Tuesday, 26 April 2016

NoFollow and Advertising Disclosure for Sewing and Quilting Bloggers

Last week I attended a local bloggers meet-up at Organic in my hometown.  I went because it was on my doorstep, sounded intriguing and I was curious to meet other South West UK bloggers.   Sarah Turner,  The Unmumsy Mum and Andy Robertson, GeekdadGamer (better known to me as the husband of Jo, fellow local sewer and quilter @jorobexeter) both talked frankly and with good humour about their experiences working with brands. 

There was a mix of foodie, parent, style and interior bloggers and I did find another crafty blogger- Tall Amy Bags.  Most people did have experience of working with brands.  There were some who chose not to have any form of advertising or sponsorship and those people tended to sell a product instead, e.g. a book or a service.  The focus on the evening was two-fold:

1. Do you work with brands on your blog and benefit in some way?  Payment, freebies etc.  
2. If you do work with brands, do you follow an #OpenApproach ?

The  #OpenApproach was mainly focused in this instance on the use of rel=nofollow links when bloggers work with brands.  If you are not sure what these are - and I wasn't - you can read about them here.  Ultimately, they are a form of disclosure.  The link attribute informs Google not to follow the link so the link does not effect the page rank in search engines.   Alongside this practice is the full disclosure when you have received something for free or payment in return for a review/blog post/social media interaction.  For the UK, this is governed by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and interpreted by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and a handy feature on how this applies to bloggers, vloggers and brands can be found here along with a video here.   

Made recently for a friend, details to come here soon...
I've been a sewing and quilting blogger for six years now and my experience of working with brands is small but in the sewing/quilting blogisphere they are familiar names: Fat Quarter Shop, blog hops for sewing/quilting books, Girl Charlee UK etc.  Although blogging is a part of my income, it is a small fraction (around 15%) and much of it is from receiving products rather than payment.  I am not paid directly for blogging about a book, pattern or fabric that I use and I don't know anyone who is.  I write a regular column for Sewing World magazine which came about from being a sewing blogger who'd built a modest following and made active enquiries about paid work.  Ditto the regular articles that I've written for Sewing Directory including a ten-part series on quilting.  I have some sponsors and my arrangement with them is to write a monthly post featuring my choices from their shop.   An exception to this is Pretty Little Fabrics and Trims as their fabrics tend to get featured heavily in my Farmer's Wife blocks so I don't write additional posts for them.   

I've worked with my sponsors for a long time, I have total freedom on what I choose to post and payment is usually through credit to spend in their shop.  I don't work as an affiliate as I find that approach overly dominated by the need to generate clicks.  I like my involvement with brands to be organic and a natural part of my sewing experience.  This keeps me in fabric and sewing supplies that I couldn't otherwise afford; my income, sewing and otherwise, is modest and although it doesn't feel like it, my work is self employed and part-time.   I am an open person: you can ask me anything and I'll do my best to give an honest response.  Nothing good ever came of hiding information and I try to continue the same approach across social media. 

When I blog, if I have received fabric in return for mentioning a shop- e.g. Girl Charlee UK, I state that in my blog post.  The same with book reviews.  I also choose to receive fabric, books and supplies that I think I will like as I want to keep the tone of my blog positive but if there is a fault or a criticism- cost, quality etc.  I'll mention it.   I don't acccept the offers I get for unrelated products - a recent propositions that I politely declined was for a pet treat box - sounded interesting, but it's not about sewing!  All content is my own, I don't post content provided by others and I don't generally see that happening often on other sewing and quilting blogs.   I do see some sewing bloggers posting pictures of fabric or sewing supplies on other social media channels which I assume are either as part of an affiliate arrangement (the person gets a small payment for each enquiry that comes from the post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), or as a way of publicising their sponsors part of monthly arrangement in return for money or shop credit, but I'm often not totally sure what the relationship is.  Full disclosure on Instagram or Twitter is much harder than in a blog post and Instagram in particular is the principle outlet for social and commercial interaction for many sewers and quilters.  How many bloggers have you seen mention a commercial relationship in their Instagram pictures or tweets and how would they even do so- e.g. in the 140 characters of a tweet.  Would you like to see that level of disclosure or does it not bother you?

