Thursday, May 29, 2014

DSLR vs Point and Shoot Camera

I finally did it.
I have been actively avoiding getting a DSLR camera for the past 5 years for two reasons:

•the cost
•fear of the learning curve required to use it

My birthday is next week and the best gift I could ask for is the health, happiness and well being of my family and friends and all my extended Hypernoodle pals!  There was nothing else I really wanted and couldn't even think of anything when my husband asked me if I had a specific gift in mind...that is until channel surfing late one night... (side note: anyone who knows me knows of my late-night infomercial addiction!)

I stopped channel surfing dead in my tracks on QVC.  They were having a "Today's Special Value" on the new Canon EOS Rebel T5.  This is the newest entry level "DSLR for Dummies" model that included a standard 18-55mm lens AND a 75-300mm Zoom lens with free shipping!  Not only did it come with TWO lenses, it came with a camera strap, a carrying case, instructional DVD and Photoshop Elements.

I couldn't resist.  Ordered it on the spot.  Happy Birthday to me~ lol.  Why, you ask?
Because in my efforts to avoid getting a DSLR camera the past 5 years, I have purchased 3 point and shoot cameras that were marketed as "DSLR-like".  I am here to tell ya...they are NOT (DSLR-like).

Each one didn't do something like a real DSLR camera would so I tried to upgrade to a "better" point and shoot and just ended up spending MORE money with a different point and shoot.  I spent $175 on the first camera, $260 on the second camera and $225 on the 3rd camera.  Not to mention the iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy S4 cameras on the cell phones I've had in the last 5 years!  This is about $850.00 in cameras!!   Cameras that were "fine" but not DSLR cameras.  I got my new Canon EOS Rebel T5 for $549.00 with TWO lenses AND Photoshop Elements--so in the end, I wasted 5 years and about $300 bucks!  Ugh!  (side note: I don't think QVC has this package any longer at this price.  They do have a similar one that is comparable for about $40 more)

I've always been afraid of the lenses on DSLR cameras...using them, knowing what they're for, changing them, having to spend more $ to get the "right one" name it.  I liked the "automatic" functions of the point and shoot cameras and I thought upgrading to a point and shoot that had a "Manual" mode like a DSLR would provide me the same benefits...I was wrong.  

Now, point and shoots are great cameras.  They have taken on many advancements in the last few years--even the cameras that are on our smart phones nowadays are pretty advanced.  I got great results with my point and shoots after LOTS of editing.  That was the part that was killing me...hours and hours of editing.  

Taking pictures had become my LEAST favorite part of my shop and blogging process.  It is safe to say that I completely dreaded it.  Running around like a crazy woman waiting for a decently lit day with good natural light was tiring.  And even when I had good natural light, 
I still had to edit the crud out the the pictures to get rid of shadows, darkness, adjust the exposure and correct the coloring.  As much time as I spent editing, I think I got quite good at it.  I got quite a few compliments on my pictures, but they still "bugged" me.  Most were grainy and still not crisp.  Plus the TIME I spent editing them was ridiculous!  It was taking away from time I could have spent doing something else.

So let's see what the difference is, eh? As they say, the proof is in the pudding!

These pictures are SOOC--(which means Straight out of the Camera)  With absolutely NO editing whatsoever.  Both pictures were taken in Manual Mode  with the same f-stop, aperture and ISO settings with a diffuser behind the objects.  (Diffusers "tame" the direct sunlight coming in your window or from your light source so it won't be so harsh and cause shadows).  Take a look at the massive difference:
Now...before you get too excited, I must let you know...
You can most likely take some exceptional "every day" type of pictures right out of the box with this Canon EOS Rebel T5.  It is an entry level model and designed to be super user friendly with the "auto" setting selected.
HOWEVER, The "auto" setting isn't going to cut it for these blog/product kinds of pictures though. 
It has taken me a full week and 1/2 of reading my Canon EOS manual, watching the instructional video numerous times and countless online tutorials/videos to know how to operate and use the functions on the Canon DSLR camera on the "Manual" setting (which is the setting I took these pictures in).  There was indeed a learning curve where I had to get to the point where I understood:

•shutter speed
•lens usage

Once you understand these things, your DSLR, in Manual Mode, will allow you to completely customize your settings based on the light you have available at the time you are taking pics.
The point and shoot I was using also has a "Manual Mode"--so I set it to the same settings as the Canon DSLR...doesn't seem the same does it?  I mean, this was the picture I got!  How can there be such a difference? #1 the LENS and #2 the SENSOR in each camera.  The difference in the image quality is astounding to me.

