Photography: Lighting

I have to admit that I’ve had very little time this week to think about this week’s SOS: Photography post.  I was so motivated last week when I posted about smiling for the camera, but then life got in the way this week.  So, this tip came together quickly through a conversation with my husband last night.

When trying to think of tips that should be easy to follow when taking blog photos, no matter what kind of camera you’re posing in front of, what came to mind first was lighting.  If I had my camera books handy (they’re still packed in boxes in the basement!), I’d quote from them, but since I don’t, I’ll have to paraphrase. Basically, you want to take photos in indirect light with any flash that may be built into your camera turned off.

Strong light will make for harsh shadows.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

I was really excited about taking photos in the desert when we were at a wedding last summer, but my husband and I quickly realized that there was no where to hide from the mid-day sun.  And, there was no time to come back later to take advantage of dusk when the sun would be lower and not as harsh since we were due to be dancing and eating at the wedding reception then.  You can see how shadowy my face is here, and I will even admit to lightening my face in Photoshop so that it wasn’t even darker and more shadowy.

Speaking of dusk, dawn and dusk are easy ways to get nice photos with indirect sunlight.  The magic golden hour!

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

In the photo above my husband and I were taking advantage of the setting sun at dusk. A little prep in the morning meant we could run out as soon as we got home from work that day to catch the setting sun.  You could easily do the same with the tripod.  Just try different angles with respect to the location of the sun to find the nicest light.  Often, as long as there’s enough light still hitting your face, it’s best when the light is coming from somewhere behind you.  No squinting and a soft glow = win, win!

UPDATE:  I just read a post by Jenny of Cashmerette that suggests you orient your face towards the sun during the golden hour.  She believes it shows off the garment the best, and I think she may be on to something there that I hadn’t thought about!

You can even get fancy and catch a sun flare!  Though, here we’d let the sun get a little too low, which is why the light isn’t quite as soft as in the photo with my golden Archer.

My guess is that the very popular style blogger, Wendy of Wendy’s Lookbook, takes most of her photos at dawn since the lighting is always perfect, but there are rarely people around despite being out and about on city streets.  If you can motivate and get yourself ready by the time the sun comes up, you’ll likely have your favorite photos spots all to yourself. Bonus, you won’t have a day’s worth of wrinkles in your clothes, either!

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

Indirect light can also come from odd places, like here at the base of this sculpture.  Since digital photos are free, don’t be afraid to try something crazy out like standing on a lighted grate near a giant orange wall!

If you prefer taking your photos indoors, try to set up your camera near a window that’s getting a lot of light from outside.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

Here the window was just off to the left, and the wall behind me was catching the late day sun from the northwest.  All my Stitcher’s Guild Sewing with a Plan photos were taken against that same wall, and I bet the clear photos were a big part in how I secured second place in that year’s SWAP.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

That said, I also think that was some of my most successful sewing to date. What a fun challenge that was! I hope to find time to push myself like that again sometime soon.

Also, note that the shadows behind me are a bit sharper in the SWAP photos than in the one where I’m wearing the Drape Drape dress.  That’s because I’m standing closer to the wall in the SWAP photos.  Since those SWAP photos, I’ve learned I like standing a few feet in front of the background wall if I can help it so that the shadows behind me are a bit more muted.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on lighting in blog photography.  I’m sure there’s a lot more for all of us to learn, so please share away!

MMMMonday: May 13th through 19th

This May I’m joining Zoe at ‘So, Zo…’ in a challenge to wear something handmade every day for thirty-one days. This post marks the third update of my progress.


May 13, 2013

What: The Vibrant Red Skirt

Where: To work.  Then over to a neighbor’s to catch up on yesterday’s Game of Thrones episode.



May 14, 2013

What: The Silk Paco Peralta Draped Top

Where: To work.  Work was followed by track practice (where I did not wear the silk shirt!), which saved an otherwise dull day.



May 15, 2013

What: The Secret Garden Pleated Skirt

Where: To another long day of work.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.



