Sunday, May 31, 2009

Free Software I Use To Create My Designs & Patterns -- Part 1

I have purchased the software I use to actually create my counted cross-stitch and quilt patterns and translate for my Chinese Symbol/Kanji patterns. However, to clean up the design and to create and edit the patterns to a final excellent product, I use several free software programs. During the next week or so (or until I share all of them), I will be blogging this subject.

If you are like me and either new to or thinking of starting an online business creating items which can be delivered by email, I hope this information is helpful to you. There are so many freeware programs out there, it is sometimes overwhelming to choose. However, if like me, you don't have hundreds to thousands of dollars to spend on software, these programs may be exactly what will help you move to the next step in your goals.

Even though my translation software creates good quality symbols, the resulting graphic is raster and I can create a cleaner pattern from the start using a vector graphic. To read more about raster vs. vector graphics, Wikipedia has an excellent article.

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and CorelDraw do this but cost hundreds of dollars. Vector Magic used to be free but is no longer and if you create lots of design graphics, can also cost in the hundreds of dollars. I found that Inkscape does a more than adequate job of vectorizing a raster image.

Of course, a poor quality image is not going to give a good result no matter what software is used, but Inkscape also has many of the options available in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to trace and add layers to correct a poor quality graphic to better quality or to redraw it from scratch. One can save graphics in SVG format to edit or create different sizes later and also export to "raster" image formats.

The downside to this software is that if you have never used a professional graphics program, learning to use Inkscape can be challenging. There is no one "simple" manual available and a lot of what is written for the user from the site is more understandable by an experienced user or "techie". There are, however, lots of mini-tutorials available free on the web to learn how to create different graphics and text options which will teach one how to use the program. Google is our friend!

NEWS FLASH!!: There are two new "how to" Inkscape books available for pre-order from Amazon.com: The Book of Inkscape by Dmitry Kirsanov was published May 28, 2009, and Beginning Inkscape by Donna Benjamin, is scheduled to be published November 1, 2009.

I have not been able to view any of the contents of either book though I will be ordering The Book of Inkscape next payday. I will write a review once I do receive the book and have an opportunity to see if it is easy for a novice designer to decipher. If you are a book author and have written a help book for Inkscape, please email me so I can share this with others. The more options available to users, the better!

Tomorrow I will share details about another graphics freeware program I use to create my finished patterns.

Have a blessed Sunday!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sunbonnet Sam -- From the Past to the Present

I shared the news recently about my first grandchild. Yesterday I shared an ultrasound photo of his perfect feet.

Today I share the quilt I am finishing for him. My maternal grandmother, Lucy Moore, began this quilt sometime in the 1950s when my mother was pregnant with one of us. Alas, we all turned out to be girls so my mother took the blocks made by my grandmother and pieced them together but never finished it.

She made a quilt from clothing of my childhood for my son. She had saved some of my dresses and coats I had outgrown and put them in a hope chest. When I got pregnant, she took her favorites I had worn as a baby and toddler and created a crazy quilt for my son. He still has that little quilt.

She gave me this quilt over a decade ago to finish one day and I put it away. I had almost forgotten about it until my son and daughter-in-law shared their wonderful news a few months ago.

I am working on some quilting templates for the squares and will machine quilt all but one square which I've asked the new mommy to complete. Then I will bind it and add a custom label which I'm designing which will document the four generations of loving hands which created this "masterpiece". I will share a photo of the finished quilt and label once it is completed.


Have a terrific Thursday! Off to work on my latest quilt block designs of a butterfly and a dragonfly :) and then off to work I go...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Life


Happy Wednesday! I hope your week is going well. I've mentioned it before but just in passing -- I'm going to be a first-time grandma in the Fall. A couple of weeks ago, my son and daughter-in-law found out they are having a healthy baby boy. It is exciting to watch their lives change bit by bit each day as the reality of becoming parents gets closer and closer.

The pictures from the ultrasound came out so well. It is sometimes hard to believe how far technology has come since I was pregnant. Amazing! My grandson in the making is a mover and shaker and Momma has already felt the hiccups.

