29 Jul 2015

Mythbusting: Photography

It is time again for another Myth busting post, and we thought it was about time that we covered a topic that we get asked a lot about, Photography.

1. Doesn't it take lots of expensive equipment to take a good photograph?

Absolutely not. Some of my favourite images that I have, have been taken with my phone, my old battered SLR and even disposable cameras, sometimes your limitations can be a great motivator. Great photos are not really about what you take them with but more often they are to do with the subject matter. Concentrate on angles, horizon lines and composition. but most importantly the thing or person you are photographing.

2. But don't you need a special space or studio?

Not really, it is nice to be able to have a space set aside for photography, a place near good natural light is best and a flat surface is always helpful, but not essential. The only thing I would recommend is a few pieces of white foam-core. you can use it as a flat surface and to reflect light to where you need it and reduce shadows. Try heading outside if the weather is good, or experiment with texture and patterned backgrounds to create interesting images.

3. You need expensive computer programs like 'Photoshop' though right?

Photo editing of some kind can take an image from good to great but you don't need to be a Photoshop master do get there. There are lots of free programs that you can download. We both like and have used Picassa in the past. but there are loads more out there to try. If you are unsure where to start try looking for tutorials on YouTube for the editing software of your choice, there is bound to be someone else who has mastered it and is willing to share their tips.

4. But people on Instagram just use their phones and no editing?

It is pretty unlikely that you will see a great image that has not be edited, and many of the images created by bloggers and brands have not even been taken on a phone at-all. Many bloggers/ vloggers and brands use DSLRs to take images for their blogs and websites and will also use those images for their insta accounts too.

5. Cameras are so complicated with so many buttons, I don't know where I would start?

Auto mode is a great place to start, build your confidence with the basics like composition and subject before practising with your cameras settings. Practice makes perfect, try taking your camera around with you more and snapping away at little details whilst playing with your settings, take the same photo over and over with a different setting each time and you will soon come to know which ones produce the results you are looking for. Usually you can see the settings information on the images when you load them in to your editing software to see what worked and what didn't.

I hope that has answered a few questions that you may have had, If you have any more or any other myths you would like us to bust please leave them in the comments below and we will be happy to bust those myths for you. Our Next one is Social Media, so if you have any for that too, you know what to do.

Sammy and H

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27 Jul 2015

Quill London Beginners Calligraphy

Last weekend, I popped along to the Quill London Beginners Calligraphy class over in Islington in a side room to The Blacksmith & Toffeemakers pub (which  by the way is very lovely).

I have never done any calligraphy before and so it was a great afternoon to try my hand at something really different.  Our teacher was Imogen Owen for this class and Quill London founder Lucy was there to start us off and let us know where the cake was!  Very Important to keep us going.

Imogen, started us off by showing us each step before we then went off and practiced back at our tables.

The First practice was to learn the up and down lines and practice shape and some lettering.  We were given ruled paper to put under our paper to keep us straight too.

Next up was to practice lettering, we were able to trace over Imogen's practice sheet first and then do our own on other sheets, following the style.

The last task was to practice writing words and joining up those letters.  I found this part difficult as I was working with someone else's handwriting style.  I think a bit more practice with the calligraphy pen in my own style is in order, but that's the great thing about learning a new skill hey, practice makes perfect.


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22 Jul 2015

Design your own Fabric with Zazzle

A few weeks ago the lovely people at Zazzle got in touch to tell us about their fabric printing service. Having recently said farewell to the fabric printing service from By Hand London, Sammy was so excited to have a try and see what Zazzle had to offer. They offered us a free sample of the fabric to have a play with so watch out for a tutorial coming on Friday using the fabric Sammy ordered. Sammy has bought t-shirts and merchandise from them in the past so she knew that their quality was great, but we were not sure how simple it would be to design our own fabric with Zazzle or how it would turn out.  

We both started by having some fun in Photoshop and created a .jpg file that we could upload to the site, this is Sammy's above.  H had fun with the background eraser tool on Photoshop so she could use one of the colours from Zazzle - more on that below.

Once on the Zazzle site it was then super easy to upload the image we had designed into their fabric creator.  H used one of the background colours on file, whilst Sammy's was all together on the .jpg file.

Then you get to play around with tiling the pattern, rotating your design and playing with the size of your print.  You can use the tiling options or not, so that's always good for choice.

We love that you can view your design in lots of different sizes, it loads the images with your design on really fast so it is easy to get a real idea of what your fabric will really look like with the handy thumbnails underneath the main picture.

There are seven different types of fabric to choose from, but don't get too excited, some of them are priced at over £60 per metre, which we feel is a little pricey, even for high quality custom printed fabric. The combed cotton is the cheapest option at £26.95 per metre, The pima cotton that H chose was £30.40 per metre and the cotton twill Sammy chose was £37.90 per metre. You can order by the fat quarter though which would keep the cost down for smaller projects. 

When our fabric arrived we were really happy with the quality of the fabric and the quality of the printing on H's fabric was beautiful as the colours were very true to her design. Sammy's fabric on the other hand was sadly not so perfect.

