Category Archives: Technology

My New Look

Well, what do you think? I have been torn between wanting to update my blog’s appearance and feeling too attached to the vintage photo of the presser foot that was in the blog’s banner. I kept going back and forth on it.

Over the Christmas holidays, when my son was here from Vermont, I was talking about it with him. He is my source of help for all things technical for the blog as well as the guy that took that original photo for me some years back. He knows I like a “minimalist” look to the blog, clean lines and no clutter. As we talked, we both agreed that neither of us was the right person to create a new look. We needed something to work from. He told me about a website, Fiverr.com. It is an interesting place where independent designers, most from other countries, put up a quick bio and explain their style. You than contract with one and they design logos to work with a set of criteria that the buyer predefined. For instance, I asked for something with a sans-serif font (no curlicues on the letters), blues and greens in color, not fancy or intricate, and somehow related to my theme of Needle and (presser) Foot.

Within 48 hours he sent three designs (the number that I paid for). Two of them looked very industrial, the third one is what you see here. It took several iterations to get the presser foot to my liking. But this wasn’t an issue as I paid for, and was given, unlimited revisions. The designer was quick and tried to match my expectations. Overall, it was a great experience and gave me a logo from which to base some changes. I ordered new business cards, which was great as I only had about five left. Also updated my Etsy shop and the small enclosures that I send with my customer’s purchases. It has been so much fun to work on these updates.

Yesterday I Facetimed with my son and he walked me through changing some of the colors and details on my blog. Usually he does this for me but you know the saying, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man  to fish, you feed him for a lifetime’? Let’s just say this easily converts to ‘teach your mom to do her own blog maintenance….’!!  😉

I would love to hear what you think. I am quite pleased. If you check out the site, let me know what you think. There are all sorts of services offered there, not just logo design.

Slowly Progressing

We are down to the last week of summer. Julia, as is the desire of most teenagers, is trying to cram as many activities into it as possible. She has been to the movies, we went to the river last weekend, the fair yesterday (and will be there again on Sunday) etc. I think this is because she knows her precious free time will be given over to homework after school starts. She is also trying to get through her summer reading assignment which is a boring book on the evils of fast food.  Probably not the her top choice in books.

Last weekend we were up in Downieville and it was the weekend of the Downieville Classic. This is a mountain biking competition that is well known for its grueling, technical course. The first competition involves riding 29 miles with a 4000 foot elevation ascent and then a 5,200 foot elevation descent into the town of Downieville. I can’t even imagine. (Especially since I don’t own a bike, but still…)  Julia and I were walking around and watched several riders complete the course. They were covered in dust, head to toe, with little racoon masks on their faces where their glasses had been. Day two is the downhill race over rugged mountain trails where speed and technique are critical.

We certainly weren’t there to ride but it was a great weekend for people watching. The little town of Downieville is usually very quiet and it was nice to see so many people up there enjoying the river and all that the town offers. Especially the river jump, which is a tradition at the Downieville Classic each year. Riders sign up to ride down a ramp and jump into the river, bike and all. They use BMX bikes though, not their mountain bikes. It was crazy fun to watch.  I kept thinking they were going to land on top of someone but that was just the angle that I was watching from. They had plenty of room.

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With all that has been going on, I haven’t accomplished a whole lot in the sewing room. I did bring my pink stripes up to Downieville for hand stitching. This project is a bit of a lesson in patience. I love the look of the chunky stitches with Perle cotton but every once in a while I will wonder why I am doing this when it would take 10 minutes to machine quilt it. Patience isn’t a strong suit of mine, so this is a good lesson for me to work through.

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I have made some progress on my nephew’s wedding quilt. I am thinking of calling it Harmony. It is a sweet name for a wedding quilt and I am really happy with the look of the colors that I am using. At one point, it came to me that the colors looked so harmonious, hence the name.

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I have had a couple of migraines this week which is always annoying. Yesterday I was sort of between headaches and tried to get a bit of sewing done. It just never works out. I should know better by now. This is how things turn out while in headache mode. Not once, but twice!! At least the seams match up nicely.  😉

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Playing with Quiltography is a better bet when I am in this state. At least I don’t have to pull out a seam ripper if things go south on me. Rachel over at Stitched in Color is hosting a challenge called 30 Days of Quilt Designs. She is encouraging all of us to either sketch, doodle or electronically create quilt designs. Just to get your creative juices flowing. I am having fun with it and it is a great way to play with the Quiltography app that I wrote about here.  I have finished several designs so far.