Here's another example:
Remember...these pics are straight out the camera with absolutely NO editing!

A few things to note:

•Yes, the Canon EOS Rebel T5 images are "bigger"--this is the fabulous lens.  I could have changed the lens setting to adjust the size, but I left it in the pre-set mode because the point and shoot lens in not adjustable and was in its standard (and only) setting.  Both pictures are taken from the EXACT same vantage point, seconds apart.

•Notice the diffuser I used behind my objects?  In the background of the Canon picture it is blurred--  This is on purpose.  The Manual Aperture mode I was allowed to set can bring the focus to the item in the foreground of the picture if you so choose-- and not to everything in the view of your lens.  In the point and shoot pic, you can see the diffuser...which is something I didn't want!  You can see the diffuser difference in the previous thread picture too!

•You would think looking at these pics that they were taken on different days because the point and shoot pic is SOOOOO dark!  But I promise you, they weren't!  The shutter speed that the Canon DSLR allows me to set lets more light into the lens when taking the picture!  Amaze-balls!

Here's yet another example:
Again, these pics are straight out the camera with NO editing.

Here, I also could have adjusted the Canon lens, but left it in the pre-setting to show you the image quality you get when no lens adjustments have been made.
Not only is the color quality of the Canon picture leaps and bounds above the point and shoot, the image is sharp and CRISP.  The light the DSLR allows into the lens also makes the picture more true in color right out of the gate without the darkness the point and shoot shows.

Both sets of pics from both cameras still need editing.  Major difference is: the editing from the Canon EOS Rebel T5 will be very minor.  The editing on the point and shoot pic will be massive!  I'll need considerably more time and effort to get the point and shoot images to a "presentable picture" status.  Sadly, even after the point and shoot pics are drastically edited, the image quality, color and crispness will still not be up to the standard of the DSLR pics!

If you're wondering, I did take the 1st pic in this post with my point and shoot camera (obviously couldn't take a pic of the Canon with the Canon - hee hee hee!) And yes, I had to edit the bejeezus out of it to get it to look like that and it still has shadows.  To be fair though, I didn't use the diffuser in that pic.  Nevertheless, it's still not crisp--there's quite a bit of "noise" in it!

thump...thump...thump...hear that?  That's the sound of me kicking myself for waiting so long to get a DSLR camera.

I still have a lot of learning to do, but if this is what I can do after a week of intense, hard-core learning, I'm encouraged and excited!  Bear with me through my continued learning process, I'll do my best to help you all learn some basics as they become more and more familiar to me!

Have you made the leap into a DSLR from a point and shoot?  What was your experience?  I'd love to hear from ya!

Happy Sewing (and picture taking!)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Starch alternatives...your fabric's BFF?

There is a great debate in the quilting/sewing world on whether or not to use starch or a starch alternative when pressing your fabrics...almost as great a debate on using steam or no steam with your iron.
We could spend countless hours debating all the different starch options and weighing the pros and cons!  My purpose is to give you my take on how to sew a better bag.

Let's narrow down the field right off the bat..."Regular" aerosol starches (the kind you find at your grocery store in the laundry section) are not options for me.  Besides the 'chemically' smell, they leave a nasty starch "dandruff" on your fabrics.  That crispy flaky, stuff is for the birds!
Some people like to make their own starch/sizing agent by using things such as corn starch and water or vodka and water.  I'm gonna be honest, I'm not a chemist!  And most attempts I've had had at making crafty ingredients from scratch have been a miserable failure (ask me about my homemade play dough!!)  So I'll let the experts stick to the mixing and combining of potions!
Actual starch in ironing agents has been said to attract bugs (yeeeuck!) so I prefer starch alternatives..I'm going to focus on 2 brands that I use:

Flatter by Soak
Mary Ellen's Best Press

Both of these brands come in various scents (if you prefer a scent).  I like the scent-free and scentless nose is SUPER sensitive and I can't tolerate heavy perfumes and artificial scents.  I personally don't want my fabrics to smell like a Misty Dew or a Citrus!

