Category Archives: Sewing & Design

My love of art supplies: Fiskars Microtips

Another post about the art supplies I love and why I love them. I think I have 5 pairs of these Fiskars Microtips. They are my favorite scissors. More than my fancy Gingher sewing scissors. I have 5 pairs because eventually I do something dumb and they get a little too dull for working with fabric things and they get retired to being paper scissors and then I have to replace the fabric ones. I think there’s one pair so beat up that it has been retired to the garage.

Why do I love them? They fit my hands so that my hands aren’t getting tired when I am cutting endless little things like this.

They are sturdy and never get loose or wobbly feeling. I don’t use them for cutting out garments or pattern pieces; that’s not what they are for. Those tips are tiny. I can cut little threads and trim seam allowances or clip curves. I can cut out intricate paper shapes and not worry about the scissors mangling the curves and corners. They are sharp. And they only get too dull for fabric things because I tend to use them for everything, whether I “should” be using them or not. I think one of the things that was the most frustrating when I was teaching beginning sewing classes was scissors that belonged in the garbage. Cutting out is always the first step. And if your scissors chew up your fabric, then you can’t match it up, and then the seams don’t line up and the seam allowances are all over the place and it just spirals from there.

Good scissors are way more important than a fancy sewing machine. My friend Jane, my next door neighbor for my entire childhood and the one responsible for me knowing about cross stitch and hardanger and making button holes, gave me a pair of nice scissors as a highschool graduation present. I still have them. They are still sharp. I use them all the time. She was a smart lady.

I’ve got stickers!

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And I don’t mean the sticky paper kind. Apple has a new thing for iOS that lets you put super-sized emoticons on your iMessages and they call them “stickers”. And when you are an artist (and a geek) and you are married to a guy who writes software for a living, it means that you get to have sticker packs released the day the feature goes live! I am so excited.

I have been working on these for ages very quietly behind the scenes and I have 3 “Sticker Packs” that are up in the App Store today. We were all tapping our fingers and waiting for the approval emails yesterday.

3upstickerpacks

One set is the much sought-after yarn emoji“I Love Yarn” is a whole pack of knitting and crochet. Smiling yarn balls, an angry tangled skein, stitch markers and more.

“Sew It Up” is all sewing machines, scissors, pins and my friend the seam ripper.

“Black Kitty” is a gift for a friend who just lost his sweet black kitty, but also for my mom and sister, who both have goofy black kitties.

stickermockup

Here’s a little bit about how stickers work and here is a good article about how to install them. I have more design ideas that I am working on, naturally. These are really fun to do.

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You can get them in the App Store for $.99 each. I added a tab to my menu bar up there at the top of this page that says “Shop” so there is always a link to them and any future sets I do. (It also has links to my Etsy shop and other places to get my designs.)

The Verdict is in: Pfaff Expression 3.2

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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.

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”.

 

Hennepin History Museum #MuseumWeek

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It ‘s #MuseumWeek on Twitter this week and that seemed like a great excuse to talk about my favorite museum in the  Twin Cities: Hennepin History Museum.  Museum Week is a fun celebration of museums behind the scenes.  Yesterday the theme was “behind the scenes secrets” and today the theme is “souvenirs”.  And I have some great souvenirs from HHM!

I visited the museum a few weeks ago and brought along my camera.  HHM is housed in a turn-of-the-century mansion that is full of beautiful details.  When I was there taking photos, an exhibition of hand fans had just opened to coincide with a “Fireside Chat“, an afternoon lecture by a local fan collector.  HHM holds these chats every other week and they feature local authors and history experts talking about everything from beekeeping to baseball.

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I was really enamoured with this painted feather fan.  It is made from white goose feathers which are painted with a floral spray and tipped with peacock plumes.  Since I have been designing skirts non-stop the last few months, I looked at this and saw a skirt (naturally).  My wrap skirt design is a 3/4 circle, which is a tough shape to work from, but a fan is already a 1/3 circle shape.  It was a natural fit!

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IMG_3262I love those peacock feathers around the hem!  The museum staff was so excited that I was making things inspired by the collection that they invited me to have this skirt on display along with the fans.  It was neat for me to see the two side-by-side and you can see them too if you stop by.

I also took some photos of the woodwork details in the Fireside Room.  This helix patterned trim is featured throughout the room.

hhm-3And that also inspired a design.  I haven’t stitched up the sample of this one yet, but you can see the sketch.  I used this bit of woodwork trim to make radiating stripes from the waist to hem.  I also designed a basic stripe based on this woodwork pattern, which I will hopefully be printing to make silk scarves for the HHM shop a little later in the spring.

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One visit and two pretty awesome designs!  I feel like I found buried treasure.  I can’t wait to go back and see what else I find.

I had never actually heard of Hennepin History Museum before a year or so ago, even though it has been around since the 50s.   My friend Cedar is their new Executive Director and I think she has some pretty awesome ideas and the enthusiasm to bring their knowledge and collections more into the community.  In fact, I joined the Board of Directors in January, so I can help her out with that project. If you are in the Twin Cities area, I hope you will stop by and visit or come for a Fireside Chat.

 

 

Inspiration from anywhere

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My niece drew this picture of a sewing machine for me.  Her message “Don’t miss the sniff” is to let me know that not only is there a scratch and sniff sticker there, but she drew it using smelly markers.  Important stuff when you are 4.  I am in love with this picture.

“Kid art” is a really hard thing to translate into fabric design.  And honestly, I look at pretty much everything anymore and think “How can I make fabric out of this?”  So I wanted to capture this fabulous drawing in fabric.

via gofugyourself.celebuzz.com

via gofugyourself.com

The new fall line for Dolce & Gabbana offers this.  Which I honestly think is hideous.  If you click that photo it will take you to a whole slide show of their runway show, which has a whole collection of “kid art” prints.  They all look like they are printed on shiny satin besides, which also doesn’t make any sense.  Formal crayon wear? Ugh.

So instead of trying to go with a literal interpretation, I decided to use Mia’s drawing as inspiration instead.

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So, I drew the sewing machine and all of the other doo-dads and shapes in Illustrator, making it into a vector design so I could rearrange, resize and so on to make a repeat.  This one is about 18″ because I wanted it to be big and bold.  I wanted some textures to overlay on designs like this, so a few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon making fibery textures.  This one is perfect for this design.  I also used Mia’s drawing for the color inspiration.  I think my version has enough pink in it for her to approve.

I don’t see this is a clothing fabric (although she would probably wear it) so I decided to think of it like a craft/quilting fabric instead, which meant I wanted to have a collection of coordinating prints to go along with it.  Solids with the same fibery texture, “cheerios” and little banner flags so far.  I think I need one more.  Any ideas?

coordinates

 

I know it is sewing machines (and you do now too), but I think this also could look like tribal/tiki/monster as I can see a few faces in there.  And that also works for me.