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Saturday, 16 June 2018

My Makerist Conundrum

A new place to sell PDF patterns...
Back in March, Daryl from Patchouli Moon Studio wrote about participating in a $2 sale at a new (to me, anyway) site called Makerist. I was intrigued and asked what Makerist was. Turns out it's an online marketplace that sells PDF patterns. Apparently the company had reached out directly to her to invite her to become a designer and sell her patterns on the site.

In brief, Makerist is the brainchild of a couple of people in Berlin, Axel Heinz and Amber Reidl. Founded in 2013, Makerist's mission is to "bring more joy to crafting — by making traditional crafts more modern, accessible, simple and fun."

Angela Jardine Fritz Frog crafted by eSheep Designs
Fritz Frog...
I visited their site, filled out a short form giving my particulars and waited. I think it took about a week for me to get a reply; they need the time to evaluate each application and judge suitability, which I totally understand. When I finally set up an account, it was during the $2 sale event, so the story ended up being that I became a Makerist customer instead of a Makerist designer. [By the way, for those of you who missed the original sale, the Fritz Frog pattern is again available for $2 until June 17.]

Unlike the relatively simple process of selling patterns on Craftsy, Makerist makes you jump through many hoops before you can upload a single pattern for sale. This is because after the initial approval, you have to enter into a contract with them, a multi-page "document" that is not insignificant, with wording that requires serious consideration.

Let's put it this way: I received confirmation of my contract acceptance on April 6 and two months and ten days later, I still have not uploaded a single pattern to Makerist. Instead, I'm finding the time to write this post.

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Not So Simple for Designers

Purchasing from Makerist was indeed painless and simple. The Makerist Ts&Cs for designers, however, are not so simple.

The following is taken directly from their designer contract:
The Designer may promote their own brand on their Makerist profile. They may also mention their brand or website in their Products. However, for aesthetic reasons, URL addresses, email addresses, copyright, names or logos should not appear on the first picture of the Product.
This is reinforced by a bullet point that says that the designer will provide "at least two photos of the Product with at least one for the finished Product, without text or logo on the picture for communication reasons".

Logo branded
Makerist listing...
Unfortunately for me, I took the time to brand my PDFs from the beginning. There is not one that does not have my URL on the front cover (which I assume constitutes the "first picture") and only the very first one doesn't feature my logo. As for product photos, I spent a lot of time putting my logo on those shots and to have to go back now and remove them — and have them be available online in that state — is giving me pause.

From the very beginning, I didn't like the idea of having the first page of my PDF being "hijacked". (I was able to see an example of it for myself, of course, when I purchased the Fritz Frog pattern.) As a document designer long before I became a sewing pattern designer, I am quite picky about the "look and feel" of my documents and prefer them to be consistent... and mine.

Another logo
branded listing...
The fact that they will go in and change each PDF represents a loss of control that I am — at best — ambivalent about. And yet, on the one hand, if I give them the right to edit my PDFs in order to add their own front page, why can't they just do that without me having to go in and remove branding from my existing cover page? See the conundrum?

Moreover, when I browse their site, I see some brands that are clearly identified. Right here and above, are two examples of listings that show logos.

Are exceptions being made for some designers?

The Financial Nuts and Bolts

The big benefit is that there'll be no accounting headaches if you work with Makerist. Everything is handled by them (including that European VAT tax that most of us totally ignore) and payment is made to the designer's PayPal account mid-month for the past month's sales. Currently, they take a 15% commission on all sales, which by all accounts, is more than fair for this kind of setup.

However, as with all startups, this may — will — change in the future. This is from their current agreement:
This 15% commission rate is a launching rate and thereby subject to change at any point. In the case of a rise or fall in the commission rate, Makerist will provide a 4 week notice period before the change is implemented.
The boldface print is theirs.

Given my current procrastination and indecision, I suspect that if I ever do get on board with them, the 15% commission will probably have changed.

But on the whole, the entire transaction process of selling patterns and getting paid should be simple.

Sales and Promos

Makerist seems to be big on sales and promotions, which is mostly a good thing. I have a standing offer to pick a weekend where they will promote my patterns (via all of their social media platforms and newsletter) by offering them at 40% off and run a feature on me on their blog. Yes, that sounds like a big deal and it's probably more notoriety than I can handle. ;-)

Here's the thing: I am loathe to offer sales on my patterns apart from special pricing at initial launch. (I'm pretty sure I've only done a "sale" twice, involving three of my patterns.) To me, relying on sales means my regular price is a bogus price. It's like Craftsy and their class sales... why would anyone ever pay regular price for a Craftsy class?

