Community Sampler Week #3

Community Sampler Week #3

Welcome to the Community Sampler sew along! My co-host and sister Art Gallery Fabrics designer  Maureen Cracknell  and I are so happy to have you sewing with us and look forward to spending the next few months with you.  There are eleven blocks in our quilt and each Wednesday will be a new PDF block release or finishing step for the quilt. If you are just joining us, pick up the Introduction PDF on the  Sew Along page  and you'll get a material list along with coloring pages so you can get started planning your quilt.   Many of the patchwork units (like Quick-Corner, Flying Geese, Half-Square Triangle, and Square-in-Square units) used in this year's sampler have already been oversized to allow for trimming and squaring of units before assembling your block. Please cut your pieces EXACTLY as given in each of the PDF instructions because bumping up the size of the pieces from the measurements give will not bring great results in some cases.  Accurate cutting and use of a true 1/4'' seam allowance is a must for successful patchwork piecing. All your blocks will measure 12-1/2'' square (unfinished). Review how to cut strips, sew with a true 1/4'' seam allowance, and other helpful piecing tips on my  "Are You Ready to Sew" post .

Welcome to the Community Sampler sew along! My co-host and sister Art Gallery Fabrics designer Maureen Cracknell and I are so happy to have you sewing with us and look forward to spending the next few months with you.

There are eleven blocks in our quilt and each Wednesday will be a new PDF block release or finishing step for the quilt. If you are just joining us, pick up the Introduction PDF on the Sew Along page and you'll get a material list along with coloring pages so you can get started planning your quilt. 

Many of the patchwork units (like Quick-Corner, Flying Geese, Half-Square Triangle, and Square-in-Square units) used in this year's sampler have already been oversized to allow for trimming and squaring of units before assembling your block. Please cut your pieces EXACTLY as given in each of the PDF instructions because bumping up the size of the pieces from the measurements give will not bring great results in some cases.

Accurate cutting and use of a true 1/4'' seam allowance is a must for successful patchwork piecing. All your blocks will measure 12-1/2'' square (unfinished). Review how to cut strips, sew with a true 1/4'' seam allowance, and other helpful piecing tips on my "Are You Ready to Sew" post.

Time to get to our second block, Dovecote. Download the free PDF on the Sew Along page.

Half-Square Triangle (HST) Units

Dovecote utilizes a couple basic patchwork techniques that we will be using over and over again in our sampler. The sizes of the pieces may vary from block to block but the technique remains the same and so does the need to cut pieces accurately and sew with a true 1/4" seam allowance.

If you're wanting to use directional prints for either of the following patchwork techniques you may want to check out my tutorial for controlling directional prints that was posted during the Sewcial Bee Sampler sew along. 

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Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the lighter square as directed in the instructions. Place the marked square right sides together with a same-size square.

Sew an accurate 1/4" seam on either side of the line. Tip: Use the 1/2" wide marking ruler to mark sewing guides on either side of the center line, if necessary. 

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After sewing on either side of the line, press the unit flat before cutting apart on the line. 

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Press the units open. I press toward the dark fabric. Trim units to 3-1/2" square. One of the wonderful sponsors in this year's sew along is Bloc-Loc. In the first image, I'm using my 6-1/2" HST Bloc-Loc ruler to trim and square my HST. First I align the seam with the diagonal center of the ruler and trim the top and right side (not shown well in my first image).

Second I flip the entire unit 180° and trim the top and right side again to make the unit perfectly square. Watch more on the Bloc-Loc video for using the Half-Square Triangle ruler. 

No-Waste Flying Geese Units

Saving time and material is the beauty of fast-piece patchwork techniques. Start with accurately cut pieces according to the instructions and take care to use a true 1/4" seam allowance and you'll be rewarded with sharp points to your geese.

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Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of the four squares used for the geese background. Place a marked square right sides together on the corner of the fabric square designated for the goose. Place a second marked square (right side down) on the opposite corner, overlapping the squares in the center. 

Sew a 1/4" seam on each side of the drawn line. Press to flatten.

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Cut apart on the line. Open and press to make two Flying Geese sections.

Noting orientation of the drawn line and print direction if applicable, place a marked square right sides together on the section as shown. 

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Sew a 1/4" seam allowance on each side of the drawn line. Notice how the stitched lines start in the "V" created by the layered fabrics. Press to flatten.

