Things to Read While I’m Hiding out in my Studio

When I’m busily working behind the scenes without much to show, it’s a great time for me to share a little bit about what my blogging friends and colleagues are up to. So in no particular order, here are a few things you might be interested in:

Check out some great tips on blogging from Yvonne at Quilting JetGirl, as part of the 2015 New Quilt Bloggers blog hop. I love how she dissects several Pain Points when it comes to blogging and how to overcome them!

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The always lovely Pat Sloan is hosting a sew along for one of the patterns in her new book Teach Me to Applique. To join, just buy a copy of her book and head on over to her blog and facebook group for all the fun!

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Abby Glassenberg from While She Naps is running a feature on her blog this summer entitled, “The Pattern That Changed My Life” and it’s a very inpsiring series. She hosted it last year and it was so successful that she’s repeating again this year. In fact, she’s invited me to be one of the contributors in August and I can’t wait to share that story with you!

 

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I think good thing come in threes so I hope you enjoy those recommendations. If you are an avid blog reader like me – what other interesting things have you been reading? I’d love to know!

Recommended Sewing Machine Features for Free-Motion Machine Quilting

In my latest Craftsy blog post, I’ve made a list of 6 things to look for when considering purchasing a domestic sewing machine for machine quilting. My favorite feature is the extra wide throat space my Bernina has, which makes it much easier to “squish and smoosh” my quilts as I go.

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Closeup of my String of Pearls Quilt in progress

Click here to read the rest of my recommendations!

If You Were Friend Shopping…

Hey guys, it’s usually an Instagram thing to share and tell about someone’s work you admire for others to follow. Well, I figured, why not do that occasionally here on the blog? Meet my friends Ida, who blogs at Ida Rather be Quilting, and Vicki who blogs at Orchid Owl Quilts.

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Β In this picture Vicki and Ida are just behind me in the back row on the left and right. We went with several other fun members of our Modern Quilt Guild to a Quilt Show in St. George, Utah.

I first met Ida last year when she moved into my neighborhood and I found out she was a quilter. We can just find each other – you know?? Vicki moved to town about a year later and she got involved right away with the local guilds.Β  Both of them have helped me so much this year as I’ve led our local Modern Quilt Guild. I love all of my online friendships, but there’s nothing quite like having friends close by who get your obsession for all things quilting!

ida_shoppingIda was stocking up on solids during a recent shopping trip to Superior Threads.

Ida is a military wife so she is very good as making friends quickly and adapting to new surroundings. Be sure to visit her blog and scroll through her posts for some excellent eye candy along with musings on military life. One of my favorite tutorials is her improv zipper pouch which I followed to make a recent guild swap gift. I also adore her Plus One quilt, shown below.

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Vicki and I actually met online through Instagram, and became fast friends when I learned she was moving here. We clicked right away because we both have that innate desire to show and share our quilts with as many people as possible, and we both love talking about the “industry” side of quilting. (In fact, Ida loves to refer to Vicki and I as the “quilt divas” when we are talking shop, LOL!!)

orchidowlVicki and with her quilt Me and My Shadow which won judge’s choice at a recent quilt show.

I love what Vicki wrote recently on her blog about entering quilt shows. She also shares a bit of that competitive spirit with me and it’s fun to cheer each other on as we enter our work into shows. (I told her she will always beat the pants off me any day with that luscious feather quilting!!)

bigstar_vickiAnother of Vicki’s award-winning quilts.

So if you are looking for more inspiring blogs to follow, I can highly recommend Ida Rather Be Quilting and Orchid Owl Quilts. Go give them some comment love and make some new friends!

Check Out National Quilter’s Circle Blogger Awards

The National Quilter’s Circle is now accepting nominations for your favorite quilting and fiber arts blogs. I had honestly never even heard of this before until they contacted me letting me know my blog had already been submitted by several different people (thank you).

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Nominations run through April 29th and the top four blogs with the most nominations in each category will then move onto the voting round which runs through May 15th.

