Getting Your Sh*t Together

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I was introduced to the GYST web page on Wednesday by recent guest blogger Amalia Morusiewicz.  She told me all about Karen Atkinson and her goal to help artists of all kinds.  I took a look at her site and was blown away.

From her site:

GYST-Ink is an artist-run company providing resources, technology and solutions created by artists for artists. Our mission is to support arts professionals, educational institutions, and arts organizations with an integrated program of software, services and information in order to keep artists working. GYST–Ink is dedicated to empowering and educating artists so that they can develop sustainable and successful careers on their own terms. Artists Work Here.


The GYST site has a ton of resources for artists including Software and Publications.


Written expressly for visual artists, the dynamic GYST software is a highly efficient platform available for both Mac and PC  that houses all of the art business related paperwork and educational needs for artists.

Written by and for any and every visual artists, GYSTBasic and GYSTPro are database programs to help artists keep track of their artwork, business aspects, proposals, mailing lists, etc. They also include tons of information on every aspect of an artists’ career, including links and resources for additional perspectives on business aspects of the arts, and over 400 pages of vital information for artists.


karen2 karen3

This is exactly what I have been looking for!  I am personally making a transition to teaching and lecturing more and was looking for a place that would guide me through the process.  I plan on purchasing her books and trying out the software.  Once I read and try everything out, I will pass my reviews onto you.

The coolest part about GYST is their affiliate program.  Craft Hackers is now an official affiliate!  What does that mean?  It means if you decide to purchase any software or books and use our affiliate code you can save money!   Any money we would receive for the affiliate program is being donated back to the GYST Workshop Scholarship Program to support low income artists who can’t afford the workshop fee.  Save money and help others at the same time!

Software Affiliate Code: CPNCHGP

Manuals Affiliate Code: CPNCHBK

If you purchase either the manuals or try out the software, please let me know what you think.  I will include it in my review in a few weeks.  You may have also noticed the new page titled partnerships.  I will leave these codes there so you can always reference back to it.



Finding the Balance Part 1

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Good morning, Thursday Crafthackers!

I’m going to bring you something a little different, and you’ll be seeing a little more of these types of posts coming over the next number of months. Many of us want our job to be something we love, and those of us that are crafty often think it is a brilliant idea to turn our hobby into a business. It can be a great idea! But, I find that when it comes to business, especially making a business out of a hobby or something that you love, finding that balance between work and life, between complete immersion and sanity is a very difficult thing.


This may not be quite a DIY, but a lot of people don’t realize how important it is to take care of yourself when you’re looking at running your own business. As soon as you become serious, it can be so easy to lose yourself in the thing that you’re doing. It’s easy to put in the hours because you love it, easy to put all your energy into it because it’s your baby. Is that the right thing to do, though?

I will share some of the things that I’ve learned, and also the things that I had to come to terms with, as I post these articles. I found that working from home on my own business was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. When I went to an appointment with my doctor, she commented on how nice it must be to work from home, how stress free and how you can eat healthy and clean the house whenever I have time. I looked at her and knew that she could never understand the struggle of finding the work life balance as an at home entrepreneur.


One of the most important things in finding this balance is knowing yourself. Really knowing yourself. Are you a great solo worker, or do you like to work in a team? Even if you’re great at working on your own, do you like to have people around? I learned the hard way, myself, that I need people around me on a regular basis. I like people, I like to be social, I like to have the movement of others around me, even if I’m doing a solo project. I had to make a difficult decision, when I learned that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I would be, working from home to create my dream.

I needed to be productive and interacting with the public. So I got a part time job working in a retail environment. It took a little while to understand that I wasn’t giving up on my dream by taking this other job. It sure did take some time away from my business, and that’s a hard thing to get used to. After working for a couple of months I realized I made the right decision. I was happier, I was making friends, and I found that my at home work time was more productive and energy filled. I think it’s super important to take an extremely close look at how you work best, and find a compromise that works for you. I think it’s important to note that your mental well being will translate to the well being of your business, and you need to make sure that you’re taking care of all parts of yourself.


