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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Linky Parties - 30 lessons in blogging

Linky parties are a huge part of creative blogging.
 When I first started out, they were one of the first things I found; started linking up to and browsing.  It was how I found so many fabulous blogs and crafty ideas and really began to bring other people to my own blog too.

There are so many linky parties out there - some with themes: crochet, tutorials or perhaps just pictures.  Some have 'rules' about how many posts you can link up, and how many other links you are expected to visit.  There are buttons to grab and pages to like - so is it all worth it? 
My answer is a resounding..


My own linky party here at Creating my way to Success has been running now for 4 years. I've never missed a week and still love checking out all the links where I get so much inspiration and have found so many great blogs and made some wonderful blogging friends.

3 reasons why you should link up

1. It gets you more exposure for your own blog posts. There are often hundreds people linking up to a party - and that means potentially hundreds of people could see your post. Here your photos are the biggest draw card. An eye-catching picture will stand out and make people want to click on the link to see more.

2. Discover new blogs and friends. It's always worth browsing through the link up to find posts that interest you. Visit those links and discover some new blogs. Not only is it great to find other bloggers with the same interests as you, but a good network of blog friends is so important in blogging.

3. Inspiration - I pin so many ideas from linky parties. Things I want to make, try and adapt. I also see what kind of pictures and titles grab my attention and learn from that for my own future post pictures and descriptions.

Keep a list

I have my own linky party list of parties I like to link up to each week. Having this list makes linking up easy - I have them grouped by days the linkies are posted. It took a little time to set up this list -and add all the party buttons to the bottom of my main page but it was worth the effort for the ease of finding the parties to link up to each week.
  Sometimes linky parties stop, people take blog breaks, or just decide they no longer want to run a linky party; so this list is constantly being changed and added to as I find new parties too!

My own linky parties

I have my weekly Round Tuit linky - where anything goes, people link up all kinds of posts and as many as they want.  This now gets around 200 links each week.  I used to visit, comment and thank each and every link, but as it grew bigger, it's no longer viable for me to spend that much time on it. I try to visit as many links as I can each week - I feel that's only fair if people make the effort to come and link up, in return I try to visit them too!

I also have my 500+ Clothes Upcycling Linky, which is ongoing. It started a couple of years ago when I first started upcycling clothes. I spent a month doing a clothes upcycle every day, and finding and featuring others. That was what created the initial interest and since then it has continued to grow and is one of my biggest traffic sources.  Many people have emailed me to say that they have linked up their own projects to this party and get plenty of traffic coming back to them from it, which is great to hear.

I also have several smaller ongoing clothes upcycling linkies which are less popular, but are really just a different way of categorising the other main clothes upcycling linky!

Setting up your own linky party

I would definitely recommend starting your own linky party, there are so many benefits.

I use the Inlinkz service to run my linky parties. It costs me $20 a year to be able to have thumbnail picture links (if you just have text links it's free!). For this price I can run as many linky parties as I want. 

My tips for starting your own linky party

1. Create a button. That way people who link up can display the button on their blog which in turn creates a link back to your blog and is a little 'free advertising' for your blog. There are lots of tutorials out there to show you how to make a button (here's one).

2. Don't have 'rules'.  Just to link up is a process in itself, choosing and cropping the image, adding the title, entering your email etc; we don't need any more hoops to jump through.  I'd much rather people visited my link because they wanted to rather than the felt they had to.  Genuine visitors are far more likely to return again!

3. Try to visit some of the links yourself and thank people for linking up.  I'm a great believer that you get back what you give. Everyone links up to parties hoping for visitors and comments, me included. I always try to make sure I visit and comment wherever possible.

4. Feature your favourite links - and let those people know they've been featured. Everyone likes to know about a shout out.

A final word

I once emailed a few bloggers to ask about their very successful linky parties and how they did it. They were very generous and kind with their responses, but the overall message I got was that there was no magic formula. Some visited blogs and asked people to link up, others felt they had just started their linky at a fortunate time in blogging and rode the wave of interest. Some had link up rules, some didn't.

My own weekly party has grown slowly over the years, with plenty of plateaux! It's now just become such an integral part of my blog, I wouldn't want to lose it. It brings me a decent amount of traffic each week, but most of all I love the inspiration that is brought to me and the friends I have made through it. I believe it has played a big part in growing my blog over the year - even just in the sense of having a regular weekly post ongoing for so long.

The biggest thing I've learned is that persistence pays off. If you start your own linky party - stick at it, it takes time.  Get into a routine of setting it up each week and make something of it for yourself so you enjoy and make the most of it.

