Friday, October 24

Tips for Making No Fuss Blog Photos

Let me start by saying that I'm not a fantastic (craft) photographer. I don't particularly enjoy making photos, it's not my passion and I don't really want to spend *too* much time on it. But it's undeniable that photography is a not to be ignored aspect of blogging and selling your crafty things on internet. This is not an ultimate guide on how to make perfect photos, I'm simply sharing a few things I've learned over the years while making photos for my blog. Because even if I don't have a passion for photography, I do like nice looking photos. :)

Your To Be Photographed Object

Keep it clean. Let's assume you want to share a photo of something you made. Make sure that the object you want to photograph is clean (no cat hairs), not frumpy (iron your fabrics and embroidery, hoop your embroidery) and obviously relevant to whatever you are writing about.


Keep it simple. Find out what works for you. I often use a brick wall on my balcony as backdrop. It has an iron fire escape ladder in front that is perfect for hanging my crafty stuff from and it's outside so I can make use of the natural light (see 'Light'). The only downside is that it can get a bit boring if you use the same backdrop over and over again.

Another thing I found out that wallpaper can make an interesting backdrop or surface for your photos. I happen to have awesome wallpaper in my living room so that's a bonus. But for smaller objects and a little more variety I like to use wall paper left overs and samples. You can get free wall paper samples on the internet or simply ask stylish re-decorating family and friends for samples.

Get creative. For this photo of the fabulous Flossy the Sheep  bobbin I used a simple water coloured drawing as background.

If everything fails (sometimes it does) just go with white.  A white wall,  sheets of printer paper, white fabric,  a white laminate floor. As long as it's not frumpy or dirty. I got this tip from my pal Carina. She knows much more about photography than I do and sometimes she even hosts online courses on the subject!


Use what you have in and around your home. Depending on the style of your blog you can use toys as quirky prop in your photo. Not the drooled over 'well loved' toys from the toy basket obviously.

Other things I used in my photos in the past are bowls (nice ones but plain white would definitely be useful to have) and books. I also sometimes include my cats in a photo if they happen to be around, because you know it's impossible to *make* a cat pose for a photo. :)

For a more natural, rustic look you can use leaves, flowers and branches from your garden.


I assume by now everyone knows that natural light is the best for taking photos. Non-too-sunny, slightly cloudy days are perfect so if possible grab your camera when the circumstances are best. You can go outside or find a spot by a large window. If light is a little low it helps to hold a sheet of printer paper just out of view, to reflect light up on your object. Sometimes there is just too little natural light to work with (like in the photo with Milo, taken mid winter) and you have to 'lighten up' the photo a bit afterwards (see After the Photo is made).

Making photos on the go

I rarely take my fancy camera with me (yes, I have invested in a 'proper' camera) and make photos on the go with my phone/camera. You can make perfectly adequate blog photos with the phones that are available nowadays. Just snap away if you are on a city trip or attending a crafty event. :) You can also make photos that might be useful one day in your posts. I made a photo of Polar Bear Eric (he lives in my local Zoo) and used it later when I wrote about Furry Stitching.  Besides animals you can also think of making photos of objects with numbers (anniversary posts!), nice looking doors, trees, thrifty finds etc.

After the Photo is made

Sometimes your photo can use a little lift. It's too dark or too big for example. If you are really into photography you will probably improve your photos in Photoshop or some similar program. If you don't have Photoshop (like me) and want a quick tweak then websites like Picmonkey are great or Pixlr if you want something more similar to Photoshop. Simply upload your photo and you can brighten the image, crop, add a watermark etc. Instagram-like filters, text (except your watermark) and other additions are nice but use them sparingly.

Wednesday, October 15

Couture Birds

Embroidery & design by Nicola Jarvis. photo used with permission

While I was browsing the website of the Royal School of Needlework I stumbled upon a fabulous looking workshop called Couture Birds (Kings and Queens) hosted by Nicola Jarvis. I first found out about Nicola Jarvis' work last year when I read about her beautiful embroidery work in a William Morris inspired exhibition (read a review here). Besides the Morris' Birds Nicola has done lots of other exquisite highly creative embroidery work in different techniques.

So I needed very little time to think it over and very spontaneously booked my place in the class. Without worrying about details of how to get there and where to stay or that I don't know anyone there. It's next July so I still have some time to figure all that out. :) Incidentally I also forgot to check whether my embroidery skills were good enough to take part. It's Crewel and Gold work, two techniques I haven't tried before. At least not Crewel work with wool, because apparently you can also do Crewel with regular stranded thread which to me sounds much like surface embroidery. And that is something I happen to do quite a lot! I'm not particularly keen on formal gatherings but the RSN says the classes are small and friendly (just like me!) so I should be ok. I'm just incredibly excited to be taking a class with Nicola and I expect to learn lots from the experience!

As I write this I saw there was only one spot left in the Couture Birds class (come join me!) but there are lots and lots of other interesting courses available through the Royal School of Needlework for all skill levels and on different locations as well. The majority is in the UK but there are also classes taught abroad.

Do check out Nicola Jarvis' shop where you can find gorgeous Embroidery kits, including several William Morris inspired Bird kits.