Categories include:

  • Best Traditional Quilting Blog
  • Best Modern Quilting Blog
  • Best Quilting Patterns Blog
  • Best Fiber Arts Blog
  • Best Art Quilts Blog
  • Most Humorous Blog
  • Best Overall Quilting Blog

Click here if you’d like to nominate your favorite blog – including your own!

I always like to support contest like these because I think it helps get the word out about other quilting bloggers and brings the blogging and quilting community together. πŸ™‚

A Concern About Bloglovin’…

Hey guys – do you run across this problem? I follow a LOT of blogs via Bloglovin’. However, I’ve noticed lately that I don’t always see all of the blogs I follow in my feed. In fact, a couple of my blog followers have said the same thing about my blog – they aren’t getting my blog updates on a regular basis. Now that is disconcerting.

Here's Christa!Hey guys – thanks for reading!

I’m not a techie – so here’s an easy fix: subscribe to my blog directly via email so that you get an email each time I publish a post. Just look for the subscription box on the right-hand sidebar. I usually try to post about 3-4 times per week.

Also, while you are at it, you can sign up for my weekly email newsletter here. I try to curate different content across all of my social media platforms; so between my blog, instagram, and email, you can keep up with me and all of my quilty antics! πŸ™‚

Christa’s Soap Box – Community Vs. Content

Today’s soap box was inspired by an earlier post from my friend Lee at Freshly Pieced. She very eloquently wrote a thought provoking essay entitled, “Are Blogs Dead?” referring to the idea that in some circles, Instagram my be supplanting blogs as quilters’ social media of choice.

Fortunately, her conclusion was that no, blogs are note dead – they are just different!

binding_clips1It’s been fun to use my blog to share tips, tricks and tutorials, like how to bind a quilt.

This got me to thinking about social media and why I am so attracted to it. I think it really is about the community and the content. I view my blog as my “Home Base” or my place to “be.” It’s where others can come find me, and see what I’m up to. It won’t change locations or format (unless WordPress does something very drastically different which I highly doubt). My blog is very reliable and I can choose to write as little or a much as I like.

I can be myself here, share the occasional peek into my personal life, and people can choose to read or not at their leisure. It’s also a place where I can store many of my ideas and thoughts as I quilt, along with tons of free content I’m happy to share. (You should see my WIP posts that have not been posted yet – they go on for pages and pages, LOL!!)

Running in Utah

I don’t mind sharing both my personal and professional life on my blog.

However, Lee did bring up a good point which I hadn’t thought of before. Blogs are becoming more of a one way content generator and less of a vehicle for two-way communication. I know from my stats that I get a lot of traffic and people reading my blog, even if they don’t comment as much as they read. Heck I do the same thing – I follow over 100 blogs on a regular basis but I read far more than I comment.

So that’s where other social media like facebook, instagram or flickr come in. I think people, including myself, like the instant gratification that a quick comment or “like” can generate.

For me personally, I just can’t get into facebook, and flickr has become really user unfriendly lately – but I love checking instagram on a daily basis (@christaquilts). It’s quick and easy to pop in for a few minutes to see what beautiful things others are making, and it’s fun to leave a quick message or get instant feedback on what I’m working on. I also think of it as a way to share real-time snaphsots of daily life, which I can then turn into a cohesive “story” later on my blog.

20140710_snippetsI love to share “snippets” of my life on instagram, – or the “in-between” posts.

So I agree with Lee – blogs are definitely not dead, but their use is evolving. Because I’m the type of person that likes to have everything neatly organized in it’s own little box, I love the idea of referencing blogs mainly for content, and using instagram for my daily dose of quilty socialization.

How about you – what are your favorite ways to utilize social media?

 

Blog Improvements – What’s on the Menu?

I’ve been making a few changes around here, organizing my blog content so it’s much easier to find, and updating a few of my graphics and images. I didn’t realize how much I’ve written over the last several years, until I started trying to gather it all in one place.

Please join me for a tour of my new menus! They are all listed below, but you’ll need to click the links at the top of the page to get to them.