The photo above is an ultrasound picture of grandbaby's feet :)

Okay, off to conquer another day...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unique Cross Stitching -- Interesting Subjects

I was perusing books on cross-stitching at my library and on Amazon.com and have come across some more interesting books on unique subjects to cross stitch.

If you enjoy fantasy, fairies, dragons and lore, you might enjoy Bewitching Cross Stitch by Joan Elliott.

If art nouveau is your interest, this book may include patterns you won't be able to resist. Cross Stitch Art Nouveau by Barbara Hammett includes over 70 designs in this style.

Celtic Art in Cross Stitch, also by Barbara Hammett, includes over 75 amazing Celtic designs. Amazon.com has a preview of the book available.

Finally, Cross Stitch Fairies: Over 50 Enchanting Designs by various authors has some really beautiful and whimsical fairies. There is also a preview of this book available at Amazon.com.

Have a great Tuesday! I'm back to work. Back is a bit better so we shall see how it all goes :)





Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Memorial Day Weekend -- Remember -- FREE CROSS-STITCH PATTERN

I hope everyone has an awesome holiday weekend here in the USA. I created this cross-stitch pattern as a gift to you. It reminds us all to remember those who gave their all so that we can be free. For those of you who have lost someone dear and are struggling with grief, I wish you strength, peace and wonderful memories of times past with your loved one.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Etsy Shops -- Discoveries

Etsy has a wonderful way to discover new shops and shops which have not yet had a sale. It's called "Pounce". I was browsing and found the following interesting and new items and shops.


ellepic is a shop which opened March 27th, 2009. The offerings include a beautiful Persian Termeh jewelry pouch for $17.00.



MyWoodTurning just opened yesterday. So far there is one item listed -- a certified Bethlehem Holy Land Olive Wood Pen and Pencil Set.


DisLilTreasures is another new shop in the Etsy mall. She has a variety of items but the crocheted baby booties caught my eye as well as her e-book "How to Learn to Read Crochet Patterns". Since I'm going to be a first-time grandmother this fall, I couldn't help but fall in love with the "Handmade Crochet Baby Booties-Western Cowboy Boots". These are darling and I'm sending the link to my daughter-in-law to share.

If you haven't used Pounce while on Etsy, I encourage you to do so. There are so many talented artisans and craftpeople selling on Etsy and you might find an item you can't live without !

Have a great holiday weekend to all in the USA. Remember to say a thank you to all who gave their lives so that we can be free.

I'll end the week with one of my favorite quotes:


"If you tell Life what it has to be, you limit it;

But if you let Life show you what it wants to be,

It will open doors you never knew existed."

~~Unknown





Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teach Yourself to QUILT -- Lessons from the Worldwide Web

Quilting used to be learned at the knee of mom or grandma. Today, there are lots of fabric and quilt shops which offer lessons. There are books and more books -- and there is the internet. Whatever way you learn best, there is a way to learn how to quilt.

If seeing and listening is the way you learn, here are some links to free video on various quilting subjects:
A ton of lessons in print are available. These are the some of the best organized I've found:
If you want to learn in a group environment, there are all sorts of quilting groups to join. Check out:
Have a terrific Tuesday! We have a few days of warmth and sun and today the air will get a rinsing that will help calm down the pollen. I have a back strain so I'm off to work through some exercises and see if I can make it into my day job :) More tomorrow ...




Monday, May 18, 2009

I Want to Learn to Cross-Stitch -- How Do I Get Started?

I've been cross-stitching and doing other needlework since I was a young girl and sometimes forget not everyone had the opportunity to learn as I did from the elder women who wanted to pass down their knowledge so took the time and had the patience to teach me and my sisters. Cross-stitch is one of the easiest needlework crafts to learn and yet can be just complicated enough to be frustrating for a beginner.

Having the internet is a great tool when there is not a person to teach or a class available within our means or scheduled for a time we can attend.

The Yarn Tree has excellent "Learn How to Cross-Stitch" instructions which includes a simple pattern to use.

They also have a terrific video which will help those of us who learn by seeing:





Have a great Monday! Tomorrow I will share some "learning to quilt" information for you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Twisted Thoughts -- My NEW Cross-Stitch Pattern Series


The same simple but elegant Chinese symbols/Kanji as my other patterns but represents what I call "Twisted Thoughts". If you don't tell, no one will know -- well, except for someone proficient with the Chinese language!

