I’ve fallen in love with these letters created by William Morris in the late 1800s. The style is so classy—a complex, beautiful tie to the past. I was delighted to find clean, free image files of the complete alphabet available at Openclipart.org. I downloaded my faves and got to work creating a bevy of quick book bag beauties.
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What you need…
- Good book weight canvas bag
- Heat transfer vinyl – I used black Siser Easyweed
- Iron or heat press
- Teflon sheet – or parchment paper or old pillowcase
- Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. Mine is powered by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition software version 3.3.451
Openclipart.org offers a range of file types and sizes. If you have the Silhouette Studio Designer Edition you can download the svg file, if not, choose “Big”, the largest png file, to give the best trace. Open the file in Silhouette Studio.
Next, trace the letter.
Now when I first started using the trace tool in Silhouette Studio, I found it very confusing. Filters, values, scale, and threshold—so many possible combinations. After some trial and error, though, I came up with a quick trace method for black & white images that works every time as long as the images have good contrast, crisp edges, and no shading. The Morris letters are perfect candidates.
*** NO-FAIL QUICK TRACE METHOD ***
(for B&W images with good contrast, crisp edges, and no shading)
(Pssst…it’ll also work with many other single colors, too)
STEP ONE: Drag the image to be traced onto the cutting mat area and zoom in so it takes up most of the screen.
STEP TWO: Click `Open the Trace Window` icon (A). STEP THREE: Click ‘Select Trace Area'(B).
STEP FOUR: Click and drag to draw a box around the letter image, leaving a bit of space between the letter and the blue box on all sides. As you’re drawing the box you’ll get something like this:When you finish drawing the box and release the cursor, you’ll get this:Almost there.
STEP FIVE: Uncheck the ‘High Pass Filter’ (C). The black design areas will turn yellow, as below.
STEP SIX: Slide the ‘Scale’ bar as far left as it’ll go (D). It doesn’t make a huge difference on these letters because the images are nice and big, but try it on a small image and you’ll see it refines the edge lines, making for a nicer trace. Now you’ve got this, all yellow, no black:STEP SEVEN: Click ‘Trace’ (E)
Simplifying the design…
I wasn’t sure how well the Silhouette Cameo would handle cutting such small accents—some of those dots are pretty small—so after I traced the letters, I simplified them a little by removing extraneous bits and shifting some elements to increase the space between them. Here’s the difference:It turns out I needn’t have worried. HTV is much more forgiving than adhesive vinyl. The detail level wasn’t an issue.
But if you do want to alter the design, it’s super easy to do. Set the fill color to none, and line color to an easy-to-see working color. I use black or red. In this case, I chose red. Select the image, right click, and select ‘Release Compound Path’ from the pop-up menu. Poof, a billion dots and lines appear:Don’t freak out. This is simply the design broken up into its individual elements and they’re all selected. Click anywhere to deselect. The dots and lines disappear and you’re back in familiar territory. Now you can click to select any element in the design. Once selected, you can delete it, move it, rotate it, or change its shape using the point editing tool or by dragging the box corners or sides.
Once I was happy with the design, I selected everything, right-clicked, and selected ‘Make Compound Path’ from the pop-up menu. Now the individual elements are united in a single image again.
Re-size the image to whatever you’d like. Mine was about 8″ square to fit the book bag nicely.
After mirroring the image—always, always with HTV—(click the ‘Open the Replicate Window’ icon on the upper right tool bar, select ‘Mirror Left’), I deleted the original and positioned the mirrored design on the mat ready to cut.
In the Cut Settings window (icon in upper right tool bar), I used: Cut Mode: Standard, Cut Style: Cut, Material Type: Heat Transfer Material (flocked or smooth…flocked HTV is bumpy, smooth HTV is—ever-so-logically—smooth. I used smooth), Blade: 2, Speed 3 (I slow things down for wiggly fine designs), Thickness: 4, and Double Cut box checked.
Position a piece of HTV (slightly larger than the design) on the cutting mat SHINY SIDE DOWN so it covers the same mat area as the design on the screen, then load the mat into the Cameo and cut the design.
Applying the vinyl…
To apply the HTV to the book bag, I positioned the letter where I wanted it SHINY SIDE UP. This is how it will look on the book bag, so it should no longer be mirrored.
Why, yes, yes, indeed, this image is not mirrored. Hee! Guess who forgot to mirror the image before cutting? Doh! It happens to everyone at some point. Luckily, H is one of those symmetrical letters that is the same before and after mirroring, so the letter is still okay, just the surrounding design is backward. At the risk of causing William Morris to turn over in his grave, I decided to go ahead and use the non-mirrored letter rather than waste a chunk of HTV.
I covered it with a Teflon sheet. Some people use an old pillowcase instead, but when I did I always ended up scorching it. No scorching issues with the Teflon. I also like that the design is visible through the Teflon and how easily the iron moves across it.
Siser Easyweed HTV requires pressing for 10-15 seconds of medium pressure with a dry iron at 305F. That’s the hottest setting on most irons. For irons with higher settings, don’t go above 305F or you risk design distortion from the vinyl shrinking and curling. After pressing, you can peel the backing off either hot or cold. I find it easier to pull off hot, but be careful because it’s—yup, you got it—hot.
More book bag adventures:
The Universe is Made of Poems! Sjón Quote Bag
Books are a Uniquely Portable Magic Stephen King Quote BagBook Drunkard’s Book Bag (L.M. Montgomery Quote)
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