For my own patterns, I'd just mostly feel bad for those people who purchased at regular price, to see something they bought go on sale.

That said, there are probably a lot of people who would love the opportunity to be featured as a Makerist designer, so that is another definite advantage to being a part of their marketplace.

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Technology Concerns

Having been employed in the tech field, I am perhaps overly nit-picky about small "irregularities" that I encounter on websites and on communications from online companies. So let me admit that up front. Certainly your mileage may vary in that these things may not tweak you at all.

For example, I find it mildly irritating that so many links on Makerist open up a new tab. See this?

Many, many tabs result from browsing Makerist's site...

That's just not great web design.

Then there is the — should I call it "interesting"? — way in which they provide documentation to their designers. You'd think since their whole business is about PDFs that they would "PDF" all of their own documentation. But no; I received instructions on how to upload patterns via a couple of .JPG files. That's right, they took a virtual snapshot of a list of instructions and saved it as an image file. (And I have to tell you, it's cumbersome to scroll through an image file to read something.)

It's almost like they feel overly protective about their words and descriptions, which leads me to another oddity from their website. On their About Us page, the text cannot be selected (i.e., copied). I was going to snip some for the purpose of my introduction for this post and found that I had no way of doing so (short of taking a picture).

Finally, as a proof reader and editor, I have a hard time with what I call "lazy" mistakes. Below is a screenshot of the third page in a row that asks me to validate having read "the third article" when in fact, this is now the fifth article. (This is from their contract; that whole Validation section was cut and pasted from the third screen onto the fourth and fifth screens.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite big on CTRL-X and CTRL-V. Love cut and paste. But the number one rule of using cut and paste is never to leave behind evidence that you've used cut and paste.

Then there's that "Makerist'rights and mine" bit of wording. No one noticed that on multiple screens?

Some may call these petty criticisms that have nothing to do with the actual business of Makerist. And that may be a fair statement. Or maybe not.

The thing is, a business encompasses everything that it does from A to Z, whether or not the public can see it. While I fully acknowledge that my reluctance to commit to the designer Ts&Cs has made the above distractions more significant in my eyes, I always wonder when I encounter these kinds of issues: is there something that I don't see that's even worse? It's why I'm iffy about letting Makerist into my PDFs... I won't be able to see what they do to them, so how do I know they'll be "good"?

The thing is, while I've been looking for an option beyond Craftsy for selling my patterns, I have to go back to the fact that this is not my career. I'm not looking to strike it big and make a lot of money. It may seem somewhat disingenuous to say that it's not my goal to sell more patterns, but perhaps doing so via Makerist just isn't right for me.

I'm conflicted... therefore, the conundrum.


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Customizing a Free Fabric Wall Organizer Pattern

Hanging File Organizer crafted by eSheep Designs
My fabric wall organizer hanging from the side of my desk...
As a Spoonflower designer, I like to check out their blog and keep up with posts on a regular basis. Recently, after filtering those posts by sewing tutorials, I came across a project that I had somehow missed, from September 2015.

It's a fabric wall organizer designed by Sara of Radiant Home Studio (link at the end of this post). It's sized to hold regular file folders.

What you see here is my "hacked" version; or, as I prefer to put it, my customized version.

The original uses a lot more Peltex stabilizer and comprises three pockets instead of two. In exchange for not wasting a whole slab of Peltex on the back panel, I chose to put some of my blanket remnants to use and quilt the whole thing instead.

Fabrics are three selections (Dictionary in red, Butterfly in red, and Red and Tan Stripes Ticking) from the Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements fat quarter bundle that I purchased earlier this year, as well as a bed sheet that had previously been used as a bag lining.

Three Tim Holtz fabrics that were used (the colour of that stripe fabric is a little off in this pic)...

The stripe fabric was just screaming to be made into bias tape, so that's exactly what was done to it.

Tim Holtz fabrics
Got about 4 yards of continuous bias tape from a fat quarter...

Instead of using one fat quarter for each pocket, I decided to bring a bit of symmetry into the design by splitting up the fabric and using half on each pocket. It's a technique that can be helpful when you're making something with just fat quarters. Multiple fabrics can be joined together and then sliced up to create "matching" pieces.

I'm not overly fond of the fabrics in this particular shade of red, but they all go together and — along with the beige-y bed sheet — are a good match for my desk.

