Monday, 23 May 2016

Strawberry Fields 2011 Designer Mystery Block of the Month Finished

Hooray! A Monday finish! It's the long weekend here in Canada and today is Victoria Day. Normally a lot of Canadians head out camping or, if they are luck enough to have a lakeside cabin, to the cabin. My family usually takes a long weekend after the long weekend so we can enjoy Jasper National Park after the crowds have gone home. So my husband worked this weekend. He worked three 14 hour days in a row while I took care of the kids and quilted all weekend.

Strawberry Fields 2011 Fat Quarter Shop Designer Mystery Block of the Month. Pieced and Quilted by Anita LaHay of Daydreams of Quilts. Started in 2011. Finished in 2016.

The first post I have on this blog about this quilt was written on August 6, 2012.This quilt has been basted and draped over a chair since I finished piecing it and I posted it on Instagram on May 30, 2015. So that means it's been sitting for almost a year waiting to be quilted. Yikes! Anyway, I spent the majority of the long weekend quilting it. I finished quilting this morning and put the binding on (machine sewn... hand sewing was not going to happen.) And now this quilt is washed, dried and on my bed! I am thrilled!

A close up of some of my quilting. This was quilted on my domestic Juki semi industrial sewing machine. (Not a long arm but it has a large throat space and it's super fast.)

Close-up showing the backing and binding on the left side of the photo. This tulip is my favourite flower on the quilt.
Wow! I certainly didn't think it would take me over five years to make this quilt when I started it but I am so happy that I have finally finished it and I can enjoy this summery flowery quilt on my bed at last. Thank you for visiting today to see my Monday finish that was a very long time coming. #thistookforever

Friday, 20 May 2016

Anna Maria Horner Butterfly Effect Quilt Finish

Hooray! I have a Friday finish! This is a birthday gift for my sister. If you are my sister "avert yer eyes!" ;) I'm pretty sure she doesn't read my blog too often but I could be wrong.

This quilt was made with my small collection of Anna Maria Horner fabrics, mostly from the Pretty Potent line but also one feather print and one grey from her newer Skipping Stones line. The grey background is a Free Spirit solid. The binding is Kona Charcoal.

Here it is all fresh and crinkly from the wash. The pattern I used is "Butterfly Effect" from the book "Fabulously Fast Quilts" by Amy Smart.

This is the back pieced from fabrics left after the front was pieced. I like this because you can really see the larger prints well where you just get glimpses of them on the front. It is pouring rain here today so my son and I took these photos under the cover of our front porch. Sadly, no scenic quilt photos today.

I quilted each block with a big flower. I originally thought I would just do three petals on each grey piece but I felt the strip triangles needed stabilizing too so I went with big flowers.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

5 Things I Wish I had Known About Pinterest Way Before Now!

Oh my goodness you guys! I have been using Pinterest all wrong for years!

If you're a blogger and in the same boat read on. If you're a Pinterest expert this post is not for you but maybe you have some tips to add in the comments at the bottom. :)

Recently I have learned a little bit about Pinterest. Up until now I have made the mistake of ignoring Pinterest a lot and I have also just been repinning stuff willy-nilly without any plan. Here's what I've learned and what all bloggers should know.

1. Pinterest is a search engine. 

A very powerful search engine. It's like Google! So when you pin something you need to check what it says in the caption and edit it to make sure you have key words in there so it will show up in a search. I feel really dumb about this but I was pinning things from my blog and not even checking the caption. If my blog post had a weak title like "Finished Projects" that's what would show up in the caption. So none of my stuff was getting found in search! Doh! (smacks forehead)

2. You can move your boards around!

I didn't know this! You can click and drag your boards around. This means you should move all boards related to your blog or your own work to the top of the page! Then people who click in can see your work and what you're all about first.

3. Don't keep empty boards:

When I first signed up for Pinterest there were boards there that Pinterest had for me as suggestions to get me started. I never pinned things to these boards and they were just sitting empty. Delete those boards! They bring you down in priority for Pinterest (yes Pinterest has an algorithm too) so you don't show up as often on people's main pages and they also look bad to someone who is thinking of following you.

4. Delete pins that don't have any repins:

If you have a lot of pins from your own site and they aren't getting re-pinned - delete them. Re-pin them again so they get back to the top and check your captions to make sure they are descriptive and have great key words in them. Words such as "mini quilt" or "pincushion" or "rainbow quilt" so that when someone searches those terms your pin will pop up.

