Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back to School

School started earlier this week for my two older daughters.  I really hadn't planned on doing any back to school sewing this year (figured they would just do their own) but one thing led to another and I ended up helping with two new messenger bags.  And I even let them pick from my small Echino stash and use the last of my Essex Yarn Dyed Linen.

For both bags, we loosely followed my easy messenger style book bag tutorial - adjusting the measurements to fit their school stuff.  For my 8 year old's bag, we did all QAYG panels (she did most of the quilting) and we added one zip pocket inside.  And she chose some adorable Ed Emberly fabric for the lining.

My 10 year old had very specific ideas for what she wanted - including fussy cutting from the middle of the fabric (!!!) and using a zig zag stitch to applique it to the flap. (If you look closely, you can see she kind of missed in a few spots - one of us should probably fix that soon!)

I was hesitant at first but I'm glad I decided to let them use the echino - fabric is supposed to be used, not stored in a box, right?!!?!?

Recent Posts:

Quilt Photography Workshop Link Up (August link up open until Sat.)

A Great Fabric Sale and Giveaway (open until Sat., Aug 31, 2013 11:59pm EST)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Quilt Photography Workshop -- August Link Up

Photo 1:  1/125  f/2.5 ISO 400 

Welcome to the first link up in The Quilt Photography Workshop.  This month is all about photos of fabric because that is where it all starts, right?

My quilt photography goals and how I worked on them this month

1.  Use manual settings on my DSLR:  Yep - did this!  And I added the camera settings I used as a caption for each photo.

There are lots of great sources out there which you can use to learn about camera settings from people who actually know what they are talking about but I'll still write a little bit about what I do.  I always try to keep my ISO setting low since the higher the ISO, the more grainy the photo.   I usually start with the following settings and then adjust as needed - - ISO (100), Aperture (f/2), and Shutter Speed (1/125). If it is too dark, my first step is usually increasing the ISO but not much higher than 400 or 800 to avoid getting that grainy look.  I don't like to change the aperture too much as I usually prefer a blurry background (shallow depth of field) so I am more likely to change the shutter speed if I need to let less light in the camera. I just change it a little at a time (to 1/160 then 1/200, etc) until the light looks about right.  Shutter speed is basically how long the lens stays open - so it stays open longer at 1/125 than it does at 1/500 - and the longer it stays open, the more light that gets in.  Aperture is how wide the lens opens.  F/2 is a large opening that lets in a lot of light and gives photos the shallow depth of field - basically the blurry background.  If you want everything in focus, you need to use a smaller lens opening like f/5.6 but that lets in less light so you have to compensate by changing the ISO or shutter speed.

Photo 2:  1/125, f/2.5, ISO 400

2.  Take photos that need little to no editing:  Kind of.  I think I actually spent more time editing these photos than I usually spend on blog pics.  When I first added the photos to the post, I hadn't done much editing but after working on the post and staring at the pics, I did replace a few of them with more edited versions.  Not sure what to say about that!   I didn't crop any of the photos but I did have to adjust the white balance on some of them (I just used the auto white balance corrector on Picasa.)  I'm adding "learn how to use custom white balance settings" to my goals for next month. I used Picasa to edit all the photos but I am curious what editing programs others use???

3.  Work with indoor lighting:  All these photos were taken inside my house but with natural lighting.

Photo 3:  1/100, f/1.8, ISO 800

4.  Variety:  My actual goal for variety is not within each post but rather having variety from post to post.  I actually think I like it better when bloggers stick to one location per post/photo shoot.  However, I do think it works well to have variety within that one location including moving the quilt around the location, taking photos of the quilt from different angles, and taking detail pics of the quilt.

5.  Props:  I tried.

Photo 4:  1/100, f/1.8, ISO 400

My photos

Photo 1:  The photo as the top of this post is the standard photo that I tend to use when showing fabric on my blog.  I take the photos in my sewing space which is a small (5ft x 12 ft) sunroom on the south side of my house.  Since it is a sunroom, it has 3 walls of windows and thus, lots of light.  Plus, the wall in the room is painted white brick which usually reflects the light nicely.  I have my ironing board on that wall - I just throw a piece of neutral fabric over the ironing board and stack the fabrics on top for the pics.  Oh, and I took the photos midday - probably around 1pm.  I like this setting (which is why I often use it) but since the point of this workshop is to grow, I only took one of the photos there.

Photo 2:  I didn't move too far for this one.  I just draped my piece of light fabric over a little kid-size chair and placed it next to the ironing board - so the fabric was much lower to the ground which changed the lighting but I didn't have to change my settings.  I also sharpened and added a bit of glow to this photo - just to try it.  What do you think?

Photo 3:  This one I took upstairs about 4 feet away from a west-facing window.  This room doesn't get a lot of light so I had to change all my settings but I was able to get the nice background blur that I like.

