Friday, April 26, 2013

Wisteria Eye Candy

It's obviously spring in our front yard. The wisteria is awake!
I think we got a little burned out on working on the house. We've been working on this project pretty steadily for 2 years and I guess we can deal with some time off.

We're still goofing off except for things like laundry, dishes and cooking — boring stuff. I've gotten hooked on Grey's Anatomy. Jeff is still really enjoying his computer game, Forge of Empires. It's looking like this might not be such a productive spring.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

More Bedroom Stencilling

I finally finished stenciling the rest of the linen furnishings for the master bedroom this morning. I'm pretty excited.

I made two dresser scarves and a small curtain for the closet. I went ahead and used the iris stencil I already had. It would have been really cool to make my own, but we all know how those attempts went . . .
I figured I may as well just put them in place to dry since they won't really be in the way. And it's probably safer than having them lying around on a table. They could all use some ironing, but I don't dare iron them until they've dried for a week.

The closet door has a window because that space was originally a screened-in sleeping porch. The Leonard family enclosed it into a sun room and then we converted it into a closet. We probably should have replaced the door to match the rest of the bedrooms, but it seemed like a pretty optional expense so we've left it. (Who knows, maybe the next owner will want to turn it back into an open porch.)
I'm still trying to decide how to proceed with the dining room runners. I'll probably "etch" the stencil design onto mylar with the cameo, and then try going over it with a razor blade to release the pieces. Hopefully it will work and look better than the stencil I cut by hand.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stupid computer games . . .

Jeff and I must have been channeling our inner teenager for the last couple of weeks because we managed to get totally distracted by an online computer game. The time just sort of slipped by and we barely noticed. But last Friday I looked up the date we started and was shocked to realize how much time we had wasted!

Partly, I think we were feeling really overwhelmed by it all and it was easy to go tuck our heads into our computers and ignore all the other stuff. So, I decided it was time for some project rescheduling. I still want to get many of the same projects done this year, but I'm trying to be more realistic about our abilities to actually finish them before summer.

I think we have finally gotten our act together and progress on our lists should resume. Right now we're focusing on small projects.

Jeff went to storage and brought home a car-full of boxes of art (which wasn't all of them). Geez, we have a lot of art. We obviously had a lot of wall space in our big house and we probably have about 3 times as much as will fit in this house; we'll probably have to get rid of a lot of it. We're still trying to sift through it all to figure out which pictures will get to stay and where they go. (I hate this part of downsizing.)

Today I finally made curtains for our master bathroom. This is one of those "why didn't I do this sooner" projects. It really only took me a few hours and most of the time was sitting around sewing on rings.

I didn't like the old curtains because they were faded polka dot and didn't really seem like they were designed for these windows since they were about 4 inches too long. And they didn't open and close very well because the casing was very bulky on the rod.
This is pretty much the only before picture I can find but it's not very good because it is backlit.

This is what the new curtains look like. The fabric I used is a William Morris design done in bright colors. I've sewn on rings so the curtains will actually open and close, unlike the old ones. They're cheery and bright and I like them.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Domain Hiccups

Some of you may have noticed; I bought a new domain name.

I decided to go ahead and continue to use blogger because I'm not quite prepared to use and maintain my own domain (yet). The transition has not been without its hiccups, however; donaleen pointed out earlier my "Blogs I Follow" list was missing. Oops. I don't know why that happened.

I've been working to reconstruct it, but I don't recall exactly which blogs I had on there. In reality, I follow many more blogs than I show on the sidebar. If I have dropped your blog it was unintentional and there was no slight intended. Just leave me a comment below.

Cutting Applique Patterns

So I am done ranting about my new Silhouette Cameo. It is very good at what it does, and what it does is cut paper products. So I'm trying to figure out if I can still accomplish at least part of what I was hoping to do with this machine.

I have quite a few applique projects I would like to make. The first one I am hoping to make is a cushion design I found in a 1902 book on "Progressive Design." I think I'm going to start with the one on the top right.
Before my experiments with cutting fabric, I had gone through and imported the design into the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition software. In this example, it actually worked best to size the cushion design up to the finished measurement (16"x16") and then manually draw around the shapes to make the pieces.
I'm only going to make one set; I'll just repeat the pieces 4 times for the pillow.

