Blog2022-06-21T15:02:08-05:00
24January, 2022

Ask the Artist: Questions from the Spoonflower Webinar

January 24th, 2022|Everything Else|Comments Off on Ask the Artist: Questions from the Spoonflower Webinar

Last week I had a really great time doing an Artist Talk webinar for Spoonflower about my process, my long friendship with Spoonflower, and about my art. There’s a link to the replay below. There were a collection of questions in the chat that we didn’t get to (and some on my social channels), so I thought it would be fun to write a follow up post and answer some of those.

Q: What type of scanner (and other tools) do you use?

Scanner: My scanner is super simple. It’s an all-in-one printer/scanner made by Brother and it’s probably 15 years old. You really don’t need a high tech or fancy scanner, you just need a few settings and clean glass. I very often create designs that are larger than I ultimately want the finished fabric scale to be because it’s hard to make tiny fine details in cut paper. So I most often scan things at 150 or 300 DPI knowing that I will be printing them at 150 DPI (Spoonflower’s resolution).

Sewing Machine: I do all of my sewing for everything: exhibition pieces, things for sale in my Etsy shop, samples. I have a Pfaff Expression 3.2 that is an awesome machine.

Software & Apps: I do most of my editing in Photoshop and Illustrator. Because I know them and they work for me and that’s the most important part. There’s no one right tool to make art. I teach using Pixlr, because it is a free app and that makes it the most accessible for my students. I don’t use tablets or Procreate because I just don’t like drawing/painting my designs. That’s just not the way that I work, so those are not the right tools.

Q: I think it’s so clever how you’ve designed into your Shop Header to “be sure to click NEW to see my latest designs.” A “steal-worthy” tip for sure!

You are right: it is a steal worthy tip and I know because I stole it! Credit for that idea goes to my friend Anda Corrie, who was the author of Spoonflower’s “Quick Sew Project” book. She shared it on her social media somewhere and I totally copied her.

Q: Do you teach on Skillshare too?

No I don’t, for a couple of reasons. I know Skillshare is super popular, but I don’t like their teaching format (which is only video like a TV show) and the way that teachers are compensated. I also don’t like the idea that my classes would be only accessible via a monthly membership fee paid to another company. I feel like it just makes them inaccessible for too many people.

I DO offer online classes that I host through Teachable! I am in the middle of moving classes over to Teachable from another platform, so it’s a little bit in transition right now but they should all be migrated in the next couple of weeks and I can start adding more.

Q: What recommendations do you offer for expanding your marketing reach beyond social media?

Don’t we all wish we had an answer to this question? I talked a little about this in my webinar, but get your work in places that people will see it. Make things you can exhibit, get it into shops on consignment or wholesale, wear it, use it, talk about it. If you don’t sew or make things, partner up with someone who does. See if you can come up with a partnership that is a win for both of you. Enter the Spoonflower weekly contest.

No one likes to be sold to. Think about all of the jokes about used car salesmen. So don’t focus on “selling” your work but on telling the stories. Talk about what you do and why. Share the inspiration for the design or the colors. People love to see behind-the-scenes and sneak peeks. I can spend half an afternoon watching “making of” videos from artists on Instagram but I can’t think the last time I clicked through to see someone’s post about a “new collection for sale”.

Q: I want to take a class from you, starting with the mosaic, to the finished fabric!

Noted! Mosaics are SLOW so I think it would make a really boring in-person class but I have thought about translating it into an online class so you can do some of the time consuming part offline. That mosaic toad design I showed you in the webinar probably took me 5-6 hours to create from start to finish. I have a design of mosaic waterlilies that I think took more than 40 hours.

Q: Is there a blog post on Spoonflower that explains how to do this? Is this possible still on Spoonflower, such a ‘placed’ print? [This refers to printing a design as a placed/engineered print for clothing rather than a repeating design.]

Not on Spoonflower’s blog, but there are several projects like this in the Spoonflower Handbook. In the simplest terms, the way to design like this is to not think about making a repeat but to think about designing a whole yard (or more) of fabric all at once. I do this alot. Instead of setting up a canvas that is 8 inches square or something like that, I set up a canvas that is 42×36 inches, or that will fill a whole yard of fabric. Then I design what I want that yard to look like. It’s not any harder than making a repeat (in fact I think it’s easier) but it’s just a different way of thinking about it. If you want to design to place something on a dress, for example, you have to do a little math to know what pieces you need to cut out (bodice, sleeves, skirt) and to design blocks that are the size you need to cut out those pieces.

23January, 2022

Betrayed by my tools

January 23rd, 2022|An Artist's Life|Comments Off on Betrayed by my tools

Today was one of those days where I think I made negative progress on a project. Like I am pretty sure I ripped out more stitches than I made. It started when I mis-measured something. I didn’t want to cut out something using the pattern piece, so I thought I would just measure and cut the rectangle using my rotary cutter and a ruler. It seemed like it would be more accurate, but then I did the math wrong and ended up with a piece 7/8″ too long and I didn’t realize it until I had stitched it to something else and it completely didn’t match. (Enter seam ripper.)

So I recut and tried again. But then as I was cutting, trying to be more accurate than the first time, I discovered something. Take a really good look at that photo above. Do you notice anything unusual? Look at the hash marks.

