Instagram Basics for Sewists and Quilters: Joining, Posting, and Getting Involved

Instagram Basics Guide

Instagram for Sewists and Quilters (and Crafters of all kinds!)

This post is meant to be used in conjunction with Sew-Alongs and Giveaways that may have eligibility guidelines revolving around Instagram. It is geared towards individuals who do not yet have instagram, who feel unfamiliar with the platform and community, or those who may be looking for some tips on getting more involved.

You may also like my guide here on taking a picture a day on Instagram.

Back in November, I talked a little bit about one of the perks of being involved in a community on Instagram – the swaps! Swaps are a great way interact with other members of the sewing and quilting community, and can help you strengthen a bond with someone that you’ve been interacting with for some time, or put yourself in a position to make a brand new friend.

Swaps aren’t the only reason to join in on the IG fun. There are Sew-Alongs (Oh, hi. Hello! Like the Polaroid Sew-Along that is going on right now!), general Craft-alongs (Yes, hello. Me again. Like the Saturday Night Craftalong that I co-host on Saturday nights!), and quilt-alongs in the sewing and quilting communities. There are knit-alongs, crotchet-alongs, and any other-along that you could possibly think up.

There are millions upon millions of people on Instagram, and chances are, there is someone out there who has similar tastes and interests that you can connect with.

If that isn’t enough reason for you to join, than I have one more thing to mention to you that will be sure to get you interested…

Giveaways.

GIVEAWAYS!

There are bloggers, fabric shops, fabric and notion manufacturers, designers, authors, publishers, and just general everyday folks who are GIVING STUFF AWAY on IG. Sometimes you have to do specific things (like follow eligibility rules in sew-alongs if you want to be considered for giveaway prizes), and other times you just have to “tag” a friend in the comments section. The great part is, you can pick and choose to get involved with as many giveaways, craftalongs, and other general IG shenanigans as you want. You are in complete control of your account, including security and personal information. People can only see what you want them to see and are only given information that you decide to provide them with.

I’m going to begin this post with some very general information on getting yourself set up with an account, and choosing your settings. I am going to then continue with basic information on posting, including one or two tips on what types of pictures to post. I’m going to finish this post with information on how to get involved and find a group of people to connect with.

Joining Instagram (IG)

Setting up your Account

Instagram is an app that is used on a Smartphone. First things first, head over to whatever application on your phone allows you to purchase and download new apps. As an apple user, I would head over to the App Store. Instagram is a free app, and it is usually found in the “top” charts, but a simple search will pull it up.

Instagram in the App Store

You can see in the above screen shot that the Instagram Logo is a little camera icon in a orange/magenta/purple background. You can also see that it says “open” to the right of the name and logo. I already have Instagram downloaded onto my phone, otherwise it would say “GET” in that little box.

Once you download Instagram, locate it on your phone and open it up. You are going to see a login screen which will prompt you to log in with an account that you have already created, or create a new account.

Instagram Log In Screen

When you create a new account, you will have the choice of signing up with Facebook, or creating your account using a phone number or email address. This step is entirely up to you. When you create your account using your Facebook account, your Instagram and Facebook accounts will be linked. This makes logging into Instagram very easy for you as it uses the same log in credentials as Facebook. The downside is that only one Instagram account can be linked with Facebook in this way at a time. This primarily affects people who create multiple Instagram accounts (more on that below). For example, let’s say that you create an Instagram account that is tied to Facebook and this is your personal account. You decide to keep it private because you are going to be posting pictures of your kids and grandkids on it and you want to make sure you have control of who sees your content. One day, you start making miniature donuts out of clay and decide that you want to create an Instagram account that is only pictures of your mini clay donut creations (you even have the name picked out. You really hope that daintydonutdelicacies is available!). You decide to make a new account. At this point, you will not be able to Log In with Facebook, you will need to create the account with an email address or phone number.

It is also important to note that just as it is only possible to link one IG account to Facebook, each IG account you create will need its own unique email address or phone number for Log In.

Ok, now you decide how you want to move forward. Choose a method and make an account!

