Category Archives: Education

Quick Tip: Improving the Quality of Your Cell Phone Photos


I’m playing around with BandiCam today and thought I’d use it to create quick tutorial for my NaBloPoMo post today.

We all take them, but are we always happy with our cell phone shots of our crochet work?  I bet not!  Here’s a super quick tweak you can use that often instantly improves the appearance.

OK, so it’s my first BandiCam video, but what d’ya think?  I hope you find it helpful!

Btw, the girl in the middle of that photo is my daughter! She made her costume and the costume of her friend Alex on her left.

AND she made that narwhal sword!  Along with her other best friend Beckie (with the tail), the three girls are dressed as characters from the graphic novel, Bizenghast.

Seriously, my daughter is cooler than me!

Until next time…

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Filed under Crochet Education, Education, NaBloPoMo

Four Tips For Creating Your Own Graphic Work


Today’s NaBloPoMo post sort of bleeds into my “official” work life, where I hock my writing, social media and graphic skills for daily ad jobs. 

The need for good graphics in the blogosphere, as well as the entire social media network, is undeniable.  However, not everyone has an expensive designer at their beck and call.  So like most good makers, many people try to come up with their own graphics.  Sometimes they work.  A lot of times they don’t.  Here are a few tips that might help you when you know just enough to be dangerous, but find yourself struggling with the final result.

Design first at a very high resolution and size. 

Once you have finished your creation, you can always shrink the display size, while maintaining the integrity of the detail.  Higher resolution and larger image size does mean more data, but the payoff is better images to work with.  For social media work, I generally ask my clients to send me files between 200px and about 500px wide.  I usually work with 800ppi, mostly because it’s better for book covers and printing (other freelance work I do too) and I like to do things well, but once – with built-in options.  I can always shrink a photo.  I can’t always expand it.  At minimum, use 400ppi if you want a crisp, easy to read result that has enough play in it to be manipulated as you need it.

Simplify the text content when it comes to graphic ad copy and memes. 

For instance, when you’re designing a click-through banner or graphic, too much information on the visual will not increase the likelihood of someone clicking the link.  In fact, it almost guarantees the opposite.  You want just enough info and a good visual.  The goal for this kind of ad is to get people to click-through to your site for more info, or for people to share it.  Too much info is a distraction from these goals.  When it’s an ad, like a banner, the temptation is to put everything on that graphic.  But you can choke people with information if you overwhelm them.  Whatever link you are sending banner clicks to will have room for way more information anyway.  The graphic’s job is to funnel people to that page.  Then let the landing page take over once the clicks make it through.  Here’s an example of a banner ad I designed.  See, not too much to it, but it definitely has appeal.

Four Tips For Creating Your Own Graphic Work - Aberrant CrochetBtw, this is just an example of an ad I’ve designed to illustrate the above point. It is not a live ad, nor do I sell ads on my blog here.

Avoid fru-fru fonts in ad work. 

I’m an artist.  I get it.  We right-brainers love those cool fonts.  But they are not always best for digital marketing and should be used sparingly.  When I create a banner ad for someone, I’m trying to capture the attention span of someone flipping through the website it will be displayed on.  Think of the speed necessary to communicate your main offer in a glance and the general energy and mood your market prefers. Marketing art is not the same as marketing insurance.  People buy each for very different reasons.  Crisp lettering is important.  Colorful is helpful.  But not too much or your message might be lost.

Use good software.  

Today’s graphic demands are pretty substantial.  Good tools help make great things.  That doesn’t mean you have to get the most expensive thing.  I used to use Photoshop for everything.  Today, I mostly use Gimp, which is a free open source program sort of like PS.  It takes time to learn, but it can do quite a lot. 

If you don’t have great software to design with, for smaller, simpler things try using http://PicMonkey.com Pic Monkey a nice quality free online tool that saves at high res.  Just remember to save your original file in .png for better quality and save at least twice the size of your final desired result.