Do you have the discipline to make a schedule, to make deadlines and stick to them? Working from home can make it easy to shrug a job off and to procrastinate. To, say, leave your work for an hour and then come back to it. To do a chore or just take a couple hours for yourself. The beauty of working from home is that you can do these things, but sometimes it can be easy to forget – you’re working, and while doing the odd chore to give yourself a break isn’t a bad thing, it can be a slippery slope to pushing back the work you need to do because… well… let’s be honest. It’s work.


So how do you balance yourself at home? There’s no simple answer, and truth be told, it is no easy task.  One of the best ways I’ve found is to set a schedule for yourself, including breaks and lunches, to keep yourself on the right track. Outside of your scheduled hours is when you can do some of the household upkeep or taking time for yourself. Unless you know when you are working and what your expectations are of yourself, then how can you perform in the way that you would like? Just like a job outside the home, you need to know what is expected to be able to do it. Working without direction is one of the hardest things to do, and there’s no reason for it.

To flip the coin to the other side… how do you know when you’re working too much? Or when you’re throwing yourself so hard at the business that other things that were once extremely important to you, just don’t seem to matter so much? The flip side of setting your own hours can mean that you don’t have a limit – that you just keep working until you can’t work anymore. If I’m going to be honest with you, readers, I have struggled with both these problems, and both of them result in me feeling the scales of my priorities being tipped too far in one direction or another.

When you throw your everything into your work, it can be easy to lose sight of family, relationships and friendships. It can become easy to say that you just don’t have time for these things, or that your work matters more. My question to you becomes this: Would you say that if someone else were writing your paycheques?  That being said, running your business is a full time job that often requires overtime. But it shouldn’t consume you. Schedule your time off, make time for the family and friends to help you to relax.

I hope that you found some of my revelations helpful to your own well beings, and if you were thinking of going into your crafting business more full time, that you will know to look at these things in your life and try to figure out how to manage yourself to make your life about living, rather than just living to work. I have several other insights which I’ve learned through my years running my own business, and I still continue to learn things constantly. I have to say though, I wish I had someone who had sat me down and had a conversation with me about how emotionally and mentally hard being a business owner can be. That being said, if you can manage yourself well enough, it is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have.


Happy crafting!



Huge Yarn Balls for Giant Made Items

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Ever looked at an afghan and gone, “yeah, it’s nice and all, but I wish the stitches didn’t look so small.” Well, one Etsy user has your solution.

Ohhio, creates and sells 100% wool yarn balls, and the needles, with yarn that is so thick that each row is 2-3″ tall. I cannot imagine working with 40mm needles, but wow that blanket would be done crazy fast if you were good at it.

She makes a large variety of colors and has helpfully included info for how many skeins/balls you’d need to make certain projects either with her custom wooden needles, or by just using your arms! If I could find an equally sized crochet hook I’d be all over trying these. 😀 Just make sure that you pay attention to the delivery time when ordering. This artist lives in Ukraine and it can take several weeks to reach you. Basically plan now for all your holiday needs. 😉


Types of Batting

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Batting (or wadding in the UK and Australia) is traditionally the middle layer of a quilt.  I always knew there were different types of batting that you can use in quilts and projects.  Depending on what you are using the batting for, it is important to choose the right one because there are many different options.  Batting is categorized in different ways; loft, fiber, and brand.


Low – A thinner batting.  Low loft batting is good for thinner projects and quilts that want to show the piecing off more than the quilting.  It is easier to run a needle though and drapes nicely.

High – A thicker batting.  High loft batting is thicker, fluffier, and warmer than low loft.  It is much harder to run a needle though and doesn’t hang or drape as nicely as low loft batting.  Quilts with high loft (or doubled up batting) show off the quilting more than the piecing.



Cotton – A soft, breathable, natural fiber.  It is normally low loft and is machine washable and dryable.  It softens, wrinkles, and shrinks over time.  Cotton fibers separate over time so it is very important that any sewing with this batting has the stitches no farther apart than 1/2 inch.

