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18 June, 2024

Spoonflower Fabric Review: Seersucker

2024-06-18T12:17:36-05:00Fabric Reviews, Spoonflower & Fabric Design|0 Comments

I was really excited to see Seersucker as one of the new fabrics that Spoonflower introduced recently. Seersucker is one of my favorite fabrics. I ordered a swatch printed in my Sea Stars design.

Print quality

The print quality looks great! This is a textured fabric, so I have a feeling that designs with very fine lines might not be as crisp as some other fabrics like sateen. This design printed great! The base fabric is a bright white, so the colors printed exactly as expected. I didn’t find the stripe texture to distract from the design, but that is definitely something to keep in mind when you choose a design to print. I suspect that a design with a strong narrow stripe in the design might fight a little with the woven texture of the fabric.

Fabric

Seersucker is a woven striped fabric, with the stripes running with the grain of the fabric. This is 100% cotton and prints 54 inches wide. The stripes are just about exactly 1/16 inch wide. They alternate with one stripe that is a tight weave and the next stripe is more open weave with a little space between the threads, so those stripes look slightly translucent. When you run your fingertips across the fabric, you can feel the texture of the stripes.

You can see that translucency a little in this photo. I put the fabric against my deep green cutting mat, but slipped a piece of white paper behind part of it.

Some seersuckers have a very pronounced rippled texture in the stripes, but this version is pretty smooth. I washed this swatch and it softened up slightly, but didn’t change texture or feel very much between washed and unwashed.

It is lightweight and has a nice drape. It feels very soft both on the printed and unprinted sides. It barely frayed at all on the cut edges when I washed it, which I like because it shows me that it’s a sturdy weave that should stitch up really nicely.

Shrinkage

I measured the swatch before and after washing. There was no shrinkage across the width of the fabric, but quite a bit lengthwise. My swatch was about 7 5/8 inches after washing, which is about 4-5%. That’s close to Spoonflower’s estimate on their fabric spec page.

Overall impression

I can’t wait to print some more and make some summer tops. This looks and feels like a really high quality fabric. The 54 inch width is a nice bonus because it means I can potentially do more with a single yard of fabric (vs a standard 42 inch quilting cotton). I think seersucker is best for light weight clothing. It could also make nice semi-sheer curtains or a shower curtain (with a liner behind).

6 June, 2024

Who does your sewing?

2024-06-06T20:25:02-05:00An Artist's Life|3 Comments

When I am selling my work out in the world or showing gallery photos while I’m teaching, a question I get asked pretty often is “Who does your sewing?” The answer is always “me”.

That question always surprises me. And maybe my answer surprises you too.

I don’t hear my pottery friends get asked “who does your glazing?” or the jewelry makers “who does your polishing?” but somehow the design and the sewing parts of what I do seem like they should be disconnected. I’ve heard other makers say that they hire out sewing or get things manufactured overseas because they want to spend their time on “more important” parts of what they do. Or that their time is too valuable to be used on sewing.

I am a pretty skilled seamstress because I have put in many hours of practice and I have an interest in being skilled at it. I have been asked many many times if I would “production sew” pieces for other people or if I would share where I get my pieces sewn, so I know it’s a skill that is much in demand. So I am always puzzled by the idea that it is a less valuable or integral part of what I make.

This week has been a week of what I call a “sewing days”. I was working on a wholesale order for a collaboration I am doing with the Guthrie Shop and another for a shop in Seattle that sells my work. Today, I hemmed and pressed tea towels, I hand stitched the finishing on scarves, I serged tiny rolled hems on the edges of chiffon wraps.

I love sewing days. I get to binge watch something on my laptop (today was NCIS) or listen to an audiobook and shut down the creative designing part of my brain to work with my hands. Being an artist requires a lot of thinking. I am constantly thinking about new designs to make, new classes to teach, statements I want to make with my work, creative ways to market it and a million administrative tasks like sending invoices or following up on contracts. It is refreshing (and necessary) to have days where I can turn all of that off. This is just as valuable to me as all of those thinking days. It’s a balance.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to being an artist is that I love to work with my hands. It’s more than just thinking “it’s fun”. It’s something I have to do. I just got back from a week-long vacation and I joked with several friends about being bad at going on vacation. After I few days, I am tired of seeing and listening and absorbing all the new things and I need to DO something. It’s like an itch. My brain craves that activity. (I can’t imagine going without at least one knitting project to work on. The horror!)