I hope these tips help!  If you have questions, let me know in the comments.  Later!

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Sometimes It Takes Being MacGyver To Succeed


You know, there’s a neat little benefit that something like the NaBloPoMo challenge gives you, as a writer, and as an individual pushing yourself to grow.

It puts you against a wall.

There are two types of fuel for success in the world: inspiration and pressure.  And while we often crave the first, it’s the latter that we need to value a bit more.  Because it often helps us the most.  Why? Because it forces us to deal with things we would not otherwise choose to.  And we need that as a balanced part of life too.  Not too much of either, but enough of either one.

NaBloPoMo is 30 days, blogging every single day, no matter what.  And of course, when you participate during the traditional November month, there’s always Thanksgiving week in there too.  So you have to make your turkey, and eat and write about it too.

But putting yourself on a daily deadline and making that honor commitment to make your posts count every day is quite something to embrace.  It creates stress, it forces you to be creative under less than ideal circumstances and it gets you to face a task you might otherwise wish to avoid.  And it forces you to adapt when things don’t go as expected.  Even when you have some ideas on what to write about, it doesn’t mean that those ideas will spark and flow the day you need them to.

The same is true in business.  Even when you prepare and have a plan, it doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to work out.  And you have to learn to be flexible.  To think on your feet and not get bent out of shape too easily over anything.

As for writing, I personally have 49 subject ideas in my queue right now.  And not a one of those ideas would flow for me tonight.   So with the clock winding down to midnight and not an idea that wants to say more than a sentence or two, the pressure pot is on.

Then it dawned on me, that pressure pot often squeezes the best out of me.  Because when push comes to shove, and all you have is a rubber band, a piece of gum and a toothpick and the timer is running out, some kind of genius takes place when you focus well enough.

And that’s a lot of what we deal with in business.  Heck, sometimes it’s why we’re in business.  We were put against a wall, our choices were pared down and we were forced to work with a situation that was not ideal or to our liking.  Like getting laid off, or having a child with special needs or whatever.  And we had to come up with a solution and rise above.

Being in business for yourself is risky stuff, and sometimes you have to think like MacGyver in one of those unexpected situations.  How are you going to fix this, or deal with that or avoid those?  The pressure is not often what I would call pleasant, and sometimes it happens as a result of some failure (learning experience) on our part, but it does often in my experience push me to elevate my thinking and come up with a solution.  And I always grow.

So don’t be afraid to feel pressure.  Sometimes it brings up in you skills you didn’t know you had.  Sometimes that wall is more support than you think.  And sometimes even, it becomes your greatest story.

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Filed under Business, Education, NaBloPoMo

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows


I’ve done shows for some years now. And one of the things every newbie (and many seasoned) sellers struggle with is how to handle displaying your pricing.  Sometimes sellers think that not using tags or pricing will somehow make their items look more professional and nicer.  But one of the biggest mistakes an artist can make is by not displaying (or hiding altogether) the price of their work.

From a marketing standpoint, you want your customers to not only be able to see your prices, but to see that you have a range of prices. You want highs and lows and in-betweens. You will always have those buyers looking for the cheapest they can get and occasionally (maybe more often depending on the venue and location) those buyers who have no financial restraints. But most of your customers and sales are going to fall into that mid-range.  And a lot of that is frankly psychology.  Most of us don’t want the cheapest, but we also can’t always afford the best.  So we aim for the middle somewhere.  I can’t afford X, and Z is not nearly as nice, so I’m going to settle for a lesser expensive Y.  We like to work in three’s.

We tend to approach everything in life this way, like a bowling ball bumping its way down a kiddie lane, trying to find that nice wide middle.  By not providing that largest of human buying demographics the middle-ground it seeks, you set up a scenario where it’s not easy for buyers to make the decisions they are used to, because one (or more) of the three legs is missing.  Either that or there are way too many legs to choose from.  And if it’s not easy, then buyers don’t buy.  So you’re also handicapping yourself in sales.  Because let’s face it – buyers of handmade goods in the US don’t typically quibble over 50 cents here or a $1 there.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.  What they are really looking for in their buying decisions is justification.  And they will judge your pricing as a means of measuring the worth of your work.

