Saturday, August 13, 2016

Paint Along 10: Decals

Here we are, friends, many months into this journey.  Could be worse.  I just finished up a quilt for Nellie that I began 4 years ago.

(and if Nellie and Clinton take a look at this:  there IS a quilt for Clinton too.  Not a pink one.)

If you have just found us for the first time, you can catch up on all the previous paint-along posts here.

I recommend at least a one week wait after coats 3/3.1 (just a few tiny touch ups after coat 3).  But life happened and it ended up being a 2 week wait.


  • The sewing machine.  D'uh!
  • The waterslide decals. (see the last post for decal sources)
    • Make two photocopies of the decals.  It does not matter if you copy them in black and white or color.  Check to make sure that they are the same size as the originals (put one of the copies on top of the original and hold them up to a window or light source).

  • Scissors
  • A bowl of warm water.  Warm is what the decal manufacturer recommends.  Mine started out very warm but by the time I finished a couple of hours later it was air-conditioned-room-cold.  I thought that might slow down the release-from-the-paper time, but it didn't.
  • MicroSet and MicroSol.  (see this post for sources, or just go to amazon)

  • Two tiny paint brushes (super-cheap ones will do.  like the kind that come in kids water color kits) and another firm small one.  
  • Paper towels
  • Painters tape
  • A stopwatch (the clock feature on my phone has this)

Decal Placement

If you are lucky, the decal manufacturer will have provided pictures of the exact model of your machine with the exact decals that you bought.  I was not lucky and I am providing feedback to the seller privately about this.  Privately in this case means "not eBay feedback" because obviously I am telling all of you about it.  

In addition, the decals I got did NOT exactly fit the machine and hand crank as they were advertised to do.  However a quick check on eBay just now shows that the only other decals available for the Singer 99 are the filigree design.  Although filigree is pretty, I wanted more bling for the buck.  

Whether you buy decals that reproduce the original Singer decals, or fantasy decals that are not exact reproductions, you should practice the decal placement ahead of time.  You will discover what works, and what does not work and will need tweaking.  I have had minor size and placement problems even with the Singer reproductions.

So, take one of your photocopies and cut out the decals.  Stick them on the machine with the painters tape.  Use the other photocopy to make notes about where each one goes (bed front edge, pillar back, etc.)  Use PENCIL to do this and have an eraser handy.  Because the seller did not provide photos I moved things around quite a bit as I worked out where everything needed to go.

The decal shown above was obviously not meant to go here.  But by clipping the bits apart I can MAKE it go here.

On the long arm I wanted to get the placement right, and did not trust myself to be able to eyeball it and slide it into place quickly.  I moved the photocopies down below so that I could line them up properly.


Do you have all of your supplies assembled?  OK, let's go.

start with something small and located on a flat-ish surface.

Cut out the decal as close to the edge of the image as your skills allow.

Drop it into the warm water and start your stopwatch.

Remove the paper placement image and tape just for that small decal.

Brush a tiny bit of Micro Set onto the place where the decal will go, and the immediate area around it.

By now my stopwatch reads somewhere in the low 20 seconds.  I wait until 30 seconds and remove the decal from the water.  The decal instructions said 30-40 seconds but in my case 30 was plenty.  If it does not slide off the backing paper easily, you need to leave it in there longer.  And I am sure that you could have figured that out for yourself, but my goal here is to cyber-hold your hand through the whole process.

Hold it in position near the spot where it will go and START to slide it off.  Have a little bit sticking out past the paper.  Put that in the right spot and hold that edge down with a finger.  Then slide the rest of the paper out from under it.  No way to photograph this while it was happening!

The closer you can get to the proper placement and alignment from the moment the decal touches the machine, the better.  The larger the decal the more critical this is.

I worked from the top down.

And speaking of the larger decals:  You have to turn them into smaller decals!  Trust me on this.  The larger they are, the trickier it is to deal with them.  The long bed edge decals, for example, can be cut into small sections.  Look for tiny gaps between the motifs.  Then start at one edge and apply them one at a time.

Above, arm front.  Below, bed front.

You do have a few seconds in which to slide it into a better position if you didn't get it perfect.  Better yet, forget all about perfect.  You will be much happier with your results if you assume from the beginning that perfection is impossible.  I have done several machines and none have "perfect" decal placement.  All are gorgeous anyhow.

If you do crinkle up the decal, don't panic.  Dip your tiny paint brush back into the MicroSet and straighten it out again.  I crumpled and folded up one small one so badly I thought I was going to have to throw it away, but with some patience I was able to manipulate it flat again.

Once the decal is where you want it, take your slightly damp paper towel and gently blot off any extra MicroSet.  Start from the center of the design and blot outwards.  This will move some of the extra MicroSet out from under the decal and will also push the decal down into the texture of the hammered paint.

Use a bright light to examine the decal.  If you see wrinkles or bubbles you can also take the small firm paintbrush and/or one of your fingers and press the decal down.  If you see an air bubble under a larger decal you can puncture it with a pin and press the air out.

The biggest problem I encounter, and I have encountered it with EVERY machine I have done, is on the convex surface of the pillar top.  The decal has to curve over this surface.  If you just stick it on there, there WILL be wrinkles.  So cut into the decal in the way that you clip curves on a curved seam.  This will allow the decal to spread out a tiny bit and slide over the convex surface.

The clipping shows up better on the back side than on the front.

Another problem can arise with larger decals that go on flat.  Larger decals can trap air bubbles beneath them.  AMHIK.  I took my scalpel and cut tiny slits into the center before putting it in the water bath.  This way the bubbles can escape through the slits.

All finished with your decal application?   Brush on a bit of Micro Sol and then leave it alone.  With small decals, put the MicroSol on immediately after you finish each decal application. If you have cut a large/long decal into sections, wait to put the MicroSol on until after all the sections are applied.

The MicroSol softens the decals and they are much more likely to tear if you mess with them once this is on.  However, I did go over a few places where they looked like they should be pressed down more firmly, using the firm paint brush to tamp them down.  I did this VERY CAREFULLY.

I noticed a particular angle of light in the studio where the textured nature of the hammered Rustoleum showed up beautifully.

It is BOTH textured AND smooth and glassy.  Fabric glides over it beautifully.  Let's remember why I recommend hammered paint for your first sewing machine paint job:  It is very forgiving.  It will cover up small chips in your original paint job.  And you don't have to strip off the original paint.

The decal seller recommended putting the gold decals over dark color or strong jewel tones.  And I believed this.  The contrast between the pink machine and the gold decals is too low for the decals to show up well from across the room.  But when little Nellie is sitting right in front of the machine it will show up very well and look pretty.  Princess pretty.

Let it all dry overnight and then apply clear coat.  That will be the subject of the next blog post.  See you then!


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