Are you ready for the big one? The episode of Uncommon Threads where I demonstrate how to make a crafty bucket airs Wednesday morning on HGTV! I'm excited! (And nervous! It's tomorrow!)
I first made the bucket two years ago as a stop gap for the knitting supplies mess in our living room. Since then I've been asked a couple times to write up a tutorial for it, but because I didn't make any notes and kind of winged it (and I'm sort of lazy,) I didn't ever follow through. When DIY came knocking this was one of the projects they jumped at so I had to figure out exactly how I made it. It took me a couple of head scratches to write it up but it was just the kick in the pants I needed for the tutorial. Thanks for all the support, I'm ecstatic that y'all are watching it with me! (And thanks Marisa for letting borrow these backstage and behind the scenes photos!)
If anybody makes a crafty bucket, be sure to let me know so I can add a photo to the reader gallery.
I’m regularly asked about my photos of my knitting and sewing, so I thought I’d put together a run-down of how I get good quality pictures to best show off my projects without a photo studio.
It's by no means a professional set up (as you'll see,) but the result of much trial and error. I put so much time and effort into knitting, why not give it that last touch of love and make a stellar photo? Mother Nature was cooperating and gave me a non-rainy day, so here's my go at a "How I Take Good Pictures of my Knitting."
The Set Up
I don't worry about needing a fancy-shmancy digital SLR (my camera is an old Nikon Coolpix and works just fine.) I’ve managed some great shots even with a super cheapo camera; all I need is a stable surface. I’m wobbly at the best of times, so the best money I ever spent was for a teeny tripod
. I found mine at Target for around $15 (they have a cheaper one now too.) It's small enough that the camera still fits in my purse even with the tripod attached. That's handy, because it's holding my broken battery door closed.
I found the best spot to set up is in our backroom. The windows are huge, but the sun doesn't shine directly in, resulting in soft, filtered light. I never use the flash, so it's important to have ample light, but not direct sunlight. I find the shadows from the sunlight are too harsh and I can't get accurate depictions of colour.
I lean a big piece of white poster board ($0.42, also at Target,) against a chair and tape it secure for a background. The beauty of using painters tape is that it's removable and doesn't damage the poster board. If I'm careful, one piece of poster board will last for a year as long as I can store it flat to avoid wrinkling. Using the white background means nobody knows how messy the house is or that fabric scraps are ALL OVER the floor. If I can avoid the cleaning, I will. I also keep a lint roller handy. We live in a house with two cats and no matter how careful I am, there's cat hair everywhere.
Bring in the Goods
With the white background set up, I bring in the knitting. I fuss around for a while arranging it, making sure I get all the objects in the shot but preserving the white as background. There's usually some shuffling of positions until I get something that looks right.
Now for the fun part: I take a bazillion pictures from a bazillion different angles, all with the flash off and the macro setting on. It's worth learning how to find these features on your camera. I can't change the depth of field with my point-and-shoot, but I have a macro setting (Nikon's is a flower symbol) and I can turn off the flash (museum settings and custom settings.) When you use a flash with knitting, it can wash out the colours and make everything look like acrylic, which is not ideal. It will pick up every fibre and stray hair and make the yarn look icky, so turn off the flash! Sometimes I'll stuff some tape in to give dimension or to hold down and hide an errant unwoven end. When I think I have enough photos, I take a couple more for good measure. It’s always better to have too many to choose from than not enough.
I leave the photo shoot set up while downloading the pictures to see how the photos turned out. If I missed an important feature, or I cut off the ends of the needles, I can tromp back in to re-shoot without having to set it up again.
Make it Better
The final step is to tweak the results in Photoshop Elements. I crop, adjust the colours and mess with the levels. Depending on what time of day I shoot, the white background can have a blue-ish cast, so I took a little time to learn about the white setting on my camera as well Photoshop fixes. That's a tutorial for another time, but I suggest giving the auto-levels and auto-colour correction features a try. It’s amazing the difference they can make. Besides, if I don't like what comes out, I’m just a ctrl-z away from the original.
The best pictures come when I take time to set up and compose the shot, take more pictures than I think I’ll need and gently nudge things around digitally. I have some photos in my Flickr finished objects set that hopefully speak for themselves.
Thanks for all the great comments about the TV show. It was weird to watch, especially hearing the funny little accent I have developed living in Austin. I always had a slight American twang whenever I had a beer, but now it has made its way into my everyday speech. We had a fun morning watching it; Meg,Kristin,Amy and Abbe braved the ice storm and winter conditions to come drink champagne, knit and giggle with me through the episode.
