Monday, 8 October 2018

Tips and Tricks for Taking Part in an Instagram Photohop

If you are a sewer and on Instagram, chances are that you've taken part in at least one photohop. These usually take place over a month, are themed (e.g. quilting, dressmaking, sewing) and you post a daily photo following a daily prompt from the organiser and have a hashtag so you can search and meet other people taking part.  There may be giveaways and prizes which are sponsored by fabric shops/companies/designers as an incentive for taking part and aiming to complete all the prompts.

This September, I co-hosted the  #GreatBritishQuilter photohop with Sarah Ashford.  This involved us each posting a daily prompt at 8am plus posting our personal response to the prompt, whilst also prepping the images and texts for a month of prompts and giveaways! September was a busy month for me so I knew I had to get organised and along the way, I discovered some tips and tricks that were helpful as a participant as well as a host. Instead of my previous photohop experience of scrabbling around on the day of a prompt trying to create a particular image, getting frustrated and usually abandoning the photohop or posting intermittent responses, I felt more relaxed, I could actively read comments and 'meet' the other people taking part and I really enjoyed it!  Here are my tips and tricks...

1. Print and Plan
Before a photohop starts, the organisers post an image with all the prompts.  For the #GreatBritishQuilter I posted a PDF in a blog post so this could be printed off at a large size.  If this is not the case, screenshot the prompt post and print it off so you can write on it and plan your photos.  This may sound time-consuming but a little time spent doing this before the photohop starts will save you time and stress on those difficult days when the unexpected has happened and finding an image of your favourite fabrics is not going to happen!
Read through the prompts and have your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop or wherever you have the majority of your photos stored.  The likelihood is that you'll already have some images that will work for the prompts- I've shown these below with an asterisk.

Now you don't have to use these older images, you could take a new one, but it's good to know that if push comes to shove, you have at least something to hand.  I did this mainly on my desktop computer so I made sure that all the photos I thought I might use were copied into an iPhoto folder.   For example, I found a photo from a family holiday in Amsterdam a few years ago that was perfect for prompt 27. Show Us a Rainbow:

This image ended up as one of my most popular posts!  Although there's no fabric, there's a definitely a rainbow and it was a great example of how quilt inspiration can be anywhere! 

Next, look at either a week or 10 days ahead at the photos you will need to take.  These are marked 'To Do' on the prompt sheet above.  This gives you a focus so that you can think, ok, on the next day with good light, I need to get my fabrics out and take a pic, or,  I need to walk to my local fabric shop and take a photo of the outside.  If you can get ahead,  work out what you have and what you need, a photohop becomes so much easier!

2. Cloud Storage: Dropbox
I found straightaway with my old photo search that I had some images on my phone, and others on my desktop (they'd been long deleted on my phone).  Because Sarah and I were co-hosting, we also needed all the prompts and text files in a place we could both access and Sarah had already done this using Dropbox.  I already the free version of Dropbox as Cloud storage for files on my desktop and I have the app on my phone, so we had a GBQ folder for the prompts images and text files, and we separately had our own folders for our personal images- for me this was KGBQ.  I copied all the photos I thought I might use into this from my various photo devices and numbered them to correspond with the prompt number. On the Dropbox app, when you open an image and hold your finger on it, an option comes up to 'save to camera roll' - this is on an iPhone, I assume a similar/same option for Android- and then the image on your phone and easily available to post on Instagram. 

There are other Cloud storage websites and apps, choose the one that works best for you.

3. Utilise Current Projects

I was making a quilt for an exhibition in September so I maximised the number of prompts that this project could cover, it was 7. My current WIP, 11. Project Last Finished, 20. Walking Foot, Free Motion or Hand Quilting, 28. Quilt Basting,  with different photos as appropriate. 

4. Get Creative
Some prompts can make you scratch your head- how will I show that in photo form.  For me this was 'Quilty Quote'.  I didn't want to repost a meme I'd found on Google images, so instead I used the Over app and wrote a quote from one of my favourite sewing songs, Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton.

On many of the prompts, people came up with all sorts of visual and linguistic interpretations and it was part of the fun of reviewing each day's responses!  Don't be afraid to get creative with a prompt!

