Thursday, May 31, 2012

tips for better Blog Photos

Photos are big part of blogging. Getting a great photo doesn't come natural to most folks.  There's a learning curve for sure.  If you're a beginner and aren't sure where to start, here's a helpful post on Lighting, Perspective, Background and Camera.  Since then, I actually bought a new camera that really helps me take nice pictures in low lighting.  Even though I admire those who use more professional cameras, I'm very happy with my Canon powershoot, which only cost $130. 

I always try my best to take a beautiful picture from the get go.  But, the fact is that most all my pictures benefit from a little boost after the fact.  Yours probably will too.  For me, post production is a regular part of my process.  I shoot with a digital camera, often in low lighting since I won't use flash, so my pictures always need added contrast, saturation and sharpness.  If that means nothing to you, have no fear, just read on.  Since my husband is a professional photographer, we own Adobe Photoshop, which I use to process my images before uploading them to Flickr.  Let's talk today about free online resources to help you photograph your fabulous craftiness!

If you are taking pictures of your work to share on a blog, by all means use Flickr!  Flickr is way fun.  It's a social community based on pictures.  It's free.  And, you're sure to be inspired by all the beauty there!

I start "processing" my pictures by choosing my favorites and deleting the rest.  Then I shrink them down to a very manageable size so that they upload into Flickr quite quickly.  I use Canon's "Digital Photo Professional" to resize my pictures to about 600 x 450 pixels all in one batch, saving the large originals in case I need them later.  You don't have to do this though - Flickr will accept very large images.  But, small images load quickly.

Flickr has a new built-in tool to help you improve photos.  And it's free!  To access it, click on your photo and choose Actions/edit photo in Aviary.  I used Aviary today for the first time and it was very intuitive.  If you haven't resized your images to make them smaller before loading to Flickr, you can use the Crop tool to do so.  You can select the entire image so that you're not really cropping it - just making it a smaller file size, which will help your final blog post load quickly.

The first tool in the Aviary consul is Enhance.  It has little stars by it because it's magical.  If you aren't interested in adjusting contrast/saturation/brightness etc. individually (and you probably aren't) this is the button for you.  Click on Enhance and then click "Enhance" again to make it happen.  If you feel that your image is too dark, the "Night" button in the Enhance consul brightens the image quite nicely. 

After using Enhance, you might be done. But, if you took your image in low lighting, it might be a bit out of focus.  Use the slider on the Sharpness tool until the image looks better.  Careful not to sharpen too much, as it will increase graininess and can create little white lines around the shapes in your image. 

Here's a typical image of mine of some stashings from Fresh Modern Fabric, taken in reasonably good natural lighting:

Fresh Modern stashings

Here's the improved Aviary version with Enhance and a little Sharpness.  In this case, since the original photo was pretty decent, the improved Aviary version looks quite a lot like the improved Photoshop version (not shown).

Fresh Modern stashings w/Aviary

Here's another example, shot yesterday in poor lighting conditions.  Because it was overcast, there was not enough light for me to get a clear shot and the image is definitely not sharp.

Tossed Polaroids

In Aviary, I used Enhance.  Then, I added the Night button in the Enhance consul to brighten the image.  I added lots of Sharpness since it was blurry.  To show you what Saturation does, I also used the Saturation tool to make the colors richer/brighter than they are in real life.

Tossed Polaroids w/Aviary

Looks fun, right?  The image is grainy (you can see some pixelation/grain since it was a low quality image), but it's still a fun image to share.  If you have a poor quality image that you really want to share, you can also experiment with Effects in Aviary to give the image a whole new life.  This is the Ventura effect:

Tossed Polaroids w/Aviary & Ventura

Before we move on from this image, here is the Photoshop corrected image without any bumps in lighting or saturation, just for your reference.  It's slightly less grainy than the Aviary version and not overly saturated:

Tossed Polaroids w/Photoshop

One last example.  Here's an image I took of my floor during the design process of my latest quilt.  This was a functional image, taken with artificial lighting at night and not one I intended to share on the blog.  See how it has those awful glare spots from our lights?  Those totally bother me. Plus, it's really blurry and lacking color/contrast.  Blech.

Design floor

Here's what Aviary was able to do to rescue the image with Enhance and lots of sharpness:

Design floor w/Aviary

I still would have not been thrilled to share this image on my blog.  But, it's not too bad, if it was an important image.  Still, I think this version with the Indiglow Effect would have been more fun to share:

Design floor w/Aviary Indiglow

And, just in case you're wondering, I did use Aviary to put those "Original" labels on the original photos, using the Text tool.

