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Big in China

tiny chicken runner

This week I was still getting a trickle of organic searches from Chinese search engines and I decided to put a little more look into it than previously. Turns out they were probably looking for this game!

I mean none of them bought shirts, so only maybe were they looking for the tiny chicken little run game, but it seems like it might be related somehow?

tiny chicken running

tinyrun: Year One

COFFEE

A friend recently sent me this image of a cutout from a shirt that I had made circa 1996, probably earlier. It’s got a little paint on it.

The lettering is hand traced onto the shirt from a xerox-enlarged printout from actual typed text. See the difference in the edges of the same letters? I’ve always been taking the long route.

One of the few remaining pieces of evidence from the beginning.

Responsive Shirting

I’d thought about a mobile WordPress theme for the site for mobile device traffic to be sent to for a while, but I knew that it would be a time investment to set up. I’d need to try to match the design as best I could to the current look, which I might also want to update before I try to duplicate. Since I’m still shirting solo I wasn’t in a big hurry to try to double my site maintenance while also trying to spend the most time possible making shirts.

This became something to address when the last shirt was released and I saw 50% of traffic coming from mobile devices. It seemed like it was time to move on that. Um, now.

During my recent hotel-away-from-homelessness I spent some time reading about responsive web design, seeing some sites in action, and laying out some thoughts on how I might use that for my own devious purposes as they relate to completely inanimate, non-devious shirts.

If you’ve ever worked for a web based company, you might know that the QA sites can be a breeding ground for some odd bits of content that designers just throw in the page so something can fill the div. I’ve seen some crazy stuff in there in jobs previous and I wondered at the time that these bizzarities are possibly relating to the site being a behind the curtain and finally they had a chance to let their latent ROLF bubble over.

So now, I got to do some mockups.

I confirmed that suspicion in what felt like one swift stroke.

But since this is my show, and you are my people, I just get to take it further and share.

gamera_mock

Have Sewing Machine, Will Travel

I am displaced! It’s a story.

There was damage to our home due to a overzealous contractor who while welding on our building’s heating system did not place proper coverings below or near the work.

Wood burns, welding is hot…I don’t know, maybe there’s something about welding I don’t understand. There was no outright fire but our floors did receive enough, again forgive my layman level welding knowledge, droppings of ‘burny stuff,’ to show…burns. Smoldering, I guess. Scorching? Enough burny stuff to create deep enough burns to require the flooring sections damaged to be replaced outright, and the floors to be sanded and restained. Unpleasant, but fair enough.

But not enought! To sand and restain the floor they must do so to all the floor. In one go. Floors are pretty neat, they go around corners into rooms and such. Like one of our bedrooms. And the hallway. And the entryway. Hm. Our dining room is a different type of floor so to complete the work it and another bedroom are now packed with about every earthly belonging my family owns.

This all is enough to take some of my daylight hours to deal with but two further unexpected elements came into play. The length of displacement when the work began was stretched to two weeks. Two! Well, there was also damage in the bathroom. Did you know welding produces burny stuff of such…burnacity…that it can melt into ceramic tile and porcelain sinks?

Ok, extended displacement. Fine. Sucks but I’ll take my sewing machine with. I’ve got shirts to rock.

The workmen who would preform the repairs on the damage that the other men repairing caused arrived early and set to work. Great! Promptness! They started clearing our items, immediately moving our belongings into the dining room and second bedroom. I literally was in the other room for a second and came back to find the closet that housed my sewing machine sealed off by all my other stuff. All of my other stuff. Prompt, but inconvenient!

FINE. I managed, through the kindness of a neighbor, to move the furniture to get to the sewing machine and materials from the buried closet in the middle of the night when the workmen were absent.

Aaaaand the car stalled in the alley behind the hotel while doing the first unloading.

That brings us to now. I am ensconced in my hotel room after loading in my gear. Also, coffee.

Universe and all its burny be damned, these shirts will get made.

Taking Down the Studio

picture of studio from down the hall

This last week saw the dis-assembly of what has been my studio-office for the past two years. I sank into the space over time, for both my Day Job office and also a place to harbor dreams of making stuff as the Night Job.

I could walk to it from my home. It was an excellent size even if strangely elongated, it had built in shelving, internet, and a few things that my previous studio did not have, such as heat, air conditioning, and a bathroom. Layers of luxury. Shit, I even found a used fridge and microwave.

picture of studio to the right

There was however exposed duct work, massive bundles of free hanging relic wires of some previous server farm and phone line hubs. It was at the end of a dark hallway. It had only one hardwired ancient florescent light fixture literally dangling from the ceiling you had to hit with a broom handle to get to work. “Whatever!” I thought, “It’s MINE.” it just made it homier, or made the rent of it either actually less expensive, or made the expense easier to justify.

picture of studio to the left

But so the economy of my world has shifted to the uncomfortable as I have recently had a case of ‘the downsized’ from Day Job. It’s uncomfortable to even type. But now is the time to be uncomfortable, and there’s the part of me that craves that. Nothing moves you like being uncomfortable. You have to move.

I have hope that the work will be faster, leaner, stronger.

I’ve often said ‘More Soon’ as a mantra and motto. Not anymore. No choice but to push and put it before you and see what you say. Nothing counts but now.

More Now.

Package THIS

a stencil cutout of 'tinyrun'

One of the great areas that I’ve had Good Intentions for is packaging. There were a few moments were I would get SO very close to pulling it together and getting out, in a regular fashion, a mailer that I felt really nailed the same level of time and care the shirts received. Never consistently though, and I consoled myself with the thought that if I gave more time to packaging, then that would be time away from making the best shirts possible. Aaaaaand while that’s true, it was a poor placation. I added to that thinking further guilt around packaging materials, the weight said materials might add to shipments, and I would hem and haw until I came up with a New Shiny Shirt Idea to play with.

