. . . tracing handwriting and applying in heat transfer vinyl
I may have mentioned a few times how much I love personalizing things with my Silhouette. Cutting someone’s words in their own handwriting is about as personalized as it gets. Here’s a project to create a pillow by tracing a handwritten note—or doodle or drawing or whatever—and adding it to a cushion cover in heat transfer vinyl (HTV). These pillows are great smile inducers—just watch as you give one to a grandparent or a kid (especially if it’s the kid’s handwriting or drawing). And if the handwriting is that of someone no longer living, the pillow may become a cherished link to the past.
For this DO ALL THE THINGS pillow, I worked from a sticky note written by The Daughterly One. She left it for me on a notebook full of lists I had going for an imminent move across the country. So many things to do…”DO ALL THE THINGS”, she says. Ha. Yup, she’s a funny one, that one. As she now finds herself in a new city, with a shiny new Degree, a new job and time to indulge in extra-curricular activities again, I thought this would be a fun message to put on a pillow for her. Ha, backatcha, darlin’!
This post includes affiliate links to help you find the products I used. Read my full disclosure here..
What you need…
- Message or drawing
- Cushion cover – I used the “Vigdis” cushion cover & “Fjädrar” insert from Ikea. (no affiliation…I just really like this cover & insert combination)
- Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) – in a contrasting color from the cushion cover. I used navy blue Siser Easyweed.
- Teflon Sheet or parchment paper
- Heat press or iron
- Scanner or Silhouette Pixscan Mat – I used a scanner.
- Silhouette machine – my Silhouette Cameo is powered by Silhouette Studio Designer Edition 3.3.368 but the basic edition will work fine for this how-to.
Scanning the image…
Scan the handwriting and save as a jpg file. Open the file in Silhouette Studio and trace it. I used this super-simple tracing method, which gave me this:
Yeah, pretty messy. Depending on the paper and handwriting, sometimes the trace will be so clean you won’t have to do anything to it. But if you get something like this, with little dots all over and extra lines, trace it again. But this time, draw the tracing box smaller than the piece of paper to avoid the lines, and after you turn off the High Pass Filter and reduce the Scale, toggle the threshold very slowly to eliminate as many extra dots as possible while maintaining the design. This is the result I got with my second tracing:
Oh, yeah, much cleaner. No lines, and most of the little dots are gone, with only four extra bits left to clean up. Toggling the threshold a little more would have eliminated those last four dots, but it would’ve distorted the handwriting too much, so I’ll clean up those extra bits manually.
Cleaning up the extra bits…
STEP ONE: Duplicate your tracing (to do that, select the tracing, right-click, select ‘Duplicate’ from the list), and drag it off the mat in case you need to start over later.
STEP TWO: Separate the design on the mat into its individual elements by releasing the compound path (to do that, select the design, right-click, select ‘Release Compound Path’ from the list). Each element now has a selection box around it.
STEP THREE: Click any non-design area on the mat and the selection boxes will disappear. Now you can select and delete whichever elements you want. To select multiple elements at once, hold the shift key down while selecting.
When you’re finished deleting bits, make the design into a compound path (to do that, select the whole design by drawing a selection box around everything, or holding the shift key down while you select them all, right-click, select ‘Make Compound Path’).
Editing the handwriting…
Your design may not need editing, but my Post-It note was written with a slightly blobby pen, so I made a few adjustments to make the writing a truer representation of The Daughterly One’s printing. The best way to see if you need to do any editing is to fill the design with color and change the line color to none. Zoom in so you can get a good look. If your writing is in good shape and you don’t need to edit anything, skip straight to the next section: “Thickening the lines…” I decided to edit a few things such as this pen blob.
STEP FOUR (continued from above so I don’t confuse you): Change the fill color to none and the line color to black (or whatever color you prefer to work in).
STEP FIVE: Release the compound path (select the design, right-click, choose ‘Release Compound Path’) so you can edit individual elements.
STEP SIX: Double-click on the element you want to edit—this will reveal the edit points. Zoom in so the element is nice and big on your screen. Here’s my letter T. The blob I want to get rid of is made up of three edit points.
The edit points give the blob shape, so start editing by deleting those three edit points. Select a point, then click on ‘Delete Point’ (A) in the ‘Point Editing’ window (it opens automatically when the edit points are showing).
Poof, first edit point gone. Do the same for the other two edit points. After deleting the three edit points, I’m left with this:
That’s all I need to do to both shapes. If you want to change the lines even more, you can move an edit point (select it and drag it), or change the direction of the lines leaving an edit point (select an edit point and toggle the blue angle lines coming from it).
STEP SEVEN: When you’re finished editing, turn the design into a compound path (select all the elements, right-click, choose ‘Make Compound Path).
Thickening the lines…
Unless you’re working with writing done in thick marker pen, it’s a good idea to thicken the lines a bit to beef up the design and make it easier to cut.. I added a 0.004 offset to my design. Instructions on how to add an offset are HERE.
Sizing the design…
If you’re not sure how big to cut the design, print off a few different sizes, trim them close to the design, and audition them on the cushion cover to see which looks best (as I did in the Book Drunkard project). I’d much rather waste a few pieces of copy paper than the much-more-expensive HTV, and I don’t want to end up with something that every time I look at it I think “Aw, I wish the design were a bit bigger.”
Cutting & Weeding…
—Do a test cut to make sure the design will cut well.
—Cut settings will vary a little from machine to machine, but I find I get a much cleaner cut—i.e., easier to weed—if I choose the Double Cut option in the Cut Settings window. Cutting takes longer because the blade cuts in two passes, but I find the extra time is worth it.
—Weed out the parts that aren’t part of the design.
Applying the design…
If you’re new to heat transfer vinyl (HTV) or need a refresher in working with it, I did a brain dump of everything I know about HTV HERE. Here’s the fastforward version for this project:
Place the design where you want it on the cushion cover (shiny carrier sheet side up and cut HTV side down). The letters should all be facing the right way. Cover with a Teflon sheet or parchment paper (I used parchment paper this time) and press for 15 seconds (or whatever the manufacturer instructions are for the brand/type of HTV you’re using) using a heat press or iron. If using an iron, press firmly in an up and down motion until the whole design gets its 15 seconds.
Carefully peel off the carrier sheet. Cover with the parchment paper again, and give the whole thing another going over. You’ll know the HTV is applied properly when it takes on the shape of the fabric fibers.
Model credit: Scout, the cat. Scout, as in the character from To Kill a Mockingbird. If you read the character description here, you’ll get an idea of Scout-the-cat’s personality. Scout lives with The Literary Daughterly One (surprise, surprise).
I’d love to see the pillows you create with handwriting or doodles. Send me a pic at: eff @ whatchaworkinon dot com.
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