So make sure your prices are visible and do not hide them.  Whether you do this by pricing with tags, little cards, or by using a sign with color codes dots, I’m not sure it matters. But make those prices visible and have a high, a (or some) middle and a low always. You could always opt for a pricing gun or gold ink or something if you’re trying to professionalize the look further.

There’s another consideration in the matter of pricing.  Many of your best customers are also the ones who do not like to touch displays very much and who will want to window shop a show for bit first before they handle any items. (And many buyers do not like to “show their hand” when they are interested in something.) Too many of these customers would rather walk away than touch an item to look for a price if it’s not clear what price range your booth is. Haggling is not a “high-end” kind of mentality and most juried shows don’t allow it, but also, many customers are uncomfortable with it. Also keep in mind, there are most definitely some shows out there where customers will judge you if you are not expensive enough. If you don’t think your work is worth very much, why should they?

Lastly, you should know that it’s not only your typical buyers who peruse shows.  You could have potential customers who are looking at your items from a business point of view (i.e. consignment shops who peruse shows looking for new blood).  Making sure your pricing is visible, broad spectrum and in balance, can help them make a business decision faster too. There are several kinds of eyes at shows and if you want to make sales, you want to catch them all.

Pricing is not just about affordability, but also the value you place on your work. It says a lot about you.  So think about the image you wish to convey and price accordingly.  And don’t get stuck on “nobody will pay that, so I’ll charge pennies” mentality.  Women are especially bad about valuing their work for some reason.  So think on it this way.  For the same money, you can work super hard at lower quality to sell several, or you can pour yourself into better quality and sell one.  One of these requires more patience than the other.  Which will help you find your balance in life and get you where you want to be?

If you need more ideas for doing shows, I wrote an article about shows you might find helpful here: aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/about-doing-craft-shows-ob…

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Filed under Doing the Show Circuit, Education, NaBloPoMo

My Crochet Hook Experiment Will Be At Round Rock Mini-Maker Faire! Tomorrow!


Hey guys! Sorry for the late notice, but wanted to let you know that I will be at Mini-Maker Faire in Round Rock, TX tomorrow. This is in the Austin, TX area and entry is FREE – so if you’re in the area I’d love to see you!  I’ve been flying by the seat this week and was accepted at the last-minute, so bear with me!  But I’m really excited!

They edited some of it, but you can get more info about the event and see my intro/project description here: http://roundrockmakerfaire.com/call-for-makers/aberrant-crochet.

What am I doing? Well, you know Jimbo and I started a crochet hook experiment at the last Crochet Liberation Front Crochet at Cama Retreat. We carved up a bunch of hooks that all had variations in design. Long throats, short throats, narrow lips, wide lips, deep bowls and shallow wedges. And everything in between. Greenwoman and Cerdeb’s hubbies and others attending the retreat also helped us get these hooks carved up in time for us to try out the idea at the retreat. Maker Faire deleted part of my explanation of this story, but suffice to say, this is something Jimbo and I worked on together.

We were trying to see how folks would use them, which ones they might tend to like and frankly – just what if we’d learn something! And honestly, it’s not like we had a specific plan. We just made them, talked about them and then put them into people’s hands and asked for input. At the time, because we were showing these hooks to an audience as well, we decided to use large fat hooks so the differences would be accentuated.

However, this time, I want to do the experiment locally with much smaller hooks, more typical of what most crocheters might use. So between Jimbo and I, we’ve created more basic hooks from the smallest dowels we could find – about a J. And I have to thank Jimbo for his help here. I didn’t have enough time to carve them all myself, so he helped!