I made one using hourglass blocks and court house step blocks with limited colors. I really like the movement in this design.

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Here is another one using hourglass blocks and square in square blocks. With this design, I love that it appears to be set on point but isn’t. What do you think?

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If this challenge is new to you, check it out here.  There is plenty of time to join in. The 30 designs don’t have to happen in 30 consecutive days – I believe she is holding this through October. Giveaways are involved which is always fun. There are lots and lots of designs posted on Instagram, #30daysofquiltdesign.

Hope you are all enjoying this last bit of summer before school starts (at least those of you with kids at home!)  Let me know if you are into the 30 days of quilt design challenge. I will go take a peek at your designs.

Linking with Needle and Thread Thursday and Can I Get a Whoop Whoop. Find the links at the top of the page, under link ups.

How to Increase Traffic to Your Blog with Flipboard

When I started writing this blog two years ago, I was constantly reading and looking for tips to get it going. It was really helpful to be able to gather information through our community of quilters.

When first publishing posts it is a bit unsettling, wondering if anyone out there is going to read what you’ve just taken the time and energy to write. The quickest way to gain exposure is by participatiing in the link ups that happen throughout our quilting community. Linking your posts ,and reading through other posts that are linked, gains you much in the way of friends and readers. Your community grows and readers see you regularly reading, commenting, posting and linking up. Those that like what you have to say and the projects you are making come to look forward to seeing the next post. If you are looking for various places to link up, check the top of my blog under Link Ups. I also have a Pinterest board where I collect various link ups.

Other than using linky parties, there are several ways to gain exposure. My recent favorite is using Flipboard. Flipboard is a website that gathers an enormous amount of internet posts and categorizes them for the reader. When you go to the site, you are able to search and read all of the most current news, much like a newspaper. It is very easy to navigate. Rather than going to the original source, e.g. CNN.com, for the news, Flipboard gathers it from all sites. Then they sort it into a zillion categories for the reader to enjoy.

So, how does this become a source of exposure for a quilt blogger? Ah, good question. I am getting there!  When a person begins using Flipboard, they create a login. As part of that process, one selects the categories of news they want to read. Honestly there are so many to choose from and once the reader selects categories, the news you read is filtered from those categories. Still with me? So, if someone selects crafting or sewing or quilting, those are the articles the person finds when they open their Flipboard app, or Flipboard on the web. Looking over the suggested articles or posts, when you select one to read, you are taken directly to the website it came from. Meaning if they suggest an article written at NeedleandFoot.com and the reader clicks to read, they are then directed to my blog. This is really helpful because once on the blog, hopefully the reader will look around and find out that they are completely in love with Needle & Foot, right??  🙂

Using your Flipboard login, you can also create magazines. This is akin to creating a board in Pinterest. If you choose to, you can save articles to your magazine. This is where your increased blog traffic really comes in. As a blogger, you can create a magazine and save your own blog posts to it. This gives each of your posts exposure as you save them to the magazine. When you save the post, there is a place to put a quick sentence talking about that post. That sentence is like tagging your post so the search engines within Flipboard can find it and suggest it to others who are using Flipboard.  I have been using Flipboard, collecting my posts and sorting them into different magazines for a few months now and I can see traffic coming via Flipboard and it is steadily increasing. It took me a while to figure out how to use this to my advantage and now that I have a system, I want to share it with you.
Readers can use Flipboard on the internet or by downloading the Flipboard app (which is free.) The pictures I have from the tutorial are screen shots of the process using the app on an iPad. However, it looks quite similar to what one sees using the web based version.

Here are the steps to take:

Go to Flipboard.com or download the app on your device and open it. Create your login.



Select your categories
. Even if you don’t plan to use Flipboard to read articles or gather information, select a minimum of five categories. You’ll notice that with each category you select, the site will filter it and offer you more specific items within the category. This is so they can offer you articles that are truly in the area you want to read. I think they do an excellent job of filtering.

Next, create a magazine. Make sure to leave it public so any reader can read the posts you collect in the magazine. Add a sentence or two describing what you are going to collect in that magazine. Remember these words are used as tag words for the search engines that filter. Be sure to use a clear description with tags so your magazine will come up in the search process.