But I love me some mails, and it would be a sweet bonus if what arrives raises anticipation just at sight. I really love the thought that when you receive your shirt it is a moment of joy. Pretty mailer = more joy? Seems like good math!

boxes being set up for spray painting

I started to play around with some new packaging recently, trying to catch up to years of shipments. It’s fun, low impact play in terms of initial resources to get to test it out. I’ve cut a few stencils and am experimenting on just quickly hitting a few nice cardboard box sizes with spray paint. A little raw around the edges, but a great leap at the same time. I’d love to do some full-on, full-bleed screen print of some art across the entire surface of the box inside and out, and perhaps someday!

My hope is that the cost of the boxes and the bump upwards in postage can just be absorbed on my end with little impact to buyers, and that the resources impact of the box is mitigated by straight up recycling possibilities, especially reuse! A few initial test shipments have made their way out the door with promising results.

Progress is being made.

a completed shirt box mailer labeled and ready to go out the door

What A Difference A Foot Makes

two sewing machine feed next to one another

I’ve been working out a whole host of new designs, all around the method of applique and hand guiding machine satin stitching. I call it the Era of Trial and Error. I’ve been pushing myself to screw around and to screw up, and the ‘scratch paper’ shirts that I’ve been trying things out on are wonderful Frankenstein’s of failure.

In the process of working out my hand guided machine stitching skills I finally took a look at some of the other commercially available sewing machine feet, and found that there was one that appeared to solve some of the issue I seemed to have with the foot I was using. And lo! It did make things easier! It turns out that the having a gap in the foot where you can just see through it is far superior to plastic you can only kindof see through. Well!

I also imagine the picture appears to many as about as discernible as a photo of a car engine, and that’s ok. Please sit back and stick around to see the fruits of this recent discovery that will appear ever so shortly.

THREAD

BIG thread

I have a GIANT box of thread. It’s actually two layers deep, and I have to risk spilling the top layer all over to get at what’s underneath. This is in addition to the Greatest Hits colors that are by the sewing machine or in an additional drawer due to more frequent use.

When starting some new design, there’s no fear of not having the correct color. It has to be in there somewhere, just put my head down and plow through. There’s a comfort in that thinking.

But, it seems to make me almost more finicky?

I have THREE browns but not one that’s right between these shades??

Unravel

A portion of the Quilted shirts that were purchased showed some shirt tearing at the point of the applique attaching stitches. That really hurt a bit because I want to supply the highest degree of awesome, and also it was long time customers that were affected. I received the shirts back from the buyers who reported tearing and upon examination I couldn’t make sense of it. The shirts clearly teared, this was not in question. But this occurred along bother vertical and horizontal stitches. That is, with and against the grain of the shirt jersey fabric. That seemed strange, but still not as odd as the fact that I had the same shirt and after many wears and washes mine showed no tearing. The first shirt that I made years and years ago that used the same attachment method of an applique showed no tearing.

And I wore the daylights outta that shirt.

Hm.

I started doing some tests. I tried different fabric appliques, washing them over and over, drying them on high, doing the process again by hand, pulling on stitches a little roughly and all that showed no pattern of how the Quilted might have ripped. One suspicion seemed most likely: that the stitch length being shorter perhaps led to the issue, when a stitching setting on the machine ‘inherited’ the stitch length from a different project that I stitched before working on these. Seemed likely with the combination of that plus a few other suspicions around the feed dogs having trouble feeding the fabric and ended up chewing it a bit. Time to remake these shirts for customer satisfaction!

I set about taking the Quilted applique off the older shirts to try reattach them to new shirts, and noticed how difficult that actually was. Even with the per-existing tearing I had to rip the daylight out of the shirt in order to get them off. This was a great test, showing that even if you wanted to take the applique off, you would have to exhibit hurricane force on it. And with the new shirts made and initial quality checks passed with a GO I’ve sent them back out into the wild with greater confidence.

Beyond knowledge that I will extend a warranty, fix and replace your shirt, I need your trust and to believe that these shirts are of the highest awesome. I cannot allow anything less.

Chicago train in its cross stitch glory

Normally, seeing the etsy listing for this shirt, I’d pass on this Chicago train map shirt. But seeing it in a retail store setting I could get my face all up into it. And also see it against others of its own kind…and the result? Splendid!

Getting in close to it I could see that not only was it a nicely executed shirt, but also that it was done without stabilizer (or that it was an excellent tear away version) and that it had to be done outside of a embroider machine due to the size of the work (though not cross-stiched by hand, I believe, just a cross-stitch stitch on a sewing machine). And the bobbin thread matched the top threads. And as I got more and more into it, I couldn’t discern how they templated the stitches for each shirt, or at least how they based placements of each shirts’ stitchwork because there were discernible differences in each shirt. I’m also pretty sure that the blue line doesn’t go that far out northwest? But it was clearly fed through a sewing machine by hand, with a great amount of detail and care.

I ride the Chicago elevated trains frequently. They are far from perfect and sometimes an excellent chance to mix with other people that you might find uncomfortable, or the trains being ridiculously late. It’s difficult to not forget the bad parts, or at least joke about them, and remember the many colored lines all running to the loop with fondness and nostalgia till your next ride.

Though I paid a slight premium over the etsy store listing price to buy it in the store, I did so gladly for the pleasure of seeing such a shirt in person and getting to put my face all up in it to plumb the details. Shirts are made of details.