5. Pin every week:

Ignoring Pinterest was a mistake. By doing that I became very low on their priority list for what shows up in search. No one was seeing my pins or finding me there. Since I've started paying attention and being more mindful of my pinning I've already gained about 20 followers in two weeks! If you aren't following me there yet I would love it if you would! Click here to follow me on Pinterest.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Top 10 Photography Tips for Quilting & Crafting Bloggers

Welcome fellow quilt photographers and bloggers! For those of you who follow me you know that I am a quilter. Did you also know that I am a Journalism Arts graduate? It's true! I have several photojournalism courses under my belt. At the risk of dating myself I will go on to say that I learned photography back in the days of film! We rolled our film onto reels in complete blackness. Developed our film using chemicals and hung it in a dryer to dry. Then we worked in a darkroom using an enlarger, photo paper and chemical baths to make prints of our photos which were also hung to dry. Totally old school eh?!

The good news today though is that you do not need all of that fancy and space consuming equipment. All you need is a good digital camera and a computer! Lacking that you can even get by with a cell phone or an iPod.

So with that bit of an intro and background info out of the way let's get to my top 10 tips!

1. Get a good quality DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera:

This will give you the highest quality digital photos and if you are shooting photos for print publication it is a must. Not all of us can afford a DSLR so if you can't get one right away, and you are producing photos for the web, don't worry. You can still make the best photos you can with a point-and-shoot digital camera or cell phone using these tips.

2. Cut down on your photo editing work:

When you are making you photo take an extra couple of moments to look through the lens and look not only at your subject that you are shooting but also look around within the frame of the lens. Is there a lot of extra clutter in the background that you will have to edit out later? Try to edit it out now by zooming in on your subject or physically moving in closer with your camera. Taking a few extra seconds to make a great photo will save a lot of photo editing time on the computer later on.

3. Bracket your shots:

This is a bit of photographer lingo. My photojournalism instructor could not stress enough to us to "bracket your shots." Bracketing your shots usually means taking a photo at the f-stop (lens aperture) that your camera is telling you to use and then shooting one f-stop up and one f-stop down. Not a lot of us worry about setting f-stops anymore because we usually use our cameras on automatic rather than manual. 

Before I lose you let me say what I do instead: What I do frequently is instead of putting my camera on manual and fooling around with f-stops and shutter speeds is I just shoot one photo on full automatic. Then I set my camera on two or three of the different automatic settings (such as portrait for example) and take a photo on each setting. Then I check the viewing screen to see what difference that made to the appearance of my photo.

At the very least, take more than one photo on more than one setting so you have a few choices once you get back to your computer. Also, be sure to take both horizontal and vertical shots.

4. Natural light:

Natural light is always best for photos. Take your quilt or craft outside if you can or shoot in a bright room that is well lit with natural light. You might think that being out on a bright sunny day is the best for photos but actually an overcast day is often best because it creates the least amount of contrast and shadows in your pictures. If you do need to shoot on a sunny day take your quilt or project to a shady area to take your photos or take your photos in the early morning or in the evening. High noon when the sun is at it's brightest in the sky is not a good time to take photos.

A photo shot in bright light. The colours don't show up as well as the photo below shot in shade. Also, the background in this photo is not nice to look at. This photo should have been cropped at the time it was taken but if that opportunity is missed it can be cropped on the computer.

Photo shot in the shade. Details actually show up better in this photo. This photo was cropped at the time it was taken.

A photo taken in bright light. Does it look a little weird? That's because I tried to adjust the brightness on my computer and now the photo does not look natural. You can't always fix your photos on the computer using the basic software that comes on the computer so take lots of shots.

Another photo taken in the shade of my front porch. The colours almost glow on this photo. There were no filters used to enhance this.

I needed to take this photo on that particular day because it was needed for a specific date on a blog hop (the next day!). I was worried that the photo would look washed out because of the stormy day but in fact the stormy skies enhanced the drama of the photo and the colours on the quilt really pop. It was extremely windy so my husband is behind the quilt holding the top two corners and two of my kids are also back there holding a bottom corner each.

5. A note about shade:

As I mentioned above shade is a good choice on a bright sunny day but try to make sure that your project is in full shade. Light coming through tree leaves for example can create mottled light on your subject and these bright bits of light will be picked up by your camera and compensated for by it's automatic settings. This could actually create a darker photo than you wanted.