Once you have a magazine created, link your blog posts to it. I have made several magazines. They are each used to sort my blog posts into areas of interest. For example, I use Vintage Sewing, Modern Quilting, Traditional Quilting, Free Motion Quilting, and Sewing Projects. Each time I post something that is relevant to a category, I add it to that magazine. This sounds like a lot of work, but honestly, once you have the magazines set up, it takes less than 30 seconds to add a new post to it.

If the post fits more than one magazine, add it to each one. If I make a modern quilt and talk about both the quilt piecing and FMQ, I will add it to both the Modern Quilts and Free Motion Quilting magazines. This provides more exposure and increases the opportunity for a reader to come across your post. I have noticed that when the post is linked to your magazine, a picture will display (from that post). It displays best if the picture is portrait rather than landscape display (or vertical is better than horizontal).

Once my magazines were created, I went back to my older posts and chose several favorites and linked them to the appropriate magazine (s). I haven’t yet finished with this task but the more posts I link, the better the traffic is that is driven over from Flipboard.

Finally, I want to tell you a quick way to link your post to the magazine. There is a small icon called the Flipboard bookmarklet which,if you download it, resides at the top of your browser. This button is used to quickly add a URL to a magazine, which makes it amazingly fast to link your post to a magazine. Once I hit publish on a post, I click to view my post on my site. From there I click the icon and it will take me to Flipboard. I select which magazine I want to add it to and write that sentence or two describing the post, selecting a few key words that help to tag the post. That’s it. The post is added and I’m done. If it relates to multiple magazines, I repeat the process to add it to the relevant magazine. To place the icon on your browser, click here.

This process takes a short while to set up and very little time to maintain. I encourage you to give it a try. Let me know if you see good results. I am happy to explain further if any part of this leaves you frustrated. Leave questions in the comments and I will get back to you ASAP.

 

Social Media Thoughts

Social media is such a big part of life these days. It was such a short time ago that people didn’t spend so much of their time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, and of course, blogs.  To some extent, I enjoy all of these. Well, not really. I don’t use Snapchat or Periscope and only rarely look at Twitter.  As a blogger and Etsy Shop owner, it is pretty much mandatory that I maintain a presence on Instagram, Facebook and my blog. But wow, it can be such a time suck. Trying to balance how much time to spend on social media vs time spent actually creating isn’t easy. I try to minimize time on media or I lose out and don’t have enough time to create which is what this is really all about for me.

Blogging was substantially more popular before the advent of Instagram and Snapchat. I can see that it has declined over the past couple of years. My conclusion is that blogging takes longer. Instagram gives the user immediate gratification. Post a picture and followers start liking it. Learn the right hashtags and more people notice.  And so it goes. However, that is the crux of the issue.

Because of smart phones and the many outlets of social media, people are relying on instant gratification. This immediate response, constant exchange of information, colorful screens, videos etc have been shown to reduce the overall attention span of users. I actually had an interesting conversation with Julia yesterday. She has always been an avid reader. Since she was very young, she has loved books. This summer, when she has so much free time to indulge her love of books, she hasn’t been reading. She received a stack of books for Christmas and her birthday but hasn’t touched them. When I asked her why, she said that she kept trying different books and none of them held. her. attention. Right away, we sat and had a chat about the use of her phone and iPad and how it is such a distraction. I explained what I have been reading about shortened attention spans. She went in and picked up another book and started reading. I was thrilled to see her on the couch with a book and, soon after, to hear her talking about the plot, the author and how much she liked the book.

Back to my original point though, I am a tiny bit disheartened to see some decline in the blog world. For me, I think of Instagram as a quick conversation. Meeting someone on Instagram is akin to those days when you stop somewhere to grab a cup of coffee and as you walk out on to the sidewalk paper cup in hand, you see an acquaintance. Hellos are exchanged and a quick, enjoyable visit occurs. Along these lines, meeting someone by reading their blog and conversing back and forth over time is like walking into the coffee shop, seeing a dear friend and sitting down together with your mugs (not the paper cups) and chatting for an hour. The relationship is deeper and, for me, much more gratifying.  I will continue to use Instagram, as I do enjoy seeing photos of work that others are involved in. But it is certainly a different experience. I much prefer blogging. So I continue to write and take photos and publish blog posts because I really enjoy and appreciate the relationship I have with my online community of friends.