Photo 4:  This is the same location as photo 3 but I tried to add in some variety by placing the fabric on top of a colorful quilt and I stacked up some quilts behind it.  I lowered the ISO on this - not sure why because I think this photo would have been better if I kept it at 800.  I also can't decide if I think it is too busy.  And I can't get the white balance right.  I still like the photo idea but I think it needs some work.

Photo 5:  1/125, f/1.8,  ISO 400

Photo 5:  I moved into a tiny room with two large windows (west and north facing) for this pic.  I just grabbed one of my daughter's toys for the pic (which in this photo is purposely out of focus because I wanted the focus to be on the fabric but I'm not sure if I got the look I was going for.)

Photo 6:  1/125, f/2.2, ISO 400
Photo 6:  I took this in the same location as Photo 5.  I am including this photo mostly to show a different view of the fabric (I used the sketch from the stack as the background fabric instead for this) but I don't like the shadows.  I also used sharpen, glow, and add fill light to this photo.

Photo 7:  1/125, f/2.2, ISO 400
Photo 7:  Not much to say about this one - I'm mostly including it since I used props and changed the background to a piece of linen.  Oh, and I folded the fabrics differently.  I think I should used a wider depth of field so that both the props and the fabric were in focus - maybe f/4.

Link Your Post:

Now it is your turn.  Link up below and be sure to visit as many of the other links as you can since that is how we'll all be learning, right?!?!  At the very least, visit the three bloggers who linked up before you.

Also,  those of you familiar with my blog know that I like to have you answer a specific question when the linky tool asks for your name.  My question for this one is "how many photos did you take total for your photo shoot for your post?"  I took, gasp, 186.  So, basically, I limited the amount of editing I needed but I still had to look through 186 pics?!?!?!  I probably should work on that - but it was pretty easy to narrow them down to 17 worthy of consideration for this post (of which, I used 7.)  Just write your answer, don't include your name or your blog name.

And please link to this post either with a text link or using the button in my sidebar to let people know about it.  Thanks!

I'll leave the link up open until next Saturday so make sure to come back at the end of the week so you can see everyone who joins in.  And I'll plan to write a follow up post which will include next month's assignment soon!

If you are sewing blogger who wants to participate in the Quilt Photography Workshop, please add your link here to a post with and about photos of fabric.  Please do not link to posts on other topics. If you are looking for a general sewing link up, there are many great options out there including Sew Cute Tuesday at Better off Thread and Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quilt Photography Workshop

There is less than one week until the first monthly Quilt Photography Workshop link up.  If you want to add the button to your blog, you can find the code on my sidebar.  As a reminder, the first link up challenge is to pick some fabric(s) and take lots of pictures of it.  Remember the point of the post is the photos, not the fabric - try different angles, different lighting, and/or different ways of displaying the fabrics (not strange or unusual, just workable.)   And then write a post about it - your post will probably be more photos than words but you could maybe write about what worked, what didn't, what you want to try next time, and/or advice and questions for others.  Then come back here on August 25th to link up your post and see what everyone else did. 

And one suggestion I have for your post:  make sure we can see your photos.  For reference, I save my photos at 600px which seems to be the size I see on lots of other blogs.

This photography workshop is open to everyone who likes to take photos of handmade items - whether you take pics with a DSLR, a point and shoot, or even your phone.  The main point of the link up is to improve your blog photos and composition and variety, which can be worked on no matter what you are using to take pictures, are a big part of that.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I bought my "fancy" camera early this year.  I am still learning how to use it through lots of trial and error but I did set two main goals for myself:  (1) use it only in manual mode and (2) try to avoid having to do a lot of post-editing.   By strictly using my camera in manual mode, I forced myself to learn the meaning of words like aperture and ISO and I took A LOT of awful pics - overexposed, underexposed, blurred - but it has been totally worth it.  I can definitely see a huge improvement in my photos - including photos of quilts, food, and people.  It seemed daunting at first to learn how aperture, ISO, and shutter speed worked together but now, while I still make plenty of mistakes and take lots of bad photos, I can say I understand it (which means you can too!!!)  I am still learning - I still am envious at the amazing photography I see on other blogs - but I think I am at least moving in the right direction.

My second goal was to avoid having to spend a lot of time editing my photos. I already spend too much time on the computer - I would much rather be taking photos or making things to photograph or spending time with the people in my photos - not cropping or adding brightness!  Again, this is definitely a work in progress but I have really been able to reduce the number of photos that need any post-processing.  Especially cropping - I think that is what I used to spend the most time on but I hardly ever need to crop photos now.

