Friday, February 25, 2011

I think I'm finished fiddling...

I've spent the last two days messing around with adding silk ribbon and beads to Antique Lace. I'll have to figure out how exactly to do the ribbon as I've never actually stitched with it before, but it'll be a fun challenge!! I'm ordering lots of ribbon in case I screw it up. lol

You can't really tell from the mock up where the beads will end up, but I promise I didn't go too crazy. It's only about 1000. Given that in all there's over 40000 cross stitches alone, that's not that many!! :D Of course the beads are optional and could always be replaced with a cross stitch if beads aren't your thing.

And now I need to stop fiddling. I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I need to grow more arms...

... as I've just finished another design in the charting software. This one will take me forever and a day to stitch, but it's going to be fun! It's a huge design, over 40,000 cross stitches and lots of specialty stitches. I decided to go with the Picture This Plus Huntress for it, and I think for this one I'll go with Hand Dyed Fibers for the threads. The possibilities are limitless though, you could do any colours you wanted it and it would look pretty darn cool. This makes the decision about which will be next pretty easy - Celtic Snow is nowhere near ready to stitch yet. The knotwork border is done, and I've got a few snowflakes designed, but that's about it for the moment. I'm taking a couple days off charting now - my wrist is killing me from drawing in all the details on this one!!

I've also added a new page to my blog, listing conversions for my designs, see the link at the top. I figured rather than blog them, I'd just put them somewhere all together and easily accessible. I'll be adding to this page frequently as I get a request or as I feel inspired to do so!

No update on Daisy just yet - I'm almost half done and I'll grab some pictures when I move the q-snaps tonight. My goodness I can get a lot more done when I don't have to rush out to work everyday. I feel more like a real needlework designer now - half the day on the computer, half the day stitching, broken up by going for short walks and playing games on the computer. ;)

And with that, Zuma Blitz is calling.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Well I've done it...

I've started Daisy! I'm having fun with this one. I was a little iffy at first about the heavy contrast between the soft pink, deep green and bright yellow, but all together I think it works. :) I'm using Belle Soie for this one, in Carnation, Mango and Creme de Menthe on 40 ct Lakeside Magnolia. You'd think I'd be tired of this fabric colour by now, but I still love it. Which reminds me, I need to order another yard of it soon.

After Rhapsody in Red got it's turn on the q-snaps, I was itching for some specialty stitches and worked on The Strawberry Sampler for a few days. It's such a fun piece to do. Lots of different stitches to experiment with and bright bold colours. I didn't get a whole lot done, but I finished a few more bands. :) Using NPI and Gloriana for this one and my oh my those reds are so vivid! This one is on Magnolia again, however this time it's Vintage and it's 36 ct instead of 40. Yes, I have a lot of Magnolia. :D

I've been using my time off wisely, getting lots of charting done as well. I've completed another design in the flower series, Marigold, and almost completed Iris as well (one more band to go). I got a start on charting Violet and Bluebell which will round out the series, and I got the outer border finished on Celtic Snow. Busy, busy, busy. Today I think I'll put in some time on Antique Lace, given I've been dreaming about lace patterns lately. Still on the hunt for the perfect fabric for it. I got a piece of 40ct PTP Huntress, and while it's really pretty it's much more mottled and more pink than I was looking for. I was looking at Stitches and Spice Hunter Shiraz, might pick up a piece of that too. What I really want just doesn't exist, at least not in the count I want. I want Ruby Wine, which is a standard Zwiegart colour, but it doesn't come in 40 ct. I might just have to concede defeat and go with 36 ct. I just worry that the coverage won't be heavy enough with the stark contrast of cream on red. Though I could always go with a Soie D'Alger based thread for it, it's a bit thicker than the rest. Hmmm... that's got my brain spinning now. Plus, with the specialty stitches this one will have, 36ct might be a better fit. Note to self... order some 36 ct Ruby Wine along with the Magnolia. Will have to do some test stitching for this one for sure.

