Wednesday Wonder: It is a wide brown land in which we live

Happy New Year to all, wishing you a wonderful crafty 2014.

I think this gum blossom could be a great template for a thread painting exercise

I think this gum blossom could be a great template for a thread painting exercise

After three weeks spent driving from one side of the country to the other, and then back again, I am trying to get my thoughts back into work mode this week without much success.

a view of the Great Australian bite from the edge of the nullabour

A view of the Great Australian bite from the edge of the nullarbor

I’ve driven across the Nullarbor many times  but I always forget how far it is between towns, and localities, and just how far it is in kilometres from one side of the country to the other.  

Flat country as far as the eye can see

Flat country as far as the eye can see

(We drove 7,800+ kilometres from door to door, & back, leaving home on 19 December & arriving back on 12 January)

How do these trees survive on the edge of a salt lake?

How do these trees survive on the edge of a salt lake?

So I thought that the post today should be about the amazing country through which we traveled.

This sandstone sculpture in Wudinna commemorates  the contributions of Australian Farmer

This beautifully carved sandstone sculpture in Wudinna commemorates the contributions of farmer to the Australian economy

It was worth all the driving as we had a great visit with family  for Christmas, and then met up with more family at a nephew’s wedding.

We bush camped in amongst this breakaway country

We bush camped one night in among this breakaway country

In the process we were able to test the livability of a great little camper trailer along the way.

Here we are bush camping on the edge of a salt lake,

Here we are bush camping on the edge of a salt lake,

I’ve hardly picked up a needle and thread since mid December (I tell a lie … I had to repair a lost button while we were travelling … but that doesn’t really count as stitching does it?) but I think that I have collected some great photos for landscape appliques and thread painting!

The fields of wheat at the foot of the Stirling ranges remind you of how tough life must have been for the soldier settler farmers

The fields of wheat at the foot of the Stirling ranges remind you of how tough life must have been for the soldier settler farmers

But not everything was dry and brown

Eastern-rosellas-2

the birds are beautiful

The honeyeaters made the most of the water bath in this garden

The honeyeaters made the most of the water bath in this garden

and the kangaroos treated one of the caravan parks where we stayed as home.

It was 6am and the Kangaroos had already had breakfast and were getting ready for a lazy day in the shade.

It was 6am and the Kangaroos had already had breakfast and were getting ready for a lazy day in the shade.

The ocean views were stunning

The coastal views around Esperance are stunning

The water around Esperance is a vivid blue

as were the sunsets

Sunset-at-Ceduna

It makes me realise that I really should take more time away from the city to enjoy a quiet time without the telephone, computer or TV.

Not all the country is dry and brown.

Not all the country is dry and brown. The Wimmera River was a welcome sight at Dimboola

Well our next post will be back to work with some great ideas for using fabric & threads  so do subscribe or call back to this page regularly.

Tuesday Treats: Simple as 1, 2, 3 …. editing photos for your blog

I’ve just spent several days cataloging my father’s photography gear and it reminded me that I had started a thread about taking photos of quilts but had never written the follow-up post, so here it is … my ideas on how to edit photos for use on your blog.

I often struggle to get a good photo for the blog.

The photography either  happens in a rush,  without a lot of planning, or in the poor lighting in the shop. So I have been trying to learn how to edit my photos.

A pattern for this bag, embroidered with Cotton Mako’ 12, will soon be available for downloading.

I know that some editing can be done when the photo is uploaded into WordPress, but I seem to get better results if I edit it in my own photo management program.

My basic editing plan for quilt & thread photos is as simple as 1  __ 2 __ 3

One: Solving Colour Caste

Once photos have been taken, and downloaded to your computer, you may decide that the colours are not truly accurate and have a blue or yellow caste.

This photo has a greyish-greenish colour caste

This can be fixed by adjusting the “white balance” with photo editing software, but it is very useful to have something included in the photo that is a true white.

The white balance has been adjusted to bring the colour closer to reality.

The “true white” item does not have to remain as part of the finished image, and can be cropped out later.  It simply acts a reference point when you are tweaking the colour balance on the edited photo.

Even the most basic photo editing programs will allow some colour adjustment, so read through the “How to” documents that came with the program.

Two:  Cropping to adjusting the position of the focal point of the photo

You may not have noticed some of the distractions in the background  when taking the photo, but they become very obvious when you look at the photo on the computer.

Cropping the photo may solve this problem.

I cropped this photo so that only a hint of the background remained allowing the Cotton Mako’ threads to be the focal point.

Or maybe you want to crop a close up view out of the larger image.