For me, photography is an important part of the blogging experience.  I think when I first started blogging, I tended to rush the photo part so that I could get my post published but now I think of taking pictures as part of the process.  Sometimes, this means having to wait to post until I can get better pics - whether that means waiting for daylight, better weather, or for someone older than 2 to hold the quilt for me!  Actually, I guess my third goal would be to work on taking photos using indoor lighting (not flash.)  I'll write about my other photography goals in a later post - they include using props and adding variety to my photos.

So, what do you think?  What are your goals?  What are your thoughts about the importance of blog photography?

For more info about the quilts in these photos, see this post.  The patchwork-y one is the back of this quilt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Patchwork Frames One Block Baby Quilt

Patchwork Frames Small Quilt (30.5" square)

I just wanted to write out the measurements I used for the baby-size quilt I made using the patchwork frames block (tutorial here and my post about it here.)  I made this larger version of the mini quilt by adding more frames around the center block.  Here are the instruction to make a 30.5" square quilt with the center being placed off-center within the quilt.

In addition to the fabric for the main block, cut the following:

From background fabric:

2" x 12.5"
4" x 12.5"
2" x 17.5"
4" x 17.5"
3" x 23.5"
5" x 23.5"
3" x 30.5"
5" x 30.5"

From print 1 (first border):

2 pieces 1.5" x 17.5"
2 pieces 1.5" x 19.5"

From print 2 (second border):

2 pieces 2.5" x 19.5"
2 pieces 2.5" x 23.5"

Sew the 12.5" strips to either side of your 12.5" block as shown.

Sew the 17.5" strips to the top and bottom of the center block.

Using the same method of first sewing the smaller strips of each print to the sides and then sewing the larger strips to the top and bottomt, attach the rest of the border pieces.

Quilt and bind as desired.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Little Quilts for the Summer

Way back at the beginning of this summer, I made two mini quilts inspired by the adorable bees from the new Briar Rose fabrics.  

Since we loved the summery colors of the bee fabric, we (my middle daughter and I) also used prints that remind us of fun summer activities.  Well, the horses would be more of a "wish" than an actual activity - but reading outside, gardening, and bike riding are reminiscent. 

I surrounded each center print in the low volume fabrics I have been using a lot lately and then used essex linen to surround the squares.

To finish it, I added some pink hand-quilting with a bit of embroidery and then used one of my favorite prints from Briar Rose for the binding.

For the other mini (which I actually made first), I used the bees for all the centers - how cute are those bees that are knitting?!?!!  I then used tiny squares of more Briar Rose prints for the border and essex linen (I think in flax) for the binding.

Both quilts (along with my tutorial) are in this summer's Fat Quarterly issue that was published last week (that is why I waited two months after finishing the quilts to post about them - if you were wondering.)  Find it here.

Find Briar Rose at:

Fat Quarter Shop
Sew Fresh Fabrics
Lark Cottons

Friday, August 9, 2013

just because . . .

Just because . . .

  . . . these little feet are making me laugh as I watch my little one do everything she can to keep up with her older sisters 

   . . . I'm happy that most of what I've been doing to improve my blog photography has been really helping improve my family photos as well

    . . . I loved reading my friend Laura's post about how much her little one loves the new quilt she made using my patchwork frames pattern and thinking about how fun it would be if we lived closer to each other (pattern/tutorial variations coming soon)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Patchwork Frames Quilt Pattern

Just wanted to let you know I have a tutorial for this patchwork frames block and mini quilt on the Birch Organic Fabric blog today using their new Eiko fabrics.  The tutorial includes measurements for three different sizes of fussy cut centers so you can adapt it to your favorite prints.

Once you have your basic block made, you can either finish it as a mini quilt as shown in the original tutorial which would also be a nice size for a pillow cover.  Another idea for using one block would be to add multiple borders and make it a baby size quilt.  You can find the measurements I used by clicking here.

Baby Size One Block Quilt 30.5" square

Or you can combine multiple blocks to make it a throw size or larger.

12 Blocks (evenly placed)  finishes at 54.5" x 71"

12 Blocks (uneven placement) finishes at 54.5" x 71"

Yardage Requirements

12 fussy cuts (choose from the following sizes:  2.5" x 4", 3.5 x 3.5", and/or 3.5" x 4.5")
2.5 yards of background fabric
.5 yard of dark fabric for inside border of blocks (sub cut into (24) 1" x 8.5" strips and (24) 1" x 9.5" strips

For patchwork rows, your fabric requirements will vary depending on how many different fabrics you would like to use for variety.  Each block takes 28 2" squares so you'll need 336 2" squares.  I have written out instructions below for strip piecing the patchwork rows.  If you choose to use this method, you'll need 24 strips measuring 2" x 12.5" and 32 strips measuring 2" x 16.5"

Strip Piecing the Patchwork Rows

From a variety of fabrics, cut 24 strips measuring 2" x 12.5".   Divide into 4 piles of 6 strips each and sew those strips into rows varying the fabrics throughout.  Make sure that the top and bottom fabric from each set is different.

