Make Mine a Mini, Workflow

Previously, I posted this animated short featuring my illustrations.  In this post, I wanted to share my workflow in After Effects so that I could easily reference what I did, what I learned, and what I think could improve in my workflow moving forward.  This post is also to help my illustration friends who might want to try it, too!

Workflow #1
for the first half of the short
the "overwhelm" sequence

1. Complete final sketch for placement of all items

2. I used a light table to illustrate various elements of the final image in pen & ink individually (so they're not touching or overlapping).

Inked text and brain for final animation.
3- Scan and make a vector composition (placement of all assets/icons) use sketch for reference.

NOTE: Everything that you want to animate individually, needs to be on its own layer (head vs. top of head in my case) and use an artboard that is the size of your final screen to help with proportion.  You don't wanna draw in After Effects.  It's clumsy, and on my computer it's so huge it time-lags to do anything.

4- Bring illustrated assets into project panel of After Effects (file> Import, x-retain layer size> Import)
5- Make a new composition (ctrl+n) at the desired length and specs.
6- Drag your file from the project panel to the timeline area.
7- Convert your file from vector to shape layer (right-click layer in timeline> convert to shape layer)

NOTE: This will explode into 200+ layers in After Effects if you're a rough-line illustrator like me. It's okay.  We will get through this.  If you're a super-clean vector illustrator it's even easier-- also maybe look at Flash as a simpler solution than AE.

8- Carefully separate layers into groups (took a long time with such tiny pieces in my artwork).
9- Then form groups into Pre-Comps (mini animation canvases).  Assign the anchor point to the right part of each element (Y).  Make sure all elements are where you want them to be at the end.

Tips on Animation
  • Let your storyboard be your guide.
  • Work backward from your storyboard key images.
  • I think about the biggest movements and mark where I want those actions to hit on the timeline using the markers.
  • It's easier if you already have music to match the movement.
  • Then, I work between the markers.  I go through each pre-comp to animate each item individually, then as a group, and lastly, each section until satisfied.
  • To export hit Ctrl+m to render queue and click"render".
  • Lastly, I put the rendered clips together in MovieMaker... You do not want to do any real editing in MovieMaker so be sure your clip is the approximate right length, your transition in and out is the way you want it to look, and that your text is the correct size. Windows Movie Maker is really easy to use, but you cannot control details very well.

Workflow #2
for the second half of the short
the "ibis hideaway" sequence (as shown above)

1- Used my final pattern "Ibis Hideaway" as layout for my final composition
2- separated each layer (30+) into .png files with transparency exported from Illustrator

Note: I preserved the artboard size for each item.  I thought this would help with placement in AE and it did, but it makes anchor points really critical and you can't use the shotcut "ctrl+alt+home" to automatically center the anchor point for each object b/c it's the size of the artboard. Plus it's annoying to select items when you do this.  But, I did like that it created a more manageable series of layers and pre-comps.

See what I mean about preserving the artboard?

3- In AE, import files into the Project Panel and make a new composition.
4- Drag your files from the project panel to the timeline area.

5- Form layers into groups (took a long time with such tiny pieces in my artwork).
6- Then form groups into Pre-Comps (mini animation canvases).  Assign the anchor point to the right part of each element (Y).  Make sure all elements are where you want them to be at the end.

- - - -
I asked Jake Bartlett of the "Animating With Ease" Skillshare Class about his workflow after he's done animating, and here's what he had to say:
...I use Adobe Premiere for all of my editing needs. It works wonderfully with all of the other Adobe products and is extremely robust. For still titles, I use the built in title maker, and for anything animated or more designed, I'll use AE or Illustrator. The workflow depends on the project, but if I'm animating to music or a VO track I typically will edit the audio first in Premiere, and then copy and paste the audio clips directly from my Premiere sequence into a composition in After Effects. That way I have the audio reference inside AE while I'm animating. Hope that helps!
Thoughts, Questions, etc.

Moving forward, I liked the simplicity of the second workflow.  Pre-grouping the elements that I knew were not going to need individual animation saved me a lot of time.  It sacrificed control, and in some cases visual quality - one of the butterflies came in pixelated and I don't know why. I must not have used the same settings as with the other .png files.

If I do a character or puppet animation I would need to export each element of the figure as a transparent .png illustrated in either PS or AI.  I think it could work, and then I'd use the anchor points like the hinges we made in paper animation!  So excited.