This hand embroidered leaf has been stitched with a single strand of Aurifil Cotton Mako’ 28.

Start with a high quality photo, with a good pixel size, to get a good cropped image

I cropped out a portion of the above image to show a close up view of the Cross Stitch & Blackwork that has been stitched with a single strand of Cotton Mako’ 28

Three: Resizing the photo to help the web page load fast

The third step is to edit the size of the photo before it is uploaded to the blog.

To speed up the page loading time it is a good idea to resize photos for blogs

Large photos are essential for making prints, but using large photos on your blog can make the web page extremely slow to open and cause impatient readers to leave.

The original photo was 1.9MB and after editing it was 67kb

The secret is to take the photo at the best setting and then reduce the pixel size before using the photo on the internet.

This is the finished image after re-sizing for use in the blog

Don’t forget to always keep the original photo and save any changes with a new name!

More reading, and lessons, for taking and editing quilt photos:

Andy & Holly have put together some great information that ranges from choosing your camera, to ideas for taking close up photos for use in tutorials:

http://www.hollyknott.com/stq/index.htm

Some great ideas for styling your quilt photos:

http://travelingbehindtheseams.com/category/photo-styling/

http://www.carolspinski.com/?p=425

This article talks about taking photos of your quilt for use when entering your quilt into a juried exhibition. The clue here is:

“The first thing to remember is this is not about the scenery surrounding your quilt, it is about the quilt itself.”

http://themodernquiltguild.com/2012/07/24/photographing-your-quilt/

Please comment,  and share the way you take, edit & use photos on your blog.

Sewing On The Go…

During my recent travels I fell behind on my Aurifil Designer of the Month stitching. I was able to do some stitching in the evening but seeing new places and having new experiences (a gondola ride at the San Diego Zoo for example) can be quite exhausting!

Birds Eye View of the San Diego Zoo

The September and October blocks were calling to me almost as soon as I walked in the door.

The northern hemisphere is just entering their autumn and the leaves are beginning to change in many places. I decided to use a wonderful variegated thread that represented the warm yellows and burnt orange hues of these leaves in the September design by Amy Ellis.

The collection of fabrics I am using for this project contains some delightful shades of orange and red to really bring out my thread colours.

MY Autumn Colours

The October BOO! Block designed by Amanda Woodward-Jennings brought back happy memories of the many pumpkins I carved for our Halloween “Jack-o-Lanterns”.

October Fun

I realized I trimmed my block in the ‘wrong direction’.

Up to Date!

I will use that tiny mistake to be creative when I put all my blocks together. What fun!

Have you seen the quilt photos entered into the Aurifil Social Competition?

I wasn’t planning to write a post mid-week, but I’ve just browsed through the photos of the quilts that have been entered into the Aurifil Social Quilt Competition.  There are some very talented people in the world with a wonderful sense of colour.   

 Just look at the entries so far

I wonder whether I should join in the fun and enter a photo of my tangerine Bargello quilt.

Jenny's tangerine Bargello quilt

It is a FaceBook social competition  so the winning entries will be decided by the number of viewer votes received for the quilt photo.

Only one vote per quilt is allowed, but you can vote for more than one quilt and I am sure most people will have more than one favourite!

 This means that anyone could win, whether they are a beginner quilter or an award winning exhibitor. 

As a viewer’s choice competition, the “judging” will be based on the “eye candy” quality of the quilts entered, appealing use of colour and design will be the deciding criteria, rather than the examination of  technical skills.

Entering the competition is as easy as one, two, three.

Entering the competition is as easy as one, two, three

So don’t be shy, get your quilt photo uploaded into the competition.  The prizes are certainly worthy of a little effort.

Look at the prizes in the Aurifil Social Quilt Competition

The other point about the competition that appealed to me is that we could almost call it an Australia Day competition  … the closing date is 25th January with winners announced on 26th January.

With these closing dates, don't you think that Aussie quilters just have to enter the competition

….so go Aussies go….

Go to FaceBook to Enter the Competition

 

The Save My Sanity Week

Some people escape to a 5 star hotel for a spa retreat when they need a break from work.  I go bush camping, away from the telephone, internet and business decisions.

Our campsite in the national park

This year we managed to pick a week of unusually wet & windy weather for our camping escape in the Croajingolong National Park. 

Sometimes the wildlife looked miserable in the heavy rain

  

This is a temperate rainforest in the far east of victoria so, as you can imagine, it is normally very wet. Given the extreme weather last week even the birds looked bedraggled!

I was very pleased to have a down jacket, even if I did look & feel like the Michelin man.

