Photo Styling 101

It might be handy to have a wizard working behind the scenes to produce the effects I want. Since none is available to me, I generally rely on my husband, who has worked many kinds of magic he didn’t know he knew. Needing more than one extra pair of hands for the task this particular trick, it was fortunate that we have houseguests with a sense of humor.

First, I mixed up the “mud” for this endeavor.

Bill helped with the photo styling — just another of his many talents.

My hand models were quite cooperative. There was just a little thumb wrestling at the end.

So here you have it — Step One in an Altered Images project. Thank you to my hand models!

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Summer Vocation

You’re probably so summertime-busy you haven’t noticed, but it’s been nearly a month since my last post. I wish I could claim that I took an intentional electronic furlough, or that we were on vacation. Sadly, that’s not the case. Summer is my busiest time of year. I traveled (for work) and taught. I came home with a cold, which I shared with my husband. We’ve had four search and rescue dispatches in the past 10 days. But I did finish the 6-week online class Gimp For Textile Designers— hooray!

I took the class from Sharon Boggon through and was really happy with it. I have a big fat reference notebook now, and plan to go through the course exercises again in September on my own. My head is swimming with ideas.

For now, though, here are a few things I did in the class.

This began with a photo I took during my Sievers Local Color class. Using blending modes on several layers totally transformed the cracked windshield of a commercial fishing boat, Bill’s dusty shop floor, and a Steampunk brush.

This design is from an exercise on working with brushes, layers and gradients.

This marching ant repeat uses a brush I made from a design I drew digitally.

I need to scan all the doodles I made on the evenings when I felt too crummy to stitch or blog, and go through the 50 or so photos I took last week to make into Gimp brushes. I also need to finish a small mountain of class demonstration elements that have been piling up the last few months, and do some major housekeeping and weeding before my parents come to visit next week. And defrost the freezer — it’s hot enough to make that a fun job for this evening.

But first, maybe one more look at those blending modes…

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Image Transfer Jewelry: The E-books

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to find more ways to present some of the material I teach. I love teaching, and my students have a great time learning techniques and exploring ideas. But even my most devoted students (bless your hearts) can never take every class I offer. So now I’m offering some of my classes as e-books. The first three are online at

In Blooming Image Transfers, you’ll learn to create floral jewelry using iron-on image transfers on fabric. The e-book includes 4 full pages of images for you to print on inkjet heat transfer paper, and step-by-step instructions for making pins, necklaces and cuff-style bracelets.

Gifts In A Snap shows you how to make jewelry gifts from T-shirt transfers. This book contains 18 image elements sized for you to print on one sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″ inkjet heat transfer paper, plus step-by-step instructions on how to turn a transfer into the gift of wearable art.

Moving Pictures also uses image transfers to create wearable art that celebrates the ladies of silent film. The e-book includes 10 printable image elements sized for you to print on two 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets of inkjet heat transfer paper, plus complete step-by-step instructions for making a cuff-style bracelet. A bonus project shows how to turn your samples into brooches.

The e-books are $9.95 each. Free preview pages let you know exactly what materials are needed to complete the projects before you buy the e-book. You can sign into Scribd with just your Facebook account, or join Scribd (it’s free), and pay with a credit card. Once you purchase a title, you can view it online or download the document as a PDF. I’ve set things up so there’s a printer-friendly summary page, so you can print just that to keep with your WIP (along with the images you’ll print on inkjet heat transfer paper).

The best part of a class is always seeing how different students interpret the material. I hope you’ll send in pictures of pieces you make from these projects and allow me to post them here. You can email JPG images to me at donnastitches[at]gmail[dot]com.

Stay tuned as I add more e-books in the months ahead. And let me know if there’s a title you want moved to the top of my to-do list!

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Easily Distracted, In A Good Way

Do you do this? I’m a hard-working, responsible, self-employed person with a long to-do list for the week that includes blog posts about the conference I just returned from, my new e-books, and more good stuff, and getting ready to leave for another teaching engagement. What am I doing instead of crossing tasks off that list?

Playing with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s online Patchwork Pattern Maker utility. You can use an image from their collection, or upload your own, like I did. The image below is from a photo I took in my front yard last year then digitally altered. The image above is the chart from the V&A.

I don’t suppose I should tell you that I have no intention of piecing a quilt. But boy, is this fun.

You can get a free download of the PDF pattern and instructions for making a quilt from this image here, or go here to convert your own image into a piecing pattern. Have fun!

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Tattoo Inspired

The other day, Bill asked if I was planning to get a tattoo. Like many marital conversations, it took me a minute to figure out what prompted that. It was the stack of books waiting to go back to the library.

To date, my interests in needle arts have been confined to the application of thread to fabric, not ink to skin. But I checked out a bunch of tattoo books to study the style of traditional tattoos. A couple of things had piqued my interest.

Don Ed Hardy

In the lunch line at the Missouri Art Education Conference in March, I talked to a woman who raved about a workshop on teaching kids to draw in the style of Don Ed Hardy. The iconic California tattoo artist’s licensed images now appear on clothing as well as birthday suits.

I’m teaching an altered images workshop at a textile camp for kids this summer. When they start sampling on the first day, I want to be sure I have some images that appeal to them until they have a chance to develop images of their own. Something like tattoo-style images.

