Book Plates for your Spoonflower Handbook

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 10.28.05 AMI have been busy traveling and teaching the last few weeks (hi NY and NC!) and I had so many people say “Oh, if I knew you were going to be here I would have brought my book for you to sign.” (Which is awesome and super flattering. Makes a girl feel loved.) Then I had a light-bulb-moment.  I could make bookplates to sign and then I could send them to you, no matter where you are (and you don’t have to remember to bring your book)! This little toucan made an appearance in our Spoonflower Handbook Master Class this weekend, so he seemed like the perfect character to star on this book plate.

If you have a Spoonflower Handbook and you would like a hand-signed bookplate, just send me an email (beckarahn at gmail dot com) and I will mail it to you. I will also bring them along to the events I have coming up (WMQFA University Days, Shepherd’s Harvest) and you can just ask me for one. They are printed on Spoonflower’s woven wallpaper, which is peel-and-stick, so you can stick it right in your book when you get it. I did a limited run of these, so they are first-come-first-served.

I have many things to tell you about classes and events near-and-far, but that will have to wait for another day.

How do I repost in Instagram? A tutorial

I have had an Instagram account for a while, but I just wasn’t using it.  One of my goals for this spring was to dust off that account and start finding ways to use it and see if Instagram was a good social media match for me. I have been trying to post from art shows that I am at and take more behind the scenes photos while I am working on pieces. (And I post photos of my cute dogs, naturally.)

I realized that there were also some cool things I wanted to be able to “re-gram” or share from other Instagram friends, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that, so I asked my friend Google. It turns out that sharing is a little bit complicated. There isn’t a “share” button in Instagram. I read a bunch of articles and help docs and this is what I decided is my favorite solution. Keep in mind that Instagram is basically only for phone and tablets, so all of these screenshots in the tutorial are from my iPhone.

I downloaded an app called Repost. It’s a free app and my favorite part about it is that it adds a sticker to the photo you are reposting, so it is really apparent that you are sharing something from another person. That’s important to me.

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Connect Repost to your Instagram account and you are ready to go. Choose the photo you want to repost from your Instagram feed.  You can also choose to repost things from your likes or favorites by choosing those tabs at the top.  Choose the photo and tap “Repost”.

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The next screen lets you set where Repost puts that photo credit. The buttons at the bottom of the screen let you place the credit on different sides of the photo and give it a light or dark background. Then tap Repost again.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.48.01 PM

A pop up will let you know that it has copied the original caption from the photo to your clipboard. (I don’t need to remember the caption – that’s pretty great too!) Just tap OK. Next it will ask you where you want to Repost this photo. Tap the Instagram icon.

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Finally, you now have the photo moved over to Instagram. When you first pop in to Instagram, the caption is blank. Tap and hold inside the caption text box. When you release your tap, a bubble will pop up that says “Paste”. Remember when we said OK to copying the caption? This is how you get to it. Tap “Paste” in the bubble and it will add the original caption and a little extra text which says: #Repost @username with @repostapp.  This tags the person who posted the original photo, so they will know you reposted it, and your followers can see whose photo you are sharing. You can also add your own text and tags to the caption.

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Then go ahead and post it. Here’s what a repost looks like in my feed. Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.58.34 PMThere are lots of other ways to do this, but like I said, this was my favorite solution.  I like the way that I can easily re-post the caption as well as the photo and I like the “sticker” on the photo that identifies the original author. Thanks to my friend Robbin for having such a lovely photo for me to share.

Do you have a different app or method that you use to repost? I’d love to know what’s your favorite.

Dyeing Wool Yarn with Easter Egg Dye (A tutorial)

When you are an artist, nearly everything has the potential to be an art material. We dyed some easter eggs on Saturday and there was some leftover dye. Which was obviously a great excuse to dye some yarn.

These are 100% wool yarn, dyed using a basic set of PAAS easter egg tablets made up according to instructions: 1/2 c warm water and a tablespoon of vinegar. You can use them following the same basic formula as dyeing with koolaid or food coloring: color + acid + heat.  After we finished dyeing a dozen eggs, I dropped these mini skeins into the coffee cups full of dye and microwaved each one for 2 minutes. I know that wool needs more heat than eggs would be happy with in order to make that dye permanent.

After you microwave it, let them sit on the counter until the liquid is room temperature and the dye is exhausted (ie the water is clear). Don’t skip the heat step, or these colors will be much more likely to fade and bleed. No stirring or playing with the fibers when they are hot, if you don’t want it to felt. And this will only work with yarn that is wool or another protein fiber: silk, alpaca, llama etc.