  

I had some hand sewing with me but I didn’t take it out of the bag because, for  most of the time, it was too cold to take off my gloves during the day & there was not enough light at night.

We had about 3 hours each day, between 11am & 2 pm, when the weather was reasonable and it was possible for go for a bush walk to sand dunes, the rivers, beaches & lighthouse.

One of the beach walks in the park

 So instead of stitching, I played with my camera.  I enjoyed taking photos of the stormy skies, scenery and amazing fungi that we saw in the forest.

The weather built up every day

 
I’ve now collected a portfolio of  ideas & textures for future patchwork & quilting designs.

I have never before seen the variety of fungi that we found on this holiday

I had to laugh when we stopped for lunch on the way home and I noticed some knitted fungi in the window of the local wool shop.

These cute knitted fungi were the perfect postscript to a wet holiday

In the end the weather didn’t spoil the holiday.

It was a very relaxing break from work, and I’ve ended up with several collections of photos for future stitching  …. landscape features,  interesting textures, fungi & wild life.

Now I just have to set aside some time to actually play with some fabric & thread.

And the Winner is ……

Our Aurifil photo competition finished at midnight last night so I am very pleased to announce the winner.

Fee,  from South Australia, won the competition with this photo of her sitting in the garden using Cotton Mako’ Ne 40 to  put the last stitches to the binding of her quilt.

Fee, stitching the binding to her quilt with Cotton Mako' Ne 40

Now who wouldn’t want to be sitting in the garden finishing their quilt with the ocean as the backdrop?
Watch our posts, and newsletters, for more competitions in the future.
 

Capturing those special Quilty photos

Our applique sampler, made with Cotton Mako' Ne 40 (find the pattern in the Freebies Box)

Most people carry a camera around with them everyday, as part of their mobile phone, so it is easy to take a photo of anything that catches your eye. However, as I discovered when I first started taking photos of my quilts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the “instant” photo will show clear quilting lines, or accurate colours.

Most of us have at least one camera in our collection.

 I am not an expert photographer, but I thought that I would share a few tricks & tips that I‘ve collected that have helped me improve the quality of the digital photos that I take of textiles and threads for my website. 

One of the first things I discovered was that natural light was much better than using the camera flash. When a flash is used it tends to flatten the stitching line so that the beautiful texture, that makes the quilt, is lost and the quilting is difficult to see.

If you want very clear images of the stitching, turn off the flash & try using the macro setting on your camera (this is the setting that has the tulip symbol)

When taking photos using the macro setting, or taking close ups,  a tripod makes a big difference as it holds the camera very still, giving the image a sharp focus.

Cotton Mako' Ne 40 colour 4653 used to fill the leaf with thread painting

Before actually taking the photo, take a critical look through the view finder to check behind the item being photographed. Remove any of the distracting “stuff” and set up a backdrop that will enhance the featured object. Sometimes this may mean a neutral coloured wall and other times it may mean a “stage” setting to create a story.

Yummy, a colourful basket of Aurifil threads

I thought that this was also an opportune time to remind you about our Aurifil photo competition.   Entries don’t close until 28 February 2011 so there is still plenty of time to send in a photo.

Download the guide lines from the Green box to the left of the screen.

Next time I will talk about editing the photos for use on the internet. Your photography hints are always welcome so please send us a comment.

Always Playing with Aurifil Threads, Photo Competition

As I watch, & listen to, the news about the floods in Queensland and northern New South Wales, it feels frivolous to be writing about patchwork but it also creates a little window of escapism from the distressing images on the evening news.

My new year resolutions for 2011 were to write a blog post here once a week, send a letter to our newsletter subscribers once a month and to offer a project or activity, using Aurifil threads, to both groups each month.

Three spools of Aurilux, satin finished polyester, from Aurifil

So to kick off this plan for 2011, we are announcing the “Always Playing with Aurifil Threads”  photo competition, which is open to residents in Australia & New Zealand. 

Apologies to international readers, future activities will involve you,  but this one is just for the “locals” .

You will be able to download a page with the complete details about how to enter the competition in the “GREEN FREEBIES”  box to the left of the screen,  so to summarise here:

  • We are looking for tasteful photos, suitable for general exhibition, showing Aurifil thread being used in a fun, creative, interesting way or location.
  • The prizes, 4 of them, will be your choice of a spool of thread, or a door ticket entry to a Craft show.
  • Competition closes 28 February 2011
  • Our decisions as to the winning entries are final.

Nicola, stitching with her Aurifil thread while on a bush walk

The photos above are just two examples that would fit the competition rules, as we can just identify the thread as being an Aurifil product. 

I am sure your photos will be even more creative.

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