She was a little disappointed because the fabric looked like it had been double printed, it makes the design look a little blurred. She would have been more disappointed if we had paid the £37.90 that it would normally cost. 

When Sammy spoke to the team they said that they would absolutely replace the fabric, if we wanted, as it was gifted to us anyway, She decided that it would be fine for the project that she had planned. Good to know that if there was a problem as a paying customer that they would go the extra mile to sort it out. 

The Zazzle team said:
We have a 100% satisfaction policy at Zazzle, so if a product is unsatisfactory, and the customer provides a photo like you did here, they would be offered a replacement or refund. Customer can call our freephone number 0800-6-929953 10am-6pm Monday to Friday or email us here http://www.zazzle.co.uk/about/contactus.

So overall we would highly recommend Zazzle if you had a special project in mind that you need some bespoke fabric for. We would say that the price makes it a little risky if your not 100% sure you are going to use it for something really worthy of it. 

It was unfortunate that Sammy's fabric wasn't perfect, even big companies make mistakes sometimes but at least they offered to sort it out properly. Everything about the process was easy and fun. Sammy love's designing fabrics and she is looking forward to having a go again soon as she already have a few deisigns and projects in mind.

Have you tried the fabric service from Zazzle? Are you looking to get some fabric printed for a special project? Let us know in the comments below and don't forget to come back to see what Sammy has made with her fabric on Friday.

Sammy & H, xxx

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20 Jul 2015

H's RA Summer Exhibition Adventure

I love a good gallery visit and you may have noticed (if you are a long time reader) that I love going to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition every year.  Last year I was not that impressed as it was starting to feel a bit samey, but this year, thanks in part to an injection of colour from Michael Craig-Martin, they have upped their game!

Also, due to being able to take photos in the gallery spaces, I can share all the joy with you guys.  You have never been able to take photographs before and they are now asking you to share, so that's another plus from me!

If you have never been to the Summer show, it is an exhibition made up from artworks that come from well known artists right thru to people who submit the work they do on their kitchen table.  Every year there is an artist who takes on the overall curator role, keeping all the other artist rooms in check.  This is what makes it so special and so different.  So lets take a look at what I saw.

The gallery spaces at the RA flit between the small to the large and so there is always going to be a different hang in each room.  This year Michael Craig-Martin had painted some of the walls in these vibrant colours, which many would think compete with the artwork on display, but I love!  I think it makes the artwork look great and gives a totally different feel to the gallery spaces.

I love the way some of the artwork is hung, it is never uniform and always interesting, I do wonder how they get away with hanging some pieces quite so high, as I know we couldn't at the place I work.  A good example is the way in which the pictures are hung in the middle picture above.

These are some of my favourite artists, from Fiona Rae on the left who I have loved for a long time and a new love from Frank Bowling to this Rainfall stunner from Ermioni Avramidou which is Acrylic ink on paper.  It really looks like it is wet.  I could sit and look at these for hours.  I find it fascinating to see what people love and hate in galleries, it's all about individual taste after all.

 The architecture room is always one of my favourite's.  One of my favourite things to do when I was at uni is make models and so this may be why.  I loved this colourful model, only annoyed as I didn't manage to get who it was by.  This sculpture by Tim Shaw is huge and considering it is actually made from painted foam, polythene and steel - it looks very like a bronze sculpture close up.  I couldn't do a post about the RA show without showing the stairs!  Truly the best way to enter and leave the building!

I couldn't resist showing a few more of my favourites of the show and all by new artists - to me.  Which is another great reason I love going to the show every year, finding new artists I like.  I love how this piece by Gordon Cheung is hung with all the other smaller ones around it and the mysterious nature of the painting is great too.  This large moon quickly got my attention and Jock McFadyen has done a brilliant job of pulling you into the picture.  Lastly but by no means least was the X room which was dedicated to Tom Phillips, A Humument, this was one of my favourite pages.

Talking of Tom, here is a little more about the piece.  There was a whole book, individually drawn on pages that had been worked and reworked by the artist.  You can find out more about the piece here.

So all in all, I think you could say that I really enjoyed the show.  If you get a chance between now and the 16th August to go, I really would check it out.  But hopefully if you cannot make it, this has given you a good flavour of what it's all about.

Can't wait for next year!

