Featured Friday, Information, Inspiration, Instruction 10/19/18

Because Autumn is winding down (in some places),  Winter is closing in (not quite yet, please), and it’s the end of another work week,  I thought I’d share some of the things that have amused me, inspired me or educated me recently.

First on the docket,  a cool way to create a hand embroidered look with machine embroidery.  Many people like the timeless look of cross stitch,  but don’t want to count the stitches.   This post from Creative Machine Embroidery Magazine discusses how to create the look of cross stitch on your embroidery machine.  It’s a pretty extensive tutorial.

Second on the list,  the news that there is now a way to create sublimated items without a sublimation system.   Our own Tom Chambers tells you all about how to sublimate without a sublimation system in a terrific blog post on the SubliStuff blog.  Tom has been writing a couple of posts a month about various sublimation topics for that blog,  so if you do sublimation or are interested in learning more about sublimation,  it would be a good idea to bookmark the SubliStuff blog so you can come back to it later.

Third at bat,   a post from Erich Campbell,  part of his Ghost and the Embroidery Machine series for the Mr X Stitch blog.   In this post,  he’s talking about how to make machine embroidery and digitizing accessible for everyone.   He gives some great ideas for how people on limited budgets can learn the skills they need to start their own machine embroidery businesses.  It’s a terrific post that outlines many of the options available to those who are interested in embroidery.

Fourth in line,  although I don’t usually plug posts I write myself when I do these round-ups,  I’m going to make an exception this time.   I did a series on pricing for this blog and I think,  if I do say so myself,  it’s worth a read.   Part 1 talks about gathering data.  Part 2 talks about actually setting prices and how to communicate pricing info to your customers.   Part 3 talks about dealing with customers who want to argue or negotiate price.

Finally,  I need to point out this video of the 2RegularGuys podcast today.  The guests were Carolyn Cagle from Strikke Embroidery and Luiz Vitor Neto Mendes from Vitor Digitizing.   It was a fantastic and fascinating interview with a lot of food for thought in it.  Definitely worth a watch,  and I’m not just saying that because Carolyn called me one of her favorite people in the world at the end of the interview.  The link takes you to the video on Facebook.   When it’s available on their site as well,  I’ll update the post.

There’s No Substitute for Stabilizer

I’ve seen the question so many times I just mostly make a resigned sad face when I see it now,  but it still bothers me.   The question usually starts with the words “Can I..” and then goes on to ask whether it’s acceptable to use freezer paper or printer paper or plastic grocery bags as stabilizer for embroidery.  I get the idea behind the inquiry – stabilizer can be expensive,  or at least more expensive than a roll of freezer paper.  Things like printer paper or plastic grocery bags are also usually at hand and don’t need to be purchased specially.  I also suppose,  to some people,  using a common household item might be less intimidating.  There are understandable reasons why people might pursue the option of using something other than the item specifically designed for the purpose,  but there are also several reasons why that’s not usually a good idea.

Before I go into the reasons why we think using things like freezer paper is not the ideal option,  I do want to address the one exception,  using freezer paper for applique.   When cutting patterns for applique,  freezer paper is an option for stabilizing the fabric while you cut out the shapes.   It’s also a viable option for fusing to the back of a fabric you are intending to draw or paint on,  as raw fabric tends to wrinkle.  Keep in mind,  both these activities are embroidery adjacent,  not actually embroidery,  so I still stand by that statement that freezer paper is not generally a great option when it comes to stabilizing embroidery.  Now let’s discuss the reasons why we think this is so.

Reason 1:  Many stabilizers are designed specifically for machine embroidery – I’m sure there are stabilizers out there that started life as pocket lining or something,  but there are also several classes of stabilizers that are intended specifically to be used with machine embroidery.   This category includes poly meshfusible,  and adhesive backing.  Something that is designed specifically for the requirements of the job at hand will most likely work better than something used randomly.

