Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Category

Mailbag Mayhem: A Stitch Is Like a Hug

Welcome to a brand new, no-promises-as-to-regularity blog series: Mailbag Mayhem! Sometimes a note comes in that I really want to share with all of you … a question that gets asked over and over again, or a particularly charming comment, or what-have-you. This space will hold the greatest hits of the Urban Threads inbox. Education! Outrage! Hilarity! You’ll find it all here. Well, mostly education in this post. One thing at a time.

Today’s topic is shifting and gapping of machine embroidery designs. It’s by far the most common “help it’s stitching funny” question I get, so it seemed an apt inaugural post. Let’s say you just bought an embroidery design, and you’re about to stitch it on something. This shark looks nifty on the site…

But when you go to stitch it out, everything goes awry. Slightly condensed from a recent email:

The last two designs I have tried to use have not lined up properly. The first one is the Ace of Spades w/flames. The bottom right corner of the card (where it sort of flips up) was off. I did it on a shirt for my 10 year old grandson, and he really doesn’t care about it. Then today I tried to do another shirt for him with the Shark. It is a complete mess!! The eye and teeth are too high and get covered by the blue/green of the shark’s body. From there it goes downhill. I kept working on it, thinking it may “fix” itself, but no luck. I finally just gave up. Can you give me any ideas as to how to fix these problems? I love love love the stuff on your site, and hope you can give some suggestions so I can keep using your designs. … My grandson loved the ace of spades (he didn’t notice the flaw), and he keeps asking me when I’ll have his shark shirt done.

And indeed it was a complete mess. Some of the stitching landed where it shouldn’t, leaving all kinds of gaps and general chaos in the design.

I asked a couple follow-up questions:

What kind of fabric? (T-shirt knit.)

What kind of stabilizer? (Water-soluble on top and bottom.)

Culprit found.

Thing is, a stitch is like a hug. It squeezes the fabric together a little bit. When you’re working with tens of thousands stitches … well, that’s a lot of hugs, and they can make the embroidered fabric shrink up a bit. This can, in turn, make the fabric within the embroidery hoop shift around a little bit, causing parts of the design to line up oddly. Stabilizer is meant to prevent this. But different kinds of stabilizer work in different ways:

Cutaway stabilizer is the stablest stabilizer, and it’s what I recommend almost all of the time. The fibers do not come apart or break down easily — try tearing some and you’ll see what I mean. Stick it to the back of your fabric with a bit of temporary spray adhesive for even more stability. Don’t like the stabilizer edges on the inside of your shirt? For small or lightweight designs, sheer cutaway stabilizers like Sulky Soft ‘n Sheer or Floriani No Show Mesh are a softer option.

Tearaway stabilizer looks a lot like cutaway, maybe even more paperlike. It’s meant to tear away after the design is done, so the fibers come apart easily. Tens of thousands of needle perforations tend to help that process along. Yes, there are some instances where it’s a perfectly decent choice … a very light-stitching design on a tea towel comes to mind. But for a solid stitch-filled design, or anything on a knit, I’d stick with cutaway.

Water-soluble stabilizer can look either like a clear plastic sheet, or a white mesh similar to a tearaway. Like the name says, when you get it wet, it dissolves. I use it for freestanding lace and as a topping on fabrics with a pile, like terrycloth.

Different people will give you different advice on what stabilizer to use when, and passions seem to run high on the matter. This is what we’ve found tends to work. Take it for what you will.

After a second try with cutaway stabilizer, the embroidery looked much better:

And the shirt made a sharkalicious gift.

How have you solved shifting and gapping problems? Leave a note in the comments!

And remember … if you’ve got a question, just drop us a note!

Halloween at Home

Given that I am a first class Halloween nut, or at least profess to be all the time, I thought I’d offer a little bit of proof by giving you a little peek at Halloween at home with some of the Urban Threads crew.

Welcome to my haunt!

If you ever had a dying curiosity to know what the Crane Wife looked like under blacklight, well there she is in all her glowing glory, hung up on my wall at home. Some of our party guests thought it was just a really involved Halloween decoration. I assured them I’m that weird year round, and it was in fact an art piece.

Some spooky signs I taped over some of our framed prints. Plus a peek at my crazy bunnies collection at home. I think they’ve outgrown that shelf, to be honest.

A lineup of some of the yummies we had at the party, complete with my glowing masks collection.

Recognize the banner? You should, you can learn how to make it.

Finally, I have all kinds of excuses as to why my steampunk windup doll isn’t nearly at the level of awesome as our Featured Project, mostly because I was somewhat distracted by another costume project this month, but really, there should be no excuses.

It was still fun to put together, if a bit rushed at the last minute. Btw, the tights and arm warmers were made with a variation on the tattoo tights tutorial.

My husbands costume was extra rushed, as I was at least weird enough to have a lot of my costume parts already from other costume adventures (that’s my bodice from my wedding!)

His however was made from a thrift store leather jacket, two costume hats put together, and a whole lot of hot glue and duct tape. He’s a steampunk tin solider. He was a very good sport about it.