Do you have a favourite linky party that you join in each week? 
Do you like to join smaller or bigger parties?
And of course - please do come and link up to my own 
I'd love to see what posts you share!

Carrot Pencil Case - a tutorial - Day 51 - Use What You've Got

One of my daughters had a birthday party to go to at the weekend so I asked what I could make as a gift for the birthday girl.
My daughter's first request was a pencil case in the shape of a guinea pig, which I really wasn't sure of, so she then suggested a carrot one!  That I could do!

I used fabric and a zip from my stash and my own zipped toiletry bag tutorial:
Instead of a cylinder shape for the bottom, I found a template to make a cone. I used this free downloadable Printable Cone Template, and just enlarged it a little to make it the right size.

I also added a layer of buckram (really stiff interfacing) between the inner and outer fabric to help the carrot keep it's shape.

For the carrot top 'leaves' I used dark green felt, which I just cut into random long shapes. Then for the top circle end, I cut a slightly larger circle which I then cut in half. I placed the green leaves in the centre of the two semi-circles (fabric right sides facing) and stitched them into place.

The cone bottom is simply the cut fabric from templates stitched right sides together with the 2 straight sides together. I left the opening in the inner fabric for turning the case right sides out after stitching! Then these cone pieces are used just as the bottom cylinder of the toilet bag.

I was very pleased with how it turned out.

And I'm told the birthday girl liked it too - which is the most important thing!

I also added a small stuffed carrot key chain as a little something extra!

I really enjoy making pencil cases and have made heaps as gifts for my daughters' school friends. You can see some of those here.
I wonder what shape I'll be asked to make next!

For more of my sewing tutorials for all levels and abilities you can see my tutorials page:

I'd also love if you followed along on my sewing and blogging adventures on Facebook or Pinterest!

Happy Sewing!

I'll be linking this post to many of the fabulous linky parties whose pretty buttons can be found on the bottom of this page and whose direct links can be found on my linky party page.

Monday, September 1, 2014

What's the focus of your blog? - 30 lessons in blogging

I've been blogging now for 4 years and have learned so much in that time as my blog has slowly grown. It's still got a lot of growing to do, but I am enjoying some success both financially and personally through my blog, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on and share what I've learned about blogging over the years. So throughout September, each day I'll be sharing one of my

 30 lessons in blogging

I hope they will be of some interest and help to other bloggers!

When readers come to your site for the first time, they've generally come to see a particular post that has piqued their interest.  Ideally, when they arrive at your blog, they will find plenty more similar content that will keep them browsing and make them want to come back for more and perhaps even tell others about your blog.

If the focus of your blog is clear - then readers know why they come to your blog and why they want to come back.

My story
Over the years, my blog has encompassed many topics and posts. It has evolved with me, my skills and interests. However, the more I learn and look at turning my blog into a profitable business, I realise the importance of having a clear topic and focus.

How did I find my focus?
For me, I have found the focus of my blog over time by doing what I enjoy, and posting about that.  The more I've done of it, the clearer the common threads have become of what I do and what my blog is about. Themes have appeared over and over again, and although I do share other parts of my life - my family, fitness, the occasional recipe; there is a common theme has become clearer and clearer over time.

 My blog has always been a place to chart my sewing adventures and sewing is still the major part of my blog - with over 100 of my sewing tutorials now available for free right here. 
However, I don't claim to be an expert on sewing - there is always more to learn.  Where I do believe my strength lies is in teaching and inspiring.  I love hearing from people who have used my tutorials and seeing the pictures of things they have made.

But again, it's not just the sewing tutorials that I want to be the focus of my blog. There are far bigger sites than mine that provide an enormous number of sewing tutorials. I can't and don't want to compete with those blogs.
 More and more I have recognised that my favourite sewing projects are those where I can upcycle or reuse other materials to make something new.  I love the challenge of using my creativity to make something new and incorporate old materials. I'm also endlessly inspired myself by all kinds of upcycles - not only sewing.

The title of my blog is the biggest indicator of the basis of my blog. It's all about being creative - and how I'm using that to strive towards my own success - be that financial reward or personal satisfaction in what I'm doing.

I believe that when you find exactly what it is you are passionate about and love to do - then you have the focus of your blog.

So to get back to our 3 important questions -
 how have I answered them?

  • What is your blog about - Creating things, particularly through sewing that are useful and practical. Teaching and inspiring others to use their own creativity, and in particular to use the supplies and resources they already have. Hence the tagline in my blog header:  "How to use what you've got to realise your dreams."

  • Why do your readers come to your blog - For inspiration and motivation in creativity; and to learn how to sew things.

  • What do your readers get out of your blog - Free tutorials, inspiration and ideas, particularly regarding upcycling old clothes, and motivation to do things themselves!