With time off work in mind... I gave my notice at work, though I'll be spending my last two weeks at home. My back still isn't ready for any sort of major movement. I tried going medication free (well heavy meds anyway) over the weekend, and moving around a bit more and it seemed a bit better so I attempted work on Monday - though I didn't make it out the door. When I bent down to tie my shoes, I couldn't get back up. Yes, I'm rolling my eyes. It is getting better, but I think I'm just too stubborn to admit defeat. I didn't tell my boss the underlying reason for my leaving, I told her that my old body just couldn't handle the lifting and bending and stretching needed to do the job, which IS true given I have heel spurs, bad back, bad knees and bad shoulders, but it's only a small part of it. She was very understanding, and has asked that I give it some more thought and let her know my decision next week because she doesn't want to lose me. I feel a bit guilty, but I know I can't keep going the way I am. So now the job hunt begins in earnest. I'm staying positive, this is a GOOD thing.

And finally, speaking of old... I really feel it today. My son is officially an adult today. :') Very mixed emotions. Happy birthday Nate!

Friday, February 11, 2011

And continuing on from yesterday...

I wondered... what is it that draws people to a particular shop. I know that there are a lot of shops struggling to stay afloat, even ones that have great prices and service, and yet there are others doing very well even in this economy, that overcharge like crazy.

So what is is that makes you want to shop at a particular shop? Is it price? Service? Selection?

What kinds of things are important to you as stitchers?

Before you ask, no I'm not thinking about opening a shop. But after speaking with my LNS owner, it's something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. I know things like keeping updated stock are important - who wants to go to the shop and see the same old things on the shelves. And honestly, that's not the issue with the shops I know are having a tough time, they keep up to date with new releases, but that's getting more and more difficult to do when sales are declining every month.

Here are some things that I thought of, let me know if I'm way off base.

Newletters. Let people know what's new, what's coming and what's hot every few weeks. This also keeps your shop fresh in their minds so when they do need something, you're the first place they think of.

Online sales. Make it as easy as possible to get what you want in as many ways as possible. For people who work a lot or live far from shops and can't make the trip often, it makes it so easy to get what you need. Sure it might mean a bit of a wait, but it's worth it if you can't always go in person.

Specials. Nothing brings people in the door quicker than having something on special. And often, people will spend more when things are on sale than they would if they paid regular price, simply because it gives them an excuse to stock up. I KNOW I do.

Fresh Inventory. Keep up to date with what's new, what's hot, what's selling. Put old stock on sale to clear it out the door and make room for new stuff.

Know your products. Even if you don't carry it, it's worth knowing about it, because someone, somewhere will want it at some point. Sign up for every newletter, blog, facebook page you can think of for dyers, designers and wholesalers to get the latest news all the time. Like I said, it's not necessarily having the product on your shelf so much as knowing exactly how to get it.

Of course all of these things are dependent on people signing up for that newsletter, and coming into the shop or visiting the website. How do you get people in the door?

And a few things I wondered about. Is it important to you that a shop carries full lines of threads? Or is it better if they stock stuff that goes with the charts they sell. Are you likely to purchase random colours or do you stick with what you need more often than not? Is it helpful if shops can help you do conversions? Is it very important to you that a shop carries a wide range of fabrics, or are you happy to special order what you need? I know the best option would be for shops to have swatch books of every fabric and thread imaginable, but most companies just don't offer these. And keep in mind that all of these questions are kind of dependent on the size of the shop obviously as to how much they can actually keep in stock.

I suppose for me it's not necessary for a shop to have EVERYTHING in stock all the time. It's very rare for me to need anything right away, as my hubby tells everyone - I have enough stuff here that I COULD start a shop if I wanted to. I know I always have 20 or more things I can work on while I'm waiting for an order to arrive. What I want from a shop, either in person or online is the availability to get what I want. Heck, half of what I buy I special order, and I don't mind if I have to wait a month for a backordered piece of fabric, as long as I know it's coming (of course the exception is if I need it for model stitching!!). Keep me up to date about the status of my order. A quick email or phone call letting me know it might be another week or two is all I need to keep me happy. I know sometimes things are backordered and it's beyond the shop's control. These are the reasons I shop where I do. Because they do exactly these things. Just because it's not on the shelf or website doesn't mean it's not available to me.

