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Author Archive | Christian Tamez

Review | Martha Stewart Chalkboard Paint

One of the first Martha Stewart Paints products that I wanted to try was the chalkboard paint. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved chalkboards and chalk and anything involving the two. Martha’s chalkboard paint comes in 6 oz bottles available in four different colors: black, grey, blue, and green.


For my first project I decided to paint some terra cotta flower pots so that I could label their contents and organize some of my bulkier items. This was one of the suggested products for the paint, and since I had an abundance of flower pots, I thought it would be a great way to test out the new paint. Continue Reading →

Rowenta Iron Cleaning Kit

Reported by Christian Tamez 


For many crafters (especially those who sew), irons are invaluable tools that are often called upon when crafting. To me, having the right tool for the right job is very important. So I do own more than one kind of iron, one regular-sized for most ironing tasks, and a smaller Clover craft iron, for tiny ironing jobs.

It’s easy for a well-used iron to develop a layer of burnt on ironed “stuff” and usually once enough of this builds up the iron is deemed dead, thrown away and replaced. Recently, I came across the Rowenta Iron Cleaning Kit, at my Joanns. I had recently lent out an iron to a group of friends, who must have been ironing over plastic, since my once mirror like iron came back to me brown, burnt, and horrible looking. Since I wasn’t really ready to let my iron go, I decided it was time to put this product to the test.


In the box are four things: a tube of the cleaning cream, a white terry cloth towel, a green buffing towel, and instructions. The instructions were simple, put your iron on a high cotton setting. Meanwhile place a towel down to protect your ironing board, on top of this place the included cloths. You’re instructed to put about a two inch line of the cleaning cream on the terry towel. Making sure that there is no water in your iron, you then iron directly over the two inch line of cream, and move the iron in a circular motion.





Right away I noticed a slight odor, and also saw that the towel was picking up the brown bits off my iron. I applied a good amount of pressure and really moved my iron in a circular motion After a while I noticed that the cleaning cream had removed quite a bit of the brown gunk from my iron and it looked like the amount I had placed on the cloth had done all it was going to do. There was still some brown parts so I just repeated the process, another line of cleaning cream, more pressure and circular motion from the iron and I was so impressed when I looked at my iron and Voila! All the brown was gone.



The next step is simple. Ironing over the green buffing cloth to make sure all of the cleaning cream is removed from the iron, as any excess cream could transfer to a fabric and premanently discolor it. But a quick iron over the green cloth, and I could once again see myself in my iron, something which truly makes me happy.


Pros:

  • This works, I love this product
  • Fast, with the repeated process included my entire time start to finish was maybe 10 minutes
  • Easily available, I got mine at Joanns
  • More than one application in a bottle, more like 4-6
  • Not just for Rowenta irons

Cons:

  • Nothing wrong with an easy way to clean your iron. No cons from me! 

The kit retails for about $15, and is well worth it!

How do you clean your iron? Would the Rowenta Iron Cleaning Kit save your iron? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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YUDU tips, tricks and a review

Reported by Christian Tamez

My first memory of screen printing would be at summer camp, years ago. We all got to make t-shirts with the camp logo on them. I remember that the screen printing machine was huge, and that I just somehow knew that screen printing was a kind of special thing to be doing yourself. Flash forward to the future, I had just been introduced to the wonderful machine that is the Cricut Expression and I was looking into what else Provo Craft had to offer, immediately the YUDU screen printer caught my eye.

Being able to personalize textiles is a huge thing for me; I love being able to customize anything I can get my hands on. With the YUDU you can create your own screens, with your own designs, to use for printing. With some care the screens are reusable, allowing you to create as many or as few screen printings as you want.
The machine itself serves as an all-in-one screening station; you can dry and hold up to two screens in a holding compartment in the lower part of the YUDU. The top has a lightboard with two different light settings, one being used to expose screens to whatever design you have chosen, and the other being a less bright light allowing you to properly place your designs, before you “burn” them into the screen.


