When I started my blog, I was afraid that hordes of marauding robots would hurl wingdingy spam at my fledgling blog, which would collapse under the weight of indiscriminate and meaningless robot-originated comments. But I have finally worked up the courage to turn off "word verification/captcha" on my blog.1. dalek, 2. Retro Bokeh Robot, 3. Lego 8833 Minifigures Series 8-01 Evil Robot, 4. Dalek
Now, I'm not tech savvy. I don't know the difference between my proxy and my IP address. I only got an iPhone a couple of months ago. About two years ago I actually went out and bought the most basic Nokia phone I could find. This is how that shopping trip went:
Shop assistant: And what features would you like on your phone, madam?
Me: Features? I want it to make phone calls, when I'm out and about, mobile, if you will, for it is a mobile phone I need.
Shop assistant: Ok, do you have a preference for platform? IPhone, Android?
Me: Um, Telstra?
Shop assistant: *sigh* *superior roll of eyes* Ok. Let me show you this Nokia.
And I loved my new Nokia. It made phone calls. It also sent text messages, but mainly, I could use it to make phone calls while I was out and about. That's a great big tick, right there, because my mobile phone before that struggled with that very concept.
Just recently, my sister, Kitty, gave me her old iPhone. Now, I have been using mobile phones for almost 20 years. Really. So I was a bit anxious about moving away from the idea that a mobile phone is only useful for making phone calls. However, I succumbed to the siren-call of the iPhone, mainly because I can use it to take super-cute photos of my super-cute baby boy, Bunny, and email them to everyone I know, right from my iPhone. I was a bit nervous about leaving behind my beloved Nokia (and it is carefully stashed away in a drawer, with all its accessories in its original box, just in case). But I have hurled myself into the technological unknown and it has all worked out.
It is in the same spirit of technological adventure and exploring the unknown that, this very week, I have turned off word verification for comments on my blog. In so doing, I couldn't easily find any instructions on how to do it, so I thought I would pop some up on my blog. (And I note, my modest little blog has not been buried under a mountain of roboty spam comments... yet.)
How to turn of word verification for comments in Typepad blogs
Step 1: Go to "settings".
Step 2: Go to "comments".
Step 3: Uncheck/untick the box marked "require verification code"
Step 4: Click on "save changes" at the bottom of the screen.
And there you have it. Simples.
You have to be a bit smitten by this cranky, rampaging robot, don't you? He is the inspiration for reworking Ayumi's Polkadot Cafe Apron into a toy tidy for my little boy's high-chair toys.
This week's Patchwork Please Zakka Along project has been worrying me for a few weeks. I knew I wanted to make the gorgeous patchwork panel, but I didn't think I could bring myself to make an apron. How could I wipe my hands on a lovingly and painstakingly constructed patchwork panel such as the one Ayumi designed?
I was pondering the above as I trod on one of my baby boy's high chair toys (for the umpteenth time). Inspiration struck. I would make a toy tidy to hang from the rail on the back on the kitchen door!
My first two panels, below, were made using traditional piecing, as called for in the pattern.
I wrestled a bit with the bias edges, so I tried my next panel using paper piecing - and this is how it turned out -
The paper piecing took about three times as long as the traditional piecing, but the construction felt more stable and the finished measurement was perfect, whereas the finished measurement for the traditionally pieced block was 1/4 inch smaller. This is good to know, because it tells me that when I'm using the traditional piecing method, I might be a bit generous with my 1/4 inch seams, and I need to make my 1/4 inch seems a bit smaller.
I would recommend using the paper pieicing method, if you have the time - it's worth it for the extra stability and to get a perfectly sized finished panel.
My patchwork panel is topstitched to a mini-quilt. I also topstitched between the left hand block and the middle block to make one narrow pocket (one block wide) and one wide pocket (two blocks wide) to hold Bunny's toys. The toy tidy is secured to the rail by a pair of ribons sewn into the binding on each side of the toy tidy.
I made curved corners on the mini-quilt so I used bias binding to bind the quilt.
I am planning to sit out the next couple of weeks of the Zakka Along to focus on the Books for Baby Quilt. I also have the Flower Sugar quilt for my niece to quilt and bind and a whole pile of winter woolies that need darning. So much to do!
Welcome to the second Dapple & Grey Giveaway!
I have one fat quarter of the hard to find Kokka Trefle Strawberries and one fat eighth of the Kerchief Girls from my personal stash to give away. "Kerchief Girls and Kokka Trefle Strawberries? Can she be serious?" Yes, you bet I am!