If you know of a better way to get raster or complex vector images into AE, or if I glaringly forgot or missed something, please do not hesitate to e-mail or comment and let me know.  I'm just getting into AE and would love to use my time as efficiently as possible so any advice is welcomed!

3 Hours Past's Blank Canvas Tee: Maternity Hack

During Me-Made-May 2014 I'd like to share some of the me-mades I've made in more detail.  In order to see if I could replicate a maternity/breastfeeding top that I love, I tried my hand at drafting and here are the results!

If you're just starting out sewing with knits, a great place to start is a simple dolman sleeved t-shirt like the Blank Canvas Tee from 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World's Blog.  If you're past that, are ready to try some drafting, and would like to make yourself a breastfeeding or maternity top, then this is the mod for you!

Start with the Blank Canvas Tee from 3 Hours Past...

Added Materials

  • additional fabric because the length of the T-shirt is extended.
  • 1 piece of elastic - soft baby elastic or elastic about 1/4" wide that suits your fancy in the width of your t-shirt + 2" or so.

Extra Skills

  • sewing with elastic

Special Tools

  • twin needle
  • stretch needle 75/11  (a whaah?  Here's a needle guide from Schmetz)
  • pencil and ruler
  • maybe tracing paper if you don't want to write on your pattern
Inspiration: From boob design, this short sleeve maternity/nursing top is one of my faves.  It fits really well and the split top allows for belly room.

Okay.  Ready to make your own?
First print and assemble your pattern pieces from 3 Hours Past... Then, here's our goal: we want to create two pieces for the front that overlap by around 5" / 13cm for the smaller sizes.  You'll likely need a bit more overlap for the larger sizes or if you usually find yourself doing large bust adjustments.

The goals.
Measure from just below the armpit curve to your goal overlap length, then add 1" / 2.5 cm so you have enough to turn up a hem.  Trace what you have onto your fabric, or onto tracing paper to make pattern pieces.  I've highlighted what I did to the pattern in the photo below.

See the red highlight?  That's the top front piece.  The blue highlight shows where the the bottom front piece would be.  For the bottom, I took the design line straight up and did not taper in like the pattern - it's housing a big belly at the moment, and I thought it would be advantageous to have a little leeway.

The other change I made here was adding length.  Add what you will.  My goal was to have a t-shirt around 28" so I added a few inches to the bottom of both the back and front bottom pieces to achieve that.  I just followed the design lines to my goal length. To calculate length, I measured from the peak of the shoulder, parallel to the fold line.

Alright, you've traced and cut your 3 pattern pieces.  Do you have your edging pieces (no change from pattern) cut, too?  And those two strips of interfacing for the shoulders?  What interfacing? I used Vlieseline G785 since it's stretchy, lightweight, and works with knits. Everything cut? Great! Let's get these pieces ready to put together.


  1. Step 2 from pattern: Iron on interfacing to WS of back piece shoulder edges
  2. Front top piece - finish bottom edge with zig zag stitch or serge, turn up and twin needle the hem from the right side
  3. Front bottom piece - add elastic to top RS edge using a triple zig-zag stitch.  How?  I simultaneously slightly stretch the elastic while guiding the main fabric under the presser foot.  I do not stretch the main fabric.  Right hand for elastic, left hand for guiding fabric.  I do this 2" at a time so I don't lose my nerve.  Then, I fold over the elastic so I only see the final fabric, and straight stitch the bottom edge of the elastic.
  4. Overlap the two front pieces- With RS facing you, make sure the front top is on top, and the front bottom is behind it.  Make sure the overlap is what you desire and pin.  Stay stitch within the seam allowances (so ~1/8" from the edge) to secure the overlap.
  5. Step 3 to 9 are the same as the original pattern.
And there you have it!  You've made a maternity/breastfeeding t-shirt!  Feel free to change the neckline and make it a scoop neck like in the inspiration photo.  I like crew necks so I kept the pattern as is.  But, I think I'm going to try and make a tank or sleeveless v-neck.  We shall see!

Tutorial: Zig-Zag Quilt

You can make your own Zig-Zag Quilt top from stash scraps, and it's not too difficult!

