shop tune-up

Printwear 2016 Shop Tune-Up: Day Five

Follow this year's Tune-Up, featuring Printwear columnist Erich Campbell and Regina Cassidy, owner of It Takes a Stitch. 

Day Five: Erich

When I got to It Takes a Stitch, I had great news from Regina on her latest homework; she had reassessed her website and found an automatic way to enable mobile traffic. It wasn’t ideal, but the page was loading much better on phones and rating mobile-friendly on Google.

We talked briefly again about product photography and setup as we discussed initial changes she should make to the newly mobile page. One great tip that came from the discussion was always shoot at least three versions of any embroidery design photo: the whole garment (shows placement and size), close-up flat (shows design detail and stitch quality), and close-up at an angle to the surface (shows texture and sheen). It’s all about the quality proposition of embroidery as a dimensional art.

After the brief aside about pictures, it was on to my first embroidery love, digitizing. Regina’s concerns were mainly about pathing (the sequence and direction of travel of elements in an embroidered design), though she also wanted a tour through my method of “carving” a flat design. My type of carving is notable in that I will often take flat silhouette designs and rather than render filled areas in one flat fill-stitch block, I break them up into blocks of stitches that realistically follow structures in the object represented. This approach essentially turns the silhouette into a single-color low-relief sculpture, largely made of satin stitches.

Some other focus points we covered on carving and pathing included: 

After we talked about silhouettes, Regina wanted to revisit engraving style artwork. She showed me some fantastic architectural work she had done, which I suggested she could use in concert with an added satin-stitch monogram to make personalized home-décor pieces, especially in her neighborhood which features many historic homes. I shared one brief tip on the placement of shading lines in engraving; some digitizers pack them too tightly, ending up with fully solid areas of fill that don’t represent the look of their source art. I also stressed the importance of measuring distances between lines. We all know the density of a full fill has lines of stitching that are roughly .4mm apart, so, we know if our engraving lines are that close together, we’ll be seeing a fully-filled block with no substrate showing. Measurement is key.

One last thing that Regina was curious about is the execution of engraving-styled portraits. Coincidentally, I have done portraits just in the style she’d mentioned. I showed her pieces I had done for a fairly famous cable cooking show, and a memorial piece I did for an event honoring the late, great Phil Hartman. In both examples I showed her how to find the essential lines in the face, and how to layer stitching in the hair to make natural-looking highlights through lower-density areas with fewer overlapped passes. Regina was a little reticent to try, but I remembered the passion she had for her class projects and self-directed creative projects, so I suggested that she do her own portrait to start. If she can get practice in on exploratory projects, she’ll have the confidence to bring those products to market in her business.

With the digitizing portion of the day done, there was nothing left to do but one final review. It was easy to sum up the most important lessons for It Takes a Stitch: focus, boundaries, growth, sharing, and value.

I think of the Printwear 2016 Tune-Up as a great success. Regina was the kind of “student” everyone dreams to have: a creative, dedicated self-starter with a sincere desire to better herself and her business. She was a consummate professional, and what she needed more than anything was a little clarity and a lot of encouragement. It’s more common than anyone imagines that operations like It Takes a Stitch need a boost. Even when you are working well and making money, it’s easy when you are on your own to develop tunnel vision. Regina had the skills she needed in almost every arena to make her vision for the renewed It Takes a Stitch into a reality. She simply needed a few tweaks and a set of fresh eyes to go over what she was doing. I can’t thank Regina enough for her incredible attitude and dedication, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll achieve.

Day 5: It Takes a Stitch

This morning, we focused on digitizing. The nice thing is that it also presented new ideas for It Takes a Stitch products. I’ve always loved black/red run-stitch work and have done several projects with people’s homes, so why not combine a sketch of a home with a small color monogram in the corner?

Erich shared that he has done run work portraits. I didn’t think that I could do that, but he said that I could. I’m going to start with a portrait of myself so I won’t offend anyone!

We also worked on adding depth to one-color flat artwork and silhouettes. Erich researches by finding realistic photos to determine things like the legs, heads, and fur of animals or wings of birds to use as models for accurate lines. Then, he likes to use satin stitches for texturing one-color designs. We reviewed pathing to improve my own techniques and looked at Erich’s technique and my technique for digitizing junctions where column stitches meet.

Then, we wrapped up. This was the experience of a lifetime! Erich was insightful and sensitive of my needs and full of knowledge, solutions, and great ideas; more than I could have ever imagined. It was worth every minute. I started with a partially completed to-do list and needing help to refine and focus my business, attract the right customers, and increase profitability. We did a lot of work this week and there is a lot more work to do. I was stalled without a clear way to proceed, but now there's clarity and I feel empowered. It Takes a Stitch will be more focused and fun at the same time.

For more infomation on It Takes a Stitch, visit:

Campbell wraps up the final day of the Tune-Up with some parting thoughts.