Quick Quilting Tips: Pinning Alternatives

Welcome to readers of Amy Smart’s Fabulously Fast Quilts blog hop! I’m happy to visit today to share my favorite quick quilting tip, along with the other bloggers on the tour.…

Summer Skirts with Simplicity 2606

  Over a year ago, a friend proposed a trade. Jayne would take photos of our family and newborn son and I’d make her a couple skirts. Over a year…

Sew Easy Burp Cloth Tutorial

The other evening, I was trying to pull double duty. I held the baby on one hip while tossing some vegetables in the skillet. My husband walked in the kitchen…

Quick Quilting Tips: Pinning Alternatives

Welcome to readers of Amy Smart’s Fabulously Fast Quilts blog hop! I’m happy to visit today to share my favorite quick quilting tip, along with the other bloggers on the tour.…

Hosting a Successful Giveaway on your Blog

Believe it or not, there’s an art to hosting a giveaway. No, you don’t have to have a lot of built-in traffic to have a successful giveaway. And yes, hosting a great giveaway can actually help you gain new followers.

Blog giveaways are increasingly popular these days, with some bloggers hosting a giveaway to celebrate blogiversarys, birthdays, hitting x-number of followers, or just because! Here are some blog giveaway tips we love:

Stack of Giveaway Fabric
Flickr/CraftyDame

Choosing giveaway items

The basic rule of thumb with a giveaway item is, give away something that you would like to win. Whether it’s a stack of beautiful fabric, a hand-knit scarf or a gift certificate to a favorite store, make sure it’s something that will attract the type of blog reader that you’d like to gain. This is not the time to destash your most dreaded fabrics, and if you wouldn’t enter, nobody else will either.

Setting the rules

Before posting your giveaway, you’ll need to decide a few things.

When does it end? We suggest 3 to 5 days from the start date, or longer if you are giving away a big-ticket item and want to attract the most attention. State the end date in your giveaway post.

Open to international readers? If so, specify which countries you’ll ship to, whether it’s the U.S. and Canada, or the U.K. only. You don’t want your readers to waste time entering only to find out later that they’re not eligible.

Maximum entries: How will readers enter and how many times can they enter? One entry only? One per day? Let’s say blogger x promotes a giveaway for a $20 gift card to Hobby Lobby. In order to enter, the reader must leave a comment. For another chance to win, she can become a follower of the blog. The prize value matches the effort you are asking people to put in, which is a good thing!

Contact info: If your winner has no e-mail address in his or her profile, will you draw a new winner? This may seem obvious, but best to think about these things before starting your giveaway.

How will you choose a winner? We suggest numbering the comments and using a random number tool like Random.org. But some people prefer to choose a winner based on the best answer to a question, or even writing down names on slips of paper and drawing them out of a hat.

Giveaway Winner Numbers
Flickr/hellojenuine

Working with giveaway sponsors

Oftentimes, a business or individual will choose to sponsor a giveaway on a blog that’s not their own in order to promote traffic to their shop or general interest in their product.

If you are working with a giveaway sponsor, it’s best to set up the giveaway in a way as to direct traffic to the sponsor’s blog, store or newsletter. Ask the participants to go to the site and comment on something they saw there. You’ll be much more likely to get future giveaway sponsors if you treat your sponsors right.

Getting new followers through giveaways

One of the huge benefits to hosting a giveaway is the ability to attract new visitors, and hopefully turn them into followers. While you don’t want to coerce people into following a blog they are not interested in, you do want to make it profitable for people who do decide to become a follower of your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Once you get people to your page through a giveaway link, ask them to follow through Google Friend Connect, an RSS Reader or e-mail subscription. State whether or not following your blog is required to enter. You can always ask the entrant to leave a comment, then leave a second comment if they are a follower (for an extra entry). This is a good way to attract followers who are truly interested in your craft blog.

One way to do this is to choose a product that attracts the type of reader you hope to gain. A $100 gift card to Walmart is going to attract a lot of people who may not care too much about your photo blog. On the other hand, a handmade camera strap will attract the types of people who’d love to read a creative photo blog!

Handmade Camera Strap
Flickr/tjstabb

Promoting your giveaway

“If you host it, they will come.” Well, you hope so, but this is not always the the case. Unless they have a built-in following, most bloggers will need to implement some kind of promotion for their giveaway. This can be as simple as submitting to a few giveaways blogs, or as detailed as contacting individual bloggers and asking if they’ll share about the giveaway on their sites.