These are super saturated colors because I had a lot of dye and not very much yarn. I estimate that you could dye up to .5 oz of yarn with 1 tablet and get colors this intense. The more yarn you add, the more pastel the color will be.

For a few, I mixed the colors just to see what else I could get. The top 6 colors are the plain tablet, the bottom four are a 50/50 mix of two colors, which I poured into an extra coffee cup. Interestingly, the green was an aqua turquoise color on my eggs, but true emerald green on the yarn.


I am sure the PAAS tablets are on clearance at the grocery store today, so I am planning a walk over there to stock up on a few more boxes.  Just because this is fun.  The same thing goes for yarn dyed this way as I said in my yarn dye/food coloring tutorial: Your colorfastness may vary. I wouldn’t make an heirloom knit with yarn dyed this way, but it is super fun for a hat or mittens that will get you through a few winter seasons.


Three Ways to make a NEW Etsy Banner using PicMonkey (A tutorial)

Etsy is rolling out a whole new look for your shop in a couple of weeks. I will admit to some initial grumbling myself and thinking “now I have to redesign everything”, but I actually like the new design quite a bit.  I think it was time for a refresh and I think it will make it more appealing to buyers in the long run.  I know Etsy has put together some templates with Canva to help you create a new shop banner, but I have never used it and the idea of learning another new platform/software wasn’t really appealing.  I also, to be quite honest, hate something that makes you log in and give them information before you ever even see what it’s about.  Sorry, Canva.

So I thought I would put together a tutorial in PicMonkey, which I use here a lot, requires no logging in and I think is also really simple to use.  If you want just a single photo as a banner, you can upload it right to Etsy and reposition it live in the browser. For these three banner ideas, I have taken the photos and ideas just a little step further so you need to do a little design before you upload it.

Etsy Banner Version One: Just a Photo (with a little branding)

Go to and choose Design -> Custom from the menu at the top.


A set of boxes will pop up and ask you for the size.  The new Etsy banner has a minimum size of 1200 x 300 pixels.

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Now you have a blank canvas that is the right size.

I started by adding a canvas color to this blank canvas. PicMonkey has sets of tools you can choose from that appear down the left side of the screen.  Choose the Basic Edits tool set (it’s the top one that looks like a crop box) and then choose Canvas Color just to the right.  Don’t forget to hit apply.


I chose one of the colors that is in my “brand” color palette. This banner is an opportunity for me to personalize my Etsy shop, so I want to tie it in to my branding.  I’m going to add a photograph on top of this, because I think that this new banner style really lends itself to photos.  To add a photo, choose the Overlays Tool Set from the left sidebar, which has an icon that looks like a butterfly.  And then pick Your Own from that dropdown menu at the very top.  I chose the photo I wanted and PicMonkey placed it on my canvas. I used the corner toggles on the photo to make it a little larger and the rotate tool (a knob on the top center of the photo) to turn it 45 degrees, which makes an interesting chevron shape against my background.

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I saved this file and uploaded it to my Etsy shop.  Here’s what that simple banner looks like in my new shop homepage.

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Etsy Banner Version Two: Not a Photo

Maybe you don’t have a photo that you think really represents your shop very well and you would rather have something a little more graphic. Here’s an idea for that.  Start the same way by choosing Design -> Custom and sizing it to 1200 x 300.

Instead of adding a canvas color, we will add a textured background.  Choose the Textures Tool Set from the left sidebar.  The icon looks like a diagonal grid.  For this example, I picked the Boards textures from the list and added a chalkboard texture to my canvas.  Be sure to click Apply.

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For this version, I thought I might want to add some text to this design that talks about what’s in my shop.  First I went to the Overlays Tool Set and picked an arrow from the Dashed & Lined options.  Then I added Text with the Text Tool (Tt icon) in the left sidebar.

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Save and upload to Etsy and here’s what this version would look like.

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Or a little bit silly version with just a few more overlays and text.  (I haven’t actually designed my own new banner and I am really liking the idea of this one.)

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Etsy Banner Version Three: A Collage

PicMonkey also has a really simple collage tool that would make a great banner.  Go back to the main PicMonkey menu and choose Collage.  It will immediately pop up a window asking you to choose some photos for the collage.  Find some photos and click open.  (You can add more later.)


