Tips for first-time users

Hi Jaymie here, I'm new at Happy Fabric.

Over the past week, I’ve been playing with Happy Fabric vinyl, trialing different methods to spruce up tote bags, aprons, cushion covers.. you name it. I spent my first day's hand cutting shapes and letters, then tried Silhouette Studio (downloading the software and working through the provided tutorials). The Happy Fabric ‘Do it yourself’ sheet became my bible for setting the iron or heat press at the right temperature and remembering timings.
The four types of vinyl I experimented with were: Flex, Flock, Glitter and Fashion.

I found the basic process easy to pick up: pre-press, design/draw, cut out, place grease-proof paper, iron/ heat press, peel off carrier. As a complete beginner, there were small stumbles on the way, but I have listed 5 of my lessons learned below: 

1.Always pre-press!

On my second project, the fabric had no creases, so I got straight to playing with the vinyl. When it came to peeling the carrier off, nothing had stuck. After blaming the iron, the vinyl and myself, it dawned on me that I should have pre-pressed the bag itself before starting the project. Oops! Pre-pressing removes any moisture that might be lurking and allows a better base for the vinyl; this can be done by simply ironing the fabric or using a heat press for around 10 seconds. 

2. Flip it! 

Especially when using lettering, I had a few mishaps. It usually took drawing a design (either in my neatest possible handwriting or using a pre-cut stencil), cutting meticulously around the letters and digging out the holes in e’s and g’s… to realise that they were all backwards. I think I’d been too excited to get to the finished product or busy chatting away. Even when using Silhouette Studio, with the prompt to check if a design needed mirroring, I overlooked the need to flip. 

It wasn’t always lettering, either. Some of the animals I created were facing the wrong direction when I placed them onto their new fabric-y home. For me, the key to avoiding this was to work out which parts of my design needed mirroring before even drawing them out, and checking which way up the vinyl would be going before cutting. 

 3. It’s okay to re-press!

...No, I don’t mean emotions. Sometimes vinyl needs a little longer; not all irons were created equal and corners can be missed. On my first use of Happy Fabric vinyl, I saw that one corner hadn’t stuck properly, and so peeled it from the other side. This left me with peely corners. Not ideal. When this happens, it’s okay to pop the grease-proof paper back on and give the vinyl an extra bit of time with the iron or heat press. 

   4.  The magic cushion!

When I used vinyl on a small zip bag, even pre-pressing and re-pressing didn’t seem to help stick down the edge of my vinyl shape. Hayley suggested using a ‘Happy Pillow’ (you could also use a tea towel) underneath to take the attention of the iron away from the seam of the bag and toward the vinyl I was trying to stick down. When creating a design near a seam or uneven area of fabric, a ‘magic cushion’ inside or underneath will make sure it gets the heat it needs. 

5. Layering up!

Some vinyl layers better than others, and I’ve been experimenting with this over the past week. A major downfall of mine was forgetting to peel off the carrier of the bottom layer before whacking everything else on top. This lead to the vinyl either not sticking properly, or the carrier of the first layer flapping helplessly under the firmly pressed second layer. You won’t be able to peel this off without ruining your design. Remember to go one step at a time.

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