Here are some tried and true places to promote your giveaway.

On Twitter, share your giveaway with a link to the short URL, and include the tags #giveaway or #win. Example: If you haven’t liked our great #earrings, get on it quick because you could #win them! http://ow.ly/4P8XN #giveaway

On Facebook, share a link to the giveaway URL, preferably with a photo of the item. Before posting, use the @ symbol to type the name of specific people or pages you’d like to alert. For example, if I’m hosting a scrapbook supplies giveaway, I’m going to post something like: @Paper Crafts Magazine readers: Enter our giveaway! (When you type the @ symbol, a dropdown list of pages you “like” will pop up.)

Getting  entrants to promote your giveaway is one of the best ways to increase your giveaway promotion organically. For people to enter, ask them to link up the giveaway on their blog, Facebook or Twitter to spread the word. If you give them an extra entry for doing so, you’ll generally get a lot of new traffic.

Giveaway blogs like Quilty Giveaways and Blog Giveaways will allow you to submit your crafty giveaway link. When I host a giveaway, I also like to alert One Pretty Thing, Craft Gossip, and Someday Crafts (stop by on Thursday or Friday to link up).

Craft Buds has a continual giveaway linky party where you are always welcome to link up craft supplies and handmade giveaways!

Giveaways Roundup @ Craft Buds

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day

If you get nothing else from this post, I hope you pop over to Sew Mama Sew and consider participating in this year’s May Giveaway Day! You must sign up by this Friday, May 20.

Once you sign up, decided if you want to give away a handmade item or craft supplies. You’ll post a giveaway on your blog next week from Monday, May 23 to Wednesday, May 25. Sew Mama Sew will create a master list of all participants, and you will get to experience the joy of getting lots of new visitors to your blog!

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day
It’s recommended that you keep your giveaway requirements short, because people will be entering tons of giveaways in addition to yours. One strategy is to ask readers to leave a comment of some sort, and follow your blog for an extra entry. Or you can ask them to follow you on Twitter, Like you on Facebook, or subscribe to your newsletter. (Just make sure that the prize value matches what you are asking participants to do.)

Have you hosted a great giveaway? Ever been part of a not-so-good- one? Please share your own giveaways tips in the comments! And if you know of any giveaways right now, link them up on our weekly giveaways roundup! We’ll be giving away some great stuff, too.

Fresh Picks for Wednesday, 5.18.11

Between Quilt Market in Salt Lake City and Blogger’s Quilt Festival, we’ve been inspired this week, and hope you have too! Here are some of our favorite projects, tips and more from blogland.

Free Project: Bento Box @ Lark Crafts

Stash Happy: Lark Crafts released this free tutorial, a bento box sewn from stash fabric, along with some bento ideas and resources. It’s an excerpt from the new book, Stash Happy: Patchwork.

Quilt mockup @ LR Stitched

Don’t Mock: Lindsey of LR Stitched shares how to make a mockup quilt using Photoshop. Very cool!

Stegosaurus Hoodie

Rawr! Homemade by Jill shows off this awesome stegosaurus hoodie for her little guy.

Blueberry French Toast @ Kojodesigns

Berry Blue: Kojodesigns gets us in the mood for summer with this berry-infused breakfast treat. Mmmm.

If you’d like to be considered for a future spotlight here at Craft Buds, we invite you to submit your project, business tips or craft tutorials here.


Giveaways Roundup
Visit the Craft Buds Giveaway Roundup, with 28 current giveaways to enter! It’s updated each week, and you are always welcome to link up your craft supplies or handmade giveaways.

Rainbow Diamonds Mini Quilt Tutorial

This weekend, I finished up a Diamonds Mini Quilt I’ve been working on, and posted on my other blog, Lindsay Sews. There was some interest in a tutorial, so I whipped one up and decided to share with Craft Buds readers as well!

For this tutorial, I focus mostly on how to construct the quilt top, but for tips on quilting in general, check out this awesome series, Quilt Class 101 at Chasing Cottons. You’ll learn about cutting fabric, choosing batting and thread, binding techniques and more.

Diamonds quilt hanging

For this quilt, you can go bright with rainbow solids like I did, or focus on prints. Choose masculine colors, girly colors or whatever you like. Once you learn the basic technique of sewing half-square triangles, the options are endless!