All this is a lot to take on board.  I knew about the importance of full disclosure but I think I am guilty of not always making it clear enough that my monthly sponsor posts (like this one) are a form of payment for me, albeit in goods not cash and I am aiming to improve on that and include nofollow links - now I know what they are.  In between a daughter starting her GCSEs exams, phone calls to various social workers to discuss my grandmother and mourning the loss of Victoria Wood and Prince, my head feels fit to burst so forgive me if I am preaching to the converted, I feel like I'm a little late to the party.   I am not a strategic blogger, for me it's something that has grown naturally from the early days of Flickr and is an increasingly niche pursuit as many bloggers have turned solely to Instagram.  Thanks to Organic for reaching out locally and hosting a lively informative meet-up.  Blogging is a lonely business by nature so it was good to be in a room full of people all eager to share. 

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you follow disclose where appropriate?  Do you see your favourite bloggers, instagrammers, Facebookers, and Tweeters in the sewing and quilting world doing the same?  I know commenting on blogs these days takes a little extra time, especially on phones and tables but I'm interested to hear your thoughts...
sib blog

Monday, 25 April 2016

Farmer's Wife Quilt Along Blocks 63 and 64: Mollie and Monette

Welcome to another week in the Farmer's Wife 1930s QAL and time to introduce a couple of blocks that are fiddly blocks that each take a little to piece together.  The first block is Mollie (p. 222, letter 108).


Fabric credits:
Unknown floral repro, originally from My Fabric House

{Please note:  I have linked to my sponsors for fabric bought through them and elsewhere for anything that has come from other shops}

For this block is based on a nine-patch construction and each square (with the exception of the centre) is pieced and they are then joined together in columns.  Although the piecing takes a while, there isn't much in the way of seam point matching.  When the squares are joined, it helps to press the seams to one side so that they will nest together in the final construction.  My fabric choices echo the block in the book with a light floral and two solid fabrics.

Rotary Cutting Dimensions 
  • Follow the cutting dimensions from the book/CD for the large + small triangles and rectangles, (and increase length and width of each shape by at least  ¼".
  • A5, B5, C5, D5: cut (4) rectangles 1" x 4"
  • For all the other triangle shapes, use freezer paper templates and this method,  You will need to trace these for shapes E1, E2, E3, E5, E6 and E7 (repeat for F, G, H and I) 

Here's a look at the reverse.

Top tips for this block
  • Pre-cut all pieces
  • Use a water based glue stick. I use Sewline, to stick the first piece of each section
  • Chain piece sections  
  •  Pressed section seams to one side
  • Flatten seams with Flatter or similar light starch spray
Monette (p. 223, letter p. 127) is based on simple shapes but the little squares are very small and are fiddly, even when foundation paper pieced.   I did find some of the seam allowances a little short in depth and below ¼" - I'm not sure if that was a quirk of printing or a problem for all but something to look out for.  Sarah Edgar of A Little Happy Place is piecing this block using the templates, read her experience and tips here. 

Remember you can:
  • Hashtag  #fw1930sqal on Instagram and add photos to the Flickr group if you like to share there.  
  • For individual blocks, you can use #Mollieblock and #Monetteblock on Instagram, Fat Quarter Shop and Angie are using these hash tags, #fw63Mollie,  #fw64Monette - I'm using both hashtag systems.
  • You can also copy and paste links to any blog posts you do on these blocks in the comments and I'd love to visit and take a look. 
Jo Green from a Life in Lists will be back next Monday with a guest post and a challenging block with four tiny Y seams!

sib blog

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Quick & Easy Quilts Winner

Thankyou for all the giveaway entries. I had no idea that the comments would be so emotional to read!  Amazing memories and treasures from special people, other countries and as part of people's quilting journey.  Random number generator picked Leigh, number 16 - I've just sent you an email Leigh, congrats!  

sib blog

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Quick and Easy Quilts Blog Tour: Modern Feedsack Stars & a Giveaway!

I've been waiting for what feels like ages to see Lynne Goldsworthy's new book Quick & Easy Quilts and now it is finally here I have really enjoyed seeing how she's grown as a quilt designer.   Lynne is a prolific quilt maker and Quick& Easy Quilts is deceptively clever book: each project is packed full of tips and tricks to speed up your piecing, increase your accuracy and produce a quilt that looks harder to achieve that it actually was!

I loved the cover quilt, 'Modern Stars', and I knew it was a perfect fit for my stash of feedback fabrics which have been waiting for a simple effective block to make the most of their gorgeous colours and prints.  I starched the fabrics with a gentle non aerosol starch before cutting as feedbacks are very soft and easily distort and stretch out of shape. 

I made a fabric throw (quilt top and batting fabric with no batting or quilting, top stitched edge) rather than a quilt as I use a lot of these as pretty covers for boxes of musical instruments and toys in my day job- I run group music classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  This means I will get to enjoy looking at beautiful fabrics during my day job as well as when I'm at home!  I made a nine-block version of the quilt- each block is 14" finished- and I adapted the border sizes to fit. 