5. Try Something New
There's usually a prompt in a photohop that may mean you need to try something new- whether this is   creating a Boomerang video or working out what a 'Flatlay' is.  Google is your friend here,  do your research, google what it is and have a go.  Some of the first time Flatlay images in #GreatBritishQuilter incredible!

6. Instagram Drafts
I had no idea about Instagram drafts before co-hosting #GreatBritishQuilter and when Sarah mentioned it and how helpful it could be, I was straight onto Google and working out how to do it- this video tutorial is helpful.  This a relatively recent addition to Instagram and now I've found it, I use it all the time!  It allows you to prep a series of posts, edit them as many times as you need to and save them as drafts.  When it comes to posting, you tap drafts instead of your camera roll photos and you can post quickly and easily.  A revelation!  The carousel feature which allows you to post multiple photos in a single post is also very helpful if that's something you've not found yet- example of how it works here

7. Use a Photo Editing App/Website
Sometimes you want to add something extra to your prompt image like additional text, or collaging a series of images and there are lots of websites and apps available for this, many offer basic features for free.  I use Picmonkey and Layout App and Kim recently suggested Canva which is a free app to create images and designs.  I made the first image using Canva for the first time!

8. Use the Suggested Hashtag
Follow your hosts and use their preferred Hashtags.  It means they can find your posts, like and comment on them, and other people taking part can do the same.  Photohops are all about finding new people in your tribe.  I met loads of new-to-me quilters in #GreatBritishQuilter, found out new tips, shops, books and so much more.

I hope these have been of help and also encourage you to get prepared and take part on a whole month of photo prompts.  I found #GreatBritishQuilter got me through an emotional month as our daughter got ready to leave for University and gave me fresh creative inspiration.  If you have any additional tips, please share in the comments!

Saturday, 29 September 2018

September at Plush Addict and Eternal Maker

There's still bright sunshine in South West UK and some amazing autumnal colour, it's time for a visit to my regular sponsor shops, Plush Addict -good timing, Plush Addict has free UK postage this weekend- and Eternal Maker.

Plush Addict
(click image to see in detail)

  1. Dashwood Studio Cool For Cats FQ Bundle (8 fabrics). Another wonderful collection from Dashwood.   Six cat themed prints along with some tonal grid style blenders, an quilt waiting to be made!  Separate yardage of each print is available.
  2. Dashwood Dovestone Wildflowers (Rayon) Viscose  This fabric sold out super fast last time it was in stock, so you have been warned.  This is a super drapey wide rayon fabric, perfect for kimonos, dresses, palazzo style pants, skirts, tops-  any garment making where drape is essential!  This fabric needs gentle prewashing and as with rayon/viscose generally, care when cutting, sewing and pinning. Also available in gold and grey.
  3. Makower Dream 20 Fabric FQ Bundle.  A pretty mix of blush pinks, creams and soft blues.  Available as a bundle or separately.

Eternal Maker 
(click image to see in detail)

  1. **PRE ORDER**Trixie Fat Quarter Bundle by Heather Ross (21 FQs)  This is a hard one to resist.  Pre-order (currently due March 2019) so maybe a potential Christmas present.  I love the addition of the little gingham to this collection.
  2. Wool Mix Spot.  Reversible poly/wool blend woven fabric which is ideal for winter coats and jackets.  This reminds me of Boden coats!  This would be very cute with the Named Clothing Lourdes cropped jacket for cute little A-line jacket.
  3. Lady McElroy Serenity.  Gorgeous large digital floral print on viscose on a sunny yellow background.  Wide width and lots and lots of drape.  This is a lovely dressmaking fabric!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Book Review: Easy Precision Piecing by Shelley Scott-Tobisch

I love tips and tricks and when it comes to piecing, so I leapt at the chance to review Easy Precision Piecing by Shelley Scott-Tobisch on Search Press' new releases.  
Shelley is a new quilter to me but she has many years experience of teachingand she and her husband Bernie run which sells their classes, retreats, books and products related to precision piecing.  I'm just reviewing the book and I'm concentrating on how many tips and tricks I can pick up and put into use!

