Battling dragons

The art-doll style dragons are proving to be pretty hard on my wrists. I have both tendinitis and carpal tunnel going on, neither of them very serious (yet!) and turning tiny dragons, jamming stuffing in until they’re rock-solid, and then hand-sewing openings and wings and such through multiple thicknesses of upholstery fabric requires a lot of effort.

Of course, that’s not all: I have managed to forget to cut out the topstitching window in two or three wing sets. I finally gave up on the silver one and picked all the stabilizer out of the topstitching instead of redoing it).

At any rate, I am almost ready to start listing them again. As I’ve mentioned, I have two Etsy slots for them, so my plan is to get four finished (or nearly-finished) dragons, list two, and be ready to fill a slot as soon as it sells out.

The silver sparkle dragon just needs its wings sewn on (they’re just resting in place there) and its horns attached and it’s done. It’s probably the last dragon I’ll make that I have to turn.

The blue dragon started out as a sea dragon – the wings are based on a guillemot/murre, which uses its wings to swim underwater like a penguin as well as fly above it. But I didn’t care for the contrast of the first wings so now it has blue star-and-nebula wings, and its name varies between “lesser sea dragon” and “sea-of-stars dragon.” It’s done except for finding a glue that will work on the eyes, and for picking the white stabilizer out of its seams.

I reverse-sewed it like I did the silver dragon (remember the silver dragon? I’ll get back to it, I promise). I didn’t have to turn it, but I did sandwich the stabilizer in to act as interfacing in the crest, and it doesn’t tear away easily without shredding the raw fabric edges. It wasn’t as visible on the silver dragon, but it really shows up in the blue.

I have another silver dragon in the works, reverse sewn but with gray cotton as stabilizer. True D&D nerds will recognize it from its wing, in the foreground waiting to be cut out: a Dungeons and Dragons silver dragon has two “thumb” claws on each wing. This one won’t be quite as ornate as the earlier one; more on the order of the lesser sea dragon.

The fourth is the teaser on the right: an over-the-top six-hooping Greater Sea Dragon. The previous ones are all four hoopings: body, legs, head, and wings. I’m pretty proud of that one. The mockup went fine, but the real thing has required a couple of restarts. I’ve current gotten through three of the five hoopings, and only tackle them when I’m feeling particularly focused.

Ampersand snap tabs

When we realized the kid’s birthday fell on D&D night, clearly it was time to make some party favors (or if you prefer: hobbit-style birthday presents). I made use of the ampersand from the dice tray which, I just realized when I tried to link there, I never blogged about! Let me fix that briefly:

It’s pretty much the same as the Jayhawk version, scaled up. It’s a 4×4 inset, but the tray snaps to a little under 8×10 as I recall. I did the rest of the stitching on a conventional machine because, as you can see from the String Theory one above, you can barely squeak out a 3×3 tray doing it entirely in a 5×7 hoop.

Aaaaanyway, I should probably update that one and publish it too. I think I may have been planning to redo it as an applique first, because it is an absurd stitch count.

I remembered this when I scaled it down for the snap tab: making ten or fifteen of those would take forever and at the smaller size was just a little too muddy. I switched it to a bean outline and I’m much happier with it, other than picking out the stabilizer. (As you can see, the black one isn’t done but I decided to rinse it out instead.)

I also went to town with some other String Theory designs. The dice are larger than I really like (maxing out a 4×4 hoop) but it wasn’t worth making my own design just for the sake of this.

Appropriately, the critical-failure die gave me fits. Nothing wrong with the stitch file, it was either the vinyl or I might need to clean out the machine. It kept breaking thread. I rethreaded the bobbin a couple of times, then changed out the bobbin. It wrapped the top thread around its spindle a couple times. Then it broke the needle. Eventually I got it done, and then realized I hadn’t backed the stitching up enough and there was some missing satin stitching right in the middle of the 1. No problem, I thought, I haven’t unhooped so I’ll just run all the way back and pick it up.

Yeah, that doesn’t actually work when you’ve already put the backing on. :facepalm:

(Luckily I wasn’t doing this for the shop because that is NOT up to my quality-control standards.)

In any case, the ampersand is now on the free Embroidery Patterns page.

