I LOVE talking about blocks, studying blocks, and playing with them in Photoshop... I am always on a quest for great blocks and trying to figure out what makes them so great ... So I started this companion blog that will be devoted to this quest. But also check out my regular blog at http://olderrose.blogspot.com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sepia Photos ..... a few tips

Many times  you are going to be using photos that you might want to convert to sepia tones... Most photo editing programs allow you to do that. 

First you don't need to rush out and buy Photo Express or some expensive program...  I always recommend Picasa.  It is Google's photo program and it is free to download and does just amazing things...  Last summer they changed the icons which I thought was a mistake but it is still the best around for free..

But you may have  something already on your computer that you are not even aware of.... a program that came with your printer or camera.  You can easily find out.  Go to your picture file and RIGHT CLICK  on any picture and a little menu will pop up and one choice is OPEN WITH.  When you click on that it will tell you your options... You will probably have a basic program with your word program along with others.  It turns out one of my favorite is the photo editing program that came with my HP printer and I had it for years before I accidentally discovered it. It is simple and easy to use... So take some time to experiment with what already you have...

Even though they do a lot of the same things, they often have different terminology for the same action... Most have a tools for adjusting the overall color in a photo.... Some refer to saturation, others refer to  color temperature and Google calls theirs "warmify" (weird). I like the ones with a little bar you can adjust and see the change as you do it..  Both my printer program and Picasa have that feature... Sometimes converting a photo will be listed under "special effects"

Most often the photos you want to convert are black and white and they are easily converted..  I do NOT recommend converting colored photos directly to sepia without an intermediate step.  Convert them to black and white first..

For some reason the color in the photo affects the results of the sepia.. It's not all that obvious but if you are doing a series, it makes a big difference.

Here  I first changed the colored image to black and white and then to sepia. As a rule the colors in a photograph greatly affect the sepia tomes when you convert it.

When I put the one I changed directly  from color next to the one I changed from black and white you can see the difference.  The one on the right is B&W to sepia... look at the difference in the background and type... It is softer, smoother and the sepia tones are much more pleasant.  For one photo you may not care but if you are working with a series of photos, it makes a big difference.

Even if the  photo you want to use is already a sepia, it may be darker (or lighter)  than you want... Photo editing programs usually have a control for "saturation" and it will usually be a little bar that you adjust either darker or lighter.  I wanted this photograph to be lighter to go with the one above.

Most programs allow you to adjust the temperature as well... With sepia prints, the warmer the tones the older they look... Here you can see the effect of adjusting the temperature.  It is what Goggle calls "warmify".

This is not complex photo editing.  Once you find the tool it is quite easy....The first step is familiarizing yourself with what's on your computer.. and remember Picasa is FREE and free is good.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Piecing multiple blocks the easy way!!!

(I combined two previous posts into this one.) I know many people love piecing blocks but for me it is a tedious chore at  best.  So whenever I'm doing a batch I do a couple extra.  Since I have the whole mess out, it's not that hard to do a couple more.  I keep a bag of the extras and sometimes I use them when I join a round robin or give them to a student to get them going...  I just want to get the blocks done as soon as I'm able and get to the fun part...

I've tried the Martha Green's crumb method,  Allie's curve method, and Judith Montano method's of piecing.  But I always go back to just paper piecing and mostly use the same pattern over and over... This time  I'm using  Sharon Boggin's block pattern - #28.  This means every single block is #28.  Once you rotate the blocks and embellish, no one ever notices that they're all the same pattern...  Believe me!!!! I  enlarged it a bit so I will have an 8" square block when done.  If want some advice on choosing a paper pattern I posted some here.

I don't even pay any attention to what colors are going to go where on a block when cutting.  Once I have my pile of fabrics I just start stacking and cutting at random ... trying to get as many different fabrics per patch as possible...  Then I will sorta deal them out at random, making any necessary adjustments.  Of course this works the best when you have a large selection of fabric like I did this time..


If you did a good job gathering fabrics which  are harmonious, it is nearly impossible to mess up from that point on.  If you look at your fabrics in a pile and like them, toss them around and still like them, they are going to look good on a block no matter what you do... This the "pile test".  I do this with trims with students even before they pick fabric because it you assemble a pile of trims that work together, you can work backwards and pick the fabric last..

Now I had several choices.. I could make blocks one each month, or in smaller batches or do all 12 at once.  Doing them all at once will give you a more consistent look if you plan to use them together.. I chose all at once because piecing is not my favorite and I wanted it over with.  Here is how I go about it.

First I had cut 14 assorted of each pattern piece.. no plan.  I just stacked random fabrics from the pile five at a time and cut.  You can see the pile of patches on the left. I put up two card tables and laid out 14 squares of card stock.

Then I took a pile of each pattern piece and just randomly put it on a square. Trying not to put two of the same fabric adjacent to each other.

Until I had them all out... Then I stepped back and tweeked a few here and there.  I try to balance out color, value, and patterns at this point...I'm not too fussy.  I had a lot of   patches from paisley ties and I wanted some on each block..  This goes VERY fast because I try to not overthink this at this point...  Any goofs I make at this point can be dealt with when I start embellishing.

The pieces of card stock act like trays and I can just pile them up and head to the sewing machine.

I set a small folding table next to the sewing machine, put a towel and my little travel steam iron on it so I can press each seam as sewn.  And off I go with the pieces already on the paper trays  next to the machine

Within no time I have them 14 done.
Although I pressed seams as I went along, at this point they need a good press and put on a foundation but the piecing is done for the entire year..

These are very rich blocks in this winter pastel palette.  Lots of silk, taffetas, and velvets. Most of the silk patterned patches are from a day we hit a thrift store with an overstock of ties that were only 49 cents a piece.

And what's a perfect day...?.  A cold wintry day with a fire, a white chocolate mocha and a dear friend to stitch with....