Over the weekend Austin received about 4 inches of rain which then quickly froze over on Monday, so we haven't left the house in 5 days. This town is not well prepared for a winter that doesn't involve wearing flip-flops and a long-sleeved t-shirt for warmth and has gone into lock-down. Work is cancelled, stores are closed, we haven't had mail delivery and the cats are going stir-crazy. Check that, Indy (who grew up in a ski resort) is sleeping happily on an afghan. Bicoe who has only ever lived in a warm weather place is noisily going insane. She's running in and out of every room like a maniac. She won't sit still for a second. With all the crying at the door to go out and then 30 seconds later crying to come back in, it's like living with the cat from Robert Heinlein's The Door Into Summer. Sorry Bicoe, but that door won't open into warm temperatures either. Just wait until you get to Minnesota.
When we were at Kid n' Ewe, Sea Anemone Amy and I spent some time chatting about our moo cards. I had been considering making a smaller-sized mini wallet for mine, but Amy has spared me the work. Look what she sent last week! The slide-top metal case is exactly the right size for the moo cards. Perfection! I'll admit I had an overwhelming wave of nostalgia for highschool and apricot lip balm when I first opened it. Where did you find these, Amy?
She was also kind enough to include some gorgeous green stitch markers in the package; they'll be perfect for the next project I'm contemplating. I was considering some kind of cardigan for myself in my semi-solid dark green Brooks Farm Four Play. The tricky part is working out what pattern because I only have 4 hanks (just under 1100 yds) to work with. The chances of scoring another hank are nil, so I have to be careful. I was mulling over Lucy in the Sky, but I'm not sure. I might just chuck the cardigan idea and go with Wicked so I won't have to worry about yardage. Any other ideas? Is the perfect low-yardage sweater out there and I just don't know it?
Thanks for all the good wishes about our move, it's going to be a busy couple months. It would seem that life is a never-ending river of excitement chez splityarn; remember way back in August when Jennifer,Marisa and I flew to LA to shoot Uncommon Threads? Doesn't it seem like it's been ages? While the DIY network continues to air season one of Uncommon Threads, HGTV has picked up season two. HGTV! Included-in-most-cable-packages-HGTV! I stumbled across the listings the other day mere hours before the first episode aired. Set your Tivos and DVRs, it's finally happening! If you thought I was excited about being on the DIY Network, I'm over the moon about HGTV.
We filmed three episodes while we were in LA and if they're airing according to the episode numbers, our shows should air on January 15th & 24th and the third episode on March 6th. The first episode (Mad About Aprons) is all the talented Jennifer. I'm there running the iron, but it's all about her amazing work. The second one (Crafty Helpers) is where I demo how to make the knittingcrafty bucket. The last episode (Old Cover New Trick) we make one of my CD cases, Marisa demonstrates Jennifer's book cover, and....something else. Maybe the host Allison made something? It's been so long I can't remember!
I'm starting to worry now that maybe I was completely dorky or that I've said things that will make no sense. I'm sure it will all come out fine, but it freaks me out a little. I always think about the stuff the editing crew must make fun of while they're putting the episodes together. I mean, just how loud was my stomach rumble while Allison demonstrated the crochet pin cushion?
The push to finish the Husband Sweater took on a little more urgency in the last few weeks before Christmas. Although there will be plenty of time to wear it in Austin, a wool sweater would come in a lot handier if we lived somewhere, like say, Minnesota. Cold winds and snow call out for handknits. As it turns out, we're moving there! The Husband has accepted a job in Minneapolis and we're packing up and preparing to move as we speak. I won't finish in Austin until March-ish, but there will be plenty of winter left in Minnesota for me.
The timing couldn't be better. Just as I started to long for cold snaps and snow (like the good Canadian girl that I am) the news came in that we'd be moving. We'll have seasons again! And snow! And NHL hockey to watch! And Major League Baseball! And I won't sweat 9 litres walking to the bus stop in April!
I love Austin and will miss much more than I can list. And while I'm sad to move away from some ofmyfavouriteknitterlychicas, I know that I'm heading to an incredibly yarny place. Word on the street is the Twin Cities have over 22 yarn shops in the metro area. Sounds like the perfect place to fly into for a weekend visit, right ladies? (There will always be wine in the fridge and a spot to crash!)
While we were waiting to get official word, I knit myself a toque in anticipation. It's Coronet from Knitty in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. I love love love this chocolate brown.
Now I just need to keep trolling Minneapolis knitblogs to get the low down and find some folks to knit with. It's an exciting way to start the new year!