I wanted to shoot this quilt hanging on a barbed wire fence but these trees were created mottled light. So instead I turned around and hung it on the trees and used their shade to my advantage.

6. Flash fill:

Another photography term is "flash fill." This is a technique that you could use to compensate for the darker photo problem mentioned above. Use a flash to fill in the light in the photo. You can use this technique if your subject is back lit as well. Back lit means the primary source of light is behind your subject and this again creates the situation where your subject turns out dark in the photo. If your camera will let you override it's automatic flash settings then just pop your flash up and use it. Sometimes the camera will not let you override and fire the flash so in that case you can either use the manual settings on your camera or use a hand held flash that you can trigger manually at the same time you press the shutter. You may need a tri-pod so you can hold up the handheld flash and operate both the shutter and the flash trigger button.

I used flash fill on this photo and it really made the colours pop. They practically glow!

7. Bouncing Light:

Bouncing light is a photography trick that you can use to manipulate the light in your photos. The simplest way to do this is to make yourself a "bounce card" for your flash. This is for larger flashes on the top of the camera or your handheld flash. This sounds technical but it is the simplest thing. Find a piece of slightly shiny white card such as the card that ladies nylons come wrapped around or cut a piece off of white poster board. Cut this white card the width of your flash and attach it to the top back side of your flash by wrapping the card and flash together with a rubber band. (Do not cover the actual flash with either the card or the rubber band.) The card should extend about two inches past the end of your flash. Have the glossy side of the card closest to your flash. What this does is when your flash fires the light bounces off the card and is directed towards your subject. This is especially useful if your flash is adjustable and can be angled at about a 45 degree angle. When you see fashion photographers on TV using white umbrellas they are also bouncing light with those. I haven't found myself needing to go buy white umbrellas yet. If you prefer, rather than making a cardboard bounce card you can also buy them in photography shops made of white plastic.

8. Background:

All blog photographers need some white poster board and white presentation cardboard like the kind the kids use at science fairs. These create simple inexpensive white backdrops for blog photos that not only put the focus on your subject but they also work to bounce light back to the subject as well. I use white poster board to shoot mini quilts and pincushions from above as well as quilt blocks. You can jazz up your background with little props that match the colours in your subject or leave them plain white.

Using white poster board and white fabric as background with props.

White fabric background and simple props.

White background with no props. This was for a pattern cover so I didn't want any distractions from the subjects.

Poster board background. Quilt block shot from above with props in matching colours.

9. Scenic background:

If you want to get your quilt or craft noticed by a lot of people take it out somewhere and get some photos of the quilt with a nice scenic background. Use what you have around you. I live in the country so my quilts have country backgrounds but I have seen quilters living in cities who use graffiti walls to get some really cool shots too.

This was shot on a sunny day but in the evening when the sun was lower in the sky.

This was shot for a quilt I was listing on Esty. There were other brighter photos used in the listing too but this was such a pretty scene that I included it. This photo would have benefited from using a flash I think but it must have been effective because the quilt sold.

I raced up a hill to get this photo of my 40 Prairie Sunsets quilt at actual sunset. Sometimes you can get the background to match the theme of your quilt if you're lucky.

This quilt has fabrics with little girls playing in a meadow on it. It's hard to see in the photo but that's why I wanted a photo by a meadow. This horse was very co-operative in making this photo much more interesting to look at.

10. Don't forget the close-ups:

We all want to see the beauty shot of the whole quilt and that is what draws us in but then we want a closer look. Make sure your blog readers or Instagram followers get a close-up look of your awesome quilting, the cool thread you used or the fun fabric prints. This tells the whole story of your project.

Taking this photo in the shade really helped to show the texture of the quilting. This was taken with an iPod so you can get really great shots with that type of camera.

The shadows help to bring out the quilting in this photo. Using a flash would have washed the detail out.

It's impossible to see the detail of the quilting on the 40 Prairie Sunsets quilt in the full quilt shot above so a close-up tells more of the story.

I hope these tips help you to make great photos! Even if your photos don't turn out the way you wanted don't despair. With practice you will get better and you can always edit and fix your photos on the computer. I used a computer filter for the graphic at the top of this post to brighten up the photo a bit.

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts Let's Bee Social.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Are We All Burning Ourselves Out? And if so, for what?

I have been feeling like a hamster on a wheel lately and getting myself exhausted. I lifted my head up and looked around and I see that I am not the only one.