You can see from the contents, it covers all the different elements that contribute to precision in detail. There are projects, six in total, but for me, they are a secondary feature of the book.  This is a resource for people who want their seam allowances to measure a scant 1/4", always have their seams nest together neatly, cut fabric accurately and get neat points on every half square triangle.  The layout is well organised and highly functional - there are lots of headings, extensive cross-referencing, TIP signposts for mini tips and Precision Piecing Key sections (see  the headings below with the blue background) which highlight particularly useful information. 

Most of the methods and tips are don't require special resources, but I was rather taken with the idea of using an applicator pen for starch. The Easy Press Pen mentioned is not something I could find here but I did find a refillable brush pen on a favourite UK website, and I'm going to try this  on my next foundation piecing project. Lots of the other equipment suggestions can easily be found at home - dry iron, double-sided tape, pencils, colour clips, lingerie mesh wash bag, plastic boxes and obviously a standard paintbrush brush will work for brushing liquid starch over seams too. I like ECOS Earth Friendly plant-based liquid starch.

I found this a gloriously geeky book, full of those little details where I thought, aha!  What a great idea!  I found some things that I knew and lots that I didn't, along with handy reminders on basics design ideas and organising methods.  A quick example - the adage, 'the bigger the number, the bigger the needle' I knew in reference to sewing machine needles, but what I didn't know that 100/16 needle is 1mm in diameter, a 90/14 is 0.9mm and so on.  My sewing mind is blown!  The presentation is practical rather than pretty-pretty, with an emphasis on clear photographs and detailed instructions.  I easily worked my way through the whole book- it ends with some handy tips on binding.  There's no index at the back, but as the cross-referencing is so extensive, I didn't miss this!

The Appleyard quilt which features on the cover is my favourite project.  It features more than 700 different prints and yet the colour wash effect is so gentle.  The quilt projects use the quilt block bases which are a printed paper pull-out at the back of the book.  These are a guide for fabric placement and pressing and reinforcing principles repeated throughout the book, so useful for a beginner quilter who wanted to have a practice run, but they are an extra rather than the core of the book.

Thank you to Search Press for sending me a free copy to review.  As ever, all opinions are my own.

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Maker's Atelier Pleated Skirt in Linen

I've had some beautiful linen bought a few years ago from and when I saw the pleated skirt in The Maker's Atelier magazine Autumn/Winter 18 I thought a linen version would make a good seasonal transition skirt.

One of the best features of the magazine is this layout which features The Maker's Atelier patterns old and new, all in Autumnal evening/occasion fabrics, including the pleated skirt shown in velvet.  There's another double spread in more everyday fabrics, they are both beautiful pattern showcase, very tempting!

Back to the skirt... it's a simple construction inspired by France Tobin's visit to the recent Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A.  There are three pieces: the front and back are identical and include the pockets, plus a waistband.

I lengthened my version as midi is not a length I wear and I added an hem panel which is one of the pattern variations.  I think I lengthened it a little too much for practical walking as it's a little restrictive so I may remove this.

The most interesting feature is how the pocket is formed as the waistband fastens.  I opted for some press studs but you can use a clip or button/buttonhole depending on fabric thickness.  This fastening repeats on each side.  My waistband is sitting relatively low - I have a recent scar on my high waist from a recent operation.  The waistband is very easy to fit and adjust.

You can find the pattern in the Autumn/Winter 18 magazine.  Note there was a printing error on the waistband and amendments are on the website (minor, the original waistband was too long and needs shortening). 

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Round and Round and Round Quilt

It's always a good day when I can write a blog post about a finished quilt.  This is 'Round and Round and Round', named after the Joni Mitchell song, Circle Game.  It came about as an idea for an exhibition quilt- the South West Modern Quilt Guild is exhibiting for the first time in October!  It's also a teaching aid for the 2019 Threadhouse retreat (I'm teaching Dresdens and Petals) and most importantly, it's marking a time of change for our family as our daughter prepares for Uni. She helped choose some of the fabrics, we bought the binding fabric on a day trip to Bath and like me she's a fan of these colours and prints. 

