Thursday, October 04, 2018

TUTORIAL - Design Your Own Labels for Tea Towels to Print On Spoonflower

I have been designing fabric for my Kristin Nicholas Tea Towel Collection for the past 3 years. I sell them around the holidays and sometimes on-line. The first year I designed, sewed and sold them, it was an experiment. It went okay so last year I designed a few new fabrics. Those did well and I was able to offer the leftovers on-line. This year, I have been designing more fabrics and I am really excited about the new designs - more on them to come. 

I knew that I needed to put care instruction labels on the tea towels to be proper. Labels are also a good way to have an "identity." I started looking around on-line to see if there were any labels available cheaply with the proper fiber content and washing instructions. I couldn't find anything and really didn't want to order thousands of ugly little non-woven fabric labels. 

After wasting time looking around and checking with some label companies, I decided to design some myself and have them printed at Spoonflower - the place that prints the fabric for my Tea Towels. Once I made that decision, it didn't take me long to get the design together. I cut and folded some fabric to decide on sizing and then opened up Adobe Illustrator. (I could have also done this in Photoshop, but I am a little quicker with Illustrator.)  At the end of this post, I have a JPEG template you can use if you want to make a similar label to have printed for items you sew. 

I knew I wanted the label to have no raw edges. I wanted to slip the label into the hem quickly as I sew. 

Here are what the labels look like on the tea towels. 

Here is the backside showing care instructions and country of origin. 

Here is the fabric I had printed. The digital file I built was 6 labels up in 5 different colors - 2 labels in off-white, then yellow, chartreuse, turquoise and orange. Having different colors would make the labels easier to cut. I also added black cutting lines to make it even easier for me to cut the fabric. 

I purchased 1 yard of the basic cotton and my design yielded 192 labels. The per label cost was 7 cents per label (not including shipping - I ordered during one of their Free Shipping Promos). Next time I order, I may change the black box lines to something lighter but I am pretty happy with them. 

Here is my process for readying the labels to set into the Tea Towel seams. 

Step 1: Use a rotary cutter and cut a vertical strip of labels. 

Step 2: Using a steam iron, turn under each long side of the label strips by 1/4" and iron. No need to sew the seam down - a real timesaver. 

Step 3: Cut the labels apart. I use scissors because they are quicker on the small pieces. 

Step 4: Fold the pressed labels in half with the long sides touching, wrong sides together and seams inside. 

Here are my piles of labels sorted by color - ready to go into the Tea Towel seams. You can also see the backside with the care instructions and fiber content at the bottom of the photo. 

Here is a jpeg file which you can use as a guide for designing your own labels. This is my one color version. You can print them in as many colors as you want depending on how you design your digital file. Make sure your file is 150 ppi (pixels per inch) as that is what Spoonflower prints at. 

I have been sewing a batch of the Tea Towels and the labels work perfectly. I barely have to slow down as I slip the label under the hem and attach it onto the tea towel. I think they look pretty good. Maybe next time I will try a different one of the Spoonflower substrate fabrics but for now, I have 192 labels to make 192 Tea Towels complete with my own logo.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Coming to the End + Square One

Summer is starting to feel like early autumn. My garden is starting to look a little tired with plants falling all over the place. We have had a lot of rain -- hence the plants all over the ground -- but it looks like it is going to be a beautiful fall weekend. I will be at the Amherst Farmers Market selling our farm raised lamb and my linen/cotton tea towels. 

The critters are starting to eat the mature sunflower heads. I'm still picking lots of flowers for bouquets and to keep the flowers coming. I have learned that the more you pick - especially zinnias -- the more blooms that keep coming. And so I pick and pick and pick. 

Last week, The Farmer had to have more surgery to repair a torn hip muscle due to a fall after his hip replacement surgery. This is a set back we/he/I really didn't need but he is fortunate it could be repaired. We aren't exactly back to total Square One and hopefully it won't take as long to recover - considering he wasn't even recovered from the first surgery in mid-July. It was lucky that I had called my third retreat off because this surgery came up very quickly and would have been the day before that Retreat started. He was hoping to have his other hip replaced this year but I don't think that will happen with winter closing in and lambing in January. Looks like another year of surgery and fewer animals. It makes me think about a large percentage of the farmers who have fed people over the years who are growing older and less nimble. Are there enough young farmers interested in keeping livestock and growing crops to feed the population that continues to move to the cities and suburbs. Do those people who shop at grocery stores ever really think about the person and people behind the veggies (fresh, canned, and frozen) and meat wrapped in plastic wrap placed on styrofoam trays? What if it all went away? What would they do? 

I have been cutting, ironing, sewing, and ironing lots of my linen/cotton tea towels for upcoming holiday sales. It is a bit mindless and somewhat boring but I have been enjoying watching the PBS series The Durrell's on Amazon Prime. Season 3 starts this weekend and I hope to get up to speed so I can enjoy it in real time. This is the third time I have watched a version of the "Our Family and Other Animals" by Gerald Durrell. There was a series in the 80's here, then another  BBC tv show from 2005 here

Back in the 80's (I think) Mark and I went to the Isle of Jersey off the coast of the UK. We stumbled upon the Jersey Zoo which was founded by Gerald Durrell, the author of the book Our Family and Other Animals. It was a curious place which we knew nothing of. So cool to think that was my introduction to Gerald's books. If you ever get to Jersey, visit the Zoo. More information here on the Zoo and here on the Durrell Wildlife and Conservation Trust. Once I got back to the States I found old copies of Durrell's books and read all three which they call the Corfu Trilogy. I think I may read them again..... if I can find the time. 

