I remember early on in my embroidery career when I got a call from a new embroiderer who excitedly proclaimed, “Your new collection arrived today!” The next words out of her mouth were, “What do I do with them?” I was totally unprepared for such a question because I didn’t understand why you’d buy something if you didn’t know what your were going to do with it.
To counteract that, I began making samples for the package covers to inspire embroiderers. Then I got a call from a dealer who said, “We hang your packages backwards because our customers want to see the designs on the CD.” Then there were other dealers who wanted projects with instructions to go along with the designs, so we made project collections. Still other dealers wanted us to make samples they could display in their store (no charge of course!) to help them sell the collection. Of course, you can’t make a project collection that pleases everyone so there were complaints about that.
What is an Inspirational Project?
Certainly including a project adds time to the production phase—in some cases only a few extra days, in others, a few weeks. Projects can certainly jump start the imagination as to potential uses, however, sometimes I think it can also stunt creativity, especially if the project itself doesn’t grab you. You might turn your back on a very useful and creative set of designs just because you’d never make that particular sample. If you are a quilter, you might not see the possibilities of the designs if they are displayed on an heirloom baby garment or an upscale fashion sample.
Fancy or Simple?
Samples that have a high “wow” factor generally have a high investment in time and possibly skill or expense for the supplies. They often sell a collection just on the dream. Simple projects are much more likely to be made, especially with the busy lives most of us lead.
Avoiding “Quilt Syndrome”
Also, it can be easy to fall into “quilt mode”—making a quilt for every collection because it’s the best (and easiest) way to show off a lot of designs in one project and not result in a garment that looks like you use for a text sew piece.
Sometimes I have a definite idea in mind when I create a collection while other times I’m seduced by the artwork.
When I saw the It’s A Girl! artwork, I knew it had to be a quilt.The collection included 12 designs, which were perfect for a quilt layout. Also, the designs were relatively square and I could see using them to quilt the project rather than just be a decorative stitching on top. By using a quilt-as-you go assembly technique, this quilt really is fast and easy to make.
I also envisioned other projects that could coordinate with the quilt. Step-by-step instructions for reproducing the quilt are included with the collection.
The Cabin Fever collection was the result of a request on how to digitize piece-in-the-hoop quilt blocks for the monthly Generations digitizing workshop webinars. The pillow project was created for a promotion. The individual blocks in this pillow are pieced in the hoop and then the blocks sewn together in a more typical manner.
For both It’s a Girl Cabin Fever I made YouTube videos after the fact, which pretty much meant I had to recreate the project for all the step by steps. In less than 10 minutes, you can see the necessary steps and techniques used to make these samples.
Easy, Simple, Small Projects
On the other hand, when I saw the bluework sewing designs, I didn’t have a specific project but knew they’d make great quick and easy projects for my sewing room. I would have digitized them just for myself.
I was cleaning up my sewing room the other day (more like an archaeological dig) and was just about to take a Sharpie to a plastic canister that stores buttons when the idea popped into my head to do something a little more creative. This time I also had the forethought to document the construction with photos (which extends the completion time by about 3 times…). The upside is I did only have to make it once!
Because I modified one of the designs on the collection for the project, I’ve included those extras along with a 15-page illustrated, step-by-step instructional PDF. I won’t be making a project YouTube video for this one so if you want the instructions, get the collection!
I have been asked why I include multiple sizes on some collections when there is really good resizing software these days. On the redwork/bluework style designs, I include multiple sizes and adjust the stitch length and often the details on the two sizes manually. Automatic scaling software can’t do this. For Cabin Fever, the “designs” are mostly seam lines and resizing using good software should work very well, you’ll just need to adjust the size of your fabric strips accordingly.
Where to Get Ideas
Use sample projects to get your imagination rolling. Then think how you might adapt the project or use the designs in new ways (or new colors) to suit your own style and taste. Will the designs work better combined or can you pull out elements in your software? Can you repeat them, mirror or rotate them for more interest?
Browse embroidery magazines, fashion sites, on-line forums and communities, or boutiques and keep your mind open. Avoiding thinking “too hard”—ideas tend to come when you’re taking a shower or a walk, drifting off to sleep, cleaning, or are otherwise not too focused. Roll the idea around in your head. Brainstorm with a creative friend. Make some sketches—no one has to see them but you, so “being artistic” is a non-issue.
Keep in mind that every project does not have to be big or complex or a master piece. Sometimes simple is just the ticket!