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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Sharing Some "Techspertise" — Don't Just Bookmark

beware of disappearing bookmarks
Well, technically the bookmark doesn't disappear,
but the content behind the link might...
Have you scrolled through your saved bookmarks of crafty sites recently? (Or of any category that you might have on your system.) If it's anything like mine, the list has grown to enormous proportions and is likely not entirely helpful when you're trying to find something.

Moreover, I'm sure some of those links are now dead.

What does that mean? Well, if you no longer have any interest in that link, it means nothing. But if you had bookmarked something with the genuine intention of coming back and referring to it, well, it's now gone.

Most likely for good.

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I must admit to being paranoid about losing access to information that I want to keep. Many, many, many, many years ago — well, back in the late 1990s, anyway — I started the habit of saving web pages to my computer. Back then, it was for the opportunity to refer to those pages while offline, due of the constraints of dial-up internet.

Now, I do so because I don't trust that things will stay where they are, as they are. Blogs come and go. Domains expire and don't get renewed. Free stuff becomes paid content.

So whenever I see something that I want to retain access to, I take a copy.

It can be as simple as grabbing a screen shot via the Windows Snipping Tool. Quite often, I use this quick method if what I want to keep are simple instructions to address an issue that I might need again. For example, I had a problem downloading an eBook to my eReader and found this "fix"...

I took a screenshot of this solution for my eReader problem...

I named the JPG file Adobe Digital Editions Fix and have it stored in a folder called Tech Support. That way, I should know where it is and if I don't remember, having it named as such makes it searchable on my computer.

If the page is mostly text and spans more than a screen (i.e., I can't just capture it using the Snipping Tool), I copy the content out to a Word document, wherein I also keep track of the actual hyperlink to the original source.

A good example of how I use this is my personal Recipes file. Since I end up changing virtually every recipe that I try, this is an excellent way to keep something that can be edited.

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But what if the page that I want to save has instructions and pictures and whatnot... like the average sewing or crafting tutorial? Here is how you can save an entire web page so that you can have access to it forever.

How to save a web page
Right click with your mouse on the web page to bring up the menu box shown above...

I use Google Chrome as my default browser, so the above picture shows how to save a web page using Chrome. I'll also cover the command in Internet Explorer down below, but if you use another browser, just search for "how to save a web page with [name of your browser]".

Right click with the mouse somewhere on the page (but not over a picture) and select the Save as... option.

In the resulting dialog box, ensure that you select Web Page, Complete as the Save as type and then either accept the proposed name or name it something of your own choosing.

How to save a web page
Save as a complete web page...

Choose where you want the file to go. If I accept and save right now, it will get saved to my Desktop (my usual default location; yours will likely be something else), but I will select my Current Stuff folder instead.

How to save a web page
Indicate where the file should be saved to...

After you select (open) the desired destination, you can click the Save button. This process produces two entities with the same name: a folder and an HTML file. (They work together, so keep them in the same place if you decide to move them after the fact.)

The process results in a folder and an HTML file...

Double-click on the HTML file and your saved web page will load into your browser. (Note that it may take some time to load completely and some things may not look the same; this is normal. The essential content, however, should be available.)

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If you use Internet Explorer, the Save as command can be accessed as shown here:

How to save a web page
Access the Save as command via the Settings, File menu in Internet Explorer...

The trade-off when web pages are saved like this is that they represent a static snapshot in time. If the content is updated at the source, you won't have the changes. It is therefore a good idea to continue bookmarking the actual pages.

Another way to take a copy of content is to download a PDF file. Of course, this requires that the site in question has created a PDF for you to take. You may be surprised by how often this option is available from popular sites. Sew4Home, for example, offers a PDF option for most of their projects.

Here is an example for their Summer Sling Bag...

Sew4Home Summer Sling Bag
You can download a PDF of the full instruction to make Sew4Home's Summer Sling Bag...

Click the little PDF icon and you can download the entire tutorial to keep. (Make sure you also download any pattern pieces pertaining to projects when you do this.)

And of course, I have most of my own free tutorials in PDF format too, available via my Craftsy shop.