Whether you've had a bad breakup or want to send a subtle message to another, I hope this series brings a smile to your face and chuckle to the back of your throat :)

All patterns are in 5 colors or less. Excellent for the beginner or anyone who may enjoy representations and symbols from Eastern culture. Can be matted and framed for the wall or desk or used in another project.

The first 5 patterns have been uploaded to my Etsy shop, DPeaGreenDesigns. I hope you enjoy them and will tell a friend!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Want to Schedule Your Tweets?

There are more and more free and paid services that allow a Twitter user to schedule tweets throughout the day. All are fairly easy to use. One of the newest, just gone alpha, is Twaiter. It is free for personal use; a business account which is limited to 500 tweets per month is also currently free. From their "about" page:

"About Twaitter --

Like Twitter? We do! With our enthusiasm (unhealthy addiction) for Twitter combined with our gallant attempt at adding enhancements to the Twitter platform, we know you’ll ‘love’ to Twitter on Twaitter.

If you are one of the growing Twitter user community, you've probably been in one of the following situations where Twaitter can help:

  • Ever had an idea for a tweet, but wanted to send it later or at a specific time?
  • Have a fellow Twitterer whose birthday is coming up in a few days, but you’re afraid you might forget to send a "Happy Birthday" tweet when the day arrives?
  • Spend more time on Twitter than your work calendar? Ever want to send yourself a reminder or remind friends or followers of something?
  • Want to participate in a scheduled Twitter conversation even when you are too busy to attend?
  • Want to have links in your blog RSS feed automatically sent to Twitter?
  • Want to schedule a tweet to go out at 8:14AM (and not 8AM sharp)?

…You can do it all with twaitter."

The only downside I've found so far is that once a tweet is scheduled, it cannot be edited if errors are found or you want to make a change. It has to be deleted and re-written.

I like that one can schedule Tweets from the control panel or use the "Outlook" inspired calendar to enter and schedule. Tweets can be scheduled hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and set to send once, a number of times or regularly with no end.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this service develops and hope you enjoy trying and using it. Let me know what you think...

Have a great Friday! Remember Twisted Thoughts cross-stitch patterns will be introduced into my Etsy shop (dpeagreendesigns) tomorrow. See you then :)


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Twisted Thoughts -- A New Series of Cross-Stitch Patterns in Chinese Symbol/Kanji


I am working a new series of Chinese Symbol/Kanji cross-stitch patterns and will begin uploading some to my Etsy shop within the next few days as they are ready.

These are all "mature" content. Each contains the beautiful, elegant symbols that my original patterns do but each also has a twist in meaning. What do you think this symbol means? Check my shop on Saturday and you will find out ...

The idea sprung from a conversation I had with a potential Alchemy client who was looking for something to cheer her up after a bad break-up, a rough week with mom, and upcoming college finals. We wrote back and forth -- as we did, the idea for this new series formed and I hope you will enjoy it in the spirit in which it is offered.

I will share more about our conversation when I announce the introduction of this series on Saturday morning.

Until then, have a great end of the week. I'm back to my office today after attending training in another location. It is a day of catching up and meetings, though I work with such a great group of people that I probably won't have much catch up to do. Yes!! I am blessed!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Learning Opportunity for My Fellow Etsians!!!

If you have an Etsy shop and want to expand, learn some fantastic networking tools which will increase traffic to you and your handmade items and eventually bring more sales and haven't heard of Timothy Adams, please let me introduce you to this amazing entrepreneur. What I like about this young man is his willingness and desire to share with others what he has learned while building his Etsy business and other artistic endeavors. I'm a big believer is the "reap and sow" of life -- in other words, "what goes around, comes around..."

I won't tell you Tim's story but let his new video introduction do that. There's nothing like hearing it straight from the source !

A free 5-day introductory course was offered and is still available (see below the video and introductory text for the links to each). I recommend it highly to any Etsian who is wanting to learn more how to do business and sell their handmade art/crafts/items to an expanding client base.

