Are you getting the most out of the web to fire up your quilting? We all know that the internet is a great resource for quilters — no longer confined to the imagination of one or two local store owners, we can find patterns, fabrics, and ideas to suit any taste. And, if you’re reading this, you already know that blogs have taken things a giant step forward, bringing us sources of inspiration, support, and friendship from people and places we’d never even heard of a few years ago.
But, are you using all of the tools at your disposal? Are you finding the volume of information overwhelming instead of helpful? Is your favorites list getting too long to manage? If so, try these seven web tools to enhance your quilting:
1. Online photo sharing. My personal favorite is Flickr.com, which is user-friendly and includes tools that make it easy to find specific items. Type “quilt” in the search box and over 115,000 results will pop up — and therein lies the challenge of handling the cascade of information and images at your fingertips. Even if you limit the search to images that have been specifically named or “tagged” as a “quilt,” you’ll still get over 44,000 results. What’s a girl to do? Narrow her search, and let others do the managing:
- Flickr quilting groups: Instead of searching under key words, search for quilting groups. Narrow your search by including your specific area of interest, such as applique, or free-pieced lettering, or art. There are also groups devoted to sewing, textiles, and sewing rooms.
- Flickr groups outside the quilting box: Don’t confine yourself to quilting terms. There are great sources of inspiration in other groups. Try spirals, fractals, patterns and texture and color.
3. Book searches: You can begin a book search at Amazon, but if what you are looking for is out of print, try Alibris. This site searches the inventory of dozens of book sellers and gives you a list of stores and prices for the book. If the book still isn’t available, put in a standing search for it. Why buy when you can borrow? Search through the World Catalog and find out what’s available in your area — interlibrary loan is an under-appreciated benefit, and you’ll be amazed at what’s been written about even the most esoteric subjects.
4. Social bookmarking: The favorites list in your browser is nice, but only to a certain point. It soon becomes a headache to remember which folder you stored it in, what you called it, or why you saved it. Enter social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us, which alllow you to store your bookmarks online (so you can access them from any computer) and “tag” them. Tags are like keywords, and you can add an unlimited number of them to describe a page. The value of this is that when you go looking for that page again, you’ll be able to find it through any of the tags you assigned. You can also search through the public tags that others have used — take a look at what’s hot in quilt art, or textiles.
The screenshot below demonstrates the bookmarking window — the title is automatically filled in (but you can edit it) and the application will even suggest tags for the page based upon
the tags you use as well as the tags other have applied to it.
5. Aggregators: How many blogs do you read? I track 159 of them, on a variety of research, quilting, and personal interest subjects. It would take me all day to visit each of them to see if anything is new, and some of them I only need to visit on an irregular basis. The solution to managing a large number of blogs is to use an aggregator such as Bloglines. All of my blogs are indexed by subject area and I can tell how many new posts there are in each blog since my last visit. I can also save posts for future reference, which is an invaluable time-saver when I’m working on various research projects. If you are a blogger, you can also create a blogroll of your favorite blogs to share with others.
6. Video: If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a short video is worth……? Take a cruise through YouTube to find videos on threadpainting, stop-motion documentation on the making of a landscape quilt, and tips on machine quilting.
7. Virtual Worktables: I use both Pageflakes and Netvibes to organize several research projects I’m working on. These sites are great for pulling together ideas and images for creating that special project — no more flipping back and forth between tabs or windows. I’ve created a Pageflake for this post that displays many of the examples I’ve cited above — it took me 20 minutes to create the result you see.