As an author, I really do marvel at the longevity of these Gerald Durrell books - especially My Family and Other Animals which has been continuously in print since 1956. The stories are simple and fun and chaotic - about family and animals and people. I wonder if Gerald Durrell ever got tired of talking about the books because he had moved on. But then to have the good fortune to have written a book that lasted for decades and decades and gave him the ability to build and fund his own zoo. That is really remarkable. 

Speaking of animals, we have kittens. Our calico cat Fiona has a gorgeous litter of 6 babies - all of them different colors. We are having a fun time socializing them and figuring out all their little personalities. Just this week they have become lap cats and each evening you can find the three of us watching tv covered in kittens. What a lovely way to spend an evening. Soon they won't be as interested in us anymore as they will be more into exploring their legs and batting each other around but for this week, we are in kitten heaven. 

I hope you all are enjoying the end of summer. It sure has flown by. Looking forward to the autumn colors but not so much to the cold. We are short of wood this year and Mark can't do anything to help out that situation. Fingers crossed I can find some so I can keep the woodstove going for those cold winter evenings. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Paisley Crewel Embroidered Pillow Project

I want to share a project I have been working on for a while...... a Crewel Embroidered Paisley Pillow. This was a super fun project to make. 

Here is a close-up.

It is a variation on a different Paisley Crewelwork Project that I shared here and here

I used a royal blue fabric paint and the cornflower blue linen fabric I sell on my website hereTo begin, I printed the paisley shapes following instructions in my new book Crafting A Patterned Home

Then I collected some odds and ends of blues and green crewel wool colors. I designed the pillow to go on my sister's new screened in porch. I also made a second pillow - in a bit simpler design that I will share soon. 

I used embroidery stitches that are found in my PDF downloadable pattern Circles Sampler Pillow Pattern. You can purchase that here. You can also find many of the stitches in my book Colorful Stitchery

I love the free-form quality of Crewel Embroidery. Each paisley motif can be treated differently - a small experiment in color and design and stitch combinations. Here are some close-ups of the different paisley motifs that I stitched. 

Hope you try some Crewel Embroidery too this fall. I have many Crewel Wool Embroidery supplies available on my website and you can taken an on-line class called Stitch It with Wool on the BluPrint and Craftsy websites. Getting into Crewel Embroidery is very reasonable - all you need is some linen fabric, wool thread, needle and a hoop. And it will bring you hours of enjoyable time creating. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Second Time Around the Garden - Sunflowers - Late Summer 2018

I hope you all have been enjoying the changing light that these shortening days September are bringing. We have had lots of rain, lots of heat, and now some more seasonable days. The garden is actually winding down and after last week's massive rains, many of the plants - including the sunflowers have toppled over. 

Luckily I took these photos before the rains came and so I can share them with you today. Soon we will be looking at falling leaves, changing autumn colors and then gray November. It's good to have a record of each garden season here at the farm and this blog has served a great record keeping space for me. 

I hope you enjoy all the colors of the late summer garden. Have a great week ahead everyone! 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Making Lemonade out of Lemons in the Garden

A couple years ago, when I was working on my last book, I had a big oooooopsy with a small pot of paint -- spilling a big stripe down the outside of the shed. You might remember it. I tried to correct the color and because the shed was painted with a stain many years ago, I couldn't quite get the stripe right. I guess I could have but I had other things to do and knew that for the photo in the book, there was always Photoshop! 

This year, as I was planning my garden, I thought about how I could cover up that unsightly stripe. I decided to grow morning glories as they make a nice vertical carpet of flowers and leaves. I planted a piece of woven wire next to the shed and then stuck in some multi colored morning glories. And then I waited. 

Here is what the shed looks like now with the morning glories. I love it. I planned to put a string up to the top of the roof so they went totally crazy but never got to it. Maybe next year. 

Here is an overall shot of the veggie/flower garden in its wild, end of season state. I love all the haphazardness of the plants and blooms falling every which way.

Here are some of the flowers I grew - for bouquets and just for color and their beauty. 

I follow the Floret Flower Blog and watched some videos early in the year that suggested pinching back various plants. She suggested pinching celosia, zinnias, amaranth, snapdragons and cosmos. I decided to take her advice. I can't say I will do it again though. The zinnias did okay and branched out beautifully after an application of Azomite. I have 12 cosmos plants that are huge but only 2 have flowers. Lots of greenery but no flowers. The celosia were set back big time by the pinching and now are just taking off. The snapdragons are a mess - I think that is because of all the moisture and rain. I don't know if I will grow them again. So next year I think I will only pinch the zinnias and just let the others go. 

On a good note - I grew butternut squash and have a bumper crop. Our summer squash and zucchini plants fed us nightly for at least a month and a half. 

I guess the failure of each garden is part of the fun and what keeps gardening interesting. What do you think? I know the weather and the soil has so much to do with it but then there's what you do to the plants. I always start my garden so late but that's what I like to do. I am never too anxious to put stuff in the ground because of frost and because of things I have going on. 

If you are a gardener and have the time, share what were your successes or failures this year in the comments. Pretty soon it will be all over and we will be waiting to begin again.