Thursday, December 6, 2012

Some recent finishes and a WIP

I've had loads of stitching time lately, and have been stitching just for fun instead of model stitching. It helps immensely with keeping my spirits up. :)

A couple of weeks back, I finished this lovely lady, Lavender and Lace Angel of Winter. It was stitched as a housewarming gift for a dear friend of mine and as soon as I can afford to frame her I'll be giving it to her. She's stitched on Silkweaver's 40ct Poltergeist Linen, using Sullivan's floss, Rainbow Gallery Petite Treasure Braid and Wisper threads and SJ Designs Petite Beads. Very happy with how she turned out. May have to stitch her (and the other three in the set) for myself someday!


Before I post my next finish, just a note on the Sullivan's floss. It's not as soft as DMC or Anchor, nor does it have the sheen they do, however, it is quite nice to stitch with. The coverage is much better than DMC and it doesn't tangle, shred or knot up any more than Anchor or DMC do. Thumbs up.

And second, a note about beading on 40ct. Well, using size 15/0 (petite) seed beads if they're spaced out they fit very easily. If there is a densely stitched area of beading, you may have to do a little bit of fudging - skip a bead here and there - to make them fit.  I've had the same issue with size 11/0 beads on 32ct so it's not more difficult than that. If you can find matching colours in Delica size 15/0 (labeled as DBS instead of DB) they fit better than standard round size 15/0 beads, but the colour selection is very limited in comparison.

Okay, on to my second recent finish, Mirabilia's Sleeping Beauty. This one is stitched with DMC on 40ct Silkweaver Karma Linen, the beads are Toho size 15/0. I did change the colour of one of the beads, Iris - they seemed too red-violet. So I changed them to one that was more blue-violet. They look very blue in the picture, but they're much more purple IRL!






And a WIP - I'm much further than this now, working on the last two colours in her skirt. This is Mirabilia's Fairy Moon in my own colour scheme. The fabric is Sassy's 40ct Nightfall linen (approx DMC is 158 and darker, the picture shows it much lighter than it is) and I wanted the colours to really stand out, and I just felt the colour scheme was a little drab on this fabric. Plus, I wanted to avoid ANOTHER white dress. After all my changes, her dress is still white, but with purple shading instead of brown. Very happy with how she's coming along, and if my beads ever get here, I'll proably be done her in the next week or two. I'm a little concerned with the beading on this one, often after dying fabric shrinks a bit - well this one definitely did. It's no longer 40ct, but 46ct (yes I'm getting 23 stitches per inch). Shouldn't be a problem in most places as they're fairly scattered, but the moon may give me some hassles - if it does, I think I'll just sub it for Petite Treasure Braid or blending filament. ;)


If anyone wants my conversion, it's here.

As for my next project, I'm torn. I've worked up a conversion for Mirabilia's Stargazer, though I need to order beads for her. Lauren from Sassy's Fabrics is dying me up a custom colour for it that matches up perfectly and will be on it's way to me soon, though probably not before I finish this one. She's also doing up a lovely sky blue for Mirabilia's Cinderella, which I do have all the beads for - unless I change more colours on the fly which is a possibility. Several other Mirabilias, Lavender and Laces, Passione Ricamos and Joan Elliotts are calling me so who knows. Plus several of my WIPs have been calling too. And I just got another (to add to my 40 or so) HAED design which is just yummy and I might have to start - I think I have fabric for it. And as soon as I get my Christmas stash money, I have fabric on order for 3 other HAED pieces which I'd actually like to start AND finish in the next couple years. AND a couple of Ink Circles are calling me too if I can ever settle on colours for them. ARGH! So much to stitch, so little time. ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012

To pin or not to pin...

Pinterest... all the rage on the internet and the bane of my existence lately. So much infringing going on and many aren't aware that what they're pinning isn't legal.

Pinterest in itself is copyright violation if you think about it. If you didn't take the picture and didn't ask permission to pin it from the person who did create it, then realistically speaking, in black and white terms of copyright law, it is an infringement of copyright. People don't mind some things being pinned, especially when credit and links are given, but some things are just blatantly illlegal.

