Working with heat transfer vinyl

At our Maker Space, we support all kinds of craft projects, but some that we’ve seen get the most use in the past few years have been made with Cricut and other cutting machines.

So in our last post we covered some of the basics of working with heat transfer vinyl and heat press pillows.

Now we’ll cover some of the more advanced techniques, in a list of the best heat transfer vinyl tips!

Tips for working with heat transfer vinyl

Shirt made with heat transfer vinyl

First, let’s define what heat transfer vinyl is.

Heat transfer vinyl (also known as HTV) is a type of of adhesive-backed vinyl that’s used by crafters for all sorts of projects. What separates it from typical permament vinyl is that the adhesive in its backing is only activated when it’s subjected to a large amount of heat.

Heat transfer vinyl is often used where you want a bonded effect, where the HTV looks like it’s part of the material you’re attaching it to.

So if you want to make customized mugs or t-shirts, heat transfer vinyl is going to be a material you work with a lot.

On to the tips.

Make sure to mirror your image

With heat transfer vinyl you need to mirror your design before cutting it out on your machine. The reason for that is that unlike normal vinyl, you’re cutting with the adhesive side up. You couldn’t do that with permanent vinyl because it would be too sticky, but HTV’s adhesive doesn’t get sticky until heat is applied.

So if you want your design to look correct when it’s finally applied, you need to flip (or mirror) the design horizontally.

Use the correct heat transfer vinyl

If you work with good materials and tools, you give yourself a much better chance at having your project come out how you want it to. If you don’t, you’ll live in a state of confusion, not knowing if you messed up, if you should have used a better heat transfer vinyl, or if there was an issue with your machine.

We’ve tried to carry a lot of materials here, for crafters to experiment with, but the cost of carrying 4-5 brands of vinyl is a bit too much. We’ve decided to just try to provide the best heat transfer vinyl (I recommend reading that article, it helped a lot in comparing the options) available, but in the future we’ll evaluate other options if funding allows.

For those who don’t have the time to fully read that comparison, they picked Siser Easyweed, which has worked really great for us here. If you’re working with HTV at home, I think that’s the first one you should try.

Pre-heat your fabric

In our experience, you’ll have much better luck getting the vinyl to stick if the material you’re pressing it to is already heated up a bit. Heat opens up the fibers on the material, so when the adhesive of the HTV touches, it has more surface area to adhere to.

Use the right settings

Different materials require different settings, both for cutting and for applying. Siser (they make HTV) has a really great list of those settings, so we just keep a copy printed out and laminated here for easy consultation.

These are just some of the tricks and tips that have worked best for those at our space. If you’re experienced with working with vinyl, let us know what works best for you in the comments!

Heat Press Pillows: Explained + How To Make

So before I get into how you can make your own heat press pillow, it’s worth asking:

What is a heat press pillow anyway? Can I get away without even using one?

Let’s go into it.

What is a heat press pillow?

Heat press pillows are a bit of foam completely wrapped in Teflon (which makes them heat resistant). They come in all different shapes and are placed inside a shirt or between any two layers of fabric while you’re applying heat transfer vinyl.

If you’re working with something with zippers, buttons, or seams you really want to make sure you have an even press of your material. That’s where the pillow comes into play.

Just think about the physical action of pressing with a zipper on the material. If you’re pressing down, instead of the vinyl sitting flat directly on the material you’re going to have a small area (the size and length of the zipper) which is raised up.

In turn, that raised up part is going to make contact first and prevent any other part of the garment from making proper contact and transferring the heat into the material and HTV.

Enter: the magical Teflon pillow.

Suddenly, your heat press is able to press down firmly on the entire surface. Sure, the zipper is still in there, but now it’s pressing down into the foam of the pillow in between it and the press while the rest of the material is also pressing in, but not quite as much.

Just think about how when you set your head on to your pillow at night how it softly sinks in, but the rest of the pillow stays fluffed and even. Well, if you were to add a heat press… I wouldn’t recommend it but the vinyl transfer would still come out fine even with your head in the way (assuming the pillow was thick enough).

Okay, enough pillow talk, let’s talk about when using a heat press pillow is necessary.

What kinds of projects require heat press pillows?

Well, you can kind of use your intuition on this one, but you get a good feel for it over time.

I’d consider using one if the project involves:

  • heat & vinyl (of course)
  • lettering
  • thick seams
  • zippers
  • snaps
  • buttons
  • onesies
  • the clothing is uneven or bumpy
  • a v-neck shirt if you’re pressing on to the backside

(I even just learned how to sew an invisible stitch, but I’d still consider using one)

You get the idea.

Typical sizes of the pillow are:

  • 16″ x 20″
  • 12″ x 14″
  • 5″ x 18″
  • 6″ x 8″ (onesie-size)
  • 10″ x 10″ (t-shirts, small canvas bags, pillowcases)

Now you might be wondering, do I really need a pressing pillow in each of these sizes?

The answer is: maybe. It is nice to have different sizes for different garment sizes, but it’s not really practical to buy 6 different Telfon pillows, even if you find yourself using the heat press quite a bit. Plus, they’re not exactly cheap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to spend money on useful tools as much as the next person. At least, that’s how I justify owning both a Cricut Maker and a Silhouette Cameo 4, but that’s for another day. Back to HTV…

If you do decide to purchase one, I’d start by doing just that, only getting one pillow to start. If you really find that you’re using them a lot, you can always grab some more later.

So, should we learn how to make a Telfon pillow?

