Sewing 101: Add a Monogram to Your Pillow

So last week, students in the April Sewing 101 class completed their pillow cover, something you can stitch again and again in different sizes and patterns. You can also opt to add a monogram to your pillow using fusible web, or applique iron-on adhesive. Here are the quick and easy steps to getting creative with fabric monograms.

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip
What You Need:

• Cotton fabric for pillow front, in this case a 17” square
• Cotton fabric for monogram, in this case a 9×9 scrap
• Printed type letters from a computer
• Scissors
• Iron and ironing board
• Nonstick pressing cloth (optional)
• Sewing Machine and coordinating thread
• 1 pkg of fusible web/iron-on adhesive

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

Choosing Your Monogram

Using the font lists in your Word program, play around with different typefaces that you might like on your pillow. Make sure to look for ones that have some weight to them so that when you cut it out in fabric your don’t end up with a flimsy piece that easily frays.

I settled on Bolero (top left) and increased it to a 500 point size—just enough to fill a Word page when I printed it out. You can go smaller and use your three initials, or go larger and piece the printed pages together—or better, print at one page and enlarge at a nearby print shop that prints larger paper. To make this easy, I suggest limiting the size to one Word page.

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

Applying Adhesive to Your Fabric

Before you apply your adhesive, make sure your monogram fabric fits around the size of your letter. Since brands vary on iron-on adhesives, make sure to read the packaging instructions of the one you find. They’re pretty easy to follow but some vary on whether or not they come with a paper backing. This peels off after you press the fabric to one sticky side.

Some will require a nonstick pressing cloth to keep the adhesive from gluing to your ironing surface (this is a good idea anytime you iron onto a glue-y layer). I recommend going with one with a paper backing (I didn’t have one at home but that’s what I usually use) that you can peel back, such as the one I linked to in the beginning of this post.

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

You’ll simply press your fabric to one sticky side. Then pin your paper letter to the fabric and cut it out. Now you can peel off the backing and iron the letter onto your pillow front.


Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

Stitching Your Monogram

To finish off your monogram, it’s a good idea to stitch around the edge to get a more polished look and keep the applique in place after many washes. If you prefer hand-sewing, you can use the blanket stitch.

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

On your machine, try the zig-zag stitch, which you practiced in the first class. But you want to test your stitch width and length first on a scrap piece of fabric. As you can see below, I started with a tighter zig-zag at a 2W x .5L (you can change your settings on your machine as discussed in class or refer to your machine’s manual). I then switched to a 3W to show that the zig-zag is more spaced and avoid puckering.

In any case, I strongly recommend changing your speed setting to the slowest speed and make sure you know whether the needle is going to move right or left (judging on a scrap) to make sure it catches the edge of the fabric. If you’re not happy with the starter stitch, pull it out and start again—that first stitch sets the pace for the rest of the stitching so take your time.

Make sure to stop at curves too, with the needle still pierced and the presser foot raised to realign the fabric and needle along the curve.

Nicole's Classes Sewing 101 Tip

And voila, you’ve got a personalized pillow!

Coming Soon: Lightroom 101

We have an exciting announcement that we’ve been dying to share with everyone… Starting this fall, Nicole’s Classes will be offering a Lightroom 101 class as part of our expanding editing curriculum!

Lightroom 101

We’re thrilled to be adding the super talented Mark Weinberg to our teaching staff, and we know our students will love learning the ins and outs of Adobe Lightroom from him. He’s a working photographer who really knows his way around the program, and he’ll show you how to use Lightroom to make your images look more polished and professional. To read more about what the class will cover and more about Mark, view the class listing here.

Registration for this 4 week course will open this summer and the first session will be held in the fall. Stay tuned to the blog and our newsletter for updates so you can be the first to sign up for this exciting new class!

More April Student Work

You must get tired of us gushing about how great our students are, but we just can’t stop! Nicole’s Classes students continued to churn out amazing work this month. Here’s just a sampling of some great stuff we’ve seen this week:

Macy Robison created this poster — not only are we crazy about the design, but the quote feels very topical and heartwarming in light of recent events.

nicole's classes student work
Cammilla Hammill created this cute and clever invitation and it’s such a great exploration of how and when to use good typefaces!

nicole's classes student work

And now we have some work from our brand new Photo 102 class! We think Chanell Nielson and her model might have had a little too much fun taking these 2 photos for the assignment on using unconventional lighting sources!

nicole's classes student work
nicole's classes student work

And last but certainly not least, we have a great sample from Photoshop student  Laura Holland. The before image on the left is super cool in it’s original form, but the edited black and white on the right has amazing contrast and really puts the emphasis on the creatures. Great edit Laura!

nicole's classes student work

Happy weekend everyone!