Both pieces of fabric are unwashed and are from a smoke-free studio. The Kerchief Girls is a fat eighth and the Kokka Trefle Strawberries is a fat quarter - if you are familiar with these fabrics, you will already have an inkling that these pieces are going to be perfect for fussy cutting but it might be tricky to expect the pieces to stretch to too much otherwise.
To enter, leave a comment below answering this question:
Q: What colour is the letter "T" on the Patchwork Please Tea Cosy I made in the sew along? To help you find the answer, follow this link... (link will open in a new window so you can pop back here and submit your comment).
Comments on my blog are moderated, so I will hold off publishing any of the comments until the Giveaway ends. As my Grade Six teacher Miss Franklin would have said, "eyes on your own work, ladies". Miss Franklin didn't like me very much - she sent me to the headmistress's office fairly regularly for talking in class.
Back to the Giveaway - for a bonus entry, subscribe to my blog above or via Bloglovin here and let me know in a comment below that you have subscribed, or, if you are already a subscriber, you'll get a bonus entry by mentioning you are already a subscriber.
This giveaway is open until midnight, Thursday 4 July, PDT (that's LA time) and 5pm, Friday 5 July in Melbourne, Australia.
The giveaway is open internationally - if Australia Post will ship to you, so will we!
Bonne chance, mes amis - and happy fussy cutting to the lucky winner!
These pretties cost me $11.27 per metre online (adjusting for the difference between a metre and a yard). Two weeks later I saw them at my local quilt shop for $24 per metre. That's more than twice the price! Ouch!
Since I bought the fabric online, I had to pay to have my fabric sent to me from the US. I bought a bundle of 18 half-yards, so if I factor in the postage costs, the fabric works out at $15.80 per metre, delivered to my front door.
The same fabric at my local quilt shop would cost me over 50% more, even factoring in the cost of postage from the US to Australia.
How can this be? And how can our local quilt shops survive when it’s so much cheaper to buy the same beautiuful fabric online?
I have recently written about a local quilt shop in Melbourne going out of business and about a second shop that was struggling to stay afloat - see here. I am sad to report that the second shop closed down a couple of weeks ago. I spoke to the owner and asked her why she was closing. She said, “because my suppliers offer fabric to me at $10.95 a metre but my customers can buy exactly the same fabric online for $12.00. How can I survive?”
From that imaginary miniscule margin, if the local quilt shop price-matched with the online prices, the local quilt shop owner has to pay rent, tax, staff wages, a wage for herself and all her other business overheads. I am not surprised she went out of business. I am surprised she lasted so long.
There has been a lot of interest lately in how expensive consumer goods are in Australia compared to their prices overseas.
The Productivity Commission reported on the issue in 2011 and found there were a number of factors that make consumer goods more expensive in Australia including:
- international price discrimination – this is where a single seller offers the same goods at different prices across different countries. For example, a manufacturer or first level wholesaler sells the same item to an American distributor for $5 per item and to an Australian distributor for $10 per item. This flows through to create higher prices in Australia;
- the number of intermediaries (ie, wholesalers and distributors) between the manufacturer and the retailer, because each intermediary needs to make a profit – the more intermediaries, the more inflated the price by the time it reaches the shop;
- overhead costs – a bricks-and-mortar store will have more overheads than an online only store (as a general rule) so will need to put on a higher margin to cover its overheads. Also, businesses in Australia have higher overheads than businesses in many other countries, so, again, their margins need to be bigger to cover these higher overheads;
- government taxes, including GST (there is a $1000 threshold for international online shops before they have to collect GST, which gives them an advantage over Australian shops); and
- exchange rate fluctuations.
It’s a complicated issue.
To get back to my beautiful purchases from a US shop on etsy, I have to say, even understanding the above factors and having read the Productivity Commission report, I am shocked that my fabric, which was manufactured in Japan, could be shipped from Japan to the US, then sold to me by a US shop, then shipped to me in Australia for about 65% of the cost for me to buy the fabric at my local quilt shop.
No wonder our local quilt shops can’t survive.
Something needs to change.
(Please note, I have converted all prices above to Australian dollars, using the exchange rate that applied at the time, and I have converted prices per metre to prices per yard to reflect that a metre is slightly more than a yard.)
How do you consistently take photos you love and that others will identify as your photos? It's all about finding your photographic style.