Sure there is an upside to sites like Pinterest - they are free advertising to a designer such as myself. So then why is it "the bane of my existence"? One person unknowingly pins an illegal posting of a chart. 10 more people repin it from there. And then ten more people repin from each of those, and so on, and so on. Many of those people probably don't know that it was an illegal copy, it was listed in so and so's Pinterest board as a freebie. Well, yesterday I spent 7 hours wading through Pinterest infringements, most of which had been pinned as "freebies", and most of which were never free. And I didn't even scratch the surface. Just because someone uploaded it for free to a photo hosting site or a blog doesn't make it a freebie!!!

So how do you know what you should and shouldn't pin? I see a lot of people commenting that it's hard to know what's legitimate and what isn't. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Is it a photograph of a model or a chart cover? Is credit given to the designer? Go right ahead. Best if it links back to our website or blog, but most will tell you it's also okay if it links to a legitimate shop that sells the design too. Also best if it's not followed by the caption, "does anyone have this they can email to me?".

Is it a photograph of another stitcher's work or finishing ideas? Probably good etiquette to ask their permission before pinning their pictures, or at least make sure they get the credit for their ideas by linking back to their site.

In terms of free designs, it gets a little foggier.

Each designer has their own terms of how a free design is released to the world.

If a designer posted it on their website for download, then it is always best to give the link to people who want the design rather than simply forwarding the design itself around to people - this includes pinning it on pinterest. If the pin links to the original posting on the designer's website, most will agree that it is okay - the idea behind most free designs is to increase traffic to a designer's website after all. If it links to anywhere else, you should err on the side of caution before pinning it and ASK the designer first. If that's too much hassle, best not to pin it.

If a designer created a free design expressly for distribution through shops, as a gift to newsletter subscribers, or to discussion group members, then it is ILLEGAL to distribute the design and upload it to the internet even though you got it free. The point being that it was meant to get people to subscribe to that newsletter, join that discussion group or buy from a shop. Copyright on a free design is the same as on a paid design - the only person who has the right to determine how that chart is distributed is the designer. If you don't see it available for free on the designer's site there is a reason for it - don't pin it or ask the designer before you do.

And of course the obvious - designs that were never intended to be "free" - these should NEVER be pinned. If you see them pinned, best to notify the designer so they can have them removed. 

So how do you know what's what? Some good ways to tell what's legal and what's not.

Does it look as though it's been scanned or photocopied? Then it's probably not legal. Scanning a chart - even a free one - is never legal except to make a working copy for your own use. The ONLY exception to this is if the design states on it that YOU may distribute the chart - not many do.

Where did you find it? If you found it anywhere other than the designer's site, here are some things to look out for:

Is the site in a foreign language, but the designer is not foreign, for example, the design itself is in English but the site you found it on is in Russian? This is a good indication that it's not legal. If a designer sees you pinning one of their designs from a site like this, even a free design, they're likely to ask Pinterest remove it.

Did it come from someone's photo album on a site like picasa, photobucket, or facebook? Another good indication that it's not legal - unless you know for a fact that it is the designer's page. Pinning a design - even a free one - from a site like this without permission from the designer is not okay.

If in doubt, ASK. We're not monsters. We don't mind answering questions about this stuff. Sometimes you may be met with exasperation, but it's not you we're exasperated with - it's the hours and hours of wading through pinterest that we have to look forward to from that link you sent us. But PLEASE do send them because we may not have found it on our own. 

While pinning stuff may seem innocuous, it really isn't. Think of it this way - you may not have meant any harm, and most of the people who visit your pinterest page and repin your stuff probably don't mean any harm either, but there are always those who will follow that link you posted to that illegal page and with a few clicks, find all those hundreds and thousands of other illegal charts posted there - and then of course spread those illegal charts and links around to all their friends. Those people simply don't care if it's legal or not. And now because of that one seemingly innocuous link you posted and dozens of people repinned, dozens more people are now downloading masses of illegal charts and you're responsible for that. Sucks, but it's true. And in a most cases, it only takes a few seconds to check first, especially knowing what I've posted above.

Pinterest - it is YOUR responsibility to know that what you are pinning isn't breaking the law - so please use it responsibly!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bead Conversions

I've been working on these for a while now, and while they are by no means complete yet, I figured I'd post what I have so far. I will be adding conversions for the other Mill Hill shapes and sizes, conversions FROM Delica to other brands, etc, as I purchase more sample cards in future. Currently, these only include Mill Hill Seed Beads - or size 11/0.