I also had the good fortune to go visit another Urban Threadsters house before their party (which I actually missed, boo!) and I got some amazing shots of the decor. Yup, we’re all Halloween nuts around here.

The general theme of this party was kind of a dark nature thing. I loved it!

Recognize this design? I think it fits right in with the theme. It was made into a wall hanging using this tutorial.

Finally, our digitizer Danielle (who was an eskimo, to match her yeti husband pictured back left) would like to jump in before we leave and say goodbye. She likes to be subtle about these things.

We had a blast this weekend rockin’ the night away in howling good fashion. I hope you had an equally spooky weekend, the real action starts tomorrow night!

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Warm weather doesn’t last all that long around here in Minnesota, so we have to take advantage of it when we can. You know what that means…

Skip out on work and have a picnic! Aww yeah.

By the way, that’s what happens when we raid the Embroidery Library projects bin and find all the cookout gear…

So, this afternoon our whole gang, Urban Threadsters and Embroidery Library peeps alike brought some yummy home cooked food and rocked it outside. There were also some epic battles fought over with lawn games.

Hope you all have a good weekend everyone! And don’t forget to get outside and enjoy it while it’s still warm…

Autumn is on its way!

Rescue Response

Ever since we launched this “Pay It Forward” design and idea, we have been touched and blown away by the response and stories we’ve gotten from you. It seems for a lot of you rescue animals are as near and dear to your hearts as anything. From stories of rescues who now rule the roost, to loved pets who have passed on, you’ve shared your comments on the four legged animals who make our lives a little bit more special.

You’ve also taken on the “Pay it Forward” cause valiantly, and pets around the world are sporting new bandannas and shelters are receiving beds and blankets, all because of you! It really is inspiring to see what good just a few people in the world can do with their crafty skills.

Take a peek at a few of the inspiring pups and projects that have shown up as part of the contest…

Sadie 3

july192011 410

Pearl TShirt Full




Urban Contest

These are just a few of the images and entries we’ve received. If you want to see them all, scroll down to the bottom of the post for a flickr gallery of everyone’s entries!

Of course, you guys aren’t the only ones with rescued furballs around. I thought this would be a fun time to share some of the rescued pets from the team at Urban Threads.

You of course all saw my furball from the original post, Keefer, who passed away a few years ago.

Well, it may be pooches that are showing up in droves in the contest, but around here kitties are boss.

This is Karline’s little rescue kitty Socks, who even made a guest appearance on one of our tutorials.

We also have a new artist around here named Caitlin, who predominantly works on Embroidery Library designs, but has tried her hand at a few UT things too! She has a couple rescue kitties. Trixie is on the left, and Lars on the right, who was rescued as a kitten.

You know how they say pets start to resemble their owners after a time? Well, I’ll give you three guesses as to who this neurotic kitty belongs to, but you should only need one…

That is of course Danielle’s cat Nova, and kitty is just about as strange as her owner. In the best way possible of course.  She looks like she’s been caught in a scandalous embrace with Darth, there.

The newest addition to UT’s furry team is a kitty Taylor just adopted from the same shelter I visited with the pups! This is Tootsie, and she seems to be taking to  her new space just fine. Isn’t she pretty?

So, rescue animals, and all pets for that matter, are clearly a big part of life for crafters, even us! It’s fun now and then to do a little something special to bring them into our hobbies, especially when they try so hard on their own by you know, stealing your fabric stash. Or using that new quilt you made as a doggie bed. Might as well show them a little crafty love, right?

Are you still working on your rescue entry? Hurry, you still have time!

Upload your images to our flickr group or e-mail them in to by Sunday the 28th at midnight for your chance to win a $50 gift certificate for your good deeds! Even if you’re just in progress with something, send us a photo of whatever effort you’re working on, and you’ll be entered for your efforts.

Want to see all the entries thus far? Check out this flickr slideshow! And thank you to all who have taken part to make the lives of rescue animals just a little bit better!

A Package…

A package arrived today.

with something rather special inside…

Hmm… where have we seen the likes of this awesome before?

Oh yes..

The Indelible Mr. Gear has sent us a present!

I thought I’d try them on.

Nope. Still not as cool as Marty. One day...

I love my new glasses.

Apparently I think I'm Blade.

In fact, I was not the only one who was a fan. Word got around the office, and soon everyone wanted in.

The hat is a nice touch

Danielle, resident digitizer and gothic queen.

Taylor, fellow artist rockin’ the double shades look.

Colman, our “Master of Skulls,” just had to try them on.

With Calcium!

Erm… our uh, in-office animal cracker consultant?

OK, this is just getting silly…

And let’s be honest.

Nobody wears them quite like Marty.

Thanks so much Mr. Gear! We will (squabble, fight, steal them back and forth, put them on our toys, and wear them) with pride. Want to know a little more about that awesome guy above? Check out his original featured project post. And know that nobody, really, will ever be able to rock them like Marty Gear.

The Instant Design Generator

One great thing I really love about working at Urban Threads is that everyone on the team is always trying to think of new and more innovative ideas for us to try. Themes and styles come from all over and combine in crazy weird ways to bring you exciting and sometimes slightly bonkers new designs. Sometimes, though, our brains just can’t cope with all the possible awesome combinations.

