If you sell or promote anything, you NEED this

If you sell or promote anything, you NEED this. Need what? A QR code.

We all know what a barcode is. It’s a graphic symbol that a scanner can read to connect to computerized information. The same concept is utilized by something called a QR code. Wikipedia explains “QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) .. QR codes have become common in consumer advertising. Typically, a smartphone is used as a QR code scanner, displaying the code and converting it to some useful form (such as a standard URL for a website, thereby obviating the need for a user to type it into a web browser).” Huh?

Example:

MG

For my Master Gardener’s sign, I went to the free site QR stuff, http://www.qrstuff.com and simply followed their instructions to key in the Facebook page URL for the Calaveras County Master Gardeners. On a Mac, you get a download of your QR code image as soon as you hit enter on the URL. I nabbed my iPhone, scanned the image on their site and lo and behold my Facebook page came up (really, there’s a little bit of a thrill when you check to see if it works and it does). Once I’d proven to myself it would land on the right site, I pasted the image to my sign, printed it, laminated and I’m set to go. Folks at our plant sales and garden talks can simply hold up their smartphone, like our page and be therefore keyed in to our coming events. Although I really want to play with creating the visual QR code, for the master gardeners sign I chose something more recognizable as a barcode as the technology has not yet been widely utilized in my area. When I update the sign, I’ll choose their link for Facebook that will give me a more visual Facebook image.

As I’m not one of the multitudes with a shopping app, for the iPhone I downloaded the free AT&T code scannerOptions for free android device QR readers are also available from Google, AT&T or more.

QR code Ceodraiocht

You only get three visual QRs for free (oops). Hadn’t realized that when I started playing with just slapping one together for this post. You can upload your own picture or image; choose one of theirs; size the QR code in relation to the image; choose dots, squares or stars for the QR code itself; and generally play and manipulate to your heart’s content. They’re also more than happy to sell you programs with more features including tracking and data for those of you with a need to know details.

The uses for the code are only limited by your creativity. Why make someone key in a long URL from a business card when they can quickly hold their phone or tablet over it and land on your blog, shop or website? You can see from the column on the left of QR Stuff that you can get code images for phone numbers, digital business cards, email addresses and so much more. This morning I was encouraging someone to make a sign with a link to her Kindle e-book. This way she could sell her self-published books as well as less her expensive e-books when out and about.

In the comments, folks have shared Scanova and Visualead QR code generators. Both offer free samples for generating visual codes.

So, off you go. Create something fun and be sure to link us to your creation in the comments below. UPDATE: Here’s something fun – personalized QR Code cufflinks for the Geek in your life – at Etsy.   I’d love to see what you concoct!

Ohhhhh, so pretty!

Been keeping a few craft projects rolling along in the background here. One is the pillow project for the guest room. Loving these Art Deco – y butterflies from Embroidery Library stitched out on linen. Heirloom Butterfly and Floral Circle

Chose deeper but matching colors (Sulky threads) to the quilt will add a bit of punch. Had already made the chenille green pillows as the daybed is large and in need of quite a few more pillows to look as inviting as I’d like. I’m determined to finish these as pillows although I like them so much, I’m a bit inclined to just frame them.

 Heirloom Butterfly and Floral Square

There are clear step by step tutorials for everything (just check out the left column) related to machine embroidery at Embroidery Library’s project page. Perfect hooping, placement and stabilizer guides are available as well as hints for embroidering on any type of material. For linen – wash the fabric first as you plan to later, then starch the heck out of your piece. A medium weight cutaway stabilizer is a good choice for the weight of linen I like to work with. To later need to wash an embroidered piece, iron it while damp from the back of the piece.

Now, to border and stitch these into  pillows. Then, as this is the only frou frou room in the house, on to a ruffled pillow or two and one with a nice big bow.

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A Bit of Easter Sparkle

April, it’s that time. Let’s talk about Easter bling. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll see me repeating the same suppliers for napkins, designs and fabric as well as the notation that I like to ship fun little gifts off to folks. I made this Easter runner a few years back with fabric from JoAnn for myself and my sister. They no longer carry the really nicely done glittered fabrics. For these, I’ve had to turn to elsewhere, but this fabric was a find and the glitter is oh so perfect. I simply cut my long rectangle, cut a piece of light interfacing (sew-in) and a back. Sew around the edges, turn out and top stitch in a bit from the edge. La Voila! Instant table runner.