Included with the YUDU is a 110 mesh screen, 110 meaning per square inch there are 110 threads creating the openings for your ink to flow. Also available are 220 mesh and new 40 mesh screens. The 220 is used for screen printing on paper, the higher number of threads allows for greater detail. Personally I find that I prefer to use the 220 mesh screens for all of my screen printing. The 40 mesh is a new screen designed for use specifically with the YUDU glue and new foil and glitter textiles out. To use the mesh you take an emulsion sheet, and adhere it with water. The emulsion sheet is photosensitive and this part should be done in a darker room, and only when you have placed your design and are ready to burn it into your screen.

The first project I wanted to share has to do with personalizing cardboard boxes and fabric squares for my honey. I took a sharpie and drew a honey bee design, scanned it into my computer and printed it on one of the transparency sheets. The first tip I have is to print out the design twice on two separate pieces of transparency paper and then tape the designs together. It’s very important to not let any light through any of the areas you’re trying to burn into your screen. Just using one transparency you run the risk of exposing an area just enough to not let any ink pass through, rendering your screen useless. Even though the emulsion will still wash off and you may see your design, there could be an almost invisible film inhibiting any ink from coming through. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

I always try and burn as many images into an emulsion sheet as possible, so I can use different areas of the screen for different projects and cut down on my need for new emulsion sheets. I usually keep my platten covered with parchment paper, this way I’m able to print a test print of my design and see where it’s going to be placed when it’s printed. To make it so that I’m able to position my item to be printed on, I draw around something either a template or cut out matched to the exact size, this way I get a pretty good idea of where my print is going to end up.



Once you start screening, it’s a good idea to be set up to print all of your projects. The actual printing process is very fast, and you don’t want any ink to lodge in your screen. The ink dries faster than you might think, I ruined one of my screens by stepping away for just a few minutes to answer the phone, when I came back I immediately washed the screen but to no avail, gold ink all lodged in. Which is why it’s a good idea to try and burn multiple images into your screen, I just moved on to another area of my screen to continue my project.



My second project had much more detail in it, a series of cartoons I drew, and wanted to put on a tote bag. The 220 mesh would be necessary in a project with fine lines like this. The main trick with this one was printing out the images twice and layering the transparency sheets so no light would get through the fine lines, not too difficult and it made all the difference. I also was determined to use glow in the dark YUDU ink, when I screened the image using just the glow ink, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the print. I mixed in some white ink, just to make the print stand out more, on the dark fabric. I was happy to find out that the white ink being added still allowed the glow ink to glow.


When you’re all finished with your project, if you haven’t destroyed your screen through the rigors of numerous printings, you can either store it for later use or use the emulsion remover to remove all of your design and leave you with a screen ready to be designed with again. I really like my YUDU, I don’t use it as much as I thought I would, but when I do need it, I’m glad I have it.



Here’s a video I made shortly after I got my YUDU, it’s the first time I ever used the thing, and it was easy enough for me to make a video out of it. I hope it explains things for you!

Pros:

  • Completely customizable – you decide what design you want to make, and with a fairly wide array of inks you can make almost any color
  • Fast – Once you have your screen ready to use for printing, the actual printing process takes seconds, the ink sets pretty quickly
  • Washable – Did you make a mistake? Wash it out, the ink is only permanent after being heat set, so go ahead wash your item and try again!

Cons:

  • Expensive – The emulsion sheets are very expensive and you only get two to a pack. Buy extras because accidents can and do happen with the emulsion sheets. All of the YUDU textiles are pricy.
  • Inks had varied consistencies, some were chunky and some were runny
  • If you step away from screening the ink can dry and lodge itself into the screen.
  • The emulsion can be damaged when wet, take care not to damage your design when washing.

Do you have a YUDU? Are you screen printing with another cool tool? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Ultimate Seam Guide

Reported by Christian Tamez

Like any sewer, I am always trying new things to make my sewing look more professional. The Ultimate Seam Guide seemed right up my alley. The Ultimate Seam Guide is a thin, clear plastic accessory that you tape directly onto your sewing machine. Marked with a number of lines which are clearly indicated by inch measurements, you trim this to custom fit your machine.