First, I'd just like to mention - Mill Hill does NOT manufacture beads themselves. They use (from what I can tell) Toho and Miyuki for their suppliers. For example, Mill Hill Magnifica beads are Toho Treasure Beads (NOT Delica beads as some suggest). In some cases, they even use the same colour number. 

There are separate conversions for Miyuki and Delica, even though they both come from Miyuki, because Miyuki uses a different numbering system for each type. Silly, but true. Toho, on the other hand, uses the same numbering system for ALL their beads - Treasure, Aiko and round.

To do these conversions, I tried my best to convert bead to bead from samples on hand. In some cases my colour cards are incomplete, however, so I did have to rely on other conversion charts or pictures on the internet, so where in some cases they are very accurate (exact), in other cases they may be close but I'm not positive.

I only listed what I felt were exact or really close matches, really close meaning either the same colour with a similar finish, or the same finish with a similar colour. For example, an opaque lustered bead is similar to a ceylon bead so if I couldn't find a comparable ceylon but could find a comparable lustered, I used that. However a ceylon isn't remotely close to a silver lined bead, so I didn't bother listing those. I hope that makes sense?

Rather than just list the numbers, I added the colour descriptions for each one. Of course Miyuki and Toho don't actually name their colours, only by number, so I got the colour descriptions from suppliers I order from frequently - for Miyuki, I used Caravan Beads or Charisma Beads. For Delica I used Caravan Beads, Fusion Beads or Artbeads. For Toho I used Bobby Bead or Artbeads. Why? Because some people may not be as picky as me when it comes to using a converted colour, and close is good enough. You may be happy with choosing the same colour in a different finish - so this makes it easier to find that.

Why would you need a bead conversion anyway? Let's say you want to stitch something on a different count of fabric than what's called for but you still want to use the same colour bead. You need Mill Hill colour 02001, but you want them in size 15 (petite) to fit 36ct or 40ct fabric. Well Mill Hill doesn't have that colour in size 15. But Miyuki and Toho do. Which is exactly why I started this project - I don't stitch on 28 or 32ct if I can help it. But I like stitching Mirabilias and Chatelaines and the like that have loads of beads, I just want to stitch them on 40ct. So I started comparing and converting for myself for designs I planned to stitch and figured I might as well go all the way and convert the whole lot, right? Or perhaps, like many people, you just don't like the irregular nature of Mill Hill beads and you prefer the more consistent cylindrical Delica, Treasure or Aiko beads, so you'd prefer to use those.

So without further ado, here's what I have converted so far:

Mill Hill to Delica

Mill Hill to Miyuki

Mill Hill to Toho

Hope they're helpful!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Down, but still around

Things of late haven't been so great, but I'm hanging in.

First, an update on dad. He's not doing well. The cancer has progressed very rapidly, from his pancreas to his liver, lungs, stomach, lymph nodes and surrounding blood vessels. While he's started chemo treatments, his considering stopping already since the treatments are making him feel ten times worse and at best will only give him another couple of months - and it's only going to get worse with each treatment. He wasn't doing well BEFORE the treatments, he had to spend 10 days in hospital to get his digestive system working so they could build him up for treatments, and they were still very skeptical as to whether they would even attempt it. We're all behind him no matter what he decides. He's lost a lot of weight - if he still weighs more than me I'd be surprised. He's constantly battling with dehydration and is on IV off and on. He has a nurse that comes in for a little while each day to keep an eye on things, and home visits from a doctor each week to monitor his condition. He's also got an IV pump for his dilaudid, it's a steady drip, but he can self dose if needed. It's gotten to the point now where he can't be left alone, in case he has trouble getting up for the bathroom or anything like that. Where he used to have good days and bad, now he has good and bad hours and the bad far outweigh the good. It's now been 2 months since he was diagnosed. His list of meds is incredible, we had to make up a spreadsheet to keep track of them all and when he has to take each one. His diabetes is awful at this point, however the doctors don't really care what he eats at this point, anything that stays down is good and we just dose him with insulin rather than worry about what's making his blood sugar skyrocket. Most of the time he's in pretty good spirits and trying to joke around, but I can see how much of a toll it's taking.