There is a little colour theory in this quilt.  Each block pairing is based on contrasting opposites (or as close as I could get from my stash).  I tried to use what I had- I had to buy one solid fat quarter and the binding fabric, but everything else was from my cupboards!

For the quilting, I had a spiral idea initially but didn't want a circular spiral, so I happened upon an archimedean square spiral and this was relatively straightforward as once it's drawn on as you can sew continuously. To draw on, I used a Frixion pen; I know they have their drawbacks as they can leave odd residue marks, but I knew I needed to see more than a crease and I have no other fabric markers that would be better. I used a steel tape measure and some vintage irons as weights to keep it in place.  Each line moved by 3.5" as that was the furthest apart the batting could be quilted. This design works best on a square quilt.

The binding (seen from the reverse) is by V and Co for Moda, Color Theory collection. 

Quilt details:
Size 54" square.
Sew Easy Curved Dresden ruler
Sew Easy 45 degree Petal Ruler
Wadding Hobbs Heirloom 80/20
Quilting thread Aurifil 40wt

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Great British Quilter

If you're on Instagram, you may well have taken part in last September's #GreatBritishQuilter Challenge.  It's a daily photo challenge, all about quilting which aims to celebrate all things British and quilty- you don't need to be in the UK to take part!  It was started by Sarah Ashford and Charlie Mankin and it really took off with a great community feel around the hashtag #GreatBritishQuilter, reminiscent of the Flickr group days for those who can remember that far back!  It returns for September 2018, but with a change.  As her Stitchsperation business is growing rapidly and needs more of her time, Charlie has decided to step away and Sarah very kindly invited me to be her new GBQ partner!  So, to celebrate, the free Aurifil spool foundation paper piecing pattern which I designed for the spools quilt as part of the #GreatBritishQuilter/Aurifil Threadbox launch is now available to download for free!

zIt's an easy block to piece and there are three options so you choose a full, medium or skinny spool -all make a 6" x 7" block finished.  Find the pattern free in my Payhip shop.

And here's the #GreatBritishQuilter prompt sheet for those of you who like to be prepared!

Find the printable PDF version here

Let me know if you're thinking of taking part in the challenge.

Monday, 27 August 2018

August at Eternal Maker and Plush Addict- Seasonal Transition Choices

We're moving out of Summer and into Autumn in the UK, a time of transition so for this month's sponsor visits to Eternal Maker and Plush Addict, I've chosen colours, fabrics and styles that fit with a change of season and keep the mix of dressmaking and quilting that I love.

Eternal Maker

  1. Tea House Top and Dress by Sew House Seven Paper and PDF versions. I've included this as it's on my September make list.  I've had the pattern for a while and it looks like the ideal transitional dress, especially the longer version so if I include it here, it might give me the push to get it sewn!  There are no extra fastenings to include and I think it could be worn over a skinny long sleeve top to give it a longer wearing time. 
  2. Dashes- Indigo Woven from Sevenberry. Medium to heavy weight with texture.  Ideal for cushions bags and heavier weight structural clothing.
  3. Double-Sided double Gauze in Scallop Stripe Grey from Kokka. Maximise the contrast by using both sides of this gorgeous double gauze
  4. Mustard Rust: Eternal Maker custom fat quarter bundle.  I love the curated bundles at Eternal Maker, they put together what looks like an effortless combination and this one is the perfect autumnal mix with the warm colours and the textural mix of cottons with linen blends.

  1. Cork Fabric: with natural and dark metallic grain. I've yet to try cork fabric but I've seen so many bags and purses made with it and it has great structural and textural appeal.  Kellie Rose describes this as feeling like leather and it's also known as cork leather. 
  2. Denim 11oz 150cm wide.  Dark denim, ready for clothing, cushions, bags and accessories.  You can read a handy guide to denim weight here which includes guidance and tips for sewing; at under 12oz,  this is in the lighter weight category.
  3. Makower Bloom Autumn FQ Bundle (11 fabrics). I couldn't resist this bundle with the title and colourway!
  4. Dashwood Boho Meadow Animals in white. Designed by Bethan Janine (also available in dark blue).
I've got a basic membership to Picmonkey so I've been playing around with some mood board style layouts to collate the images which is fun to do!