Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hand-to-Hand Market

This past weekend was gorgeous. I had a lot of fun Saturday with Nash at the Hand-to-Hand Craft Show in Greensboro at the Green Bean Coffeehouse. We dropped by on the way to see a play in Hickory. One of my Charlotte Crowntown Guild Members was there, Verabelle, who does great applique. You can see some of her displays in the photos here. She does great work in Charlotte. Nash amused himself taking pictures while I roamed around talking shop and having fun.

Which brings me to profitability at craft shows blog post. One of the great things about the studio where I am is that you get the chance to pick the brain with a lot of older and successful artisans and crafters. There was this great kitchen table discussion making a living, a real living this week. It was interesting because there's a lot of people at different points in the scale. The best advice to me was from an older couple who have done almost all the different circuits, juried shows, you name it.

One of the big discussions was about the fall of large juried expensive shows and the rise of small local events such as church craft shows, weekend events, and state fairs. The pulls are smaller, typically a couple hundred dollars, but the booth costs are also smaller so a number of people are making it work. It was a fairly interesting discussion because in the midst of the handmade craze (alternatively known as the DIY), the established craftsmen and women at the table advocated spending your time at the smaller shows these days if you want to make a living vs. plopping down big bucks to spend time at the larger juried shows.

The real answer is probably in between, but we've been thinking it through as the weather warms up for spring and artists everywhere dust off their displays.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Repairing Soft Covers on Cars, Boats, and other vehicles

This past month, Mike with our sewing guild at Tandy's Leather covered sewing with a sewing awl. You can pick these up either at their shop on Capital for $10-20 or online. They just expanded to a new location and the manager Aubrin is incredibly nice and funny. If you're looking to get your feet wet or do a weekend project. They serve most of the local boy and girl scouts troops in the area. The best time to visit is normally a Sat as they often have beginner classes.

Now this week, I'm covering how to repair basic heavy canvas and leather. Sewing awls have a variety of uses, this tool is common to most marine and leather shops (I like the leather shops sewing awls as they seem to be better stocked.). They normally feature a wooden handle, loaded spool of thread which can be interchanged for various colors, and a sewing awl tip.
Alright, to start, you will need:

Your project to be repaired
a sewing awl
matching thread to repair the rip
neoprene glue if you need to be water proof your project

1. Lay-out your project to be repaired. Remove any lingering stitches and mark the area to be stitched back together. You can mark the area with tailor's chalk to define your work area. Generally you can figure one hour of work per foot of hand-stitching. Some people may be faster or slightly slower and you will get significantly faster as you do more, but this is considered the average. Most people can work comfortably at 4 hrs. for stretch. If you have a long area to sew up, you can break it into sections or do it over several evenings. Looking at the project before you start will give you a good idea of the time investment required.

2. Take the sewing awl out and switch our the thread to the appropriate color to sew your project. If you can't get the exact color match, you can often come close or dye it. Be aware that most nylon thread is waxed and may not take dye well. Remove the screw, pop in the matching spool color, thread the needle, and pull about 6 inches of thread through the sewing awl at the end.

3. Line up the line you want to sew and pierce the sewing awl through the first hole. If the original holes are there this is fairly easy, if this is a new place (a rip halfway down), you can hammer holes with an awl and hammer on a basic flat surface if your sewing awl will not pierce through easily. You will need to overlap 3 stitches with the original thread if you are beginning at the middle to provide enough strength, otherwise, I am starting at the beginning edge so that it is easier to see. The photos shown are for a left-handed person. Flip the directions for a right-handed person.

4. Pull the thread through the hole. You can use the small metal hook to help catch the thread and pull it through easier. This will create a tail. The tail will form the under stitch of the lock stitch which will hold your repair in place. While in theory you can create a tail the length of your project plus 6 inches for the end, in practice, it's difficult to handle thread over 3 ft. in length. It's ok to break up your project if it's longer in length. It will go both faster and less tiring.

5. Holding the tail of the thread, pull the sewing awl back while holding the tail of the thread.

6. Move forward to the next whole and again pierce the sewing awl through your second stitch hole. Flip the project over and look at the bottom for the first stitch. The first lock stitch is the hardest, after a few stitches you get a rhythm going.

7. Holding the awl with your sewing hand, take the tail you made on the last stitch and pull it through the close side of the awl, this creates what is called a left-handed or right-handed twist with your sewing stitches. You will be using your dominant hand to pierce with the awl and your non-dominant hand will be feeding the thread. A right-handed person with have a left-handed twist and a left-handed person will have a right-handed twist. It's the same thing, it just varies according to the direction YOU personally sew in. You are seeing my right hand here because I am left-handed.

8. Pull the awl back through the hole. Voila, your first stitch. The stitch should be flat and smooth to the touch. Run it through your fingers. It's ok if it's not perfect, the first few stitches will often be uneven.

9. Begin speed stitching. Repeat the stitches until you get to the end of your repair or thread. This next part may take you a stitch or two to get, but it speeds up quickly. Place the sewing awl in your dominant hand and hold the thread tail underneath in your non-dominant hand. Keep some thread spooled out so you can see which side loop your bottom forms. Hold the awl parallel to the marked line of stitches. You should have giant loop.

Pierce awl through the fabric. With your non-dominant beneath, slip your finger through the back loop and enlarge it so your finger rests comfortably through the loop. Take your thumb and push the long tail of extra thread through the hole you have just formed.