Then I found the software had a really great offset tool, so I could easily have the program add the 1/4" seam allowance.
Then I went through and arranged the pieces on two separate sheets. The smaller pieces I'm going to have the Cameo "etch" on the mylar and then I'll go over it with a cutter to separate the pieces. The second sheet, with the larger pieces, I'm going to cut out of cardstock and I'll use them as pattern pieces to trace onto the fabric.
I don't actually need the mylar pieces, but I was thinking it would be so much easier to iron over the 1/4" seam allowance if I can fold the fabric edges around the smaller mylar piece. And ironing first will make it much easier to sew these pieces down on the background fabric.

(A couple days later) Done!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Silhouette Cameo Fabric Cutting Tests

So, I've been trying to figure out what I can use this Silhouette Cameo for. The box claims it will cut fabric.
I have a bunch of applique projects I'd like to make, so my next test was cutting fabric. The paper manual that comes with the unit does not tell you how to cut fabric, but it does mention being able to cut canvas, so I had to go google searching.

I'd really like to make my projects with linen—as they did in period—so I started with a linen scrap. I will say, for this project, the super aggressive sticky mat was useful, but it still wasn't quite enough to keep the fabric in place.

I tested the linen three times with different settings; it didn't work. This was the most successful test.
It did score the fabric, so if I was desperate I could finish the cuts with scissors. Admittedly, I didn't really expect the linen to work, so I wasn't surprised when it didn't.

Next I tried cotton fabric, which they do specifically claim the Cameo will cut. That went better, but it still didn't work very well. (And yes, I did use a brand new fabric blade; not one I dulled trying to cut mylar.)
That piece missing originally looked scored like the other two ovals; I took my embroidery scissors and snipped the piece out.

Again, when you dig deeper, you find out in order to actually be able to cut fabric, you have to buy their Clean Cut Fabric Interfacing and first apply it to the fabric. The cost: $8 for a 36"x17" piece. So, if I was doing a large project—like a queen size iris quilt—this would add more than $16 a yard to the material cost.

And, I don't particularly want a permanent interfacing on the back of the fabric. I need to be able to turn under 1/4" around the edges to sew down the piece. Though, I have not purchased the $8 fabric interfacing Silhouette sells; maybe once you're done cutting the fabric it will remove easily. I don't know. I'm getting so I don't care enough to try and figure it out.

So, there you have it. The Silhouette Cameo is not a magic machine that cuts fabric and reusable stencils. If you want to cut paper products and one-use stencils (and are willing to pay their high cost for their vinyl), it is an amazing tool! Mylar or fabric, not so much.

This stupid thing could very well end up on craigslist shortly. I am so disappointed about wasting more than $300 (including the software upgrade) on it.

And I'm sorry about the rant for folks who have NO interest in this machine. I'm mostly frustrated because I spent so many hours researching this before I bought it, but the information just isn't out there about what exactly it would and would not cut, so I felt a need to share my results which differed so much from those implied in other websites and chat forums. Maybe I can spare some future person from the disappointment.

Update later: I have had somebody tell me that I should have done more research before trying to cut fabric. Well, I'm not sure what further research they wanted me to do. I read the manual that came with the machine and it did NOT provide any information on cutting fabric nor did the Cameo website. Why should I rely on other bloggers to tell me how to use it? How am I to know which folks got their machines for free and are therefore biased? I am not in the business of selling Cameos, so I do not apologize that I might be harming their sales by advertising my failure to get their machine to work. If they'd like me to remove these posts, then they can take my machine back and refund all of the money I wasted on it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Silhouette Cameo Won't Cut Mylar

So I spent a good part of tonight combing through the Silhouette Cameo user manual. I think I can now pretty much say it won't cut mylar stencils, but the information you need to know this is not available until you actually buy the machine. So now I feel like it's my job to make the information available for other folks considering this unit.

The user manual says, ". . . the Silhouette can cut [with] up to 230 grams force." (This manual is available with the software, so you don't have access to it until you buy the unit. I even went to the Silhouette website and searched around for different search terms to find it; I failed.)

I dug around for a while tonight for information about the force needed to cut the different thicknesses of mylar.

One material recommended for stencils is a paper-backed mylar so you can feed in the plastic without the cutting mat. There is a seller selling the stuff on eBay. Its description says, "Clear-Cut 5B™ is a 5 mil clear Mylar® polyester stencil material on a heavy kraft backing with BR-3 adhesive. . . Requires a minimal 350 grams of down force."

So, it is not surprising that my attempts only etched the mylar.