That's it. Hope this has opened your eyes to the various ways that you can save stuff found online. If it's important to you, don't just rely on those bookmarks!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Spoonflower Project: Pride & Prejudice Throw Pillows

Throw pillow made with Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
My first home decor project is a Pride & Prejudice themed pillow!
When I first started sewing again, I had no interest in sewing clothing (having been there, done that) and didn't think I would ever do so for this blog.

At least I never said "never", because I ended up posting about a few clothing projects.

When I first started sewing again and saw some of the home decor things that people were making, I was also of the opinion, "nah, not for me; won't be doing any of that".

At least I never said "never", because I have now completed my first home decor item: a throw pillow.

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Or rather, two throw pillows! (Or cushions.)

Throw pillows made with Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
My pillows experiencing some of the great Canadian outdoors this winter!

Before I go any further, let me say that I come by my disinterest in home decor sewing quite honestly: I really have no interest in home decor, period. Take me to a HomeSense or a Bed, Bath and Beyond and I am bored out of my skull. I have a strong dislike for things that sit around doing nothing but collecting dust.

But back to the subject at hand. In mid December, Spoonflower ran another one of their BOGO fat quarters promos and I decided to use the sale to try out their heavy cotton twill. A fat quarter of that fabric measures 18" x 29", enough to make a square pillow case measuring just over 14". With the buy one get one offer, each fat quarter ended up being $7.65 (plus shipping); a steal of a deal.

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Pride & Prejudice Text (Bi-Directional White/Black) Spoonflower fabric....

I further rejigged my P&P fabric to make it bi-directional, exactly like the one that I used to make my kimono inspired jacket, but without the background gradient.

The heavy cotton twill has a nice, crisp feel to it — and as you might guess — holds a crease very well. So while my finger got sore hand-sewing at the end to close up the pillow, at least I was able to keep everything straight.

I worked out a method for how I was going to make these cushions and completed the white one very quickly. (And no, it's not complicated no matter how you go about it, since it's just a square enclosure.) But then I was stymied by the fact that the black fabric was printed off kilter!

Take a look here...

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
The red dashed line shows how "off" the printing was on this piece!

The nice easy process that I was going to document and photograph while making the second one suddenly went out the window. But I'll share my method anyway.

Before you start, however, check to see if your fabric squares up. If not, do what you have to do to make it square through the following steps.

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Since Spoonflower fabric is — obviously — printed fabric, you will always have a white border around the main patterned area. In this case, trim the excess fabric off the sides of the fat quarter, retaining 1/4" of the white border. Then trim the excess off the top edge, again leaving 1/4" of the white showing. (Which do I consider the top edge? The one that has "Mr. Darcy" running across it.)

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Maximize your fabric's patterned area by using the white border in your seam allowance...

With right sides together, fold the fabric in half horizontally and pin.

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
I had to vary my seam allowance to square up my fabric!

Sew the two side edges together with a 1/4" seam allowance. NOTE: you can measure and cut everything first and then sew up the seams all at once if you prefer.

If you're working with the black fabric, be precise and ensure that you don't end up with the white border showing alongside your stitches.

Next, sew the top edge together with the same 1/4" seam allowance.

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Draw a line to mark the final seam...

For the final seam along the bottom, measure 14.5" from the top edge and draw a line with a fading marker. Cut away the excess fabric.

Sew along this edge about 3" out from both corners, using a 1/4" seam allowance. (Reinforce the corner that had the stitching cut into when you trimmed off the bottom part of the fabric.) The middle, of course, is left open for turning and stuffing.

Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Trim away some of the fabric at the corners,,,

Reduce the bulk in the corners by trimming away some of the fabric and then press open the seam allowances of the two closed sides.

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Turn the whole thing right side out, poke out the corners and give it a good press, paying particular attention to the open part along the bottom seam.

Throw pillow made with Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Time to stuff!

I repurposed an old bed pillow for this project. It's cheaper than buying a pillow form and I can feel good about reusing stuff. The fill was enough to stuff both of these cushions with some left over. (I'm sure we all probably have extra pillows that can be sacrificed to such causes. My other half tends to want a new/different pillow quite regularly.) Ensure that you get right into the corners; I cut additional strips of fill just to plump up the sides.

All that's left is to stitch up the opening by hand and you've got a conversation piece for your couch!

Throw pillow made with Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
The pattern is nicely balanced in the middle without having to be concerned with fussy cutting...