The time finally came to use the seam guide, and I found that I had to trim away quite a bit in order for it to fit my machine. I came to the realization that ideally you would have a built in table or cabinet for your sewing machine in order to fully use the seam guide the way it was designed. Nevertheless I marked out my feed dogs with tape, and trimmed away. The directions ask that you use scissors which is something I missed at the beginning and soon found out that an exacto knife would not easily cut through the plastic. I switched to scissors and found that right around the feed dog area that the scissors left a jagged edge, that could possibly snag a delicate fabric. I pulled out the exacto, scored numerous times and was able to remove the jagged edge.




Since this is a removable add-on accessory, you attach the seam guide with tape. Now because you have to trim away the area around the feed dogs, you lose the red dotted line that you’re supposed to line up with your needle. I worked around this by lining the markings of the seam guide with the markings on the sole plate of my sewing machine and then proceeded to attach the guide, with tape, to my machine.


My first project was simple. Two decorative couch pillows, that had a little dog on them. Something with just a nice easy quarter inch seam allowance to test out the guide. Before I was able to sew, I had to remove the seam guide in order to put in a bobbin that would match the top thread, then re-align the guide and continue to sew.

I started sewing and the first side went well enough, then came time to drop down my needle and pivot for the corner. The fabric went right underneath the plastic guide. Being more of an annoyance than a real problem, I moved the fabric out of the way and continued sewing.

As I went around the second side of the first pillow I noticed that the fabric was puckering a little bit. I examined my project a bit closer, and realized that the seam guide was making it so that the feed dogs were really only pulling the bottom fabric, causing the top to feed at a different rate. This was only minor, but I noticed it, and found it unacceptable. Because these pillows were just a fun craft and not really heirloom work, I figured it wasn’t the end of the world. In the end I removed the seam guide in the middle of the first pillow and continued sewing. I found that there was a noticeable difference in sewing quality with and without the guide. When I sewed with the guide, it seemed the seam guide itself created more pressure from the presser foot for the top layer of fabric waiting to be sewn. The extra pressure made it so the bottom fabric was moving faster than the top and so, in between my pins, I got the waves.

Pros:

  • It was a good idea, and meaning well counts in my book.

Cons:

  • Did not work well.
  • Caused puckering of sewn goods.
  • More stress than it’s worth, sewing is hard enough already. 
  • Would be better on a front-loading bobbin machine.

Have you ever been disappointed by a new sewing gadget? Tried any seam guides you DO like? Think I’m crazy, and just don’t know how to sew because you LOVE your seam guide, let me know below!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY – American Girl Craft Kits

Reported by Christian Tamez


Like any crafter who likes American Girl dolls, I was pretty excited to find some American Girl Crafting items at Michaels, and even more excited to get to try some of the crafting kits available. The American Girl Card Making Kit was one that I received, and it wasn’t long before my kitchen was filled with stickers, glue squares and very cool American Girl cards.


The card-making kit is advertised as being able to make 21 cards, but I found that if you really wanted to do a good job decorating the cards, you’ll really be able to make closer to ten. There’s fourteen doll punch-outs you can use; the first one I chose was Addy. I used some of the included glue squares and placed them right over the purple marks on the back of the punch outs to securely adhere them to the card. Following the purple marks, I placed my adhesive squares and placed the Addy punch out right over the area as directed on the card. Then I proceeded to decorate the front with some of the stickers included.


As I moved on to the second and third cards I wanted to make, I realized it would be a good effect to layer some of the flat stickers with the included bubble stickers for texture. Most of the bubble stickers were round and fit nicely into the center of some flower stickers for Kit’s card, and then I used the same idea with the stars stickers when I created Molly’s card.


Each character is divided into a theme, with different coordinating collections of stickers, even though they all can be used interchangeably with any of the characters or cards. One of the nice things about this kit is the included message sticker you can use on the inside of a card to create a personalized message for the recipient.


For Molly’s card I used one of the included punch out messages which included things like: Thank You, Happy Birthday, Good Luck, Thinking of You, Get Well Soon, and a few other little sayings along those lines.

Putting these cards together was simple enough to not even need to read the directions, and the cards are fairly small, so they can be completed quickly without become boring to an easily distracted child. If you want to add a personal touch, put in a picture of one of your own beloved dolls in place of a punch out! Plus it’s all stickers, how can you go wrong?