I precut all the fabrics out using nine prints, one main background (Linea Texture by Makower) and a little extra Makower Linen Texture as I ran slightly short.  All the half-square triangles are made using a full size template from the book which produces eight accurate HSTs in minutes, I'm not kidding, it was seriously fast with minimal trimming.   This technique is also a great introduction to foundation paper piecing at it's simplest. 

My top tip for removing paper when foundation paper piecing is to tear the template part way along the seam line and then remove from the seam.  This reduces the strain on the stitches especially at the start and end so they won't come loose.  I've used this tip a lot for my Farmer's Wife blocks.

It's a great book for someone who's pieced squares together and sewn a beginner quilt and wants to progress and pick up skills and tips. It's also a handy resource for more experienced quilters who might need to whip up a baby quilt or pillow at short notice, that's what I'm planning for my copy!

You can see many of the projects inside the book on Kyle Books website and enjoy perusing Jan Baldwin's excellent photography.  I especially like that each quilt/project is shown in a styled shot and also in a flat overhead full-sized photo so you can study the layout and details close up.  The other stops on the blog tour also include some beautiful new versions of projects from the book.

I have a copy to giveaway and entries are open internationally, as long as I can find your email to contact you, you are eligible to win!  To enter, comment below and tell me about an vintage or older fabric that you have in your stash- good, bad or somewhere in between. Add an extra entries for each share on social media- write a comment adding where you shared- Facebook, Twitter etc. Winner will be contacted and announced Sunday 24th April. *Comments are now closed*.

{Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in return for taking part in this blog hop.  It was my decision to make something from it.  All opinions and content are my own}

sib blog

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

April at Plush Addict

Here are my top picks from Plush Addict for April.  I've gone for nine quilting cottons this months and I am happy to say that many of the fabrics are from British fabric companies like Makower and Lewis & Irene.

(Items organised in three rows and numbered left to right)

1. The Botanist: Dark Ferns and Leaves from Lewis and Irene.  A beautiful, subdued collection with a botanical drawing theme.  Dark prints can be hard to find and this one is a rather fine example.  Great for gardeners of course!

2.  Makower Scandi 3: Stag heads on Grey For extraordinarily well organised people, the newest Christmas ranges have started to arrive including Scandi 3 which is a restrained wintery collection with potential well beyond December.  Love the red noses that pop up in the grey!

3.  Pirates from Makower.  A very boy friendly fabric collection with lots of extras including this quilt kit from the lovely Lynne Goldsworthy.

4. Haberdashery by Makower- Sewing Machines.  From the Haberdashery range- Makower seem to be having an explosion of new fabric collections this month!  I'm rather partial subdued Sewing Machine print, it reminds me of the All Saints shops with all the old sewing machines in the window.

Tea Party from Makower.  Beautiful spring colours with aqua, pink, yellow and green.  Perfect collection for vintage kitchen fans and baking fanatics.  Lots of feature prints although the polka dots are my absolute favourite- see more of those here.

6.  Vintage Circus: Acrobats in White (Lewis and Irene).   Soft colours and vintage themed designs.  Great dress potential in this print!  See the rest of the collection here. 

7.  Bernatex Vroom Black Let's Drag Excellent racing car design that's a cut above the usual motor style print.

8.  Sundaland Jungle from Blend.  This Pygmy elephants print is the stand out for me (also available in a pink colour way.  Find the bundles and co-ordinating prints here.
9.  Radiance by Beth Studley for Makower: Heart Circles Navy.  This range is inspired by antique crochet and lace by talented British designer Beth Studley.  I'm guessing there's a lot of fussy cutting potential in this collection for english paper piecing and Passacaglia lovers.

{This is a monthly post for one of my sponsors which features my choices from Plush Addict's fabric selection}

sib blog

Monday, 18 April 2016

Farmer's Wife 1930s QAL Blocks 61 and 62: May and Milly

It's time for blocks 61 and 62 in this weeks  Farmer's Wife Quilt Along post.  Starting with block 61, May (p.220, letter p.126) and my fourth of the eight half- blocks I have planned for the  the twin sized quilt layout from the book (see this post for more info).  Fiona of Poppy Makes is the guest blogger for this blocs and she simplifies the construction with an English Paper Pieced May block.  With the Y seams around the pointy leaf style sections, it's certainly a good candidate for EPP.  I found that foundation piecing was almost the same to cutting out the shapes using templates and sewing them together.