And if you were wondering where Lizzie went, she's on the sides...

Throw pillows made with Pride & Prejudice fabric by eSheep Designs
Elizabeth Bennet appears along the sides...

By the way, look at what was playing on some channel while I was in the middle of this project...

Matthew McFadyen as Darcy in Pride & Prejudice 2005
Getting inspiration from all sources!

Are you wondering why I chose to make these if I'm not a home decor enthusiast? The cushions that we have on our couch are from 1990 and are almost pancake flat... I simply needed new ones.

And I'm pretty sure I couldn't have purchased nicer ones for less money. ;-)

Want to check out the fabric? Click here. (By the way, right after I completed this project, Spoonflower came out with a lightweight version of their cotton twill. It costs six dollars less per yard and is also very suitable for this project.)

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Read This if You Sell Patterns on Craftsy...

If you sell patterns on Craftsy, be sure to read this post...
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how Craftsy's 2016 site makeover has managed to turn our user experiences upside down.

In response to Daryl's comment, I told her that I had had a similar result while searching through the free sewing patterns... in that I managed to page through all of them even though it couldn't have been all of them.

That is, I did not see all of my own free patterns pass before my eyes.

I decided to take the advice of the Craftsy engineers and edit each of my patterns (i.e., manually touch each record) to ensure that they would be filtered out properly and be seen.

How to ensure your patterns are filtered properly on Craftsy
More work for designers to do after Craftsy's site revamp...

Since February of 2014, Craftsy has been my sole source of pattern sales. As of this writing, I have twenty patterns listed in my shop. I don't know on average how many patterns a Craftsy indie designer has, but when I decided to undertake this database refreshing, I was super-duper glad that I didn't have 147 patterns to revisit like Deby at So Sew Easy.

I figured there had be some advantage in not being prolific!

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Anyway, I had seen this recommendation from Craftsy before, but never thought it would apply to me. (I just figured that when I originally uploaded those patterns, I made the correct selections as to what category they belonged to, so why should I worry?) What I discovered is worth sharing, so I decided to write up this post. If you've had similar feelings — about the above not applying to you — maybe you'll feel differently after you read this.

Here is what I found:
  • A few of my patterns were not categorized at all beyond just SEWING (there are still two subcategories underneath)
  • Virtually all of my patterns were incorrectly categorized as being Made For CHILDREN (not WOMEN and CHILDREN; just CHILDREN)

Since none of my patterns are aimed at rug rats, I was completely befuddled as to how they got tagged as such. (It was certainly not by me.) This proved to be a real eye-opener in terms of how the data from the pattern sales side of things was treated during Craftsy's site revamp.

Low priority, perhaps?

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By the way, I like how the instructions say "don't worry, you don't actually need to change anything, you just need to open them as if you were going to edit" in terms of that touching process that you'll have to do with every pattern. (Tell that to folks like Deby who's going to have to do that 147 times or more.)

Further to those instructions, all you have to do with the patterns is "save them again, and that will act as hard refresh to ensure they appear". Hmm... take a look here:

Sample Craftsy Pattern Sales Page
How do I save my changes?

This is what the screen looks like when you enter EDIT mode on one of your pattern pages. Do you see a SAVE button anywhere?

To be fair, if you actually go into an individual section and make a change, you will subsequently see a Save button.

A Save button!

The bottom line is, you'll have to click a couple of times in order to save your pattern. However, it's my guess that you'll see enough bad data that you'll want to make changes anyway.

Not exactly an efficient process that's been put on the shoulders of the users, but then — again I say — perhaps the indie pattern marketplace is just not a Craftsy priority?

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There's still more to this.

In order to be found, a pattern has to be categorized in a way that a customer might search for it. Therefore, what might make or break a pattern in terms of its success is whether it is categorized properly.

Unfortunately, the headings Craftsy offers are by no means complete. For example, how you would classify my Shopping List and Coupon Holder? Or my Scissors Sheath? Or my Waxcloth Correspondence Folder?

Under the main category of SEWING, there are subcategories of CLOTHING, ACCESSORIES, HOME and TOYS. Since I have no patterns for clothing or toys, I'll focus on the ACCESSORIES and HOME subcategories.