A few things to note:

  1. It is going to prompt you to create a username. Just be aware that you are able to change this if you regret daintydonutdelicacies at some point down the road.
  2. You are going to be encouraged to connect with Facebook even if you do not create your account Log In using Facebook. The reason for this is that Instagram is a Social Media platform, and it encourages interaction. It is going to prompt you to look for people you know through Facebook and your phone contacts so that you can get started right away. It is also going to make suggestions for you based on interests and users nearby.

Understanding the Interface

Once your account is set and you’ve connected with a few people you may know, it is time to start learning the ropes. Before we move on, here are a few terms that will help you settle in faster:

  1. Followers: These are the people who “follow” your account.
  2. Following: These are the people who you follow.
  3. Like/Heart: A response to an image. When you “like” someones image by pressing the heart, it notifies them that you liked it. There is also a running tally under the photo of how many likes an image has, and who the people are who liked it.
  4. Comment: Leave a little response or comment in writing under the photo. Comments under photos are public, so whenever someone else looks at the image, they will be able to read your comment.
  5. PM/DM: Private Message or Direct Message. You can talk directly to Instagram users using this feature. These messages are private and cannot be seen by anyone other than the individuals who are included in the PM/DM. The terms Private Message and Direct Message are used interchangeably and mean the same thing. You are able to send a PM/DM to a group of people who would then all be privately involved in the group chat, or to an individual. If you are sending a message to an individual, than just you and that individual can see the message.
  6. Feed/Stream: This is a term that is used with a group of images within the app. So if I were to say “there are so many cute pictures of kittens popping up in the feed today!” I am referring to the pictures of kittens that the people who I am following are posting. I can see these pictures when I am under my “home” screen on IG. If I were to say something along the lines of “You may remember a few days ago when I mentioned rescuing a flying squirrel in my backyard (check a few images back in my feed if you want to know more!)” In which case I would be referring to the images that I am posting to my own account. My personal feed.
  7. Tag: It is possible to “tag” people in a picture that you are posting. When another user clicks the picture as it comes up in their feed, they would then see the user names of all of those who are tagged. If you are commenting on any picture (whether it is yours, a picture of someone whom you follow, or a random picture you stumbled upon) you are able to tag users in the comments. This is useful when you are trying to show a friend a picture that you may find interesting, include a friend in on a conversation, or get the attention of the person who’s image it is. Anyone who is tagged will receive a notification that they have been tagged. Sometimes you need to “tag a friend in the comments” to be eligible for a giveaway. Tag away! Generally it is one tag per comment unless otherwise noted.
    1. to tag someone in a comment, use the @ symbol immediately followed by their username. For example, I am @myteaandbrie on IG!

Once you are ready to explore, navigation is easy! Use the image and description below to find your way around IG.

Instagram Navigation

User @meganmme was at the top of my feed when this image was taken. You can see her gorgeous quilt from my “A New Day” pattern is in the shot, as well as her newest creation – A Log Cabin Pillow!

Top Bar from Left to Right:

  1. Camera: This lets you take take images and video that you can post to your “story” or send in a DM/PM
  2. Paper Airplane: The button to send a DM/PM

Second Bar:

  1. Stories: These are little snippits from the lives of the people/companies that you follow. They disappear within 24 hours from when they are posted. They are fun, and a great way to connect with the people you are following! Your story is first, and then it progresses to the stories of those you follow. Anyone who has a new story (or new addition to an existing story) that you have not yet seen/watched will show up first and will be highlighted around their profile picture.
  2. Live: If anyone is live, you will see it in that bar all the way to the left.

Center Screen:

  1. This is where the content is, and this changes based on what “tab” you are under. More on tabs below….

Bottom Bar from Left to Right:

  1. Home: When you are here, the center screen will fill with pictures from the people you follow. You can scroll down to look at all the magic.
  2. Search: Search for specific users, tags, people, or places by selecting the search bar. Otherwise, you can browse through the recommendations that Instagram has come up with based on your activity, the people you follow, and the activity of the people you follow.
  3. Plus: Add a picture or video
  4. Heart: Activity on your images and comments that you have made. You will get notifications here of people who either like and comment on your pictures, like your comments, or tag you in a comment on your image or someone else’s image. It is important you scroll through here so that if people are talking to you, you can interact with them!
  5. Silhouette: this is your feed, and what others see when they are looking at your profile

Your Profile

Please note: when you are under your “profile” tab, this is where you will have the ability to control how much other users are allowed to see. You can click your “edit profile” button to choose an image and tell people a little bit about yourself. You can also click the “cog” in the upper right hand corner to control account settings, etc. etc. This is where you will be able to decide if you want your account to be private (you control who is allowed to follow you by accepting or declining), or public (anyone can see anything you post).