I received all 5 days, read each, tagged and highlighted more helpful tips than I have been able to get to in the past 10 days. Of those I've been able to implement, the results are amazing! Here are images from Google Analytics showing how my shop compares during this time period versus other shops about the same size, etc.:



I have much more to work on and have had to take a few days off to attend a training for my day job. It will be interesting to look at my figures over the weekend after almost a week of not networking -- it's all a learning curve.

While I can't prove it unequivocally, when I first began using Timothy's tips in his 5-day course, I had sold 15 items. As of today, the sales have increased to 30 items. That was an unexpected happy surprise!

My plan was to work my business and develop it so that when I retire from state service, I can still work at something I have passion for and enjoy. That is still my plan but I can see the time line may move up drastically using what I learned in 5 short days.

Have a great Wednesday! I have an 8-minute training presentation to give today to 18 people, most of whom I do not know. Excited and nervous but also looking forward to getting it done ... and getting it over :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Converting to PDF -- Freeware

When I started to develop my ideas from imagination to screen, one of the issues I needed to solve was how to deliver the final product in a way that is fast, easy, doesn't detract from quality and free. I couldn't afford to invest in Adobe software. I found several freeware products and tried them each.

My favorite -- Primo PDF. It downloads as a printer driver so that you can select to print a pdf from any program you access your regular printer. There are no ads, other than a static one for the paid version called Nitro. This doesn't slow down the process as it does with other freeware I tested.

The pdf files created can be optimized for screen, print, e-book or pre-press. The author can also decide whether others can copy and/or edit, as well as print and the quality of the print, and password protect the new pdf file. There is a very nice user manual available for viewing online. It is also downloadable as a pdf file.

New pages can be appended to an already existing pdf document so if you are creating pieces of the document from various software, it is easy to create one pdf file from various sources.

Pdf files can be set to conform to either Adobe 1.4 or 1.5 specifications. The downside is that this freeware is only available for Windows computers at this time. However, PrimoOnline, is also available which allows conversion to a pdf file online which is then sent to you by email -- all for free!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Make a Quillow -- Free Instructions

Happy Saturday morning! I'm soon off to spend the day with a dear friend who has recently returned from an extended visit out of state but wanted to share this with you!

Download my take on "How to Make A Quillow" instructions:


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Etsy Shops I Adore -- More of My Favorites

There are so many unique and imaginative artisans showing their creations on Etsy. Today I include three more of my favorites, each offering varied selections. I hope you visit each and find something you just can't resist!

Bear Creek Creations (bearcreekcreations) offers customized shirts. Each has a different quilt block design. They are beautiful and meticulously made. The quilt pieces are set into the inside of the shirt and then the front is cut away to reveal the pattern -- almost like cut work! The result is a shirt with dimension. Prices start at $24 -- very reasonable for a one-of-a-kind custom shirt!

Hiphazard is a new shop (since 1/09) to Etsy and also sells shirts but none are a shirt you're going to find in a local store. I will warn you if you are easily offended, it is probably best to pass, but if you have a wonderfully twisted, irreverent sense of humor, you will find shirts with art that will make you chuckle and may find you have to click that purchase button! The cost is $15.60 for each shirt. I hope check out this new find!

Sekhments Treasures offers handcrafted jewelry. As well, they will do custom work taking your vintage and old pieces and make something new and unique just for you. My favorite section is the "10 and Under Free Ship" section. The offerings include earrings, both pierced and clip style, necklaces, all are as the section title implies -- $10 or less and no cost to ship!

I am working on a new series of cross-stitch patterns for my shop as we speak -- the same elegant Chinese Symbols and Kanji but with a twist as well. More on this later.

Happy Thursday everyone! Tomorrow I get to see my new grandbaby on the ultrasound! My son and daughter-in-law have invited the new grandparents to join them at this appointment. We may find out whether we will have a boy or girl but the really exciting news is that the tests to check for genetic problems and birth defects have all come back and I am going to be the grandmother of a healthy baby! What a blessing!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tips -- Software to Create Your Own Cross-Stitch Patterns

When I first started to design, I found a free program which is still available and being updated by its author on a fairly regular basis. KG-Chart for Cross-Stitch is easy to use and the newest version (1.09.06) was introduced on March 29, 2009. The downside is you will need to be adventurous because there is presently no instruction manual available in English. It is in the process of being translated. The author does have a new blog and there is a new forum to share information and ask questions of other users. If you've been designing your patterns by hand using graph paper and pencil, try this software out. It won't cost anything and you might find it a great alternative.