Under ACCESSORIES, you'll find the sub-subcategories of BAG, COWL, FOOTWEAR, GLOVES, HAT, MITTENS, SCARF, WRAP, and OTHER.

Under HOME, you'll find the sub-subcategories of BLANKET, HOLIDAY, KITCHEN ACCESSORY, PILLOW, TABLE ACCESSORY, WINDOW ACCESSORY, and OTHER. (How many blanket and pillow patterns might there be on Craftsy for there to be individual categories for them??)

You'd think that they would have a sewing accessories category under HOME... or, how about a category for organizers? I actually did a search for "organizers" filtered by sewing, patterns, free and it came up with thirty-two results. One of them was for a wire-wrapped heart ring. That's right, not sewing and not an organizer. But it was free.

So on top of everything else, it seems we have to put our faith in a wonky search engine.

But I don't want to beat this to death. All I really wanted to say today is that if you have patterns listed on Craftsy — for sale or for free — I highly recommend you go in and refresh them so that (maybe) they can be found on the revamped site.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sewing Machine Zen: Evolution of a Fabric Design

sewing machine zen by eSheep Designs
A glimpse of my Sewing Machine Zen fabric...
Given a restricted colour palette, a theme, and a deadline, could you come up with a fabric design? That was exactly the nature of a design competition over at Spoonflower last month.

I'm really a newbie to the world of surface design, so it's not easy for me to arrive at something that fits in well with these competitions. (In fact, prior to this and the one just before it — Aurora Borealis — I hadn't participated in one of these since December of 2015.) Most of them are just thematic, which results in a wide open format that I find hugely challenging. It's why I'm drawn to the restricted colour palette competitions... it leaves me with a lot fewer decisions to make!

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The restricted palette was a salute to Pantone's 2017 colour of the year: Greenery. That, along with basic black and white made up 75% of the restricted palette. In an unusual move, Spoonflower allowed designers to select one other colour. I merely googled the greenery shade and asked for a complementary colour swatch. It was this lavendery purple.

sewing machine zen by eSheep Designs
The beginning of my Sewing Machine Zen fabric design...
The theme of this competition was sewing. How could I not participate?

Actually, I decided to participate because I had an idea waiting to be used. Many months ago, I had doodled a zen-t inspired version of a sewing machine. It was destined to be the foundation for this design.

The first thing I did was to convert it into a straight black and white drawing; i.e., no shades of grey allowed due to the palette limitation thing. Then I took a negative image copy. Then, I coloured in the white one with purple and the black one with green. Finally, I flipped and mirrored, put down some background stripes and this first design came to life in short order...

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 1...

Next, I played around with some Paint Shop Pro distortion effects and arrived at some variations on the background. Such as this one with wavy stripes...

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 2...

... and this one with stylized "spools" of thread...

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 3...

Then I decided that this just wasn't doing it for me, so I went another way.

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These next few have circles underneath in the background. This first one was accomplished via another distortion effect (polar coordinates) and some re-colouring...

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 4...

This one, however, was created manually, so to speak; I added a circle and then an ellipse on top. (What is it? A ring? A big spool? An "O"? I dunno.)

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 5...

I slept on it at this point, knowing that I still wasn't there. It was missing something... or maybe it had too much of something?

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The next morning, I had a couple of breakthroughs. One was to add some — duh! — stitching lines to the background. So I put a couple rows of topstitching around the perimeter and then made some lazy rambling stitches across the entire surface. (I have become intrigued by the idea of free motion quilting, so I thought I'd try it out digitally first! What do you think??)

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen 6...

The other was to minimize the busy-ness, so I took away half of the sewing machines. Then as a final move, I did this...

Sewing Machine Zen fabric design by eSheep Designs
Sewing Machine Zen final version...

This one became my entry into the design challenge. So there you have it. While I could have still gone back in and made changes upon changes, there comes a time when one has to stop tinkering and be done with it.

Oh, and how did I do on this challenge? I got 7 votes. Far from the top of the list — and actually the fewest I've ever received on a challenge (LOL... shows what I know!) — but it's always an honour just to get a vote. Here's the link to check out this and the rest of my Zen fabric collection.

Question: do you ever have a hard time stopping the creative process? Or is it easy for you to say, "that's it, I'm done!"