Friday, November 30, 2012

Gasp * Rainbow of Thread!

Oh goodness I got the package of Aurifil thread that I won participating in the Merrily We Sew Along. I may or may not have jumped up and down clapping my hands. A rainbow box of loveliness. It's the Simply Color coordinated thread put together by V and Co to match her new fabric collection. I coincidently ordered my first pieces of this collection last week. Yay! I don't think I would ever have been able to buy all of these colors and am so thankful for them. I haven't sewn with Aurifil before and can't wait to put them to use. I can imagine almost all of them except the green one. What should I use the green one for? Maybe more thread-painting: leaves, leprechauns, cacti... 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holy Schmoley Icesmeismographberg !!!!!

My Icesmeismographberg won the Merrily We Sew Along improv placemats!!! Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!!!! Cuz I can't help it, I'm so excited! I mean I'm on someone's blog and they're talking about me. Geeking out here. I'm so glad that Rachael at Imagine Gnats and Kelley at Casa Crafty  and the gang decided to put the Sew Along together and so thankful for the sponsors. It totally sparked my imagination and ideas for new projects.  !!!!!!!! (Can't help it).

It was especially nice to do improve and blue thread work because I've been working on a quilt for my niece and it's semi-precise and pink. Lots of pink. So much pink that I might put together some more monochromatic log cabin blocks a la Scrappy Stash QAL and make them into a pillow. Maybe to give away for the massive Sew Mama Sew giveaway in December. Here's a look at "Pip Pop" for my niece and the wonky pillowcase I might send over as well:

Of course now that I see the picture it gives me the urge to sew more blocks and wonky things together then cut them up, rearrange and sew back together. Again, thanks for the win and it was so much fun seeing what everyone made.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Architextures- A Giveaway!

I've been stalking this fabric Architextures. Really. Waiting for it to show up in stores. And look Lily's quilts is giving some away! If you'd like to maybe get in on the fun click over to the giveaway and throw your hat in.

And now for somethings not that completely different. Every post needs a picture so as not to be denuded looking. I looked at my stash the other day and it was not good. The fabric was great but it was so messy lookin'. So I semi-color coordinated it and folded it.

Before and After:

More Fabric to be Thankful For? Yes Please

If you would like a chance at winning some new fabric you should go on over to Contemporary Cloth and enter their giveaway. They are also having a great special with free shipping and 20% off fabric. You probably need lots more fabric.

Have you ever piled up fabric, not really thinking about it, while you went through things or folded or were shopping and then looked up and thought, wait, that's perfect. Here's my accidental neutrals pile. I'd love a... something made from them :)

It's all Kona cottons sitting on top of my white purchased quilt. Head on over to Contemporary Cloth and pile up some fabrics together!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Look What Your Camera Did! Getting the Best Pictures: Part 1

Hello all, welcome! This tutorial is part of the Sorta Sewing Summit. You can get a class schedule for a whole bunch of different skills and tutorials over on Distant Pickles.

Lets jump right in. The number one most important thing that most people don't know about their camera is that it is made to make your pictures middle grey and that is (mostly) bad! What's middle grey? If you mix equal parts white and black you get middle grey.

This is great if you have a black and white quilt, object or photo scene. If you don't, you'll need to make some adjustments to your photo or digital file. You can do this in your camera before you take the picture or later with editing on your computer. If you do it in your camera and upload your file it'll already look just right and you'll be good to go.

How do we do that? On most digital cameras there is a button on the outside of the camera that looks something like this:

A little box or sign with a plus/minus on it. Your camera may have it on the back or top or it can be listed in your menu usually under "exposure compensation". You can keep your camera on auto while you use this feature which keeps things fast and easy. On this camera auto looks like a mini green camera.

This is what it may look like on your viewfinder once you push that button:

Leaving your camera on auto without any adjustments may make the pic turn out like the one on the left. Greyish brown = not great.

So many people leave their photos looking like this when it's an easy fix. Here's how: you adjust your exposure compensation by moving your indicator (it's the yellow line on this screen) to the + positive side.