May 16, 2013

What: The Cavalli Drape Drape Cowl

Where: To work, yet again.  Today was highlighted by lunch with friends.  Oh, how I will miss my ladies who lunch after the move.



May 17, 2013

What: The Plain Jane A-Line Skirt

Where: On a cross-country flight to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate my husband’s sister’s college graduation.  Today’s theme was ‘hat’, and I was stumped as to what to do until I saw that our wonderful bed and breakfast had several awesome hats on display near the front door.  I  just loved this crazy pink one!



May 18, 2013

What: The Gridlock Faux-Wrap Dress

Where: Around Gettysburg.  I had a great day exploring the historic town on foot in between the receptions and meals being hosted in honor of my sister-in-law and the rest of her graduating class.



May 19, 2013

What: The Silk Pajama Party Bottoms

Where: At home after another long day of travel.  I had intended on wearing my Spots and Stripes Tessuti Dress for graduation in the morning, but it has developed a bit of a stretched neckline, and I just didn’t have time to fix it before we left.  (I’m sure no one would have noticed, particularly since it was too chilly to wear without a cardigan, so I should have just brought it!)  Instead, I wore a favorite ready-to-wear dress.  I thought I’d change into something handmade after the ceremony before we headed to the airport, but we ran out of time.  So, when we got home at the end of the long travel day, I made up for the lack of a handmade garment during the day by wearing one all night!


Reflections on the week:

  • Life has gotten so hectic.  I’m having a hard time focusing on the meaning of the month when there are so many other things I need to juggle.  I’d made an secret goal to wear something unique every day since I’ve now made quite a lot of things, but I’m finding it really hard to channel any kind of creativity.  For my own sanity I might just start rewearing handmade garments instead of trying to figure out how to wear all the skirts and dresses I’ve made in my jeans-and-t-shirt work environment.
  • This month really makes me think about what I like to wear.  I’ve always been a pants person, but I’ve enjoyed wearing more skirts this month.  That said, I like skirts like the red one (though I thought it sat closer to my natural waist than it appears to be above – hmmm…), but I don’t wear the pleated skirt much.  I think I may turn the pleated skirt into some sort of top so that the beautiful fabric sees more sun and make more skirts like the red one.
  • The first zipper I ever sewed into a garment was in the Plain Jane A-Line Skirt.  I sewed it in just like I’d done for the bags I’d made, which means the zipper teeth are exposed.  And, not in an awesome exposed zipper way.  That, choosing the wrong fabric for the facing, and the weird hem are good reminders of how far I’ve come in my sewing over the past two years.  It’s a great, wearable skirt, but it’s definitely hand made!

MMMMonday: May 8th through 14th

This May I’m joining Zoe at ‘So, Zo…’ in a challenge to wear something handmade every day for thirty-one days. This post marks the second update of my progress.

May 8, 2012

What: The Circle Skirt Remake

Where: To work. Same old, same old.


May 9, 2012

What:  The Sunlit Teal Garden Lonsdale and the “Paint Me a ?” Minoru

Where:  To meet up with Karen of Did You Make That? and a bunch of other sewing enthusiasts (see post here).  Photo taken by Laura of Auxetically.


May 10, 2012

What:  The Burberry-Inspired Trench Coat

Where:  To the theater to watch the live showing of This American Life with my husband and our good friends.


May 11, 2012

What:  The Plain Jane A-Line Skirt

Where:  To work, then to a friends’ house for a party.  The party was in honor of their just finding out they’re having a girl!


May 12, 2012

What:  The Black-and-White Satin Organza Crescent Skirt

Where:  To run errands during which I scored some silk at 25% off thanks to a Mother’s Day weekend sale and then somehow found myself directing traffic at Costco.


May 13, 2012

What:  The Silk Pajama Party Bottoms

Where:  Nowhere!  A day at home divided between doing chores and sewing.


May 13, 2012

What:  The She-Sells-Seashells Baby Bubble Dress

Where:  To church for Mother’s Day.  Thanks to my little niece for participating in MMM!


