Designing an Embroidered Patch

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So not everyone has a fancy machine and software to whip out patches on a whim, including myself, but sometimes you want to have them for a family/business event or even to sell for your own company without having to learn an entire new vocation. Well my friends, that’s where the lovely people at Stadri Emblems come in.

They’ve created a great guide to get you started on not just what you need to know about patches, but what you need to think about when designing them. Stuff like, does your entire patch need to be made from thread or can some of it be a woven background? They also have a staff on artist on hand that get assigned to each customer so you can work one on one to get the patch you wanted, starting with a free image design and quote.

What if I’m not a designer or artist?

Don’t worry; all of our orders come with artwork set-up for free. Whether your design just needs some small tweaks or you only have a napkin drawing, we have you covered. If you don’t have finished art, here are a few tips for describing what you are envisioning to your artist:

 

1. Be as descriptive as possible! If there are any details that are important to you, let us know!

2. Feel free to send us photos or examples to help the artists know what you’d like.

3. Make a rough sketch, if possible. Even if it’s not very detailed, having a sketch can be really helpful to our artists.

If this is something you’ve considered at all getting done, I really recommend giving this company a look. They’re very straight forward and helpful with the work and the finished quality speaks for it’s self. Now if you’re looking to get into the field with your own machine then this likely isn’t he route for you, but they still offer good tips in their guide that you should take into consideration when working on your own designs. 🙂


Tutorial- Polymer Clay Hearts

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Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday. This is Kim with Fantastical Menagerie. This week I have a simple clay tutorial for you. Its on creating a steampunk heart.

Supplies

  • Sculpey III in Dusty Rose
  • Sculpey III in Gold and Silver
  • Optional- Pearl X in Rose Gold

Tools

  • Mini Screwdriver
  • Needle Tool
  • Straight Blade
  • Pointer Tool
  • Clay Roller or Rolling Pin
  • Tweezers

Steps

  1. Condition your clay. You do this by kneading it in your hands. It needs to be soft and malleable.
  2. Pull off a piece of the Sculpey Dusty Rose Clay. You want a round ball the size of a quarter. Roll it into a teardrop shape, then flatten it.
  3. Use your blade or a wedge tool to divide it down towards the
    center. Gently shape to form the top lobes of your heart. Curl the tail of the heart.
  4. Make a hole in one lobe. This is for you to attach a jump ring in after the piece is baked.
  5. Run the gold clay through your clay roller. If you don’t have one, you can use an acrylic roller or a rolling pin. Cut out a rectangle, about 3/4 of an inch by 1/2 an inch, and another much smaller one.
  6. Gently place the patches on your heart.
  7. Now its time to add the screws! Make a handful of very small balls out of the Sculpey III silver clay. Place them around the hole for the jump ring, and one more on top of your patches. You can impress the screw shapes with the mini screwdriver, or a butter knife.
  8. Add more detail- small dots or texture to form a frame around the heart with a needle point.
  9. Optional- dust heart with Pearl X in Rose Gold.
  10. Use your straight blade to move your heart to a baking tray, and then bake at 275 Degrees for 30 minutes. Allow the heart to cool completely before adding your jump ring and chain.

Let me know how they turn out!


Completing Custom Orders

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. Today I wanted to mention how to handle orders you receive both online and in person. We all get excited when others like what we make, and it translates into a sale. then the panic can set in. What next?

If its in person at a show, you make sure you get a full description of the order, and that the customer pays for both the item and the shipping. Make sure the shipping includes the cost of your time dropping it off at the post office, as well as the shipping boxes and wrap. This is called a handling charge. It would be a good idea to give them an estimate of when to expect their item, and discuss a way for them to approve it. I offer to email or text photos of them completed design. If this is an online order, make sure the listing specifies wait times. Give yourself enough time to complete the item, and if the customer is on a waiting list, they need to know this as well.

Once home, its a good idea to stick to the timeline you gave your customer. A good customer, satisfied with your service and quality of goods, is a repeat customer. If there is a delay, communicate it to them. Make sure you take well lit, accurate photos of the finished product for your own portfolio as well as for the customer’s approval of the project.

Once the project is completed and approved, you will need to wrap it securely, and mail it. I recommend purchasing postage online either through Paypal, or directly from the Post Office website. Both offer a discount from buying it in person, and will include tracking that you may have to pay extra for otherwise. Unless the item is small or not easily damaged, it is advisable to ship Priority if in the US. It provides included insurance up to $50, and an additional minimal amount for more expensive orders. You can use flat rate shipping, or use a small kitchen scale for shipping by weight. A digital scale is a small investment that will last a long time. My $20 Walmart purchase is more than six years old and still ticking!

