Monday, December 31, 2012

goodbye, 2012.


It was a good year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

see you next year


I've had some successes with my new Cameo. We had a rough start, we two, but I think we are coming to an understanding. My blades are faulty, and Silhouette is kindly sending replacements.

I created the card above in Illustrator and then imported it into the Silhouette software. I had to make allowances for my dull blades, and I kept wondering if it was going to be faster just to cut it by hand, but I managed to make several cards with it in less time than I could have cut it myself. I'm only just beginning to understand the possibilities. And I love the way it sounds when it is working. It's exactly like a mad space organist might sound. I've created some other cards with my designs that I'll show next year after the gifting is over.

I have had another fun year with this blog. I want to say a humongous THANK YOU to everyone who supported my designs by patronizing my shops and pinning/linking to my tutorials. I have loved seeing what you make with the patterns and I really really appreciate the feedback. And an especially large THANK YOU to the dwindling numbers of faithful readers who take time to support my ravings by commenting on posts. Your remarks really make my day. Believe me, I appreciate your slogging through the various levels of security to add your thoughts to my posts. It's always a letdown when the spammers outnumber the legitimate commenters. (Airfare to Dubais! CHEAP TOPS! Brake fluid!)


Thing 1 and Thing 2 visiting with Santa Claus, the very one they've both seen every year since they were born. He's awesome. The BEST. I've been wondering when the whole Santa myth is going to tip over for my kids, and it looks like this is the year the oldest knows What's What. She might have had some doubts last year too. But. I thiiiiiiink my youngest still lives the dream. (I do too.) My youngest began penning drafts of her Christmas list in October. I think the version she has in her hand is probably List 5.0, which replaced the wilted and food splattered 4.0 that traveled with her everywhere in a special tin. It's serious business.

Merry Christmas to all. I hope your days are filled with cozy family times, special treats, and the amazing and wondrous love of Christ. I'll see you next year with lots more making and poor time management tips. Kate. I promise. Soon! :-)

Announcement: The Etsy shop will be closed until Dec 30. You can always purchase needed patterns in my Craftsy store, which is open 24/7/365 and provides a link to instantly download your pattern.

Monday, December 17, 2012

blue bird of happiness


I could certainly use a little happiness and hope after the last few days in America. I'm sorrowing for the families in Connecticut and hugging my own kids more tightly.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

hey, Larissa, do you have any tips to improve my cutting skills?


Why, yesh, I do. Twelve of them.

First of all, have the right tool for the job at hand. There's more about that in this post.

So let's assume you have the correct scissors in hand for what you are cutting. Here are some tips for excellence in scissor craft! I sound a bit like Dolores Umbridge when I say that.

First a few prep-work tips:

1) Seems a no-brainer but seriously, have some good light on hand. Daylight is the ideal, but of course many of us have to wait until evening to make stuff because of the small (or big) people at our house who expect to be cared for, fed, educated, played with, etc... Good task lighting is a huge help.

2) If you are tracing a shape to cut out, it is important to trace with a thin, precision line. For instance, cutting along a line made with a fine point pencil will give a better result than cutting along a fat marker line.

3) Getting a nice sharp line on felt or fabric is sometimes a challenge. Whenever possible, I trace the shape on the wrong side so I can use a permanent thin marker/gel pen that is clearly visible and won't disappear or bleed. As much as I love the disappearing purple markers, the lines fade quickly, so I only use them when I need to. I avoid using the blue water soluble markers, because even though they don't fade, which is nice, you have to blot with water to get rid of them and that adds an extra step. Fine point chalk pencils and markers are a nice option for tracing on darker colors and the chalk brushes off. (Never trace on the right side of the felt/fabric with a permanent pen or marker, because even after cutting it will leave unsightly inky bits on the edge of your shape.)

4) Another great way to accurately cut a shape on fabric or felt* is to use freezer paper.
*I mean wool felt. Don't try this with acrylic felt - 1) it might melt 2) freezer paper doesn't stick to it very well.

First, trace the shape on the dull side of freezer paper. Iron it shiny side down to the right side of the felt/fabric.