See our yellow line has moved up and now it says +1.0 ? That makes the picture brighter. This means plus one stop, or a bunch more light, is being recorded so your creation's not grey. Then the camera and your eye see the same thing, like the apron on the right.
We can also adjust or edit the grey picture later on the computer. Since that is picture heavy it's in the 2nd half of the photo guide.


Whether you'll be posting your pictures on your blog, Etsy or printing for yourself you'll want to be aware of presentation. If you'll be selling your things on a site like Etsy you want a clean non-busy background, preferably white, so that we are only looking at what you made, not what you have in the background. 

Practice Time:

Set your creation on a busy piece of fabric and snap a picture. Can you see your creation easily? Are you looking at the fabric rather than what you made? If this is seen as a tiny thumbnail on a selling site will people be able to tell what it is? Here are a few different backgrounds:
The orange background isn't bad and neither is the Sketch/grey one. The bottom left Masaai Mara makes your eye bounce around looking at blue and green and white and bowl. Too distracting. I just want people to see what I painted.  I might use the orange and grey ones on a blog or for personal prints. They do not work for for a site like Etsy as it is difficult to see just the bowl and tell what it is quickly. People only spend about a second looking at your picture. If they can't tell what it is, and that it's good quality, they will skip over it. You want people looking at what you made not trying to figure out what's behind it. 

So what is the paper/cardstock/foam core for? As a reflector! You don't need super fancy expensive reflectors when almost anything white will do. Here's one with (top) and one without (bottom):

Light from the window is coming from the right. With a paper reflector to the left of bowl the light bounces off the reflector and fills in the shadow. This makes the whole picture lighter or easier to see. Our fancy shmancy reflectors, otherwise know as a white paper/cardstock/foamcore/white sheet, can be held up by your hand or a highly technical reflector-holder like this pillow:

Next up is a walk through editing in Part Two

Look What Your Camera Did! Getting the Best Pictures: Part 2

Welcome! If you didn't get Part 1 you'll want to pop back up and read it first

Editing to Get Your Best Picture

Let's get a picture that you've taken that needs a little help looking better. We'll do some editing on a site called PicmonkeyWhy? It's easy, it's fast, it's free and you can apply the same ideas to other editing programs.  I have no association with them and found them through a friend. Here's one of their seasonal home pages:

If you're blessed to have Adobe Photoshop you'll recognize some of the same principles at work.

Upper left: homepage of Picmonkey. Upper right: how to start! Click on "Edit a Photo"
Lower left: your picture uploaded. Lower right: clicked on "Rotate" so I can fix the leaning apron:

Now (that my picture is straight) you can click on Exposure to play around with how bright the image is, the shadows/highlights and things like that. It's the quick n dirty way to combat the grey of your "auto" photo and is available on most editing software. But don't settle for that! With a couple more seconds of skills you can get amazing results.

What we want to do is learn about curves. Don't worry, it's not hard. Click on the beaker looking icon and you'll get a bunch of "effects" to use and advanced editing. You'll want to click on curves. You'll get a box with a diagonal line, bottom left to top right. Click on that line and drag it up and left. This is usually all you'll need to make your picture brighter, more accurate and override the "grey" that your camera thinks you want:

If you look next to "Channel" there is an RGB (red/green/blue) and that adjusts the whole image or light/darkness of the picture. You can change this channel to blue and it'll adjust the blue vs. yellow tint in your picture. This is handy if you are taking pictures inside as most household non-LED/halogen lights are yellow colored. You can put channel on red and this adjusts the red/cyan or red and greenish/blue. The green channel adjusts green/magenta. 

Play around with these color channels and see what they do to your picture. If you like how your picture is looking just lick "Apply". If you change your mind you can undo what you just did by clicking the arrow buttons above your picture. Here's a better picture of the curves screen:

You can make your picture sharper, make it Black and White or other things. You'll want to go easy on the "effects" like sepia tone or black edges as you want people looking at your awesome stuff and not saying, "Oh, cool sepia!". Once you are happy with how your picture looks you'll want to save it. Above your picture you click on save and you can select where to save your picture and how big you want your file (or what quality you'd like). There is also an option to share on different social media sites.

Curves are used in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements and if you learn about them you'll have the master Jedi skills of photo editing.