So, there you have it, the Cameo will not cut reusable stencil mylar (5 to 7 mil or thicker). It would have been great to know this before I bought it, but at least now I can provide a service and help others avoid the wasted money if what you want to do is cut reusable mylar stencils at a reasonable cost.

I guess I need to explore some of the other thinner quilting plastic options suggested. And I should still be able to use it to cut fabric. But I am now very disappointed with this purchase.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Silhouette Cameo Stencil Fail

After very many failed attempts, I have nearly come to the conclusion my new Silhouette Cameo will etch mylar, but not cut it.

Today, I first tried feeding in the mylar by itself and the machine actually did a pretty nice job cutting it. But it became clear pretty quickly why you need a backing material on the plastic: The cut pieces started to separate and stick out and the mylar would not have fed properly when it was rolling back and forth cutting the design, so I stopped the project in the middle. Here is that attempt.
So, I gave the cutting mat another try. After a couple failed tries, Jeff suggested I try cutting a small design (Duh!) so I created a small stencil design from our dining room curtain project. (And I'll say it again, the software is great!)
I tried cutting this out eight times, each time adjusting the blade depth, material thickness and other settings. Luckily, I did minimize the loss of mylar by moving the image around on the sheet, using different corners for each attempt.
These numbers refer to the blade depth, not the attempt number
Design etched onto the mylar
I'm pretty sure this is 7mil mylar, which I purchased from StencilEase last year.

Amy Miller, who published Stenciling the Arts & Crafts Home, recommends stencils be cut from 5 to 7mil mylar, so I will probably try and locate some thinner plastic. I found a blog post from one woman who successfully cut plastic purchased from JoAnn's, so I will probably go and pick up some of those sheets and see if they'll work.

I did receive the vinyl I ordered, but the stuff is crap; it is tissue thin and only good for one use. And it's expensive—$15 for a 3-foot by 9-inch piece. That's not at all what I'm interested in using. I'll save the stuff for sometime when I don't care about it being destroyed after one use.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cameo First Try

I bought the Silhouette Cameo. The temptation exceeded my ability to resist. It came yesterday, but the vinyl I ordered still has not arrived, so I decided to experiment with paper.

I sprang for the Designer Edition software because I primarily want to import historic stencil designs and make my own stencils. For this, the software works great! It was pretty easy to figure out. I watched one YouTube video on converting pdf files to Silhouette files and then I was able to figure out everything else by poking around the program.
I cleaned up the stencil and made the pieces more "uniform." Basically, I deleted the elements on one half the page and copied the remaining side and flipped it. Then once I had the image figured out, I added registration marks on top.

Then I split the image into two different stencil layers.
So far, so good. I loved it.

But then I tried to cut it. Disaster (at least at first). The Cameo comes with a cutting mat with a very aggressive adhesive layer (at least when it is new) to hold the paper in place. I first tried cutting the design with regular copy paper. When it came out of the machine, you could see the beautifully cut image, but separating the paper from the cutting mat proved to be impossible. The paper was basically shredded trying to remove it from the adhesive.

Next, I tried cardstock. It worked better. Again, the paper was curled and damaged trying to separate it from the cutting mat. It's really not clear to me how you're supposed to separate the two layers. On the cardstock, you can see the cut design, but it wasn't cut deep enough to completely come apart.
Next I tried mylar; that was a complete disaster. I don't even have something to take a picture of. The attempt damaged the cutting mat because it would not feed correctly and eventually the cutter ran off the edge of the mat. I'm sure my mylar was too thick, because I found at least two websites where folks said they were able to cut mylar. I'm not sure how thick my stuff is. I thought it was 7.5mil (standard stencil thickness), but it might be 10. Whatever it is, it is too thick with the cutting mat and blade I received with the machine. So, my next plan is to buy some 4mil mylar and see if that will successfully cut.

Then I got to thinking I should try the cardstock again, but set the cutter slightly deeper. It worked. And now that I've cut 6 different items, the adhesive layer is not working quite as well. The corners of the paper are still curled, but the paper came off more easily.
Now, I just need to find a plastic I can cut to make this work.
I cut this one because I could =)
Cutting mat with leftover bits still attached
For the record, this stencil design was lifted from a Gibson stencil catalog from 1913.
My plan is to stencil this design on the dining room table linen runners I made last month.

And now that I have an easy way to make period stencils, I need to work on some of my "wouldn't it be nice" stencil projects.