Another new venture, and all the fun of the fair…

Greetings cat fans!

Yesterday I finally had to give in to an urge that’s been poking me in the ribs more and more of late, and have a go at a prototype Thing. It’s going to involve learning another new skill, and this one has nothing to do with ink…

  
Yup, this one involves dusting off my sewing machine and also remembering how to brandish a needle and thread without making too many tiny holes in my fingers. Dah-dah-daaaaaaah… *waggles eyebrows ominously*

I’m going to need to learn some Proper sewing techniques to make these, but for the purpose of this prototype I just went for it – I didn’t have much time and wanted to get it done quickly so it didn’t end up as a half-made idea in a box in the loft.

I just used cheap acrylic felt, as it was to hand. For the proper ones I’ll need to research the material properly, because I want them to be hardwearing and washable. 

The first thing I discovered was that controlling a sewing machine to sew around shapes is quite hard! The second thing was that I should have had two seperate pieces of white felt, instead of one with the collar shapes cut out – doh, schoolboy error! What a silly moo! I stitched on the white felt, then cut out the black outline and double-stitched it over the top…

  
Well, I say over the top – I might have missed in a few places. See, told you my sewing skills need work! 

Once I’d got the basic design on the front done, I added the border then stitched the back and front together – and probably broke every rule in the Good Sewer’s Guide! 

  
Don’t zoom in too closely – my stitching is very embarassing!

Then it was time to add the face, which I cut out in felt and hand sewed on. I wanted to embroider it, but couldn’t find any black embroidery thread so that’ll have to wait for the next prototype. Maybe. I’m still at the planning stage, really!

For the whiskers I just used a couple of strands of wool, and loop-stitched (is that a Thing?!) them on.

Then I ran out of time! It still needs whisker-dots, collar-holes, and stuffing, but you get the idea! Meet the first stupidcats cushion:

  
It’s convinced me that this is definitely something I need to learn how to make properly to add to my range of stupidcats goodies! This one is small, about 12 inches square. The next steps will be to research materials and learn how to sew properly! Although, in my defence, I did handsew some stonking corners to a tablecloth I made a few years ago:

  
I’d like to be able to perfect the cushion-making process by September and offer them in green, pink, blue and orange – like my cards, and soon-to-be-launched tote bags. Fingers crossed!

“Why September?” I hear you cry? Well. I have a Big Event in September. A few weeks ago I received an email that I thought at first must have been a mistake, but turned out to be real! I was asked by the organisers of Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair if I’d be interested in taking a stand at their 2016 fair at Hampton Court in September – little old me and my stupidcats! I decided to go for it, so keep your eyes peeled for more news about that over the next few months. I’m hugely excited about it, and a little bit scared as it’s going to involve A LOT of work (not to mention designing and building a stand!) but hopefully it will be a real step up for stupidcats. I was delighted to be asked, and it was great to find out that social media does work, because they’d come across my work on Twitter!

Finally, an update on the tote bags I was prototyping in my last post – I’ve set myself a launch deadline of May, so it won’t be long now until you can get your paws on one!

Laters! x

UPDATE: Finished it! 😸

  

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Further adventures in screen printing…

Hello hello hello!

Last time I posted I’d just had a go at screen printing for the first time.

Since then I invested in a higher mesh count screen and had another go, this time printing on to gorgeous Bockingford watercolour cardstock.

I made a new screen, once again hand painting the images with drawing fluid onto the screen with a fine brush:

  
…and this time managed to coat the screen with filler in just one pass, yay!

  

I mixed some yummy coloured inks – for this first run I decided to pink, lime green, orange and blue:

  
A great tip I picked up somewhere on the internet was to mix ink on a sheet of glass over white paper. There’s something very satisfying about slowly folding the colours together with a palette knife, all gloopy and shiny!

I had to trap myself in the house with a pasting table to lay out the prints to dry – it’s a good job no-one knocked on the door as I wouldn’t have been able to answer it! 
   

Once I’d printed the colours, I moved on to the black – slightly nerve racking as I had to get the registraion right or I’d mess them all up! I printed the first black image onto tracking paper taped at one edge to the base of the screen unit, positioned one of the coloured prints under it and marked the edges as a guide. And off I went! 

On a scale of one to ten in squeeness, lifting the screen to reveal the first card in all it’s glory hit about 999!

  
I might have squeaked aloud and bounced around the room a bit!

Here are finished cards in the four colours I chose (thank you everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for your colour suggestions!) – each card comes with an envelope in stupidcats orange (another thank you to Facebook folks – particularly Etsy Resolution group members – for their feedback on envelope colour!), and they’re available singley, in a pack of four (one of each colour), or in pairs of various colours:

  
My technique has definitely improved – this time I didn’t once flood the back of the screen (yay!) and found that perfect angle to draw the squeegee over the screen when pulling prints (most of the time…!).

As a finishing touch, I hand stamp my logo on the back of each card:

  
I’ve also introduced a new set of badges – four little pin badges to match the cards (big thanks to Peter at John E Wright in Nottingham for being so patient making sure the output colours match the cards as closely as possible, despite intermittent power cuts!). Each badge is hand pressed on my dinky badge press and assembled by hand. 

  
I decided to retire my Badgebook theme, as it they just take too long to assemble (I might bring them back if I find a quicker way), so I’ve repackaged my other badges to match these new ones:

   
 
Cards and badges are available from my Etsy store, and ship worldwide, hurrah!

I’m sooooo chuffed to finally be able to print my own cards! 
Next I need to try printing onto fabric so I can make tote bags. I’ve hand-painted a sample bag to get an idea of size and positioning, what do you think?
  
Spot the black blob where I dropped the brush! The next step will be to hand paint a screen and try printing some.

These bags will initially be available in orange, pink, blue and lime green, hand printed in two colours – watch this space! 😸

Ooooh, ps! In my last post I told you about Cobden Place, and their Kickstarter campaign to raise £8,000 to start a School of Print in Nottingham. Well, they not only hit their target, but also made their stretch-goal of £10,000! How brilliant is that? I upped my pledge at the last minute, and am so excited about attending a screen-printing workshop there later this year, with Tom Camp who used to be the print technician for none other than Rob Ryan! 😸