Then carefully cut around your traced outline.

  After you are done cutting, the freezer paper peels off easily. It leaves no trace and your shape will have a nice clean edge.

Now some tips for the actual cutting part:

5) For a clean, controlled cut, you must constantly maintain a good tension between the blades of the scissors. My kids can't grasp that part. (ha ha. Punny.) They saw up and down with the scissors handles but their hand stays too limp and their cuts are not clean. Maybe it was the fact that I had a lot of dull scissors growing up, but I figured out pretty early that my cutting hand should always be doing this:

It basically feels like your hand is cramped as you hold the scissors. My thumb is pushing its scissors handle away and my fingers are pulling their handle in towards my palm. Keeping that tension will press the scissor blades against each other and will help you maintain control and get a clean edge every time.

6) If the scissors are in your right hand, your left hand will actually be doing most of the finesse work. Did you hear that? That's right. The hand that is not holding the scissors is the key to neat, accurate cutting. Think of your scissors hand as the brawn, and your free hand as the brains of the operation. As you cut, keep your scissors hand cutting away from you without turning. Your other hand should be busy rotating the paper (or felt) in a smooth motion to meet the blades of the scissors. The smoother this motion is, the better your cutting will be. Vary the speeds you rotate to maintain accuracy. For instance, the tighter the curve is, the slower your free hand will be rotating the paper.


7) On larger shapes, start each cut with your scissors opened wide. That way you don't have to open them back up a lot and you can get longer, more fluid looking cuts.

8) Don't attempt to cut out a complex shape all the way around in one direction, without repositioning the scissors. Most things I cut out are cut from all kinds of different approaches in order to get the very best result. I save the tricky parts for last, repositioning my scissors to get the best angle at each part.

9) If you want cleanly cut interior angles, you can't cut down into the angle then back out of it. The best way to tackle those is to go down one side and end the cut on the point, being careful not to cut beyond the point. Then reposition and cut down the other side, slowly cutting toward the point until the wedge of paper falls away and you have a perfectly clean interior point. Don't be tempted to cut almost to the point, then pluck the wedge of paper out by hand. That just leaves an untidy hanging chad. Which are bad during elections and also in paper cutting.


10) Don't cut directly towards a rounded shape at a right angle. Cut obliquely towards it instead, so that you come in at a shallow angle and go on from there.


11) If the shape you are cutting has interior pieces to cut out (like the inside counter of the letter A or a donut hole), you'd typically want to cut those first before you cut the outer line. On paper this is best done using an Xacto knife on a cutting mat. I also do that to felt if the cutout is small.



To cut out an interior shape with scissors, fold the fabric together so the cut away area is on the fold. Make a snip with your scissors. Unfold and insert the scissors blade in the hole and cut your way toward the line of the interior shape, going on from there.


12) To get a nice continous zig zag or scallop pattern when cutting with pinking or scallop shears, there're a couple of things to watch for. Never completely close the shears as you are cutting as this sometimes adds a deeper cut at the end. Also, when you reopen the shears to continue, be careful to reseat the opened scissors with a scallop (or point) inside the last one you cut before you continue. This will prevent getting half scallops and half points, which detract from the uniform look.


So those are a few of the methods I used to get nice, clean edges and accurate cutting by hand. I hope they are helpful to you!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

hey, Larissa, what do you use to cut felt (and fabric)?

You can thank Maggie for this post. Hi, Maggie! She asked me yesterday what tool I use to cut felt and then I wrote a novel back to her and she kindly suggested I use it for a blog post. I think yes.

So what do I cut stuff with?


First of all, for cutting larger pieces of woven fabric or felt you just can't beat a good pair of Gingher dressmaking shears. Period. They've made cameo appearances in many of my sewing tutorials:


They are weighty, feel great in your hand and make a very satisfying *swack* as they close. The *swack* indicates that they Mean Business. Also they are very shiny and pretty, so. Bonus.