While neither of these brands has any noticeable chemical-like scent to them, the ingredients of the Mary Ellen's brand seems to be some sort of a mystery.  ???  Mary Ellen's does not list anywhere on the bottle or anywhere online the ingredients of their "Best Press".  Although I did find something online that says that Best Press is not carcinogenic, I STILL can't find an ingredients list!  I wonder what all the secrecy is about???
Flatter by Soak on the other hand, discloses and lists its ingredients on the bottle.  
Flatter's description says it is a mild formulation made from plant derived and renewable ingredients..YAY!  I'm not the chemical police, but our household is trying to be more "Green" and less chemical-y.

Now down to business!
Why do I use a starch alternative?  Simple...they give you a better "base" on your fabrics to build your bag with.  And not just bag projects...quilts, garments, pillows--whatever!
So yes, in my opinion, they are your fabric's BFF!  Your fabrics will be crisp, sleek and relieved of wrinkles, which you will notice, will make fabrics easier to work with, sew with and use in general.  
Fabrics can be "floppy" especially when they have a soft hand.  Sometimes piecing these "floppy" fabrics can be troublesome causing accuracy problems and/or stretched, distorted seams. (Boo!) These mishaps (and excess fraying) can be relieved by using a starch alternative before you cut out your pieces.  A starch alternative will stiffen up your fabric (don't worry, not cardboard stiff!) giving it a light "crispness".  For bags, this is ideal!  Once you add on woven interfacing to a starch alternative pressed fabric, you will be in wrinkle-free bliss!

The good news is that there isn't any major difference in these two brands as far as wrinkle removal.  Both remove wrinkles very well...but there IS a difference in how MUCH of each you'll have to use to get your fabric crisp and wrinkle free.  
Neither one will flake or give you that dreadfed starch dandruff.  However, there are some notable differences in other areas:
•You can use LESS of Flatter and get remarkable wrinkle results.
•Every once in a while, on certain fabrics, BEST PRESS may leave a slight stain.  I have not found FLATTER to leave any stains on any fabric--including denims, knits and dark fabrics.
I've had to discard several pieces of fabric that BEST PRESS has stained.  For some reason, it likes to leave (what looks like) water/grease stains on certain fabrics.  This doesn't happen on every fabric, it is sporadic (based on the content of the fabric I imagine) 
•Both are pricey!  The FLATTER is more expensive than the BEST PRESS by far.
•BEST PRESS is truly a sizing agent and will shrink your fabrics, much more than
In this pic, I had 4" squares that were sprayed and pressed.  The Flatter square had minimal shrinkage while the Best Press shrinkage was almost 1/8" in one corner.  This is why it is best to spray/press your fabrics BEFORE cutting out your pieces if you're using a starch alternative/sizing.
•The spray mist from FLATTER is fine and airy.  The spray mist from BEST PRESS is heavy and dense.
Here is a video example of the mist that comes out of 3 sprays of BEST PRESS
Here is a video example of the mist that comes out of 3 sprays of FLATTER
As you can see, the FLATTER spray is a light, fine mist.  This provides even distribution and allows you to control your sprays much better.  The spray from BEST PRESS was not evenly distributed.  It was actually a bit much, completely saturating the fabric.  
Note: The mist coming from the BEST PRESS could be remedied by using a different spray nozzle, but you will still need more sprays of the BEST PRESS to get the wrinkles out.