Big Huge Labs/Mosaic Maker
One last tip, you can make mosaics with a few or LOTS of pictures quite easily by using Big Huge Labs.  Link your Big Huge Labs account with your Flickr acount so that you can painlessly add pictures to the mosaic and publish the mosaic to Flickr, including text that links to each original flickr image.  Go to the Mosaic Maker.  Have fun!

When your pictures are ready in Flickr, use the "share this" tab above any picture to "Grab the HTML/BBCode".  I copy that code into the HTML version of my post to drop in pictures that automatically link to my Flickr account.

I hope this was helpful info and let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

{Tossed Polaroids}

Tossed Polaroids

It looks like it will work, my friends! I'm juggling polaroids as we speak. More soon!

psst... blocks by the Love circle of do. Good Stitches. Tossed in Kona coal and Kona medium gray.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

easy is Good

Once upon a time, I pinned this lovely image to my Patchwork Pinterest board.  My exact comments,  "easy is good."

by Cassandra Ellis

Whenever I develop a class, I really stretch myself in the process.  I want to create projects that are fresh, useful, but not too hard.  I must try new things, things that don't always work.  It's exciting and exhausting.

Maybe that's why I was struck with the desire to make this quilt while visiting a friend in her new nest.  She hadn't had the time or energy to do much decorating and I noticed she had only sheets on the two beds that stood in a sunny, large children's room.  This quilt by Cassandra Ellis really looks like my friend as well.  Bethany is loyal to neutrals, a fan of simple, with a style that exudes good old-fashioned purity.  Here's an example of when being "original" was not even the point.  I set out to make a quilt just like Cassandra's, but in colors to suite Bethany's children.  Easy and good.

One thing I love about this design is how it contrasts random and order.  The strips of "stacked coins" that reach across the quilt, are all neatly aligned with a standard length, but within the strips the width of the coins varies dramatically.  This also means you can use scraps of various sizes, rather than having to trim away (waste away) fabric to fit a particular dimension.

piecing and listening

I decided to cut my scraps 9" long in widths varying from 1.5" to 6".  As I pieced them together, I noticed that I preferred to use the thin strings sparingly to keep the quilt from being too busy.  I cut up all of my neutral string scraps and large scraps in blacks, browns, whites and grays.  For Lucy's quilt I added peachy pinks, bright pink, soft pink, lime green, pale green and dark green.  After some piecing, I made sure to use plenty of Kona solids rather than so many prints to give the eye places to rest.  And, I did have to keep reminding myself that this quilt was to have lots of neutrals.  My ratio of neutral to colored strips is about 4:1.

warm Flea Market Fancy grays

After piecing the strings into long rows, it was time to trim the rows to 60" long (Bethany asked for twin quilts measuring 60" x 96").  I had cut my strings 9" wide with the intention of trimming them to 8.5" wide after piecing.  This approach allowed me to piece without stressing if row edges were sewing in perfectly aligned.  Stacking so many strings together inevitably causes edges to shift here and there. Trimming to perfection makes for relaxing sewing!

trimming up

To trim, I folded the strips in half, matched the fold to the bottom of my cutting mat and cut the length of the strip to 30" for 60" long unfolded.  I took a 1/4" or so off each side of the strip to finish them at 8.5" wide.

tagging strips

Once all (12) 8.5" x 60" strips were pieced and trimmed, I arranged them on the floor.  Then I flipped and shuffled strips until the most eye-catching prints (like the black dot and bright lime floral) were evenly distributed.  To save the strip order without having to leave them spread out on my floor, I used masking tape to stick numbers right on each strip!

Simple for Lucy

Then just 11 loooooong seams later, I had a quilt top!

lots of neutrals

This quilt design is one I can heartily recommend to anyone.  It's a great choice for your first quilt or a fast, easy way to eat through those string scraps.  I'd love to see a rainbow scrap version!  Or, a monochromatic rendering would be lovely!


My quilt is now patiently waiting a backing.  I can't bring myself to piece together prints from my stash for the back, since they would probably never see the light of day on the back of a bed quilt.  I'm going to order something in this case.  Hopefully, it'll be linen!