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Cut apart on the line to make two Flying Geese units. Open and press. Repeat with the remaining section for a total of four Flying Geese units. 

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Trim units to a 3-1/2" x 6-1/2" rectangle, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance on each side. I've used my 3'' x 6'' Flying Geese Bloc-Loc ruler to trim the point and right edge of my unit and leave the perfect amount of 1/4'' seam allowance. I then rotate my unit 180° and trim the remaining two sides. Watch more on the Bloc-Loc video for using the Flying Geese ruler. 

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For my sampler quilt I'm using Art Gallery Fabrics Pure Elements solids. Using all solids is a personal challenge for this pattern designer because I love prints! If you follow me on Instagram @sharonhollanddesigns then you may have seen some of the Instagram Stories I've posted about taking better photos. So far I've been jumping around with topics and have covered a bit of information about taking photos of quilts in room settings and how to take better flat lay or close photography photos. Unfortunately, the Instagram Stories only last 24 hours so they're not something you can go back to reference. I only mention this because I do hope to make some dedicated blog posts to photography in the future and continue to make impromptu IG Stories as opportunities arise. Either way, keep watching here on my blog and Instagram as I will do more segments as time permits. 

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As I mentioned above, working in all solids is a personal challenge for me. I'm certain the finished quilt will be lovely but I'm craving to work with prints. So, a solution for me was to photograph this week's Dovecote block on a vintage Barkcloth drapery panel! After taking this photo I thought it would be fun to show a couple other flat lay (taking the photo from above) background options. For a detailed post about taking Flat Lay Photography, see an earlier post I put together just on that subject.  

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For the photo of the block on the vintage Barkcloth there was no need for any additional props. That beautiful fabric had enough going on to steal the show! For my second background option I chose a rustic wood panel as the backdrop and added a fresh cut flower and brass quail figurine. Here we know the block is the star and it shows it off well. The rough wood background and natural elements create a moodier nature-inspired scene. I also wasn't as concerned about eliminating all the shadows in this photo because in this case they added to the story. One thing to note when taking flat lays of objects of various heights is to decide where the camera will focus. Most cameras will focus on the object closest to the lens. In this case it was the brass quail. I wanted the block to be sharp so I had to make sure my camera was selecting that plane as the priority. 

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For each of these flat lay photos I had the block set up near a window for light source and used only natural lighting. That means no flash (gasp, never use a flash!) and no artificial light source. Only light from a window and an inexpensive white foam core board to bounce the light from the window back onto the subject. Doing this will reduce shadows and even out the look of the image.

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This last flat lay set up included a few sewing props on a simple linen background. I put the block on point to add extra interest and energy to the photo. All that I didn't want included in the photo was cropped out. Remember to use the grid guidelines on your phone or camera (can be turned on in the settings) to help you keep your camera squared up to your block. Any tilt of your camera will magnify in your flat lay photo and make your block look distorted and wonky. We didn't do all the sewing and squaring up for it to look wonky in our photos! 

Community Sampler Sponsors

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Lady Belle Fabric  Omnigrid   Aurifil Thread  Art Gallery Fabrics 

Hobbs Batting  Dritz  Fat Quarter Shop  Bloc-Loc

My co-host Maureen Cracknell and I are continually amazed by the joy and excitement each of you bring to our virtual community. Thank you for making this sew along so special. Please visit Maureen's blog and see the progress she's making on her sampler quilt, using her beautiful AGF fabrics Love Story collection. Be sure to use the #CommunitySampler hashtag when posting your blocks to Instagram and tag both my @sharonhollanddesigns and @maureencracknell so we don't miss any of your beautiful work!

Don't forget that this Friday's a Giveaway Friday on the Community Sampler sew along. Maureen and I will take turns hosting a giveaway each week where one of our generous sponsors will be featured and offering amazing prizes both here on our blogs and also on Instagram. Maureen will be hosting the giveaway this Friday and you'll be instructed how to enter at that time.

 

 

 

 

Cover Quilt

Cover Quilt

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Yup, that's my quilt in the large photo with the chair on the cover of Quilts and More magazine! Not only is my quilt on the cover of this issue but I have two quilts in this Quilts and More Winter 2018 magazine. 

Both of the quilts are made using my Bountiful fabrics for Art Gallery Fabrics and both are super easy to make. 

