. New Jersey is emphatically not Philly. New Jersey is, I have been informed, “what you drive through to get to NYC.” Well alrighty then.

Nobody agrees enough on what the Jersey Devil looks like to use that, so pork roll it is.