How am I taking it all? Well I'm okay when I'm actually WITH dad. I can control my emotions and not lose it in front of him. It's when I'm not with him that I struggle the most. I cry a lot, though I suppose that's to be expected. I feel like I have a cold, ALL the time, likely from the crying. I'm also pretty dehydrated, no matter how much water I drink, again likely from the crying and blowing my nose all the time. When I sleep, it's fitful, full of nightmares. Most of the time, I don't really sleep, I just lay there for hours and drift in and out, or eventually just give up and read. About the only time I seem to be able to actually fall asleep easily is on the couch with the TV on. The doctor mentioned anti depressants, but those have never worked for me. Since this depression is simply from the situation, I doubt they'd be of much use now either, plus I don't like taking meds unless absolutely necessary. Venting helps sometimes. Punching things helps. Screaming helps. I can't help it. I'm daddy's little girl and while I know I'm being childish and selfish, I don't know how I'll make it without him. I can see him growing weaker, day by day, and I know we don't have much time left.

I haven't been to work in nearly a month. I just can't face it. Being at home or around family is one thing, they expect me to lose it so I don't feel silly about doing it. At work, I can't concentrate, I spend half my day in tears, and I can't be distracted like that serving customers and especially working with knives and slicers and band saws. Add to that there are a couple of people I work with who are constantly asking me if I'm okay - which of course sets me off. Between that and running back and forth to spend time with dad and help mom, it's just too hard. So far they've been understanding, but I don't know how long that will last. First opportunity I get I will go in and sit down and talk to the boss and explain in detail. They're pretty good that way. If they don't have a problem with it, I'll just take a leave of absence until this is all over. If they do, well I can find a part time job somewhere else. There are lots of jobs out there, I've only got one dad.

Oh, and with all of this going on, everyone has started remodeling my parents' house. It started out as a small project - the upstairs bathroom. My grandmother (dad's mom) had a bit of a hissy because she couldn't come down and stay at mom and dad's because the bathroom upstairs wasn't finished (dad started it a few months ago, but when he started getting more and more ill, it got pushed aside) and she couldn't be expected at her age to trudge up and down the stairs to use the bathroom at night. Plus, all the materials for the bathroom were stored in the spare bedroom, so that wasn't exactly up to her standards either. So we made plans to attack the bathroom and get it done this week, mostly so she'd stop bitching about it. We didn't tell her about it, since dad is supposed to limit his visits right now because the chemo makes him susceptible to illness - and everyone who was helping out knew to keep their distance. She found out that my aunt and uncle were coming down and freaked out because my aunt wouldn't bring her. When my aunt explained all this to her - that the upstairs would be all torn apart so there wasn't anywhere for her to sleep, and the bathroom would take a few days to finish off so she'd STILL have to use the one downstairs, and dad wasn't supposed to have everyone around - did she understand? Of course not. She immediately called dad - who knew nothing about our plans mind you - and screamed at HIM about everything - including telling him he was out of her will because he didn't love her enough. Nice thing to say to someone who's maybe got a month or two left. I've never in my life seen him that upset. To say I'm furious with my grandmother is an understatement. I'm not exactly fond of her to begin with, but this was just beyond reason. If you've ever watched the Sopranos, think of Tony's mother and you'll get a pretty good idea of what my grandmother is like. No matter what, it's ALL ABOUT HER. It's all I can do not to phone her and just let loose on her, but I promised my mother I wouldn't for my dad's sake, so I haven't. Mom, on the other hand, did call her and let her have it. And what did my grandmother do? Denied she'd even called.

Anyway, back to the remodeling - after my uncle started working on the bathroom, he decided that while he was at it, he might as well fix up the drywall in mom's room too. And the spare room. And now he wants to do dad's room too. This involved getting paint and materials for them all, moving furniture around everywhere... We did get a bunch of stuff done, and the bathroom IS finished. Mom's room is pretty much finished, it just needs to either have the hardwood floor refinished or an area run or carpet laid. The spare room isn't even remotely done, nor is dad's room, since they became storage for all the furniture. So there is tons left to do. I think we'll leave he rest for later. After all is said and done, it's unlikely mom will keep the house, it's far too big just for her. So we'll finish it all up for cosmetic purposes to help it sell.

