5 this week.

9.27.2012

Evidence of this week's sewing!  I cut into some AMH Field Study prints to test out a new bag idea.

I'm also working on a wintery quilt this week!  Lots of blues (including Lux metallics!), grays, and whites make for some pretty trimmings!  

I'm dreaming up my next quilt too, this time for fall!  I really want to make a Modern Maples quilt from Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays (you can see a photo of the quilt in the preview on amazon or in the Lark Crafts Sneak Peek).  Amanda is kind of a genius, and this quilt is just so pretty!

I put together a new blogger bundle at Pink Castle Fabrics yesterday with this quilt in mind!  It's called Uptown Autumn (since it has a lot of prints from Jay McCarroll's new line Center City, in the Uptown colorway).  And this week, you can buy it (or any other precuts or bundles) for 20% off with the code PRECUT20.
Now I'm just waiting for my book to arrive before I can get started!

In other news, Denyse Schmidt shared a link to my Chicopee feathers on her facebook page yesterday!  See it there on the left?  How cool is that?  I was pretty excited!
Also, thank you all for the comment love on my 10 tips for better blog photos post!  That post took a ton of time to write so I appreciate all of your sweet comments on it.  I hope it got you thinking about ways to improve your photos!

That's about it for today!  Hope you're all having a nice Thursday :)

2 upcycled sweater pumpkins.

9.26.2012

Sometimes I see something on Pinterest and need to make it immediately.  Like these upcycled sweater pumpkins for example!
 I had some old sweaters set aside for a project like this, so I'm happy I could give them a new life!
They are so cute and quick to make too!  I'm not going to do a tutorial, but you can use Vanessa's fabric pumpkin tutorial to make the pumpkins (just make them larger of course and use a strong thread, like embroidery thread), put a random stick from your backyard in the center for the stem, and add some felt leaves!  I added burlap to the tops of mine for a little extra texture.
I've been on a bit of a fall decorating kick this week, and these are perfect for that purpose.  I'm tempted to make a few more!  My husband has been joking that I'm going to turn into a pumpkin soon with all of the pumpkin flavored drinks I've been having lately, so I might as well add a little more fuel to that fire :)

These were very much inspired by the pumpkins from Whimsy's Workshop, in case you'd rather buy some!

73 10 Tips for Better Blog Photos.

9.24.2012

I was honored when Beth at Plum and June asked if I'd write a post for her "Advice for New Bloggers" series!  I'm going to give some tips on improving your blog photos, since I've been meaning to write about it anyway :)  These tips are most relevant for taking photos of your sewing and craft projects (and fabric!) but most of them can apply to all photography!


1. Take photos in natural light!

This is the single most important rule, and I cannot stress it enough! Taking photos in natural light rather than at night or under artificial lighting is the simplest way to improve your photography.  Find a few places in your house (or outside) where the lighting is good, and take your pictures there regularly.  I have about 4 spots inside my house that I know will usually have good light because they're near a few windows: my cutting table, the kitchen table, one corner of my living room, and our guest bedroom.  Our backyard is great for quilt photos too since I can hang the quilts off of our fence.  Almost 100% of my pictures are taken in one of these 5 places!
The natural light shots here were taken in the early morning, they would turn out even better if I waited until the light was shining in the windows more.

Also, be mindful of when your designated photography spots get the best light!  This mainly depends on the direction the windows in that room face.  My sewing room gets the best light in the early afternoon, so that's when I usually take my photos!  It's worth waiting so your pictures have the best chance of turning out, and you'll have to take less time editing later to get a good shot!

2. Pay attention to perspective.

It's easy to take pictures of something sitting on a table while you're standing at your normal height. It doesn't always make for the best photo though!
Not a very good picture.

Many times your picture could be improved if you get right at eye level.  If you're above your subject, bend your knees to get at the same level.
This one is at a better angle.  Pillows are at eye level and shot straight on.

The quilt looks crooked here!  

Especially for quilt photos, a straight on view of the quilt is an important shot to take!   Move around while looking through the camera lens to see what other perspectives make for interesting shots.  You can take a few pictures from different points and decide later which ones work best.

