Okay, here's the deal: I'm so far behind with everything that I've been wanting to post here that it's threatening to overwhelm and depress me, so in an effort to regain my equanimity I'm going to take advantage of the fact that Mr. Citrus Moon is working all day today, and make one long, rambling entry, adding items little by little in an effort to crawl out from under the pile a bit and maybe get my happy-happy groove back. I'm going to drink 2.5 glasses of wine (because that's how much I think I can drink and still leave enough for the pasta sauce I will also be tossing together today) and just throw a bunch of different stuff in here all higgeldy-piggeldy like (but really only because it gives me a chance to say "higgeldy-piggeldy"). Are You Ready? ...Okay, here goes:
Op Ancient is a set that reminds me both of ancient mosaics and op art; I've made an example layout that stacks three of these tiles, but I didn't have time to actually do the CSS, so it's just a .gif, for the moment at least.
Blueberry Picker (hi, Aimee!) is a set I've been holding back on, because I have a kind of cool layout idea for this that I would like to mark up, but never mind - maybe later.
Hewn & Hammered is a site I've been meaning to post forever. It's a very attractive blog "all about Prairie, Craftsman and Mission Architecture, Art and Design", which is a great idea. I eagerly look forward to their promised "Textiles" gallery. Now, ordinarily, I should have something perfect to go with this post, but let's go for a near-miss instead: Snowdrop is a pattern that I put together using this French art nouveau fabric sample (from another site) as a source. It took me quite a while, because even though the swatch looks very straight and even, it actually isn't, which is always a problem when you want to use the actual original design from piece of fabric. In an image reproduction there are almost always irregularities on the vertical and/or horizontal axis, so it's usually quite a challenge to get something that will repeat properly. I loved this, though, and kept at it. If I had time, I'd do this pattern in about 20 different color variations. Anyway, have a look at the whole site -there are some beautiful things in there. Here is the category index.
I recently read Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike, which is basically a "prequel" to Shakespeare's Hamlet, and this is exactly the sort of book I love - a delectable of fusion of fiction, mythology, history and ethnology, all wrapped up in a fascinating, atmospheric tale. While still in the grip of the story, I created the dark version of this pattern set, which (at the time, at least) reminded me of a sort of medieval embroidered wall hanging. I named it "Grendel" in honor of that famous Danish beast of mythology. As regards the patterns, though, I have a problem. I have two monitors, both recently (supposedly) calibrated with the Adobe Gamma program. On one of my monitors, the dark versions in this set are perfect; on the other, almost too dark to make out. Which one is right(er)? I'd like to fix the brightness, if they are actually too dark, but I don't want to make them lighter than what I'm seeing on my primary monitor.... If you are seeing them as too-dark, do let me know. And, oh! I almost forgot! I have example boxes, dark and light.
Here's a set I made some time ago called "Song of herself"; I don't remember anything about making this, or why I called it that. I also have no example boxes or layouts to show you on this one, so let me just take this moment to link to a fun zefrank tile toy: just keep rolling your mouse over the tiles to see the various permutations of each design. Then go have a look at the collage maker, the extra-cool "scribbler" (here's my scribbler output - nicey-nice) and all the other many, many groovy things at zefrank.
Here's a pattern couple I've called "Hansel" because for some reason they sort of remind me of a German fairy tale in which everything is quaint and rustic and pretty, and then, sure enough, someone has to come along who wants to burn you alive and then eat you. Here's an example box, but it's just a .gif, because I'm too lazy to do anything else at the moment.
So there you have it. I've finished my 2.5 glasses of wine, and I've made a tiny dent in my backlog pile, though not much headway with my "link-to" pile. On that front, let me at least leave you with MocoLoco, an elegant blog for modern contemporary design. Wallcoverings and floorcoverings are two of my favorite categories here, natch.
Ciao for now, babies.
Notice anything different today? Hmmm? Well, I took the morning to make a few little changes that I've been meaning to get around to: I've updated the tiles on the left (something I had always planned to do a couple times a month) and made them a bit smaller. I wanted to be able to use different sized tiles to create these pattern squares instead of making them all a uniform size, so that means that the patterns had to show up as backgrounds. What this means for you is that you cannot just right-click on the squares to save the tile, because the squares are really transparent gifs with backgrounds. Instead, click them to see how they tile in a new window, then right-click and "save background image" or "view background image" and save that way.
I also found out how to make my TypePad category entries show up in alphabetical order for the LinkBlog. For any of you MTfolk or TypePadders with advanced templates, the way to do this is with <MTEntries sort_by="title" sort_order="ascend">, in case you were wondering. And, hey, guess what; I just realized my category page here isn't loading at all. Well, harrumph. Just too much housekeeping to keeping a blog, don't you think? (Not to mention all those new rooms I want to add on...) Okay. let me go grab the mop and pail and see what I can do about this.
