An Historical look at our Christmas Traditions
Sometimes reaching back to rejuvenate a classic can also show us the way forward.
2005 saw the first release of a new concept in embroidery designs called Interactives™ for Designer’s Gallery customers. When people saw them, they knew the rules of machine embroidery software had been changed. When I first created the idea for these titles, I wanted to merge art and technology in a way that would be unique to embroidery. I wanted to teach software how to digitize, and not some auto-digitizing nonsense, either. I wanted to teach it how to digitize beautiful embroidered things; things which were artistically made as well as variable. I wanted to allow the user to put their own spin on designs; to adjust them to their point of view or project rather than being stuck with stock renderings. This is why the original title of the product was Beautiful Things, though Baby Lock changed the title, trademarking Interactives™.
You can read more about the Christmas Traditions projects here.
We released Christmas Traditions and Dining in Lace as the first two Interactives titles, followed by 2 or 4 titles every year after, for a period of nearly 10 years. During this time, I was engaged as a speaker at sewing machine dealer events around the US and even Australia. For some years, I was part of the team involved with the Love of Sewing events with Nancy Zieman, the lady behind Nancy’s Notions and the popular PBS show, Sewing with Nancy. If you didn’t get to see her in person at one of those events, know that she was every bit as down to earth as anyone. She was always humble to a fault and generous with her time. She has been missed.
Wherever I would go, people saw the Interactives and what made them special. I made many friends during those travels, and still hear from many of them today. I was reminded the other day that people are still using them every year!
I chose to bring back Christmas Traditions because of the need to stay creative and keep our holiday cheer.. Simply put, we’re in our crafts/sewing spaces biding our time until the pandemic relents, and we need every creative outlet.
It took some years to decide how to bring the technology of these titles into Embrilliance, which is well-known to support Mac computers, whereas the original titles did not. Further, the engine for the original was dated and had been supplanted by the more modern one in StitchArtist. Ultimately, I decided to proceed by redrawing and re-digitizing the components and releasing them as BX installed design components, and then I built the user interface and corresponding code into the Embrilliance Platform itself.
Christmas Traditions (redux) is designed for 5×7″ (130x180mm) machines. This is not to exclude the 4×4″ (100x100mm) market. Rather, it is a functional necessity of the designs. The first and primary design in Christmas Traditions is the ornament cover. Designs for these have circulated since the 1990s and they all shared the same basic problem: You had to be able to find a Christmas ornament that was suited to the design. Being a fan of freestanding lace, I knew this was a problem that I could solve and it would be fun. My approach was in 2 parts: arithmetic and by design. The designs in the ornament covers, I reasoned, could be scaled as digitizing objects, if only the user had a means to tell the program to do so. Naturally, a creative and intelligent digitizer could create their own, however, what was an average user to do? So the first interactive design was the ornament cover.
Once that was working, we all looked at them laying flat and said, “Those look like snowflakes!” And there was the second interactive design. Whereas the ornament covers had to have a circular hole or hub at the top, the snowflakes did not, and that provided the incentive to design more connective hubs. At the time I had an artist helping with the designs, and we were able to come up with some wonderful things quickly. You’ll see the semblance of that original art in today’s pieces, although it all had to be redone for 2020.
The Christmas theme was now being followed, as these designs were to become a collection. I imagined a reindeer in FSL and asked the artist to conjure one. The first draft gave me an idea, so I rejected the second draft, which was a tent-style construction and opted to leave the curves into the back of the reindeer. My background does include sewing, and to me, if you sewed the backside together and eased it through the curve, like you would a sleeve cap, you could construct a nicely rounded 3-dimensional piece. That reindeer ‘butt’ as we like to say, made the little ornaments so charming. Once we had that working, we wondered how to make them stand up. Here, in the arid climate of New Mexico, leaving in a little bit of the stabilizer starch would do the trick, but I, like you and every crafter you’ve ever met, has one of those hot glue guns just sitting in the drawer (mostly never used, extra glue stick package unopened). We played around with wire, but ultimately the idea of hot-gluing pipe cleaners into the designs won out.
Of course, a reindeer is a working animal, and they need a job to do. Santa’s sleigh was an obvious choice. We did a couple variations of the art. The candy cane piping was very busy so ultimately I removed it from the lower part of the sleigh, but it was still overwhelming at times, hence the interactive bit of code to change it up was added. Also, crystals seem to come and go in popularity, following the lead of Hula Hoop and bellbottoms (please let’s not go back to those) so I added an alternate eyelet as placement for crystals in the sleigh sides.
Next the width was a challenge. Sure we could fix it to make it hang from a tree or be narrow enough to sit on a mantle, but I also wanted a candy dish version. And thus came the idea of digitizing lines within the design and allowing the code to find those and move things around for the user.
A friendly FSL font and a few designs were added to round out the collection, and that’s what you have with Christmas Traditions. A reborn version of the time-honored original.
I hope you enjoyed my tale of its creation, and may it bring you many hours of fun with your machines!