On top of all of this, mom is trying to get my grandmother's (her mother's) house on the market. Long story short, my grandmother died nearly 3 years ago, and left the house to my mom, my aunt and my uncle. However my uncle has been living there and refusing to allow them to sell it, and for the past year refuses to answer the phone or emails. Last time dad showed up, in July, they nearly got in a fistfight over it. Mom finally took him to court - he didn't even show up - and the judge gave him 30 days to vacate or he'd be evicted - which is up next week. So there's a lot of back and forth for her to the lawyers as well. I just pray he doesn't do anything stupid and trash the house before he leaves. I know there are a few things that need fixing up, but all in all the house WAS in good shape last time I was there. Once he does vacate, there is still a bunch to do to get the house ready to sell, and normally we wouldn't rush, but mom wants to retire. She pretty much has, but money is VERY tight until she can get it sold and pay off a bunch of bills, her savings and pensions will cover the normal stuff, but not all of it. There's just so much up in the air right now.

Nate has been off and on. He's not a mess like me that I've seen, but I know he's terrified. He's grandpa's boy. My dad's nickname is Rocket, Nate has always been Little Rocket. He's busy with work, and I know that helps. I know he's upset because he can't visit as much as he wants to, but sometimes I think that might be for the best. Every time he does see dad, it's a bit of a shock for him. We try to get him down at least every couple of weeks, even if it's just for a night. He had my dad's face tattooed on his leg a few weeks ago, because he wants to keep dad with him always. Dad didn't get it at first, just wondered why Nate would want to do that until mom explained it to him - then he got all choked up. He chose a picture from my parents' wedding day, and it looks incredible.



Jon has been great. He holds me when I need to be held, spends time with me when I don't want to be alone, listens to all my ranting and venting. He takes care of all the household stuff so it's one less thing for me to worry about. He tries to keep me laughing as much as he can. He's much like dad that way, and I'm understanding more and more why I chose him to be with.

The other thing keeping me from a nervous breakdown is stitching. I've been stitching "just for fun" projects and it does have a very calming influence. I'm currently working on - and getting close to finishing - Lavender and Lace's Angel of Winter. I don't have an up to date picture to post, but I'm doing her on 40ct fabric instead of the called for 32ct, and using Silkweaver's Poltergeist, which is a grey with mauve and blue undertones. I'm using petite beads instead of the regular seed beads and they fit pretty well. I may have to do a tiny bit of fudging in a couple spots, but I don't think it will be too bad. I also decided to try out Sullivan's floss for this one and I really like it. I'm finding it covers a lot better than DMC and doesn't knot or tangle as much. The colours aren't exactly the same as DMC, but they're pretty darn close. When I finish it up, I must remember to take a picture!

Holy crap I wrote quite a novel. Just needed to let it out, I guess.

Monday, September 3, 2012

An announcement

Not quite sure how to word this so I'm just going to come out and say it. I'm not quitting or retiring, just taking a step back for a little while. I found out yesterday that my father has pancreatic cancer, which has metastasized to his lungs and liver. The outlook is not good, but we're waiting to find out what the course of treatment will be. He's only 66, and apart from his diabetes going haywire from this, he is still strong and very upbeat. However, I feel like right now my spare time needs to be devoted to him and my family and I will just not have the time - or likely the inspiration - for designing for a little while. I'm going to try to work on models when/if I can but for a little while I think when I do stitch it will be just for me "sanity stitching" - just finding solace in my needle again rather than stressing about deadlines or such. I have decided that I will put off my deadlines for Sampler of Seasons - whenever I get it done I will release it. A Northern Christmas Expression - sampler and matching ornaments - will be put off until next fall as I really do not see being able to get to it this year. I will still be filling and shipping orders during this time, however there may be minor delays over the next few months.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Autumn comes a little early

While temperatures here in Southern Ontario are still skyrocketing (though today isn't too bad yet), Autumn has arrived here in my house. :)

I finished stitching Autumn over the weekend. Well MY weekend anyway, which is Sunday and Monday. :) This is my favourite of the bunch so far, the colours are SOOOOO pretty. 

Thank you to everyone who commented on my question - I think you guys nailed it. I will be selling these as individual designs, and will post the instructions for "merging" them here on my blog with information in each design about where to find them. 

I've gotten a good start on winter, and I think it may surpass this one as my favourite when I'm done - I've only stitched a couple colours so far, but I have to say Valdani has some awesome blue-greys and silver-greys.