Before you start adding photos to the design, choose a collage arrangement under the Layouts Tool set (the icon looks like a collection of rectangles).  The preset for a Facebook Cover works great for this, but you can choose any layout you like.

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At the bottom of the screen there is a box which shows the dimensions of your collage.  Click the lock icon on the right to unlock it and then change it to 1200 x 300 pixels.

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Now you can add your photos by clicking the Photos Tool Set (mountains icon) and dragging the thumbnails of the photos to the empty boxes in the collage. Clicking on a photo in the collage will bring up a tool to resize it.  Drag them to move them within the collage box.  You can also adjust the background color of the collage and the spacing of your boxes by using the Background Tool Set (icon looks like a paint palette).  PicMonkey has a great collage tutorial that shows you a few more things like how to add more boxes and resize them.

Here’s a collage style banner that has been uploaded to my shop.

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I hope this has given you a great starting point and some ideas that might make this update little more fun and less of a chore.  I’d love to see what you come up with!  Share a screenshot with me on instagram or twitter @beckarahn.


A Post Revisited: 10 Things They Don’t Tell You about Being an Artist

I originally wrote this post about a year ago after I had just finished with a giant art show and 36 hours on my feet.  As that same art show is rolling around in just a few short weeks, I thought of that post and thought I would look back and see what I should remember.  I have added a few more points to the list based on some great comments from my fellow artists.IMG_2151.JPG

I just finished 28 hours of an art show.  That’s probably really 36 hours in “art show hours” on my feet on a hard concrete floor once we have finished set up and tear down.  The experience was amazing and I wouldn’t trade any of those minutes for anything, but chatting with my fellow artists all weekend brought out some things that we agreed they never tell you are part of the job description.

1.  Describe your art in 10 words.

When you meet anyone at an art fair there are about 100 things competing for their attention.  You need to be able to talk about what you do in 10 words or less if you want to start a conversation with someone and talking about your art is why both of you are there, usually.  My phrase for this event was “Let me know if you have questions.  These are all digitally printed fabrics from manipulated photographs.”   Most people would pause for a second (as they made sense of all of those technical sounding words that I just said) and then I would get a big smile and they would say “Oh, that’s really cool!” or “Wow, I’ve never heard of that.”  I had a lot of really great conversations that started just that way.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.37.48 PM2.  Cute outfits always include comfortable shoes.

There is just nothing like the 10th hour on your feet in inappropriate shoes.  Danskos will save your life.  Cute dress, tights, danskos, cardigan sweater.  That’s my uniform.  Pockets are also really necessary.  Also, dress in layers.  If it’s crowded in the venue, it can get steamy.  Or they will crank up the AC to combat the steaminess and you will be freezing.  Or you’ll end up by the door where there is a draft.

3.  Eat lunch in 2 dozen 2 bite segments.

Almonds, cheese and apple slices are my very favorite show lunch.  You can eat two bites between conversations, and your fingers don’t get messy.  Sometimes you are lucky and you can step away for a few minutes and sometimes you just can’t.

4.  You will get sick the week after it is done.

I shook about eleventy-thousand hands and I was already stressed and a little sleep deprived from getting everything ready.  It was inevitable.  I should remember to schedule nothing the week after because that’s exactly what is going to get done:  nothing.

5.  You will have another deadline.

The week I was getting ready for this show (the biggest one I have ever done!) was also the week that the final edit of the manuscript for my book was due.  Yup.  Two deadlines right on top of each other and by the time I realized that they were all going to happen on the same week there was nothing I could do but hang on for the ride.  The universe will sense all of that great creative energy and will throw things at you like crazy.  The best strategy is to just admit that you are insane and not let the stress get to you.  I let some things go, I wrote some emails and apologized for having to delay a few others and I tried to enjoy what I could – these were really GOOD things happening that were making me stressed.

Screen shot 2011-05-10 at 4.57.39 PM6.  Make sure everything has wheels.

A friend reminded me of this one.  You always have to move things and walk farther than you expect.  Rolling suitcases are the greatest invention ever.

7.  Keep smiling.

To quote my friend Donna: Even when your feet hurt and you need to pee, find a genuine smile and share it with everyone — especially your fellow exhibitors. Repeat to yourself silently, “I’m so happy to be here!” That mantra can charge the atmosphere around you with positive energy.