Monday, May 28, 2012

this Weekend

Delighted with fabric mail from Lark Cottons!  Prewashing today.  Oooh, that pastry voile in marine positively slays me.  The color is perfection.  (Was considering ordering more, but ack, they're out.  Did find it here.)

stashings from Lark Cottons

Felt like I got to sew, sew, sew!  So nice to spend the weekend at home with my things all spread out and nowhere to go. 

the way I left it... at sunset

Spent time with my girlie, who fiddled around with those fabric strips and discovered she could gather and sew them together to make a little fluff.  Little Miss Creative made a headband for her friend.  I suggested the fluffs might look good clustered to one side, but this arrangement was far preferable.  She and I are both so alike.  We always know what we like.

little miss creative

And last night, finished a quilt top!  I'll be back tomorrow with details on how to make.  This one would be great for your first quilt (or for eating up those strip scraps).  

finished top!

Hope yours was filled with light!  Did you get a chance to indulge in the creative?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fabric Sales!

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend here in the states, which means there are lots of sales going around!  I know that many of you are shopping for fabrics for Handstitched Class, so I thought this might be a good time for you to know where you can pinch those pennies.  I saved a bit on my planned purchases!

{Sew Love Fabrics}
15% off the whole store, including new arrivals like Night Shade and Happy Drawing.  Discount already applied!

{Canton Village Quilt Works}
all Black and Whites will be $7.95 per yard on Saturday the 26th
all Westminster fabrics will be $8.25 per yard on Sunday the 27th
all Art Gallery fabrics will be $$7.95 per yard on Monday the 28th
New Sale markdowns and with the code SALE10 you get an extra 10% off
Store Wide Sale, including new arrivals like Yuwa Japanese Fabrics and Stockholm! Everything is 10 – 60% off! There's also a Daisy Janie Organic Fabric giveaway for 4 winners, which ends Friday, midnight, EST!  Most discounts appear in the check-out.
 Something New and Something Old sale - all 10% off with coupon code "OLDNEW" through Tuesday.
Plus, automatic free shipping on all USA orders over $50 also through Tuesday.

{Sew Modern}
20% off all non-sale fabric, including Grand Hotel and Lotta's new Bella bundles, with code QMS12 through Monday.

 {The Intrepid Thread}
Starting Saturday, all sale fabrics are marked down to 50% off msrp! Save another 10% off everything in your cart with the coupon code REMEMBER10 through Tuesday.

{Swell Cloth}
10% off  your entire purchase this weekend with code MEMORIALDAY10.
In addition, domestic orders over $50 receive free shipping with code FREESHIPMAY2012.
Lots of collections on sale like Tilly by Daisy Janie ($10/yd), Outfoxed and Hello Pilgrim by Lizzy House ($6/yd), Flora ($6/yd), A Walk in the Woods ($6/yd), Good Fortune by Kate Spain ($6/yd), and Kitchy Kitchen by Maude Asbury ($6/yd) through June 1, 2012.  Plus, Bloomerie is is donating $1 per order to the U.S. War Dogs Association, a non-profit that raises awareness, funds and permanent homes for canines used in war and as police canines.

Save 5% off an order of $25 or more with code SPRINGSHOWERS through Tuesday.

NEW! 24 hour Memorial Day Sale through Monday night!!!  10% off Riley Blake Fabrics through Thursday the 31st and lots of new Sale Fabrics!

 {Lark Cottons}
10% off all fabrics with code Rhubarb through Tuesday.  Code is case sensitive and must be entered on the shopping cart page.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quilt Backings

So, here's the thing - I rarely give the quilt back any thought until my quilt top is completely finished.  Nope, I don't plan ahead.  I'll actually say to myself "tomorrow I'll baste this top" and not even consider if I have fabrics on hand for backing.  When I go to baste, sometimes I realize I need to order yardage and have a bit of a "duh" moment.  But, most times I will make do with fabric in my stash.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I buy most prints in 1/2 yard cuts, which won't go far for backings.  I have a few larger cuts stashed away, including a few 3 yard cuts of Kona since solids are the one thing I know will never sit idle for long.  Most of my backings are improvisationally pieced based on fabrics on hand.

Today I thought I'd walk you through how my backing for the Modern Medallion quilt came to be.  It's nothing fancy, but sometimes it's helpful to hear someone's process, right?

Fabric Layout

To start on a backing, I usually lay the quilt top on the floor as a reference point.  In this picture, it's off to one side to show me how tall my backing needs to be.  This quilt is a square, so I can visually estimate from there.

After fishing through my stash, I pulled this Flea Market Fancy Seedpod Stripe, a fabric I had used a tiny bit on the quilt top.  This red/orange/blue/brown color scheme is not something I figured would be very versatile for my stash and I had almost a yard cut left.  Perfect!