Its not necessary, but adds to the overall appeal to make the wrapped package attractive and appealing. Our customers are buying handmade goods, and you want to make them feel as if they are getting a gift, and something with more meaning than a mass produced item. I once ordered a purse that arrived in a lovely clear bag, with ribbons, confetti, and a thank you card. It made such a big impression on me! It doesn’t have to be expensive. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, a business card/thank you card nicely wrapped can do the trick. I use ribbon and tissue, and then wrap the whole thing in bubble since my items are breakable. Some makers use cute stickers, or include a coupon code for a future order.

If the item is to be a gift, you can also include a small gift card for them to use. Vista Print and other online printers offer these in bulk, and they are a nice touch.

Once shipped, make sure if you have a tracking number you send it to the customer, and follow up to make sure it arrived. If you treat all your customers as if they are special, they will feel that way.


Wrist Exercises Take 2

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A few months ago I posted some great videos for stretching your wrist muscles and just generally helping them keep the more common wrist injuries at bay. Well today I’m back with some more, and they’re from an unlikely inspiration.

From Splatoon 2 enthusiast and Tumblr user comes a great reference guide to help the average person take care of their wrists before strenuous use. While they were inspired by long play session of Splatoon 2 for the Switch, these are really wonderful stretches that anyone can do. If you’re seeing a medical professional for an existing condition however, be sure to clear it with them first. Per the artist themselves:

I drew a quick chart about good wrist and finger exercise before playing Splatoon (or engaging in any other intense activity such as but not limited to gaming in general, programming, drawing, computer work etc.)
As with all stretching exercise, these should only be done in moderate speed. You only want to loosen up, not break your hands!!

Great advice, and I’d even recommend doing it at a very slow pace at first to help you get the feel of what the stretch should feel like and not hurt yourself. When done properly everyday, these stretches can definitely help the longevity of your very useful wrists. 🙂


Using glazes, seals and top coats on polymer clay

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Its Wednesday, and I’m back in my studio. This weekend I had the privelege of being a vendor at DragonCon. We had an amazing time, and it was so much fun to see everyone. I can’t wait for next year. Meanwhile, I am low on stock, and need to start working for my next show.

One question I am frequently asked is whether I seal my pieces, and what I would recommend for others to use. Polymer clay itself doesn’t need to be sealed. On its own, it’s durable and the color doesn’t change over time. If you have inclusions or a finish, then a seal or glaze would be recommended. The article I’m linking to does an excellent job explaining the different types, depending on your project. I recommend bookmarking it so you can experiment with them.

https://thebluebottletree.com/understanding-polymer-clay-glaze-sealer-varnish/

Once you’ve read the article, you can decide what finish works for you, or even if you need one.


Polymer Glitter Clay

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Happy Wednesday, and welcome to Crafthackers! Its been a couple of years since Polyform introduced their new Premo glitter clay lines, and they’ve been giving us some great projects and ideas on color combinations when working with it. They are a lot of fun, but also require extra care.

What is glitter clay? It is polymer clay that has had glitter or flakes added to change the color, texture or composition. The full list can be found here. 

The main colors I am talking about are opal, rose gold glitter, yellow gold glitter and white gold glitter. These have larger glitter inclusions. It is important to feel the clay before you purchase it, so I would recommend buying these clay variants in person. The texture should be softer, and allow indents when pressed. When not working the clay, keep wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. This clay must be completely conditioned before working. The glitter is large enough to make the clay harder to work. You can still combine it with other colors, just make sure it reaches the same consistency as the other clay or it will break while working it. Because of its stiff texture, its best to work the clay in one session. It seizes up easily, and projects can be damaged.

Have you worked with glitter clay? Let me know how it goes!


Prioritizing and You

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So this is a subject that I often struggle with in my daily life. Figuring out how to prioritize what to do and when to do it when you feel you’re overwhelmed/stressed. Typically I use a weekly planner to map out my work schedule for myself, but what about everything else? Where do I fit in my house hold chores? Doctor’s appointments (for me and family)? Cooking/Meal prep? Work for Craft Hackers? The sheer amount just overwhelms me mentally sometimes. Well, in case any of you out there are feeling buried under stress, here’s a handy chart/suggestion I found online to try and help you get a hold of things. This comes from a very helpful blogger and is no way my own idea.

Take a deep breath, because this is a boot camp in prioritization.