Lighting and Setting-Almost done!

I hope you've heard before that natural light is best when taking pictures and it's true. If you can get your creation in your frame (what you can see) in the camera while it's lying on the floor or on a sheet under a shady tree that's great. That may mean you have to use a step stool, a ladder, or climb up in the tree to get high enough to capture the whole thing. If you can hang your quilt or creation in front of you it'll be much easier to take a picture and your quilt hang straight. Hangers, clips, hardware store clamps, extra people standing around-they all work. Hang from a shower curtain/rod or drape, use your porch christmas light hooks, your rain gutters. Those are all ok too :) 

Cropping is your friend. That apron picture we've been working on? This is what was sitting just outside the frame in the picture on the right, otherwise known as visual junk. On the left another apron is hung on a drapery rod with the rest of the closet and room cropped out.

If you are trying to show off the quilting or texture of something you may want to photograph it right next to a window (but not in direct light or sunlight on it). You can always use your reflector paper to bounce more light into the shadow area. You want to have it right next to the window as the light is coming in sideways and will highlight the texture.

Above is a white whole cloth quilt with Minky on the back. With side light the bumps and quilting show up. 

A note for winter shooting: Many of us have snow or wet during winter and can't go outside for all that nice natural light. Look into your camera's manual or menu for "Manual" mode or Shutter Priority. You can make your camera take your picture for a longer time which gets more light on the sensor/film. Pull out your trusty tripod for this. A real one works or a bean bag, ladder, pillow, stool or any stationary object combined with the self-timer will keep your camera still while it's taking the picture. 

Staging: let's dress up your pics. We fix ourselves up, why not our pictures? Put things in your purse to fill it out like a notebook/scarf/extra fabric. That way we see how you might use it and it won't be saggy. Have pins in your pincushion or put your pillowcases on pillows on a bed:

See how the Remember September Pillowcases look right at home with our Log Cabin find?

Just in case you didn't get enough about pictures, here are a two other tutorials that are pretty superb: Bijou Lovely  who has 10 Tips for Photos and A Lemon Squeezy Home has a tutorial for fast, easy and good looking backgrounds for pictures.

It's been fun and long, eh? If you have questions feel free to ask and I'll get back to you. You can comment here or email me. If you missed Part 1 you'll want to go back! Thanks for coming and remember to head on back to Distant Pickles for the full class schedule.


Heather Ross OOP (out of print)

I bought a tiny bundle of out of print Heather Ross fabrics. There is a Farmdale Alexander Henry bit in there as well. It's a mixed envelope of quilting cottons and sateen. Probably from cut up clothes and pj's. They were only sold as a set and I won't be using all of them. I was thinking of giving some away during The Great Sew Mama Sew Giveaway around Christmas time. I've won a couple things and it's probably time to return the favor. Do you have a better idea on what to do with them (sans fishes)?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Scrappy Stash QAL Gigantic Explanation Post

I've been sewing along with Scrappy Stash QAL at Ellison Lane Quilts. And busily not blogging about it. I've been sewing for weeks. And cutting, sewing, moving bits and pieces, setting up and taking down my sewing machine, putting out my cutting mat and supplies. Over n over n over Red Rover. I haven't got a sewing room so each time I sew it's the same story and instead of photographing and blogging things I frequently re-stack fabric and pick up bits of thread and fabric strings on the floor or find that fiddley small thingamading that you fill the water in the iron with.
I'd heard about the QAL (Quilt Along) through various bloggers and once I read how it was to go I thought this's just perfect! I've been making a quilt for my niece for 20 years now, even though it's only been 12 months and she's not even two. I made up the design myself so it's been done in fits and starts while I figure out layout and problems. I kept running out of pink fabric for it or couldn't find the right backing so I kept getting more pink fabric. Then it wasn't the right pink then I had to get more. So much pink. I couldn't quite figure out what to do with it all.
Monochromatic pink blocks? Done! I had planned from the beginning to have aqua and grey blocks to go along with the pink but when I saw all the pink blocks I thought they'd make their own pretty quilt.