So all that said, I go back to my original question. Everyone has a favourite shop or website that they visit for their stash fixes. What is it that makes you choose that one over the hundreds of others out there?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Something old, something new, something aggravating

First, the aggravating - the status of my back. I went to the Doctor on Tuesday morning. Stubborn me wasn't willing to admit defeat and tried to work over the weekend. NOT a good idea it seems. By Sunday noon I was in tears just trying to walk. Turns out that because of overcompensating for the bruised tailbone, I have definitely pinched my sciatic nerve. Doc gave me Percoset and Naproxen. I've been taking the Naproxen, but I avoid the Percs except at bedtime. I don't like how they make me all groggy and loopy. Sure they kill the pain, but I'm a drooling idiot for six hours after taking them. Not much fun. It's slowly improving. As far as I know (I have to call to get my schedule for next week) I'm off work until Monday. This time I'm making no guarantees, if it still aches on Sunday, I'll make other arrangements.

On the subject of work... I've come to a decision. I can't really go into a lot of details, but because of a situation at work I'm sinking further and further into a serious depression. I did talk to my Dr. about it, he wanted to put me on anti-depressants, but it's situational more than chemical. The depression would be gone if I didn't have to be in this situation. I know that for a fact, because the only time I feel it is when I'm either at work, getting ready for work or just home from work. I've been looking for something else for a few months now, but I was being pickier at the time because I could. Now because of this change in circumstances at work, I've decided that I need to find something else. NOW. I'm at that point where I don't even care if I find something else first - I'm giving my notice as soon as I'm able to go back. I can't keep going like this. I cry at the drop of a hat, I'm having panic attacks when I know I have to go in or even when I'm there, I don't sleep nights before I have to work and when I do I have nightmares. I wish that I could make enough designing to not have to worry about a job out of the house, but I don't see that happening any time soon. I don't want full time, just something 3 days a week. Even at that, there aren't a whole lot of options around here. But I'm looking.

Okay, on to something new. I was feeling inspired yesterday, so I did some charting. Jon was good enough to install all my design software onto the laptop so I didn't have to sit at the computer. :) I finished up one design and either started or worked on several others. Rose, the sixth floral design is ready to stitch - which poses a dilemma. Rose or Daisy first? Probably Daisy, it's been in the to do pile longer. Both of them are pink - though different pinks... hmmm....

And something old - I've also been stitching a bit when I feel up to it. Maybe it's because Valentine's day is coming, but I've been in the mood to stitch something red. So I worked on Rhapsody in Red for a few days. This is where it stands now. Love this design so much. I've moved on, but still on my red fixation, and am now working on Strawberry Sampler. No picture this time, but will have one when I get tired of red or when I start the next model. Likely the latter. Strawberry Sampler is so much fun!!

And some various, random things... Daffodil, Forget Me Not and Hearts Entwined have arrived safe and sound at my distributor. For you Canadian ladies, Purolator is the way to go if you have to get something there quick. I sent it Tuesday, it was in California on Wednesday. Okay, so it was $30 to send the three models, BUT, next day delivery is pretty great. Canada Post wanted $54 to guarantee five days.

Oooooh and one last thing, moreso for you Canadian ladies. I was, as I often do, surfing around needlework shops and I noticed something. The prices from a couple of shops here in Ontario are ridiculous!!! I can see why so many people shop online. I do about half and half. As much as possible I use my LNS. She's reasonably priced, and while it's a small shop, she's always happy to order anything she can for me. Brenda definitely knows customer service. When I shop online it's mostly from Karen at Wasatch Needlecraft, because she's always dependable, and she has great sales. Apart from those two, any money I spend is generally on wholesale items for designing. If there's something I can't get from one of those, I will shop around.

Anyway, back to my point. What do I think is reasonably priced for Canada? Well, I figure it should cost me the same amount to buy something here that it costs me to buy online from the US. So figure MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) plus a bit added on to cover shipping, customs and dollar exchange expenses. I usually figure about 20-25% is reasonable So for a chart that costs $15, I would expect to pay about $18 here. Sound about right??? I found out that it totally depends on where you shop here.