All About UV Filters

Should You Own a UV Filter? |

Probably! A UV Filter helps filter ultraviolet rays that cause unwanted haziness/flare in your photographs. When I shot film, filters were a must. And even though newer digital cameras aren’t as susceptible to haze, I still find that they make a difference, particularly with landscapes. In general, you’ll achieve stronger contrast and deeper blue tones with a filter. Read on for more about why you should own a UV Filter:


Keeping a UV filter on your lens just might save it one day! A filter will absolutely protect it from smudges and scratches since there is no longer any contact between the outside world and the lens itself. I once dropped my lens and instead of breaking, my UV filter was dented. Another time, the UV filter shattered but the lens was safe. For me, I like the insurance a UV filter carries.

Choosing Your Filter

If you have an expensive lens, it seems counter-intuitive  to buy a cheap piece of glass to place in front of it, so make sure to do some research and spend a little more for a nicer filter.

When To Use a UV Filter |

The Exceptions

So why wouldn’t you keep it on all the time? Sometimes, specific lighting situations will introduce more flare and more haze when a UV filter is used. I’ve found this to be true with backlit scenarios, and it can result in a lack of sharpness and contrast.

When Not to Use a UV Filter |

Bottom Line

UV Filters can help, but they can also hurt. Understanding when and where to use them will help you get the clearest, sharpest images possible. Personally, I don’t use them in a controlled studio setting. But on vacations and when I shoot events, I keep it on for protection and the added contrast in scenic settings.

Interested in learning more about photography? Let me teach you more! Find my monthly course listings here.

Happy Earth Day!

happy earth day from nicole's classes

We don’t know what the weather is like where you are (feel free to let us know in the comments!), but it couldn’t be a more splendid day here to celebrate the earth! We hope you’re able to step away from the computer for a minute today (even if you’re a student in one of our classes right now — the homework can wait!) and dig your feet into the grass while you enjoy the beauty this planet has to offer. We definitely will!

After you take the time to smell the roses as they say, we hope you can take a  look at our upcoming May class schedule. We still have space available  in some of our sessions starting in less than 2 weeks, so this is a reminder to sign up soon if you’d like to join us in the virtual classroom next month:

Photo 102 with Nicole Gerulat
Babies, Toddlers and Kids with Nicole Gerulat
Watercolor 101 with Monica Lee
Floral Arranging 101 with Chelsea Fuss

Please note that Photo 101  is both sold out for May, but they both have availability in later sessions!

Photo by Nicole Gerulat.

Sneak Peek: Floral Arranging 101

If you follow the newest Nicole’s Classes instructor Chelsea Fuss of Frolic! on Instagram (and you all should!), then you’ve already seen some behind the scenes shots of her upcoming Floral Arranging 101 class. Today, we’ll be sharing more beautiful images for the course which launches in 2 weeks on Monday, May 6th. We hope they give you a better feel visually for what you’ll be learning and the quality of finished arrangements you’ll be creating!

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

nicoles classes floral arranging 101

Swoon, right? We can’t wait for all of our students to get the opportunity to learn from such an amazing artist like Chelsea, and we just know you’ll love her floral tips and tricks, her insightful feedback on your work and her lovely styling.

And if those amazing images didn’t already convince you to sign up for Floral Arranging 101, maybe a little discount code will!  Enter the code NCFLORAL10 at checkout to save 10% on her class now through next Friday, April 26th!

Happy floral Friday everyone!


Class filmed by Lisa Warninger.

What Students are Creating (and Saying)!

It’s that time of the week again folks! That’s right, it’s time for us to share some more amazing student work from our recent classes. And as an extra treat for you, we’re also sharing some insightful feedback on our classes at the end.

First, we have another sweet image (remember this one?) from Photo 101 student Chrissie Brown. She’s really learned to master her manual settings to continually capture those fleeting moments with her family. The focus on his eyes is perfect, the composition is spot-on and such a natural and fun environment — great job!
nicole's classes student work

Next we have a set of creative Flash Cards designed by Lisa Orgler. We love the design, the colors and we think the idea is just genius! The thought that someone might be seriously studying cheese types gets us every time… way to go!

nicole's classes student work

And we end with a cute note card from student Chrissy Foy. This design perfectly encapsulates the class lessons, and it’s cute to boot!

nicole's classes student work

If that great work hasn’t already convinced you to join an upcoming Nicole’s Classes course, maybe this feedback from some of our students will!