"How do I know what my photographic style is? I take lots of photos, and sometimes I love them and sometimes they are a bit, well, bleh. How can I make all my photos fabulous photos that I love? And how do I take photos that my readers/followers will identify as my photos?" As people in marketing would say, let's workshop it.
You'll need a nice cup of tea (and perhaps a cheeky slice of cake), a pencil and a piece of paper. Are you ready? If so, let's get started.
Step One: Find your fave photos
Find your favourite photos. We are going to be working with these photos in Step Two, so I suggest you choose four or five photos. You are looking for photos you love, for example, photos that grab your attention on Flickr or Pinterest. You'll know them when you see them. Make sure you choose photos you really love – the results of this exercise will only be worthwhile if the photos you choose at this stage are photos you love.
If you already have favourite photos in Flickr or Pinterest boards, that is a great place to start. Otherwise, type in some keywords in Flickr (use keywords that match the kind of work you feature on your blog or your favourite photographic subject) or visit your favourite bloggers' sites.
I visited my Flickr favourites page and put together this collage of some of my favourite photos.
Step Two: Describe your favourite photos
Start with one of your favourite photos. Look at this photo for a few moments. On your piece of paper, write a heading, “Photo 1” and start of list: write down the first few descriptive words that come to mind. Your words can describe the photo or how you feel while you're looking at the photo.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
- Is the photo light or dark?
- Is it soft or strong?
- Does it look warm or cool?
- Is it a close up?
- Are there props?
- Does it have a vintage or modern feel?
You should write down as many words as you like. When you are finished, start a new heading for “Photo 2” and start writing down words to describe the second photo. Repeat for all the photos in your bundle of favourite photos.
Here’s my list.
Step Three: Analyse your list and make a shortlist
Look through your lists. Are there words or concepts that appear consistently across your columns? Words or concepts that are in almost every column? (Be on the lookout for words that mean the same or similar things. I had “light” and “airy” on my lists – to me, these ideas are so similar that I combined them and then realized that one or both of these words appeared in the list for each of my favourite photos!) Write these down in a new list.
Next, are there words that mean the same or similar things that appear a few times, maybe not in each of your lists, but in at least a few? Write these words down on your new list, too.
Are there any words that, whilst they only appear once, you feel strongly are important? Add these words to the new list.
Finally, are there some words that you aren't sure about, or you think are less important? Don't add these words to the new list.
Step Four: Prioritise your shortlist
Now, turn your attention to your new list - this is a shortlist of your photographic style characteristics. Beside each word or concept on your new list, put a number 1, 2 or 3, using the guidelines below:
1 = very important to me (only give one or two words or concepts a number 1 rating)
2 = important to me (you can give three or four words or concepts a number 2 rating)
3 = less important to me, but still significant (give the rest of the words or concepts a number 3 rating)
Step Five - Describe your photographic style
Your photographs should almost always be described by at least one of your number 1 words/concepts from the shortlist you made in Step Four above. When you are taking photos, these are the ideas/concepts that should be the strongest guiding influences. For me, my number 1 rating words/concepts are “light/airy” and “close up/detail”. When I am photographing my work, I try to remember both of these concepts and work to take a great photo being guided by these concepts.
Your photographs should usually also be described by one or more of your number 2 rating words/concepts and often a number 3 rating word/concept.
Within this framework, there is still immense scope for variation.
None of this limits your ability to take any photo you like and it's great to challenge yourself by working outside your comfort zone from time to time. But my shortlist of my photographic style characteristics is a powerful tool to help me take photos I love more often and I hope the above has been useful for you, too.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback and to know if this process helped you to find or identify your photographic style.
Happy snapping (and sewing).
Coming soon - a giveaway of some very hard to find fabrics from my own stash - Kerchief Girls and Kokka Trefle Strawberries!
These gorgeous pieces are perfect for fussy cutting and would work beautifully with some of the upcoming projects in the Patchwork Please Zakka Along.
Stay tuned - the giveaway will open within the next week...
When Darryl Kerrigan said appreciatively of his wife's cooking, "it's what you do to it, luv", I think he meant the details maketh the dish. So too with sewing.
I loved every stage of Ayumi's gorgeous Patchwork Please Tea Cosy, but my favourite part was finishing the little tag to hang from the top loop. I didn't have any crocheted cherries called for in the pattern, but I thought that a little tea bag tag would be cute and appropriate. Plus, who can have a cup of delicious hot tea without also wanting a piece of cake? The tea bag tag is a very simple 1 1/2" fussy cut square of linen with a bit of polyfill stuffed inside. I overcame my fear of raw edges to give the taggie a sort of natural, papery look and feel.