May 14, 2012

What:  A self-silk-screened shirt:  rockin’ out with Tricky in black on a light purple T shirt (better photo of the actual design here)

Where:  Back to work again.

Sewing with a Plan: The 2012 Collage

This winter and spring I’m joining a bunch of other talented seamsters in the Stitcher’s Guild’s Sewing with a Plan 2012 challenge. We’re all making eleven garments from tried-and-true patterns. Unfortunately, I don’t have any. My goal is to discover several TNTs over the course of the challenge through proper fitting, and this post continues the discussion.

The Stitcher’s Guild Sewing with a Plan challenge is actually a contest. Garment photos are submitted, votes are cast, and winners are chosen. Because I think the Minoru is the focus here, I’ve named my SWAP the “Mix-and-Match Minoru”. (In the beginning I called it “Fading into Blue” since it was mostly neutrals with a bit of bright blue.)

All of the entries are up here. I encourage you to check out the other talented seamsters who completed this year’s SWAP. They’re inspiring! And, if you’re a member of the Stitcher’s Guild, you can even participate in the voting.

Sewing with a Plan: The Final Tally

This winter and spring I’m joining a bunch of other talented seamsters in the Stitcher’s Guild’s Sewing with a Plan 2012 challenge. We’re all making eleven garments from tried-and-true patterns.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any. My goal is to discover several TNTs over the course of the challenge through proper fitting, and this post marks its completion.

This month everything finally came together for the Stitcher’s Guild‘s Sewing with a Plan 2012 challenge.  I was able to complete eleven garments that all fit into the SWAP’s requirements.  But, I wouldn’t say I exactly met all of the goals of the SWAP.  Many of the patterns I used are not going to become the “tried-and-true”, or TNT, patterns the SWAP intended for those participating to perfect.  But, I’m proud to have finished eleven garments in the allotted time frame.  And, I think getting distracted with other Sew-Alongs and changing a few things here and there were good for my growth as a seamstress anyway.

Here is my final SWAP 2012 tally…

  • Button-Down Shirt w/Collar
  • Blouse or shirt (collar is optional)

1.  Sewaholic Pendrell in a gray and teal floral – completed.

2.  Paco Peralta Draped Top in gray silk – completed (and featured on Peralta’s own blog here).

  • T-Shirt

3.  Sewaholic Renfrew cowl neck in ivory cotton knit – completed.

4.  Sewaholic Renfrew V neck in linen knit – completed.

  • Vest
  • Overshirt
  • Dress

5.  BurdaStyle 5/2011 Bustier Dress with Draped Detail in teal shantung with dragon print cotton lining – completed (full pictures posted in tomorrow’s Tuesdays with Gertie!).

6. McCall’s 5308 in vintage wool – completed.

  • Jeans

7.  Jalie 2908 in dark blue denim – completed.

8.  Jalie 2908 as skinnies in dark blue denim – completed, but yet to be posted.

  • Trousers

9.  McCall’s M5249 in ivory silk – completed.

  • Shorts or Capri Pants
  • Skirt

10.  Colette Patterns Beignet in ivory gabardine – completed.

  • Jacket (jean jacket, windbreaker, hoodie, etc.)

11.  Sewaholic Minoru jacket in “Paint Me a ?” cotton with a gold Bemberg lining – completed.

  • Coat  (suit or sport coat)
  • Overcoat or Raincoat
  • Bathing Suit & Coverup

So, that makes two blouses, two t-shirts, two dresses, two pairs of jeans, one pair of trousers, one skirt, and one jacket.  A good range of garments, all of which have been and will be worn.  Since the Minoru jacket was the inspiration for the color scheme, the range of colors is broad, but I think they all work together.  Everything could be worn with the jacket, though the two dresses are not really the right style.

As far as TNT patterns, I’d say the Renfrew top and Jalie 2908 jeans definitely fall into that category.  I already have my next pair of jeans cut out and ready to be stitched.  (Watch out!  They’re orange!)  And, I picked up several knits at the FabMo event that are destined to become Renfrews.