So here’s the deal – if you’re interested, I’ve love to watch you crochet, take some photos/video of your hands (with permission and model release) and get your input on the shapes we’ve come up with. I want to hear your story! How do you use your hands? what did you used to do before you crocheted? And tell me about any problems you’re experiencing with your hooks too!

Am I super planned with this? No not really. I hope you’ll be as laid back as I hope to be. I only just found out Maker Faire was coming to my town about 10 days ago. But it’s definitely a chance to reintroduce this project. I want to travel the world to meet women through crochet and to study their tools someday. That’s my big thing and this is a beginning part of that. Jimbo and I’d like to travel to other US areas with this and get some real input from real crocheters about the way they use their hooks. And then blog and write about it along the way.

I’ve also been asked to help cover for a table that will run out of materials and close early, so I’ve added finger knitting to the list of activities for young kids, and have plenty of yarn. I have no idea what kind of crowds to expect, but if you are in the area and feel like hanging out, I wouldn’t mind an extra hand. 🙂 Just let me know.

There will be a little seating area near my table so the kids can sit to finger knit, but feel free to sit awhile and crochet if there’s room!
My daughter also plans to be in costume tomorrow and will show off the wood anime sword she made for Halloween last year.  It’s really something, so do come see it in person if you are interested!

😀


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Filed under Artist Information & Notes, Education, Events, Make Faire

Have You Heard of The Five Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do) – From The Tinkering School?


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About 18 months ago I was introduced to an educational concept I’m completely in love with, called The Tinkering School. It’s right up my alley in a Maker Faire kind of way, calling straight to the heart of my inner child. As well, it sweetly validated a general sense of parental philosophy when it comes to learning what I call essential life-skills and the duty of parents to expose their children to the real world and humanity’s natural state of innovation.

Started by Gever Tulley, The Tinkering School concept provides an exploratory environment using real tools and real materials to get kids directly into the mix of experimenting and learning how to take an idea and simply make it. But also it stimulates kids to learn how things do work, might work and could work. A rather organic way of learning if you ask me – very, very natural. I love it! (Or is that just my inner steam punker?)

I am not new to the philosophy. If anything, it’s a part of the

Jack’s Key Blade (Kingdom Hearts)

code of life I carry in my heart. You can see an example of this in my daughter’s creative efforts pictured here. I didn’t design any of her key blade (based off a magical weapon in a popular video game called Kingdom Hearts). She did the whole thing herself. Hers was the spark, hers was the plan. About all I did was take her to the lumber store for the dowel rod and the dry cleaners for the cardboard tubes from hangers. Aside from a little cutting Daddy really had to do, this entire project, even down to asking a thrift store to help her find a piece of wood in their scraps so she could cut stars out of, was all her. On the one hand, I’m adamant about taking care of the things my kids can’t do yet, like driving themselves to the store. On the other hand, I’m adamant that if they have an idea, they should get creative and make a plan themselves too. Even down to “What kind of materials and how will I acquire them?” I love supporting them even though my pocketbook is not very thick, and I know better than most that where there’s a will, there a way. Figuring out how to afford things is a life skill too.

Halloween 2009 – Fan Fiction – Kingdom Hearts

So as you can imagine, finding the following video on Five Dangerous Things (Kids Should Do) just made me feel incredibly happy, validated and empowered in my principles of parenting! #1 on his list just flat out made me giggle. Then again, they all kind of did.

Austin is lucky to have it’s own version of the school called Austin Tinkering School. Though related in concept, the two schools are actually independent from each other. My son had the exciting experience of attending their boat making workshop (big enough for a kid or two to sit in) on his birthday last year and LOVED it. As my tween engineer, it helped make for one of the best memories he’s probably had in getting to just get right into the materials and try to make something without someone trying to lecture him first or slow him down.

So all the links are here – go check it out!

