Friday, February 24, 2012

How To Put Studs on a Patch Jacket

Punks had the right idea- customized jackets are cool. Nothing says "Hello, I Kick Ass" like a hand sewn, decked out patch jacket. They're fascinating- each thing sewn on reveals a snippet about the owner. I think everyone should take the time to make a jacket or hoodie like this. It's super crafty and in the process you get a wicked, fully personalized article of clothing.
Facial Expression: patch jacket glee!
This is me and my jacket. It's a work in progress, but I'm excited about how it's turning out so far. The jacket itself was a perfect find. Admittedly, I didn't go completely punk rock and cut off the sleeves of some dirty old blue jean jacket. Instead, I found a jacket that was perfect for me. I'll  go into detail about the finding "the perfect jacket" in another post, but in the mean time I'll focus on adding one of my favorite embellishments- studs.

I get the most questions about how I put them on my jacket. People assume it includes glue or some sort of crazy sewing technique, but in fact it only takes a few simple materials and a lot of patience.   Here's how to put studs on your own stuff. In my case I've used my jacket, but you can hook them onto pretty much any textile surface you'd like.

1. Gather your materials. 
Mostly everyone has an old stud belt lying around that isn't exactly up to par anymore. They have a short shelf life... Just from constant wear and tear, eventually the studs will start falling off. Or even worse (like in my case) the belt itself breaks. If this sounds like you, good news, you've now inherited hundreds of studs to put on your jacket!

 If you don't have any studs, I'd suggest investing in a cheap stud belt you can recycle. You can also buy the studs online if you can't find a cheap belt in your area to purchase. This site, for example, sells standard pyramid studs as well as many other interestingly shaped studs (I love the star ones!)

You'll need: A spent stud belt and a small wedge tool. I use either a precision screw driver or an x-acto blade.
Another thing you will need to acquire is something you can use to pry up the studs. An eyeglass repair kit screwdriver would be a good place to start. Anything with a fine tip wedge on the end will do. If your studs aren't attached to a belt, you can skip step #2.

2. Getting Started.
Here's what most stud belts look like. The studs are attached by at least two metal prongs on the back of the belt. You'll eventually be securing these prongs into your jacket.
You can get your wedge underneath these prongs and pry them upward....

.... thus allowing you to simply pop the studs off your belt.

The finished result- one stud ready for use!
  I suggest only popping off a few at a time. The belt is actually a great place to keep the ones you aren't using yet... instead of chasing 100 sharp pronged pyramid studs all over the place, remove about ten at a time so you can keep up with all of them easier.
Just a disclaimer! Please remember to be careful and go slow when prying off your studs. There are so many ways for you to accidentally gouge yourself. Believe me, I've cut my hand before while working with studs because I got careless with my tools.
3. Putting the studs in your jacket.  
You might want to start this step by taking some time to map out the paths for your studs. If you're planning on doing a lot of them in one place (like I did on my jacket) it's important to ensure that you're putting them on in a straight line. You can do this by lightly marking the lines with ideally a piece of tailor's chalk. Honestly, I used a pencil instead, only because my fabric is darker and the marks don't show up as clearly. You could also try using some masking tape to create the lines. Eventually, you won't need the guide anymore because it will be obvious to where the studs should line up.

Push the stud prongs all the way down into the fabric.  
This a view of what your pushed down stud will look like from the back. Take your tool (or your thumb) and bend the prongs straight down towards the center of the stud. Secure them tightly as possible by forcing the prongs inward.

Here's what the inside of my jacket looks like with all the studs hooked in. As you can see, the prongs are just pushed into the cavity of the stud.
There's about 85 studs on this part of my jacket. They're so shiny!
4. Advanced Techniques.
Sometimes your garment will have two layers of fabric instead of one, like on a pocket flap or the cuff of a sleeve. This gives you an opportunity to show off your studding skills by only hooking the studs into one of the layers instead of both. It's a little tricky, but it's worth the extra effort for a small but effective detail.

Pinch the two layers of fabric and pull them apart, then carefully push the stud prongs through the top layer and secure them. If you accidentally start penetrating the back of the second fabric, just separate the fabric layers again push the stud back out some before bending the prongs inward. You won't be able to see the secure prongs through the back once you're finished, but this is kind of the point.