The hemstitched napkins, as usual, are from Napkins Online at eBay. I must allow myself to digress here and alert you to the fact that Napkins Online currently has 6 foot linen table runners in various colors for $4.00. Depending on the amount you pick up, you may be able to get free shipping. Being the noodge I am, I ordered mine before posting this to avoid the rush J . I believe the egg design is a Husqvarna Viking free monthly design from 2009 that you could purchase from MyEmbroideries.com; I did look but couldn’t find the design at either Embroidery Library or My Embroideries. This month they are offering an Easter design you can edit/crop back to look very similar to the eggs I’ve used on the napkins.  Sulky 40 weight embroidery threads that I pick up on sale or with a coupon from the stores or online is my thread of choice. As long as you don’t use bleach, they stand up to washing and light wear pretty well.

 The kitchen towels are from New England’s Christmas Tree Shops. My sister mails them off to me; I decorate and hem them, and mail them back. They’re the microfiber towels that you can also pick up in packs at places like Ross. The hem on this set is simply purchased Wrights extra wide double fold bias trim. The basket is from Embroidery Library, the design that is on their drawstring bag. Yes, the baskets aren’t lined up perfectly – originally I was going for one for me and one for sis when she let it be known she likes three for her stove – so the bottoms are a tad off as far as matchy matchy. If you’re planning to put things together – best to always measure from the bottom edge when placing your design. I usually change the colors and size of any design to suit my needs. The egg design on the turquoise kitchen towel is a monthly free design (March2010) from Husqvarna Viking that you then download from MyEmbroideries.com (or purchase if you don’t download it in the month offered). They also offer free monthly embroidery projects and sewing projects if you’d like more sewing ideas. I’d tagged a slew of the sewing ones to add to my “to do” list.

 For the bath, I use the pack of white hand towels from Costco. Just make sure to use colors that match the main bath when choosing embroidery threads. You might not notice that in the pictures I post as many of these holiday decorating items are gifts and you don’t see the hand towel sitting on top of a color coordinated bath towel – it does look nice. So, the first time I gift them I may buy two plush bath towels for the recipient that match their color, note the thread that most perfectly matches the towels I picked so I can always incorporate it into the design to yield a matching set, and gift those bath towels with a few holiday decorated hand ones. Then, for close friends and relatives, they may periodically receive a matching holiday set in the mail. The design is Embroidery Library’s Spring Stitches – Bunnies. If I were to do it over, I’d make the callas closer to yellow so they’d stand out more. In person, you can see them do to the texture and light created by the thread and design. With the dense designs on towels, it’s best to take them out of the dryer a wee tad less than dry and press the back of the design with an iron so it’ll lie perfectly flat and look new.

So celebrate spring with a bit of fresh décor and fun colors. As always, you can build on these items by using hand embroidery, appliqué, stencils and fabric paints if you don’t machine embroider.

This post is participating in the Linky parties noted below.

Valentine Cheer

Don’t do a massive overhaul of the home or tablescaping for each holiday, but I do enjoy a few perky little elements sprinkled here and there. The embroidery machine (Husqvarna Viking Topaz) let’s me accomplish this so simply. As I’ve mentioned in a few other posts, the easiest way is to pick up white hand towels and match your thread to the other colors of the bath, scout and add a border to the smaller microfiber towels or find kitchen towels to meet your needs – my previous posts list favored suppliers and resources.

For my own kitchen, I found Ikea towels and was able to match the threads to them exactly. All of the designs except the teddy bear are Embroidery Libraryand named at the bottom of this post. 

I edit the colors, sizes and overlap in 4D Embroidery Extra. This program defaults to “remove overlap” which works well if you’re stacking hearts, like the towels I gifted above, or solid areas of overlap. However, I learned with the teddy bears below that you want to shut “remove overlap” off if you are placing lettering on top of a design. It creates oodles of stops, starts and jump stitches and it does not look as solid and smooth as if the wording were placed on top of a solid design. The towel on the right below is my edited version where I didn’t stop the program from “removing overlap” when I added the “I’m Yours” so I could have a matching set.  Also, some vendors do not put a code (say Urban Threads has UT as part of a design name when you download it). This means after a year or more of collecting designs – unless you’re smart enough to note it when you first download – you’ll have no idea where a design came from. The teddy bear is one of those designs for me. Now I always add a few letters to the filename so I know where the design is from. If someone emails me or I find the vendor – I’ll update this post to note it who sells the teddy bear.