I thought about asking my nephew, a very talented tattoo artist, to draw something for me. And I still might. But I really wanted to see if I could sketch in a style that’s tattoo-inspired but not tattoo-copied. It makes me uncomfortable to co-opt a culture without knowing enough to show respect and good judgment.

So my dollface doodles have been getting a makeover. I’ve been playing with biomorphic backgrounds, but don’t think I want that much detail for these elements. I need to clean up some sketches, see how they transfer, and do some beading and embroidery on them. We’ll see where this leads.

In the meantime, I’m planning to check out books on bonsai, motorcycle repair and animal husbandry. Just to keep my husband guessing.

Next time you’re at the library, why not visit a section that’s not on your normal path? Let me know what kind of unexpected inspiration you find.

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Behind The Scenes

March has been a month of catching up and looking ahead, planning, plotting and prioritizing things that can come off the back burner now. It scares Bill when he sees my to-do list. It’s not realistic, but that’s not because I’m too tight on time between events. It’s because I have so many ideas to explore, and I want to tackle them all right now. Picture me rubbing my hands together in glee.

Before I head out again on the teaching circuit, I do have prep work to complete so students can show up and have a great experience. And there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes that I can’t take credit for. The folks who manage the venues where I teach do a great job of organizing resources so people like me can just show up and teach, and students can just show up and learn.

Last week, Bead & Button added another section of the class Moving Pictures on Wednesday, June 9. The June 11 section of that class is full, so I’m glad to have another opportunity to present this fun bracelet project, which uses image transfers of ingenues from the era of silent films.

Bead & Button is a huge event. I picture their scheduling process as someting like Cirque du Soleil performers juggling beads instead of balls. They make scheduling look like performance art. Encore!

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Easy Peasy Altered Images — Picnik Edition

Here’s another easy, free, online image processing utility. My first encounter with Picnik came when I started using Spoonflower to design custom printed fabric like Warm Hands.

It’s fun to just play with no particular outcome in mind just to see what you come up with. But sometimes it’s easier to start when you have a sense of what’s possible. So here’s how I used Picnik to create an avatar — not the blockbuster film kind, but a small image to represent an online identity. This is a process I want to share with a group of art educators I’m speaking to next month, and some young fiber campers I’ll be working with this summer.

For this project, I uploaded the JPG image I use for my Google profile picture to Picnik. Here’s what came next:

Edit. Select the Edit Tab and click Colors. I chose the Neutral Picker and selected the red in my skin tone. Then I reduced Saturation to -71 and increased Temperature to 47. Then I clicked OK.

Save. I selected the Save & Share Tab and saved the color-corrected image to my computer with a unique name. It’s a good idea to keep saving. Even with the Undo tool, you never know when you’ll want to go back to an earlier version. After saving to my computer, I chose Continue Editing.

Create. Next selected the Create Tab, where there are lots of fun tools. On my face, I applied Stickers from Loosy Design and Similies. As you work with Stickers, a dialog box will appear to let you flip, change the color, fade and blend. Resize, rotate and move the sticker using the handles on the element.

Effects. Still in the Create Tab, next I chose Effects. I was playing with the idea of going blue for this avatar, so under effects I scrolled down to the selection of tools under Color. I clicked Color > Tint > Apply in Normal mode. Still in Create > Effects, next I selected the DuoTone tool, chose a second color, and adjusted Brightness, Contrast and Fade. Still in Create > Effects, next I scrolled up to Camera . I clicked Camera, Cinemascope and checked Yes to Letterbox My Photo. That’s a wrap.

Edit Again. To use this image as an online avatar, I need it to be square, not rectangular. So I return to the Edit menu and select Crop. From the dropdown menu, where it says “No Constraints” I chose instead Square and changed the actual size to 200 x 200. This way, instead of relying on a site’s default cropping mechanism, I can choose what parts of the image I want to keep when I go from rectangle to square.

I probably should have flopped the image horizontally to direct my avatar’s gaze toward the right-hand side of a web page. Didn’t think of that until just now. Oops.

Have fun playing with Picnik and Sporkforge. I’m working on the next phase of my Gimp Learn-Along, and will post again on that soon.

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Easy Peasy Altered Images — Sporkforge Edition

Maybe you read through the first post in my learn-along about getting started with Gimp imaging software and thought, “Forget it — all I want to do is….” Good news: You can.

There are great, easy-to-use, free image processing utilities you can use online. At Sporkforge I like the Comic Drawing Generator. Just upload a jpg image like this one.

Then Abracadabra Shazzam.
That was a Sensitivity Threshold value of 80, a brightness value of 200, the line option set to thin, and I checked “Apply Color” even though the image was black and white. Click the draw command and wait for the results. Then right-click the new image and save it to your computer.

By the way, this is a 1911 image of a cat on the shoulder of aviator John B Moisant from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection.

Here’s another image, a photograph of Siberian irises.

Abracadabra Shazzam.
That was a Sensitivity Threshold value of 35, a brightness value of 200, the line option set to thin, and I did not check “Apply Color” even though the image was color to begin with.

Understandably, there are limits on the size of images you can upload to Sporkforge, and what you can do with them there. But it’s a fun way to get started.

There are other online utilities that give you more options and are just as easy to use to explore another day. And I’m working on Gimp, which may have a steeper learning curve but when I get over the hump, watch out!

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