Press seams and cut into vertical strips 2" wide as shown.  Each set will give you 6 strips.
Repeat the process except use cut 24 strips of fabric measuring 2" x 16.5" and divide into 3 piles of 8 strips each - again being sure to vary the fabrics and make sure that the  the top and bottom fabric do not match each other or the top and bottom fabrics on any of the smaller strips.

12 Block Throw Quilt (evenly placed blocks) (finished size:  54.5" x 71")

Arrange your blocks into 4 rows of 3 blocks each until you are happy with the layout.

From your background fabric, cut the following:

8 pieces measuring 5" x 12.5" (sashing)
3 pieces measuring 5" x 45.5" (sashing)
2 pieces measuring 5" x 62" (border)
2 pieces measuring 5" x 54.5" (border)

Sew the small pieces of sashing to the blocks to form rows as shown.

Sew the large pieces of sashing to the rows as shown.

Sew the 5" x 62" border pieces to either side.

And complete the quilt top by sewing the 5" x 54.5" to the top and bottom.

12 Block Throw Quilt (randomly placed blocks) (finished size approximately 54.5" x 71")

Arrange your blocks in 4 rows of 3.   Vary the position of the blocks within each row but for the purposes of this tutorial, you'll need to make sure that none of the blocks overlap with blocks from other rows.  The blocks could be positioned at the very bottom or the very top of a row but this tutorial will demonstrate piecing in rows, not by blocks.

When you are happy with the layout, begin adding sashing to the top and bottom of each block.  Each block in the top row should measure 21.5" in height.  The blocks in the remaining rows should measure 16.5" in height.  Also, for each of the remaining rows, you might have one block that does not need a top sashing piece.

Next you'll start filling in the rows by adding sashing between the blocks.  Each row should measure 54.5".  Then just sew the rows together and you'll have your completed quilt top.

If you want to vary the block size, substitute the following measurements:

10.5" Basic Block

Substitute the following measurements in the 12.5" version:

For a block with a 2" x 3.5" fussy cut:  (a) 2" x 2", (b) 2"x 3", (c) 2.5" x 7.5", and (d) 4" x 7.5"

For a block with a 3" x 3" fussy cut:  (a) 2" x 3", (b) 3" x 3.5", (c) 2" x 7.5", and (d) 3.5" x 7.5"

For the side strips, use (2) .75" x 7.5" and for the top and bottom strips, use .75" x 8"

And use 1.75" squares for the patchwork rows.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Quilt Photography Workshop

Taught by:   YOU!!!!!

As you probably know, I have decided to retire the weekly Let's Get Acquainted Link Up and instead host a themed monthly link up.  And after thinking about it, I decided to focus the themes on photography.  From recent discussions, I know many of us agree that photography is one of the first things we notice on quilt blogs and one of the factors that determine whether we are going to keep reading.  Therefore, I thought maybe you would all like to join me in improving our blog photography -the quality of our photos, the composition, the use of lighting, the variety, limiting the amount of post-editing  - basically whatever you want to work on.

I definitely know a lot more about photography now than I did when I started my blog 1.5 years ago.  I know the relevance of aperture, shutter speed,  ISO, and even white balance.  I have read numerous photography tutorials on both sewing and other types of blogs.  I even upgraded to a "fancy" camera about 6 months ago (it is an entry-level DSLR but fancy to me!)   But I think what has really helped me improve my photos is well, taking lots of pictures!  And really experimenting when I do - taking pictures indoors and outdoors, taking them from various angles, taking both close-ups and um, not close-ups, changing the settings on my camera - you see what I mean.  Learning by doing!  

Are you still with me?  So, the idea is that every month, I will post a photography challenge --- involving fabric/handmade items!  Quilts, bags, pillows, knits, crocheted items, cross-stitch, clothing - whatever you are working on.  You'll take lots of photos of your project and then write a blog post about the photos - about what worked, what didn't, what you learned, what you are going to try next time.  Some months will have a very general theme while others might be a more specific challenge.

And this workshop/link up is not just for sewing bloggers who want to improve their blog photos but also for those of you who take absolutely beautiful pictures (you know who you are!!!) - we would love it if you participated and shared your tips and techniques with the rest of us!

August Challenge:  This is an easy one!  Take photos of fabric.  Yep, that's it - we'll start with a very general challenge.  Your choice - photos of your stash, photos of your favorite fabrics, photos of fabrics you are about to sew together, photos of fabric combinations you love - all of the above?!!?  Just remember take lots of photos (we are all using digital, right?!?!)  And then come back here on August 25th to link up your post.