Reason 2:  An embroidery stabilizer can help improve the look of embroidery – Stabilizers are sometimes designed with a specific weight or type of fabric in mind.  The proper marriage of backing or topping,  fabric,  thread and digitized design will create the most professional look and the best outcome.  Using a stabilizer designed for the fabric you want to embroider and the type of look you want to create will give you a much better chance of a successful finished product.

Reason 3:  An embroidery stabilizer can speed up production –  Designs tend to sew out better when they’re stabilized properly.  There’s less puckering,  fewer thread breaks and definitely a cleaner and more professional looking finished product.  Removing stabilizer more quickly with a tearaway option or presenting a tidier and more professional finished look with a washaway option are also benefits to using a stabilizer designed for embroidery.

Reason 4: The right tool for the right job – Freezer paper is designed to protect food from freezer burn.   Plastic grocery bags are designed for carrying your produce and pasta home from the store.   Embroidery stabilizer is designed to lend stability to embroidered designs,  to improve stitch-outs and to help provide a professional finished appearance.  Using products as they were designed will generally bring about the most successful outcome.

In a nutshell,  those are the reasons we think embroidery should be stabilized with machine embroidery backings and toppings,  but we’d love to get your take on this topic.   Have you ever stabilized your embroidery with something other than standard stabilizer?   What was the result?  We’d love to know what you think.

The Benefits of Crafting

We all know that crafting it trendy right now.   Whether it’s turning something that would be trash into something new and usable,  making wearables instead of buying them,  creating items to express your personality,  or just finding a fun activity for a rainy day,  creative arts involving quilting, embroidering and other sorts of thread or yarn crafts have never been more popular.    The great thing for those who do those activities, whether it’s for business or fun or a combination of the two,  is that crafting has been shown to have a lot of benefits beyond resulting in a beautiful finished project.

One big benefit of crafting is reducing stress.   The repetitive motions required by some crafting projects induce a state that’s almost like meditation.    Activities like knitting have been shown to help people with anxiety disorders cope with their anxiety issues.  Just taking the time to focus on a project and relax can have huge benefits when it comes to lessening stress levels.  Reduced stress leads to lower blood pressure,  better sleep,  a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes and a greater quality of life.

Creating things,  whether it’s through using a craft kit or making your own design from scratch has also been shown to improve mental function and head off age-related mental decline.  Studies have shown that people who do activities, crafting among them,  that keep their minds active have a much better chance of avoiding problems like dementia, loss of memory or cerebral atrophy.  Crafting provides challenges to the brain and keeps the neural pathways stimulated.  One clinical trial showed that the benefits of activities like crafting can last up to 10 years.

Working on a crafting project also has mood elevating benefits,  and can help those who are dealing with depression.   Crafting stimulates the reward center in the human brain,  causing it to release dopamine,  a natural mood elevator.  There is pleasure in the process of creating and then pleasure in seeing the finished project displayed or worn.  Obviously,  crafting is not a substitute for therapy or medication if the problem is on-going,  but it can be a part of a concentrated program of treatment.   For those who are simply having a blue mood or a bad day,  crafting can help brighten things and provide focus and a sense of accomplishment.

Crafting also has a wide variety of social benefits.  People who quilt or knit or hand embroider often meeting in circles or guilds to share their work and offer tips and help to each other.  There are Facebook groups for things like quilting,  knitting and embroidery.  Local quilt shops or yarn shops often offer classes where crafters can meet others who enjoy the same activities.   Crafting also offer a way to be social to those who might be more introverted or uncomfortable in a social setting.   Doing a craft offers a point of commonality and an easy way to interact with others.

If you’re interested in gaining some of the benefits of crafting for yourself,  we can help.   Check out our Pinterest boards for craft tutorials and ideas for crafting projects.  For those who want a project they can complete in a few hours,  our Pretty Twisted Craft Kits are a great option.  Finally,  if you’re looking for supplies for machine embroideryhand embroidery or crochet,  you can find those on our site as well.