  • Make a 3 by 4 grid. Make it pretty big. The line above your top row goes like this: Due YESTERDAY – due TOMORROW – due LATER. Along the side, write: Takes 5 min – Takes 30 min – Takes hours – Takes DAYS.
  • Divide ALL your tasks into one of these squares, based on how much work you still have to do. A thank you note for a present you received two weeks ago? That takes 5 minutes and was due YESTERDAY. Put it in that square. A five page paper that’s due tomorrow? That takes an hour/hours, place it appropriately. Tomorrow’s speech you just need to rehearse? Half an hour, due TOMORROW. Do the same for ALL of your tasks
  • Your priority goes like this:
    • 5 minutes due YESTERDAY
    • 5 minutes due TOMORROW
    • Half-hour due YESTERDAY
    • Half-hour due TOMORROW
    • Hours due YESTERDAY
    • Hours due TOMORROW
    • 5 minutes due LATER
    • Half-hour due LATER
    • Hours due LATER
    • DAYS due YESTERDAY
    • DAYS due TOMORROW
    • DAYS due LATER
  • At this point you just go down the list in each section. If something feels especially urgent, for whatever reason – a certain professor is hounding you, you’re especially worried about that speech, whatever – you can bump that up to the top of the entire list. However, going through the list like this is what I find most efficient.
    • Some people do like to save the 5 minute tasks for kind of a break between longer-running tasks. If that’s what you want to try, go for it! You’re the one studying here.

So that’s how to prioritize. Now, how to actually do shit? That’s where the 20/10 method comes in. It’s simple: do stuff like a stuff-doing FIEND for 20 minutes, then take a ten minute break and do whatever you want. Repeat ad infinitum. It’s how I’ve gotten through my to do list, concussed and everything.

You’ve got this. Get a drink and start – we can do our stuff together!


Polymer Clay Tools

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Happy Wednesday! This is Kim, with Fantastical Menagerie. I wanted to share some of the resources I use to find tools to work with my polymer clay. A lot of us start with the basic tools that can be found at most craft stores such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Sometimes you need a more specific tool than what can be found there. In my years of working with clay, I have found some great alternatives for sculpting tools and texture tools.

AmCreatures on Etsy has some nice hand designed tools. They are based in Canada. Their tools are mostly directed at sculpting dolls and faces for puppets, but work well for polymer clay. Some are for sculpting scales, eyes, and tiny detail work. Their prices are very reasonable for custom tools.

If you find that kneading clay fills you with dread, this next tool has great reviews, is simple to use, and does it in seconds. Its called the NeverKnead. Its an expensive investment, but works based on pressure. Instead of spending a great deal of time and pain with clay, try this!

If you need sharper straight blades for your clay, especially for cutting canes, Creative Canes Etsy shop sells tissue blades, which are medical grade and extremely sharp. Flexible enough for cutting curved shapes as well. The shop also offers different polymer clay finished cane projects.

Pottery114U sells pottery clay stamps that help with imprinting texture into your polymer clay. They are inexpensive, durable, and versatile.

When searching on your own, include searches for cake decorating, pottery, and other crafts, since tools may work for other mediums.

 


DIY Unique Yarn Storage

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Hey there, Hackers! Tis your intrepid ScribeSarah, back with some tips on how to keep your crafting space clear and organized. Now, even little ol’ anal-retentive me gets her home a little messy with all her little projects but there are ways you can get that chaos organized, even if it doesn’t always look like it. While I tend to be a bit of a jack of all trades in the craft arena, for today’s exercise, I thought we would focus on ways to keep your yarn both accessible and stowed so that it’s not taking over your home.

There are quick and easy ways to store your yarns and threads, most of which you can find at your local Container Store (a place I am not allowed to go unsupervised because I will buy all the things). However, if you’re looking for something a little less ordinary (and costly), there are a bunch of things out there that you can use or re-purpose for these needs.

For yarn that isn’t being used currently (or for that yarn you found you just couldn’t leave the craft store without despite not having a specific project you bought it for), you could use old wicker/weaved baskets. My grandmother had a ton of these just hiding in her cupboards and when she passed away, rather than donate them to the Goodwill, I kept and re-purposed them. Some I use for small balls of yarn (leftovers from projects past) and some I use to keep finished projects. These can be decorative and left out by a chair or sofa or can be standard square that fits in a closet or on a shelf easily.

Another thing that gives your not-being-used yarn a happy and somewhatImage result for vintage suitcase retro home is to put those old suitcases to work. Vintage suitcases are a beautiful way to store these items that still look neat and classy. They fit in closets, under beds or sofas, but still show off a little glamor when pulled out for use. They can also be stacked decoratively in a corner or on a shelf (e.g. hat boxes, etc). You can line old suitcases with any fabric you like too, so the inside as well as the outside has a special sort of flare.

If you like assembling items, this next item is for you. Simple pegboard and hooks are a fabulous way to store your yarn while still keeping it readily accessible and easy to use. You can customize size, shape, even color quite easily and load as many or as few skeins onto a board as you see fit. You can also create many small boards to mount along the wall of your craft room in a funky design or pattern. The sky’s the limit with this option and it works best if you have a dedicated craft area or room.  For an easy-to-follow tutorial, check out Dwell Beautiful’s step-by-step instructions here.

