Sunday, 6 November 2011

What makes a great needlework blog?

Thanks very much indeed to the 15 ladies who kindly took the time to leave their comments on yesterday's survey posting.  What struck me as the bottom line as to what you regular readers think is that you like what you see, you just want a good deal more of it!  Photos, commentary, design notes (where relevant), some background and cultural articles and tutorials, but especially more photos.  Well, I shall do my best to oblige and I hope you're enjoying the photos of my latest finish alongside this post.  Look!  Three instead of the usual one!=)  I think photos can be overdone, so maybe I won't post as many as some do (I realised I need to get a good balance between what readers like and my own tastes and preferences), but I like the idea of some close-up shots as well as some angle shots.  I've done both before, but I think I'll try to make more of a habit of it.

I've switched to the newer Blogger post editor as that allows more freedom with photo sizing, so that should help with the problem I mentioned yesterday.  Failing that, two of you mentioned a third party service that I could try out, but I think this is working so far.

I've also made some changes on the blog layout and appearance, mostly to simplify.  In my opinion, there are some great and skilled needleworkers out there whose work is all but lost against the high impact graphics and multi-coloured layout of their blog template and sidebar content.  Even the post text can be in so many colours that the eye doesn't naturally settle on the photos of their beautiful work!  So, to my mind, a great needlework blog is first and foremost simple and uncluttered.  It has a plain, either very light or very dark background, perhaps with a simple border if liked, and keeps the visual focus on the photos in the main posts.  It's also free of mouse pointer graphics, things drifting across the screen and little tinkling sounds, and no music starts up when you land on the homepage.  Great content needs no gimmicks.=)

I also feel strongly that the sidebar should be a reasonable length - preferably shorter than the space needed to display the number of posts you've selected per page.  To keep the whole layout easy on the eye, sidebars are best kept to one and only in single columns.  There are all sorts of multiple column layouts available, but I recommend avoiding these and going for just one.  I personally much prefer not to have a long list of blog feeds on my blog sidebar (you can see which blogs I follow by looking at my Blogger profile), as it can get to a great length and can add too many distractions.  To be honest, I also would hate to cause offence by omitting anyone's blog....LOL!

Another common problem with blog layouts can be the header design.  Some are just so big that they require you to scroll horizontally to see the full thing and others are so long that you have to scroll quite a way down to get to the start of the blog proper!  So, I also recommend keeping the header section a reasonable size.

Oh yes, and I think that proof-reading and carefully previewing and amending layouts is vital too (this post is taking ages to get 'just so'!!).  Mistakes, gaping bare spaces and other gaffs are distracting and unprofessional, so spell-check, proof-read and adjust!  (Now watch there be an awful blunder somewhere, like once on my travel blog when I missed the 'r' out of 't-shirts'!)  And text is best left- or fully justified.  No-one right justifies, but there are some where all text is centred and it can make it harder to read, so I recommend that only if needed for a photo caption/section heading or something like that.  A great needlework blog is always easy to read and easy on the eye without irritations, don't you think?

So, I now have a white background, (although my backgrounds have always been light and contrast reasonably good), and the text, apart from links, is all black and dark grey.  Links are a petrel blue and I've changed the title font and colour too.  I also thought I'd see how I liked the photo borders (thanks for the idea, Leftsox).  The sidebar has lost about 3 of its elements so far and others have been condensed: I changed the labels list to a cloud, removed the numbers and only chose to show the textiles related ones; my other blogs have been cut down to just title and photo; and the Blog Archive has been changed to a drop down list. I also moved the blog navigation elements up to the top and added a copyright line at the bottom.  Two of the pages have also gone and I've added to what remains (some of which has been shifted around and renamed) there by putting in the photos that used to be in the sidebar gallery.  Hope to improve them soon with more text.

Tutorials are an interesting idea.  I do plan to do a few more, but I daresay there won't be a huge quantity of them as I don't feel as skilled and qualified as some seem to think I am!  Still, one can but have a go.  One e-mailed comment suggested that I might want to try plugging the gap between the 'doodle stitching for beginners' tutorials that abound and the very advanced, verging on professional level of instruction that the very serious hobbyists post, but which may be above the confidence and commitment level of some.  I like that idea, and am open to suggestions!  Caroline, you read my mind in suggesting the dragonfly as a possible tute!  I had that sort of thing in mind to try more of and to show how to do it.  It was a steep learning curve producing that baby though, so I need some time...

A few ladies expressed and interest in seeing and learning more about the Taiwanese and Korean pieces that I photographed in East Asia last year.  Great, yup, I'll have a stab at that, but be warned - I am NO expert and the info I provide alongside will be of the the simplest kind.  It would be a interesting diversion from the better known Japanese and Chinese work though, so I think it's worth doing and, yes, I'll do a little research as well.

I finally finished the narrowboat yesterday afternoon after deciding that the top stitching on the water looked tacky and that the greenery didn't need any more detail.  I also elected to use the prescribed three strands for the French knots on the boat (the flower pots on its roof), but to drop to just two for the flowers on the right hand side in the hedge area.  I felt that this would, along with a half stitch background instead of the full stitches suggested in the pattern, create an impression of texture and depth.  I appear to have started this one about 17 months before it was finished, so that was a LONG time, for a medium sized cross stitch.

Don't know if anyone remembers this photo from a post just under a year ago entitled 'Too Many WIPs'?  I had these four skeletons of pieces all laid out on our ironing board!  Well, I've now managed to flesh out and complete three of those projects (as well as a number of smalls and three childhood UFOs posted over the summer), and so now it's onto the stumpwork berries piece.  Working the beaded berries will be a new one on me, so I hope to get a grip on that and then post a simple tutorial so you can have a go too.  Sounding good?  Will be back soon, have a great Sunday.=)

© Elizabeth Braun 2011


Jules Woolford said...

Well you are really cracking on! Totally with you on the simplicity aspect,and it's looking really good.
Looking forward to seeing the berries created.

Cynthia Gilbreth said...

It looks great!!! Much cleaner and easier to read - well, it really wasn't all that hard. Thanks for your comments on mine, I'll definitely make some changes. The large photos are really a nice change. I never saw that detail in the narrowboat before.

Rachel said...

Yes, just a few changes, and good to see more photos - and larger ones as well.

Suztats said...

Sounds good and looks good, too! Bring on the berries!

Real Life Reslers said...

I agree on the tutorial thing...I love them!

Veronica said...

Oh yeah, definitely love the close up pics and the size. I think you're doing a great job so far.