8. Someone will say something insulting.

I like to be positive and try to think that people aren’t trying to say something negative about my work on purpose or with a mean spirit, but there is always someone that says something that makes your heart sink and sometimes your mouth hang open.  The most common comment is “They want how much?  I could make that for way cheaper.” Those are pretty easy to ignore.  I have been guilty of thinking that one too. But sometimes, they are over the top.  For example, at one event I had someone tell me how gorgeous a piece of mine was and then when I explained the process, she told me it was cheating that I printed it digitally and it wasn’t real art like dyers do.  (Yes, she said this to my face.)  I have decided that the best way to handle these is to take a breath and change the subject.  “There are a lot of new technologies out there for making art.  Have you seen the laser cut wood down the way?  I love what he is doing with…”  or “Oh, do you like dyed pieces? There is an artist doing that over that way…”

photo 59.  Bring hot tea.  Bring Advil.

After standing and chatting with people all day long, my throat is always scratchy and my voice gravelly.  I have a thermos that will keep tea hot for hours and it is like a magic elixir after Hour 7 of small talk.

10.  Make friends with your neighbors.

You are going to be in each other’s way all day. Space is usually at a premium at these events, which means you are 2 inches from someone else’s art and you are both trying to hide your water bottle in the dark corner between your booths.  At one show I didn’t have room for a mirror due to some shared space logistics and the across-the-aisle artist noticed and moved hers so that people could turn around in my space and look at the mirror in hers.  It was incredibly generous of her and made my day 100 times better.  I’ve shared shopping bags, change, and sharpies; held tired babies; made group coffee runs; and learned some really cool stuff from other artists listening to them talk about their work.

Classes on the Road: Digital Fabric Design at Arrowmont

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 12.38.04 PMIn June, I will be spending a week at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg TN.  I haven’t ever been to Arrowmont, but I have heard all kinds of amazing things about the experience there, so I am excited to have been invited.

Our class at Arrowmont will be intense.  We have 37 hours to explore all kinds of techniques for designing your own fabric.  For the class in April at Spoonflower, we are going to focus on Adobe Illustrator, but for this one at Arrowmont, it is all about Photoshop and layers and texture.  I have had several potential students email with questions about the class (which is awesome) and so I thought I should talk a little more about what we will be doing, since the description in the Arrowmont catalog is necessarily brief.

waterlilyquiltMy theme for this class will be exploring the different paths you can take to design fabric. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a blank page with an equally blank mind.  Where do you start?

We are going to start this class by building a common vocabulary.  We will talk about pixels and resolution and color.  We will learn about different design tools that are common to Photoshop and other graphics programs (select, layer, opacity, offsets).  Then we will start building a toolbox of techniques.  Each day in this class we will take a different path to start a fabric design.  One day we will work with scanned found objects; one day we will start with photos; one day we will doodle with paint.  We will learn ways to layer and manipulate textures borrowed from other objects.

Are you ready for this class? You don’t need to know anything about Photoshop or designing fabric.  It is helpful if you are comfortable working with computers and you have maybe explored Photoshop (or other graphics programs) a little on your own.  You should be able to pull a photo off of your camera, save it and find it again.  You should be able to connect to wifi and navigate webpages.  You should be brave enough to try things and not worry that you are going to “break something”.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 6.37.11 PMWe will be creating a faux batik, similar to this tutorial I put together.  Why faux batik?  Because it is a fantastic way of practicing a set of design techniques you can use for many other things: scanning your original artwork and manipulating the colors, digitally coloring a design, layering with a photographic textures.  It’s a great model that will teach you many skills that you will be able to use for future designs.

We will all go crosseyed if we have to spend 7 hours a day looking at computer screens, so I have a lot of design ideas and exercises that we will do offline as well to help break things up.  These will be things like learning how to make seamlessly repeating designs or creating balance in a repeating pattern. We will take a photo walk looking for textures.

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You will also have time in class to explore something independently.  I want you to be able to work on your own, but with the ability to ask questions and screw things up with help right there.  So we will set aside time for me to work with each student one-on-one to explore your own design goal.

These are some of my goals for class.  I hope that by the end of class, students will have learned:

  • digital vocabulary for fabric design (pixels, resolution, repeats, seamless, layers, colorway etc)
  • scanning and manipulating your own artwork and found objects
  • creating a design using original art (painted paper) and layers
  • creating a colorway from a photograph
  • using photographs in fabric designs
  • basic Photoshop skills and tools
  • other tools for digital design: RepperPatterns, Adobe Color
  • independent projects with instructor guidance
  • tour of Spoonflower site and tools, show and tell of printed fabrics, examples

You can see all of the details at Arrowmont’s website.  If you want to know more about any part of class, feel free to email me!