To give you a couple of examples, I recently purchased Ink Circles Turkish Delight at Country Accents and I paid $16.99. For me to buy that same chart online, with shipping, would cost me about $16 with the current exchange rate, though the exchange rate is unusually high, so normally it would be about $17. So Brenda's price is just what you'd expect. For the exact same chart at another shop in Ontario was $21.50. When I saw that, my jaw dropped, so I investigated further. Given I work in the industry and know what the wholesale price of everything is, I was shocked. Yes, in Canada shops pay a little more for shipping and customs and exchange so prices here will always be slightly higher, but that was ridiculous. I was appalled. Just to give you a couple more examples... Sampler Cove's Spanish Rouge has an MSRP of $22USD. So you'd expect to pay about $27CDN. Wrong. This shop is charging $34. Rosewood Manor's Family Reunion - MSRP $28. Brenda carries this at $31.99. Sounds about right, no? Nope. The retail at this other shop is $42. $42!!!!!! It's just as bad with threads and fabric. I'll give you a couple more examples. Hand Dyed Fibers threads... order them directly from the HDF website and you get 8 meters of any solid colour on a micro spool for $1.65USD or a 25 yard mini spool for $4.95. This shop carries 5 yard skeins, and they're $2.55CDN - I didn't see the 25 yard spool option on their website. Same goes for variegated colours - from the Hand Dyed Fibers website, an 8m spool is $2.00, a 25 yard spool is $6.00. This shop is charging $3.00 for a 5 yard skein. Confused yet? Fabric is the same thing. A fat eighth of cashel hand dyed linen from Picture This Plus is $13.25 if you order from Picture This Plus. If you buy from this shop, it's $20 for the same piece of fabric.

I'm not saying all shops here are THAT bad. There are a few that are honest and not looking to rip off consumers. The best thing to do when you're looking to buy something here? Before you trek to the shop, look around at prices at various shops online, both here and the US. That way when you get there, you know what you should be paying rather than what THEY say you should be paying. The needlework market is struggling enough without price gouging.

Okay, vent over. Actually I kind of got sidetracked there, but it irks me. Going to stitch now and try to cheer up a bit.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And finally some pictures!

Admittedly, not great ones. :( I borrowed a camera and have played with seemingly every setting but I can't seem to get them right. But there is a degree of urgency with Nashville coming so I'll have to make due. Saving my pennies now for a new camera!

So first of all we have Daffodil. :) I have a few errors in the chart to correct, and then will be sending her along to ECS for the Nashville show. She's stitched on 40ct Lakeside Magnolia Linen, with Gloriana Narcissus and Summer Foliage. The chart will include a DMC conversion, as always, though you could use any yellow/green combo you like and I'm sure it will be beautiful. The design is all full cross stitches, so it can be stitched on ANY fabric you choose. I'll tell you this - natural light, flash... doesn't matter. Yellow doesn't photograph well.

And Sabrina. I've talked enough about her, I figured it was time to finally show her off. I replaced the two waterlilies colours with threads I had on hand - the green is Belle Soie Beanstalk, and the deep pink is Carrie's Colonial Red Silk. She's stitched on a 32 ct Jobelan solo from Silkweaver. It's mostly pink, but has touches of yellow and blue as well, though the picture doesn't seem to capture those. I've got a lot of white to finish, and a whole lot of beads, but she's coming along. :)

I decided to put her aside for a little while and have been working on Rhapsody in Red for the last couple days - when I've been able to stitch. Long story short - snow/ice storm, large drifts hiding the porch steps, and I fell down them. I've bruised my tailbone and my sciatic nerve is pinched. I don't work again until Saturday, hopefully I have a bit more mobility back by then!!

I went to see Brenda on Tuesday - she's working on Hearts Entwined. I LOVE the fabric colour she's chosen for it. She's doing it on Rue Green Belfast - the silvery green looks perfect with the green and pink she's chosen to stitch it in. It's really lovely. And I FINALLY got a copy of the American Sampler. I don't know what fabric I'll use, but I'm pretty much set on using the AVAS for it. I might change a few colours, but I probably have most of what I need already. Won't be starting it for ages and ages, I'm kind of in the mood to finish some stuff - or at least work towards finishing some stuff.

And since sitting at the computer is a bit rough at the moment, I'll make this a relatively short post. :)