Jenny of In Color Order posted this post on why she decided to stop designing fabric. Camille Roskelley of Thimble Blossoms posted this post on Instagram saying she is feeling so tired.

I have been feeling let down because everyday I get an email update from Craftsy on my "pattern sales" from my Craftsy Shop and everyday it's only my free ones. Then I read this post from Lee at Freshly Pieced. It really resonated with me when she wrote "At some point, in some way, the people creating this content need to be paid for their efforts. Anything less is not sustainable. Free patterns are great, and they may sometimes serve a purpose for both the designer and the customer. But not every pattern can or should be free."  Then Lee's post led me to this post and again I was amazed to see that I am not the only one thinking this thought: "We have all gotten spoiled by the amount of free on the internet and I worry about how much longer our community of independent designer’s can sustain that."

I hope I can take part in May is for Makers but if I can't, due to lack of funds, I'll have to buy patterns later. I know times are tough. Believe me I know because there are no jobs to be had in the town I live in and if my husband didn't have his job we would be moving away. Three children from my daughter's grade 2 class have moved away because their parents can't find work here. Today I had $67 to spend on groceries and the struggle is real. I am not writing this to guilt you into buying one of my patterns... I am just saying that it's not all smooth sailing here.

So, even though I have felt like giving up lately I am going to keep trying and keep going. There's nothing else for me to do and nothing else I would rather be doing.

I think for most of this month though I'm going to set my pattern sample sewing aside, since I've been knocking myself out to publish them, and I'm going to focus on my family and on sewing for my family. Luckily, I am not a big name [yet! ;) ] like the ladies above and I can take a step back if I want to. I can imagine the stress of sewing for quilt market but I've never done it.

Please take part in "May is for Makers" if you can.

May Is For Makers |

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Arrow-Dynamic Mini Quilt and a Review of "Quilts for Scrap Lovers"

Got scraps? Need to use 'em up? I can answer an emphatic "YES!" to both of those questions. I am overwhelmed with scraps at the moment. In fact I haven't touched my scraps since I made this quilt and that was over two years ago so I have quite a collection. Fortunately I have been sorting them by colour so that should help a bit.

I have had a chance to see an ebook version of the new book "Quilt's for Scrap Lovers" by Judy Gauthier and am pleased to tell you about it today. There are quite a few favourite quilts in this book for me. I think my most favourite is the "Arrow-Dynamic" quilt. I made one of the blocks into a rainbow mini quilt.

Arrow-Dynamic Rainbow Mini quilt pieced and quilted by Anita LaHay of Daydreams of Quilts.

I had fun quilting this one with swirls in the middle and sun rays on the edges.

A closer look. This is only my second time quilting swirls so I'm still working on the travelling bit. ;) Love those dinos from Lizzy House! I used a black fabric from Zen Chic's "Comma" line for the binding.

In the original quilt in the book the blocks are scrappier and made with fabrics of the same colour and value and I like that look too. It only takes four of these blocks to make a good sized quilt using the directions in the book and I definitely want to use up some of my overflowing scraps to do that.

Quilts for Scrap Lovers

Click the book photo to order from C&T Publishing.

I have seen scrap quilt books before that suggest cutting all your scraps into certain sizes and honestly I just couldn't see myself standing at my cutting table and doing that. Judy's approach makes much more sense to me. She says , "You shouldn’t have to look for a pattern to match your pieces. Rather, you should be attracted by the pattern and then cut the pieces you will need." Yes! This is much more in line with how I like to work.

In addition to loving the Arrow-Dynamic quilt I also love the cover quilt (above) called "Sunshine and Shadows." There are sixteen projects in the book and they are all great quilts. I really love the "Snap Cracker Pop" quilt too (and not just because it has an awesome name!)

If you have scraps (and who among us doesn't?!) and you're looking for a scrap quilt book that makes sense and has fun patterns then click here to get your copy and start making fantastic quilts and using up your scraps at the same time.

Arrow-Dynamic rainbow mini quilt made by Daydreams of Quilts.

By the way, have you signed up for my newsletter?! This fun free printable calendar page is going out in today's issue. See this post to see the cute quilt planning page that everyone receives when they sign up. And there's a free quilt pattern too! Sign up today :) so I can keep in touch.

Thank you to C&T Publishing for providing me with a digital review copy of this book for my review. Linking up with Fabric Tuesday and Let's Bee Social.

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