I found out about the Austin Tinkering School through mutual friends of Austin Area Homeschoolers. If you landed on my page because you’re looking for alternative educational approaches and life enrichment, etc., I do highly recommend AAH as a great local resource, whether you are a traditional homeschooler or not.

So Happy Tinkering Ya’ll!

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Filed under Education, Friends and Family

Tech Help For Crafters In A Left-Brain World: IP Address Conflict


Tech Ideas For Right-Brainers

Alright, I know I’m not the only one who works with computers, yet doesn’t always understand the problems that can arise.  It’s actually pretty common in the artistic, right-brain type worlds – after all we’re wired for music and art, not necessarily programming.  But we all know by now that we have to market and connect by using computers, even if we aren’t computer experts ourselves.  So I’ll try to share tips and fixes as I experience and come across them, in layman’s terms.

"Things I love that hurt me so. On the fast road to carpal tunnel." Have you met fellow Texan Stephanie Toppin, the crochet personality behind @ObeyCrochet? This awesome drawing is here thanks to her. I'm a total fan! Click the photo above to check out the ObeyCrochet site and subscribe to her humorous and ingenious crochet musings! Hook on sistah! (And tell her you want a T-Shirt!)

Today’s insight comes from personal experience: when a little bubble pops up on your screen and tells you that your computer has an IP address conflict with another computer on your network.  What to do?

This didn’t become an issue for our family until the kids acquired wireless laptops for the ever-increasing demand for their school work.

Suddenly, we had fatal printing failures popping up every where.

Now if you’re like me, when a message like that appears, you’re wondering what the heck is up, you’re worried if someone has hacked into your computer and you have no idea what to do.

I just want my computer to work when I turn it on.  I didn’t know what the heck to do about a technical address.

Well, it took some doing, but I did find a fix and from my research it’s my understanding that unless you are using a wireless network, this probably doesn’t affect you much.  But in our case, where every family member has a computer, and everyone prints wirelessly to the only printer in the house AND they all connect to the internet wirelessly through our router, when that message pops up, someone is going to suddenly be unable to print their documents at all.  Not fun when homework is due the next day.  Not fun when a work deadline is due either. And especially not fun when none of the computers run on the same version of Windows either.

I came across a lot of ideas on fixes, ranging from rebooting to hand typing a new address (which I never did find out where that would be done anyway).  I found no solutions that were straight forward and made sense and worked for us.

Until I came across the simple command based type solution.  That makes sense to me.  It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s logical and it’s simple to understand.  And I come from the era of learning to program Atari computers in Basic and the world of PROFS when I worked at IBM (administrative), so yeah work with me – typing commands DOS style makes sense.

This fix was found in the recesses of Microsoft.com’s discussion areas (go figure).  I have since cleaned my caches and lost the link to it, or I’d share it with you.  Luckily I made myself notes in a Word file for reference, so here it is for your reference:

The fix at least for a PC:

First get an idea which computer(s) on your network probably have the conflict. If everything’s fine until dear daughter turns on her laptop, it’s a clue.

1. On the offending computer, open your start menu.  This is usually a button on the lower far left corner that says start, or displays a Microsoft flag on it.  Click it.

2. Then click on run.

3. Type “CMD” (with no quotes) and press enter.  This will open a black command box.

4.  At the command prompt type:  IPCONFIG/RELEASE.  Press enter.
(This releases the IP address your computer is currently using.  It’s possible this will take a few seconds for your computer to process.)

5. Then at a new prompt type: IPCONFIG/RENEW. Press enter.
(This will assign a new IP address to your computer.  It is possible this will also take your computer some time to process.)

And that’s it!  Done.  Works!  Isn’t it simple?  Doesn’t it make sense?  Once the command is carried out and your black screen shows you the new IP address, close the black command window and you will be back in business.  You don’t even have to restart your computer.