What a crazy adventure these past few months have been.  The SWAP really tested my sewing skills, pushed me to think about fit, encouraged me to make a wide range of garments that I can wear day in and day out, and kept me excited about sewing.  Thank you Stitcher’s Guild.  You might be seeing me for another SWAP next year, but no promises.

Party! Pajama Party!

This April I’m sewing along with Karen of Didyoumakethat and a bunch of other talented seamsters. We’re all making pajama bottoms, and this post marks its completion.

Why hello there!  What’s that?  You want to know what I’m wearing to the party?  The pajama party?

  • Top:  A thrifted T that proudly states “fresh up” with 7up
  • Bottoms: Pajamas made by me from McCall’s M5249 in mere hours for The Pyjama Party!
  • Book:  A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Technically, I’m not wearing a book, but Karen is adamant about knowing what we’re reading these days.)

(My cousin had fun with a style post earlier this week, so I figured I’d follow suit.)

You guys, pajamas are easy peasy.  Even with fiddly French seams.  My poor Mom is now going to be lacking a Christmas present to hand out on Christmas Eve since I’m going to call dibs on making these for anyone and everyone who’s joining us for the holidays.

I used some glorious cream silk that I picked up at the FabMo event. It was more than enough for these bottoms, so I’m hoping I’ll also be able to make a matching ruby camisole, an idea I stole from Tia Dia.  Why would a rescue have a giant piece of silk like this one?  Simple.  It was labeled “SAMPLE” in five different locations diagonally across the piece.  I did my best to minimize the number of times the SAMPLE sections made it into my pajama bottoms, but one of the front legs and both of the back legs got hit.  I considered the SAMPLE side to be the wrong side of the fabric, so the bold letters are on the inside of these bottoms to minimize their obnoxiousness.  You can still see the letters though.  If you look in the photo above, you can just make it out between my right ankle and calf.  My mind’s already turning around the possibilities of ombre dying since all of the offending marks are on the lower portion of the pajamas.  I love the look of my ombre scarves, and I think a similar cream to black fade on these pajama bottoms could be quite interesting.

To mark the front from the back, I followed the pattern suggestions and added a little bow.  It makes it look like the pajamas are cinched by a drawstring, but the waist is really held up by 1/2″ elastic.  Yes, silk, French seams, and elastic.  All class here, kids.

I’m excited to see who else is joining the party. I’ll be stalking Karen’s blog, but if you also played along and are reading this right now, put a link to your pajama bottoms in the comments so that my job will be a little easier.

Now let’s get this party started!

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that I’m adding these to my SWAP.  I think it’s kind of cheating since I didn’t do a thing to “fit” them, but they do blend with the colors I’ve used so far in my SWAP, and without them I have no hope of finishing before the end of the month.  So, yes, garment number ten is complete.

There’s a Party on my Sewing Table

This April I’m sewing along with Karen of Didyoumakethat and a bunch of other talented seamsters. We’re all making pajama bottoms, and this post marks the beginning of the saga.

It’s a party!  A pajama party!

Or, pyjama, if you will.

Since I knew there was no way I’d be able to pull together the Vogue V8156 trousers in gray wool before the end of the SWAP, I jumped at the chance of making pajamas.  No muslins, no fitting, but still trousers in a sense.  An easy garment to finish before the end of the SWAP, even though this SWAP is technically supposed to be all about muslins and fitting and such.

I had two patterns for pajama bottoms in my stash:  McCall’s M5249 and McCall’s M4724.

I liked the latter because the set reminded me of the pajamas in the Coco Chanel film Karen posted earlier this week (especially since I’m using a cream silk for my pajamas), but I ended up going with the former because it seemed to better fit my proportions. I’ve gotten as far as stitching up the legs (with French seams, no less!), but I still need to finish the waist and hem.

One last week of juggling projects to see if I can finish up this SWAP.  It’s going to be a bit of a stretch with three garments left to complete, but at least I’ve already started on each of them.  Wish me luck!