Making Your Own Rules

Don’t Just Break the Rules…Make Your Own.

 I was enchanted by the Cheerios box that came out this Christmas past. Still the basic cheerful yellow offering, it came with instructions to take something away in order to create something more.

The company added a dotted line around the letters CHEER, leaving a rectangle the size of a postcard. Printed inside the box, on the back of that rectangle, were the same graphics used on postcards. The instructions were simple—cut it out, write a message and drop it in the mail. It was pre-addressed, intended for a member of our Armed Forces.

What a happy project! I wanted to eat cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner so I could create many sunny missives to wing their way to as many soldiers as possible.   

I got to wondering about such a fortuitous name and discovered that Cheerios was introduced in 1941 as the first oat-based cold cereal. It started as CheeriOats but (wait for it) a trade name dispute mounted by Quaker Oats had General Mills going back to the drawing board. Cheerios was chosen because of the “O” shape of the cereal pieces.

And then 70 years later we have some remarkable advertising, promotional mind, seeing the holiday word CHEER imbedded—just ready to be cut free and used for an inspiring project.

When I was writing a piece for Printwear on applique, I heard a story that came back to mind while contemplating the Christmas Cheer project—making something less in order to make it better.

And what better connection can we have for this month’s column about a recalcitrant design for cheerleading outfits!

(You just can’t make this stuff up…you just have to stand around in wonder while it falls into place!)

 The Challenge

 Communicating and cooperating were the watchwords in the HOLMDEL project. The customer brought the original design to Diane Huyler of Color Your World in New Jersey and requested a kiss-cut applique. Huyler worried that the design would not work out well with a routine applique solution using single letters and the usual satin cover stitches.

She added a contour to bulk up the letters and removed some of the nubs on the text but still some of the letter elements appeared skimpy and weak and much too thin in places. This narrowness would cause the satin columns to “fall all over themselves,” Huyler said, creating unsightly bulk and overlap.

 The Solution

Those ugly overlaps were avoided by a cooperative decision made by Huyler and Janet Valdez of Embroidery 4U in Colorado to join the text elements together, “welding” them into a single shape.  The top layer of twill was cut with this welded letters shape and the division was created by the satin stitches, giving the appearance of individual letters.

The background of the design is silver metallic twill which is notoriously difficult to kiss-cut when using flimsy single letters. By using the solid foreground over the metallic instead of struggling with separate shapes, the cutting was deemed “a breeze.”

Valdez then digitized the satin cover stitches right on top of the solid foreground shape created from HOLMDEL and the stitching separated the letters back out, similar to the original artwork. Instead of one satin down the right side of the O and another up the left side of the L, only one satin column was used to create both. As a result, the satin stitched columns around the letters stayed nice and bold without unsightly overlaps on either side.

Huyler pronounced the problem successfully solved as she was still able to kiss-cut the file as the customer wanted and with an innovative approach and creative digitizing, give the appearance of the individual text elements that were contained in the original design.

Another upside to this solution is stitch saving. Applique saves stitches (but adds labor!) and by using a less stitch intensive satin column solution, the Holmdel design was even more cost effective.

 Thinking Outside the Box

 It doesn’t take a lot of extra expense or equipment to offer applique—a good pair of scissors will do the trick—or a cooperative partnership with a fellow stitcher who has invested in a cutter. This process can be an important part of the mix that we can offer our customers so it is great to learn to think outside the box. Ingenious and imaginative solutions can swiftly become an integral part of our design process.

The applique process has always reminded me of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Plodding carefully along like the tortoise, applique, with exciting colors and applications, stays in the race. And, with careful planning and a creative approach we can often turn a bear of a project into a real pussycat (or a tortoise into a hare!)

I am not as conversant with applique as the two ladies featured here and like other novices, might have insisted on staying in the box of single letters, passing up a clever and pleasing resolution in the process. 

Remember that showing, not telling, is often the order of the day with customers who have “one way” set in their minds. Sometimes it is good to do things both ways and let them see the difference.