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!

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.