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Going Smaller & Using Less Peltex

Let me preface by saying that the decision to make the organizer with just two pockets was primarily to avoid a frustrating sewing experience. I absolutely knew that making it in its original dimensions (36" long with three pockets) would be unpleasant, especially if I had to fight with all of the Peltex in the three pockets.

Fortuitously, I wanted this organizer to hang from the side of my desk, which will only accommodate a 24" long version; i.e., one with two pockets.

Hanging File Organizer crafted by eSheep Designs
Totally happy with how my customized version turned out...

Even though there was no Peltex in the back of my organizer, it was still a little bit unpleasant having to fold and compress the item while sewing on the pockets. So there you have it, full disclosure: this project had its moments of unpleasantness despite my changes.

[Although, I made a second one that's even more customized and figured out how to sequence the sewing so as to minimize the "scrunching". I'll be turning that version into a tutorial to be posted later this summer.]

Hanging File Organizer crafted by eSheep Designs
Back view with my crazy quilting...

For the main panel, I opted to quilt together two pieces of the bed sheet fabric and a blanket remnant, securing the layers with fabric glue. I then slowly quilted from the middle out to the edges.

Way Easier Pocket Construction

Apart from reducing the size of the back panels from 14" wide x 36" high to 14" x 24", I also changed up the dimensions of the pocket pieces slightly.

The original called for a 17" square and a corresponding 1" strip from each fat quarter. I used an 18" square. (Each of which was then sliced in half vertically and sewn to the other with a 1/2" seam allowance to achieve my "matchy-matchy" look.)

Tim Holtz fabrics
My half and half pocket pieces...

What was the purpose of the 1" strip? The original pattern instructions had the pocket pieces merely folded in half, top-stitched along the fold and then positioned on the main panel with raw edges exposed along the bottom of the pocket. The 1" strip of fabric was folded into a trim piece that would then be sewn on top of the pocket's bottom edge, to secure the pocket as well as to hide the raw edges.

That seemed like a totally unnecessary extra step, so my solution was to cut the piece larger to begin with (i.e., use the entire 18" available from a fat quarter) and then use that extra inch of material to sew a seam in the bottom.

Tim Holtz fabrics
There is no rule that says a seam must be located along an edge...

And speaking of "the bottom", did you know that just because you have a seam, there is no rule that says it must run along an edge? As shown in the picture above, after I sewed the seams and turned the pocket pieces right side out, I rotated the resulting tube of fabric until I found the best looking front side. (Since the other side of this assembly is the inside lining of a pocket, it hardly matters that there is a horizontal seam running across it.)

A piece of Peltex (cut per the original dimensions of 13" wide x 8" high) was then slipped inside this tube, centered left to right, and butted up against the top fold line before fusing. (I only had single sided fusible Peltex, so I put the fusible side to the pocket exterior.) The top edge was then top-stitched and the sides prepared per the original instructions.

The project is fairly easy to put together this way. Once the pockets had been basted along the sides onto the completed back panel, I ran a row of stitching along the bottom edges of the pockets to secure them.

Hanging File Organizer crafted by eSheep Designs
A less complicated method of finishing the bottom of each pocket...

Easy-peasy. No need to struggle with keeping long, narrow pieces of fabric in place on top of a large, unwieldy surface.

And for the record, you don't have to worry about the thickness of the Peltex along the bottom because it doesn't extend down that far.

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Hanging File Organizer crafted by eSheep Designs
Side view...
All that remains after the pockets are secured is to round off the corners of the back panel and bind the entire perimeter.

Again, I found the size of my reduced version daunting enough, having to move this big piece around while trying to stay straight... or curved, as is the case around the corners.

Fortunately, binding is fairly forgiving during the first step of installation. Whenever I found myself slipping away from my intended seam allowance (3/8"), I would literally release the presser foot, move everything back up to where I started to stray and start sewing again. The beauty of it is that this sort of mistake does not show up at all in the final stitching.

Because Peltex is not immune to creasing, I would suggest that if you make this organizer the way it was intended — i.e., the 36" long version with full Peltex backing — you may want to choose fabrics with busy prints that would hide any creases. I steamed and pressed the whole thing after completing it, but I can still see areas on the pocket panels where I know the Peltex had been bent.

The organizer is finished off with a couple of grommets at the top corners.

All that's left is to find some hooks that will fit through the grommet holes. If that's a problem, you could thread a long length of cording through both holes to hang from one hook, or thread smaller lengths of cording through each grommet.

My "not so great" adhesive hooks...

These hooks did not hold up the weight of the filled organizer. I ended up removing the adhesive pads and hot gluing them!