Straight on gives a better view of the quilt!

Overhead shots give a fun view of what's going on while you're working on a project! Stand on a chair or put the item on the ground and stand above it to get an overhead shot. Different perspectives will keep your photos fresh!
An interesting view of my fabric selections for a new bag.

For fabric photos, think about how you can lay it out to best display the range of colors and prints.
This is an okay photo, but it doesn't really show the color variance in the fabric.  The gridded backdrop is a little distracting and looks similar to the gray fabric.

These ombre prints change vary in color along the width of the fabric, so fanning them out is a better way to display them than all stacked up!
Shows color variance in the fabric, and the white background makes the colors pop!  Also a different perspective that adds a little more interest to the photo.


3. Choose a simple background.

Try to isolate your project by picking background that won't compete with the subject. This doesn't mean that you have to use a completely white background, a simple print works well too! You just want to have some contrast between your project and the background to make your project be the focal point.
 The background is too busy here, it draws more attention than the pincushion.


Much better!  Even though it's a print, your eye is drawn to the pincushion.

4. Learn how to use your camera in manual mode.

Read the manual that came with your camera!  It will tell you everything you need to know to shoot in manual mode.  Stop using the Auto setting on your camera!
Read the manual!

Learn how to manipulate the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. When you learn to adjust the settings, you'll have more control over the way your pictures turn out! This series from The Pioneer Woman is great for explaining the basics of photography in simple terms.
Using manual mode let's you have more control over the depth of field, among other things.  The focus on the center rolls of washi tape here while everything else is blurry is intentional and can be controlled using manual camera settings.

5. Turn off the flash!

Using flash often makes your photos look flat.  You lose the depth, dimension, and shadows that you get when the flash is off.  If you are following rule #1, you probably don't need flash anyway.  And if you've mastered rule #4, you know how to manipulate the settings on your camera to let more light in without using the flash.  You can also buy a reflector or a piece of white foam board to help bounce more light on your subject to avoid flash.

Notice how you can't see the quilting lines in the flash photo?  The photo with no flash gives the photo depth and dimension.

6.  Tidy up your space.

This is one of those rules that can sometimes be broken, but for the most part, it's best to take the clutter out of your photos!  It's distracting and looks messy!  If there's something else that's unrelated to your subject in the frame while you're taking a picture, move it.  This is a good rule to follow when you're photographing a finished project especially.

Clutter doesn't add anything to this photo.  It's just distracting.

On the other hand, sometimes taking a picture of the happy mess that happens while creating makes for a fun photo too!  The key is to make the clutter in your photos intentional rather than leaving it in because you don't feel like picking up.  Scraps, patterns, and tools that you're currently using are all relevant in these types of pictures.
Happy mess!  It's relevant to the project and helps portray that it's a work in progress.
(Also, overhead shot!  Great perspective for WIPs.)

If you're taking pictures of a stack of fabric, don't just throw them in a pile!  Press them and fold them all nicely in the same manner so that they are uniform in size.  (Jeni has a great folding tutorial!)  This ensures that the focus stays on the pretty fabric  rather than the random sizes or the wrinkles in the fabric! 
This looks messy.  My eyes are drawn to the torn edges and the variances in size.

A pretty stack of fabric!  The focus stays on the prints and colors of the fabric.  The grid doesn't really detract from this photo since the prints are so bold.

Here I notice sloppy folding and wrinkled background fabric!

This is much better!   No wrinkles and consistent folding.


7.  Add context to your photos.

Consider styling your photos a little to give them some context.  In my opinion, this is the rule that will give your photos that "wow" factor.  It's the difference between a nice photo and one that seems like it should be in a magazine.  This is the fun part!  Be creative.  Try to place your subject in a place it might be used in real life.  If you made a bag, lay it down with some of the things you might put in the bag looking like they've spilled out of it, or sit it down on a bench like you do with a bag when you get home from being out.  These types of photos add context to show what the purpose of the project really is.
There's nothing wrong with this picture, it's just a little boring!

This photo is a little more fun!  Like I just plopped my bag down on a bench in the hallway.  Bonus points for coordinating colors in my styled accessories with the project!