Wool – Easy to handle and creates a lot of warmth.  It separates very easily so as with cotton, stitches should be no farther apart than 1/2 inch.  It also must only be washed in cold water and never put into the dryer.  If it is, the batting will clump and not lay flat.  There is also a risk of moth damage over time.

Silk – More expensive and difficult to find.  It is very hard to work with and needs special techniques.  Do not work with silk batting unless you know how to use it and are familiar with it.

Polyester – A synthetic fiber that normally has the most loft.  Retains the shape no matter how many times it is washed and is lighter than cotton.  Poleyester doesn’t breathe so be careful not to overheat.  A good choice for allergy sufferers and stitching can be farther spaced.  Over time, polyester can separate.

Cotton/Poly Blend – The best of the cotton and polyester world.  This is what I use for most of my quilts.  Benefits of cotton, with a higher loft and better quilting like polyester.  It helps keep you warm on cold days and cool on hot days.  It keeps the shape through the years without separating.  Very easy to work with.

Bamboo – Most of the bamboo batting is a blend with cotton.  Very soft and drapes nicely.  It is more environmentally friendly and naturally anti bacterial.  It separates and clumps sometimes, so using it with lighter color fabrics will prevent the batting showing through (unless you find a black bamboo fabric to use).


Quick Reference Chart: General Batting Characteristics

Quick Reference Chart: Batting Options at a Glance from All People Quilt

I hope this helps the next time you pick batting out for your project.



Spring Cleaning

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It’s that time of the year. Houses get cleaned, cupboards get emptied, but I thought I’d put something extra on my list for this spring- cleaning my sewing machine.

Obviously, we all know that its important to keep your machine dust-free and clean any big build up. However,  if you’re like me, this often falls by the way-side in the excitement of projects. I’ll admit, I’m not very good at keeping up with this side of things. I regularly clean the front loading part of the machine where my bobbin goes, but I never really get into the rest of it. I’m not even particularly good at keeping the rest of the house clean, so I’m not sure why I feel surprised that I’m not better at this.

But its now March. The groundhog decided we are getting an early spring this year, and the cleaning needs to happen. With that in mind, I opened my baby up this weekend, and had a go at it.



I saw this and almost wished I hadn’t (those fluffs are all just from the feed dogs oops). But doing this is worth it, I tell myself. And it is. Honestly. My machine is now running smoother than it has in quite some time. I’m hoping to take my machine in for a proper check up in the next few weeks (another overdue overhaul) but at least now it all looks well.

When you’re working on your spring cleaning list, add your machine to it. And if you’ve never done it before, and you’re not entirely sure what to do, The Ultimate Guide to Sewing Machine Care has loads of tips, tricks, and links to tutorials on how to do this safely for your machine.

Not up to it yourself? Get yourself an appointment with the local sewing machine doctor. Most will service your machine for low fee and you may find that funny little knock/knot/timing issue will get sorted in the mean time.

Happy sewing!

~ eliste

Once Around a Pincushion

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Two Sundays ago I promised a pincushion tutorial and here it is! For reference, I used this Instructables tutorial on how to construct a pincushion cuff. It had a good foundation and some great tips, which I will include but lacked a little bit in some relevant details (more on that later). Please note that this tutorial assumes you are familiar with hand and machine sewing terms and techniques (if not, stay tuned at the end for some recommended viewing). To begin, you will need the following:


  1. Fabric (I used cotton)
  2. A mug or round item approximately 3″-4″ in diameter
  3. Poly fiber filling
  4. Sew-on Velcro
  5. Embroidery floss or other cording
  6. A button
  7. Scissors and/or a rotary cutter
  8. (If using rotary cutter) Self-healing cutting mat
  9. Ruler or measuring tape
  10. Pins
  11. (not pictured) Iron and ironing board

The following are not absolutely necessary but I found it easier to use them and I will refer to the steps where I used them.


