Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Photoshop Layers

My goal over the last few days has been to learn Photoshop layers. The concept of clear sheets laying on top of each other was not hard to understand. The difficulty came in figuring out the application and how it represents these sheets. 

True to my usual style, I set out to create a project to push along the learning. On etsy.com, each shop has an eye-catching banner across the top. I decided to make a new banner or two from some old crocheted flower photos while I learned about layers.

The key thing I figured out was that the layers palatte, which by default in full edit mode, is visible on the right hand side of the window. I figured out the icons to add a layer and delete a layer. The actual layers are also represented in this palette. It was handy to learn how to click the eyeball next to layers off so I could see just one layer at a time.  Overall, once I saw the layers and their attributes in the palette more clearly, working with them was much easier.

For these banners, here are the steps I used:
  1. Open a picture of my crocheted flowers, crop the section I wanted
  2. Open a new file with a canvas size of 760 x 100 pixels (etsy requirement)
  3. Use the move tool to drag the picture into the new file
  4. Use the bucket fill to create background color
  5. Add text
After quite a bit of trial and error, since I'm so new at this, I'm pretty happy with these new banners. Who knows, maybe I'll get good enough at this to make banners for others someday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fun Fact - YouTube Teaches

Learning Photoshop Elements has taken me on a journey, pouring over both printed books and online help manuals. With so much to learn, I have also found that YouTube has tutorials available. The thought of actually watching someone teach me a technique has drawn me over to YouTube more frequently as time goes by.

utube iphone photoshopIt is easy to find a YouTube tutorial for Photoshop. Then, I open both the video and a Photoshop project on my Mac. That way I can start and stop the tutorial as I practice the new techniques. 

I can also use my handy iPhone to reach YouTube. I can search for tutorials, or spend some time reviewing what is popular in all kinds of strange topics. Here's a really funny sketch about a "Man Cold".

My pictures here on the blog should improve as I learn new tricks. Getting the iPhone to look like it does over there took me much longer than I'd care to admit !!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Colorado Buttes and Jack Rabbits

The state of Colorado has so many places to explore. I have seen mountain towns, with their rich mining history, and the wonderful Rocky Mountain National Park, with impressive peaks and interesting animals. However, I'm the type of person who prefers the beauty of eastern Colorado. Here you can look up to the mountains in the west, yet move among the swaying grasses of the prairie.

Our farm is located south of a special attraction - the Pawnee National Grassland park. I can imagine buffalo and Native Americans making their life on this land. The sandstone Pawnee Buttes are striking too, standing tall, overlooking everything and everyone passing by. Raptors and other birds build their homes here, making the landscape even more interesting to explore. I love seeing a bald eagle soaring overhead, or sitting tall and proud in a tree, surveying the landscape. The grasslands hold these sights, as well as other interesting animals.

rabbit colorado
Jack rabbits are such funny creatures. Their black tipped long ears are very expressive. If I come upon one as I slowly drive down the dirt road, the rabbit sometimes stays where it is and just lays its ears far back, in a kind of cloaking stance. It makes me smile to see the jack rabbit hiding like that.  These rabbits can really run though - just ask my dog, Kiwi the whippet. 

Colorado is a great place to live, although sometimes the snow and ice can get me down. This year we will have a white Christmas, so I guess the snowfall is worth it sometimes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Roses on the Front Page !!

I had told myself to lay off writing posts about treasuries, but the treat I got this morning tempted me to share some good news. This lovely treasury made it to the front page of etsy.com this morning. I have an etsy Hooker teammate, bubblegirlknits, to thank for alerting me and sending me a screen shot so I could see my pink and white roses getting their moment in the sun.

crochet bouquet front page rose
The curator of this treasury is P8Accessories. One of the amazing things about etsy.com is the ability for people from all over the place to share their passion for crafting. P8Accessories is located across the world from me - here is how she describes the location, "a small village of 20 homes in the most northern part of Germany, Europe". 