If you made a quilt, take photos of it in a place you think it might be used, casually sprawled out on a couch, layed out on your bed, folded up on a shelf or chair, etc.
  Don't you want to curl up on this couch?

Another way to add context is to try to portray what you're trying to say about your picture without words.
In this photo all you see is a bunch of triangles, and you're not sure why they're here.

But in this picture, you can probably figure out that I just cut these out!  The triangles are on my cutting mat, which is where I actually cut my fabric.  The ruler I used to cut them and my rotary cutter are in the photo, so I don't really even need to explain my cutting method in words if I don't want to.

Adding context like this to photos is especially helpful in tutorials!  Readers can skim through the pictures and get an idea of the steps they need to go through without reading through all of the instructions.

7.  Do some basic editing.

Most photos can benefit from a little editing!  Sharpen the photo a bit, increase the contrast, adjust the brightness, and increase saturation if necessary.  You can also adjust the white balance (or temperature) if the photo seems like it has a blue or yellowish tint to it.  Crop the finished photo to a smaller size so it will load faster in your blog posts.  I use Photoshop to edit my pictures, but there are lots of free programs out there that will let you do basic editing as well, and tons of tutorials to show you how to do it (Google is your friend!!).


8.  Use your camera, not your phone!

There's nothing wrong with an Instagram mash-up post every now and then, but don't use your phone to regularly take photos for your blog if you have a better camera to use!  Cameras on phones are improving, but a real camera is still better!  

9.  Once you've uploaded your photos to your blog, make them larger!

You spent all that time taking nice photos, so show them off in your blog post!  There's nothing worse than little thumbnail pictures in a blog post.  
So small!

Learn how to change the size of your pictures so they fill up the width of your blog!  In Blogger, you can click on the photo and select a size right there.  You can also go into the html tab to resize your photos manually.  There are tons of tutorials out there to do this as well!

Much better!

10.  Practice makes perfect!

The more you practice, the easier it will be to take good photos!

So that concludes my 10 tips for today... but I'm sure there are a bunch that I missed!  What's your best tip to improving blog photos?

9 sunday stash.

9.23.2012

I meant to post this yesterday but the day got away from me!  Here are a few stash additions that I made this week.
These are some oldies but goodies.  Actually not that old, but you know what I mean.  Loulouthi, Children at Play, Peacock Lane and some basic dots and stripes.
I had picked these up at fabric.com, but sadly I wasn't very impressed with their customer service.  I won't dwell on it any more than that!

If you're in the shopping mood today, Stash Fabrics is having a sale!  10% off of everything in the shop with the code STASH10, good through Monday 9/24.  Plus free shipping over $50... you can't beat that!  I just picked up the Sewing Guide prints from Mama Said Sew!

Pink Castle Fabrics also has some fun new stuff in this weekend including Center City, Echino Decoro and Ruby Star Vinyl!

Hope you're all having a nice weekend!  We've been painting our bedroom, which is not so fun but it will be when it's finished!  We also went to a furniture auction yesterday which was really fun.  I got a pretty navy blue steamer trunk with brass accents, and I'm in love :)  I think I'm going to clean it up and use it as a coffee table!

141 Skip the Borders Blog Tour & Giveaway.

9.21.2012

Happy Friday!  Today I'm honored to be a part of the blog tour for Julie Herman's new book, Skip the Borders.
I'm sure you all know Julie and her blog Jaybird Quilts, right?  And you've all seen her amazing pattern line and genius new Hex N More ruler?  This book is another wonderful addition to the list of her accomplishments!
Julie and I have a special connection... we're sorority sisters!  Even though we've never met, I am so grateful for the support, guidance, and advice that Julie has given me throughout my blogging and sewing journey.  I am very happy to help spread the word about Skip the Borders, and I can honestly tell you that it is a wonderful book!

