Tanking the Otto Tank

I do like the Otto Tank as previously fit. It is to me the perfect, sleeveless, knit-top pattern. But during the dog days of summer, I like a little less coverage. Also, this pattern was titled as a “tank”.  In the magazine it looked like a “tank”. But my finished garment didn’t look like a tank.  Read the rest of the story here.

RTW Basics

There are some basics that I just buy. Things like plain, cotton T-shirts and tank tops in plain colors of black, navy and white. The cost/time benefit is low. Especially with my laundering methods.  I get 4-5 of “like new” wearings and then colors fade and shapes change. Good enough around the house, but out-and-about, I want nicer. I think I really need these plain, basic pieces. It seems to me that if everything I wear is a statement piece, instead of looking put together I look busy; confused.  The statement pieces disappear into a mess instead of being a focal point.  I do sew these basic pieces sometimes, but mostly I just buy.

Recently I had an unusual issue with a plain, navy-blue T-shirt.  I would wear it with my other pieces and put it into the laundry.  It would disappear for weeks at a time.  Finally DH would bring it back and tell me it wasn’t his shirt… it was mine.  I decided I needed to do something so that I would know this was my piece.  I didn’t want to put a tag in it.  I’ve given up on personal designer tags.  I’m still proud of my creations. I just don’t like tags rubbing the back of my neck. No tags for me. What else could I do that would immediately indicate this was my shirt (upon coming out of the dryer), but still retain its plain supporting role in my wardrobe?

I considered machine embroidery, my favorite. Except I really don’t like struggling to hoop an already sewn-together garment.  I considered some type of decorative stitching but again I’d need to get some stabilizer in there and keep it lined up while stitching.  I could rip seams to make that easier— but I won’t. Finally decided the easiest would be stenciling a design.

I sorted through my stencils and found one I liked

Except, I knew I wanted to put this on the front multiple times. I know you can lift and replace the stencil and scrape the paint again, but I always seem to make a mess plus it’s hard to conceive the total impact,  errr to know when I’ve repeated the design enough times.  So I decide to use my Cameo Silhouette.  I followed Carolyn Keber’s excellent instructionsEmbird and the Silhouette Cameo” purchased on the Secrets Of site.  It might have been faster and easier to do  within DE (software for the Cameo) but I’m pretty familiar with Embird. For me it was fast to scan my design; set the edges using the outline tool; save as a SDF and after importing into DE click the trace button.  Because I’m familiar with Embird, creating the SDF took me no more than 10 minutes (that includes scanning in the design). Once traced, I changed my mat size to 13X24″ and then played.  I copied my traced design multiple times, arranged and rearranged. I spent more time playing than anything else.  For these large stencils I use two sheets of freezer paper that have been pressed together and then trimmed to size.  I have the Cameo set to cut through only the top layer. Once cut, I separate the two layers and carefully weed the top layer. It’s another time-consuming chore.  If I’m not careful, I will tear the freezer paper.  For smaller stencils, I use bona-fide stencil material, but I can’t find big material and judging by the cost of the small stuff, probably wouldn’t buy it any way.

Once separated and weeded, I’m ready to place on my fabric. I keep a largish piece of cardboard (cut from an old box) which I insert inside the T-shirt. So far that’s been enough to keep the paint from bleeding through to the back side. Then I spray my freezer-paper stencil with re-positionble glue (sometimes called stencil spray).  It’s possible I could iron the freezer paper to the T-shirt and not use the glue.  But I’d rather be safe then sorry and use the glue for a good seal. This time I had problems positioning my stencil.  I placed it; removed it; rearranged the T-shirt on the cardboard; then sprayed the stencil a second time and positioned on my T-shirt.  I used a gold puffy fabric paint and dabbed it onto the stencil.

Fearful that I would disturb the paint, I let the T-shirt dry, in place,  overnight. Should I have removed the stencil immediately?   Because the next day I had a heck of a time removing the stencil.

Some pieces wouldn’t release even using the dental tool.  I soaked it overnight in water. Scraped at the stencil. Washed it. Scraped at the stencil.  Soaked and scraped again and again, but still had little piece that wouldn’t release:

For the next week, I kept soaking in water and trying to scrape away little pieces of freezer paper.  I’ve never had this issue before.  Maybe it was the 2nd spraying of glue?  Finally, I gave up and said “I’ll probably wear a vest over it any way”

Not only are there still little bits of paper but the paint has turned white in multiple places. (All that soaking?) It’s not really the basic piece I envisioned.  Guess I’ll have to buy a new, navy-blue T-shirt.

Scraper for the Silhouette

As soon as I started playing with my Cameo, I noticed the “fun” I was having removing bits and pieces from the mat.  I thought this would become easier after I cut a few samples. But alas I was mostly cutting holes to create stencils and the “holes” continued to stubbornly stick to the mat.

I tried several tools to aid in the removal of the holes/stickies.  I did find the pancake turner workable.  It tended to be quite flexible which necessitated careful handling.  It’s biggest downside, though, was that the Kitchen King, DH, insisted it be returned post haste and minus stickies.