Materials:

  • 1 Kona Solids Charm Pack: Brights, 43 charms (5×5 squares)
  • 2 extra solids charms (5×5 squares), pick any color (You can use scraps–these can even be the same color if needed)
  • 7/8 yard solid gray quilting fabric (such as Kona medium gray)
  • Binding, batting, backing fabric to fit

Finished Size: 36.5″ x 40″

Steps:

1) Cut gray fabric into 5-inch wide strips, them 5-inch wide charm squares. (See charm squares cutting tutorial here.) This makes 48 charm squares, and you will use 45 of them.

2) You will need one Kona Brights charm pack, but I also used additional colors that were not in my pack. Choose some solids scraps and cut two squares (5×5) to add to the colors in your charm pack. It’s not that important which colors you choose, because you’ll be able to find a place for all of them later.

3) Pair one colored charm with a gray charm, and sew/cut a Half Square Triangles unit. (See tutorial here.) You now have two half-square triangles featuring the same solid.

4) Repeat for the rest of your charms until you have 90 finished half-square triangle blocks.

5) Group blocks together by color family. (Blues, reds, greens, pinks, purples, etc.) Take your biggest stack, and arrange 12 blocks (6 solids, 2 blocks each) in a diamond formation. Matching HSTs should be next to each other, creating a larger triangle or parallelogram. (See pink diamond, below, for example).

  • Take your next largest color stack, and arrange 12 blocks (6 solids, 2 blocks each) in another large diamond formation. (See green diamond above, for example.) Repeat until you have your 4 large, colorful diamonds. (I chose yellows, greens, pinks, and blues for mine.)

6) Now, look at your available blocks and choose pairs that are similar colors (2 solids, 2 blocks each). Use these to make a total of 6 small diamonds (mine are purple, orange, blue, red-orange, teal, and red.) Place around your large diamonds, matching the grays so large gray diamonds are created.

These are the small diamonds….
The small diamond and the large diamonds.
Only four large diamonds are colored, and the center large diamond is gray.

7) Use your remaining half-square triangle blocks to fill in the edges, creating small diamond halves. (These will help “frame” out some more large gray diamonds.) This is where you’ll be able to use your colors that don’t match any of the others. You’ll have 9 of these, total.

Here’s a rough worksheet if you prefer to break out the colored pencils.
For me, it’s easiest to just use the actual blocks to work out the pattern.

8) Are you happy with your color arrangement? Rearrange color groups until you get the rainbow effect you like. This is a good time to check that all of your diamonds are facing the way you want them to (see small red-orange diamond in the first photo, which I turned clockwise before sewing).

9) Sew together blocks, starting with large diamond formations. It’s important to make sure these line up correctly. Once you’ve sewn a large diamond section together, work on the next section, until you have four large sections. Join the pieces together to complete the quilt top.

10) Piece together a quilt back and prep batting. To quilt this, I used contrasting thread (pink and yellow), and set my sewing machine to its widest seam allowance setting, tracing around the colored diamonds (large and small) and sewing only on the gray. Gray thread works too! My binding was pieced together from Kona solids scraps, and I chose pink thread.

Diamonds mini quilt

Free Pattern Features: Gifts for Grads

It’s can be difficult to figure out gifts for students graduating from high school so here’s a few idea starters for you! I’ve chosen items that can all be customized for girls or guys depending on what fabric you choose. For guys, using pinstripe suit fabric is a fun idea.

 This card holder by The Crafty Cubpoard is perfect for a gift card. After the gift card is used it’s two interior pockets are just right for business cards.

Card Holder from The Crafty Cupboard

This messenger bag from Heart of Mary includes a zippered top and extra pockets. It would be great for a laptop or carrying around college books.  

Messenger Bag by Heart of Mary

And if that grad is moving into their own place, how about a housewarming pillow? This felt lattice pillow  from Persia Lou is so creative and the end result is amazing.  

Felt Lattice Pillow by Persia Lou

Or for a more guy-ish pillow, check out Lindsay’s tutorial on making a remote control pocket pillow!

 

Remote Control Pillow by Lindsay from Craft Buds

 
 
 

Tote Bag Tutorial

This is one of the very first tutorials I put together! We posted it back when this blog was started before we had many followers. My totes continue to be something I use often so here’s the tutorial one more time for anyone who missed it the first time around.

You can scale the size up or down for whatever purpose you have in mind. I make two sizes generally. One is a small tote the same size as one of the paper Bath and Body Works bags you get at their stores. It’s great for a few toys, extra shoes, or even wrapping up a gift. The larger size is great for grocerices, farmer’s markets, extra toddler clothes/toys when going out for the day, as a beach bag, for a change of clothes for the gym or whatever else you can think of. It’s about the same size as a paper grocery bag.

