Thursday, March 29, 2012

taking better product photos

One of the joys (and frustrations, at times) of the businessy part of crafting can be the photo taking. Since I started blogging and selling my wares, my photography skills have steadily improved, but I would not claim to be very good at it. Which is why whenever I see blog posts about product photography, I zoom right in (pun intended!). I recently saw a book on the Skinny Laminx blog ~ The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos, and immediately ordered it. The day it arrived in the mail, I read it cover to cover and then started thinking about how/when to put it into practice. It's a really practical book with good diagrams and ideas for people with all levels of equipment ~ basically from zero to owning a nice DSLR (by the way, this is not a sponsored post).

The big tips from this book for me were:
~ use natural light (which I always do) and enhance that light if needed through reflection
~ use the camera's timer function and a tripod to free up your hands for reflection
~ props are important

So one sunny morning I set up a little area in front of a blank grey wall (sadly, all the walls of our apartment are grey) with a table, some props and some products (this was taken on my phone, so a little dodgy on the colours!) ...

This wall is perpendicular to the large window in the room, so I held up a white sheet to reflect the natural light onto the little set. You can see the results of "without sheet" and "with sheet" below:

The effects are subtle (the above photos have not been edited in any way) but you can see that the depth of the shadows on the right hand side of the photo (the side furtherest from the window) have been lessened quite a bit. The tea towel also appears much brighter. This was the final pic after only a tiny bit of fiddling in photoshop ...

Keep your eyes out for this pic over the coming days ... it might have something to do with a giveaway (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say-no-more!).

Best wishes with your own photography this week ~ I'm certainly a novice, but it's nice to share the learning. I plan on doing a whole lot more practicing with the camera ~ it's a work in progress. I'll leave you with another shot from that morning ...

More creativity here today!

P.S. Incase you're interested, my camera is an entry level Pentax K-r Digital SLR, with a 28-80mm Sigma lens (I also use a 105mm Sigma macro lens). I mostly use the "auto" function, but am venturing into the manual zone these days too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This time last weekend, we were in Scotland. It was four days of heaven ~ starting in Edinburgh and then driving (over a couple of days) through the highlands to Loch Ness, Inverness, then around to Aberdeen, Dundee and back to Edinburgh. Here are a few of my favourite pics of the trip ...

Beautiful rolling hills and stone buildings ~ between Aberdeen and Dundee
Loch Ness ~ I have been dreaming of coming here since I was a child ~ a big tick on my list of things to do in life
(P.S. Nessie was "having a nap" when we visited)
Quaint village near Loch Ness
Old walled garden, Culloden House,  Inverness
Daffodils everywhere we went ~ these were in Aberdeen
The Frayed Hem in Edinburgh ~ perfect spot for a crafternoon!
My red door obsession was indulged in Edinburgh!
Dream house ...
Approaching the Highlands

It is rare that we will visit a place and feel immediately at home ~ like it is somehow familiar and we belong. We felt this way about Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular. I could live there in a heartbeat. It's up there with Melbourne for me, and that's saying something! At the departures area of Edinburgh airport, there is a sign saying "Haste ye back" ~ meaning "return soon" ~ no encouragement needed. Scotland is magic.

I posted lots more pics to my instagram incase you're interested. Hope your weekend has been lovely so far!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

shop swap ~ treasures found!

You might remember that I posted a few weeks ago about the shop swap that I signed up for over at the oh hello friend blog. This little parcel made it to Erin from Tesori Trovati Jewelry in the USA. You can see what was inside by popping over to Erin's beautifully written blog.

My parcel from Erin's shop was .... amazing!

Erin makes the most lovely jewelry, and made not one, but three pieces just for me (more pics on Erin's blog).

It's impossible to pick a favourite, but I've already worn the "n" necklace and the green pattern necklace ~ they are lovely to wear, and look fab! The "love what you do, do what you love" necklace is hanging next to my desk ~ such a pretty reminder in my favourite colours.

Thanks Erin ~ your creativity and generosity are boundless. It was a pleasure being your swap partner. Please pop over and visit Erin's blog here ~ I know you will love it!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

first quilt of the year ... finished!

I think it's always good to finish a project reasonably close to when you started it ... in this case, just a week or so, which is almost a record for me. To be fair, I think the big squares made it pretty easy!

As I mentioned last week, I needed to sew the binding on to my quilted patchwork of Yardage Design fabrics. Possibly my least favourite job, but worth the effort in the end ~ I think the red really sets the other fabrics off beautifully.

