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Jan 15, 2013

In which I answer your questions about blogging

"Me? Yes!" (Spring Byington)

Readers, I thought today I might briefly respond to your comments and questions from yesterday’s post, "So You Want to Write a Sewing Blog..."  (A few of the questions I invented myself.)

In no particular order...

Does anybody proofread your work?

I proofread endlessly and very often still find typos and other errors many hours later.  Reading the post on the laptop on which I've composed it, and then again on an iPad, where the layout looks slightly different, helps me to catch errors I might otherwise miss.  The first ten minutes after posting I’m constantly going back and changing a word here, a formatting issue there.

Time constraints dictate that almost everything I write is a first draft, so if I’ve written something lengthy and involved, I will ask Michael to read it over -- he’s an excellent proofreader and he’ll often come back and tell me, “That makes no sense,” or I’ve confused discrete and discreet -- things like that.  It's a big challenge because I write fast and usually in stream-of-consciousness mode.  But at a certain point I just have to let it go.  If a topic really interests me -- or you readers -- I can return to it in a somewhat different form at a later date.

How long do you spend blogging?

I try to limit my writing to just one hour per post.  But sometimes I’m writing about something I’m especially passionate about and I give it more time.  Posts about fashion/pattern history can take longer because first I have to dig up the images.  But I’ve been doing this so long and so frequently that I have the process down to a science.  Sometimes I have to say, “I can’t keep working on this, it’s going to have to be OK as-is.”  It’s like improv theater: when it’s over it’s over and I try not to look back.  Rarely do I write in advance: if you’re reading today’s post, I just wrote it.

Similar to an antiques dealer who’s always on the lookout for merchandise wherever they go, I often have my blog in the back of my mind.  When I’m swimming in the morning, I’ll often be conjuring up that day’s post.  Blog ideas come from everywhere: articles I’ve read, patterns I’ve seen, other people's blog posts, movies I’ve watched, thrift store purchases -- almost anything can spark an idea for a blog post.  Of course, if I’m writing about a sewing project, the post just writes itself and usually takes very little time.

I take more days off than I used to.  If I'm not feeling it I take a short break.

What camera and photo-editing software do you use? 

I have a Canon S90, which is a decent 10 MP point-and-shoot digital camera (newer models have replaced it; a used version can be had for less than $200).  I also have a used Canon DSLR I’m experimenting with.  It’s much clunkier but takes better quality photos due to the different lenses one can attach to it.  My point-and-shoot has a macro feature that allows me to take very clear, close photos.  I have a lot of natural light in my apartment, which helps.  Unless I’m doing a big photo shoot, I rarely shoot outside -- it’s just too big an effort.  And with the exception of Cathy photo shoots, I take all the photos myself.  Portraits are done with my auto-timer and the camera sitting on my ironing board, though I do have a tripod if necessary.

I edit in the latest version of iPhoto -- much more involved than an older version (iPhoto 6.0), which I preferred, but when does software ever evolve into something simpler?

Doesn’t taking photos of your projects as you make them slow you down?

Not really; I’m so used to doing it.  I always have my camera nearby and reach for it when I need to.  That said, on some projects I don't take many photos -- there’s just nothing particularly interesting I need to document or I’m not in the mood.  I’m not one of those people who always carry a camera and I don’t have a good one on my phone, but if I’m meeting a friend to go fabric shopping, for example, I will bring my camera and try to take a few shots: blog content!

Do you like the way you look in photos or have any issues about posting photos of yourself?

Like everybody, there are photos I like and photos I don’t. If I look really rotten, naturally I’m not going to post the photo, unless looking rotten is the point of the shot, like when I was sick in bed with the flu.  Looking 100% doesn’t cross my mind.

I feel about photos the way I do about fashion: I have ample opportunities to play “dress up,” so in my day-to-day life I don’t really fuss much with how I look.  I have my body issues like the next person, but among my many other issues, body issues are not in the forefront.  Sharing the process of growing older is particularly freeing.  I never retouch my face or body (or Cathy's).

What do you think makes a blogger interesting?