In preparation for my class I will go and explore Crewel Embroidery a bit more. Obviously I will share my findings here on the blog. :) 

Monday, October 13

Inspirations: patterns in my neighbourhood

On my way to the bike repair shop (with a broken bike wheel in my hand) and back (without the broke bike wheel), I took some pictures of interesting patterns in my neighbourhood. Once you start looking, you see patterns and interesting details everywhere. Today I spotted lots of simple but stylish ornamental work in stone and metal.

And on my way back I found this object in a little shop.

It's a bird on a tree trunk (obviously) and at first I thought it was a tiny vase because it has a hole on top. But then I found out it had a hole in the bottom as well which makes it kind of useless as a vase. ;)  It now keeps my vintage porcelain owl (which is actually a perfume lamp) company.

Monday, October 6

Old Stitches, New Tricks

Just in case you don't read the &Stitches blog: we have a fabulous new Embroidery competition going on called Old Stitches, New Tricks You can read all the details (about how and when to enter etc) on the &Stitches blog but basically the idea is that you take something 'old' (an old pattern or technique for example) and use it in a contemporary way. An interesting challenge for sure! 

Great prize to win: this is the loot the winner will get!

I was planning on playing along as well. Obviously I can't enter the contest (as I am an &Stitches co-host) but I really wished I could, because the prizes are fantastic.  Anyway, I started researching an old, somewhat forgotten technique yesterday (not revealing what it is yet!) and I hardly could find any information on it. Nothing in my personal 'library' and very little online as well. I wonder why that is but I'm determined to bring it put it in the spotlight a bit before it disappears in oblivion  :) 

Tuesday, September 30

Dapper Jackalope Pattern available now!

Isn't he sweet, this dapper Jackalope? As I mentioned recently: it's my first pattern since last October so it really *was* time for a new one. I'm really happy with it and I hope you all like it too! The pattern includes colour and stitch suggestions and is now available as instant download (so you can start stitching tonight!) in my shop.

Saturday, September 27

How to pull thread from a skein

I have a confession to make. Until last week I didn't really know how to pull floss from a skein. Usually I just pulled at the first loose end I'd find. Not noticing which end of the skein it was. Sometimes it was the right end and the thread could easily be pulled from the skein, often it was the wrong end and I would end up with a tangled mess.

The other day I thought it would be wise to try and find out if there was some logic to the whole process. It turned out the DMC skeins I was using do have a 'business end'... I felt a bit silly posting my 'aha' moment on Instagram but then it turned out I wasn't the only one. It's just one of those things no one ever talks about! Soon I started referring to the whole thing as #Flossgate and like with other 'gates' it needed further investigation!

I conducted a comparative 'thread-pulling' study of four different brands of embroidery floss I found in my stash: DMC, Sublime Stitching, Anchor and Cosmo. These are all six stranded flosses, but I must add the Anchor floss is rather old so possible today's skeins will give a different result.

Let's start with DMC: the business end is the side where the thread number is.

Anchor: the right side to pull the thread from is the side where label with the brand name is.

Sublime Stitching: it took me quite a while to find out that the beginning and the end of the thread where at the same side! It's the side where the number label is. You just need to gently pull both to find out which one comes loose from the skein more easily.

Finally Cosmo: as you can see in the photo the best way to pull thread from the skein is on the side where the brand label is.

I hope this study is helpful for some of you! Do let me know in the comments if you happen to know how this works with other brands. :)

p.s. find more of my Embroidery 'Aha' moments here.

Thursday, September 25

Book review: Stitch the Halls

Although we 'do' celebrate Christmas in our house, in our own quiet way, I'm not a huge fan of covering the whole house in Christmas decorations. Most decorations that stores offer don't appeal to me anyway. Santas are not allowed in my house (only the real one is, to drop off presents) and the only decorations I indulge in are a Christmas tree and lots of sparkly fairy lights.

But now Stitch the Halls by What Delilah Did* has arrived and I suddenly feel I need Mini-sampler Stockings in my tree and send Christmas cards with tiny jumpers on.

The Polar Parade bunting is one of my favourite projects in the book. Sophie's signature silhouette designs make this decoration sophisticated and timeless. Festive, but in a not exclusively Christmas kind of way. Brilliant.

With it's 80 pages this book will not take up much of shelf space but the 12 projects are all of great quality.  Personally, I'd rather have a small volume with great useful designs than a large book with lots of mediocre stuff.

Another favourite (it's so hard to choose though!) is this tiny 'Miss Prance-a-Lot' Peg doll ornament. The attention for detail is just fantastic.

The book starts with a chapter about Supplies and the basics of  Cross Stitch and Counted Thread embroidery are discussed. I thought this was particularly interesting as Counted Thread embroidery doesn't always gets mentioned in today's Embroidery books. A lot of the projects aren't incredibly complicated or time-consuming so all in all this would be a good starting point for anyone who wants to try their hand at cross stitch and/or counted embroidery.

Just like in Story Land Cross Stitching the photos (by Rachel Whiting) and illustrations (by Ana Victoria Calderon) are very charming.

Stitch the Halls is perfect for anyone who wants to add stylish, handmade stitched decorations to their home and presents (without the 'loudness' of the usual Christmas decorations!). It's available now in stores and online shops (including Sophie's own shop).

*As you may know I'm a longtime fan of Sophie's designs. I already had the book on my 'to buy list when I received a copy from the publisher for review. :)