To be perfectly honest and practical, I am picky. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t afford to hire someone that paid as much attention to detail as I do. I don’t want my work to be sewn in factories overseas where workers are paid pennies for having the same skills I have. I don’t want half of that piece of art to be made with someone else’s hands.

So the answer to the question “Who does your sewing?” is enthusiastically “ME!” Because sewing is a skilled hand craft just as much as illustration and surface design. It is one component of what I make, just like glazing and polishing and sanding are in other art forms. I want my art to be something I do from start to finish and not something I do only for the “fun parts”. It’s a reason that I have always focused my fabric design process and business way more toward making vs licensing.

So when I think about that sewing question, I wonder what those “more important” things are that those other makers talk about. I can’t think of any.

9 April, 2024

A Review of Spoonflower’s Metallic Wallpapers

2024-04-17T12:11:36-05:00Spoonflower & Fabric Design|Comments Off on A Review of Spoonflower’s Metallic Wallpapers

Spoonflower just recently introduced two new metallic wallpapers in silver and gold. I ordered some swatches in two of my own designs so I could check them out. Before I jump in to talk about the papers I want to make a little disclaimer: I am not going to talk about using this as wallpaper and hanging it on a wall. I am not a decorator and I don’t use wallpaper in that way. I am a paper artist, so I am going to talk about it in that context as art paper. (So if you are looking for tips about hanging it or what type of paste to use, I am not your girl.)

The new Silver and Gold wallpapers are basically identical except for color. Each paper has a base or background color of either silver or gold that your design is printed on top of. The color of the paper shows through any white areas of the design and gives the overall colors of the design a tinted shimmer. You can see the unprinted selvedges of the paper here to get an idea what that base color looks like.

The color of the paper does influence the color of the printed designs, so I picked a couple of my designs I thought would really compliment the silver and gold undertones. These printed beautifully. The colors are really crisp and sharp and the metallic makes them look very rich.

The paper has an irregular fibery texture. I’ve heard people describe it as leathery. I think it looks a little like a surface that has been gold leafed. It’s not smooth like copy paper, but it reminds me of a satin or brushed metal finish you see on jewelry. The surface is not plasticky which was a very pleasant surprise but it feels like paper.

The weight is about equivalent to a mid weight drawing paper. It takes a crease and curves around surfaces nicely without cracking. I made two coptic bound sketchbooks with my swatches (up above) and it wrapped easily around the corners and edges. The paper didn’t burnish or get marked when I used a bone folder to guide it around the corners.

The back side of the paper is a plain white matte paper surface that feels a little like newsprint. Since it’s designed to have glue added to it, it soaked up the PVA I used for the book covers and glued to the cover boards as easy as anything.

I took a really short video so you could really get a sense of the shimmer of the metallic since that’s so difficult to capture in a still photo.

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this paper! The first thing I did when I finished making these book covers and I was waiting for the glue to dry was order 4 more swatches with different designs. I am planning to make a covered box next.

It might also be amazing as a wall covering but I think it’s a really cool new art paper and I can’t wait to figure out more ways of incorporating it into my designs. I ordered swatches which are 24×12 inches, which gives me plenty to make several covered books and try some experiments.

5 April, 2024

A Day in the Life of an Artist: Friday

2024-04-05T17:43:24-05:00An Artist's Life, Everything Else|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an Artist: Friday

Friday.

The absolute best part of quitting my job and deciding to work for myself is being able to listen to my brain. Creative work can be exhausting and sometimes I just don’t have it in me. This week has been a lot of brain work: teaching, planning, designing and when I sat down today to figure out what my plan for the day was, I realized that I don’t have the bandwidth for more of that work. So I am going to finish up a little of the website design I was working on yesterday and then spend the day sewing. My boss (aka me) gets to make sure I can do my best work every day by listening to what I need to do that day. That never happened at my previous job.

My Etsy shop is pretty low stock on a number of things so I am going to see how many zipper bags I can make today. I have a stack that I cut out weeks ago, so that step is done, which means I can put on a season of something to watch and binge it while I sew. I get asked a lot who does my sewing and people are always very surprised when I say I do it myself. But sewing days are a much needed mental break from the intensive work of designing and planning. I’ve got a couple of brand new zipper bag designs and so I will probably post to Instagram throughout the day as I get those done. A long time ago I sat down with a stopwatch and timed myself and it took me 7 minutes to make a zipper bag start to finish and I think I’m even a little faster when I do a big batch assembly line style. Why time it? Because that’s the way I work out my prices. I have an hourly rate that I pay myself for sewing (it varies on how complex the item is) and that way I can make a realistic price that covers my time, the materials and a profit to pay for the overhead on my business, like that darn new email provider I have to budget for.