5. Helpful Tips.
  •  Location, Location, Location- Be thoughtful about where you put the studs on your jacket. Try to avoid an area that gets a lot of physical contact, like on your arm or on the hood. Not only will the constant movement in these areas cause your studs to fall off easier, but the harsh metal prongs are likely to scratch at your skin and be uncomfortable to wear. If you insist on putting your studs in these places, consider adding a protective backing material (any fabric will do) so that there isn't as much disturbance.
This is an awl. It pokes holes in things.
  • Finicky Fabric- Depending on the type of material, you may have to add a few more extra steps before putting your studs on. A leather jacket, for example, may need to have holes pre-punched for stud attachment. If the studs aren't easily penetrating your material, get an awl or any other fine tipped, sharp poking tool (A large sewing needle will work.) Just don't make the hole too big, you want your studs to fit in your jacket quite snugly.
In other cases, the exact opposite happens and your fabric is too weak to properly support the studs. This may cause your jacket to sag or pucker. This is easily remedied by adding a fabric backing to the jacket before hooking the studs on. Attach the fabric either with a glue stick or fusible webbing.  If you're not good with glue (it can get messy) I'd suggest webbing. It makes the fabric stiffer, almost paper-like. It can be pricy, so just get the basic small package they provide at Wal-Mart or any other department store.  Here is a basic explanation of Fusible Web and how it works. As a plus, you can use the fusible web to attach patches and other embellishments as well.
  • Stud Maintenance- Yes, even if you secure them tightly, sometimes your studs will still occasionally fall off your jacket. That's why it's important to check your studs out every now and then to make sure everything is still where you put it. You may have to add a few new studs, or unhook old ones and put them back on tighter.  Over all, this basic maintenance is necessary to keep your patch jacket in tip top shape.

    If you need to wash your jacket, god forbid, put it in a pillow case to keep the studs safe while in the washing machine. After that, you may want to consider air-drying your jacket  to avoid shrinkage or any other damage (depending on the material.) If not, keep it in the pillow case while in the dryer as well... and always make sure you have your machine set on "delicate!"

That's it for now! But I look forward to writing a PART TWO for more tips on decking out a patch jacket. In the mean time, please feel free to share with me any of your own personal stud/jacket projects. Also, if you have any questions whatsoever, go ahead and ask. After stabbing 100 little studs into my jacket, I'm kind of an expert on the subject now :P

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My sketchbook sticker collection

(And ideas for starting your own!)

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that all of my sketchbooks include an insane mass of stickers in the backs and fronts of the books. I have literally horded hundreds of stickers over the years. It all started out of necessity and answered an age old question: Where the heck do you put cool stickers and other stuff you find in a place where you might actually look at it or appreciate it? 

This has always annoyed me. I'd run across cool stuff here and there, get gifts from my friends, find pictures in magazines. But I never had any place for all these things. They'd get stuck on folders or put into a box and generally disappear. Wasted. Then, I got the seemingly obvious idea of putting them in one of my sketchbooks. After that, the obsession grew.

As I started collecting more, it really became a "bonding experience" for me and my earlier sketchbooks. Decorating with stickers and various things kept me interested in my sketchbook, which got me into a habit of using it.

For beginners just starting out on a sketchbook of your own, this is a good "ice breaking" way to start making it more personalized and exciting.  It also serves for great raw inspiration- you can get tons of ideas from looking at all the little stickers and cut outs while working in your book.

As for the thrill of collecting...I have to note that some of these things weren't easy to obtain. I had to reach up on high street signs,  peel them off of walls and even order them online. Each sticker has an interesting story behind it, I never just go out and buy a sheet of average stickers! They look better when you have to earn them, of course.

 The first sticker I ever collected, appropriately located in my first sketchbook.
It's a single Fat Boy Slim sticker (featuring Christopher Walken!) located in the very back.

Early stickers from my second sketchbook including a defunct radio station, beanie babies, and a Spongebob I got from the dentist.
Aww, remember when 300 was popular?
French fries.. get it?
I spied this picture in an old English text book and couldn't bear to think of not seeing it again... the rest is history.
A student teacher gave this to me, said it was her
favorite poem and that she found it hilarious.
I don't get it.. but I still love random contributions!

An ancient Budweiser sticker I found in my parents attic.  It's huge- it takes up the entire page by itself.
This is a tiny cut out from a random art magazine.
Once again, I found it so striking that
I had to keep it for myself.