The kitchen towels below are mostly my editing program and fonts. The heart outlines are from the Hearts and Ribbon Bridal Border. I love the touch large rik rak brings to kitchen towels and mentioned my favorite ebay supplier of it in one of my earlier linked posts. Personalizing the towel just brings that extra glimmer of fun to gifts.

I’ve also mentioned Napkins Online in many posts. If you machine or hand embroider or simply decorate with appliqué and trims – they have great napkins to start with. The Simply Sweathearts design was used “as is” – no editing as it was perfect for the application

The designs for Embroidery Library are Be Mine Heart, Cutie Pie Heart,  Kiss Me Heart, XOXO (Hugs and Kisses) Heart , I’m Yours HeartHearts-a-Plenty,  Simply Sweethearts, Hearts and Ribbon Bridal Border.

 

The Dark Side of Ruffles

Loved browsing all the various aprons and Christmas decor bloggers have been sharing  – but I have to tell you, everyone’s using them but no one is talking about the dark side of ruffles. The items for sale, the projects on blogs – they all look so lovely and so perfect. No one shows pictures of what happens when you wash and dry the item. It’s time to fess up folks.

Case in point: I had found this stunning fabric of ruffles stitched to a net backing at JoAnn. Wonderful! So perfect for a large Christmas tablecloth.  Isn’t it just to die for? When I laid it out to be sure it was what I wanted, I fell in love.  Next step, wash and dry the fabric.

Yes, this is the same fabric as the top photo. It shrank a lot, which home sewers can remedy by a prewash and dry before you sew with the fabric – let’s hope all those folks selling do the same thing. I’ve mentioned before in this blog – if sellers are concerned the fabric won’t look “new”, just iron with a bit of starch. If the ruffle fabric wasn’t pre-shrunk – where it is stitched to the backing will get all scrunched up as the fabric shrinks and you’ll have much smaller ruffles than you thought.

Worse, it was a wrinkled mess. Yes, there is that distressed look that’s popular – but if it was THAT popular – wouldn’t folks show you pictures of the items for sale after they’re all wrinkly and “distressed” instead of when the ruffles look so perfect? This can be solved by ironing. But, I for one am not going to iron every single ruffle of a tablecloth or rows of ruffles on an apron. I may make an exception for something like the cuff of a Christmas stocking that would only be about 6 inches wide and you only pull it out once per year.

I’d thought about taking the fabric to the sewing machine and just stitching rows across the ruffles at 3 inch intervals to try to hold them down a bit flatter.  If I wouldn’t also have to stitch rows along the lengths of the ruffles to tack in the netting so the ruffles aren’t so widespread, I might have considered it. But it will take too much to salvage this huge piece of fabric. Need to find someone local much more industrious than me to donate it to.

The other thing I also like to point out is that for those of you making gifts – will your gift recipients really want to have to spend that much time ironing to make something look good?  Food for thought.

So, with ruffles out other than for really minor trim or unless stitched down (the thought being they’d look better after coming out of the dryer if they couldn’t roll up on themselves as much), it’s apron time again.

Went with my favorite tried and true pattern set and instructions as I outlined here and here. Sometimes the bottom flounce is longer, sometimes shorter. The apron is always lined with muslin. Small rows of ruffles are definitely out for me. The Valentine panel was a find at Country Cloth in Angels Camp, it’s by Makower UK with wonderful with truly metallic gold accents. The flounce and bib fabric is from JoAnn – an accent for the fall fest fabric I use quite a bit. The deep red with metallic gold is so perfect for me. The binding is pre-made Wrights trim.

Special Thanks to Melissa at My Craftie Life for featuring this post on her blog!

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Loving Linen

Making your own linen guest towels is pretty fast and easy if you sew anything at all. And that’s splendid as I love linen. Love the look, love the feel, love working with it.

I know I’ve mentioned that I often rely on Napkins Online from eBay rather than sewing out mitered cornered napkins – but hey  – at about $1.50 each it’s worth it if I have a bunch (sets of 12) to make given I like the whole mitered corner thing. Four or 6 double sided napkins with cute rik rak, aka the Halloween ones I discussed with tutorials here, yield very satisfying high speed results. Linen mitered corner napkins in larger numbers lose their appeal quickly.  Not so the linen towels. You’re not burning your fingertips trying to press and miter really small hems. And, two make a very nice gift. Keep your regular bath towels out but make 2 guest towels in coordinating colors to place over them for your holiday of choice.