Lunch & art drop off

I grabbed a quick lunch and then I needed to jump in the car to drop off art for an upcoming exhibition. I have a piece that was accepted into an exhibit with a game theme, called “The Art of the Game” and I created a box inspired by the game Chutes & Ladders. You can see a little more about the piece “Likes & Follows” here.

Sewing

And back to the sewing machine and watching some episodes of Star Trek Discovery. I took a walk and mailed a couple of small things. I didn’t get a lot of things *finished* today but I did get a lot of things in progress. And that’s progress!

4 April, 2024

A Day in the Life of an Artist: Thursday

2024-04-05T10:45:18-05:00An Artist's Life|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an Artist: Thursday

Thursday.

Today was another round of tea, dog games and answering emails. This morning was a bit of a computer day. I spent a while taking the class outline I made yesterday and fluffing it out into lessons with bullet points. I’ve got it broken up now into the lessons and the main goals for each one and lots of notes for things I want to mention. I don’t ever script out my lessons, but I always work from bullet points. I’ve learned I don’t teach well from a script; it becomes too stilted and unnatural. (I tried using a teleprompter once and it was remarkably awful.) I’m probably ready to start filming some of the lessons next week.

Class prep

This evening I am teaching an in-person class, which is unusual for me these days. The class starts at 5:30 which means I would be trying to get there in the absolute peak of rush hour, so I am actually planning to go several hours early and work from the library where the class will be held. I hate to be rushed and under pressure. And working from somewhere different is a nice change. I have a website to work on for a client, so that will be the perfect project to work on there since I don’t need anything from my studio to do that.

I did a little class prep by rounding up some extra photos to have for examples. This is a class about photographing your small artwork and we’ll be doing hands-on examples and then I am going to demonstrate editing them. I taught this same class a few weeks ago and I felt like I needed a few more good examples to demonstrate with, so I went digging and got those ready. I double checked my slides and all of the materials I have to bring to this class. It’s kind of a complex class because I am setting up 3 white box variations so students can try shooting some of their own photos. So I have a lot of equipment to bring with me. I’ll do a check of my tech bag and make sure I have all of my adapters, cords, and various bits of technology. I’ve got to dig my computer power cable out from behind the studio bookcase because I don’t travel and teach as much any more and I only have one for this laptop. (I used to have two so I didn’t need to go digging for cords, but I haven’t gotten around to getting another one for this laptop.)

Lunch

Stanley came and told me it was time for lunch. His stomach is a very reliable clock. I also got my Amazon order (yay!) of an adapter for my computer to hook into the library’s LCD projector. At the last class, I didn’t have the right one and used my own projector instead. It’s been my experience that no venue ever has the adapter you need (so I always bring my own) and they all are set up assuming you have a PC, which I don’t. So I pack a bag full of my own equipment (cables, adapters, projector) every time because I know I can always make that work.

Proof of concept

After lunch, I made a quick “proof of concept” sample for the class I am working on. When I am putting together Skillshare classes, they put a big emphasis on the class project that students can make and share. For this class, I decided to do something that I hope will be a little fun. I am going to have a “simple” project which is to just create a digital file, but I am also going to have a “challenge” project lesson to take your surface design and actually make a thing with it. I get so tired of seeing mockups of everything that look so obviously computer generated. So I am going to challenge this class to make something with their design and I am going to walk them through making a simple stitched notebook with paper you might have just laying around. My sample is made from a sheet of cardstock printed with my new design, some kids construction paper, and a piece of perle cotton thread.

Sometimes I make several samples for this proof of concept step to make sure it’s something that’s teachable. I really like to encourage students to be creative and use what they have, so I am always trying to design interesting projects that don’t require you to go buy special tools or materials. I used my bookbinding awl for this sample, but I’ll also show how to do that step with a push-pin in class.

I’m also planning to make a couple more samples that are more complex pieces based on the same idea, showing how you can take the basic ideas and go farther with them. I ordered some printed wallpaper samples yesterday to make those pieces which I think will be a small coptic bound book and a covered pencil box.

Packing & hitting the road

Next I need to pack the car to get ready for class. This class has a lot of equipment to haul with me so I usually make a packing list. Since I taught this one already just a few weeks ago, when I put everything away, I put it all together in one place so it will be easy to grab and go. I’m also going to pack dinner, since class is at 5:30.