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

The cover quilt is a mix of simple foundation paper-piecing (FPP) and traditional patchwork. I had originally called this quilt Barnstorm because the diagonal FPP sections made me think of barnwood panels. The radiating design has so much energy and makes for a graphic quilt. In the magazine this project has been renamed (editors do that) to: Bursting with Energy.

Photo and quilt by Sharon Holland

Photo and quilt by Sharon Holland

The second quilt in this same issue is also made using Bountiful fabrics with the addition of Art Gallery Fabrics natural linen and Shannon fabrics faux rabbit minky. This projects is technically not a quilt but a throw because it has no batting and is tied instead of quilted. The drape on this piece is absolutely amazing and the faux rabbit makes it so luxurious and a high end designer piece. 

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

I made both these quilts for Spring Quilt Market to display in my Bountiful booth. I was thrilled when the All People Quilt editor snatched them up for their publications. It's so hard having to wait to share my makes and it feels like all my work since spring is now coming out at once. 

This was a purely for fun project and something completely different than I've ever done before. I wanted to showcase my hide print from Bountiful but interject texture and Farmhouse-style into the project. The answer was the faux fur and pompom ties!

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Photo by Sharon Holland

Used with permission from Quilts and More™ magazine. ©2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Photo by Sharon Holland

This project has it all and could actually be one to get the kids involved in. Truth be told, I'm not sure how well this project would launder. But I do suggest using tapestry wool for the pompom as it's very hard wearing and I would launder by hand if needed. But who cares, right? This is such an amazing tactile throw blanket and talk about wow power--you just have to make one!

I was so thrilled that Meredith Corporation (All People Quilt publisher) bought all my pompom step out photos for this project. I had so much fun making, writing, and photographing this one and then to have the validation of being paid for the photography is a big deal for this gal. So, when you see the article, take note of my name there in the photo credits :)

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I'm heading off to Houston tomorrow to attend Quilt Market. There I'll be having a trunk show of quilts from my book at a Schoolhouse session 1:55-2:25 on Friday and three book signings:

Saturday - 11:00 - 11:45 in the Hobb's Batting booth #347

Saturday - 3:00 -3:30 in the Landauer Publishing booth #2040

Sunday - 10:00 - 10:30 in the Brewer booth #734

I hope you'll stop by and say hi if you're planning on attending.

The All People Quilt booth with have both of my quilts on display so I will snap some pics and show you those on my Market Review post when I get back. Otherwise, be watching my Instagram feed @sharonhollanddesigns for postings while I'm at Market. 

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Looking ahead: Starting November 1st I will be hosting the Bountiful Holiday Blog Tour and have lined up some super talented Makers that will be bringing you fast, fun, and fabulous sewing projects for the holidays, gift giving ideas, and home decor sewing. Plus I will have a Harvest colorway fat quarter bundle giveaway at the end of the tour courtesy of the Fat Quarter Shop. 

Stop back soon, there's so much more to share with you!

Flat Lay Photography Tips

There's been a lot of interesting in how I take my S H Nature Study flat lay photos. So I thought I'd throw together a tutorial about how I set up my space, take the photos, and touch on some editing programs that will help you get similar results.

What's a flat lay photo? A flat lay is a photograph shot from above, parallel to the surface (table). A bird's eye view.

S H Nature Study flat lay photos

S H Nature Study flat lay photos

When I first started my photo-a-week-for-a-year series, I gave myself the parameter that I would use only natural origin objects like flowers, wood, rocks, and other found or man-made items with an organic base. Well, that was a totally unrealistic goal when you live in the mid-west and winters make it hard to find flowers and the like. So, I took off my constraints and started playing with sewing notions and ordinary everyday objects that would photograph well and tell a little story. Even though the name S H Nature Study no longer seems a good fit for my photos, I have used that hashtag with all 41 out of 52 pictures so far. You can see the whole series thus far on Instagram if you use the hashtag #shnaturestudy. There you will see the progression/evolution of style and subject matter in my year-long challenge. 

PROPS 

Sourcing props can be fun and as simple as looking around your home and yard. You can assemble a flat lay of totally random objects but it's better to have a focus (pardon the pun). Suggestions for flat lays: Subject, color, texture, materials, size, shape, product, or a combination. 

Try to keep the items a similar height. If you have one or two items considerably higher (taller) than the other items in the flat lay, the camera will want to focus on the object closest to the lense, making the other (lower) items out of focus. Vica versa if you focus on the lower objects then the taller one(s) will be out of focus.