Warframe Snap Tab: Clem The Grineer

If you don’t know what anything in that subject line means, it’s okay. It’s a Warframe thing and you can basically skip the whole rest of this post.

I only roughly know what it means, but Warframe is the new obsession in my house (and I’m not even talking about the teenager). I was regrettably behind the times and got my husband an Overwatch LEGO set for Father’s Day awhile back, so I whipped up a snap tab to make up for it.

The files are on the embroidery files page as usual. There’s an instruction file in the archive, but it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re not using white vinyl, there’s a template and placement stitch for an applique. Advice: if you use hologram vinyl like I did, use non-holo stuff for the back like I did, or prepare to go blind trying to cut the thing out through the dazzle.

I have a stash of 10mm cabochon rhinestones I picked up on clearance as possible dragon eyes, so I scaled the design to that. If I was buying them for the project, I might pick up 8mm instead. These are clear matte, but gold pearl would work too, or regular faceted rhinestones if you can’t find cabs.

Stargazer dragon

I’m still working on the project I hinted at last post, another art-doll dragon, but I decided to make and list a less-ambitious one in the meantime. I have some regrets about my choices on it – not because it’s unattractive, but because it was soooooper-hard to photograph with my limited setup.

I had to make sure the black velvet didn’t just end up as a silhouette. I had to make sure the wings sparkled. I had to make sure the eyes flashed some color (they’re clear AB glass beads).

And most difficult of all: I had to get every bit of cat hair and minky fluff off the darn thing. (I was only mostly successful.)

Sometimes I just let it blow out the exposure for the sake of seeing detail.

Anyway, the work-in-progress one is another gold so at least that part won’t be a problem, and I ordered an adjustable stand so hopefully posing it won’t be a problem either (it’s not a free-standing one). But since it’s a sea dragon I’m super-tempted to visit a beach and get some outdoor pictures with it.

Bumbling through Etsy sales

Confession: I haven’t read enough Etsy how-to’s. Etsy’s own site is great for looking up answers but completely overwhelming for learning, and half the bloggers out there who purport to tell you how to do it are selling more blog ads than Etsy goods. So I just dove in and flailed around.

This week’s lesson for me was: listings never really die. See, I decided that Etsy’s option system was just too much: you can vary on two factors (size and color, for the beanie dragons) but you have to select one before it will show you what’s in stock in the other. So I decided to break them out into individual listings. You pay twenty cents a listing but, I figured, it doesn’t matter because the multi-item listings are serial listings. That is, if you list a dozen items in a single listing, you pay twenty cents. You sell one and it insta-lists another, even if someone buys three at a time, so at the end of the day it costs the same to list twelve items in twelve listings or all in one.


Each listing creates a page. (Duh.) But what I just fully registered was: when that item sells out, you get the “sorry, try these other items” screen… which is full of other people’s items. When the multi-listing for beanie dragons ran out, the only other dragon it showed was the gold, and it was the seventh or so.

This explains why the reviews at the bottom of an item aren’t necessarily for previous purchases of that particular item. I assumed it just showed random reviews from that seller, and that may still be the case. But the past-sales page is a snapshot of the listings as they were sold, without regard to the listing page, so you’re free to reuse that listing number.

And so that’s what I’ve done: the multi-listing page is now the green 6″ dragon page, still in made-to-order status, so folks’ bookmarks will still point to a beanie dragon. And now I need to go do final work on those dragons to get pictures and move it to ships-immediately status, and make a couple more art-doll dragons so I can resurrect those links. Hopefully I can keep ahead of those, so I am always ready to renew the listing. (Yes, I just hoped for slow sales…)

Some more business musings

Much of my rambly business- and creation-process stuff gets relegated to Mastodon, but also much of my sales comes from Mastodon, so… maybe I should ramble about business and creation in other places? Let’s give it a go.

My Mastodon art account currently has 130 or so followers, but has a lot more reach because people like to share pictures of my dragons and whatnot. My Instagram account has 58 followers, of which many are non-nerdy folks I knew in Wichita, and of course you can’t (easily) share pictures on Instagram. I could run up the follower count in the usual way (by camping on hashtags and posting look-at-me comments on other people’s accounts but that feels, as the kids say, “thirsty.”