Surprise! I finally filled in the information on my "about" page - I just pretty much went with the TypePad template on this, because I figured if I waited to design my own page it would be at least three more months before I ever got around to it. Actually, it's kind of a shame that I went ahead and bit the bullet on this, because I had this nice image all set up to put there. I've been trying to find the site where I made that, but in the meantime, you can have fun with Ryland Sanders' Church Sign Generator, or the Caution Sign Generator, the Prison Road Sign Generator, or the Fortune Cookie Fortune Generator (yum. here's mine), as well as many more from Spare Some Change, a site serving as a resource search engine and portal for the homeless.
Here's a happy, boppy, Sunday bippy for you, with an example box here. Would you call these "retro"? I didn't put it among the categories for this one, even though I actually do feel that it is... The problem is that it seems that I'm putting that label on everything. Anyway, I think these are fun and bright and bouncy, without being too, too loud.
Other random thoughts... Something that I've been dreaming (not exactly literally) about for a long time is an online application that would allow one to call in a file, and adjust color, saturation and lightness. In other words, you go to a page where you select a gif or jpg image from a drop-down menu, open the file and use slider bars to change those parameters, and then save the image to your drive. Could Flash do something like this, I wonder? I would never be able to program it myself, and I'm sure I couldn't afford to get somebody else to do it, but that is my candy-coated, double-banana-split-with-fudge-sauce dream. Basically, user-defined background tiles. Naturally, people with graphics programs who are accustomed to using them can do this for themselves, but not everyone is in this position, plus it would just be, like, the neatest ! (Please note that I did not say "kewlest" because I'm boycotting "kewl", even in jest. It's in my black book of icky words. "Wicked-good" is still okay though.)
Second random thought, I would very, very much like to do a gallery of guest tiles... I wonder if anyone would be interested in contributing to such a thing? Unlike the thought above, this is actually something I could do myself, and stands as much of a chance of really seeing the light of day as any of my other usual ideas (BlogScarf, anyone? It's still on the table - I just have to take one day to make it happen). So there, I've baited the hook... will I get any bites?
Okay, I'm very, very busy (or as an ex-English language student of mine used to write, "v., v. busy". For some reason, I liked that. In fact, I liked that v., v. much). So, anyhoo... Yes, I'm working on an "ultra-ultra, top-secret, super-secret, you-don't-know-and-I-do-neener-neener!" project., so I just stopped by to drop off The Master & Margarita, patterns inspired by a book I recently read (thank you, Hanan!) that I love. Obligatory example square here. You can see some illustrations that have been created for various editions of "The Master and Magarita" at this interesting site that I found via MetaFilter. Now, I must rub on some magic ointment, mount my trusty broomstick and rush away into the deep, dark ecstasy of the moonlit night, because I have a party to go to...
(Never mind if you don't get those last few references; that's what the book is for! And as for the secret - you will be finding that out, too, soon enough!)
Whew! Well, here's what I've been working on today: a very simple, straightforward link blog so I can keep track of all those tasty sites that I keep losing and coming across again. I know I'm going a little whackadoody here and I'll probably end up with 25 blogs on this site before I'm finished, but this is another one of those things that has been on my wish plate for a long time, and today, just because I had an idea about how to use the patterns, I decided to do it.
This is how it went: I had the idea of putting different patterns into side-by-side strips to create a side border background, meant to be tiled only vertically (or, likewise, with horizontal strips, and tiling only horizontally, as a header or footer). Once I came up with one I liked, of course I wanted to try it out on a page design, so I just started farting around in Photoshop with a page idea for a linkblog... and liked it so much I had to go ahead and try setting it up immediately. If you want to try your hand at putting together a sideborder background, just remember to use tiles that are the same height (or else resize the ones that aren't the proper height, if possible) so that after you get all your strips in place, you can crop it to that height, and each of the patterns will repeat properly. (Of course you can use a tile that is 50 pixels high with tiles that are 100 pixels high, but if you use one that is 75 with one that is 100, the pattern is not going to repeat correctly unless you crop the whole thing to 300 pixels high.) The one I used on the link blog, for example, is 100 pixels high, and less than 4Kb; I used four different patterns that were all 100 picas x 100 picas to piece it together.
Okay, let me just do a little wrap-up of our situation at the moment: Firstly, I've uploaded two new pattern sets, "Bosom for a Pillow" (named after one of my favorite songs, Corner Shop's "Brimful of Asha") and "Eliza's Dream". I'm identifying both of these as "retro", because for me they both have very insistent retro elements - "Bosom for a Pillow" is kind of a fusion, with the stripes and colors feeling rather '50s to me, and the pattern distinctly deco. I've also offered this set in a toned down version, in case the colors are just way too freaky. And I'm just overwhelmed with self-delight over the stripe pattern on Eliza's Dream. I kiss me! Why is this retro? I don't know. But it is, isn't it? (Anyway, I've made "pattern box" examples for both of these, here and here.)