Being on the front page of etsy.com for about an hour is such a thrill ! My flowers and I delight in the exposure this honor brings. Thanks, etsy.com staff, for selecting this treasury to feature.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Roses and Jewels

My rose arrangement made it into a lovely etsy.com treasury today ! Thanks vsilcoxdesigns, for including my flowers !!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blogging Tips: Add Picture Link

Web readers expect to be able to click on words and pictures to get additional information. I recently added an etsy button to my blog that links to my etsy shop. Here are the steps I followed.
  1. Go to etsy resources page
  2. Follow instructions to customize button code
  3. Copy button code
  4. Go to your blog, click customize, click add a gadget
  5. Scroll down, then click add HTLM/JavaScript
  6. Type a Title (optional), paste the button code in the content box, click Save
  7. Arrange gadget then click Save
The button code can also be inserted into a blog post. Use the Edit Html tab instead of the Compose tab, then paste the code into the post. Here is my button:

There are tons of ways to improve blogs. I will keep searching them out and reporting what I find. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yarn Picks for Roses

Crocheted flowers need yarn that has enough body to stand up tall on the flower stem. Since about 2003 I have been experimenting with all kinds of yarns and crochet threads to find the perfect ones to make flowers from. There have been some odd looking blooms made, but luckily I have narrowed the yarn selections down to a small set of winners.

crochet yarn rose threadDMC cotton embroidery thread #8 makes wonderful small roses. Thread crocheting is delicate work, so I have to take off my glasses to get the task done. However, these spools come in such wonderful colors that the extra effort pays off in lovely rose flowers.

My favorite yarn for larger flowers is wool. I like Brown Sheep Company's Nature Spun yarn since it comes in beautiful colors that are great for roses. Plus, since I need the rose color as well as a pretty green for the leaves, this brand has wonderful shades of green as well. I also use Paton's Grace cotton yarn for large roses, especially the soft pink colors.

Since real roses come in lots of colors, my yarn choices have to keep up with nature. Luckily I've found some great threads and yarns to make roses from, both large and small.

crochet pink rose stem yarn

Monday, December 15, 2008

Red Rose in Treasury !!

It is always a treat when one of my items on etsy.com is featured in a treasury. This evening I got the thrill when etsian capecodconsignments picked my Red Rose Stem for a new treasury. My rose is happy to be included with these other fine items !!
etsy.com red rose crochet

Photoshop Elements Help Manual

As I begin to learn the details of Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac, I am using this manual by Barbara Brundage, as a guide.

photoshop elements manual mac I like the book because I can read from front to back, but also, since I'm trying to get pictures on the blog now, skip sections to learn what I need to know today.

Do you have any favorite sites or manuals for Photoshop help? Leave a comment to share the information. Thanks !

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New Treasury

A fun feature on etsy.com is the ability to create treasuries. To quote the help guide "The Treasury is a member-curated gallery of short-lived lists of 12 hand-picked items each (plus four alternates)".

I was lucky enough to snag a treasury last night. I picked a color theme of Purple and Grey, for no particular reason. Here are the great etsy items I found to fill the treasury with !

One treat with treasuries is that anyone can investigate these items more closely. It is a great way to promote cool shops. To find the shops I have featured, go to etsy.com to do a search on the seller name, which is the light grey name under each picture. Since the name is pretty small, click anywhere on the picture to open it in a larger window.

Once on the etsy home page, look for the search bar which has 'Handmade Items: Tags, Titles' as the default filter. Click the down arrow to find and click 'Sellers: usernames'. Then type in the seller name (grey name from treasury), to search for the shop you are interested in.

Happy Clicking !!

Red Ear Lobes

Here is a fun chicken fact for you: In general, chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs, and chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs.

Here at the farm we have 9 Rhode Island Red chickens. Usually each hen produces a brown egg daily. They make nice pets for other reasons too. During the day the birds circle the yard eating insects, and hopefully creating noise to ward off rattlesnakes. 

Check back with me next spring when the rattlesnakes wake up. I'm sure to have stories and pictures of this other 'not so welcome' critter that also calls this land home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spin A Good Yarn

Recently I investigated spinning yarn, and found a whole crafting world to explore. Ever wonder if you could create yarn from fiber? I found out there is a lot to learn and experiment with. I gained a new level of respect for yarn and those who hand make it.

spin yarn book
During a visit to Boulder Colorado's Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins, I spotted a great book on spinning. I found out it was written by a co-owner of the shop, Maggie Casey. 

Besides reading books, I also decided to attend a class on spinning. This proved to be very helpful, getting to use a drop spindle, and a spinning wheel. The challenges included learning how to draft fibers in preparation for spinning, and working on hand tension techniques once the spinning started. I got fiber all over myself, but did put some on the bobbin as well. Spinning will take time and practice to master !!

In the future we may raise alpacas for fiber here on the farm, but for now, I will frequent brick & mortar and on-line shops for my threads. I'm glad I took the time to explore spinning yarn, even though I'm not ready to do it full time just yet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blogging Tips: A Few Good Sources

New bloggers like me need lots of resources to make their pages better. My investigations have turned up two excellent places so far, full of helpful information. I'll share what I have found, and show you how I am experimenting on my blog with the tips from these helpful sites.