(optional) Iron-on interfacing or stabilizer (pictured above)

(optional) Pinking shears

(optional) Seam ripper

(optional) Fabric pencil

Prior to cutting out my fabric, I washed, dried, and pressed it accordingly. You will need to cut 3 circles of fabric each measuring 3″-4″ in diameter and 2 strips of fabric measuring about 9″ (I made my a little bit longer) long by 2.75″ wide. If you opt to use the interfacing, cut it slightly smaller (length and width) than one of your long strips. Cut two 2″ strips from the Velcro.

To begin, I used the mug and fabric pencil to trace out circles on my fabric. The center circle will be used as reinforcement only so it does not need to be a pretty piece. I then used my ruler, cutting mat and rotary cutter to cut out my strips.

PincushionTutMugCircles  PincushionTutFabricStrips

If you choose to use interfacing, which I recommend if you intend to use this often as it will add strength and durability to the cuff, now would be the time to iron it on to one of the wrong sides of one of the strips. Then pin the right sides of your strips together. Using the edge of your presser foot as the seam allowance, sew around all sides of the strips **EXCEPT** about a 1″ space on one of the long sides (this is very important as you will need to flip the whole cuff through this hole later). The Instructables tutorial actually gives a great tip at this point, “Tip: Sew the opening area closed first by back stitching, then lengthening your stitch and sewing about an inch, and then back stitch again where the opening ends. Then you can press the seam open in this area and remove the stitches. This will give you a nice crease to follow when stitching the opening closed.” I did utilize this technique for both the cuff and the cushion. It made hand sewing much easier later on. While you are still at the sewing machine, you may as well sew your cushion, too. Make sure when you pin it beforehand that the right sides of the fabric you want on the outside of your cushion are facing each other while the reinforcement circle is on the wrong side of the “bottom” fabric. All I can say about sewing the seam on a circle is take your time and don’t forget that 1″ opening!

PincushionTutFabricStrips2  PincushionTutSewstrips  PincushionTutSewCushion

When you’ve got your seams done, it’s time to iron! Take both pieces over to the ironing board and iron that seam space open where we left a spot for the flip. Trust me, it will help! You’ll probably notice that my edges look all nice and full of ridges. Alternately before pressing, you can using the pinking shears to trim around your seams (this will prevent fraying when you are attempting to force a bunch of fabric through that 1″ hole), which is what I did. Next is the fun part! If you followed the wide stitch technique as suggested, you need to use your seam ripper to pull out those stitches. Then (brace yourself) you need to flip both things right side out by stuffing all the fabric through that 1″ hole you in the sides. Once you have it flipped, use a chop stick, pencil, or other stick-like implement to pop out your corners. Still with me? Awesome! At this point, you need to hand sew (with a slip/ladder stitch) that little hole closed in the cuff. Before doing the same to the cushion, stuff with what appears to be far too much poly filler (you want a really poofy cushion so you don’t get poked with a pin!). After you’ve stitched both parts closed, you can opt to topstitch around the edges of your cuff which I also recommend for added strength.

PincushionTutIronSeams  PincushionTutStuffCushion  PincushionTutTopstitch

We are in the home stretch now! The next part is to sew the little ridges into your cushion by using floss or some kind of cord to divide the cushion first into quarters, then into eighths. If you can come back up through the top of the cushion after dividing that last portion, you should be able to pop the button right on the top of that end of the floss and dig into the center of the cushion to anchor it.

PincushionTutSewFloss   PincushionTutSewFloss2   PincushionTutButton

Almost there, I swear! Now you will attach the cushion to the cuff by hand sewing the bottom of the cushion into the top layer of the cuff. This does not have to be perfect as it will not be visible but ensure that you sew it down firmly. Once your cushion is not going anywhere, sew your Velcro on – one on the top side and one on the bottom side of your cuff.

PincushionTutAttachCushion   PincushionTutSewVelcro

Clip your ends, grab some pins, and pat yourself on the back! We just made a pincushion cuff!