Skip the Borders includes 15 patterns for borderless quilts, suitable for both beginning and intermediate quilters.  The book provides a very detailed introduction that describes some of the design principles and helpful hints about the types of quilts that work best without a border.  It also includes a section on the basics of making a quilt, piecing together a quilt back, and an entire chapter on binding!  I personally love reading these sections because I really enjoy seeing the different ways that people go about making quilts!
"In Formation" Quilt

The entire book is very well written, with clear and concise instructions.  The assembly diagrams are all very clear and easy to understand as well.  The book is very much in line with what we've come to expect with Julie's patterns!  The photography is great too, which is always important to me in a craft/sewing book.  I use most quilting books more for inspiration than anything else, and this one definitely makes me want to start sewing!

That being said, there are quilts that I actually want to make in this book!  My favorite quilt out of the entire book is "White Stars".  I love the contrast between the stars and the background prints!  I really want to make a Christmas quilt with this pattern!
Julie put together a little Q&A session for her book tour participants, so here are my answers!

Julie:  All of the quilts in Skip the Borders are... borderless! Do you skip borders on most of your quilts? 
Me:  I skip the borders on almost every quilt!  Most of the time, I just prefer most of my quilts without them!  Using a contrasting binding usually makes enough of a frame around the quilt in my opinion.  Although the Cosmos Butterflies quilt I'm working on now does have a border, so there are always exceptions!

Julie:  In the intro to my book I give you Permission to Break the Rules. Do you break some quilting rules? What is the number one rule you break and why?  
Me:  I personally never worry too much about the rules of quilting.  I'd rather do what makes me happy than feel constrained by thinking in the box all the time!  The number one rule that I break is that I always press my seams open rather than to one side!  I find it makes my blocks lie flatter and honestly I just prefer the symmetry of it!  It just looks much cleaner to me and makes the seams look nice and crisp from the front.  I also almost never use pins, so I guess I am just a quilting rebel :)

Julie:  It's no secret that I love binding! In Skip the Borders I included an entire chapter on binding. So the million dollar question, is do you use bias or straight of grain most of the time?
Me:  I use straight grain binding pretty much all the time!  It's faster to cut and uses less fabric.  Of course if I'm using it on a curve I'll use bias, but that's about the only time.

Now for the giveaway!  Martingale is giving away an eBook copy of Skip the Borders to one of you!

To enter, simply comment on this post!  Tell me the one most important thing you look for in a sewing/quilting book!  Please make sure there is a way for me to contact you if you win.  I'll pick a winner next Wednesday!

Update:  This giveaway is now closed.  Congratulations to the winner of the Skip the Borders eBook, Lindsay!

Don't forget to stop in an check out the other stops on the Skip the Borders blog tour!
Sept. 10th - Generation Q Magazine
Sept. 12th - PS I Quilt
Sept. 14th - Beyond the Reef
Sept. 17th - Pink Chalk Studio 
Sept. 19th - Fat Quarter Shop
Sept. 21st - Bijou Lovely
Sept. 24th - Red Pepper Quilts
Sept. 26th - Swatch & Stitch
Sept. 28th - Juicy Bits
Oct. 1st - V and Co
Oct. 2nd - Martingale Publishing
Oct. 5th - Carolina Patchworks
Oct. 8th - I'm a Ginger Monkey
Oct. 10th - Blue is Bleu
Oct. 12th - Quilting is My Therapy
Oct. 15th - Quilt Dad
Oct. 17th - Jaybird Quilts

7 cosmos butterflies.

9.19.2012

This week I've been working with Laura Gunn's Cosmos collection, making more wonky butterflies.  This quilt isn't exactly right for the season (it feels a little more like spring than fall!) but I thought these prints would be perfect for butterfly wings.
This quilt is a bit of a challenge for me, trying to see how far I can stretch the charm squares!  I'd like to make a good lap size quilt, so I'm probably going to add another border around the outside edges.
After I decided to use the painter's canvas as a border, rather than in between the butterflies, I had a lot of space to fill up!  I opted for low volume gray and white prints rather than just using solids.  It adds a lot more interest than the solid gray would have!  It's a little busy with the butterflies, but it's growing on me.
I'm hoping to finish piecing this top in the next few days!  I kind of like making quilts like this without a real plan, just adding to it as I go along.  We'll see where the rest of the week takes it!

p.s.  It has been so gloomy here this week!  Please excuse the lackluster photos.  Mr. Sun did not want to come out today.
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