Saturday, July 31, 2010

99 Bottles

My son and I got to singing that old camp favorite "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" (and some of its even sillier variations) while goofing around recently.   Later that day, I was trying to come up with some new block design ideas, and inspiration struck -- a new kind of bottle quilt!  Drafting the bottle pattern was quite easy.  Less obvious was how to arrange the bottles to make a reasonably proportioned quilt while still incorporating 99 blocks (3 rows of 33 bottles just isn't a useful proportion for anything but a looong table runner!).  I'm pleased with this layout.  The 99th bottle, of course, does not fit on the shelves, and so it sits on the "floor".  I guess that's the one that got taken down and passed around.

If you want to make your own quilt, click here for the PDF pattern plus the dimensions of the bottles, sashings and borders (but no instructions) to make a quilt about 67 x 76".  The bottle labels are perfect for using large scale and novelty prints -- fussy cut them to resemble real beverage bottle labels.  You could even add the names of your favorite beverages with fabric markers or embroidery.  I chose the same bottle green color for all the bottles, to show up on a black background while not overly competing with the labels, but of course other color schemes could work just as well.

If you make something with this block, be sure to add a photo of it to our Flickr group  :-)

EQ7 users can download the EQ7 project file here if you'd like to play around with layout ideas and fabric choices. (I had to zip it so you can download it - hope that's not a problem for anyone.)

*clink*   Cheers!

New Flickr Group!

If you've ever made a project using one or more Piece by Number patterns, I'd be thrilled if you would your photo to the new Flickr group, Paper Piecing with Piece By Number.  It's just gotten started and has only a very few photos so far, so please don't be shy about adding one (or several) of yours. If it seems like there's enough interest, I'll consider activating the group discussion capabilities.

Hope to see your creation(s) in the group soon and that you find some inspiration there as well  :-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Little People

I came across my inherited collection of "little people" today while going through some stuff - all these were bought by my mother.  She filled four (!) printers' typecases with these peeps, and hung them in her living room and kitchen.  The (mostly) ceramic doll figurines date from the early- to mid-20th century (many are made in Occupied Japan), and I'm always reminded of Mom whenever I see them.  My brother has most of them stored away now, but I have a few and need to figure out some way of displaying them in my own home.  Something quilty, I think, but need to think a bit more on this.

I've extracted the little dolly for you as a .png  file (it really does have a transparent background, even though it doesn't look like it here).  Feel free to use this in your personal scrapbook or art projects (but please, don't include it in a collage sheet without my permission).  Isn't she the sweetest?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Site Remodelling

About a month ago, I got a bee in my bonnet to completely overhaul the Piece By Number website, after literally years of doing practically nothing with it. I set up the site in 1998, just as I started designing quilt patterns, and taught myself basic HTML from a book. The entire site was coded by hand in Notepad. I didn't particularly enjoy coding, but was very proud of myself for being able to do it (even at my very basic level, lol) and I thought my pages looked pretty good.

Once the Piece By Number site was set up with a decent amount of content, I turned my energies to my then-young son, designing patterns, and other life projects. From time to time, I felt a bit bad for not keeping up the site, but the thought of relearning HTML again put me off. Not to mention that my coding skills definitely had NOT kept pace with the times. Java, widgets, Flash, frames, shopping carts, and and and..... it all made my head hurt, and I had little interest in getting my hands virtually dirty with any of it.  With the arrival of Etsy, I had a ready-made venue for selling my patterns -- so much easier than HTML.  The Piece By Number site languished, a little forlorn and dusty.
When I finally got around to signing up with Google Analytics, I learned (rather to my surprise) that  the Piece By Number site was the biggest driver of customers to my Etsy shop, not search engines or anything else.  It didn't take a wizard to figure out that keeping up with the site would be worth a renewed effort.

I started to read about the latest site building software.  One in particular stood out for me - Serif WebPlus X4.  The price was right, it was downloadable - what's to lose but a few bucks and a little time?  So I paid my money, downloaded the software, and installed it.  I fired it up, read a couple on-line tutorials, consulted some user help topics and was off.  So amazingly cool is this software!  With the help of one of the ready-made templates, creating a much fresher and appealing layout for my pages was a breeze.  I was dragging and dropping images, text blocks, headers, and moving them around with the greatest of ease -- finally, intuitive web page design capability that acts and feels like desktop publishing.  No HTML to deal with.

In about a week, I converted all my old pages (about 70) to the new site format.  Adding navigation bars, drop down menus, a contact page with anti-spam feature, a mailing list signup (lots of stuff that the old site never had) -- child's play!  The new site is still a work in progress, because I'm constantly learning new tips and tricks to implement.  Like the search feature and rollover image I added last night. Next up are some calculators for resizing blocks (I think this can be done, from what the user guide says).  And I'll keep tweaking and updating and moving things around - mostly because it's so easy and fun.  I'm really looking forward to adding fresh content once again, too, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to play with this fabulous software. Did I say that I like this product?

Disclaimer:  Serif did NOT pay me to write this!  I am just a very happy and satisfied customer.  Is WebPlus perfect?  Well no, there are a few, very tiny things I don't like so well, or maybe I just don't know yet how to work with them.  Like it's not at all evident how to add ALT tags to images (which can help image searches).  But it's easy to overlook such trivial things, because WebPlus has really made me in love with my website all over again.  :-) 

I'd be very interested in your feedback about the new site - visual appeal, ease of navigation, features, what strikes your fancy (or not), ideas for improvement...  

The photo above is not particularly related, other than its work-in-progress ambiance.  It's from my trip last summer to Italy, outside the Roman amphitheater in Verona.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Paul Klee Center in Bern

Gavin and I went up to Bern this afternoon, to see the (relatively) new Paul Klee Zentrum. It was completed in 2006, and houses a huge collection of Paul Klee's works left by the heirs of his estate. The building itself is quite a work of art:

The center has an excellent website which gives a brief history of the artist, the story of the building of the museum, and overviews of the current exhibits including a thumbnail of each artwork on display. Gavin and I saw the «Paul Klee. Life, Work and Responses» exhibition, which was excellent. So wonderful to see (finally) the originals of so many works I'd admired in books during my art studies!

Even Gavin was rather interested in some of the art.
I found him in an area watching the delightful animated video Taking a Line for a Walk: A Homage to the Work of Paul Klee (1983), which otherwise I'd have completely missed. Unfortunately, I'm not able to find anything out on-line (yet) about this wonderful work, done by a U.K. team.

Such colors, lines and shapes in Klee's paintings! They made me want to break out my paints, pastels, brushes, and the rest of my art materials
immediately. To my surprise, he also created more than 50 hand puppets - the first ones were made for his young son, then he kept on creating them. Several were in the exhibit. They were both very charming and crudely made: papier-mache heads, painted, with simple textile clothing. Another inspiration to create.

The museum owns so much Klee artwork, and it is all so fragile, that they only display a tiny fraction of the collection for 6 months at a time. This means that there is always something new to see. I know I'll be back soon.