The Verdict is in: Pfaff Expression 3.2


It’s love.

One of my most popular posts according to the analytics I see when I log in is the post I wrote about my Saga of Sewing Machines and the reviews of the Bicor, Viking, Bernina and more that I have loved and hated through the years.  When I wrote that post I had had my Pfaff Expression 3.2 for about a week.  It’s now been 8 months and about a million stitches, so it is definitely time to follow up.  (I have been busy!)  I can say with all honesty that this is the best machine I have ever owned.  I have stitched through layers of leather, not to mention denim, silk organza, felt, polar fleece.  I made a quilt with it.  The stitches are beautiful, the tension is beautiful.  I still love the zipper foot.  It’s quiet and heavy enough that I don’t push it around the sewing table.

If I have to pick out a pet peeve it’s that the reverse button is little and a little awkwardly located.  Reverse has two “modes”: one where you can hold it in and it reverses and when you let go it goes back to forward stitching; and the other mode clicks it into reverse and it stays there.  Inevitably I do the wrong thing and get it locked into reverse when I want it out or vice versa.  It’s mostly user malfunction, but it annoys me.  (Now I wonder if I can change that to always do one or the other. I will have to check the book.)

I was skeptical about it being computerized, but so far that hasn’t been a problem.  I bought a rolled hem foot that I cannot get to work reliably, but I think that is probably me needing more practice.  All in all, I think I finally found the machine that I love.

The only thing I haven’t done is settle on a name, which I know is silly.  Nothing so far has stuck, but I am sure she will let me know what her name is at some point.

Public Service Announcement: Back it Up!

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This is my periodic public service announcement.  Take 10 minutes (or maybe an hour) right now and back up your computer or your phone or your iPad (or maybe all of them!)

Burn a DVD of all of your photos.

Run the backup program that you have but never use.

Go investigate a service like CrashPlan who will back up automatically for you every night.  (We love them.)

Look up a tutorial for how to backup to the Cloud or DropBox.

I can 100% promise that you will never ever regret spending the time to do that.  Our hard drive melted down last week.  As you might have guessed, I use the computer a lot.  I have hundreds of MBs of design files.  My entire exhibition that goes up this fall lives entirely in this computer right now.  And the hard drive had a malfunction and it completely croaked right in the middle of checking my email.

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That photo.  That’s exactly what my screen looked like.  That is one dead hard drive.

It wasn’t a crisis.  Because it was completely backed up.  It was very annoying.  The computer was in the shop for a week; it took several days to download all of the files to a new drive.  I drummed my fingers a lot because I had a lot of work to do last week.  It could have been a disaster.



Design Challenges = Practice


This is my design for the weekly Spoonflower design challenge.  The theme this week is “What’s in your bag?”.  The idea is that everyone carries around something interesting in their purse or bag and you should use that ephemera as a basis for a design.

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I don’t actually worry too much about the voting part of these contests, although it is very fun and validating to see the likes and comments from everyone.  For me these design challenges are all about deadlines and practice. With all kinds of skills from playing musical instruments to sports, you get better by practicing.  I feel like design is the same way.  I am out of practice with pen and paper drawing.  I participated in Illustration Friday for quite a while, but I got busy with other things and stopped.  So for these last few challenges, I have been drawing and digitally coloring. Practice. I don’t think pen and pencil drawing is a mandatory component to being a great designer, but I do think the more skills you have in your toolbox the more versatile you are.

The other creative challenge that I love is having a random topic as inspiration.  Being assigned a topic takes you out of your comfort zone.  It makes you think about topics you might never design and to really think about all the different ways you could represent lemonade or llamas.  Next week is a baseball theme.  I know next to nothing about baseball and I am really not a fan, so it is a real challenge to me to come up with what to design.  I think it will involve dogs and baseballs.  I know a lot about that.