Pros:

  • Nothing extra needed to complete this kit, other than a pen or pencil to write something in the card. No glue, or messy adhesives, markers any of those dangerously messy kids crafty things.
  • High quality stickers and materials included, the cardstock is firm, and the flat stickers have a nice matte finish. The bubble stickers add a cool dimension when layered on
  • Envelopes are included so you can send these out, if you just happen to be using these on a trip with your kids, or you could make them in advance and send them out, either way the envelopes are handy.

Cons:

  • The cards are made to be used for specific characters and even have a little saying on the back of them about this intended character. I’m not a fan of Rebecca Rubin(she replaced my beloved Samantha) and I didn’t use any of the cards SHE was on the back of.
  • Some of the stickers were really stuck to the page they were supposed to easily peel off of, this resulted in a few torn stickers. If I had problems with them a child definitely would.
  • I would have liked more stickers or fewer cards, because you can’t decorate all twenty one and have them all decorated enough with the included amount of stickers. More bubble stickers please!

I was lucky enough to get another little craft kit a try, and did a video demo to show you just how fun these kits can be! I hope you enjoy it!

GIVEAWAY
The folks over at EK Success are giving away a kit to one lucky reader. To enter simply answer any of the questions below in the Comments section of this article on our website. One comment per person, please.

Have you ever tried any of the American Girl Crafts items? Do own an American Girl doll? Are you excited to give one of these kits a try? Be sure to write a comment and let us know!

Winners are chosen at random. Contest closes Sunday, June 12th at 6pm CST. Good Luck!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Crafty Business Week – Etsy Newbie Tips

Reported by Christian Tamez

Looking to get started selling your wares on the internet? Here are some of the things that I found to be the most important when setting up my Etsy shop.

1. Packaging
For my Etsy shop, one of the most important things is the packaging of my product. Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten fancy boxes filled with tissue paper with beautifully wrapped and packaged goods. Those actually are my favorite kind of packages to receive, and I know which shops I can expect them from. When I opened my own Etsy shop, I knew that I too wanted to be a business that people could expect beautifully packaged, high quality, goods from. When I think about it, so many of the craft tools I have are geared toward creating multiple copies of custom designs. A screen printer, embroidery machine, laminators, all things I had in my crafting arsenal that I could really put to good use, and also hopefully recoup some of the money invested into these not so inexpensive tools.

2. Branding
Something that was really important to me when I decided on my packaging was having a way to connect any future brands I may possible concoct together. I knew I needed a logo, something simple, that would easily be recognized and associate itself directly with my product and also convey the high standard of quality you can expect from any of my goods. For me simplicity was the key, and I decided on a little hand-drawn honey bee cartoon. The bee was then put on all of the shipping boxes, digitized as an embroidery file for tote bags, and also screen printed on the little fabric tops to the jars of honey. Little name tags attached with just the right kind of twine, wrapping my tote bags in tissue, all things I think are just as important as the product they are decorating.

3. Choosing a Store Name
When it came for the actual name of my store, I figured the easiest way for people to know I was the main driving force behind these products was to use my name. In essence making myself part of the brand. Something I felt was important, as a crafter I want credit for my work. After all, it is me who is designing, creating, and executing all of these products to completion.

One of the reasons Etsy is so convenient is because it’s web based, and allows for people from all over to see and purchase your goods. It also requires very little maintenance, other than taking a profile picture, people like to know who they’re buying things from, and possibly creating a banner. Listing items is easy, over the course of few easy to follow web pages you: describe your item, set your shipping information, upload pictures and then create your listing.

4. Using Discount Codes
One of my favorite things about Etsy is the ability for the seller to create custom discount codes. Which really does boost sales. Especially if you have a facebook or blog page where you also promote your items. People really like to shop sales, it’s a well-known retail strategy. With Etsy, you can create a custom percentage off code, to give to any of your special friends or customers, who you think deserves a good deal. Even free shipping codes, should you happen to sell to someone local, or just feel like shipping things for free. There’s even a way for you to to have a virtual shop uploaded to your facebook page via an application called MyEtsy. It seems with Etsy the people running the website are actually trying to help their users find success.