The need for more than one account

It may seem silly to have more than one account, but many people do for security reasons. If you want to share your interests and passions with others, but you aren’t comfortable with people knowing about your personal life, than it may make sense for you to have one account that is public where you post your interests such as knitting, gardening, cooking, hiking, etc. You may then decide to have another account that is private where you only allow people you know personally to follow you. This is where you may share pictures of the kids and grandkids. Also, your friends and family may not understand your obsession with tiny clay donuts, so a second account where you can freely post that stuff and not have your family think you are crazy may be a good idea. You may also find that having a second, very specialized and specific account may generate a lot of interest! You may not be the crazy donut lady afterall, but rather the genius behind dainty delicacies!

Posting Information and Tips

Unfortunately, not all photos and videos are created equal on Instagram. How much time and energy you put into your images really depends a lot on what you hope to get out of using the app. If you have a personal account that you would like to use to share your passions, connect with some new people, and enter giveaways, then some really basic guidelines are all you need.

If you would like to have other people “repost” your image, you would like your image to be featured on a blog or website, or would like more people to follow you and interact on your images, than you may need to put a little more time and thought into your photos.

If you are using your account as a means to gain followers, create an online presence, or promote your business, than you need to spend time and energy on each post, and you will need to look beyond this post for guidance. This information is really geared towards individuals who may just be interested in sharing nice images and feel like they are a part of a community.

The basics

The following tips are very basic tips, but they really should be followed in order to get people interacting with you and your photos!

IMG_0114

  1. Good Lighting: Try to take your photos in the daytime and in indirect sunlight. If you are inside, indirect light from a nice bright window is great! Outside you may choose to shoot in the shade or on an overcast day so that the lighting is nice and even. People are more drawn to images with bright, indirect, or soft light as apposed to harsh, dark, or artificial light.
  2. Focus: Did you know that by tapping the screen of your smartphone, you can focus your image? This is also a great way to allow your phone’s camera to find the correct exposure. Try to tap on the part of the picture that you would like to have in focus before you take your picture.
  3. Background: Uncluttered images are appealing. A nice, clean background, like a white tabletop or a solid desk, will bring the focus to your subject. You don’t need a lot of room to take pictures. My “white background” happens to be where I am typing on my keyboard right now! I slide my keyboard out of the way and have a nice area that is about 24″ x 24″ to work with.

The Next Step

Tula Pink Sampler Block

Some bloggers will feature Instagram users who have used their patterns, tutorials, or items in some way. We are even going to be doing an “IG Roundup” here on the blog with the Instagram Sew-Along! If you would like to be featured, take a little bit more time to compose your picture. Try taking it from different angles. Remember, less is more! You don’t need to be super fancy and have an entire stylized composition to have a “great” picture. Having a clean background, good lighting, and not a lot of filters or camera effects will definitely up your chances of having your images reposted or featured!

Joining a Community

Getting involved on Instagram doesn’t need to feel like you are back at your first day of middle school trying to figure out where the heck you should sit for lunch in the cafeteria. There is one really important people of advice I can give you, and that is:

you will get out of it what you put in.

Taking the time to wish my followers a Happy New Year in January of 2017

Taking the time to wish my followers a Happy New Year in January of 2017

Regardless of how strong you go in with guns blazing, you won’t get any likes on your photos if you aren’t also putting in some time and effort with other people’s photos. Here are a few tips to have an enjoyable experience on IG and find your niche.