When I could afford to spend a bit, I purchased PC-Stitch. It is normally around $80 but I joined PatternsOnline (which is free) and found a coupon which reduced the price by $20! There are instructions included but some are general in nature and assume one is not only computer savvy but also can read "between the lines". The way to do most edits and changes is much simpler though than most of us originally think. I have the habit of making things more complicated than necessary at times! There is customer help, including an extensive forum. There are two versions: PC Stitch Pro and PC Stitch Standard, which is $39.95 to purchase. Free evaluation downloads are available for both so that you can try it out before purchasing.



I like both of these and use them to make patterns from my designs. If you want to make patterns for your own use and/or to sell, I hope you will try one or both and share your experience on both the product's forum and here for others to benefit from your experience.

Good Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Crazy Quilt Block Pattern For You -- Free

Yesterday I shared some books about crazy quilting. Last night, I designed a basic foundation piecing crazy quilt block to help you get started.



Happy Tuesday! It's been storming and the wind has been blowing all night but I slept well and am looking forward to a busy day at work as well as one of accomplishment. As a dear work friend of mine often says: "Another day to reach for excellence at our chosen profession." I chuckle when I say this to myself. When said by my friend, it was an acerbic statement -- even still, this friend, as well as I and my many co-workers strive to do just that each day.

I drew the quilt block in Electric Quilt 5 ("EQ5") using EasyDraw, so if you have any version of this wonderful software, try drawing one yourself. Remember to keep the lines few and simple. The intricacy of a crazy quilt is in the combination of fabrics, prints, laces, buttons and other accoutrement.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Quilting Attitude -- Books for Quilters Who Want To Make A Noise

Quilting is fun and challenging for me and I spent several years working on different quilts. All have been gifted to those who fell in love with them, except my second quilt which had more mistakes than perfection. After I completed it, I made shams, pillows, swags and jabots all to coordinate and redecorated the master bedroom of my then-home. It was beautiful, even with the imperfections. Most who visited admired the entire room, never honing in on any of the quilting non-perfection I seemed to see every day.

One day about a year after all was completed, my then-husband's dog was left home with me instead of going on the road with his "dad". It ticked him off. I came home from work two days later to one square in my quilt, smack dab in the middle, bitten into shreds with the batting in pieces spread over the rest of the bed. Amazing how a 6" square of batting can be shredded and expand to seem like a bushel full!

I was horrified and more than a little angry!! I remember picking it all up yelling at nobody -- the dog sure wasn't listening. He turned tail and disappeared into the back yard...

Then I gathered myself together and reconstructed that square by hand. As I was doing this, I realized for the first time that I was making a piece of history and memory for myself. That was 15 or so years ago and when I divorced, I brought my quilt and all the accessories with me. They are still in my bedroom decorating the space I call my own. Today, when I need to clean or refold this quilt and see the center square, the memory of that time and of the incident brings a smile and warmth to my being. Time does indeed change things for the better if we allow it.

Today's book reviews are for quilters who are ready to try something different. I've been designing quilt block and quilt patterns of late but think it is about time to begin making another quilt. I want something new and challenging -- something with attitude to reflect the me that has evolved over the last 5 years of singlehood.

Crazy Quilting with an Attitude by Barbara Randle has wonderful writing, great photos and some really beautiful projects, many with a Victorian but modern feel. Take a look inside her book here.

Crazy Quilts: History-Techniques-Embroidery by Cindy Brick/Nancy Kirk is a fun visit to the history, how to and various embellishments to this genre of quiltmaking. There are some wonderful stories and photos of crazy quilts of yesteryear which can motivate one's creative juices. Take a look inside and you may find a book you want to add to your reference library.