Christa QuiltsAbout Me – Kind of obvious, right? This was probably the hardest page to write to describe myself and what I’m all about. However, it does include some super cool artwork my friend drew, including fun captions that go along with each of my quilting caricatures!

Christa’s Quilts – This is the place where I’ve been sharing my quilt finishes. I blog about them as I go, then I write up a separate “page” for each quilt. This is a place for me to gather all of the quilt statistics in one place, list any awards or honors the quilt has received, and then link to any of the WIP posts, in case you missed them the first time.

herringbone_hst_stackTutorials & Freebies – This drop down menu has a lot of content in it! It includes links to all of my quilt alongs, plus free patterns, EQ7 downloads and tutorials I’ve written.

Craftsy Articles – This menu item will take you to all of the content I’ve written for Craftsy’s blog. I usually write my posts days ahead of schedule, so I’m not exactly sure when new ones will post, but it’s fun to see them go live. πŸ™‚

CraftsyTeaching Schedule – This menu item is super new. I put together a page listing all of my current teaching events. I will keep this updated as often as possible. (This one is the most useful for me so I can see at a glance, where I need to be next, LOL!!)

Shop – Another obvious one. This is where you can find my patterns for sale, my precut store, and the remaining items on clearance. All of my various selling venues are all gathered into one place – now that’s convenient!

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If you blog, how do you like to organize your content? Is there anything else I’m missing?

Advice for New Bloggers – 6 Ways to Build a Better Blog

For the past two years, I have participated in the Let’s Get Acquainted Blog Hop for new bloggers hosted by Beth from Plum and June. This year I get to return as an alum and share some of my favorite tips and advice on how to build a better blog. πŸ™‚

(You can read my previous blog hop intro posts here and here.)

20140505_new_blog_hopHere are 6 Ways to Build a Better Blog:

1. Figure out Your Persona

This is my take on the common advice, “Just Be Yourself.” I would add – be the best version of yourself. Do you want to give off a nice, friendly, helpful vibe? Do you want to come off as a bit out of the box and edgy? Or do you want to just “keep it real”? All of the above are fine, depending on who your audience is and what you want to accomplish with your blog.

I look at blogging as practice for the best version of myself I want to become. I can’t edit myself in real life, but on my blog, if I write something that sounds a bit goofy, I sure love that I can go back and clean it up before I hit publish (and sometimes, even after the fact, too!)

2. Decide on a Regular Schedule

This can be as general or as detailed as you like. Do you want to blog 3 times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday for example? Or everyday? Or once a week on the weekends? Setting up a consistent schedule for yourself will make it easier to blog, knowing what to expect. Your followers will appreciate it, too. But of course, be flexible if you need to be and don’t beat yourself up if you need to skip a post every now and then. Life does get in the way sometimes!

In my excitement when I started growing my blog, I put up new posts 6 days a week. I’ve now cut that down to 4 days a week, which is still a lot by some standards. I take the weekends off and I force myself to skip at least one weekday so that I can spread my content out over a longer period of time.

3. Brainstorm Blogging Topics

Whenever I have an idea for a blog topic I want to explore, I’ll add it to an ever-growing list. That way, whenever I’m stumped about what to write, I look at my list and pick what sounds interesting to me at the moment. I’ve also set up categories of things to write about. Some of my regulars are: my soap box posts, books and product reviews, tutorials, works-in-progress, and sew and tell. Sew and tell is one of my favorites because it’s not necessarily stuff I’m working on. If something catches my interest, I love to tell my readers all about it!

It’s also OK to schedule out posts ahead of time. I will often think of things to write that are not time sensitive. So if I get the urge to write, I’ll jot down a few thoughts and edit it over time, sometimes days or even weeks ahead. Then I feel like I’m on top of my game!

4. Take Your Camera Everywhere!

I always keep a camera on hand, whether it’s my digital camera, or my phone. You never know when inspiration will strike. So often I’m always thinking, “that would make a great blog post!” so I try to capture things in the moment when they happen. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so if I have a couple of great photos, that can generate a lot of blog content.