Once it's through a little, pull the tail thread completely through the loop you have formed. Pull the awl back through to complete the stitch.

If you fed it through correctly, the stitch will look like this. If you accidentally feed your tail thread through the bottom loop, it will look like this when you pull it out. Simply pierce the awl back through, pull out the loop you just made, and thread it through the other side. No need to panic. Pull the thread on both sides tight. You will need to check every few stitches to make sure that the tension is even.

You will need to stop and start a new piece of thread when you get down to roughly 6 inches of tail.

10. When you get to the end, there are two ways to finish off. The simpler way is often used if the bottom is not going to be visible. This is preferred method experienced craftsmen and craftswomen use, when you go to make the last stitch instead of pulling the awl back through and completing the lock stitch, pull roughly 6 inches out of thread from the sewing awl and cut it. You will have two threads on the bottom. Tie them in a square knot and pull tight. Voila you're done sewing.

The other method is used if both sides will be seen. Sew as you normally would to the end, then reverse your last 2-3 stitches (I prefer 3, others say 2). Trim the ends off closely. Both methods are considered standard, which one you pick will be up to you.

11. Repeat until the entire project is repaired.

12. Decide if you need to seal the patch. While a number of people stop at this point, you may sometimes need to seal the line of stitches you have created to prevent rain from leaking through (ie- jeep tops, convertibles, or Bimini tops on a boat). You can either purchase a repair patch from a marine store or use neoprene glue (industrial/superglue) to seal it. Barge is a personal favorite, you can purchase it for a $2-3 off Amazon or you can pick up rubber cement at most hardware stores . If you decide to seal the repairs, take the glue and either put it down in a strip on the underside and press it together or if you are using a large amount, paint it on with a paint brush. Allow to dry 24 hrs and you are good as new.

13. You're done, step back and take look at your handywork. All done til your next weekend project. The cover in this project is my dad's Bimini top for his boat, but the method is the same for any soft top canvas you can't sew through on a normal sewing machine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Teaching Spring Classes at Durham Scrap Exchange

So I've been sitting on this great news for a couple of weeks, but it became official today. I will be teaching a class this spring at the Durham Scrap Exchange in alterations and mending. It felt really good to give back as Julia, Ruth, Anne, Daniel, and a bunch of others there helped me two years ago when I was getting my feet wet off the ground.

It's a very practical class, and will hopefully boil down the basics for people in terms of how to do basic 5-15 min fixes and repairs on their clothing. Also, it will provide a taste of not just fixing your clothes, but taking them to the next level in terms of creating a new look/better fix for you.

So if you get a chance this week, go sign up. All proceeds go to the local community. And you might just enjoy learning how to sew on a button.

PS- The photo here is from a basic 36 piece sewing kit on Amazon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Custom Leather Wine Bottle Labels and Kits

This week I finished up a fun project for Blue-Merle Winery doing custom leather wine labels. We posted some prototypes 2 weeks ago and just finished up the finals working model Saturday. It was a special light blue dyed leather. I think it turned out amazing. You can see a pic of the final label glued on one of their bottles on the right. I love custom designer projects to create unsuspected and beautiful creations. It seemed right to make something classic and elegant for the best wine I have ever tasted. Something so delicious deserves to look as good on the outside.

For a limited time I am offering your own designers kit with everything you would need to make your own custom natural wine labels, all you need to do is supply the pdf file for custom leather labels. These are great for a one of a kind event, weddings, graduation, or other special occasion made from 100% recycled leather. Use them on your best vintage or a night you want to remember. The labels are custom engraved and sent to you in roughly 7-10 business days.

You can also buy smaller custom leather beer labels. I can do custom label colors on orders for your winery or brewery, please contact me if you want a particular color or type or need a wholesale quote.

Wine Labels:
Beer Labels:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Jewelry on Etsy and Artfire

Last week, I had fun meeting Wren who runs ZenandCoffee on etsy. She makes versatile fingerless gloves. It was hugely inspirational and she had a lot of good tips for better posting online and local shows. Today Nash and I had fun listing some of our spring glass and semi-precious jewelry. My favorite are the blue dangle ones.
You can see them on the right. They all come in the new packaging for March. I've been upgrading the packaging to be easier to read in boutiques with the prices printed directly on them.

Dangle earrings are a favorite because they help make your neck look slimmer, longer, and thinner. Like v-necked shirts they help minimize the lines in your neck that make a woman look older. Granted it's an optical trick, but it's a good one and it helps take years off your appearance. Everyone looks good in chandelier/dangle earrings for a reason. So we are spreading a little beauty this spring season. I know all you gals always look good, these are just designed to help bring out your maximum potential. So hears to another good week.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March at Loco Lu's Coffeehouse

I had fun today updating our Loco Lu's Coffeehouse display with the March Sale. It was improve music night and one of the musicians had us all laughing as he rolled from one ballad to the next. The new earring cards came out well. We've been tinkering with better signage for customers, it's always a struggle to balance the stickers with the product.

If you get a chance to, go check them out and let us know what you think. And stop for a little of the chili while you're at it. Lu has the best around.

If you can't stop by the shop check us out online at:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

25% off March Sale Coupon

Etsy finally unveiled it's much anticipated coupon feature. I'm testing it out the next few weeks. Simply enter Spring1 for 25% off your entire purchase. (This also works in our Artfire shop, but I don't currently have anything up, hopefully that will change soon.). The discount is automatically entered. It's a nice auto-feature.

Let me know what you think. Have a great week.

Coupon Code: Spring1