Welcome to the shiny new home of Katie Writes Stuff! To celebrate this move, I thought I’d kick things off with something a little different: a sewing vlog.
This may not make a lot of sense, given that I’m meant to be introducing you to my all-new, all-singing-and-dancing blog home. However, this vlog neatly combines most of my favourite things: roadtripping, vintage knitting and sewing, and op shopping (or thrifting, or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). And if you add in the fact that I recorded it on a camera, then I’ve included photography as well. So it has a little bit of everything, which is coincidentally exactly what you can expect on the blog.
(I’d love to say this was my plan all along, but I really just thought of it a moment ago.)
But why a vlog, all of a sudden? Strangely enough, the name “Katie Writes Stuff” originally came from a YouTube channel I started where I uploaded a handful of videos about writing. (One of these has been viewed over five hundred times, possibly because it includes the word ‘pantsing’. It’s in relation to how you approach writing, in case you’re worrying.)
The story truly starts a lot further back than that. If you would be so good as to cast your mind back to the dim, dark depths of 2009, you would be able to find a somewhat younger Katie sitting in her room, staring blankly at a camera and feeling like a right fool. You will not be surprised to discover that this is precisely the wrong way to set about recording your very first vlog. People expect you to say something, for a start, or at the very least, do a little more than sit there like a bump on a log.
Fortunately for my potential future vlog viewers, I did eventually say something. This was handy, as I’d been invited to be part of a group of five writers who were going to present weekly vlogs about the art of writing. I’d never vlogged before and I didn’t even own anything beyond the webcam in my laptop at the time, but saying ‘yes’ to that request to join the channel was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I stopped before the year was up for various reasons, but once you’ve caught the vlogging bug, it never really leaves you. It came back a couple of years ago when I started the Katie Writes Stuff channel, but my enthusiasm for that eventually petered out. This was mostly because the best spot for lighting in my old house was not exactly the best spot for comfort, which meant I shot entire videos kneeling down on scratchy carpet. That got old rather quickly.
So it might have felt as though the vlogging bug had finally left, but it sprang back with a vengeance last week when I watched a whole bunch of sewing vlogs. It’s a difficult bug to ignore once it’s awake and hooked on an idea. It kept poking at me, whispering, You like sewing and knitting and stuff. You could make vlogs, too! I used to do it, after all. I have the skills. And some of the technology.
So instead of falling asleep the other night, I spent what seemed like hours thinking about what I could talk about in my videos until I was forced to give myself a film mental talking-to. “I’ll probably never do it anyway,” I told myself. “So I might as well not lose any sleep over it.”
The next morning, I fixed my camera to my tripod – just to test how the recording function works.
Then I set up in a different location – just to see if the light was any better there.
Then I tweaked that location – just to see if I could cut out background distractions.
Then I recorded a vlog.
Now, this wouldn’t be a proper blog post if I didn’t try to inflict some of my knowledge upon you, so here are a few tips for anyone who’s tempted to dip a toe in the vlogging waters. Absolutely anyone can give vlogging a shot – it really is a lot of fun and, as you’ll see from my tips, it’s not even difficult or expensive. It is, however, a huge time-hog because you’ll get caught up in editing your video until it’s just right and then spend ages watching all the other vlogs in your area of expertise because they’re just so inspiring.
It’s an obsession, basically. You have been warned. (Do it anyway.)
Seven Tips for Beginner Vloggers
1. Practise first.
You will feel like an absolute idiot when you start out so have a couple of practice sessions with your camera to loosen up. You can be as silly or awkward as you want in these because no-one will ever see them. (Unless you really want them to, of course.) Then you’ll need to brace yourself for the hardest part of starting a vlog: playing your practice sessions back so you can watch yourself. View your footage and marvel at all the strange mannerisms you never realised you made as you talked! Once you get over that, work out what you do well and what you’d like to change and tweak your performance accordingly. After a vlog or two, you’ll be chatting away to the camera like it’s an old friend, albeit one who never brings a cake around to eat while you’re catching up.
2. You don’t need to invest in new equipment.
That’s right: if you have a mobile phone, you can start a vlog. A mobile phone from the last couple of years will record decent video – just remember to turn it on its side first so it’s recording in landscape. If you have a DSLR or a similar type of camera, you’ll be able to record using that. I used my Olympus OM-D E-M5 for my vlog and left everything on auto, as it was the first time I’d used it for video. It worked pretty well; however, the control freak in me was excited to discover I can switch it to manual, so I’ll be doing that for future videos.
When you’ve finished filming and need to edit your video and become immune to the act of staring at your face for the next couple of hours, default programs such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie will serve you well.
3. Try to film without being able to see yourself.
Have you ever watched a video on YouTube and felt as though the person was looking over your left shoulder the whole time? That’s what hapens when you watch the preview screen instead of looking directly at the lens. It’s hard not to look at that little screen, though, especially when you’re trying to check if the camera is focussed on your face instead of that funny speck on the wall behind you. To avoid the looking-over-the-viewer’s-shoulder effect, either keep your preview screen at the back of your camera or just practise extreme self-discipline and keep your gaze locked on the lens.
4. Find a place with great light where you can sit comfortably.
Trust me: being able to sit comfortably makes for a much nicer vlogging experience. Look for places where you can face one or two windows for maximum light and find a way to squeeze a chair in there. Alternatively, you can stand up, or settle yourself cross-legged on the floor, or drape yourself luxuriously over a chaise longue – whatever feels best for you! I recommend avoiding situations where you’ll have to kneel down. It feels OK at first, but it’s really hard to stand up when your knees and the lower half of your legs have gone to sleep.
5. Have all your props ready.
Gather up everything you’ll need for your vlog and have it all to hand. I can place my props on a table so they’re just out of shot while also being conveniently nearby when they’re needed.
6. Keep a hairbrush and a drink handy.
I’d prefer to have tea while recording, but water is probably the better option. It doesn’t matter if it goes cold, for a start. Whatever you choose, you’ll be grateful to have something to soothe your throat when you’ve been talking non-stop for half an hour. Check your hair and general appearance before you start (which I clearly didn’t this time, as you can see a weird bunchy bit of hair when I turn to the side). If I’d kept a hairbrush nearby, I could have sorted everything out before I launched into recording.
7. Prepare a list of topics with keywords that you can place near your camera.
I like to write down three or four main points and tape them either just under the camera or somewhere nearby. You will inevitably forget what you’re going to say at some point and it’s great to have a reminder right in front of you. Remember to take a moment and pause before going on – this will make it easier to cut out the mistake when you’re editing. Make sure you use strong tape, too. There are few things more frustrating than losing your train of thought and discovering your carefully written list of topics has just floated its way under a nearby bookshelf.
I also recommend keeping a notebook for brainstorming future vlog ideas. Once you record your first vlog, your brain will positively fill up with ideas for the next one… and the one after that… and the one after that…
Now you can see how easy it is, what’s to stop you from giving it a go yourself?