I’ve always loved dragons, and so I don’t think there’s any surprise that you’re seeing one all over here. Here’s how I turned my spirit animal into something I can share, both online and in the real world!
Creating the Drake
I started with something in my head that was both clear to me, but difficult to describe. Thanks to the excellent work of Aetheory (@Aetheory_) on the recommendation of a friend, she created this adorable fellow:
As you can see, he is absolutely cute to the max! He’ll be representing all over, including on the tags and labelling for the projects I make.
Making it touch-able
If I want to put this (or any) icon on my projects, there are a few options that I have experimented with or considered:
- Print directly or use iron-on transfers, onto fabric or twill tape to make my own labels
- Use stamps to create labels
- Order labels, either as a Spoonflower fabric or custom label from another site
- Hand-stitch or hand-paint each label
- Machine embroidery
I will use a combination of various methods (please comment below if you have another technique), but for now my first one will be … drum roll please … machine embroidery! For more ideas and options, you can check out my Pinterest board Fabric Tags & Labels. I have tried a few of the options and I like printing directly on the fabric.
Digital image to embroidery file
Turning any digital file into something that can be stitched-out on an embroidery machine can be pretty overwhelming, even for experienced sewists and embroiderers. The program that I use is called SewArt. They have an amazingly generous trial that you could live with, but I purchased the software for the full experience, and it was far cheaper than the popular embroidery software on the market today. Although there is a steep learning curve, it can make some really good projects. If you are a home sewist and looking to convert your digital files to embroidery yourself occasionally, this is a great option.
I will go through the overview of stitching out only the Drake here, with the promise of more content specific to how I do it; there is not yet a lot of info on the SewArt program and I would love to contribute to a great software community for the home sewer!
1. Prepare the image file
As you can see, the original is far more detailed than the final stitched-out version. This is because of the shading and other details omitted in the stitch-out.
The first step is to tweak the image file. My go-to is Gimp 2 and old reliable Windows Paint. First I reduced the number of colours to 3: purple, black, and white, for two reasons:
- This will make it easier to identify any stitch-out issues along the process without fighting all nuanced colours. It also looks much better to have a simpler pattern file especially for the first attempts at a design.
- I had the trial version of SewArt which limits the number of colours in a stitchable file to 3. The full version is not restricted in number of colours available.
Below is what it looked like when I reduced the colours. Note that in the image it is purple, black, and green; this is to ensure that for my own sanity that I can tell exactly where colour is versus any graphic-editing mistakes. The SewArt program picks up each colour as a different stitch-out pattern in the sequence so I had to be very explicit on how many colours were included, especially tricky shading.
2. Convert the file to something stitch-able
Once the file was reduced, I imported it into SewArt. Trust me, that is more than what I can fit in here and deserves at least a series of posts on it. For now, I will share my biggest learnings about not just the SewArt program but also digitizing as well.
- Digitizing: Think about the order of operations. The first time I stitched it out I ended up with no defining lines! (see below)
- This is because the black line work overlaps the purple fill work, so when the purple is stitched after the black lines it gets mostly covered. Oops!
- Digitizing: be prepared to find one of your old, “small” USB drives. My sewing/embroidery machine takes USB but has limits on the total size of the drive as well as certain filesystem formats. The less-geeky summary is that you should check your embroidery machine’s manual for things like USB compatibility; most manuals can be found online with a quick search on the model name.
- SewArt: practice, practice, practice. I spent a good 5 hours playing with the software before I was ready to transfer the file to my machine for the first attempt. I have already done embroidery on this machine before so at least I’ve beat that level before attempting this one. For the kind of jobs I want to do, this program will serve my needs more than adequately and was well worth the price (less than $100!); however, it does have a very old-school interface and so you may have difficulty finding the name of what you are looking for (fill vs. line-work vs. redwork: what are those??). I’ve already picked a couple of features to try out when I can find a project for them.
- SewArt: Be sure you really do clean up the image to reduce extraneous colours. They will be picked up and cause multiplying problems. Even a shading that you can’t detect will be picked up, for example very dark grey and black would be identified as different colours and thus different stitch-outs in the sequence.
3. Transfer and stitch the file
Once you have your glorious .pes or .dst file clutched in your ancient USB dug from the dust and rubble of your box’o cables, you are ready to stitch that b*tch!
Seriously though, do whatever your sewing machine requires for importing or using an embroidery file from a USB. Once you have it imported and set up, you now can set up the hoop and stabilizer. As a general digitizing and machine embroidery tip, I recommend putting the stabilizer on both sides of light or fuzzy fabrics; it gives it a bit more stability and my results are always spectacular when doing so. I’ve also started doing this double-sided stabilizer technique on buttonholes and it gives similarly spectacular results.
File imported? Check.
Hooped and stabilized? Check.
Fresh needle? Check.
Threaded top and bottom? Check.
All systems are GO
Stitch it out and sit back, telling yourself that you’ll get up and get a coffee but you just stay in the seat watching all your efforts become reality in the fabric you can now hold and behold.
Fine Print, Call-outs, and Appendix
Equipment and materials
The equipment I used for this included:
- Brother Innov-Is 950D sewing and embroidery machine with the embroidery attachment set up
- SewArt program
- Gimp 2 or your preferred photo editing software
- Lightweight muslin for the base fabric
- Sulky wash-away stabilizer, one sheet on each side of the fabric
- Coats & Cotton embroidery threads from JoAnn
- Sewing machine needles appropriate to the fabric (in this case Universal size 80/12 or 90/14)
In the context of machine embroidery, the term digitizing simply means to make a file ready to be read by any machine that can stitch out the pattern. It is the process to take an original image file and convert it into the appropriate stitch file (.pes or .dst in my case).
Why did I recommend embroidery thread in the upper (needle) track and plain general purpose in the bobbin?
Because I always have I suppose. I’m not sure where I read or was told that, but I learned it that way in the beginning of learning machine embroidery and have always done it that way. I feel that it is a logical arrangement, especially since in most cases matching the bobbin to the fabric colour will serve most cases. If you have another, better way, please share in the comments!
Drake vs. Dragon?
Technically, “drake” can be a different creature from “dragon” depending on the mythology you subscribe to, and you’ll find different interpretations on the variants of “drake”, “dragon”, and “wyvern” (plus variants and cousins). Here though, I am using “drake”, thus, Drake Makes!
Everything I’ve said here is my own, and I was not given anything in return for my personal and honest opinions on any of the tools I used here, digital and otherwise. When I like (or dislike) something and share that, I try to be clear as to my reasoning, even if it is not shared by others.
Where did I go?
OK, two years is a little long, even I admit that. I have been scheming and dreaming in the meantime and I have so much to share as fast as my health allows! I have projects, plans, tutorials, streams and videos, and more in the works!