Like on Fridays. After lunch. When all you really want is a nap but what you really need is an idea. You know those days.

Lucky for us, we have a super secret, ultra high tech way of creating new bestselling designs, and today dear readers, we’re going to share our secret with you. Try and contain yourselves, because I present to you…

The Instant Design Generator!!

Behold the Awesome.

Pretty high tech, hu? Those are the best post-it notes money can buy. Or lunch money can buy. Same thing usually.

So how did this start? One enterprising day at lunch, we got into a great conversation about this little video, or what the design world calls “Put A Bird On It!”. Despite the fact that it made the design world cringe and look a little sheepish for awhile, we are not beyond putting birds on things. We’re not too proud to admit it. Nor should you, really, since you guys are the ones buying the birds and presumably, putting them on things.

C’mon, raise your hand if you’ve put a bird on something.

You at the back. Put that hand up.

We also have another phrase around here at the office. It’s called “Put A Gear On It”, and it generally refers to our penchant for making anything and everything Steampunk. If you haven’t noticed, we’ll try steampunk-ing just about anything around here, and to be honest, you guys are to blame. Just when we think we’ve run out of things to steampunk, you always come along and come up with something to add gears to that we never would of thought of.

It’s one of the many reasons we love you guys. You’re just as crazy as we are.

So… put a bird on it… put a gear on it.. what other possibilities exist in the exciting world of design? We set about one lunch break to find out…

I'm a dedicated fan that everything should one day be zombie-ified.

It was just too much fun once we started out. We had two categories: one was random objects and things, the other, stylizations for those things.

Everyone chipped in! Granted, after too long, things started to get weird, and suggestions more and more bizarre. We drew the line at “LOL-cat-ifying” everything for humanities sake. Still, we had faith in our newfangled design generator!

We were sure it would produce glorious things, and we could all take the day off and go eat cupcakes, and soon we’d all be rich and living on yachts. Or something. We might have been a little fuzzy on the details at that point. Too much Red Bull combined with illusions of grandeur might not have been a good match.

So, once everything was written down and sorted accordingly, we arrive at our marvel of engineering, worth I think, a second look:

Notice the quality of craftsmanship, once again. We're schmancy around here.

Let’s try it out…

What has our splendiferous machine produced? Nothing but solid gold bestsellers I assume…

Erm.. hmm. Let’s translate these, shall we?

Gold, surely! Nothing but class all the way. Who wouldn’t want to buy cross stitched bacon?

So, let us test to see how well a few of our ideas translate…

Yup, there they are, in all their glory!

Oh, ok, so the steampunk lolly could use a little work, and I’m not sure Chuck has reached the right level of awesomeness, but I’ m sure there are solid ideas in there somewhere. Perhaps. Maybe.


Ok ok, so the machine needs a little tweaking. But I’m SURE one day, probably after lunch, when I’m out of sugar free Red Bull and in need of an idea, this thing is going to produce sheer awesome-sauce.

You be ready for it…

BTW… any contributing ideas and/or themes? Feel free to submit styles and stuff in the comments (“give it goggles”/ferrets!), and I’ll write them down and add them to the generator.

Together people, we will build the ultimate machine. First embroidery… then, the world!


**I might have had Red Bull today…

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Every once in awhile, you have to try something new.

Not just new. Something new and exciting and maybe more than a little bit terrifying. But it’s good to do because it pushes you to try new things and see just what you can do with yourself. So in going outside of my comfort zone, this post has nothing to do with embroidery, but does feature a lot of mud.

Pictured: a lot of mud. And maybe some people.

That’s the gang of us after completing a 5k obstacle course called Warrior Dash, in MN. I’ll mention here that I do not run 5k’s. Ever. Normal people who do try 5k’s for the first time usually pick one with less obstacles. And fire. And mud.

Oh, and they don’t usually run them in floofy tutu skirts.

Pictured: a lot of floof. And some skirts. But no mud!

Here’s Danielle and I (our resident crazy digitizer) all prestine and pretty ready to run our race.

aannnd here’s the after….

That’s D and I afterwards with our respective (and crazy) hubbies. Did I mention there was mud?

By the way, I will note that the whole outfit thing started innocently enough. We were all going to wear red/pink. And then D found a crazy 80′s pink floofy prom dress at a thift store. And then she found a red tutu. And then one thing led to another and somehow I was jumping over fire and climbing rope nets in a tutu.

These things happen sometimes.

I suppose as long as you’re trying the whole “new” thing, you might as well add “wearing a tutu while trying to rappel down a giant wall next to a guy dressed as a viking”. Yeah pretty sure I haven’t done that one before.

And you know what? It was awesome. Sometimes, it’s a little thing like trying something you didn’t think you could do, and seeing that actually, you can. And it’s damn fun. And it makes you think…what other crazy things could I try? Maybe even like crazy embroidery things?

Well, the gals at Urban Threads are inspired to try, that’s for sure.

Just maybe this time we’ll skip the tutus.