Fabric credits:

When I select the blocks that would bevsuitable for half blocks, firstly I look to see if there is a seam across the diagonal, and then I consider if the design will keep it's integrity when half of it is missing. It worked well enough for block 61 but I thought the four different colours might get a little lost in block 62, Milly (p.221, letter p.54) so kept it full size.  It is an interesting block with different effects are created on point compared to a square layout.   My contrast could've been stronger- maybe a yellow solid would've been a better choice- but I wanted to see if I make it work with four prints.

Fabric credits:
Yellow: Moda Garden Project, Vintage floral pear yellow
Robert Kaufman Fabrics, Penny and Friends, Square Dance Camelia
Bonnie and Camille for Moda, Daysail crosshatch in aqua
Windham Story book classics, Daisy Dots (purple) 

{Please note:  I have linked to my sponsors on items bought through them and elsewhere for anything that has come from other shops}

This block using the same shape throughout so I pre-cut my pieces as usual and this time that meant 32 half square triangles, cut first as squares and then sub-cut into triangle.  The piecing is in rows and once everything is cut, the block goes together relatively quickly and the seams nest nicely.

Rotary Cutting Dimensions 
(cutting approx. ¼" larger for foundation piecing)
Aqua: cut (2) 2 ¾" squares; sub-cut square diagonally to yield 4 half square triangles
Yellow: cut (4) 2 ¾" squares; sub-cut square diagonally to yield 8 half square triangles
Purple: cut (4) 2 ¾" squares; sub-cut square diagonally to yield 8 half square triangles
Background/light: cut (6) 2 ¾" squares; sub-cut square diagonally to yield 12 half square triangles

Top tips for this block
  • Pre-cut all pieces
  • Use a water based glue stick. I use Sewline, to stick the first piece of each section
  • Chain piece sections  
  •  Pressed section seams open
  • Use gentle starch spray like Flatter to smooth out lumps and bumps.  I found it helps a lot!  I use it sparingly as it is pricey and only tend to spray it on a finished block

Remember you can:
  • Hashtag  #fw1930sqal on Instagram and add photos to the Flickr group if you like to share there.  
  • For individual blocks, you can use #Mayblock and #Millyblock on Instagram, Fat Quarter Shop and Angie are using these hash tags, #fw60May,  #fw61Milly - I'm using both hashtag systems.
  • You can also copy and paste links to any blog posts you do on these blocks in the comments and I'd love to visit and take a look. 
Sarah Edgar from Pretty Fabrics and Trims returns  next Monday for another guest post.

sib blog

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

April at Village Haberdashery

Finally a bit of sun here in Devon and my thoughts can legitimately turn to dresses, short sleeve tops and warmer weather.  There are some lovely light and bright arrivals at Village Haberdashery this month- Annie makes my job so easy!  Here are my nine top picks for April...

(Items organised in three rows and numbered left to right)

1.  Linen/cotton Herringbone Weave Chambray, wide width at 59" and beautiful for garment making (see 'Skipper' dress below) or an informal bag like the Grainline Stowe

2.  Mendoccino by Heather Ross  has arrived and the Underwater sisters mermaid print is swimming out of the shop (see what I did there ;).  Available in gold, pink on cream, dark pink and plum as well as blue on blush and the other Mendocino prints can be seen here whilst stocks last. 

3.   'Manu Forest' organic cotton voile (44" wide) from the stunning range of Yucca fabrics designed by Leah Duncan for Cloud 9.  Amazing colours. 

4.  Leaping Foxes by Joanne Cocker for Dashwood.  From Fablewood, a promising debut collection with lovely fresh colours.

5.  Merchant & Mills 'The Skipper'.  Classic sailor dress pattern designed for 3-8 year olds. Ideal for chambrays, linens and would also work with Art Gallery cottons  or Cloud 9 Organics as they are both so soft silky to work with. 

6. Rainbows in Aqua from the Flying Colours collection by Momo.  Typical psychedelic style from Momo, I really like the flower power print and the Rainbow Forest from the same range

7. Ladies Night (Metallic).  Irresistible print by Sarah Watts for the Cotton+Steel Black & White 2016 collection.

8.  Lore-Up Above the Clouds in Multi.  More stunning designs from Leah Duncan for Cloud 9, this time from the Lore collection.  If you prefer a quieter print, check out Lore- Fable Forest, a soft subtle design. 

9.  Cotton/Spandex denim- Rushton.  A bit of stretch so maybe this would be good for a pair of Ginger jeans or an Airelle Skirt?

If you'd like to see more new arrivals at Village Haberdashery, click here.
Meanwhile, thankyou for your kind comments to this post, they were much appreciated x

{This is a monthly post for one of my sponsors which features my choices from Village Haberdashery's fabric/pattern selection}

sib blog