For this pattern you’ll need an outer fabric and a liner fabric. I like at least one of the fabrics to be a heavier weight to help the bag hold it’s shape a little better. All seam allowances are 1/2″ unless otherwise noted.

1. Small size: Cut 15″ squares from both your outer and liner fabrics with the center fold of the fabric at the bottom of the square. (If you do it this way, you’ll be cutting through two layers of fabric and if you were to open it up, you would have a rectangle of 15″ x 30″.) At each of the bottom corners cut a rectangle 2 1/2″ tall by 3″ wide. If the fabric you’re using doesn’t allow you to have the center fold at the bottom you’ll cut two rectangles from both fabrics 15″ wide by 15 1/2″ tall, and your corners will be 3″ square.

Large size: Cut 20″ squares from both your outer and liner fabrics with the center fold of the fabric at the bottom of the square. (If you do it this way, you’ll be cutting through two layers of fabric and if you were to open it up, you would have a rectangle of 20″ x 40″.) At each of the bottom corners cut a rectangle 3″ tall by 3 1/2″ wide. If the fabric you’re using doesn’t allow you to have the center fold at the bottom you’ll cut two rectangles 20″ wide by 20 1/2″ tall, and your corners will be 3 1/2″ square.

2. For the outer fabric, put right sides together then stitch up the sides. Repeat with the liner fabric.

3. If you have a raw edge rather than a fold at the bottom, stitch that together.

4. Create the bottom of the bag by stitching the corners. See below for photo detail. You’ll stitch all 4 corners (the 2 for the outer fabric and the 2 for the liner).

5. Your outer fabric and liner should now look like this and you can iron the seams flat.

6. Now flip the outer fabric right side out, then nestle the liner inside.

7. Now pin along the bottom of the bag on the front and back, but not the sides. Stitch along the edge with a 1/8″ or 3/16″ seam allowance.

8. Fold the raw edges of the top of your bag in 1/2″ and pin. Also, tuck the straps about 1″ down in between the two fabrics and pin in place. I used these cotton straps from JoAnns but you could also make them out of a coordinating fabric. For the small bag each strap is 14″. Fot the large bag I wanted something I could carry by hand or over my shoulder so it’s 26″.

9. Now stitch around the top. Leave a 1/8″ seam allowance at the top and then sew a second seam 3/4″ down from the top. Then go back and put an X over each strap. Or if you don’t want to have to go back and do the Xs later, see the diagram below for the exact steps I followed.

 

10. Optional: If you want your tote to have a boxy shape, pin the 4 sides going straight up from each corner then stitch 1/8″ in from the edge like you did in step 7 around the bottom.

 

And now you’re all done! You should probably go shopping to test out your new bag.

Craft Swaps: Everything You Need to Know

Craft Swaps!

Photos: Flickr

One of the perks of being connected to so many crafters, bloggers and handmade artists online is to ability to trade skills, inspiration and beautiful, handcrafted things!

A craft swap is an exchange of handcrafted items or craft supplies. Swaps typically take place between strangers. While most craft swaps are organized online, there are also some in-person craft swaps that take place among friends, or members of a local craft guild.

In-person Craft Swaps

  • Look for craft guilds and organizations that might be organizing a local swap. The Portland Modern Quilt Guild recently swapped mug rugs at their monthly meeting. Each participant made a mug rug and brought it to the meeting in a brown paper sack, and other members chose a random mug rug to take home. Great idea!
  • I organized a craft swap among a group of friends at my church who all have various crafty talents. We decided on a Daily Life swap (making things to help enrich your swap partner’s daily life) and as the swap organizer, I paired everyone up at random. Each person completed a brief survey with some of their likes and dislikes, favorite colors, day-to-day activities, and hobbies. It was so much fun to swap the items in person, and those who couldn’t make it that day made other swap arrangements.

Online Craft Swaps

Because not everyone has a network of crafty friends they can get together with, it’s great to be able to take part in craft swaps online. When you join an online craft swap, you’ll first want to make sure you understand the expectations. It’s best not to sign up for five swaps at the same time, unless you are a full-time crafter! Otherwise, you will not be able to devote the time to making your partner’s crafts fantastic.

You’ll also want to make sure that you can communicate well with the swap organizer and your partner about expectations. For instance, if you plan to send a flat-rate box full of goodies, and your partner sends you a small envelope, it’s probably not going to be a great swap for either of you!