First I found plenty of bloggers by searching on etsy.com's forum page:
This is how I discovered etsian Contrariwise's blog. What luck ! The article from Friday, December 5th, is full of blog tips. Ideas include How To Increase Traffic To Blogs, Using The Blogger Followers Feature, Blog Promotion, and Getting the Most from Google Image Search. I went down the list and picked ideas I could use today. 

crochet flower blue

First, I wanted to know how other bloggers were adding links to pictures. This process was explained clearly, and here is my image with a link to my etsy shop --> Click it ! Once I get Photoshop Elements (Thanks Santa), I could also add text to the picture.

Next I was curious about the ability to size pictures with more flexibility than blogger allowed. I found a helpful tip on this too! By using pictures on my Flickr Photostream, I could easily resize them, then copy the pictures to my blog page. For example, here is the same picture in a square size (75x75):
and again, but in small size (188x240):
Excellent, now I am in control, or so I think right now! Contrariwise's blog has many more helpful tips, so I recommend you visit this helpful blog soon.

I found another site that is so packed with information that I think my coming days will be spent reading and experimenting a bunch more. Tips for New Bloggers is all about helping newbies, and anyone else ready to fine tune their blogs. This resource will certainly keep me busy, and improve my blog over time.

If you know of other helpful blog tip sites, please leave comments here so everyone can find out where to look.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Opportunities to Learn

It is always fun to attend a virtual session on etsy.com ! The Virtual Lab hosts interesting group events all the time, and I just spotted some great ones. etsy learn craft virtual labThis afternoon there is a session with a crafting blogger in the Treehouse room, and on Tuesday there is a lab with the Editor in Chief of American Craft Magazine. You need to register with etsy to participate, but that is easy and free.

Attending a Virtual Lab event allows you to sit your avatar (picture representing yourself) in a lecture circle along side other etsians. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people with similar interests, often a quite international crowd as well. Have some fun exploring: click on people's avatars to view new shops, spin around, wave your hand, throw things !! More seriously, the moderators of the session usually open a web cam window so they are talking to you in person, and at the same time there is a fast moving text chat session running down the left side of the window. It is quite an experience attending a Virtual Lab session, one I would highly recommend.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Birds of the Prairie

Living near Colorado's Pawnee National Grasslands gives me lots of opportunities to see spectacular birds. Last summer a large bird, we believe it was a Golden Eagle, picked a fence post along our dirt driveway to rest on. bird golden eagle prairie ColoradoThe eagle was on this post for what seemed like two weeks. We thought maybe he was suffering from a rattlesnake bite on his foot, as it looked swollen. He would let us drive slowly by and not fly away. Finally though he went on his way.

Two springs ago, this amazing peacock wandered near our chicken flock.
bird peacock
We live miles from the nearest neighbor, surrounded by grasslands and corn fields, so to see this peacock was pretty unusual. After inquiring around town, no one claimed him, so we adopted him and named him Pete. He produces great feathers every summer, which we collect each fall as he sheds them. He's a character to say the least !

Best Crochet Hook

crochet needle hook chair plush It seems that this adorable plush easy chair is always by my side. Scissors can slip behind the heart pillow for safe storage, and the seat even raises for secret storage ! My trusty embroidery needle is always poking up from the cushion, ready for the many times a day I need to use it. These are the tools of my hobby.

I use a few different crochet hooks on a regular basis, but I would have to say the 2.00 mm size is my most utilized. I don't go smaller than that, so 2.75 and 3.00 mm are the next sizes most in use. When I crochet with the larger needles it feels awkward at first, but with some time I get used to the new feeling. These pansy appliques were made with a 2.75 mm needle. I also use a hook grip, that's why the needle has the blue cover on it.
crochet bouquet flower pansy purple Does anyone know a quality crochet hook maker? Leave me a comment if you do. I'd love to get some handmade hooks to give as gifts in 2009.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Pleasant Addiction

crochet bouquet rose flower vase pinkI must admit it now, I'm an addict. A crocheted flower addict that is ! It started out innocently, designing a few roses here, crocheting a pansy there. When my house and relatives homes began to fill with my creations, I started offering them on eBay. "Just take them", I thought, so I can keep making more. That was in 2003.

In 2008 I discovered etsy.com and oh, my options expanded rapidly. The colorful features available on etsy grabbed hold of me and my crochet hook. It is a community, a team, a partner in craftiness! Yes, I was over the top now, up to my ears in crocheted flowers.

So now I've started a blog. More to learn, more to do. I must admit this hobby is a pleasant addiction.