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January 20, 2008

She's Crafty (part: the second)

As previously announced, I got a new toy for Christmas - an embroidery machine. I'm really excited about all the possibilities this brings, but in all my researching and learning about my new craft, I've made a number of interesting discoveries - namely that an embroidery machine is only half the battle without good software to go with it. So I started researching....

And I looked alllllllll over the internet, only to find that:
1. There are two types of embroidery software: consumer-level and commercial-level
2. Consumer-level software can be bought for anywhere from $100 to about $2000
3. Commercial-level software can be bought for anywhere from about $3000 to about $15,000
4. Unless you buy commercial-level software, you cannot get software for Mac OS X
5. Even if you buy the $100 Consumer-level software, you'll also have to buy so many plug-ins, add-ons, fonts and other packages that you'll still end up spending at least $500
6. There is no good reason why this software should be so expensive, except for the limited consumer base
7. Machine embroidery is closely related to quilting, so researching one leads you to learn a lot about the other
8. It is virtually impossible to get your hands on ANY information for ANY software at ANY price level to try before you buy. This includes a good list of features, places to buy this software, and prices.

Based on this last item, I started researching less...... savory methods to get my hands on trials, demos, full versions, or even old versions because, well, that's a lot of money no matter who you are AND, given that I used to work in a shop doing commercial embroidery, I kind of know what to look for. So I managed to get a hold of a couple software demos and found that, as I expected, the software was not that complex; was massively difficult to use NOT because of its complexity, but because of its poor U/I design; and was virtually worthless without some sort of digitizing capability.

Now, Digitizing is basically the process of taking an image and turning it into something the computerized embroidery machine can understand. Without that part of any software package, you're pretty much stuck with the pre-packaged designs sold online and in various craft stores. Most modern machines have some basic text capability built in, but the letters are very large and you only have about 5 font choices. Outside of that, you're stuck with cute little kitties and puppies and adorable little babies. If you know me, you can guess what I think about that.

It is possible to get some really stunning designs, but they mostly come from scary-looking websites and are wickedly expensive for even a single file.

All this is just to say that I really needed the digitizing part of the software if I was to be happy with whatever package I ended up buying. So that limited my software choices to the higher end of the consumer-level set as most of the small beginner sets don't include digitizing.

So. After much agonizing and experimenting and playing with my machine, I decided that the best thing to do was to find a dealer of embroidery software and see what kind of features and money we were talking about. This lead me to Eddie's Quilting Bee, a sewing and quilting store about 2-3 miles from the house. And on the nastiest, rainiest, messiest day of the winter so far, Schondy and I hied ourself to the store. (He's so patient letting me run around in fabric stores. Bless him.) This was two weeks ago.

I talked to the folks there, getting a demo of Generations, which seemed to have all the parts and pieces I wanted with the sole exception that it's for PC only. (Side note: the demo was given on a Mac running Windows. Did my heart good.) The demo was given by a very nice young man by the name of Drew, but I'm reasonably sure that (a) I was not his usual audience and therefor made him a bit nervous and (b) I know more about embroidery software than he does. But he was very nice and made sure to tell me that Eddie (of Eddie's Quilting Bee) has a birthday at the end of January and puts the entire store on sale on his birthday. But given the amount of traffic they get on that day, large-ticket items are often sold at a discount earlier in the month, with the purchases counting toward that sale.

All this was very nice, until I asked him what the damage actually was, and he was very proud to announce that the whole Generations bundle could be mine for $1299 (that's WITH the 30% discount). After catching my breath, I assured him I'd have to think about it, but either way I'd be back in the store at some point just to shop.

Cut to: two weeks later, after some of the most insane work days I've had in a long time, during which I was beating my head against the wall to decide what to do about this software. So yesterday, Schondy and I went back to Eddie's and placed an order for Generations. It should be here sometime this week, and I'm excited, but still somewhat worried about the unbelievable expense of all this. I've come up with a whole list of things that I'll be able to do - gifts, clothing, tags for some of my custom creations, all kinds of things - and I know that I'll find this fascinating no matter what. It's just rare that I allow myself such extravagant purchases for my hobbies. Schondy was totally in support of it, and that was so sweet of him.

So we'll see what happens. Hopefully I'll be embroidering up a storm next weekend and I'll post the results if they're not too embarrassing. :-)

January 10, 2008

It's 9:30pm! Do you know where your wife is?

Here's a hint: she's at work.

Yes, folks. It's 9:30 in the evening on a Thursday. I'm hanging out in someone else's office, locked in a holding pattern, waiting on a lot people to do a lot of things. I'm here as moral support and as literal support, primarily existing as the emergency backup system should something go horribly awry.

I'm bored.

But as I keep reminding myself, this is why they keep me around. I've been entrusted with ensuring that this goes properly by four levels of management above me and, well, it's usually a good idea to see those things through. Not doing so is what some might term a career-limiting move.

But seriously - bored.

As I write this, the unfinished knitting item sits at home, almost finished. Maddeningly close to being finished. And it would be excellent to have it here to keep my hands busy (see above re: bored). As I write this, Schondy sits at home, watching TV and eating non-catered dinner and generally not working. As I write this, Lulu runs around at home, chasing the ball and harassing the cats, or maybe snuggling on the couch and generally being very cute and Lulu-like.

But I'm chillin' in a borrowed office, in a chair that's adjusted for a person 6 inches shorter than I am, wondering if it's worth figuring out the fancy-schmancy coffee machine and wishing I had my knitting or my book to keep me entertained.

I don't wait very well.

January 2, 2008

She's Crafty! (a.k.a. I got a new toy for Christmas)

Well, I have officially returned to the land of the worker, where I'm busily doing... stuff. But for the last couple weeks, I've been home, happily doing... nothing much. This over-abundance of time for doing nothing much allowed me to spend some quality time with a couple long-time residents of the house, and to welcome a new toy to my crafting room: The Baby Lock Emore Embroidery Machine. Say it with me, now, "Oooooh, Ahhhhhh, Ohhhhhh."

So, me, my Sewing Machine, my Serger and my Embroidery Machine (makes me all happy just to think about it) all sequestered ourselves in the sewing room for a whole day during the break, determined to emerge with something that really showed the world how talented we are and how well we all work together.

And we emerged with this:

Now, I'm not so thrilled with the full-body picture - it constitutes pictorial proof (as if I needed it) that I really need to get on a treadmill. But it shows the full glory of what I made: a skirt from an old pair of blue jeans! :-) I know what you're saying: they've been around forever and it's so funny that I'm excited about this and blah, blah, blah. I like it and it's by far the most comfortable skirt I've ever owned, most likely because it was made from some of the most comfortable jeans I've ever owned.

How does this tie in with my wonderful new embroidery machine, you ask? Well, peep the close-ups:

See? Nifty little flowers and designs. :-) I'm calling the style "Boho Victorian" for when I wear it with my purple corduroy jacket and the beeee-autiful Steam Punk necklace Schondy got me for Christmas.

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