Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Category

Instagram Office Tour

A mini behind the scenes with Instagram on a busy Thursday afternoon at Urban Threads. Look closely and you might spot some sneak peek projects…

Diet coke runs this office. Small yetis don't hurt either.

That sign comes in useful sometimes.

A little sneak peek at a prototype of something... Shhh.

Stitchin' something brand new...

270 days.

Hallway art. And life motto.

All the pretty colors...

My cube wall.

After a long hard day


Hiding like a ninja.

Stitch samples

Sketches in the works...

Happy Thursday!



A little peek at my sketching process, for one of our upcoming March designs. What do you think?

Baroque Punk Behind the Scenes

If you guys loved our new Baroque Punk Blazer feature we shared on Friday (which you can check out in full here), today I’ve got a fun peek behind-the-scenes at the creation of this amazing jacket and the fun shoot that brought it to life. There were sit down meetings in coffee shops, color tests, late nights, oodles of texts send back and forth, zombie gnomes (I’ll explain), one big oops I managed to fix (see if you can spot it on the final jacket before I point it out!) and of course the fun of the final shoot.

Ready to take a peek? Let’s dive in…

While working on my initial designs, Laura and I were already in talks about the jacket. This sparrow design was maybe one of four done at this point, so we used it to mock up some color tests.

We had picked out a dye color on our first meeting, as she had decided she wanted to hand dye all our fabrics. We had initially thought our dye was going to come out more of a gray green, so when it came out a pale blue instead, we had to reevaluate our original color scheme.

Laura mailed me a swatch of hand dyed fabric, which I embroidered with three different brown/blue thread colors, to test out our new color ideas. When she got it back, she did a second test dye (you can see where there’s a darker are of color around the two right sparrows) to find out how the fabric and the embroidery thread would react.  The embroidery thread, being a rayon floss, took only the slightest hint of dye, which was perfect to pull all the colors together. Laura found some matching lining for the jacket, and some awesome buttons, and we had our colors.

It was time to start making the jacket.

A large packet of fabric arrived a day or so later, with all of it marked and dyed the first initial light blue pass. She had carefully marked on the fabric where the pattern for each piece was, so I could know where to put the embroidery to get it to lay right on the jacket.

The first embroidery I tackled was the roses high up on the shoulders. I took the same rose design, but in two sizes, and mirrored the smaller one to create a cascading effect. You can see left, is how I laid out my patterns, and right, the finished embroidery.

When laying out the second rose shoulder, I made by big mistake. I was loading and reloading many of the same files, and didn’t realize that my machine had kept the previous mirrored layout of one of our roses. In another classic example of machine embroidery mishaps, I made the other big mistake of leaving the room while your project is embroidering. Yup, even I still make this mistake. And trust me, I know better.

By the time I got back, the rose had embroidered itself sideways, and it was far enough along that there was no saving it. Alone in the studio, I tried my best impression of an angry sailor, then let it finish and stared at it dejectedly for a long time.

Sad Niamh.

Thankfully, the next day I remembered a key part of the jacket’s styling was this raw, layered effect. Laura and I had talked about the idea of countering the jackets modern, clearn styling with a raw tapestry of fabric strips, to really bring the texture of the jacket and the embroidery forward, as well as add a bit of punk to the mix. I had already layered a raw strip of fabric under the first rose…could I perhaps?

Yes I could!

I patched over the first rose, cut away the excess bulk underneath, then embroidered a brand new rose on top of it, in the right orientation this time. Crisis averted! You have to get creative with these things sometimes.

Here’s hoping that no one noticed when you looked at the blazer the first time. Right? Right.

I continued on with the sleeves, measuring downward to try to get the right placement with the pistols. Thankfully, these didn’t require any mirroring or fancy effects, but you can bet I was on my guard at this point.

The back of the jacket was a bit more experimental. I knew I wanted a cascade of designs, and I wanted a slight overlap, to create the impression of one large embroidered tapestry. I tried out all kinds of layouts, sending ideas back and forth to Laura. We finally settled on this one, featuring our sparrow, skull and the heart locket design. I got to work setting up my hoops.

Even on our big fancy industrial machines in back (we call this one Victor) these things take awhile, so I kept myself occupied by playing a little Plants and Zombies. It was also in part to keep myself distracted from the creepy banging noises our office makes at night when you’re alone in there. I tried going on our facebook page to get some comfort from the fans, and I was promptly told it was likely a serial killer, gnomes, zombies, or serial killer zombie gnomes, and I would likely die that evening. Great.

I went back to killing virtual zombies with cute plants and hoped that would dissuade any observing ceiling zombies that I was not to be trifled with. It appears to have worked.

Finally, the last of the embroidery was done. The pieces had all been laid out and layered on, and I had not left the room, embroidered something on sideways, or been eaten by zombie gnomes since. I packaged up the fabric and dropped it off to Laura the next day.

Laura took some lovely in-progress shots so you could see just how the jacket took shape. This is it before its second dye bath. You can see she’s attached the sleeves and started to shape the coat and lapels.

Once the main sewing on the coat was done, jacket, embroidery and all went in for a second dye. This helped darken the coat to bring it a deeper, grungier color, and pulled just a little of the blue dye into the brown embroidery, which worked beautifully to pull everything together and allow the colors to sit just right next to each other.

Here’s the coat after the second dye bath, starting to get some final touches to the collar and label. If you want to know just how crazy good Laura is at this stuff, this was pretty much done in a day.

Nearly done! Just some hems and some button work and the jacket is there.

A final shot of the back. The coat is completed, and Laura can finally go get some sleep for the big shoot the next day.

We all meet up over the weekend at the studio of Burt Edwards Photography. Laura is there with the jacket, and I meet our lovely model, Lucie Mulligan, who will be rocking our coat for this shoot. I had a blast modeling for our last project, but I find I’m much better behind the camera. Best to leave these things to the professionals these days, eh?

I brought back our rockstar stylist from our last shoot, Sara Capers, who made me look like a model, so I knew she had to be good. She got to work transforming our all-American beauty into the elegant punk she needed to be.

Many of you have been commenting on the hair, and I have to agree Sara did an absolutely amazing job. We were looking at everything from updos, warrior braids, mohawks, and ’50s greaser hairstyles, and she managed to pull all those ideas into one rocking hairstyle. You can see it in progress above.

Once everything was set, Lucie got to work looking hardcore and somehow still refined in that beautiful jacket, and Burt did an amazing job photographing it so all those lovely embroidery details wouldn’t get lost.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Want to see the full results? Check out the original post to see all the amazing photos and hear the inspiration behind this new embroidery series. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into all the hard work and talent that went into bringing this project to life!


Mini Mailbag Mayhem: The Gift That Keeps On Stitching

Hi all! I’ve been seeing a few questions about Urban Threads gift certificates, so her are some answers … plus an extra little sump’n you might like if that’s what your loved one will be getting under the tree this year.

Yes, we most certainly do have ‘em! You can order Urban Threads gift certificates right here. When you do, an email with the gift certificate code will be automatically emailed to the recipient right away.

If you want to buy a gift certificate now but keep it a secret until later, you can enter your own email address as the recipient. Then you’ll get the gift certificate code, which you may in turn present to your favorite stitcher when, where, and how you please. There’s even a pretty printable gift certificate that you can print out and write the code and value on if you like.

As always, if you’ve got any questions, just drop us a note!

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!