Here's an example on a different fabric--3" squares.  I scrunched the fabric up to give it more wrinkles.  Then I used 2 sprays on each fabric:

After pressing:
There are still wrinkles in the BEST PRESS square.  The tiny ones are hard to see, but there is quite a large one at the bottom (see arrow).  
Now considering that 2 sprays from the BEST PRESS nozzle uses quite a bit more product, you would think that it would win the wrinkle war, right? Wrong!  Ultimately, you will have to spray the Best Press piece again and re-iron.  With the Flatter piece...I'm done!
At the end of the day, I prefer the FLATTER because:
•They fully disclose the ingredients-there are no sulfates, parabens, SLS or SLES
•The light, airy, controllable mist
•No stains ever on any fabrics I've used it on
•Gets wrinkles out with less sprays
I just found out about Flatter in February and am completely in love.  I bought 3 bottles of Best Press last year at a super sale, so I still have some to use up.  I'll continue to use it because like I mentioned, it does get the wrinkles out.  But once it's gone, I'm switching 100% to Flatter for the reasons listed above.

The down-side... Flatter is not cheap :( 
An 8.4oz bottle will run around $12.00 USD, depending on where you buy it.  In comparison, a 16.9oz bottle of Best Press will run anywhere from $6.00 to $12.00 USD.  Keep in mind that although you get more of the Best Press, you use less of the Flatter overall for the same wrinkle removal results.
Flatter is made by SOAK, they are based in Canada, so if you are in Canada, it should be relatively easy to find locally!  If you are in the US or elsewhere, you can order directly from the SOAK website or use their store locator to see other online vendors and check if there is a quilt shop near you that carries it!  Soak Website
For all the non-starchers/sprayers, here is another comparison I did:

I took 3 pieces of solid fabric the same size

I then scrunched them up reeeeeaaal good--much more than your average wrinkled fabby

I used Flatter on one, a steam iron on another and no steam iron on the last:

See how much easier Flatter can make your pressing?  I pressed the Steam Iron and the No Steam Iron pieces alot longer than the Flatter piece--and the wrinkles are still extremely visable.
If you were working on a project and using Flatter, you would already be moving on to the next step.  No Flatter?  Yep, you'd STILL be pressing the same piece!
Now some may interject here and say "Hypernoodle, you could have sprayed with good old fashioned water and gotten the wrinkles out of the steam iron/no steam iron pieces!".... a certain degree.  Spraying with water will help remove the wrinkles better, but still not as efficiently or quickly as using Flatter.  Water also won't give your fabric that nice, crisp feel.  Using a starch alternative is like adding a light weight stabilizer.  It will give your fabric just the right touch of body.

The best way you can tell the difference is to try for yourself.  Ultimately, your preference will be your preference. 
Do a test of your own, get 3 pieces of fabric and on each piece use a different method:
2-Water Spray and Steam
3-Water Spray and No Steam
I think you will find that the Flatter piece is smoother and has body (making it easier to piece with)

Let me know your results!

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

C2 Boxy Bag - FREE Tutorial

I thought it appropriate that my 1st bag tutorial be one of the 1st custom bags I ever made.  

What seems like a bazillion years ago, (back in the "good ol' days" of 2006-wink!) my previous boss asked me to make her a custom bag and told me how she wanted it to look...this was what I came up with for her, and she loved it!  
I affectionately named it the "C2" bag because her first and last name both started with the letter "C".

The design is a basic "boxy" bag, so if you've ever made any form of a "boxy bag" it will be a breeze.  Simply adding some cute straps with gathered ring attachments and hardware turns it into one nifty looking bag!  

I've made this bag for ages, I used to sell it in my Etsy Handmade shop and it was a super popular seller.  I even had a repeat customer recently return after 5 years and request her 3rd one!  
Here is the one I recently made for her in a different fabric:

I'm not very good at choosing "Sewing Levels", but if you are a beginner, this is a fun challenge to tackle.  Learning how to apply hardware right out of the gate is a great way for beginners to make the run into the bag making boat!  If you're an experienced sewer or have made bags before, you'll find this bag comes together in a snap!
If you've never delved into adding hardware to your bags with rivets, rings and grommets, this project is a great jump into doing so!  You'll need tools or attachment kits to attach and set your rivets and grommets~ so check the supply list before starting.

Let's get going!
Note: **This tutorial is PIC heavy!  I wanted to add as many pics as possible for showing steps and details**
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