I've had this pair for 12 years and had them sharpened only once. (There's a whole story there where I think my sister 'accidentally' switched my new Ginghers with her older ones when she was visiting, but it would be petty to mention it. Again.) The entire length of the blade delivers a clean cut right down to the very (sharp) tips, so it makes cutting interior acute angles and clipping seam allowances a breeze. They don't come cheap, they run about $30ish from various places (save your coupons), but if you work with fabric or felt they are a must-have.

BTW, never, never, never use your Gingher shears on paper. Paper will quickly dull the blades and their magical properties will be lost. Hide them away from grabby children and their construction paper projects.


A shorter pair of scissors is needed for detailed fabric/felt cutting and these MS Precision Scissors are my faves. I cut scads of small pieces so I use them a LOT. They are lightweight with comfortable rubberized handles. Crazy sharp all the way to the thin tips. They make it easy to cut tiny shapes and details. They come with a nice protective cap for the blade. I confess I use them on paper too, but despite this abuse they still bite cleanly through felt.

 

I bought a backup pair a while back during a sale because I worry they'll be discontinued for whatever reason. They fit my hand just right and I'd miss them. That's always what happens to my lipstick color too. I find one I like and then whamm-o it's gone forever.



I also have two pairs of EK Success Cutter Bees, a regular pair and also a Honey Bee pair that has a non-stick coating on the blades. I bought them as an alternative to the MS pair because they have a longer blade. (The nonstick coating on the Honey Bee makes for easy cutting of sticky labels and tape, if you do a lot of that.) These are very economical for the quality you get. I use them to cut felt and paper. Watch your fingers, these things have precision blades that come to a wicked point so it's easy to jab yourself pretty good. Which is why they come with a handy protective plastic cap for the blades that I always forget to put on.


If it's a long, straight cut on fabric or felt I use my Olfa rotary cutter and a ruler on a cutting mat. You get a much cleaner cut than with scissors and quicker too. Use a metal ruler as opposed to plastic if you can. I've actually shaved off the edge of a couple of my plastic ones. Oopsie.


Now for decorative edges. I have two kinds of shears for that, scalloped and pinking.


Pinking shears (pointy teeth) are widely available. I picked up mine at my local fabric store. Sorry, I can't find a brand name on them. They power through several layers of fabric when needed and cutting felt is a cinch. Pinking shears are a practical and quick way to finish a seam allowance so that it doesn't ravel, but also they are great for giving items a decorative zig-zagged edge.


Scalloped fabric shears are harder to find and they can be more expensive. I got mine via ToolTron and I'm very pleased with them. The brand name might be Nikken, it's really hard to tell because it's so tiny. They are marked "Made In Japan".


Note: Please do not confuse good pinking and scallop shears with similar looking paper edging scissors. NOT the same. Attempt to use paper edgers on fabric or felt and they will make a big ol' hash of your project.


I also have these nifty things I bought online, Sizzix paddle punches. I thought they were going to revolutionize my felt crafting but I can count the times I've used them on my hand. If they came in a nice range of sizes I think I'd use them more. A few whacks on the top with a rubber mallet and the blade on the paddles cuts through the felt, resulting in a perfectly clean shape. They don't work as well on woven fabric, I find.

Of course I also have myriad pairs of cheap IKEA scissors laying around for cutting out everything else like paper patterns, lengths of ribbon, wrapping paper stuff... It's great to keep several pairs of those cheapies within easy reach so you are not tempted to pick up your expensive Ginghers to cut a pipe cleaner.

That's the 411 on my fancy fabric cuttin' tools. If neat, precision cutting matters to you, having the right tools will help you get there. Good hand cutting skills are also essential. That sounds like another post.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

speaking of not having enough time in December...


I just found this felt bird ornament that was half finished from last year in my stuff. Oops. Remember when I crashed your craft party last December, Robyn? That was fun. The soup! The laughing! The busy makery around your table! Being jealous of your iron! Good times. Good times.

Poor forgotten bird. I'm going to finish sewing him up and get him on the tree. Hmm, he needs some dark blue on his very very red head, doesn't he?


If folks would like to see more of the Christmas crafts I've made over my blogging years, I've rounded them up for you in this aptly named set on flickr.