“I am really enjoying the Photo 101 class. I have learned so much already and can’t wait to learn even more. Now my manual button is not screaming “achtung” to me & is not daunting anymore! I have rediscovered my camera & passion for photography again and have been completely inspired by this beginners course that has gotten my creative juices flowing again.” –Elizabeth Godfrey, Photo 101 student

“I have had a great experience with Nicole’s Classes. I’m very happy with all of my classes, I have learned so much in such a short time. I’m from Chile, and I don’t speak English very well , but I understand much more than I can speak.” — María Angélica, Illustrator student

“Thank you for your feedback on my work. Actual, honest, thoughtful, critical feedback is hard to find and many of us are self taught so it’s crucial to our development… I find your explanations really well rounded in their thoroughness and complexity (not too difficult to understand and not so shallow as to be of little use to those of use with some Adobe experience).” –Rachel Haynes, design student

A Tax Day Surprise!

nicole's classes tax day promo!
It’s that dreaded day of the year… Tax Day. Well, Nicole’s Classes is here to give you a much needed pick-me up!

Today only, through 11:59pm PST, we’re giving you 15% off all online classes with the discount code NCTAXDAY13.

Just doing our part to get you over the Tax Day blues!

5 Tips for Getting Crisp Photographs

One of the questions I get most often is about sharpness. A lot of new photographers feel like their images just aren’t as crisp as professional photographs. So today, I’d like to share a few tips on getting really crisp photos!

How To Get Crisp Photographs | Nicole's Classes

1. Have Proper Focus

It really could be as simple as that! Make sure you are focusing on the most important thing in your photo. Typically with people, it’s the eyes. Otherwise, it’s what is telling the story and directing the story. Try setting your focus points (if your camera has that feature) on auto focus to help you achieve really sharp focus.

2. Analyze Depth of Field

Some people think their photo isn’t sharp because it isn’t properly focused, when in fact, it is! Having shallow depth of field means that something can be in focus while other elements in the scene are not in focus. Shallow depth of field helps force the viewer to focus on whatever is in focus. If you want more elements in your photo to be in focus, use a higher f-stop number for deeper depth of field.

3. Use Great, Clean Light

Stronger light is helpful for sharper-looking images because it adds contrast. But, if you don’t want/like strong light, just try for a catchlight. Catchlights are reflections of the light source in your subject’s eye. Turning your subject toward the light (or using a fill or other bouncing light source) will help add more light to the eyes. Avoid shooting with unflattering light or overhead sun.

4.  Exposures

Dull or dark exposures are great for mood and drama, but you need some contrast to make the photo appear sharp. Making sure your photos aren’t over or underexposed exposed will ensure you get a crisp and clean image.

5. Better Lenses are Often… Better! 

So many are frustrated with the “kit” lenses that come with their camera. Most of you have or at least started with something similar to the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, and while that lens is great for a beginner, it’s made with very cheap glass. It makes sense that a nicer, clearer piece of glass would help create a more clear, sharp image, right? So unfortunately, that means the nicer and more expensive lenses are in fact better. Consider renting a prime lens like the 50mm f1.4 or the 85mm f1.4 to test out their sharpness before purchasing.

For more Photo basics, join me in my Photo 101 online class! You’ll learn so much about your camera and how to get better exposures and crispness using manual settings!

More Great Student Work!

Happy Monday to you all! We couldn’t wait until Friday to showcase a couple of stellar pieces from our students, so enjoy starting your week with this wonderful work!

You might remember this fun Christmas photo we featured from Nicky Berry last December. Well, Nicky came back for our Photoshop 101 class, tweaked the image a bit, and here is the final result! She eliminated the distracting edge of a doorway, tamed some flyaway hairs, perfected the white balance and erased the pesky hairbands on her daughter’s wrist (before is above, after is below):


Nicky also created this sweet and colorful blog header by taking one of her photos and adding some cute type. The family-style composition of the macaroons is adorable and we think it fits the style and mood of her blog perfectly. Visit Nicky’s blog over here!

nicole's classes student work
In Watercolor 101, Lacy Ellman started by paining the yellow lemon on the left for the organic shapes assignment. Then in the last week when Monica covers scanning your work into Photoshop to make it work for the web, she created a pink lemonade and lemon-lime version of her artwork. We love the original and her editing was so well done, we weren’t even sure which one she painted first!


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