Lots of Yardage Design fabric packs (mixes of three or four designs and colourways) are available in the shop at the moment if you fancy making a quilt like this yourself.
There is also a new SALE section of the shop with discounted and discontinued fabrics and homewares ~ be quick and snag a bargain!

More Thursday creativity here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

first quilt of the year

This week, I've been working on my first quilt of the year ~ is it just me, or are the months flying past! I have been wanting to make a patchwork quilt from my own fabrics for ages, so lots of large squares were cut and sewn ...

I used curved basting pins for the first time with this one ~ in the past I've just used normal pins which invariably come out during the sewing. It's been quilted (I stitched in the ditch for the first time too), but now needs the edges trimmed before some contrast bias binding is sewn on ~ I'm thinking red ~ naturally! I'll be back soon with the finished product.

More creativity here, each and every Thursday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

recipe :: mars bar crackles

Today I made Mars Bar Crackles for a playdate ~ this recipe is my version of Mars Bar Slice, but instead of putting the whole thing in a tray and cutting it up, I spoon mine into patty cases. Mars Bar Crackles are great for a playdate because they are a crowd pleaser, super yummy, portable and very easy to make, so I thought I would share the recipe ...

Mars Bar Crackles

3 Mars Bars
knob of butter (about 50g)
2-3 cups of Rice Bubbles or Coco Pops (for extra chocolate!)
150g milk chocolate (chips are easier to melt, but any is fine)

Chop Mars Bars and melt with the butter ~ can be done in a saucepan over very low heat, or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (I prefer this way as it won't catch), or in the microwave.

Once melted, mix in Rice Bubbles of Coco Pops until coated.

Quickly spoon mixture into patty cases before it hardens.

Melt milk chocolate using a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or in the microwave) and, when melted, drizzle over the top of the crackle mixture in each patty case.

Once the chocolate has set, they're ready to eat!

This morning I added some edible letters to mine ~ just for fun, and so everyone would know which was theirs!

The crackles were a success at the playdate this afternoon after school ~ with kids and mums!

You can find a list of links to other recipes that I have posted on this blog by scrolling down the right hand column. Enjoy!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

the australia cushion ...

It's finished and already claimed ...

Thanks to many words of wisdom from blogland over the last week, I worked out how to do two things that I hadn't done before ~ thread sketch properly (using a darning foot) and make (and insert) piping.

The piping was fun to make, and not as hard as I thought to sew in (I read this tutorial before I started). The key was the piping foot (see this post for more details) which gave me plenty of room to sew the piping onto the fabric without seeing any stitches.

I'm really happy with the result ~ it means something at our place, and adds a bit of home to the lounge. Above all, it was fun to make, and great to learn some new sewing skills.

The ocean blue swizzle fabric I used to make this cushion is currently on sale (along with some other fabric designs and cushion covers) in my shop ~ click here!

More creativity here, each Thursday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

taking a walk with my macro ...

One of the wonderful things about where we live in central Madrid, is the ability to walk almost anywhere. Today (Spain time), I walked to the Royal Botanic Gardens with my camera and only a 105mm macro lens ...

It was a lovely morning in the sunshine watching the emergence of spring in the gardens, but my favourite shot of the day was the one above ... a busker in the street on my way to the gardens. The guy is playing lovely jazz tunes on his sax, and is accompanied by his "singing" dog. Priceless!

I am always surprised by how versatile a macro lens can be, and how using this lens makes me have to think about where I am in relation to the thing I want to photograph. I love it. I'm all about the detail.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

piping ... with gadgets!

Over the weekend I made piping for the first time. It started off pretty basically with me (roughly) cutting bias strips from some red fabric before folding each strip in half and inserting the "piping cord" (in my case it was jute string because I couldn't find the cord I'd bought especially!) ...

Now for the sewing part ... I actually started sewing the cord into the bias using a zipper foot, but remembered I had a piping foot, so I switched after a few centimetres.

The piping foot (which is kind of like a large invisible zip foot - see pic below) makes sewing much, much easier and more consistent.

Finally, I trimmed my piping using this neat little "piping wizard" tool I bought last year at one of the quilting shows. It lets you trim the seam allowance of the piping cord to a number of different widths by putting the cord part in the appropriate groove and then cutting off the excess fabric with a rotary cutter. Easy peasy!

The end result was very satisfying and I was really happy with my gadgets. It was also good to learn how to do something new. I'll be back in a couple of days to show you (hopefully) where the piping ended up!

Have a creative week!