Like I said yesterday, paraphrasing Quentin Crisp, everyone is interesting if they’ll share the truth about themselves.  Of course, not everyone has access to the truth about themselves and some people can't run away from it fast enough.  Many people carry around shame -- body shame, aging shame, sexuality shame, money shame, career shame, family shame, housekeeping shame, shame shame -- the list is a long one.  You have to get out from under the shame to lead a happy life and a blog is a great way to do so.  The best blogs are ones where the writer is clearly in a healing/growing process, and the self-exploration and sharing is part of the blogger’s journey.

An interesting person is interested (and vice versa).  I’ve always been curious about what makes people tick -- I guess so I could get a better understanding of myself.  I like to talk but I also like to listen.  I’m always astounded how much people need to talk and how little opportunity many people have to be/feel heard.  Growing up, nobody in my family was the least bit interested in the things I was interested in -- if anything, there was open hostility.  So I have a need to connect with other people who share my passions.  Yet I'm an introvert and very self-sufficient.

Basically I just like to be left alone to do my thing: that’s all I’ve ever wanted in life and still want.  If others appreciate it, that's icing on the cake.  

How long did it take you to decide what to put in your earliest posts?

I only decided to write a blog when I wanted a platform for my Cathy photo shoots.  If you go back to the early days of this blog, you can see I was just experimenting (and still am to be honest).  Some days I’d post just a photo or a YouTube video of an old movie clip, other days I’d write something dry and academic.  I remember emailing Gretchen that first month, wondering why so few people had commented on a post I'd written comparing the film personae of Ginger Rogers and Marlene Dietrich.  It was super-dry.  Gretchen suggested I rework it as  “Are you a Ginger or a Marlene?” which sounds much juicier.  It took time for me to get the knack of it all.

I saw what was working on other blogs and, since I have a lot of far-flung interests, I just wrote about things that interested me, sewing most of all.

Where would you like your blog to take you?

Are we going somewhere?  MPB has opened up some doors to me, but I’m not an ambitious person in the traditional sense, though I do like to eat.  Time will tell.  I do think about writing a book but I’m not sure what it would be about.  Sewing instruction is not where my passion lies, nor with pattern design or fashion per se.  But I enjoy the journey and can handle the not-knowing.  In college I studied in Spain and during the holidays traveled alone for maybe six weeks or so.  I bought a one-way ticket from Madrid to Salamanca and took it from there.  I met a ton of people, was hosted by many generous Spanish friends-to-be, and ended up seeing wonderful sights, all on a shoestring budget.  I’ve done this a lot in my life and it’s my preferred way to travel.  I am not a planner. 

Why don’t you have ads?

I probably should have ads.  I don’t make money directly off my blog and I will probably kick myself later for not being more savvy.  It’s just easier for me not to have to worry about pleasing an advertiser or turning off readers who don’t like ads on blogs.  I am fortunate at the moment not to need the additional income to survive, but I might when my savings are depleted.  If only I'd been born rich, instead of pretty.


Readers, is there anything else you’d like to know?  If so, just ask!

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. I love this follow up! And our processes are actually incredibly similar. I also spend the first 10 minutes after I post something, reading it in a different format, catching errors or stilted prose and improving it. FWIW, I found your blog early on and did promote it - if to a much smaller audience than many of your better known promoters: Even back then I sensed we were similar in our ways...

  2. Peter, your timing is amazing! I am just starting a sewing blog now, I'm in the process of writing my first post. Thank you!

    I love it when awesome sewing blogs give advice on being a sewing blogger.

  3. You could throw on some Adsense ads (available in the blogger dashboard) and wouldn't have to worry about pleasing advertisers. Additionally, most readers who greatly dislike ads will have an adblocker installed into their browser, and won't see them anyway!

    1. I guess I feel like there is so much marketing shouting at us all the time, I'd like this to be an escape from it, as long as it can be.