This is the cutting mat that sits on my studio table and has been there for 18 months. Those hash marks are 1/10th inch and not 1/8 inch. This might seem trivial, but this is my cutting mat for sewing and quilting where 1/8 inch is the absolute standard. The long marks are for unknown reasons at the odd numbered increments: 1/10, 3/10, 5/10 and so on. But all this time, I saw them and assumed they were 1/4 inch. It never occurred to me that it would be anything else, so I never bothered to count them. Why would I?

The thing is, this is a great cutting mat. It’s heavy and thick and doesn’t slide around my table. It is much nicer and more durable than the quilting brand ones I have had before. But for 18 months, I have been using those tick marks to line up my ruler and cutting crooked pieces. Not enough that I noticed evidently, but enough that everything was just a little bit off. That’s why I finally noticed today. Because everything was a little bit off. I had to recut pieces. Things weren’t lining up when I stitched them, the sewing machine was acting a little funny. I was really frustrated, so I was being really careful. So I counted tickmarks. And then had a moment of “what the $%@&#@” when I realized what I was seeing.

Why? Why is it in 10ths of inches? I texted my dad who had the same “what the $%&#*” reaction I did and had to google. He discovered that some engineers use “decimal inches” because the math is easier. This mat isn’t branded as an engineering tool. It’s just an “art cutting mat”. The description doesn’t say that it’s in 10ths of inches. But maybe that was a factor in this design choice. Who knows! So I’ve pulled it off my table and ordered a different one. Because as much as I like it, that inability to trust the measurements thing is a deal breaker for me. It’s a go-to tool that suddenly got a whole lot less useful. I feel a little bit betrayed! (For anyone who is curious it’s an Arteza brand mat I got on Amazon. And except for the absurd measurements it’s been awesome.)

My sewing machine decided today to have a tantrum as well. Just as I was coming back to work on the project after discovering my measuring issue, the stitch length/tension of my machine went off the rails. Nothing happened except for the clumsy puppy stepped on the pedal and zoomed the motor for a few seconds. That must have stuffed some lint into a crevasse or made a belt slip or something. Because suddenly it only makes ridiculously tiny stitches. I checked everything, rethreaded, cleaned, swapped threads and bobbin, googled and all of the other tricks I know and nothing helped. So I am completely out of commission and I’ve emailed the local dealership. Sigh.

12January, 2022

Moving my classes to Teachable

January 12th, 2022|Everything Else|2 Comments

Change is hard.

My very first project of 2022 wasn’t the thing I was planning on creating. In fact, it wasn’t even really making something new, but re-making something I didn’t want to redo.

At the end of 2021, Coursecraft, the platform I used to host my on-demand online classes decided to go out of business. They were a small company (which is part of why I loved them) but that means that I think they got a little burn out being constantly on the front lines of keeping everything up and running. I think many of us can relate to that. When they said that they were going to turn everything off in April, I spent a couple of days thinking.

  • Did I want to go to the trouble of moving everything to a new platform?
  • Are students going to be upset if I couldn’t automatically give them access to the new class?
  • Would they even notice if the classes just disappeared?
  • Were enough people registered for them that it made sense to continue? Would the additional time investment be worth it?
  • Could I find a new platform that didn’t cost a lot more?

It was the kind of unforeseen event that forces you to take a look at things in many different ways.

I decided that those on-demand classes are something I love to teach. Even though I am not right there talking to students in real time, it’s still a great teaching experience. I know that the students have so many more options. You can do the whole thing at once or come back and work on it whenever you have 10 minutes free. You can jump back and refer to something that you don’t quite remember. I know there are classes I wish I could do that with. I took a book binding class last year and I am certain that I couldn’t make another one on my own at this point. I took good notes, but I have forgotten so much because everything was so new. But most importantly when I look back at the last couple of years, those online classes are a big gold star in the “positive things that happened” column. There sure is a whole lot of negative that happened, so it really is nice to have something to celebrate.

Ultimately, I decided to move everything to Teachable. It was super similar to what I had before and I like a lot of the features it has. On the other hand, some things aren’t as good and I’ll have to change how a couple of lessons work. It’s slow going. There’s no tool to help you migrate something like this. Just a lot of copy and paste and waiting for videos to re-upload. I’ve listened to music and a book on tape. One morning I played an online game of Settlers of Catan while I waited on video uploads. It’s been great thinking time. I thought about new classes to teach for this spring and what I’d like to add to my new school at Teachable.

I even made a deal with a friend of mine who is working on a similar project right now: something she wants to get done, but at the same time dreads doing it. We’ve been sending each other progress photos and grouchy observations when things aren’t quite going as smoothly as we had hoped. That was the best idea ever. It makes it not quite as hard when you have someone to complain about it to.

So things might look a little topsy-turvy on that classes page right now, but I think more good things are to come. And it’s nice to take a minute to re-evaluate and come up with the same conclusion that I did when I started. Classes are a great way to connect with my community or artists and makers and I hope this is the start of more new great things this year.

Hi, I’m Becka.

Talking about fabric design, Spoonflower, teaching, and the life and business of being an artist.

Teaching online and in person classes in embroidery, handcrafts, technology, fabric design and artist business skills.

Making wearable art and fiber art geekery.

Social

Subscribe to my Newsletter

Upcoming events

DCL Online: Embroidered Loon Art

Wednesday, June 29 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm CDT

Needle & Thread Embroidery Class – Weekly Drop In

Thursday, June 30 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm CDT

See more events

Shop my art

Go to Top