Another hilariously defunct sticker:
Hillary for president!
I ordered this one special off the internet.
(Free of course)
Yeah, there are still high schools out there
with "Trojans" as their mascots.

This is my page dedicated to war, pizza and Tourette's Guy quotes. I also started a "mini collection" of those stickers that come on computers. I carried the collection over to my next sketchbook.....
... and I ended up collecting over 40 individual computer stickers.
None of the computers at my high school have their stickers anymore LOL.
These two big stickers were pretty fresh and I found them within the same area and time frame. 
Someone really hates Dick Cheney.
By the way, one of those is an official Shepard Fairey!

Yes Taco Bell flavor packet, I will marry you.

So many things wrong with this page of stickers... I got the zombie one from Charleston Zombie Walk!
This poor child... I found him in an Oriental Trading magazine advertising what looks like some sort of slime. If I were him, I'd fire his agent.
In this particular sketchbook I had a few fancy black pages in the front and back.. I really like how the stickers look on these ones. Oh, and I taped some mistletoe in there too for good measure.
Sometimes my brain organizes stuff in weird ways... It looks like the Gunslinger is shooting the crap out of  the conductor of Los Impoliticos. Totally unintentional!
This is from my current sketchbook. As you can see, I've started incorporating a lot more things other than stickers.

Here's another fun idea for keeping things in your sketchbook.. make some pockets!

  They're perfect for keeping stuff you don't want to glue down, and for utilizing the space taken up by large cut outs. All you need to do is get a nice "pocket size" image, and tape up all the sides except one for the opening....

This page has three separate pockets, the "Art" one I taped up myself. It holds quite a lot of items, including a box of matches, photographs, post cards, and my old name tag from Spanish class. The pockets at the bottom are keeping my wicked Itchy and Scratchy cards safe!
This pocket is keeping things like other photographs,
some old notes and a giant "Joker" playing card.
It's a magazine clipping with some black electrical tape to seal it up.

A pocket holding quite a few bookmarks.

Also, you can probably tell that I liked collecting quotes as well. Many inspirational song lyrics, poems, and sayings found their way into my sketchbooks. Sometimes words can be just as valuable as pictures. I only used other people's quotes, but you could easily add your own poetry or thoughts. A sketchbook doesn't necessarily have to be strictly for drawings.

So then, how do you start your own "sticker collection?"

Firstly, I use the term stickers lightly. My collection is a collage of many things, almost like a personal scrapbook incorporated into a sketchbook. The possibilities for how you personally approach it, however, are endless. It all depends on what speaks to you as an artist.

Start by looking around at your surroundings. Stickers are everywhere. The coolest ones you can find in public, stuck on just about anything. Seriously, keep your eyes peeled at all times. I've found them on walls, trash cans, telephone boxes, stair cases, chairs, and especially street signs. All for free- and you're doing your neighborhood a service by "cleaning up all those pesky stickers" for them. (They seriously pay people to come around and scrape stickers off of things...What a shame!) 

Collecting them can get really fun too. It becomes like a game- how many stickers can you find hidden in your every day life? Sometimes there are gems sitting right under our noses.

Tell your friends you collect stickers. I am always getting great "donations" from friends and family. They get really into collecting them too- I have countless cool stickers that someone randomly saw somewhere and "thought of me."

Take advantage of freebies. This one's a biggie. You don't have to pay a dime to gather any of this stuff. Brand new stickers are given out all the time for free. If  you're attending, school sponsored activities always provide an abundance of shiny new stickers. Also...

There are tons of businesses online that will send you stickers for free if you simply order them. Here's a few good places to start you off. As a warning, you may get some junk mail if you start giving out your address, but I've had a generally positive experience the following sites (and got my stickers in a timely manner!)
We Kids
National Community Service (This site ROCKS, I got my stickers within the week)
Hisdale College
Reddit Freebies

Check out magazines and books, too. Don't forget about things besides just stickers! This stuff can easily be glue-sticked in to your book, and sometimes is cooler than any old sticker you find. Check through an old stack of magazines- something may catch your eye that you hadn't noticed before.

As a wrap up, I always encourage readers to share with me their own projects. Do you collect something inspiring? How do you decorate and personalize your sketchbook? Do you have any sticker gathering tips? I love to hear how other people approach using their sketchbooks and how they do art in general. And I really consider this a kind of art form. What do you think?