Still a lot of work to do on it. I would like to add some more diagonal bands to the corners. Diagonal charting is always a challenge, but I'm finding it quite fun. Haven't decided if these bands will be monochrome as originally planned or possibly using the colour from the tree as well to tie things together. I also want to rechart the verse in a different style of alphabet, for me, something just doesn't feel right yet. This was going to be a Nashville release, but if I can make everything click before then I will release it for the Online Needlework Show in October.

I have to admit to one thing that is bugging me about this design and I have no doubt I will get a lot of flack about this from stitchers who decide to do the piece. Usually I try (I don't ALWAYS succeed) to limit the cost of materials when possible, even though I use a lot of the more expensive silks and linens, because I know not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on materials for a piece. Personally, I don't mind because I love the expensive stuff. ;) But I can understand how spending $100 or more for materials can be prohibitive for some which is why I always try my best to provide a decent conversion to DMC and/or any other materials I'm asked about. With this piece, I did really go all out, but with the changing seasons, it wasn't really possible to repeat most colours in multiple seasons and keep the feel I wanted. In total, with all four pieces and the borders, it will be 21 colours. Doesn't sound that bad, and if the skeins were average sized, like six or eight yards, you'd be using more than half of each so it wouldn't seem so bad. But I really have this feeling of guilt because these balls of silk from Valdani are HUGE. They're not six or eight yards, but 23 meters (about 25 yards). I don't know if I've even used a quarter of any one of them. So anyone doing these in the suggested threads is going to have a LOT of leftover thread - probably enough to stitch the design 3 times over - and that makes me feel guilty. That said, I wouldn't dream of changing the colours or brands to something else - I picked these because they are absolutely the best match to the picture in my brain and that IS my ultimate goal. It's a fine line really - some of the most fun projects to create are the ones where you just completely let go and play with colour and texture - but where do you draw the line and say "okay, maybe I'm going a little overboard here"? Maybe it's just me? While I'm a designer, I am still first and foremost a stitcher. I guess I see things from both sides and it's a battle that is and always will be constantly raging inside me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pondering...

I can't believe August is already almost over. Where did the summer go? Not that I'm complaining, it's been a hot, humid, horrible summer. The past few days are the nicest it's been since May or June! And honestly, I cannot wait for autumn, it's my favourite time of year. :)

I've been working away on stitching sampler of seasons, and I was hit with brainwave. Since I was planning on releasing the ornament "A Northern Christmas Expression" as a standalone chart for Christmas at the Fall Online Needlework Show, why not make it a worthwhile project. Instead of one ornament, why not several? And a sampler too, using all those motifs? So I've been trying to come up with something. Will I be able to get the materials, stitch and release it in time? Who knows. I'm going to try though. Today's project is to figure out what materials I'm going to need and get them ordered, that way when I DO finish designing this thing, I won't have to wait to start stitching it! PLUS, this is a great opportunity to use the awesome Petite Silk Lame braid for a project. Thinking Petite Treasure braid too. And beads! And crystals! Yeah, I'm thinking lots of sparkly bling for Christmas. :)

Speaking of A Sampler of Seasons, I've finished Spring and Summer. Spring went lightning quick, Summer was a labour of love - I made a mistake early on and had to frog and restitch a fair bit of it. The second time around wasn't near as fun and I kept putting it off. I got a start on Autumn, hopefully I'm a little more careful with my counting this time. :) These aren't due out until Nashville Market, but I'm trying something new - preparing projects WELL ahead of schedule instead of racing around at the last minute.  These are stitched with Valdani's silk floss on 34ct Wren Wing from Legacy Linen and I must say I really love this floss. The colours are just lovely and it stitches like an absolute dream. Plus it's really affordable - these are HUGE skeins, 23 yards of six strand floss for $6. Awesome, no?

I would LOVE to get people's opinions on something. I'm having a bit of a dilemma with regards to how I should release these. Because of the enormous amount of specialty stitches involved, releasing them as one design will be rather expensive for printing - probably more than 40 pages. So if someone just wanted to buy it for ONE of the seasons it would be really expensive. I was thinking they would each get released as a standalone design. But what about the instructions for putting them together as one sampler? Release it as a freebie? Include it with each design (which then drives up the price of each)? Release a "combo pack" with all the seasons and the additional instructions? Release them in stages, season by season and release the instructions with the last part? I really don't know what I want to do. Problems arise no matter which way I think about it. Releasing them individually AND as a package deal presents a problem for shops - which do they purchase? It also poses a dilemma for Valdani - do they do threadpacks for each (which is redundant for stitchers since some colours are repeated and one skein would be enough for all four seasons) or a combo pack for the whole thing? And if I do it as one design, what if a stitcher only wants ONE season? I'm leaning towards one design. It's less work for me because I only have to stitch one model rather than five, less involved for shops since I can't see them buying both individual seasons AND a compilation, less involved for suppliers and it's just easier all round. And from the feedback I've gotten, it seems like most people would want to do the whole thing rather than parts, but I would love to know what everyone thinks.