Pretty much, I pick up my linen at JoAnn on sale. The folks over at Martha Stewart Living had recommended Gray Line Fabrics in one of their articles and I keep them bookmarked in case I need a color I can’t find locally. They have a wonderful selection and reasonable prices.

 

I simply cut rectangles 25 inches by 15 inches. First press the hems – I like to use a stiff piece of cardboard as a guide, for those in the U.S. priority mail envelopes have a nice edge to help with straight hems. First, press all around less than a ¼ inch. Then make a second pass. Finished side hems are about ¼ inch, back hem about ½ inch and front hem 1 ½ inch. Decorate to your liking. Machine embroider, hand embroider, stitch rick rak, trims or fabric strips across or appliqué with either iron on or stitching. The one thing to keep in mind is that linen really only looks good if you iron it while damp – it can be difficult to get crisp looking otherwise.

I’d purchased some linen guest towels here and they’re fine -literally and figuratively (she’s a popular seller). My Nice / Naughty stitching actually poked a hole through the purchased towel when stitching out the poinsettia (i.e. the fine notation). For my handcrafted linen towels I use a bit sturdier linen so I have more design choice in machine embroidery I’ve used JoAnn’s 100% linen (note the linked linen is 53 inches wide), not a handkerchief linen which would be too fine. You could go with linen look (55% linen, 45% rayon) or craft some very inexpensively using “poor man’s linen”, osnaburg (100% cotton), if you prefer. I’ve decided I like my handcrafted better then the “for sale hemstitch”. If you like the look of hemstitch but want to make towels, check out the fancy stitches on your machine. You may find you like an airy, feathering stitch along the hemline just as well.

 Always prewash and dry (low if linen, high for cottons). If you machine stitch items that later shrink, you’ll end up with something that’s only good as a rag – it will never look good again (picture a scrunched up embroidery design that never flattens out). For this reason be careful when purchasing items to embroider. I’d bought some cotton waffle weave that shrank terribly. I was a tad forewarned as the site said wash cool lay flat – but I don’t know anyone I could gift waffle weave cotton dish towels who would not throw them in the washer and dryer so I bought a few as an experiment. I was surprised to find someone was actually selling cotton dishtowels that couldn’t go in the dryer to crafters as embroidery blanks. They are now with my rags, luckily I didn’t embroider with them first. I can understand with linen, but cotton waffle weave? I only hope crafters reselling these didn’t lose their reputation and customers. Not pre-washing keeps that crisp, new look. But it can bite you later. Always pre-wash. Starch after if you like and want a crisp new look. (aside: I did email the seller, saying the warning was there so I didn’t want a refund but it wasn’t big and could cost customers – I noticed they came off the site’s offerings).

I use various shades of linen above are 2 in the “natural” look. The runner they are sitting on is linen yardage from Ikea (seemed to be a summer product only).

The Dove towel stitched out beautifully. The Peace on the right I’d edited by removing the dove and added the word peace. My machine then had problems stitching it out (no stop from green to red on 2 of the poinsettias that you can see). When machine embroidery fouls up – it can be nasty. Nests of threads knotted together on the underside, can poke big holes, and worse. My first machine had a ton of problems (and these puppies can be expensive). The retailer finally swapped it for a different new one and it’s been clear sailing since, but at first it was way too finicky and unpredictable.

The designs on the towels I’m displaying are: Embroidery Library Watercolor Maple Leaves and Embroidery Library Victorian Christmas Dove. I usually edit the colors to suit me better. The Nice, Naughty I’d put together with my font program. I have so many small holiday designs I’m not sure where those particular poinsettia and mistletoe came from.

If you don’t want to “sew your own” Dharma trading has very reasonably priced linen runners (and  Napkins Online has linen cotton blend runners). For something different in hand embroidery designs, check out Sublime Stitching or Urban Threads. Using trims, fabrics and appliqué on your guest towels is as limitless as your imagination.

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.