LIGHTING

The most important thing about photography is lighting! Always use natural lighting when photographing. Do not use a flash or add light with incandescent or fluorescent light sources. I set up my shots by a north facing window that has no overhanging eaves, awnings, or light blocking trees on the outside. North light is ideal because it has the truest white light. East facing windows are second best. South and west windows will produce warmer light and generally have too strong of sunlight streaming in, making the shot harder to take and producing stronger shadowing. Where you live on the globe and the time of year can also affect the quality of your light source. However, you may only have a west facing window or not ideal conditions due to one factor or another--not to worry. We can get around these obstacles with some simple tricks (more on this, read on).

SETUP

Think about what format you want your image to be. Knowing where the photo will be used will determine what format to use. Since I am posting my images to Instagram I went with the standard square photo format for all my flat lays in this series. The shape of your format will help you understand how to arrange your flat lay items and save time as well. 

You've probably seen many flat lay photos online with pristine white backgrounds. To achieve this look I use an inexpensive white foam core board as the base and lay out my props on top of the board. Thinking beyond white, the skies the limit. Your subject and props may indicate a mood or feeling and help you come up with creative backgrounds. Some suggestions for backgrounds: Fabric, wood cutting board, table tops, chalkboard, black or colored foam core, wicker, leather, etc. Being thoughtful and creative about what you select for the background can add that extra layer to your image.

Set up a small table by your light source. Arrange your props on your background surface in the desired photo format configuration. I don't fuss too much with my props for my shots. I like an organic as-you-find-it feel to the arrangement and just start laying them down in the space. This saves me a lot of time not to fuss much with perfect alignment and angles, I just let my years of designing call the shots and do it intuitively. Don't over think it. 

I shoot with a DSLR camera mounted to a boom tripod. I can view my shot on the camera's back screen and stand on a step ladder.

You may not have this sort of equipment but can achieve the same result with the camera on your phone. A tripod is nice for reducing camera shake so if it's an available choice for you go to the extra work setting it up. If not, your phone camera may have some onboard tools you can use. See if you have a lock focus feature (newer iphone models have this) by first, tapping the screen with your finger where you want the camera to focus. Second hold down where you want the focus until the Lock icon appears. If you do not change the camera's position after it is locked, you can take more time to steady yourself when taking the photo. If you reposition, you will need to reset the focus each time.

Photo curtesty of Mac Worlds

Photo curtesty of Mac Worlds

Another way to reduce camera shake if holding the camera is to take a deep breath and hold it until you've clicked the shot.

SHOOTING

Your space is set up and you're ready to shoot, yay! Always photograph in the highest resolution possible so you capture the best quality from the start. I like to use the manual settings on my DSLR but that is not a requirement for great shots. The defaults on your camera or phone are impressive as is. But, if you can (or want) to play around with settings on your DSLR here's what I set my camera at: ISO 100-200 is preferred for clear (non-grainy) film and allowing the most light into the camera. I can also adjust the exposure as well. Generally I shoot anywhere from +1.0-+2.0 steps up from the default exposure depending upon the lighting and what I am shooting. I like to bracket my initial shots to get a feel for what's too much or too little in the exposure department. 

Above is an example of bracketing. Bracketing is adjusting the camera's exposure by steps. Photographing a very dark subject may require higher exposure steps then photography a very light subject. Too much exposure on a light subject can cause the white areas of the image to be blown out, loosing too much pixel information. Editing will not improve a blown out photo so it is always best to err on the side of underexposure to make sure all the pixel information is available. Brightness issue can be resolved later in editing. 

Many phone cameras can adjust for exposure. An iphone can compensate for a dark exposure by tapping on the screen and using the sun slider icon to adjust exposure up or down.

Courtesy of www.imore.com

Courtesy of www.imore.com

Take a few shot, trying to crop the image in the frame close to the desired size as possible. Bracket to the exposure. Take about 3-5 initial shots. I upload my initial shots to my computer so I can see a large view. From here I can see if something isn't working in my prop arrangement, camera setting, or any angle issues. 

SHADOWS

Depending upon the mood of your image and the effect you're looking for will dictate if you want any shadows are your flat lay. 

I have seen several stunning flat lay photos where the shadows play an important role in the message or mood of the photo. The extremely talented Robin Zachary, a prop and fashion stylist from New York, effortlessly uses shadows as part of her photography to create subtle moods and intimacy to her photos. 