And now to guzzle lots of coffee and set myself to work on the sampler for A Northern Christmas Expression - the ideas are there, but my brain doesn't seem to want to process right now. UGH!

ETA: I almost forgot to mention earlier - another project I am working on. I got news from a fellow stitcher recently that Hand-Dyed Fibers would be discontinuing silk floss in the near future. I've used these threads in several of my designs and while I always include a DMC conversion in all of my charts, I will be working on updating all future printings of these designs with conversions to other brands of silk floss. I will also post these conversions here on my site for anyone who already has the charts. Best wishes to Vikki in all her future endeavours.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Far too long without an update...

... and much to report!

A new design is available and ready to ship. The design is called Marigold and it was beautifully stitched by Darla Bohn - who did a fantastic job. It uses two colours of Crescent Colours Belle Soie and is stitched on 40ct Lakeside Linens Magnolia. I'm really not an orange person, but this orange really does steal my heart - isn't it lovely?

I've been plugging away at lots of new stuff and will be delving back into the world of model stitching soon - materials are making their way to me now. I finally get to use my Valdani silks! I have had this one nearly ready to go for some time now, but one of the colours I needed has been out of stock for ages and ages. I was happy dancing when I checked the site last week and found it was available!

I'll give you a little sneak peek at the new designs and a little description. Warning, these are NOT for the faint of heart, there is little cross stitch in them. However, NONE of the stitches in them are difficult, they just take a little practice and patience. 

The series is called A Sampler of Seasons and as you might guess, there are four designs:

Spring
Summer

Autumn
Winter
Each design uses six colours of Valdani silk floss, though there are a few overlaps between the designs. They will be released as four separate designs, however as a special gift to my fellow insane stitchers who LOVE BAPs, I will also be releasing some different ideas for layouts that include all four designs on one piece of fabric. There will also be some different borders to join them all up and a verse I wrote that could be included if you choose. It's not really that HUGE to be honest, not like Antique Lace HUGE or anything, but I suppose that all depends on your definition of huge, doesn't it? Here is just one idea - which will quite probably get added to and fiddled with quite a lot yet. Very excited and can't wait to get started!

On another note, the lovely and talented Jo has already used her prize from my giveaway and sent me some lovely photos of her work. She used two bands from Antique Lace in a band sampler round robin that she was stitching! I love seeing creativity like this, it's truly inspiring!


Okay, so what else is new... well I've nearly completed designing the last two pieces in the geometric flower series, and number seven is being stitched as I speak. I've also been working on some new band samplers and lots of other stuff. Hopefully I can keep up my design mojo for a while!!

It's been crazy at work - summer is here, and being a holiday town our population increases exponentially in the summer. And working in a butcher shop during bbq season... well you get the idea. Looooong busy days. It's tiring but I'm managing. It doesn't help that the temperatures here have been skyrocketing up into the high 30s - one day was OVER 40C and humidity on top of that. We finally got a little break yesterday, but today is climbing back up again. I'm about ready for fall now. I love summer, I don't mind high 20s, even low 30s, but this humidity sucks, especially since I don't have air conditioning. Just rain already!!! It's been weeks with no rain and the forecast doesn't look very promising. ICK. 

Which brings me to a little vent/rant. Friday the 13th fast approaches. Our little town gets overwhelmed by bikers every Friday the 13th. They close half the roads to cars, and it's nearly impossible to get anywhere. While it's great for SOME businesses, it's getting a bit ridiculous. Where I work is right next to where they start the roadblocks. We're a place of business but the police won't let people cross the barrier to come in and shop. I mean from a legal standpoint, they actually CAN'T do that. It's not like it's a state of emergency, it's a freaking bike rally. I really wish more people would stand up to them and stop putting up with the crap. It's bad enough that anyone who lives here either has to leave for the weekend or go without sleep because of the noise, but when it affects people's ability to earn a living it's going to far I think. I'm kind of hoping my boss will give me Friday off so I don't have to try and fight the traffic to and from work. 