  4. Ads would not bother me.

  5. ads do bother me and have stopped following some blogs for that reason ,hope you never have to go down that road ,love the dry humour and different take on a sewing life

  6. Although mine is not a sewing blog, we do share a passion for vintage. How do you see your blog 5 years from now?

  7. What you said about shame was interesting and I can relate. I think I have a lot of shame and spend a lot of time avoiding it. But its really the mundane boring kind like raw seams shame, messy house shame, going no where career shame etc. I have thought about writing a blog but I think that my sewing/opinions/life isn't interesting enough so it would just come across as vain. But I don't think that about the bloggers I read. The blog's I read have to be funny for me to stick around longer then a couple of weeks. Which yours is by the way. Keep it up.

    1. Now if I were a psychologist, Kate -- which I'm not! -- I would want to know where you got the idea that expressing your opinions publicly was a sign of vanity.

    2. I couldn't think of the right word. Conceited is probably a better word.

  8. I thank you so much (kissing your feet thank you) for not having ads all over your blog. I have turned off several because of ads, but I just cannot take the advertising any more. My head hurts from being hit over the head with ads everywhere.

  9. You truly are a doll Peter! Reading your blog never fails to inform and amuse me (best combination EVER)!

  10. Fabulous post, thanks for sharing! I too tinker with my posts just after publishing...all my genius ideas seem to come after hitting that 'publish' button for some reason ;o)

  11. Oh, Peter, I love you! This is a fantastic follow-up blog and full of even more wit and wisdom. Your thoughts on 'What makes a blogger interesting' are so moving.

  12. Very interesting post. What I love about your blog is the wit, social history/social criticism, vinatge patterns, and about your life with Michael, doggies, and shopping trips. It is whimsical, and love your thrifty outlook. Re: shame, this is a big issue for many. Being a child the family didn't want - but, with some help, this can be a blessing, as you choose the life you want. Hubster read me a quote a few days ago - you can't be happy unless you are yourself. I often mention things you post to son, Gabriel, and niece, Stephanie. Cathie, in Quebec.

  13. Thanks for the tips! I really enjoy your blog! I've nominated you...check out my latest blog post

  14. Peter, I've been taking your name in vain today, lol. I've mentioned you in my latest blog post "Oh Fashion, where art thou" and in a comment on a friend's blog, specifically linking your post from yesterday. I love your insights and how you interact with your readers.

    The relevant post from my blog:

  15. Peter, you are truly a treat. I love your answer to the question, "What do you think makes a blogger interesting?" Your answer was very powerful and full of insight.

    "If only I'd been born rich, instead of pretty." Love it!

  16. Oh Peter, I just love reading what you write! You are one of the few "sewing" bloggers I really enjoy who does not stick to sewing-only topics. You always bring up interesting things to think about and discuss. I find it interesting that you are an introvert who doesn't need a plan...I always need (well, prefer) a plan! I will keep some of your points in my mind, having recently started a sewing blog myself.

  17. Thank you for the effort you make to provide your readers with thought provoking and entertaining posts. I would love to see you rewarded, so I wouldn't mind ads. I'm really good at blocking them out on other sites, but when I really appreciate a post I'll click on a couple of ads as a way to say "thanks!"

  18. Thanks for answering our questions, and especially mine! I think you are very lucky that you feel comfortable sharing your work with Michael, he clearly does an excellent job of proofing. Wouldn't work in my household, my husband can't spell and I can't accept criticism! I found this post a very personal and consequently quite moving piece of writing. Maybe because we were allowed inside your head a little bit more than usual. As for ads.... well I'd like to see your talent earn you some bucks, but if it compromised the integrity of the blog... then no.

  19. Peter, I have been reading your blog pretty much from the beginning. (a sewing friend in Germany sent the link!) There are many reasons I enjoy it and look forward to every entry, but some of the prominent ones are:
    - you are funny, witty, honest and have a great sense of humor
    - when you talk about something, you seem to not only have thought about the subject but also researched it
    - you actually 'write' about something and not only make one or two bold statements about your topic along with a photo (I like lengthy entries vs. the ever so prevalent short messaging!)
    - I love the photos of yourself and especially the messy sofa behind you with or without Michael/a dog on it
    - Cathy is a great addition to your showcasing the stuff you make
    As for the tips on starting a blog - great advice!
    PS - I wouldn't mind ads but more because I never click on them anyway.


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