Here are a quick primer for joining craft swaps online:

Craft Swap Site Reviews

Craftster

A social networking site for crafters, Craftster is free to join and hosts many forums on various crafting topics, ranging from needle arts to recycled crafts, sewing and jewelry art. To join a craft swap on this site, you must first register for a free account and be an active member for 30 days, making comments on posts and adding life to the online community.

When you sign up for your first swap, you will be a “newbie” swapper, so you can only participate in one swap at a time. Once you’ve sent and received your items, you’ll post photos in the appropriate forum, and the swap organizer will leave you feedback. After receiving positive feedback, you are free to sign up for as many as five swaps at one time!

There’s also a system in place for making sure crafters send each other about the same quality/quantity of crafts by letting participants choose between small, medium or large swap requirements.

Craftster swappers can choose whether or not they will ship internationally and they may also specify any pertinent allergies on their swap surveys. In most cases, you will send to and receive from the same person.

  • Pros: Huge variety of swaps, ranging from TV-show themes to geeked-out interests. Also, there is a system in place to pair “swap angels” (kind crafters who make a package and ask for nothing in return) with people who “get flaked on” (do not receive a package at all).
  • Cons: The quality of crafted items you receive may be incredible, perfectly paired to your interests, or it may be completely off. In other words, there’s not a huge level of accountability for creating quality crafts, although each swap generally has a few fantastic crafts in the bunch.


Swap-Bot

Swap bot logo

Swap-Bot is another popular site for swapping crafts, recipes, international postcards, candy and more. To start swapping with Swap-Bot is very easy, and just takes registering for a free account.

In order to make sure crafters send equal packages, there is often a monetary value attached to each swap, such as $3 or $20. Some of the swaps on this site are as simple as sending postcards in the mail, or e-mailing a recipe, and the limit for newbie swappers is five swaps at a time. Once a swapper has successfully completed five swaps, the limit is lifted and they can be in as many as 20 swaps at one time! These members can also organize their own swap via Swap-Bot.

Swap partners cannot specify if they will ship internationally, and swap partners are chosen randomly by the computer system. You may send to and receive from different people.

  • Pros: Swap-Bot sends e-mail reminders when your swapped item is due, and will keep reminding you until you log in and mark your items as shipped (very much like eBay or Amazon sales).
  • Cons: Swap angels are sometimes available if you are flaked on, but Swap-Bot does not officially organize any kind of swap angels. It’s not a very tight-knit community of swappers, and it may be easy for someone to pop into and out of the community and take advantage of the system to get free stuff. (Swappers with 3 cases of negative feedback are banned, but that’s a lot of people to be disappointed before any action is taken!)

Flickr

Flickr logo

Run a Flickr search for “craft swap” and you’ll come up with a list of groups for specific themed swaps. Whether you are into ’80s culture or handmade cookies, there’s a group for you. Here are a couple groups I like:

To take part in a Flickr craft swap, you’ll want to search for a group that has had some recent activity, and then request to join. Some swaps have specific start and end dates (such as the Doll Quilt Swap), and others you may join at any time. Once you join a group, check out the photos and discussion board for details on how to be a part (you might have to wait for the next “round” to start).

Flickr swap organizers typically send interested participants a questionnaire to complete before they tell them if they’ve been accepted into the swap. It’s a common requirement that swappers must have an active Flickr account with craft photos in it (photos of things they’ve made) in order to be accepted into swaps. This leads to a swap with lots of high-quality items! Once a participant is accepted to join a swap, they may be asked to create a photo mosaic of their “likes” in that category, such as fabric styles or jewelry they like to wear.

  • Pros: Because Flickr is a highly visual environment, the quality of crafts swapped is typically very high, and so is the photography.
  • Cons: It can be difficult to find active swaps on Flickr, because there are so many swap groups that are not current cluttering up the system.

Other Places to Find Craft Swaps

  • One way to find out about new and upcoming swaps is to follow your favorite craft blogs and see what swaps others are involved with. Today, I learned about an upcoming vintage sheet fat quarter swap from a vintage sheet blog I follow.
  • SwapDex is a blog that showcases current craft swaps from around the web, like a pin cushion or postcard swap. The site lists signup and swap dates.
  • Quilting Board offers regular sign-ups for quilt block swaps. (Thanks foxflower!)
  • Ravelry is a great swap resource for knitters and crocheters. Register for a free account to see swaps. (Thanks Michelle!)

Have you jumped on the craft swaps train? Please share with us where you find out about new swaps in the comments!

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