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Tracing is not cheating!

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I really enjoy the design process when starting out a new embroidery. The delicious hours of research on the internet or looking through art books, sketching, then getting out the pencils and textas to flesh out the design in colour. Finally comes the moment when the design gets transferred to fabric and you thread the the needle….

I have never been entirely happy with the methods I used to transfer patterns. Using normal drawing pens worked, but there was always the risk that the black ink would run when the final product was washed. Using the embroidery transfers alleviated that problem, but I found that the quality of the line was always too thick, an issue if the design required delicacy.

Luckily, I stumbled across this blog post by Down the Grapevine Lane. Long story short, she uses a Frixion pen and a window to trace the pattern on to the fabric. Genius! The pen in question is erasable, either by the dinky rubber at the end, or by heat (iron or hairdryer).

(I found the Frixion pens at Officeworks for about $3 (AU).

I liked this solution because it was cheap, easy and I could achieve a clean, fine line. I have been working on an embroidery for about 3 months, and the ink is still visible and hasn’t smudged. The only thing I did find, was that I needed a light box, as tracing large or intricate designs was torture on the arm muscles. Luckily I have a husband who doesn’t mind a bit of time in the shed with some wood and together we came up with a cheap solution

However! I have read some articles that are not so keen on the Frixion solution. Mary Corbet’s ‘Needle and Thread‘ had some good points about ink remaining in the fabric and warns that the ink can re-appear. She makes some alternative suggestions about archival quality methods, which she suggests might be worth considering if your project is going to be an heirloom, or uses expensive materials.

For my purposes, I think the Frixion is perfect. My style of embroidery is fluid, and I don’t mind a reminder of the process. Isn’t that half the fun anyway?

What do you think?




Public libraries, e-Books and UX design

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Have you ever tried to download an e-book from your public library website? What was your experience? Did you find what you were looking for easily and could download it efficiently ? Or did you struggle to decipher file formats and instructions?

This post will focus on how libraries can provide simple and efficient access to e-books on their website, given the multitude of formats, platforms and e-readers available. It will look at the design, content, formats and platforms offered on public library websites, and the aspects of these sites that lead to a positive or negative user experience. It will then look at user experience design as a possible tool for libraries and librarians to assist creating website that are easy to use for patrons.

While this post will obviously be aimed at librarians, I hope it will also help IT staff tasked with designing or maintaining a public library website, as well as other information professionals, such as teacher librarians who might be struggling with e-resource access. Hopefully, it will also help e-book readers to understand how libraries structure their e-lending websites and the reasons behind some of the seemingly arbitrary rules and methods of delivery.

There is no getting around the enormity of this issue! There are a multitude of factors which influence how public libraries design and run their websites and how e-books are lent to library patrons. User experience design is also a broad set of principles and practices and applies to both websites and manufactured products. To help simplify these issues (and to stop you nodding off!), I have created a series of videos to outline the issues and their possible solutions. I have also restricted my discussions to borrowing fiction e-books, rather than access to electronic databases and journals.

Chapter 1: E-books and public libraries

Chapter one will look at how an Australian library is offering e-books through its website.

You will also get to meet Bob.

Picture of an old man with an e-reader

This is Bob



 Chapter 2: User experience design

What user experience design? This video will outline the basics of user experience design. As the video will mention, it is a very broad topic. if you would like to do some further reading, I have listed some resources at the end of this post.


Chapter 3: Public libraries and e-Books: how does UX design fit in?

The second chapter looked the basics of user experience design and how it focuses on the emotions the user experiences when they are interacting with a product, and how designers might approach a project with this in mind. This chapter will consider how these elements may be incorporated into a library website to help patrons access e-books in a simple and efficient way.

So there you have it! I warned you it is a broad and complicated issues, and not something that can be solved easily or quickly.

If you didn’t have the fortitude to sit through my fifteen minutes of video, here are some takeaway points;

  • Delivering e- books to patrons is complicated and often dictated by the e-book vendor or publisher, who may apply restrictions on the books available and how they are accessed.
  • UX design is about the emotional interaction a user has with a product, not aesthetic design or functionality.
  • Consultation with the user is critical at all stages of the design process
  • Libraries and librarians may not have control over how their websites are designed and managed, therefore making it difficult to design to their users needs.
  • A UX designed library website might be flexible, small, not for librarians and be able to communicate efficiently in a limited time frame.

If you would like to read more about Digital Rights Management, you can read about it here. The  IFLA E-lending Background Paper gives a good overview of the current e-lending landscape and how it affects libraries.

These are the books and articles mentioned in the videos. Unfortunately some of them maybe behind a paywall, but your local library or university library may be able to provide access for you.

Chapter 1

No shelf required : e-books in libraries.  Edited by Sue Polanka. Sue also has a blog that is worth reading.