Class

I spent a few hours working in the very quiet library. I was starting the design for a new site for a printmaker and doing the fun part of setting up the colors, styles and little design elements before I start building the pages and menus. I ran into a big snag with her old website provider that had a super small limit on the image storage on her site so we decided to switch platforms altogether. I’ll probably work on that some more tomorrow so I can send her a rough draft to look at over the weekend. Then I grabbed my dinner as a picnic in the car, and headed in to teach class. It was a little bit of a mixed group with ages from about 10 to adults. It wasn’t supposed to be a kids class, so I am pretty sure the younger ones were pretty bored. (Sorry young friends!) It was really designed to be for people with Etsy shops or Ebay accounts looking to improve their photos. We got some pretty great photos with my very basic setups and I think several students walked away with some great ideas for their future photo shoots. I left everything in the car to unpack in the morning. I’m beat!

3 April, 2024

A Day in the Life of an Artist: Wednesday

2024-04-03T16:44:06-05:00An Artist's Life|Comments Off on A Day in the Life of an Artist: Wednesday

Wednesday.

Today also started with tea and puppy snuggles. Then I ran a few errands to the post office and Michaels. I signed up to participate in a quilt block swap and I mailed off my pieces this morning. I signed up because I wanted a reason to sew something just for fun and not for work. But it turned out to land right in a couple of busy weeks and it stressed me out a little bit. So I am really glad they are done and out the door. I’m not normally a quilter but I am going to use my swap blocks to make some storage “baskets” for my studio and these thread spool blocks will be really cute in photos of my workspace.

I also had to fetch some adhesive because my mini skein winder that I use to make craft kits for my Etsy shop broke a piece last week. I ordered a new laser cut part that got here yesterday but I needed some acrylic adhesive to put it back together. Hopefully that will be a quick fix and the glue will cure so I can get some kits made at the end of this week.

Meetings.

Being a full time artist means wearing many hats and doing many jobs. I have a few website and graphic design clients that I do freelance work for periodically. I update websites, design newsletters, and do graphic design for a local non-profit. Today I’ve got two meetings to talk about some projects; a quick website update and a bigger annual report project. So I spent a little time this morning reviewing some of the copy for that design job so I have a list of questions ready for that meeting.

In the minutes before and after meetings I have been researching a new email service for sending my newsletters. I was using SendGrid but I have realized that when you are on their free tier plan that you are on the same mail servers as eleventy-one spammers who sign up for free accounts and send buckets of spam. So that server is constantly being blacklisted and that means I get blacklisted along with everyone else. So my last newsletter actually arrived in like half of the inboxes it was supposed to. My mom couldn’t even get it!  I reached out to their customer support, but they basically shrugged and said there was nothing they could do. Using the free plan was one of the ways I was trying to keep my business expenses low, but I think this has become a necessary expense. So I’m looking now to upgrade it to a paid plan which hopefully means a better server reputation and my emails actually getting to the people who asked to be subscribed.

Class planning.

One of my goals for this year was to add a new online class to my website or Skillshare every month. So I started writing notes for April’s class today while I was between meetings. This one is for Skillshare and it’s going to be about one of my favorite fabric design tools. I am still learning who my Skillshare audience is because I have only posted 3 classes there so far. At this point, my bookbinding with embroidery class seems to be the most popular. So I am going to make sure that this new class is focused on surface design techniques that you can use for fabric, but also for paper crafts like book covers and endpapers. That will be a fun new twist for me when I am planning this one. I start planning by first figuring out what the skill/technique is that I want you to have learned by the end of class and then I brainstorm a list of lessons to get you there. This class is based on a project I have taught in my in-person classes for years, so it’s pretty easy to plan. I’m adding a couple of things that were hard to do in an in-person class but should work really well as an on-demand one.

I want to have some “what can you do with this technique” samples to show at the end of the class, so I took a few minutes to design something, upload to Spoonflower, and order a swatch of metallic wallpaper. I know it will take a week or so to get here so I need to plan ahead so I can make a book out of it before I film that lesson for the class. There’s a tiny sneak peek.

Post Office run

My local post office is just a block from my house and I have a class kit to mail off today, so I made another run over there. It’s a nice day for a walk.

Start dinner & clean up

A fabulous part of working from home is that when I want to make things like wild rice that needs to simmer for an hour, I can do that and then go back to work. I sent off a few more emails answering some class questions and asking a email platform I am considering about migrating from my current service and how to make that as simple as possible.

My studio is looking like something exploded in it, so it’s time to put on some music and do a deep clean. I just finished up a couple of big projects (launching a new online class, quilt blocks) so there are samples and bits and pieces everywhere because I was working to some deadlines. Time to put that away!

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