Summary of Changes

So, here is a quick rundown of what I changed:
  • Reduced length of back panel from 36" to 24" (left the width unchanged at 14") as part of overall change to 2 pocket styling from 3
  • Cut my pocket pieces as 18" squares, as opposed to 17" squares with a corresponding 1" strip (note that had I not wanted to split the fabrics in half and join them, I would have cut the fabric at 17" wide x 18" high)
  • Sewed a seam into the pocket piece so it could be attached to the back panel directly
  • Omitted Peltex from back panel and quilted it instead

I also have two more suggestions. The first is that no matter what size you make this — but particularly if you go for the full size — consider using a nondescript (or recycled) fabric for the back side of the back panel. No point in wasting nice looking fabric for something that will never be seen by anyone, since this hangs against a wall.

Second, take the time to make your own bias tape with a colourful fabric. (Stripes are always a good choice as they become diagonal when cut on the bias.) An interesting binding makes a big difference to the overall appearance of the organizer and — to be honest — allows you to use a relatively plain fabric for the backing. Let's face it, the pockets (and eventual file folders) will hide the majority of whatever fabric you use on the back panel.

What will I be using my file organizer for? Well, my waxcloth folder will have a new home, clearing off some valuable desk space since my Varidesk unit takes up so much of my desktop. In fact, any papers that used to get tossed onto my desk are now put into a file folder. (I just have to remember to look at that stuff on a regular basis.)

In the sewing room, this can definitely be a great option to organize printed PDF sewing patterns.

Or... do you know anyone heading off to college this fall? This would be a useful gift for someone living in a dorm room. Look for a tutorial later this summer for a version that I made for a recent high school graduate.

In the meantime, you can find the particulars for this project on Spoonflower's blog here.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Repurposing a Bunch of Belts

Who can resist a belt for a  buck?
Last week, I showed you my Out & About Crossbody bag, which had a chain strap made out of a repurposed belt. Interestingly enough, it wasn't the first time I'd used a belt as a purse strap.

Both of the test bags for my very first bag pattern had straps that were originally belts. One was a skinny self belt from a pair of black pants and the other was a chain belt.

My recycled belts on various bags...

This orange MyTie also features a belt used as strap. And in a bit of different belt recycling, I took links from a chain belt to use as the rectangular rings (to attach the strap) on my (Betz White) Flight Bag.

A few months ago, I picked up several belts for a dollar each at a discount store. Originally priced at up to $9 apiece, they were mostly chain style belts that I figured could be configured into purse hardware.

Two others (including the one pictured above) were bought for the purpose of being belts for now. I thought this brown one was pretty snazzy. When I'm no longer interested in it as a belt, I'm sure that tassel will find a home somewhere.

This white one is also currently being used for its intended purpose. Recognize it?

White flower belt is currently a belt, but I had to remove two "links" from it...

I had to take off two of the flowers to get the right fit, so one of them ended up being the bling on my Out & About bag.

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The belt that was repurposed as a strap for the Out & About bag originally had some extra things dangling from it.

A buck yielded three distinct elements from this belt...

The dangling elements will one day be turned into simple bag bling or zipper pulls.

Tassels are popular bag bling...

So this single dollar item gave me a length of chain and two zipper pulls. The chain wasn't long enough by itself for a crossbody purse strap, however, so I went to a second belt.

A long (plain) chain belt...

This one was purchased specifically for the fact that it could be used to lengthen other more elaborate chains when used as a purse strap. After some work with a pair of pliers, this is the actual strap that was used for the Out & About bag.

One belt plus a little bit of help...

This black one is rather elegant. The style of the chain portion of it is essentially the same as the white one above, but the "dangling bits" are a lot fancier.

Lots of pretty bling to harvest from this belt...

This one is a bit different. The belt closure looks like it would be an interesting purse flap closure. (Much as I dislike purse flaps.)

A metal belt buckle that might look nice on a purse flap...

Then again, I may keep it as a belt...

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This final one is made out of elastic with a bunch of silver-toned metal links and closure.

This yielded 8 metal links and a closure...

Not only is the black elastic a useful addition to my stash of sewing supplies, the hardware has a lot of potential. For example, the links can be used like rectangular rings to attach bag handles.

The closure attaches with screws...

It's usually expensive to buy metal hardware that secures with screws, so I'm quite happy with how much I salvaged from this belt.

Not bad for a total of $7, huh?

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Out & About Crossbody Bag

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
A project all about reducing waste...