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Featured Friday: The St. Patrick’s Day Edition

First of all,  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.   Are you all wearing your green and planning pub crawls later in the day?  Second,  it’s been a while since I’ve done a Featured Friday post,  so I thought I’d go over what Featured Friday is for those who may be new to the concept.   On Featured Friday,  I curate a list of blog posts or other items that I think will be helpful to people in the industries that EnMart serves.   It’s really just a list of stuff I think those who read this blog will find interesting and/or helpful.   Simple as that.

First up,  from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog,  we have instructions on correcting a monogram mistake.  If you embroidered “SLT” and it’s really supposed to be “SLP” – this is a post you need to read.   Eileen leads you step by step through the correction process.  Even if you use a different software than she does,  the tips should still be helpful.

Second on the list is an examination of what Stahls’ calls 12 hot trends for 2017.  While it appears these trends are primarily dealing with vinyl,  most of what they talk about could be translated to other decoration mediums.  Mixing fonts,  adding shine with metallics and putting logos in non-standard placements are all trends that can be created using almost any decoration technique.  Definitely a lot to think about in this post.

Third at bat is an interesting post from Retail Minded about how to handle political divisions in the workplace.  The last election was contentious and people on both sides have strong views.   This post covers how to deal with people expressing those views in their day to day work lives.   It’s a very relevant post right now,  and the tips it gives can help keep your shop stress fee,  at least when it comes to political topics.

Fourth on the docket,  for the quilters among us,  a story of trying something new,  designers who say “draw your own” and buying fabric that you don’t remember buying.  I love the description of having the memory of buying one fabric and being shocked when the other fabric is received.   I think that’s a common thing for a lot of quilters,  along with fixating on finding just the right fabric to create what you want to create.   I’m sure many quilters will find what this post describes familiar.

Finally,  from Seth Godin,  we have a post about building your organization from both the top and the bottom.  I love this post because of what it says about leadership and about how much attitude matters when building a team or a workforce.   There are also some great tips for how to lead and how to create an organization that treats the people on the lowest rungs of the company as the foundation,  not disposable.   This is definitely worth a read.

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Time Travel Tuesday: Hand vs. Machine

Hand_vs_Machine_AssemblyIn the history of quilting and embroidery,  there has probably been no bigger debate than that between those who chose to embroider or quilt by hand, and those who use machines to embroider or quilt.   When the disciplines of embroidery and quilting began,  there really wasn’t a choice,  in order to create an embroidered garment or a quilt to warm the bed on a cold winter’s night,  the piece in question had to be created by hand.

Those who continue this tradition maintain that something made by hand is more special,  more personal,  and should therefore be more treasured.   The process of hand embroidering or piecing and quilting a quilt by hand will most likely be a longer process than doing the same things with a machine, which proponents of the slow stitching movement say is to be desired.   Quilting or embroidering by hand also brings the satisfaction of creating something with your hands,  handling fabrics and threads,  and the ability to pay close attention to every facet of the process.

As time moved on and technology developed,  new machines were invented to do some of the tasks that were formerly done by hand.   Huge, often two story high Schiffli machines created laces and embroidery.  In later decades,  the Schiffli machines were joined by multi-head and single head embroidery machines,  giving the option of machine embroidery to anyone who could afford to purchase a machine.

In the quilting world,   sewing machines offered the ability to piece quilts using a machine.   Instead of hand sewing pieces together,  they could be stitched on a machine,  allowing the creation of a quilt top in less time.  The advent of long arm quilting machines provided the ability to quilt a top by machine,  sometimes finishing in a single day or week what had previously taken weeks if not months to complete.   Machines made the process of embroidery and quilting faster and easier but,  some argued,  the machines also took away the skill and the personal nature of the disciplines.

Today,  while the debate is still ongoing,  both sides seemed to have reached a detente.   Some people hand embroider or quilt,  others use machines to accomplish the same goals,  and yet others switch between one method and the other,  doing whatever best suits the needs and time requirements of the project.   In the end,  what matters most is not how a thing was created,  but that it was created at all.  Whatever method is used quilts and embroidery that bring beauty to the world are being made and that’s the thing we all must remember.