Finally, if you enjoy the first Barbara Randle book on crazy quilting, this one may be an add too. Barbara Randle's More Crazy Quilting with Attitude contains 14 new projects, each with an attitude of its own! There isn't a look inside feature at Amazon but the cover photo is enough to make me curious to see more!

Have a great Monday! I plan to :). See you tomorrow!





P.S. If you're running out of time for Mother's Day gifts, Amazon offers a gift card/certificate that can be emailed:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Easy Like Sunday Morning :)

...a song which reminds me to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the quiet moments life offers so early in the morning.

Happy Sunday! In one week we celebrate a formal Mother's Day. At the moment, I have no plans. Don't think, "poor thing" for a minute! Every day is Mother's Day for me. I'm blessed to not only have a son who loves me and is devoted to my well being but several step-children, nephews and others not related by blood or marriage who care for me and show it in an individual way. It is a blessing to have so many children of mine "conceived and birthed by another mother" consider me a friend and confidante.

It is because of these many relationships that I got the idea to design cross-stitch patterns using Chinese symbols/Kanji as the subject. I looked around at all the these young adults I know, as well as observing others while taking walks on Ruston Way and the mall. I noticed a lot of tattoos with symbols that only to the wearer had meaning. After seeing so many, I thought what a wonderful way to bring an "old school" craft to a new generation in a way that would interest as well as bring enjoyment to them and resurrect a fun and easy type of needlework.

So far, many of my cross-stitch patterns have been purchased by young adults but what I also find terrific is that their mothers, dads, grandmothers and others who love them are finding my patterns and purchasing them to make handcrafted items for their own children and grandchildren.

It took about 4 months of intensive work to figure out how to convert English words to these symbols and to then make simple but elegant patterns from them. During this time there was a lot of stop, start, back up, move forward -- at times exhilarating and others frustrating. Then, it took about the same amount of time to figure out how to deliver a quality pattern in an affordable manner and deliver it without fuss or wait.

This has been and continues to be a wonderful journey for me. I am learning each day something new or how to work a different way!

Next Sunday, I will share links to some of the tools I use -- many you may already have installed on your computer. Until then, more site and book suggestions or free patterns will be coming your way each day.

I hope your weekend is going well and that you are loved!

Friday, May 1, 2009

How To Friday -- Making Balt Salts in a Bag


There's nothing like coming home from a long day to a nice, freshly drawn bath just hot enough to relax and with just the right combination of emollients and aromatics to soothe both the body and the spirit from a busy week! This version is my own and makes the skin so soft and body relaxed enough, it is ready for a good night's sleep and a terrific weekend!

Instructions

To Make the Bag:

1. Cut 7" by 11" strips of muslin cloth. Fold the 7" side and sew a 1/2" seam. This should leave you with a 3" wide, 11" long tube.

2. Fill tube with between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup of bath salts or other filler. Fold in half and shake the salts down.

3. Fold the open ended side into envelope corners (forming a point) and then fold that section down to seal the open ends of your bag. A portion of the raw edge may show through and I've used my serger to finish these off after folding and filling the bag which also helps to seal the salts in. There are several ways to secure the top. I take a piece of jute string or twine about 2 feet long if I'm making a bath bag, shorter for hanging potpourri, and tie a knot in each end. I then use my sewing machine on the setting for attaching buttons and secure the twine to the bag and seal it up at the same time. I've been told you can use fabric glue as well, but I haven't tried it. I have stapled the bag to close it but wasn't happy with the results.

4. If the bag is not going into water, glue small silk rosettes and/or bits of lace and/or trim. I don't add other embellishments if the bag is going to be used in water since I want to keep everything as pure as possible and I haven't investigated what types of glues and embellishments might work without adding impurities to the water.

Bath Salts Recipe:

In a large bowl, mix well: 3 cups of Epsom Salts, 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of oatmeal. This is the basic recipe. To this, add the scent or essential oil of your choice and mix well again. If the salts are going to be given and used from a jar, instead of using regular oatmeal which will not dissolve in water, use colloidal oatmeal. Food coloring can also be used for salts to be presented in a bottle or jar. Glass should be used to store salts made with scent as the aroma will dissipate over time in plastic.



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