Coffee cans are a fun, decorative way to store yarn you are currently using on projects. They come in various sizes and, depending on how much coffee you consume, you may have a restoring supply. You can paint or decoupage the outside of each can, simply slice a small hole in the lid of the can, then place the ball or skein in the can and thread the end through the lid. Glue guns, glitter, rhinestones, shelf lining paper and yarn itself are also fun ways to decorate the outsides of the cans. Not only does this give you storage, it is also an inexpensive yarn holder. But if you don’t want tons of coffee cans just sitting around your space, you can also mount them on the wall (without the lids).

Image result for coffee can yarn

And finally, we come to milk crates. These may be a little harder to come by but they give you a great way to create your own yarn shelves. They are stackable, come in different colors and can be used in small and large spaces equally as well. Got a lot of yarn? Just keep stacking on the crates until you have a place for it all. For this idea, I recommend using an anchor of sorts when stacking against a wall; the higher you stack the crates, the more likely it is that the whole thing could topple over. You will also want to lash the crates together as well to make your yarn storage sturdier.

Image result for milk crate yarn storage

These are just a few ways to take items you may have either laying around the house or are easy and inexpensive to acquire and use them to organize your space. But don’t stop there. Look around you. You never know when inspiration will strike. That random item that’s just collecting dust in the corner may be the next great organizational tool in your crafting adventures.

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Exercises for your Hands

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A different kind of post for today. This is a subject that’s been weighing on me personally the past year, and I wanted to share my findings and help my fellow artisan crafters and artists out there. As much fun as it can be to make really cool items by hand, it’s equally important to make sure you’re taking care of those hands. Just like the tools you hold, your hands are an important and vital part of your crafting that can be worn down if not given time and treatment. So the first thing I’m going to start out with is a video on exercises you can do for your hands.

These exercises are designed to help prevent and/or cure injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. While traditional 2D artist are most known to have these issues, as a crocheter I’ve come to find this video invaluable. Less then 5 minutes a day is all you need to run these stretches and the benefits are already starting to show for me. I would recommend doing these daily for anyone that creates things with their hands; yes even writing. Your future self with thank you.

Since it was important enough to be the top comment, I want to include David Kuckhermann‘s addition on feeling a stinging pain while doing the stretches.

for those of you guys who ask about the stinging pain in the thumb/wrist while doing the stretches –  This is how it went for me: I had the same sharp stinging pain in the area that was inflamed while I did the stretches. The doctor I consulted with advised me to do the stretches anyway – once every hour or so for 8-10 seconds. I was careful to not overdo it but to stretch enough to still get the stretching effect on the muscles. In the beginning it was very painful but already after two days I felt a big positive change and had much less pain.

Note that I am not a medical doctor, so if you experience severe pain you should definitely consult your doctor before continuing these exercises.

The next advice I want to touch on is taking vitamins. This seems silly, but hear me out. I’m already required to take them as I have a genetic iron deficiency (my body doesn’t have/make enough naturally) that a simple multi vitamin takes care of. If I have super dark circles under my eyes when you come by at shows….it’s cause I’ve forgotten to take them regularly…again. Personal needs aside though, one of the muscle pains I can develop from crocheting is along my tendon muscle near my elbow. It can feel almost like a knot is sitting there, not unlike a charlie horse issue in your leg, that feels more sore then shooting pain. After consulting with my doctor, he suggested I try adding extra potassium to go with my multivitamin as it was possible I wasn’t getting enough in my diet. After about a week I noticed a marked difference and have been attempting to keep up with it. Potassium is an electrolyte and besides helping with your blood pressure, it also aids in electrical impulses carried through your body for proper nerve and muscle communication. Think of it like lubrication for your muscles. 😉

The last bit to add here is the one everyone knows and no one wants to hear.

Rest.

Yup. Take a break. Do anything that doesn’t put high stress on your hands/arms. Play some video games, watch movies, whatever you like. Give your hands a rest as much as you can before doing more creating. When you do jump back in don’t go ‘nose to the grind stone’ either to try and ‘make up time’. You’ll just undue all the rest you gave your poor hands and get you back to square one. I took a week off with no crocheting after NYCC last fall cause my hands/arms were so sore, and even though they felt normal after only 2 days, I stuck to the plan and then went at a slightly slower pace for a bit when I started back up until I felt I could resume normal activity/speed.

While none of the 3 suggestions I’ve listed are full proof and you should always consult your doctor first if you have severe pain or injuries, these are good places to start finding a plan that works for you and gives you & your hands a nice long working relationship. 🙂