Secondly: I haven't forgotten about our "BlogScarf" project: I just need to sit down and finally work out how to present them. I've actually made a couple more additions, and hope to get it all up and running this week, so stay tuned. And as long as we are talking about what I haven't done - yes, I have no "about page" yet. This is always the hardest thing for me to do, and one of the last things I did on my old site. If you just can't wait, you can see the old version here. I'll really try to do something new soon.
Finally, any opinions on how many posts I should show on my front page? I've gone from five to eight, and now I'm wondering if I should make it 10 (or more?). Or should I go back to fewer? I have no idea. It seems alarming to me see them scroll off the page so fast, but I don't have a clue what is optimum.
A small note on yesterday's BlogScarf post: I've updated that entry to link to a better page for the example that lets you view different backgrounds behind the image. Also, I'd just like to menton that this .gif, in particular (the leaf), is a pretty touchy example of what can be done. Since we are using .gif transparency to define the image area, we lose the ability to blend from the color area to the surrounding white field, so all of these image will suffer at least a little from the "jaggies", and an image like the leaf that has very thin areas is especially prone to that problem. But part of the reason for making the "different-backgrounds" example page is to show how different patterns can minimize or maximise the problem, and using a more demanding image like the leaf is good for that (this one, for example, with its light and dark print, visually reduces the problem). Some background patterns will work better, and some will look worse, so you'll want to try different backgrounds with different images. I'm testing various things at the moment - like trying out images with shadows, for example - and will be putting together a gallery of .gifs-with-transparency that are best suited for this usage.
So. I've had a little bit of time in the last day or so to play around with an idea that has been on my mind a while: creating site graphics that use repeating patterns behind .gif transparency to create a design. I've re-written that sentence five times, and it still isn't clear at all, so just go look here. The image on the left is simply a .gif in which the negative space is white and the positive space is transparent, and I've used CSS to give the .gif a background image. (Like this:
<img src="http://citrusmoon.typepad.com/photos/tiletest/scarf.gif" border="0" style="background: url(http://citrusmoon.typepad.com/photos/tiletest/lilly2.gif);">)
The idea is to make something that is totally simple to insert into any web page even if one is a complete novice, that will allow you to change the background (and therefore the whole feeling of the graphic) very easily, and that offers a lot of pizzazz at very small download sizes. For that example blog page, for instance, I used only the options offered by Typepad's most basic template sets, with no customization at all (no converted, advanced templates, in other words). To put the image in the left sidebar I just made a TypeList "link" entry, ignoring "Link title" and Link URL" and putting the html in the notes section and then, under "Configure", choosing "Display notes As Text" (following Matt Haughey's tip for including a Google search form). Since I didn't want any text on top of the graphic, though, I just put a spacebar space into the TypeList "List name" field when creating a new TypeList. Setting up the entire blog probably took about 20 minutes (though of course I already knew exactly what I wanted to do, and already had the transparent .gif image and the title image).
I'm calling this a "blogscarf" at the moment, because like a scarf or a tie, it enables you to quickly express different looks and moods while the basic "suit" remains the same. I'm not sure about the name, though; too silly? Suggestions, anyone? Please?
A note: I've updated this post to link to the improved version of the second example page instead of the one-big-gif-on-top version.
All right. I'm getting a little tired of having every post fall under the category of "Site News" and, with luck, by tomorrow we will be back to also talking about interesting art and design links, but right now... it's still all about us! Here's the skinny: I almost pretty much have the patterns section all set up. The date archive section is still a bit funky, but that's just because I haven't had the time to make a couple of little changes there. As I have it at the moment, the "recent" link will show you the three latest additions. I would like to show five, actually, but since I also want people to be able to preview what the patterns look like when they are tiled, and to do this I need to have some space at the bottom of the page, it seemed like five was maybe too many... we'll think about this some more. The main thing is that you can view by category, and please also note that whatever way you choose to view the tiles, there should be a link at the bottom of each tile set that says "See how it tiles"; if you click here you will go to what is basically a "permalink" page, and clicking on the images will show you a tiled field.
Also, I've changed the featured tiles on this page, which is something I plan to do every few days. You can download these patterns by clicking them to see them tiled in a new, small pop-up window, then right clicking to save the image from there... I know this is strange, but I couldn't figure out how else to do it without uniformly resizing every featured tile, which I don't want to do (so I made them backgrounds to transparent .gifs). Never mind if that confuses you - I'm perpetually confused myself. Maybe I'll figure out a better way to deal with this section in the future, but for the moment you must save the tile after clicking to get the tiled pop-up. The displayed group will just be whatever selection of tiles I decide to put there, updated whenever. I haven't figured a way to archive these as a group, yet.
Finally, I've added two brand new sets of tiles today. One larger/brighter - smaller/darker couple of ever-handy black and white tiles, and another really lovely couple of peach silk patterns, called, after my two little nieces, "Emily & Juliette". These two are a great couple, but not so good stacked together; I like them with black and white accents, and with a little separation between them, as in this example. Or, for something edgier, just one of the peach tiles along with a sort of strong black and white design, with a contrasting pattern scale, as in this example.