5. Inventory
For me the hardest part about running a small time Etsy shop, is keeping my shop full. It’s not like there’s a torrent of people just running to get my products, but as things do sell out, sometimes with my busy schedule I find it’s difficult to make new items to replace them. Of course there’s no penalty for having an empty shop, other than not selling anything. But occasionally I do have a creative burst and am able to make quite a few different items for the shop. People do love to have more than one thing to look at. More items in your shop, will give a potential shopper a better idea of you, and what your style is. It could even get a client to ask you to custom make an awesome product you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

For me, Etsy was a great choice; it suits my lifestyle and makes it easy to sell my goods.

Are you currently an Etsy seller? Got any great tips YOU would like to share with our readers? Please add them to the Comments section of this article along with a link to your shop!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Alex Anderson’s 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool

Reported by Christian Tamez


Like many sewers, I am always on the lookout for things that will make my sewing projects look more professional and help me save time. Alex Anderson’s 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool is just that. Four essential tools all built into one hand-held application. What drew me to this one was the extra-long stiletto, a tool I had yet to have in my arsenal.

To begin with, this tool has two main components built into a wooden housing; a seam ripper on one end, and a stiletto on the other. Both the seam ripper and stiletto have differently shaped wooden caps and, when in place, these act as the two other tools, a flat-ended presser, and pointed wood end cap.

A stiletto is a long pointed tool that is used to protect your fingers when sewing or ironing. The stiletto was my favorite part of this tool; the handle seems to be ergonomically designed as it felt very nice in my hand. I started using the stiletto for all kinds of things, I would pull up hard to reach jump threads in embroidery designs, and easily trim them. It also served to keep my fingers safe from the needle of the sewing machine during some cutwork projects. I could foresee this being a very important tool in any applique projects that I may soon be starting.


The seam ripper is actually very sharp and the length and stabilization you get with the wooden handle make this a great tool for getting at thread nests underneath large embroidery hoops, without ruining your design. I actually had quite a few different seam rippers in my sewing box and this one is now my “go to.” This tool is very stable, and when you’re using the seam ripper you can guide the blade very nicely. That comes in handy when you’re doing a technique called “thread velvet” which calls for you to carefully slice only certain threads with a seam ripper on the embroidery design, leaving a velvety appearance.



The two wooden caps are interchangeable, and it seems they are the two lesser used tools. Being that the caps are removable you lose a bit of stabilization with these tools, which isn’t too big of a deal. On my particular tool the pointed cap was very loose and actually ended up falling off into the abyss of a sewing bag. I didn’t mind because this always left my stiletto free to be used. But the time came for a perfect use for the pointed endcap and I fished it out of the bag, and used it to push out all the corners on two pillow covers I had just finished for my sister. The shape of the pointed cap allowed it to beautifully fit into the corners and do a really fast job of turning them out.


Now I didn’t think I would have a use for the flat-ended presser until the day came where I laid out a large table linen project in my hallway and marked all over it with a water soluble pencil where I wanted the hem. It wasn’t until after I made the markings that I remembered you weren’t supposed to apply heat to water soluble pens or pencils lest you risk permanently setting the mark. This is where the flat-ended presser came in; I was able to use it to press all of the seams for my project, without any risk of heat setting the temporary pencil.


The 4-in-1 Essential sewing tool is definitely one of my favorite tools in my sewing box, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in adding any of these tools to your sewing collection!

Want to see this tool in action? I used it recently in a video for a cutwork project, jump to the 1:18 mark to see me use this tool; I also name drop this bad boy in part one of the same video at the 6:24 mark.

Pros:

  • Four tools built in to one saves space and time when sewing.
  • Ergonomic, felt great in my hand
  • Very stable tool to use; it did not flex or give when in use
  • Easy to remove and replace the caps

Cons:

  • On my tool the pointed cap kept falling off
  • Wasn’t available at my Joanns
  • Little bit of a rough edge on the flat ended presser – roughed up my linen a little bit.

Do you have a favorite handheld sewing tool? Like the idea of so many great things built into one? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!