This week’s “bag” challenge was pretty wide open and I decided to go a little bit literal, because I thought it was fun to have a fabric design that was just commonplace and odd objects.  It was drawn in 3 sections.  I started with the sharpies and made them and the knitting needles deliberately very directional to make almost a basketweave kind of pattern with the lines formed by those two components. I drew these bits all with fine tip sharpies and scanned them.  I started coloring this one in Photoshop very “inside the lines” and pretty and then deleted the whole thing. It was too “nice”.  I started again with a grungy streaky Photoshop brush and painted in things by hand.  I added a layer of “fibers” in the background with a filter and then added some splatters and erased some bits of the colors to break it up and add texture.  I played with the colors a lot.  I wanted a dark background because when I think of “what’s in your bag” I always think about rummaging around in the inevitable dark corners of my tote bag.  I ended up choosing slightly muted colors for coloring the odds and ends that I think look a little like chalk against the dark background.

If you don’t like to illustrate, there’s no reason you couldn’t do your own thing. Use the Spoonflower or Illustration Friday topics as a jumping off point for a little creative exercise: how about taking a photo of “what’s in your bag” or writing a haiku?

always lost, searching

compartments and dark corners

provide camouflage

Footpath and the Midwest Weavers Conference


Footpath.  The design for this moebius scarf was inspired by one of the patterns in the WGM’s 75th Anniversary “A Thread Through Time” book.  I used the basketweave tie up pattern on page 56 and translated it into a colorful geometric design, created with bits of colored and patterned paper pulled from junk mail and catalogs.  I assembled the geometric design, scanned it and created a seamlessly repeating pattern that was digitally printed on to fabric.

This last week was the Midwest Weavers Conference here in Minneapolis.  This is a regional conference hosted every other year in a different city.  Our local Weavers Guild were the hosts for the conference and I was asked to teach two technology classes as part of conference seminars, one about marketing yourself online and one about photo editing.  The piece above was my submission to the Instructors Exhibit.  Since I am only a little bit of a weaver, I didn’t want to have my little pieces on display with the masters, so I decided to go with what I am good at, but with a weaving twist.

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Our Weavers Guild is celebrating their 75th birthday this year.  As part of the celebration, they put together a book.  For years, as I understand it, the guild newsletter included a weaving draft and a tiny swatch of fabric made by volunteers, so in each newsletter, you not only got the pattern, but an example as well.  For their birthday, they pulled drafts from the archives and had guild members make contemporary pieces based on those designs and they put it altogether into a book.  So I decided to do the same, but with my twist.  So, I used the tie up pattern from a basketweave draft and translated it into color.  The design was made with paper punches and recycled paper from junk mail, receipts, newspaper and an Art-A-Whirl catalog glued to a piece of black card stock.  I call it Footpath because the tie up pattern is the part of the draft that tells you how to tie up the treadles, which are the pedals you control with your feet when you are weaving on a floor loom.  So I made this design into a piece of fabric and stitched a cowl scarf to be a part of the exhibition.  I love that it is fun and bright; I think I might keep this one for myself.  I didn’t get a photo of the finished piece, but that is the printed fabric in the top photo.

The conference was awesome!  I volunteered for several days at the Guild to help with their fiber shop and I taught two classes with really wonderful groups of students from all over the country.  I met a lot of cool people and the sense of fun and enthusiasm throughout the conference was infectious.  Everyone seemed to be really enjoying everything about it.  I am so glad that I was invited to be there.  Thanks to the organizers, advisors, attendees and volunteers who made it great!

My 7th Spoonflower-iversary!

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June 20th is my 7 year Spoonflower-iversary.  That was the day I uploaded and ordered my very first fabric.  I remember getting my invitation to join the site.  At that point, you signed up to be on a waiting list and Spoonflower would invite groups of people to join at a time.  They only had one printer and I think you could only order a yard or two at a time.  I remember reading about Spoonflower in someone’s tweet and Googling to find the site and signing up that minute.  Printing my own fabric?  For real?