E-books as a collection and a service: Developing a public library instruction program to support eBook use. By Brendan O’Connell and Dana Haven

Library e-books: Some can’t find them, others find them and don’t know what they are. By James A. Buczynski

The e-book revolution : a primer for librarians on the front lines. By Kate Sheehan.

I found this book extremely helpful, easy to read and current (published 2013).  Highly recommended  if you are thinking about implementing e-books in your library, or studying.

chapter 2

What Is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools And Resources. By Jacob Gube. This is a great article. Smashing magazine has a multitude of amazing articles and books on a variety of UX topics.

The elements of user experience : user-centered design for the Web . By Jesse James Garrett.

A project guide to UX design : for user experience designers in the field or in the making. By Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences. By Allen Jesmond and James Chudley

User Experience (UX) Design for Libraries. By Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches

Chapter 3

Some of the resources in chapter 3 are the same as those used in chapter 2, so I haven’t listed them here- you can find them in the chapter 2 list.

Lessons from Steve Jobs: a digital framework for tapping into patrons’ emotions. By Helene Blowers

UX Gardens. By Robert Fox.

Public libraries and E-books: after a tumultuous honeymoon, seeking a stable marriage. By Devin Crawley

Reference BackTalk: Testing, Testing: Virtual Reference UX. By Stephen Francoeur






One stitch at a time: embroidery

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On the weekend, a dear friend asked me about the embroidery technique I had used in some recent pictures I posted to Facebook.

Luckily, I had run a tutorial on embroidery some years ago for a Brown Owl’s session, so had already done a tutorial sheet, which I will happily share with you.

Image of an embroidery of a ship

The image I posted to facebook













Let me just point out here that I pretty much taught myself to embroider, and I am sure that if an embroidery elder saw my work, she (or he, I guess) would probably have a fit!  I like my embroidery to be fairly fluid, freehand and I am not too worried if the fabric puckers, or the patterns shows through the stitching. I enjoy the process.

Usually my designs are in block colours and fairly simple, with very few details or small areas (although I am getting better at that). I usually free hand my design using a normal fineline, black art pen or a non-fading fabric pen (keep in mind you might want to wash the final product, so you have to use something that won’t run….much). I find the non-fading types are the best as you might take months to complete your embroidery, and you don’t want your design to fade halfway through. The other method I use is to sketch the design on paper, then use some transfer paper from Sublime Stitching (they have white transfer paper too, so you can use dark fabric). By the way, these guys are fantastic! they have the radest patterns (their tag is ‘this ain’t your Gramma’s embroidery’!) and the most beautiful threads and accessories. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are not so confident at drawing/designing and you don’t want to contemplate the complete yawn-fest of designs at spotlight and lincraft.


I know there are special embroidery fabrics out there, but they seem to cost a fortune. I usually go for something light, cotton or linen, with a reasonably large weave. Seems to work just fine.


I use a size 6 embroidery needle. But experiement. That might not work for you.

Fabric onto hoop

You will need a hoop. I go for the good old fashioned cane ones, as they are cheap and you can usually find them at the op shop.

–       Separate the two sections of hoop

–       Position fabric over smaller section of hoop and place larger hoop over top

–       Tighten screw half way

–       Pull fabric so that fabric has no creases

–       Tighten screw all the way so that fabric won’t move as you are sewing.

If tightening that ridiculous metal screw on the embroidery hoop is too much for your fingers, get one of those rubber page turner things that secretaries use, turn it inside out, place it over the screw and the little rubber bumps will turn it for you.


Embroidery thread (sometimes called ‘floss’) is made up of lots of individual strands. Depending on what kind of stitch, or thickness you need, one or more can be threaded. I use one strand doubled over for most of my work. Check out markets and op shops too. Sometimes people get rid of their old thread.

– To help separate the threads, pat the top of your length, the threads will part making it easier to separate.

– To get one thread out, simply grab the thread you want in your fingers with one hand and use the other hand to pull the other threads down. Do it slowly and it helps not to have a super long length.

– Don’t forget to knot the thread.

Time to stitch!

There are heaps of complicated stitches out there. If your are only wanting to fill in a design, with no fancy raised bits, these stitches will get you there.

Split Stitch

Is pretty much all I use! its fast. And sexy.

BAck Stitch

Satin Stitch

Check out YouTube- there are so many instructional videos on there it isn’t funny! Sublime Stitching also has a delicious range of books.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t drink red wine and embroider. Drink white, it doesn’t stain.
  • Be super OCD about your threads. If you get serious, you will end up with ton and keeping them in containers or bags will mean they won’t get tangled
  • Be kind to your eyes, especially if you embroider at night. A good lamp is the best.
  • Be prepared to stuff up. knotted threads, lame designs, paw prints on your fabric are all apart of the journey- go with it!
  • Find a good framer. If you create something amazing, you’ll want to preserve it. (I use these guys)


Photo of embroider

Example of an Embroidery Elder’s work- my great Grandmother did this… by candle light


Please share! If you are an Embroidery Elder, I would LOVE to hear from you!