  1. Use the search feature to find people. Follow people you find inspiring, interesting, and fun. Do not expect them to follow you back. They might, but probably won’t.
  2. Begin regularly “liking” and leaving simple yet meaningful comments on people’s posts.
    1. Comment Don’t: “LOVE!” This comment is simple and sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily show anyone that you were actually interested in their photo.
    2. Comment Do: “Wow, I love this. I love how the fabrics you picked out compliment the pattern, it really creates such a sense of movement. Well done!” This comment takes about 15 seconds to type out, and it will leave an impression on the person you are leaving it for.
  3. Keep liking and commenting
  4. and then like and comment some more
  5. Really, you’ve got to keep doing it. There are a lot of people on Instagram, and it isn’t personal if people aren’t responding to you. You just have to keep grabbing their attention in order for them to remember you. A lot of people also use Instagram on the go, so they are just quickly glancing at likes and comments between picking up the kids and dropping them at their next destination. Or while their coffee that went cold is being nuked for 60 seconds. Or while waiting for a pot to boil.
    1. After you spend time liking and commenting regularly, you will find that people will start to follow you back, and interact on your photos as well. This is a great way for relationships to grow!
  6. If someone comments on your photo, head over to their feed and leave them some love. Remember, they are putting in the effort too, so it is important to respond!
  7. If there is someone who you follow and you love their work or their images, check out who else is leaving them comments. This is potential friend territory! USE IT!
  8. Tag Tag Tag
    1. Smart tagging can get an entire article of its own, but I’m going to keep it simple here. Subject tags are created using the # symbol. You know, “hastag!” When you add a hashtag to your photo, you are sending it into a stream with other images that use the same hashtag. It will create a link on your photo. Some hastags (like #quilting ) have hundreds of thousands of images. Other hashtags (like “myteaandbrieisthecoolest”) may not have any images yet!
    2. Finding hashtags that are not oversaturated but are still regularly used are a great way to meet people with similar interests. Click on a picture that catches your eye. Leave a like or a comment. Click on that persons profile. Do they have a bunch of awesome pictures? Potential IG BUDDY! Follow them! Start commenting! Yay! FRIENDS!
    3. Find a hashtag that is busy during specific times. The #saturdaynightcraftalong is an online “crafting party” that starts on Saturday Night in Australia and runs through Saturday Night in the states with hosts in AUS, the UK, and the USA. Interact, make a friend. Get on board!
  9. Stalk… I mean explore the tags on the images of people who you follow and admire. If they are posting to some unique tags, you may find other people to follow within the tag. Then you get to start the whole “like and comment” thing all over again :)
  10. Join a Sew-Along, and quilting bee/sewing bee, or a Swap. There are always some sort of “-along” or “swap” going on. Ask around, search around. Do a google search and see if some blogs pop up. Find a sign up sheet and commit. This is a great place to focus your attention and meet some new people.

Hashtags

If you are here looking for more information on how to have your pictures be eligible for giveaway prizes, the important thing to note is what tags the giveaway lists as essential. For the Polaroid Sew-Along, you need to have the following tags on every relevant photo: @myteaandbrie @urbansewciety #myteaandbrie #urbansewciety #polaroidsewalong2017 – it really is as simple as copying and pasting the tags into the “caption” area when you upload/take your picture!

And Remember

It's all about the process - sharing the start of my pattern writing process with my followers in December of 2016

It’s all about the process – sharing the start of my pattern writing process with my followers in December of 2016

Try to remember WHY you are using IG. Don’t get caught up in numbers. Keep it simple. “I want to be able to enter giveaways” or “I want to be inspired in my own creativity” are great reasons to join. Also “I want to share my passion with other people” or “I want to meet some other people who have similar interests” are also great reasons. If you start to get caught up in the numbers, you will lose the enjoyment that the community can bring.

Please, if you have any questions, reach out. You can find me here, on IG, and on Facebook. My Facebook Group is also a great place to find other people who share similar interests. Come connect with us!

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3 comments
  • MeganMME

    I’m FAMOUS!!!!!    :)

  • Well YEA YOU ARE!!! I’m glad you were at the top of my feed when I blindly took that screen capture! xox

  • judy

    EXCELLENT article!  Very informative, you are so talented at so many things apparantly :), THANKS for such great and complete info!

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