I was using a hotel key card which somehow came with me instead of being returned to the hotel.  It works, but its narrow edge makes removing the sticks a bit of a chore.

So I check my friendly Amazon.com. Yeah, those guys are always willing to sell me stuff and they recommend the Silhouette Scraper


for a mere $8.03 US.  Hmmm, I think $8.03 plus shipping .  $12 for a big pancake turner without a handle?  Wonder if I can do better?

I make the monthly trip to Walmart (Retirees get paid once a month. Ergo once a month spending.)  I was thinking that surely Walmart had some sort of kitchen scraper/turner that would be less than $12.  WallyWorld has the same thing as is already under the control of the Kitchen King.  I could only envision a running argument regarding pancake turner ownership.  I continued to look.

Lo and behold!  It is time to stock the winter driving supplies in Walmart and I find for $3.99

Fits the bill perfectly.  I’m actually placing the soft rubber edge in the palm of my hand and pushing against the mat with the narrower smooth-edge.  I tell you it’s wonderful.  Those little bits and pieces just fly off the mat.  My mat is cleaner now than it has been since I first peeled the protective cover.  Only one downside.  It is necessary to vacuum the floor after cleaning the mat.

New Toy Alert: Silhouette Cameo

Yes this is still a sewing blog and I bought the Cameo for sewing purposes. Why? How?

Two years ago I decided that this was the time of my life to follow my creative urges.  Didn’t matter if I was an artist or a wannabe.  I’ve always wanted to experiment with different media. If not now, when?  One of my Christmas gifts was a book with 20 different tutorials for doing things to fabric. I haven’t even  worked my way all through that book and already I’ve developed new talents……AND preferences.

I prefer stencils to silk screen. Why? Simple. All my stenciled projects were successful. I work hard with silk screen. Bought 3 different contraptions for creating silk screens and still no successful projects. But stencils have a down side. They are expensive to buy and I tend to use them once, maybe twice.  Sometimes I can use just parts of a stencil and reuse it. But the truth is, I use most stencils but once and that makes them expensive.

I acquired stencils slowly. I did try making my own.  DH loaned me his Exacto knife.  Let’s just say the Exacto and me are not a match made in heaven.  I was unable to produce a usable stencil with the Exacto.  I have a wood burner, which I tried to cut stencils with.  Essentially the tip is too large.  The wood burner might work well for large, simple shapes. But you-know-who wants lots of curves and details.  I bought a stencil burner with two different tips.  Cost about $40.  I did create and use a stencil with that set up. Still it’s not an experience I really want to repeat.  I started looking on the web for stencils and silk screens.  I thought given the number of stencils I would probably use during the rest of my lifetime, it could be cost-effective just to buy the things professionally made. I also shopped for sales and mark-downs.  I have a pretty defined taste. Not everything on the market will work for me. But when I thought it would and the price was right I bought.

I also started noticing cutters and fax transfers.  I watched several videos on the Cameo (and other devices).  I think I actually ran across these as I was looking for image transfer methods.  The Silhouette Cameo caught my eye Christmas 2011.  I didn’t buy it. For starters, I was still paying for my Ruby Designer.  The Cameo at that time was $299. Lets be honest.  $299 is just a way to make you feel like you are paying less than $300. But the truth is your bank balance is going down or your credit card balance is going up not $200 but ($300 -$1).  After reading a bit, I realized I’d be spending more like $400.  I knew immediately that I’d want duplicates of the consumables (the blade and mat) to arrive at the same time as the machine.  Then there are things like tools to help you get the cut parts off the mat in one piece and separate from the parts you don’t want.  So I didn’t buy. But I kept thinking about it and actually put it on my Amazon wish list.

Then one day I was standing in Michael’s looking at a very attractive stencil priced at $29.99.  First off it was a set of stencils.  The major stencil was big, like 12X18″ or 20″ and it was accompanied by several 12×12, 8×8 stencils. The smallest was a 6×6.  The set was a bargain. But at that moment I realized if I bought this set, I would have spent $150 on stencils, about half of the basic cost for the Cameo  AND if I bought this set, it wouldn’t be the last stencil I purchased. No indeed, I would want more.  The Cameo, OTOH, represents endless stencils.  Owners talk about having their machines since 2007 (when it was first released) and cutting daily or several hours every weekend.  On the average blades seem to be replaced annually.  Even the demonstrator, who must make perfect cuts every demonstration, replaces blades every 3 or 4th show or after about 1500 cuts. Blades last. Mats? Turns out there are multiple ways to renew mats and keep mats going for a long time.  People purchase multiple mats because they want longer mats or they like to have one mat cutting, one prepping and one peeling or weeding as they like to call it. Oh and the price has dropped during the year.

So nearly a year later I purchased my Cameo on Amazon.  I bought a package deal which included a spare blade, 2 12×12″ mats, a weeder/lifter-tool, a set of pens and a $10 gift card for purchasing shapes at the online-store. My cost including shipping was $284. That would be $(300-16).

And what do I plan to do with it? Mostly stencils to use in both color application and discharge. But I also think some applique.  I think there is a way to create stamps. Not postage stamps, but stamping stamps to use in color application and discharge. I may do some heat transfers which again is color application.