It’s hurtling towards us like a meteor

With the winter holiday hurtling towards us like a meteor, crafts and sewing are in high season. Given the size of my family and friends gift list, I know my optimistic plans for handcrafted gifts will be a crater of despair by mid-December “mailing deadlines” if I’m not far along soon.  I’ve resorted to over $100 to mail a box past that mid-December window (ouch, that hurt) and I’ve gifted many gift certificates with folks getting fun handmade “extras” post holiday. Every time, I tell myself never again. I’ll only begin what is reasonable to accomplish in concert with my work and other schedules. Yet here I sit among bins of fabric and patterns, some wood, beads, beads and more beads and recipes with plans for neat containers and stacks of holiday magazines collected throughout the years spread over every available surface for “inspiration”.

Those who purchase gifts may be able to kick into gear the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, but for crafters time is slipping away at an alarming rate. I should add that I don’t work quickly. Even simple projects are approached as an exercise and play. This color with that or here? I’ve seen folks grab a quilt pack, toss it down, say “good enough for so and so” and motor away, quilt top in a day. No arranging on a quilt board, no fussing about with color and patterns, no back and forth.  That’s not me. The design is the part I enjoy most and I milk it for all its worth. I want the best possible combinations so test and try, stop and arrange, move slowly, checking as I go is my snail’s pace. Whenever folks say “you should sell that (or those)” I think “they’re nuts” – it generally takes me days. Handcrafted items from me are only for those close to me.

One area where I can make a bit faster progress is jewelry – specifically earrings. Was a time when they were all long and more involved in design.  But, for wearing all day without getting earlobes that stretch to your ankles, a few select beads work best. Today I’ll talk about this simple “one drop” style (note that a few in the photos require joining 2 pins – hadn’t segregated those out when I shot these). Once you settle on a main bead and finding color (silver, rose tone gold, gold…) you’re set.

First my favorite suppliers; Rings & Things in Washington is the go to place for craftspeople and avid crafters (http://www.rings-things.com, there are others with similar urls, you want this one with the hyphen). They have a fantastic supply, very clear catalog and excellent prices. As they’re primarily a wholesaler, they do charge a minute small order fee. They also have an excellent project gallery and instructions. I’m putting together my order to place it before I post this (I’m such a nudge – but first in, first out J ). Second is the original Garden of Beadin in California (in last few years some shops with the same name have come online http://www.gardenofbeadin.com). Those of you who hit the crafts stores know that both JoAnn and Michaels have expanded to include a rather respectable collection of jewelry supplies as well.

If you plan to make much jewelry, invest in the tools. You can use a coupon at your craft store for a multipack of tools for around $10. It’s worth it. The big clunkers used for home repair will be too hard to work with in the tight spaces of jewelry loops and finishes. The black handled tool in the above photo is a crimper – great for necklaces and bracelets, not necessary for earrings. The craft stores are now carrying sterling silver and gold plate jewelry “findings” (the stuff you use to put your jewelry together). The silver and gold plate head pins bend easily – good for working with, not so good if you snag your earrings with a hairbrush or clothing making them burst apart and go spinning across the room. The less expensive standard head pins will take a bit more muscle to make a nice loop to attach to your ear wires but will withstand more “wear and tear”. If you online/catalog shop you have a choice of standard and thin head pins. Some beads (mostly the really small seed beads) have tiny holes and won’t fit on standard head pins. Generally, standard pins are the way to go. There are all sorts of ear wires and posts to choose from – personal tastes there. If you use the gold plate or silver wire, consider doing the wire-wrapped beaded head and eye pin instead of the simpler loop on head or eye pins. The simple loop is fast and easy and will hold up on standard head pins. I use my thumb, sometimes the back of the wire cutter, to push the wire around the needle nose pliers and get a good even circle loop.

For simple post earrings you need needle nose pliers, wire cutters, your choice of ear wire and head pins. Pick a bead to highlight. Place a seed bead in an offsetting color above and below it. Create a loop on the earring pin and attach it to your ear wire. The red glass bead used in the photos was available in a multipack of colors in the crafts store. A friend had come by to match an outfit (I have a rather large stash) and put this combo together.

You might also scan the Designer Tip Sheets and Project How to list with Photo thumbnails. I’ve gifted earrings in boxes, sewn bags, on a decorated square of cardstock with 2 holes punched in for the ear wires to fit. This year I’m planning to make a bunch of decorated matchbox type fold overs (aka Mirkwood’s matchbox notebook without the paper with a length to match whatever is required by the earring). I’ll place these sets in a matching box.  Photos to come.  (Meteor image from NASA, copyright free).

This post is participating in the linky parties noted below.