5. Keep it Brief and Stick to One Topic

In my free-lance writing work, I’ve learned that an average magazine-length article is only about 1000 words, and the average blog article should be around 500-600 words. So if you start getting a little too wordy, your followers may lose interest. If you have a lot to say (like I often do), break it up into 2 or more blog posts. That will keep your readers coming back for more, and will give you more coverage!

Moreover, unless you are doing a “roundup” type post, try to keep your blog post to one main idea. If you are excited to show us your latest 5 finishes, only show one or two per post. It will be much more interesting that way, and you can share more details!

6. Make it Easy to Find and Follow Your Content

This goes without saying, but at a minimum, make sure you have a link to your home page at the top of your blog and a search button somewhere on the blog. When you have more time, create a nicely organized menu at the top of your page so followers can browse your content. Although pretty buttons on the side of your blog are nice, they don’t show up when someone is viewing your blog on their phone, but menus do. And by all means include a link to follow via email and/or a blog reader like bloglovin’.

These are just a few of my top tips and this post is already getting long, so I will stop right there. If you have any advice to add, please do so in the comments!

Blog Reviews – Fun Quilt Alongs and Challenges to Join

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to a few of my blogger friends who are hosting some amazing events! Many of them have already started, but thanks to the convenience of the internet, you can join at any time and work at your own pace and on your own schedule!

First of all, Melissa from Happy Quilting has another fabulous quilt along called Star Light Star Bright. It features one of my favorite units – half square triangles, lovingly known as HST’s. Melissa is always sharing tons of cool video tutorials and plenty of inspiration on her blog so be sure to check it out! You won’t be disappointed.

Quilt Along

Happy Quilting Quilt Along

Next, the super talented machine quilter, Amy from Amy’s Free Motion Quilting Adventures just launched a new quilt along which will run for the entire month of March. It’s called “McTavishing: a Free Motion Quilting Adventure” and she’ll include a giveaway to go along with the series. Fun stuff indeed!

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Free Motion Quilting Adventures QAL

SewCalGal is hosting two year-long events that will really get your creative juices flowing. Her Handmade Christmas Challenge features monthly challenges throughout the year to share holiday projects you finish in 2014.

Christmas Challenge

SewCalGal Christmas Challenge

She’s also hosting a Year of Red and White Quilt Challenges, inspired by the fabulous Red and White quilt exhibit held in New York back in 2011. As part of this year long event, there’s a special design competition running now through March 23rd. Be sure to read the full details here. It’s perfect for budding pattern designers and of course there will be fabulous prizes!

Quilt Design Challenge

Red and White Challenge

Finally, I wanted to give another shout out to my good friend Alyssa from Pile O’ Fabric. She’s hosting another fabulous skillbuilding quilt as you go series. It’s called “For the Love of Sewing” and features all sorts of adorable sewing-themed blocks. This one has a small fee involved but trust me, it’s totally worth it as she puts in way more time than what she charges for!

2014 SkillbuilderI hope you will check out these fun events!

Catching up with Christa on Craftsy

Many of you know I’ve recently become a freelance writer for Craftsy. It’s a fun excuse to write more about my love of quilting and reach a slightly different audience from those that follow my blog.Β In case you haven’t seen me over there yet, I thought I’d catch you up on the last couple of posts I’ve written.

CraftsyI wrote a piece about how you can quilt on a regular sewing machine – even one as small as a featherweight! This was a fun followup to a question about my first entry, “tips for free motion quilting.”

Featherweight

My beloved Featherweight – I don’t quilt on it – but you can!

I also gave a fun little report about my recent excursion to AQS Phoenix with a few tips on how to enter one of their shows. I’m always pro quilt-show in the hopes that more of you out there will share your amazing talents!

AQS Phoenix Best of Show

AQS Phoenix Best of Show

I usually write about one post a week for Craftsy so I still have plenty of time to write here. So far it hasn’t gotten too crazy and I plan to continue blogging (in both places) as long as it remains fun!

How about you bloggers out there – do you write multiple blogs or for multiple audiences? I’d love to know!