The why’s of how this IP conflict happens? Well, I’m not that technically educated in the matter, but from what I gather, our computers are generally set up to automatically assign each one a unique IP address to use while working on the wireless network.  This way each computer can be told apart as they all connect and print and do their things on the same network.  But occasionally, an IP address is duplicated.  When this happens, it causes computer confusion on the network as it looks like the same computer exists in two places.  And we all know from our sci-fi movies that this eventually leads to breakdown.  I don’t know all the ins and outs, but hey, I got this much and it seems to be a fairly common, yet benign problem.

So there you go, a not-so-easily-found quick little fix, for apparently a fairly common problem.  And no it won’t hurt your computer.  Hope you find this helpful and stay tuned for future tech ideas for the right-brain focused! Please remember to thumb this post up and share if you found it helpful!

So until next time… see you then! 😀

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Filed under Business, Education, Tech Idea Thursday

Have You Heard of The Five Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do) – From The Tinkering School?


Bookmark and Share

I was recently introduced to an educational concept I’m completely in love with, called The Tinkering School. It’s right up my alley in a Maker Faire kind of way, calling straight to the heart of my inner child. As well, it sweetly validated a general sense of parental philosophy when it comes to learning what I call essential life-skills and the duty of parents to expose their children to the real world and humanity’s natural state of innovation.

Started by Gever Tulley, The Tinkering School concept provides an exploratory environment using real tools and real materials to get kids directly into the mix of experimenting and learning how to take an idea and simply make it. But also it stimulates kids to learn how things do work, might work and could work. A rather organic way of learning if you ask me – very, very natural.  I love it!  (Or is that just the steam punker in me?)

Though I’m new to the knowledge that such a wondrous “school” (official title and expert’s books and all that) exists, I am not new to the philosophy. If anything, it’s a part of the

Jack's Key Blade (Kingdom Hearts)

code of life I carry in my heart. You can see an example of this in my daughter’s creative efforts pictured here. I didn’t design any of her key blade (based off a magical weapon in a popular video game called Kingdom Hearts). She did the whole thing herself. Hers was the spark, hers was the plan. About all I did was take her to the lumber store for the dowel rod and the dry cleaners for the cardboard tubes from hangers. Aside from a little cutting Daddy really had to do, this entire project, even down to asking a thrift store to help her find a piece of wood in their scraps so she could cut stars out of, was all her. On the one hand, I’m adamant about taking care of the things my kids can’t do yet, like driving themselves to the store. One the other hand, I’m adamant that if they have an idea, they should get creative and make a plan themselves too. Even down to “What kind of materials and how will I acquire them?” I love supporting them even though my pocketbook is not very thick, and I know better than most that where there’s a will, there a way. Figuring out how to afford things is a life skill too.

So as you can imagine, finding the following video on Five Dangerous Things (Kids Should Do) just made me feel incredibly happy, validated and empowered in my principles of parenting! #1 on his list just flat out made me giggle. Then again, they all kind of did.

Austin is lucky to have it’s own version of the school called Austin Tinkering School. Though related in concept, the two schools are actually independent from each other. My son had the exciting experience of attending their boat making workshop (big enough for a kid or two to sit in) on his birthday and LOVED it. As my little engineer, it helped make for one of the best memories he’s probably had in getting to just get right into the materials and try to make something without someone trying to lecture him first or slow him down. I haven’t seen the boat yet, since he went with a friend’s family, but when I do, I’ll be sure to post a photo. For now the hard part is finding a date to have the truck to pick up the large boat and find a body of water to haul it too and let us test his thing out!

So all the links are here – go check it out!

If you’re wondering how I found out about the Austin Tinkering School, I had help from some friends of mine from our half-day charter school who keep up with the Austin Area Homeschoolers. If you landed on my page because you’re looking for alternative educational approaches and life enrichment, etc., I do highly recommend AAH as a great local resource, whether you are a traditional homeschooler or not.

So Happy Tinkering Ya’ll!

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Filed under Editorial, Education, Friends and Family, handmade, kids, Make Faire