... or Two Projects for the Price of One

Who would have thought that a decision to make a gift of a quilted accordion pouch would lead to a new little crossbody bag for me? It certainly wasn't in the plans, but funny how things work out sometimes.

If you've read the post about the accordion pouch, you may recall that I had a hard time with the large quilt sandwich that I had to manoeuvre under the arm of my sewing machine. Well, after I cut out the required pieces for the five main pockets — following the layout that was recommended by the tutorial — I was also a bit dismayed by the amount of extra material that remained.

Even as I sewed up the pouch, my mind kept returning to the large pieces that were left behind on the cutting table.

What could I do with the remnants to produce a useful result?

These are the left over pieces after cutting the requirements for the Quilted Accordion Pouch...

By happy coincidence, as I was submitting another project to SewCanShe's weekly Show Off Saturday linky party, I saw a crossbody cell phone wallet that Caroline had just made. It gave me an instant inspiration.

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Now, I'll be the first to admit that my little "leftovers" bag is certainly not as polished looking as Caroline's project, but it does have the same basic utility. It can carry my cell phone, a card or two, and bonus... also my keys or sunglasses.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
Just a little something to carry while "out and about"...

The back of the wallet/bag has some functional bling from which to hang sunglasses or clip on some keys. Actually, I've always liked bags that have no discernible front or back, so it doesn't matter what side is "out" when I carry them. The back side of this one is perfectly fine being seen.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
Closeup of the bling in the back...

I call this my Out & About bag, because it's just enough that very purpose. For walks in the neighbourhood during the summer, you can't beat having a crossbody bag that will hold just the essentials.

You already know that the main materials are remnants from the quilted accordion pouch project. The binding was similarly left over from the Best Nest Organizer Basket. (How great is it that the binding fabric has gold in it to match the gold chevron?)

The pink loops that hold the shoulder strap and flower decoration are pieces of paracord left over from my bracelet making projects.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
Back side of my Out & About bag...

Then there's the matter of the shoulder strap and the flower bling. Both are from belts that I recently purchased on clearance at a discount store. I bought a bunch of belts for a buck each (say that three times fast — LOL) and they yielded not only multi-purpose lengths of chain, but several bits of hardware and bag bling.

I'll post about them in more detail next week.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
Behind the flap, there is a pocket to keep some cards while out and about...

The wrap around flap serves a dual purpose: it's a flap to cover the main opening, but the portion along the back is actually a pocket for cards.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
Yeah, that's my old Sears Club card... :-(

Here is the main storage pocket for the cell phone.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
That's hubby's old cell phone, which — while larger than mine — is still quite a bit smaller
than the average smartphone these days...

The only thing you'll have to keep in mind is whether or not this'll be large enough to hold your phone. My own cell is circa 2012 (!) and is about 2.25" wide by 4.5" high. Obviously no problem accommodating it, but smart phones of more recent vintage may be a tough fit.

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I'll provide a brief rundown of the "how to" on this, but keep in mind that this is not meant as a tutorial.

The largest piece that I had left over from the quilted accordion pouch was about 10" x 8". (The actual size of the remnant will depend on how well the quilting turns out and how close the required pieces are cut from the edge.) This was then cut into two equal pieces for the front and back of the bag, as shown below.

Cutting the biggest remnant in half...

From the other longer, narrower (3.5") remnant, I cut a 7" long piece to use for the flap.

Out & About Crossbody Bag by eSheep Designs
To show scale...
The first step was to bind only the top edges of the two large pieces.

The next step was to bind the entire flap piece, all the way around. (Due to some original indecision on my part about what I wanted to do, I ended up binding the top and then the three other sides, but doing it all in one shot is definitely preferable).

The back part of the flap was then sewn onto the back panel along its bottom edge — trapping the paracord holding the flower bling along the bottom of the flap in the process — and up a portion of the sides (as indicated by the dotted line in the drawing below; stop sewing about 3/4" away from the top edge of the back panel).

Next, the three exposed sides of the two large pieces were bound together. At the top corners, I embedded 4" lengths of paracord with a loop exposed to accommodate the chain strap.

The last step was to install a snap fastener to allow the flap to close.

All in all, a successful recycling project. I no longer need to obsess about the extra materials that seemed so wasteful for the quilted accordion pouch. The only new things that were needed to make this Out & About bag was a snap fastener and some (repurposed) belt pieces.

Speaking of extra materials, this is all that remains of the remnants.

Hmmmm... methinks I'm not done yet! ;-)