How to make a heat press pillow

So, this will be a bit unconventional, because I don’t think actually making a pillow for heat press from scratch is the best idea. It’s a lot of work and involves materials that you probably aren’t keeping around your crafting room.

Better than that, there’s a huge bunch of common objects you can use in a pinch:

  • a piece of cardboard (pretty rigid and common around the house)
  • a silicone cover sheet
  • mousepad
  • another t-shirt placed inside

Okay, now that you’ve hopefully found something around the house that you can use (or you got one shipped VERY FAST from Amazon)…

How to use a heat transfer pillow

This part is pretty simple.

You’re just going to take the pillow (or whatever you’re using as a substitute) and stick it in between the layers of the shirt.

With the pillow in there it’s likely going to be a tight fit in the press, so make sure you really press down to get everything to lock. That it’s a bit harder to press is kind of the point of pressing pillows, you’re generating a lot more pressure and it’s going to be more evenly spread.

That’s it! Feel free to send over any questions you might have.

Making your own lipstick (and other DIY curiosities)

My friend has been making her own lipstick for so long I thought it was a pretty normal thing until I mentioned it to some coworkers and they were pretty shocked! I’ve been using her homemade lip balm/chapsticks for a while, so it’s not just for girls either.

So if you’re like them and aren’t really sure what’s up with making this stuff yourself, I’m here to prod you to explore.

Let’s talk about why people make things themselves.

Why make things yourself?

This is a question that can apply to anything we do ourselves, whether it’s lipstick, building a PC, or writing our own short stories.

First, you learn a lot about the world if you look at everything with an eye for how to do it yourself. It keeps your curious and learning, which is what draws me to the DIY world.

Second, you can customize the things you make and make sure they only have the ingredients you approve of/aren’t allergic to. One guide I read (this one is about how to make your own lipstick) mentioned that a lot of the ingredients in brand-name lipsticks are toxic, so that’s a pretty good reason to DIY it.

Lastly? For a lot of projects once you get the learning and customization out of the way it’s a lot cheaper.

Here’s what she suggests for anyone making their own:

  • If you’re going to add coloring, make sure it’s safe to use and that you add just a little bit at a time because it’ll go a long way.
  • For lipstick, experiment with bentonite clay because it’ll make the texture a bit more matte and easier to work with. It does leave a white cast, so make sure to use it with a colored lipstick.
  • If the clay is too gritty, try arrow root powder instead. You can use it with deodorants too!

That’s it. If you have any questions about why someone should want to try this out, leave a comment below.

How To Create A Wikipedia Page

If you’re interesting in getting some practice writing or just helping to improve a DIY crowd-sourced encyclopedia, I’m here to help you along the way.

We’ll go into how to write and create your first Wikipedia article and what exactly Wikipedia is.

We’ll also cover the rules and conditions for getting your own Wikipedia page, and go through examples of those who did get on Wikipedia.

Lastly, we’ll cover the tips that come up the most when writing for Wikipedia.

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a utopian project started by Jimmy Wales to create an encyclopedia written by the world and free for anyone to access.

It was radical in that it was an experiment in openness and relies heavily on the principles of free and open-source software.

The early founders had a belief, as expressed by Eric Raymond in “The Cathedral and the Bazaar“. He references what he calls Linus’ Law, “with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow.”

By allowing the public to work collaboratively, publishing frequently and often, they would avoid many of the pitfalls of procrastination and the accumulated efforts of the group would result in an encyclopedia that was freely accessible to anyone in the world, no matter their income, and that it would be the highest quality document available.

Creating a page on Wikipedia

Why create a page?

Looking for respect, traffic, or fame?

Maybe don’t create a page. Wikipedia isn’t for people looking for personal gain, instead it’s a group project to create knowledge that everyone can rely on and improve.

Creating your first page

For this guide we’re going to assume you’ve edited pages on Wikipedia before and you’re looking to jump into the pool of writing completely new articles and pages.

  1. Create your account on Wikipedia if you don’t have one. You can also edit pages anonymously, but it’s a good idea to join the community and receive feedback on the work you do. You’ll need an account to actually create a page.
  2. Read over Wikipedia’s guide on writing your first article. It contains a lot of the pitfalls that new writers often make, so since you’re going to be contributing something to the common pool of knowledge, don’t feel bad for taking something out of it too, it’s self-replenishing!
  3. Verify that the article hasn’t been written already by searching for it in the Wikipedia search bar. You should see a result that says “The page “Whatever you searched for” does not exist. Click on the red link to “Whatever you searched for.”
  4. You should see that the page states, “Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name.” You should read the bullet points on this page carefully because they will guide you through making sure the page wasn’t created in the past and deleted. Go ahead and click through to start creating the page.
  5. You should see on the right a prompt to “start your new article at Special:Mypage/Your search team” – click on that so that you can develop the article in a sandbox where it won’t be deleted as you work on it. After you finish it, you can ask other editors to take a look and move it into a live article after it’s finished.
  6. Keep making improvements! Wikipedia has a principle of publishing early and often, the page doesn’t need to be perfect to publish if it’s on an appropriate subject, other editors will come in and help you. Remember to assume good intentions, and they will do the same of you!

Tips for writing on Wikipedia

  • Make sure the length of your article is appropriate for Wikipedia. Aim for at least 1000 words, but try to keep it shorter than 6000.
    • If you write an article that is too short it might result in a merge.
    • If you write an article that is too long it could be broken up into many sub articles.
  • Keep a neutral point of view.
  • Provide citations for all of your sources