Photo courtesy of Robin Zachary

Photo courtesy of Robin Zachary

Or, maybe you want a slick, shadowless, clean flat lay what places all the attention on the object(s) or product(s). Small Talk Social has a fun tutorial on how to style flat lay photos for instagram and some great styling tips with examples of clean, white flat lay images.

How to Style a Flat Lay by Small Talk Social

How to Style a Flat Lay by Small Talk Social

I tend to do a little of both these worlds of shadows vs. no shadows. To cut down or avoid shadows use foam core boards (see image in SETUP) to block light and shadows from all sides of your subject. Note, you may need to readjust the exposure when adding boards. If the light reflected from a white board directly across from the window is too strong, use a black or gray board instead. The boards will defuse the light but also bounce light onto the area. Play around to see what works best for you. 

If you are photographing reflective or shiny objects you may need to defuse the light even more. I use an inexpensive reflector that opens into a large diameter circle. It comes with a removable cover that can switch out to black, silver, gold or opaque white. With the cover removed, it has a diffuser capability. 

You can totally DIY a diffuser with stretching sheer material in a large embroidery hoop, taping white tissue paper to a empty frame or canvas stretcher frame, taping tissue paper to a window, or holding up a sheet. 

Sometimes holding a black foam core board over the shoot will also block glare on reflective surfaces. Again, experiment with what works in your space with your lighting. Each time I shoot there is a new set of challenges and unique conditions. 

Above are examples of filtering the light source. Note: The top left corner of my white boards should have been either butted up to stop that light from leaking through or taped to block light. the last image is subtle but an overhead use of the diffuser softened the shadows and produced the final shot for this flat lay.

EDITING

Up until now you've done everything in your power to produce the best photo ever! But, alas, it's not enough. Rarely will you ever escape the need to photo edit. This includes cropping, adjusting the brightness, contrast, touch up, etc. 

When working on my computer I use Photoshop to make my images sing. This is not something for everyone, I know. If you are using a phone to take images you are in luck because there are several extremely amazing photo editing apps available for free! The three I use the and listed in order of preference are: Snapseed, PS Express, and ColorStory. They can do just about anything you'll need if more robust editing is not an option for you. 

I took this photo with my iphone and embraced the shadows as part of the mood of the image. Depending upon what I am shooting for and how much time I have to spend on a shot I move between DSLR and phone camera. The best way to learn is to practice taking lots of shots, read blogs, and tap into the immense amount of online resources that are available on the subject of flat lay photography. 

October Review

October was such a busy month! In the previous blog post, I shared images of my Fall 2015 Quilt Market booth showcasing my newest fabric Coastline for Art Gallery Fabrics.  The fall show is always held in Houston, TX during October. Visit the AGF Blog to see more images and videos from the show.

Photos courtesy of Art Gallery Fabrics

Photos courtesy of Art Gallery Fabrics

Last month two quilting and sewing publications hit the newsstands with Sketchbook fabric projects. I love seeing the projects in print and finally being able to share them with you.

2015-1016 International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene magazine

2015-1016 International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene magazine

It's an honor to be included in the Quilt Scene magazine. This issue is a feast for the eyes with amazing art quilts, luscious fabrics, and designs. My project is definitely the easiest one in the magazine but is a great project if you're looking for a quick gift idea for your favorite artist. 

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Use a store-bought dish towel and turn it into a work apron. Use your favorite scrap prints to customize the look. I love how Quilt Scene photographed this for the magazine. 

 

Winter 2015 Stitch magazine

Winter 2015 Stitch magazine

This beautiful issue of Stitch magazine is their final issue. After seven years the magazine will no longer be printed. I had always wanted to have a project in this magazine. One of my most favorite quilts was made for my Sketchbook fabrics Spring 2015 Quilt Market booth. Kilim Quilt was inspired by kilim rugs and was so much fun to create. 

Last up for the October Review it's time to revisit October's Sharon Holland Nature Study photos. I have given myself a personal challenge to photograph a flat lay image each week for a year. The parameters I set for myself is the contents of the photo must be of natural origins. So far, I have also included a color mood for the photo as a way to further categorize and connect the objects.

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 12

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 12

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 13

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 13

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 14

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 14

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 15

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 15

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 16

Sharon Holland Nature Study no. 16