It’s going to come in real handy if you’ve decided to join in on the NES block of the month quilt-along over in the forums. This thing is the perfect wrist armor for those darn pins!


Above I had mentioned some things that may or may not be lacking (pending your sewing experience level) in the original tutorial. I found a couple of great videos if you aren’t that comfortable with ladder/slip stitch (through this link) or if you’ve never had to topstitch anything (through this link).

Hope you had as much fun as I did today!

See you next Sunday and stay crafty!





A Pin in the Hand

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…is not something you want! At the tail end of last year, I took up machine sewing in order to practice for the Nintendo BOM Quilt-a-long detailed in the Crafthackers forums. During the beginning stages I gathered appropriate materials, watched a ton of tutorials, and used a lot of scrap material as my rehearsal. Finding a couple of quick and easy starter projects to get comfortable with my machine were also a must. The very first project I scouted out was something that would not only help me work on my skills but also benefit my sewing supplies – a pin cushion! I think the hardest part was deciding what type to make. When push came to shove, I did not use any of the ones featured below (I’ll let you see that next week) but these are some decidedly good runner-ups. All of the following are links to Beginner/Easy tutorials if it is also your first time.

First up I found a tutorial that was not only quick, easy, and useful but also super cute! This particular pin cushion features both hand and machine sewing. A felt cupcake from Art Threads:

Just don't try to take a bite after you finish this prickly sweet.

Just don’t try to take a bite after you finish this prickly sweet.

The next is a very convenient and lovely take on a cuff pin cushion. I liked the idea of a cuff so much that I eventually chose one that was not quite so frilly. A fabric flower cuff from Ruffles and Stuff:

A blooming convenient place to stick those pins while working.

A blooming convenient place to stick those pins while working.

The third one I came across is still on my to-make list as I very much like the idea of having a way to distinguish my tools from others’ in a useful fashion. Small strawberry pin cushions from V and Co:

Freshly picked craft tools, my favorite!

Freshly picked craft tools, my favorite!

I think I was feeling mildly intimidated by the last one I was considering at the time, honestly. Now that I have a bit more experience I may consider re-visiting this one as well. A combination pin cushion/thread catcher from Merriment Design:

A quick solution to all of those thread ends and loose pins!

A quick solution to all of those thread ends and loose pins!

Next week, I will take you through the tutorial I used to make my own cuff pin cushion to satisfying effect.

Hope everyone is staying warm, winter has finally hit! What a perfect time to work on some sewing projects.

Stay crafty!



Mind Your Needles!

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Let’s face it, the holidays are coming (where did the rest of the year go?!). Are you at a loss for gift ideas for your friend/significant other/second cousin twice removed that enjoys textile arts like cross stitch, crochet, and knitting? I have found just the thing, mainly because they are currently on my holiday wishlist. A Needle Runs Through It is run by a lovely lady that started her business by creating sturdy project bags for those that like to take their needle crafting with them wherever they go. She has since expanded to include needle minders.

Needle minders, protecting fingers and toes everywhere!

Needle minders, protecting fingers and toes everywhere!

Not familiar with them, you say? If you have ever completed a project that requires a needle no more than 2 inches long, you know the pain of dropping and then trying to find your needle without stepping on it/stabbing yourself in the process. Needle minders are little magnets that attach to the front and back of your project so that when you need a break or to change your thread color, the needle has a safe and apparent place to rest. Her shop has some of the cutest little needle minders I’ve ever seen.

Alpaca and kitty will keep your needles safe!

Alpaca and kitty will keep your needles safe!

Does your friend/SO/cousin perhaps prefer subversive cross stitch? How about a super awesome yarn skull needle minder?

That's some tough craft love right there.

That’s some tough craft love right there.

Ok, I did mention above that she also caters to the crochet/knit crowd with her adorable wooden accessories. These sheep stitch markers should do the trick:

Fluffy little sheep tail!

Fluffy little sheep tail!

She has plenty to choose from! Even TARDIS shaped needle minders for the Doctor Who crafter in your life. To get your own needle minding awesomeness, you can find A Needle Runs Through It on Etsy and Facebook.