I had intended to use Masto as my spot to work through the learning curve on both making things and selling things, and I guess the natural result is that there are some non-thirsty references to the Etsy shop built into the things that people are sharing. Having realized that, and not wanting my account to turn into Messages From A Brand, I try to keep the shop references minimal in the share-likely posts.

In any event, Mastodon shows that getting the dragons in front of a (reasonably nerdy) audience gets sales, so I just have to figure out how to get the dragons in front of a larger audience. Buying Etsy ads seems to be a logical next step as soon as I get the shop properly restocked, but I’m not sure yet where to go from there.

There are offline options as well. Putting the dragons in my Friendly Local Game Stores is one possibility, though I’m not really priced for wholesale sales. Selling at conventions is also possible; I’m still getting used to the idea of living in a place that’s close to other places. That’s a lot of work, though, and we gave away our (aging) minivan when I inherited Mom’s little sedan.

I also had sort of envisioned getting more into the digital sales than the physical, so I really should be working on finalizing a pattern and its instructional pictures/video to try that out with… but I’ve been playing catch-up stocking dragons (including the art-doll ones; Gold/Sparkle is about to fly across the Atlantic meaning there are none in the shop right now).

I guess those are my goals for the coming week (or two): restock the beanies, list another art dragon (working on Stargazer, black with glitter-cotton galaxy wings), and finalize the orca pattern demo and a paid pattern.


(Oh, and get the promised quarter keeper file posted.)

Measure twice, cut once

Today was a “learning from my mistakes” sort of day.

I have been dialing back on things a little to give my wrist a rest (since I worked all through Memorial Day weekend), but after a trip to Aldi I thought I’d do a little something for myself.

Aldi requires a quarter deposit to free up its shopping carts. There are no cart returns in the parking lot, and no employees running around collecting abandoned carts. It’s a small store and a small lot, and you just take your cart back yourself or, if it’s busy, someone will come up to you as you’re unloading, brandishing a quarter and offering to “buy” your cart from you.

Occasionally they sell little official quarter keepers, and I bought one which I hate. The quarter goes all the way in and a little past the slot, and requires prying back out with fingernails. Plus, I always want *two* quarters, because you’ll often run into someone fumbling for a quarter or just staring at the chains in newbie confusion. So I made a little bi-fold quarter keeper.

My first draft (the white one) was a little large. Clearly I’ve been traumatized by my too-small official keeper, but I wanted to make sure the quarter didn’t get stuck. Instead, the quarter falls out too easily and unpredictably when you’re opening it. I also decided trimming the curves was too finicky, so I opted for a more angular design. Lastly, since I got hold of some Gritty fabric, I decided to make an applique window.

Here’s where I started making mistakes. Quick and dirty little thing, right? Good time to try out wax paper on top of the vinyl to see if it keeps things from sticking. It does, but it is kind of a pain to get out of the stitching so it’s fine for fill embroidery, not so much for topstitching.

Then I was in too much of a hurry and forgot to put in the ribbon until it was almost up to that point in the stitching. I didn’t have any black or orange or even white ribbon narrow enough, so I cut a piece of vinyl and stuck it in without taking the hoop off, and of course it didn’t end up straight.

Then I was too lazy to walk across the room and get the good applique scissors (the Mundials ๐Ÿ“ฆ) and so I used Mom’s Ginghers, which are much coarser, so the (reverse) applique window isn’t as neat as it could be.

I also lined the quarter pocket with more of the Gritty fabric which was probably a mistake; it’s going to fray around the edges in the 1/16″ between the topstitching and the edge. I could have gotten around that with some fray-check (and still can, but the stuff is nasty) or by ironing some Heat-n-Bond onto the back of it. The fabric only had the words in one size and they were a little too big for the space, but it still amuses me.

I also realized, come snap insertion time. that the vinyl “ribbon” was almost down to the snap insertion point. Since I only have regular orange snaps instead of longs (and only round, when ๐Ÿงก would have been ideal), the snap came together at an angle and broke off instead of inserting. After trying (and failing) with three of them, I finally gave up and put in a black one.

All of which is to say: the design is fine, but I’m going to make a nicer version before I write up the instructions. It’ll go on the free embroidery design page when I do.