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17 Jul 2015

Top 10: Things to look for when buying a Sewing Machine

I get asked alot at Sew Crafty what to look for when you are buying a new sewing machine, lots of our customers are intimidated by the sheer number of different kinds out there and where to even start looking. Here are my top ten tips for buying a new Sewing Machine. 
  1. Before you dive straight in, why not try and borrow a friend or relative's machine for a while and see how much you really use it and what kind of things you like sewing.  It will give you a better idea of what you like and don't like so you can make sure the machine you choose has those features.        
  2. Be careful of picking a machine with too many bells and whistles. If it is your first machine you may be overwhelmed with too many stitch variations To start with keep it simple, you can always sell on your old machine and upgrade if you feel you are missing out.    
  3. Always buy from a reputable source. I would always recommend buying from a bricks and mortar shop. If your machine is faulty or needs a service (it will eventually need one) you want a place you can go back to. It is not always possible of course so if you are buying online, head to a reputable company like John Lewis, and if you can, pay on your credit card so the purchase is insured.            
  4. The added joy of finding a shop that sells Sewing machines locally to you is that you can go and try them out. You can ask questions of the shop owners, they should have good experience and if you have your list of requirements and budget they can hopefully match you to your perfect machine.
  5. Head to online guides like Which best buys or search online for reviews and recommendations for the machine make and model you are looking for.  
  6. Buy the best you can afford, like I always say in haberdashery you get what you pay for and in most cases this rings true with sewing machines too.  
  7. Try and choose a brand with parts that are easy to find locally or again from a reputable online source. It can be so annoying when you want or need to buy a new foot and you can't find where to get it from.                        
  8. When you purchase your machine, find out where you can get it serviced. If you are buying locally you can often take it back to the shop for servicing, but if not you may need to contact an independent engineer. Your machine will need a service every year -18 months after the end of the guarantee to keep it running efficiently. Regular servicing will help to avoid larger repair bills and replacement costs further down the line.                  
  9. Your machine will need to be cared for. It will need cleaning and maintenance to help it run smoothly. Your machine manual will have information about how to dust and oil your machine to get the best results. It should be stored somewhere warm and dry. If it has been stored in the cold make sure you run it for a while to warm it before you start sewing.    
  10. Ask to see the instruction booklet. It will be your best friend when late night sewing. Your local machine shop owner will not appreciate late night phone calls to chat about tension, but your machine book, if it is a good one, will answer a lot of questions. It should also explain all the accessories and extras that you can get and how to use them. 
I hope that has guided some of you in the right direction when searching for your new sewing machine. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will try my best to answer them. If you have already bought your machine and are struggling to enjoy using it, check out my post on How to Fall in Love with Your Sewing Machine

Have a great weekend and happy sewing!
Sammy xxx

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15 Jul 2015

Let's Meet: Lucy Alice Designs

This month we got chatting to another Bust Craftacular stall holder in the shape of Lucy Alice Designs.  She does the cutest little animal necklaces, we both ended up walking away with one, H an owl and Sammy a cat necklace, of course!  So let's get down to having a chat and a cuppa I think!

What was the first thing you remember making?

In our house we were always making things, as far back as I can remember! We would have days in the summer holidays where we would cover the back room table with newspaper and get all the art & craft materials out plus old packaging like cereal boxes and egg boxes. I would just sit for hours making cars for my playmobil toys or creating collages!
The first thing I can vividly remember making was back when I was about 7 and entering the village show's 'Decorate an Egg' competition. I spent hours creating a desert scene in an old shoe box full of sand and made the egg into an explorer complete with mini khaki hat and binoculars! I won first price and I remember feeling so proud!

How did you find your creative side?

Being creative has always been something that has been ingrained in me since a child. I just love the feeling of creating and designing something out of nothing. I studied art at GCSE and for my A Levels. I then went on to take an Art Foundation Degree and fell in love with the tactile nature of Textiles & Surface Design. I completed a Textiles degree at Bucks New University where I fell in love with manipulating materials, combining wood with stitch, plastics and print. The products I make now still link back to the experiments and inspiration I discovered in my final degree project!

What has been your favourite ever make? Whether that be for your business or pleasure – tell us about it.

My favourite business make to date is probably my new peeping cat pendants. Inspiration stuck when my cat kept peeping his head over the sofa arm! They are playful yet still quite subtle. I would love to add more peeping animals to the range. Watch this space!

What are your favourite ways to stay inspired?

Getting out and about in the 'Great Outdoors'. I love going for picnic's, strolling through the woods or on the beach and visiting National Trust properties! Not only do these things help me clear my head and relax but I will find patterns, colours and sometimes even animals that end up sparking up a new idea!

Who are your favourite Designer/Makers right now?

There are so many!! Two that spring to mind at this very moment are Rosie Drake Knight, she makes beautiful leather purses and bags in pretty subtle colours with simple patterns. I also LOVE stationery so Dear Prudence is one of the lovely designers on the top of my list!

What crafty item is top of your wish list?

I would love a Atelier Stella ceramic pot. Each pot has its own character, with its own face so that the plant you grow inside it becomes their hair! They are so fab! I even had a dream last night that I found some in a charity shop for a £1 each!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Spending time with my husband Harry & my daughter Phoebe. We love going on mini adventures & visiting grandparents and friends. All adventures mainly involve cake or ice cream :)

Tell us a bit about what you have coming up?  any little projects you want to tell us about.

This time of year is Christmas in my world (shock) So I am currently working on new Christmas cards, stocking fillers and a couple of new jewellery pieces. My screen printed sausage dogs will also launch next month!

We are just in love with all of Lucy Alice's work, so cute!  Looking forward to seeing those screenprints too!

What would you pick?  Are there any designer/makers you love that you would like to find out more, let us know in the comments and we will see if we can have a chat with them.

H & Sammy

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