Why those colors? The niece's quilt features Sherbet Pips by Aneela Hoey and those are the colors I mostly used. One of my friends saw me making it and she loved the colors. Monochromatic scrappy quilt in the same colors = Christmas present!
I was doubting things for a bit when I started to lay out the blocks. I prefer to obsessively figure out just the right fabrics to be next to each other plan the sizes and fabrics and this scrappiness was out of my comfort zone. I usually have a plan or design, even if it's not down on paper. All the different dimensions and those candy colors were making my brain hurt. Finally I put them all away until the grey blocks were done as I thought they might calm things down and provide some visual rest.
That one strip on the grey block looks really dark but in real life it has silver sparkles that reflect the light so it's not so jarring. Back to the QAL... I got my quilt top put together and the backing done and the quilting planned and knew I was running out of time this week. What is with having a real job to make money?! Who planned that.

Basically the binding did not get totally done/sewn down so I missed the "complete quilt" requirement. It's a little sad but also so exciting that I already have a Christmas present done and I got out of my comfort zone. Below is the quilt top before the quilting. I'll show the whole thing when the binding's finished and I get my good photo gear out-can't do anymore phone pics or my camera will break up with me.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Something is Watching You

(No sewing in this post. It was an abandoned photo one that I just found again.)

A while ago I was riding my bike, through an area I'm not normally in and on my second ride of the day, when I felt something weird. Like someone was watching me or something. I looked down at my bike to see if there was anything wrong, then turned left and behind me to see if there were cars. Nope. Then I looked up to the right and saw this in front of me...
They were watching me! Weird. Probably to see my excellent aero form. Ha! They were beautiful and appeared to be living/hanging around at the empty house. Probably because no-one bothers them there even though its in the middle of town.

No biking for now as there's snow and ice and cold and mostly it's just wet. And I have a flat tire.

Improv Sewing Placemat

I heard about the Merrily We Sew Along group through ImagineGnats and it sounded like fun. I love to draw in real life so why not in sewing? The project of the moment is improv placemats. I mostly just wanted one :) not lots. When I saw the improv thread borders and drawing I knew immediately what I wanted to do: icebergs! Why?

I'm totally and completely obsessed intrigued with the combination of ice and water especially when the ice is gigantic. Anything like icebergs, Arctic or Antarctic, ice shelves, glaciers, crevasses is just the best. It's visually arresting to me especially as photographed and filmed with the incredible Frozen Planet series because then you get to see it in motion. I watched it on the Discovery Channel for the 3rd or 4th time this week. Let me tell you David Attenborough (the narrator) is one of the voices of my childhood.

The placemat is a semi-abstract simplified field of Icebergs and ocean. The foreground ice is the darkest blue, the middle ground is medium blue (like colors fade with the atmosphere/distance in real life) and what looks a bit like negative, or blank, space is filled in with light blue icebergs, ice floe and the ocean. It was difficult to get that light blue detail to show with my phone camera. You can click on the picture and get a larger view of it.
Yes, I have a real camera but I give myself leeway when crafting/sewing to not pull out my heavy duty gear. The back of the placemat is an Alexander Henry Halloween print. I love Halloween and I figured the tree limbs and varied background colors would go well with the different blues I was using and the all over threading.

The border is also medium blue. The more squiggly the lines were the more I liked it. When I finally felt done with the thread-painting I looked up and saw this much on the spool (above photo). Phew! Just enough. I used my grandmother's vintage mercerized cotton. You're "not supposed to" use vintage thread for sewing as it's integrity may be compromised by age or dust or what-have-you. I really like to use it for something and not have it just lying around and I figured it'd be better to use with this than with high stress seams on clothing or a bed quilt.
It was originally only 15 cents and seems to be colorfast even if you boil it. That's good... not planning on boiling it but at least I know that's an option. Am I the only one that cringes when I have to turn some things inside out? It feels like I'm ruining it all wadded up like that and getting tugged on. You get a peek at the batting and clipped corners as a bonus. Bam! You're welcome.

It did occur to me that my icebergs also look a bit like a seismograph chart. That's cool. I like geology too. Icesmeismographberg.

If you want to join the Merrily We Sew Along there is a flickr group and there will be various projects coming up. Come sew and be merry!