Wishing all our readers in the US a safe and happy Thanksgiving this week!

Now back to those holiday crafts I need to finish! Where’s my needle?



Artist Resource: Posemaniacs

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The human body can be one of the trickiest subjects to draw/sculpt. We see the form everyday so as soon as something is slightly off your subconscious will pick up on it right away. As an artist, I’ve always found pose references to be invaluable…but limited. Unless you got someone you know to pose for you, if can be very difficult to find the right view point you need help with. Well, today I’d like to share a great free resource I discovered. It’s a website called posemaniacs, and they have an incredibly helpful in browser pose adjuster.

Head ShotAs you can see in the menu on the right, it’s also not in English so you’ll have to go through and select everything to see what your options are. The top three are their CT scans for parts of the male body. Specifically the Head, Torso, and Foot. The torso is the default selected when you load the page and does feature the male genitals so if that’s not something you can handle then skip that one.

handThe main focus of this flash based tool are hands. That’s what about 75%-85% of the options are, but hands can be one of the trickiest things to draw so I welcome the options to see a hand at different angles. Everything is completely rendered and you can easily click and move your mouse to rotate the image to your desired position, as well as use your scroll wheel to zoom in and out. While it won’t make any complex poses at the moment, it’s a great tool to help with tricky parts of the body, as well as techniques like foreshortening.


Organization & The Tailor’s Assistant

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Two weeks ago my internet exploded with links to this:

It’s beautiful, practical, and just amazing. R.H. Mardigan Enterprises creates beautiful steampunk inspired accessories, but the Tailor’s Assistant has the added bonus of being incredibly useful. Unlike many costume accessories, this is fully functional.

Everything comes off and can be used. It has a needle case, thread bobbins, scissor holder, thimble, pincushion, and it is all tied together with ribbon that doubles as a measuring tape.

It brought back for me the age old question of “how do you keep all your favorite tools on hand?” when it comes to crafting. For those of us who sew, this can pose interesting problems, as there are a myriad of small, difficult to keep track of, items like needles and pins, in addition to all those other pesky things like clamps, thread, thread cutters, and of course your favorite pair of small snip scissors.

If you have the luxury of working in your own space all the time, this doesn’t become too much of an issue. You can organise your space and the various items you need regularly. However, if you don’t have that luxury, or if your crafting space is shared with, let’s say, your other half or (heaven help you) children, then you’ll know that this isn’t necessarily the easiest task.

When I worked in theatre, it was usually in a costume shop. When you’re in a place like that and especially if you’re as protective as I am about your tools, you quickly learn that if you want to bring in your own tools you need a way to keep them with you at all times lest they go… missing. (I’m not saying it was you, Linda, but I did really like those stork scissors) Even when they don’t go missing, sewing large projects can mean a lot of movement as you shift from cutting to sewing and back again.

My solution was simple, but I tried to make it pretty (although nowhere near as gorgeous as The Tailor’s Assistant). Every pair of scissors I own bears a ribbon tied around their handles. My prized tailor tips have a much longer ribbon that extends over my head, making it possible for me to always have it, no matter where I move in the room. This solution is both handy, and unique. Even when others in the shop began doing similar, we all chose different ribbons.

This also meant that instructing new roommates and partners not to use the “good” scissors became simple (which, considering my set came direct from Gingher at a pretty penny was something I have always been concerned about). They can use any pair of scissors that don’t have a ribbon on the handle. Simple, effective, and it looks well.

This solution can work for other items as well. My Clover travel thread cutter has a silver elastic string, making it function as a flexible necklace as well as preventing it from slipping away and being lost.

But it doesn’t fix the issue for many of the other little items that I’d like to have with me and I’m constantly having to backtrack across the room for my pins or a new needle, or whatnot.

How do you organise your favorite tools or do you?


For those interested in a Tailor’s Assistant of their own, R.H. Mardigan Enterprises can be found on Etsy, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr.

~ eliste