This project was also my first ever attempt at paper piecing and I can say I LOVE IT! There were a few occasions on which the seam ripper was grumpily applied, but overall I think I have the hang of it. I enjoyed watching the letters and the tea cup emerge from a handful of seemingly unrelated and random scraps and seams. Before I started the paper piecing, I felt I needed to read a few online tutorials and watch some video tutorials so I could visualise the process (as Ayumi suggests in her book). I found Carol Doak's online tutorial extremely useful.
I chose fabric scraps for the letter "limbs" that were significantly higher in volume than the background scraps, to make sure the letters would stand out and not be drowned out by the background I think the tea cup is probably not strong enough, but the floral is so pretty that I am quite happy with it.
Raw edges make me unhappy (it doesn't take much), so I added some cheerful floral and spotty bias binding to bind the inside raw edges.
Et voilà! I think it might be time for a lovely cup of English Breakfast Tea. Why don't you join me?
When I saw Ayumi’s beautiful kitchen towels, I agonized for weeks. I knew I would never be able to actually use them in my kitchen, because all my tea towels end up stained and completely ruined. So I ummed and ahhed for a while and then, late one night, it came to me. Picnic napkins!!
I love a good picnic (and a midnight feast, for that matter). Picnics let me imagine I’m one of the Mitford sisters, trundling off for a delightful afternoon of raspberries and kippers in the glorious, verdant English countryside, to be followed by a bracing dip in the sea, of course. I think all that Enid Blyton and co in my formative years might be responsible.
I digress. I love a good picnic, so I decided to make a few simple changes and make picnic napkins instead.
My napkins are made from a soft, white linen/cotton blend. I chose linen/cotton blend rather than pure linen because I was worried that the watery, flowing softness of pure linen would make it too difficult for me to applique the fiddly little letters. (Don't you find light linen a bit tricky to sew with? So very flowy and mercurial in the sewing machine.)
I then fussed for weeks (yes, actually weeks) over my choice of scraps for the applique letters. I learned I struggle with "random". I constantly found myself pulled towards "matchy-matchy". "Ooh, this floral matches this stripe so... no, wait, I'm trying to be random." In the end, I compromised. I used the orange, aqua and green floral as my central fabric and then matched the other fabrics to it. But I then added a solid pink, a pink 30s repro and a yellow floral, which didn't really match, but in the end I just liked how they looked. Plus, the picnic napkins needed pink. (Doesn't everything need pink?)
I chose an orange on white print for the binding. I used straight cut binding (not bias binding) and I machine stitched the binding on. This was a new technique for me. I have previously always hand-stitched binding on, so I had to learn use the narrow and wider sides of my handmade binding, to make sure that my machine stitches would catch the back of the binding. Success!
Upon reflection, I think I should have used less orange and more pink (but that's probably because I LOVE pink and I am, at best, lukewarm towards orange).
I will see you in Week 3 of the Patchwork Please Zakka Along. I am working hard to keep up. I did my Week 1 bell pepper coaster ages ago, which is just as well, because I started back at work last week. Yes, after 9 wonderful months as a stay-at-home-mum with my beloved Snuffle-Bunny (so called because Bunny has a cold at the moment) I started back at work part-time last week. It's been hectic and I miss my long, peaceful, sunshiney days at home with my baby boy, but needs must as they say.
I do so love a spot of alliteration on a Friday afternoon, don't you? This morning I made birthday bunting for my baby boy's first birthday, which is coming up in a few months.
And the theme of my Bunny's First Birthday Party?
That's right - beloved Peter Rabbit! It's a perfect theme for a little boy's first birthday party, because the colour scheme for the party is baby blue and white. There is so much scope for fun with a Peter Rabbit theme - lettuce green macarons, chocolate carrots, a watering can hiding a toy Peter Rabbit for the little ones to find...
Back to the bunting.
I made my own binding tape from a soft lettuce green striped fabric, but then I decided to top-stitch a layer of lace to the binding tape. I think the lace gives the bunting a sweet, soft, vintage feel. I am very lucky I got a whole reel of cotton lace from Joann's online at 40% off just recently. It's a good thing I bought a reel, because I needed just over 2 metres for this project.
I am working on the birthday party invitations, too. Here's a hint - they are orange and green and I need to post them out in parcels, not envelopes. Can you guess? Stay tuned - I will pop up a photo of them when they are finished.
Happy Friday, and happy sewing!