Now it's your turn

So what is the focus of your blog?
If you aren't sure - take a look at your posts and see what recurring themes you can find.
The clearer your focus is, the clearer it will be to your readers.

Is the focus of your blog clear?  
Do you know exactly why you blog?
What you love doing and why you're sharing it?  
Please share what the focus of your blog is in the comments - I'd love to come and visit!

A Round Tuit 221 - Day 50 Use What You've Got

Today is the 50th day of my "Use What You've Got" challenge. I've consistently managed to post each day, take my #100happydays photo, and use what I've got in my fabric and crafting stash, in the garden, in the home and on my blog. It's really helping me get into habits of getting things done, de-cluttering and focussing on what needs doing!
I've done some tidying up of my blog with new sewing tutorials added and others PDF'd.  
Tomorrow I'm going to start a series of posts daily throughout September drawing together all that I've learned about blogging over the past 4 years. I used to have a 'top 10 blogging tips' page, but it was really dated, so I've put it into draft form and will resurrect it as I work my way through the posts. My aim is at the end to have 30 informative and useful posts about blogging. Another resource to make available on my blog!

So lots of work to get done - I'd better stop talking and get doing!

For now, here's my photo round up of the past week in #100happydays!
(the medal shown is for my daughter's hockey team who won their grand final on Saturday. As manager of their team, I got a medal too!! What a nice surprise!!)


And now, let's see what you've all been up to!

Welcome to this week's linky party. A place where you can link up your posts and creations, and be inspired by others.

Tuits are very hard to come by, especially the round ones. For years people have been saying, "I'll do it as soon as I get a round tuit". Well now you can have one of your very own, and all those jobs that have needed doing will finally get done!
Here's my favourites from last week's party:
First of all, how to make a gorgeous 
Rainbow Maxi Dress by Threading my Way:

For those featured, feel free to grab a 'featured on' button here.
Creating my way to Success
Now it's your turn:
Link up your own projects - old or new - no rules - just share your creativity and inspiration!
I'd love if you grabbed the button - then you can have your very own Round Tuit!
And of course we all love visitors and comments so do visit some of the other links!
By linking up here you're giving me permission to use photos from your post in features here on my blog.
I will feature my favourites on this post next week.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 49 - Use What You've Got

A little slow to get today's post up - I'm in Sunday mode!!

I've just been picking things from our garden. The tomato plants all needed trimmed back - so I picked the last of the tomatoes (mostly green ones). Also a few peppers - a purple capsicum, green capsicum 2 jalapenos and a few chillis. Then finally a very colourful carrot crop!

Now to put them to good use! Some will go in salads to make them nice and colourful - but the green tomatoes I need some inspiration for!

I remember last year my mum telling me she found a recipe for green tomato cake that turned out very tasty!  I'm not sure I'm convinced I want to make a cake out of them though! I shall have to Google what to do with green tomatoes!

Any suggestions very welcome!

Are you harvesting anything tasty from your garden just now!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday Spotlight - Day 48 Use What You've Got

Today I'll be at the Grand Final with my daughter's hockey team.

It's all very exciting, and we've everything crossed for a win. The teams are so closely matched, it's going to be a great game!

So, while I'm there, here, I'm sharing some of the fabulous links to this week's Round Tuit Party.

First some very tasty looking cakes....

And, some cool things for the home..

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Extra Moist Banana and Raisin Muffins - Day 47 Use What You've Got

A few years ago, I used to have a market stall at the local shopping centre once a month, selling things I'd made. There, I met a lovely lady called Mary, who made and sold beautiful baby and kids clothes.  We used to chat at the markets, and occasionally I'd visit her at home.  A couple of years ago, she sold up and moved down South to a retirement village to be nearer her family.  When she left she gave me piles of fabric and crafting books that she no longer had space for.  I miss seeing her around and our chats about sewing.

So what has all this to do with muffins?  Well this recipe is one she gave me. It was her favourite and she always had some made up and frozen ready to warm in the microwave and serve up with a cup of tea if anyone came calling. I had many a 'Banana and Raisin' muffin with Mary, and they will always make me think of her!

 Mary's Extra Moist Banana and Raisin Muffin Recipe

3/4 cup boiling water
1teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup other dried fruit you like - eg. dates or currents
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate or caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour

Combine the boiling water, bicarb and dried fruit in a bowl. Leave to stand for 10 mins

Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease the muffin tray.

In another bowl, combine the banana, oil, apple juice concentrate and eggs. Beat.

Stir the dried fruit and their liquid into the banana mixture.
Sift the flours into the mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon into the muffin tray.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy with a cuppa and a friend!

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