Turns out, one of my 3-yard Kona cuts was Kona Papaya, which coordinates nicely with Flea Market Fancy.  I laid the orange fabric out beside my 1 yard cut of Seedpod Stripe, and found that what remained to be filled was a modestly-sized section at the upper left.

Fabric Layout

If you take a look at this picture again, you'll see that I added the Momo butterfly fat quarter next (which just happens to exactly match Seedpod Stripe), then the chocolate Heath and lastly Flea Market Fancy Posie Brown, since the butterfly print was not large enough vertically to fill the space.

I'll admit that I hesitated at this point, since the back had turned out to carry such a different color scheme than the front of my quilt. I decided that since the Flea Market Fancy collection unites the front and back, it was good enough for me.  And that's the thing about color - each of us gets to decide what we like.  And we're the expert on that!

squaring fabrics

Now that my backing fabrics were laid out, the next step was to trim up the fabrics that I planned to use in their entirety.  So, the Seedpod Stripe and the Momo butterfly fabrics - each of those I planned to have take up as much space as possible on the quilt back.  Here I am squaring up the butterfly fat quarter so it's ready to be worked with.

piecing my backing

Next, I added Posie Brown fabric to the butterfly print. How much Posie Brown?  I measured Seedpod Stripe + Momo Butterfly to see how long they were combined and subtracted that number from the total length of the quilt top.  The difference is how much Posie Brown I should add.  And... I made a mistake here, so I ended up adding Posie Brown on both sides of the butterfly to fix my mistake.  Which turned out to be an improvement!

piecing my backing

The Chocolate Heath went in next, sewn to the Posie Brown/Butterfly block.  I added enough Heath to make this segment as wide as my Seedpod Stripe, and then pieced the upper segment to the Seedpod Stripe.

piecing my backing

Now in the homestretch - just need to add that Kona Papaya!  With my large cut of Papaya, cutting would be easiest on the floor.  I slid my mat under the fabric and cut it just long enough to equal my work in progress.  No math!

cutting yardage

Before piecing, I wanted to trim off some Papaya so that the long strip was only as wide as required for the finished quilt back.  Here I've folded my length of Papaya on my cutting mat to rotary cut it to width.  For tips on how to fold, square up and cut yardage with your rotary mat, see steps 1-6 on this Colorbrick tutorial.

And that's a wrap!  Hope this was helpful.  Now I'm hand quilting...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

{Tutorial} Lined Pocket

Early this week I received a swap gift in the mail and so did my swap partner!  That means I can publicly thank Des for this pretty hexagon pouch, featuring Heirloom by Joel Dewberry, a collection I most certainly love!

from Des of Faith circle

It's see-through, which is just what I need for my travels.  I think Des read my mind.

thanks, Des!  I love it!!!

This swap between members of the Faith circle of do. Good Stitches was a pouch swap.  My teeny, tiny half square triangle creation was for Debbie.

for Faith circle swap

She wanted a big, roomy pouch for projects on-the-go, so I figured she could also use a nice little pocket inside.  A lined pocket is quite each to make!  For those of you newer to sewing, I thought you might like a little tutorial.

with a pocket =)

{Pocket Tutorial}

Step 1: Create Pocket

pocket tutorial

Begin by making two equally-sized squares or rectangles in your desired pocket size.  One square will be your pocket outer; the other is your lining.  Place squares right sides together and sew around 3 sides, backstitching at start and finish. The side that you do not sew will be the bottom edge of the pocket.  Turn pocket right side out.  Poke out corners and press.

Step 2:  Attach at Bottom

pocket tutorial

Before I finished sewing the lining on my pouch, I added the pocket to the right side of the pouch lining fabric.  First, pin the raw edges of your pocket horizontally on your background fabric with the rest of your pocket extending below.  Pin with the right side of the pocket against the right side of the background fabric so that the lining of the pocket shows.  The pocket is situated as if it has fallen open/down because the sides of the pocket have not yet been sewn.

Sew along the raw edges of the pocket with a 1/4" seam allowance, attaching the bottom edge of the pocket to the background fabric.

Step 3:  Attach at Sides

pocket tutorial

Now that the bottom is secure, flip the pocket up so that the right side of the pocket shows.  Pin along both sides, making sure that none of the raw edge threads poke out at bottom.

pocket tutorial

Starting at the top of one side of the pocket, secure the edges to the background fabric by sewing with a 1/8" topstitch along the side, across the bottom edge and them up the opposite side to finish.  Be sure to backstitch quite a bit at start and finish of this topstitch line in order to really secure the pocket.

finished pocket!

And, you're done!

a big, roomy pouch

Thanks for a great swap, Faith ladies!
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