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When it came time to design my very first fabric, I had no idea what to draw.  I don’t usually suffer from the “fear of a blank page”, but I was truly stuck.  It was intimidating. I wanted to love it, I wanted it to be mine.  So I decided to do something practical.  I made a fabric that matched my Etsy shop banner, thinking I would make some gift bags to send Etsy orders in.  Smee the fish and bright colored bubbles.  I even did a top-to-bottom seamless repeat of the bubble pattern, which when I look back on it now seems pretty sophisticated for my first design.  I didn’t end up making gift bags from that fabric, because I couldn’t do it.  When I unwrapped the package a few weeks later and I had my first yard of fabric in my hands, it was perfect.  It was like the best Christmas present ever. It was my design and it was real fabric.  I couldn’t cut it up and give it away.  I still have that yard and it’s still my very favorite.  I bring it to class with me sometimes and show it to my students.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the day I found my niche.  I had been working at an art center for years, and I had taught hundreds of people how to do all kinds of fiber art, but I didn’t really feel like I had an art form to call my own.  I wasn’t a quilter or a fashion designer or a felter, although I could do all of those things.  I wasn’t really passionate about any of them.

I ordered several more designs and tried all kinds of things, but it took me a couple of years before I really figured out what to do with my own fabric and that was this dress.

Glaciology.  Digitally printed silk from engineered photo.


I wish I could remember exactly the inspiration for this.  I had a couple of events that fall I needed to dress up for.  I loved those two photos the design is made from. I had a brainstorm.  I meticulously re-drafted all of the pattern pieces for this in Illustrator and placed the photos on each piece.  I had to figure out how to make files that were each exactly 1 yard of fabric so I could place all of the pieces. I wasn’t sure what it would look like when it was printed.  Would the colors look right?  Would it look too much like a photo billboard?  I had no idea if it would work.  After I ordered the fabric, I realized that I had made 2 left skirts instead of a left and a right and I had to redo and reorder that piece.  I wasn’t sure how much it would shrink or even if it was the right weight for a dress. I had never even ordered this silk-cotton fabric before.  (It turned out to be perfect.)  It was a leap of faith and the worst that I figured would happen was that I would end up with some random silk scraps and no dress.

It maybe sounds cheesy to say Spoonflower changed my life, but it’s kind of true.  I loved designing fabrics but it wasn’t something I could just do, except by hand.  When I was in college I worked at a summer theater and I costumed an entire show with costumes made from muslin, drawn on with sharpies and colored with crayons.  I wanted them to look like they were out of a coloring book.  Completely impractical (not washable), but such a great concept.  I block printed borders on satin fabrics for another show because I couldn’t afford the fancy fabrics and trims I wanted to make the costumes look lush and “royal”.  I could print fabrics on my ink jet printer, but only 8 1/2 x 11 inches at a time. I never could find the fabrics I wanted in my head because they didn’t exist.  I now have a whole gallery of fabrics that exist because I designed them.  This September, almost exactly 5 years from the day I ordered the fabric for that dress, I am going to have an exhibition of my work and our new book is going to be released and it is all about digitally printed fabric.


So, cheers to Spoonflower and Stephen and Kim and Darci and all of the creative and wonderful people I have worked with at Spoonflower.  When you are a painter, you don’t think about the people who make your paint or your brushes.  I am lucky enough to have a whole fabulous team that is helping me do what I do.


I’ve got T-shirts!

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Today is the day!  I am launching a brand new line of designs printed on t-shirts and coffee mugs.  I took some of my most popular 1 inch button designs with fiber art puns and have turned them into t-shirt designs.  These are printed by a company called RedBubble on a variety of different t-shirts.  You choose the design, size, style and color and they will print and send it to you.  There are a lot of different companies that will do this, but I like the selection at RedBubble and their customer service is totally top notch. I have several t-shirts from RedBubble designed by other artists and I just got my own “Knit Long and Prosper” shirt to celebrate my own new designs.  These have been SO FUN to design and I am planning to keep adding more.  (Let me know if you have a special request!)

I am featuring my “Reed Me” design in this post to celebrate the first day of the Midwest Weavers Conference here in Minneapolis.  I did a volunteer shift for the conference this morning and I am teaching some workshops on Saturday.  I wanted to time the opening of this new online shop so that I can talk about it in my “Marketing Yourself Online” class at the conference as another way of having your work for sale by making coffee mugs or notecards or even t-shirts with images of your work.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 9.16.14 AMI have added a link in the sidebar (over there to the right) so that you can always find your way to my shop from here, or you can search at RedBubble under “beckarahn”.