Main requirement for piecing this quilt top:
72 white pieces of fabric, 4.5" square
72 print pieces of fabric, 4.5" square

You'll also need:
- additional yardage for sashing, backing, and binding
- batting for the center of the quilt sandwich

Side Note: Someone asked me how I get the fabric for my stash and how I chose the colors for this quilt.  My stash was built up from fat-quarters and yardage for garment sewing.  I am a bit compulsive after sewing projects.  I can't remember where I got the idea to save scraps larger than 2" square after sewing projects.  But, that's what I do. After a project, I cut down the smaller bits of fabric into two categories: strips or squares.  I trim the squares to be 4.5" because that's the size of my plastic template.  And the smaller stuff gets turned into strips or dresden plates.  Then, I have little clear plastic bags where these scraps are organized by color.  Obsessive yes, but hey, it made this project a real snap!

First, the basis of this quilt is the half-square triangle.  It's known in the quilting world as the HST.  After you've mastered that, you're pretty much set to go.  Here's how I did the HSTs for this quilt...

As described above, I started with two fabric squares in contrasting colors of identical size.  In the case of the Zig-Zag Quilt, I started with squares that measured 4.5".  As long as all your squares are consistently cut and pieced, it's all good.  Each pairing makes 2 HSTs.  You lay one white, one color square with right sides together.  Mark the diagonal, and stitch 1/4" above and below the mark.  Then, cut across the diagonal mark, open, and press the two squares you just made.  I do loads of squares at a time by chain piecing and then press them all at once... I learned this from Craftsy's 2012 Block of the Month with Amy Gibson - the February video here is all about the HST.

Once you've made a bunch of these HSTs, they can be combined in so many different ways!

In the case of the Zig-Zag Quilt, here's how I pieced the top:

Each row of zig-zags used 24 HSTs.
The final quilt had 6 lines of zig-zags, which equals 144 HSTs.
This also means that I started with a total of 144 squares of fabric: 72 color and 72 white squares.

In any case, once I had the long pieced rows of zig-zags, I carefully joined them across these rows, making sure to use pins to line up all the seams.  I tend to press my seams open, and this was no exception.

Next, I added sashing to the outer edge of the top (that white outer frame).  My sashing had extra width to it.  If I remember correctly, the sashing was 6" wide so I could trim it down if I had to square up the quilt after free-motion quilting.  I didn't end up FMQing, but it's always good to have a bit of wiggle room for squaring up.

You cut your batting (the fluffy middle) about 4" longer and wider than your top so you have 2" of adjustment... just in case!

For me, the trickiest part of this quilt was the backing.  If you have a really vertical/horizontal element on the back like in my version of the quilt, you want to be sure to hand-baste a few cross-hairs across the quilt so it's accurately aligned to the front.  I ran a line of basting down the center of the big vertical element, and across both the horizontal elements.  This help me to be sure it was oriented correctly to the quilt top. If you want to avoid this extra step, just use a non-directional print, and a whole cloth style for the back.

My first quilts lacked this kind of precision (and were really wonky) because I didn't understand how important basting was.  Once you learn to hand-baste quickly, there's no excuse! It takes a few minutes for a quilt of this size.  I did both pin and hand-basting for this quilt.

Lastly, is the actual quilting.  First, I stitched in the ditch (along the main zig-zags).  Then, I echo-quilted which means I ran a line of stitching about 3/8" away from the zig-zags.  I just used my presser foot's width as a guide.  Then, I quilted the sashing, added the binding (that final outer edge) using this tutorial from Sew Mama Sew and Mary on Lake Pulaski.

And, that was it!

The final quilt including the sashing and binding is 51" x 51".
The main print for the backing is Tula Pink's "Turtle Bay" print from her 2011 collection "Prince Charming" in Indigo.  Everything else was scraps and leftovers from my stash.

I hope this tutorial helps clarify the process of quilting something like this improvised quilt.  Have you ever quilted before?  What were your first quilts like?

MK Tutorial: Mitered Detail with Short Rows

This tutorial is a machine knitting tutorial that leads up to the publishing of my pattern, "Mitered Detail Cardigan."  The mitered detail in the pattern can be accomplished in two ways.  The first way described in the pattern, is with short rows (also known as partial knitting) and by wrapping each stitch as they are put on hold.  In order to best show what I mean, I made a video tutorial for this one...

Just in case it's too blurry in the video, here are detailed photos of what it looks like to "reactivate" a stitch into working position.

Wrap & stitch back in the hook part of the needle.

Wrap & stitch ready in working position ready to knit.

Here's a mini sample showing the detail on the front and back.  I think the color pooling of the yarn helps show the order in which things were knit.  The green section happened first, then the purple.  With WS (wrong side - in this case the purl side) facing, this block was worked from left to right.