Back to stitching - I have actually been stitching the last couple of days and my stitching mojo has returned in a BIG way. Not sure why it disappeared these past couple of months, but I'm very glad it's back! No WIP pictures today though - I don't really want to unroll the scroll rods. lol Laziness rocks.

And since I've been such a good girl today and done lots of work, now it's time to go relax and stitch. :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I've Been Inked!

Wow it's been a busy few weeks.

Printing, packing, mailing, working out, cooking... notice what's missing? Stitching. I haven't touched a needle in two weeks - and I've been on holidays. WHAT is wrong with me??? The desire is there but time is elusive!


I've been on holiday from the butcher shop since Saturday, but have yet to just relax. We went up north for the weekend, and got to visit with friends and family up there which was nice. Monday was spent running around and getting charts printed and packed. Tuesday (my actual birthday) was more printing, packing and running around, dinner with Mom, Dad and Nate, and then planning my tattoo, which I got yesterday. I'm so proud of Nate, he did a fantastic job. :) 

Here is what it currently looks like. Nate did a little bit of outlining in blue to show me it looks better - he's right, and I will be going back so he can finish that up in a few weeks. He also wants to make the fade from blue to purple more gradual. And apparently (not that I can see them) there are a few spots where the ink didn't take as well so he wants to go over those. I think he was afraid of hurting me - I'm his momma after all. I've got him working on some ideas for filligree or maybe vines and flowers to come out from the sides eventually. Just a note - it's addictive. I'm already plotting out several more I want to have done. :D I chose a butterfly because it symbolizes change, and I'm going through a whole metamorphosis of my own right now.

Today I'm going to relax and attempt some stitching after my workout, then off to dinner with my cousin. Tomorrow is shopping for some new clothes that actually fit (not into my size 4-6 stuff yet, but everything else I have is HUGE) AND I'm getting my hair chopped off. Thinking of going really short for something different - kind of follows along with my whole transformation. :) Then possibly going up north (further north that is) for the weekend before heading back to work on Tuesday, though I may forego that and just spend the weekend at home relaxing and getting some design work done.

I FINALLY got all the prize packs sent out on Tuesday. So sorry to take so long but it's been, well, crazy is the only way to describe it!


Monday, May 14, 2012

A Warning About Eterna Silks

There is nothing wrong with the thread, I'll start off with that. It's a decent quality, low priced filament silk and it is lovely to use. HOWEVER...

I don't know if they've gone out of business or what, since there is no statement to that effect on their website, but they no longer respond to emails or contact requests via their website at all. And of course there is no longer a phone number listed on their site either.

The last few orders I placed were a bit slow, but they did arrive eventually, so I let this most recent one go too - my own stupidity because now I'm out $70 and can't get it back through paypal. This last order was placed on February 15. I got an order confirmation, the money was withdrawn from my account (so she obviously accepted the payment) and nothing since then. I've emailed at least a dozen times, probably more, and have had no response at all. I've just emailed again, but it's doubtful I'll hear anything back.

If the threads were for me, I wouldn't be as upset, but they're for my aunt. So now I'll have to go out of my pocket to refund her money.

Funny thing is that I warned her and urged her to use Silk Mill threads instead (again filament silk, though better quality) because they are much better to deal with even though they're pricier. 

ARGH!!!

On a happier note, my stitching mojo has returned. Now it's not a factor of wanting to stitch, it's finding the time to actually do it!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

And the Winners Are....

First, happy Mother's Day Everyone! It's sheer coincidence that I picked today to hold the draw, but serendipitous no less!

So here goes....

The 1st prize winner of one of each of my charts is.... Jo who can't think of a clever nickname! (a nickname I love btw).

The 2nd prize winner of 5 of my charts of her choice is... Orlythe.

And the 3rd prize winner or 2 of my charts of her choice is... Krista.

Congratulations to the winners! Please email me at northernexpressionsneedlework@gmail.com to work out details. :)

Thank you to all who entered!

I'm off now to mom's for mother's day, but I will get to the emails in the morning - so don't panic if you don't hear from me right away! :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wow, 100 followers!

I just noticed I now have 100 followers!

In celebration, I'm going to have a giveaway. :) It's also in celebration of my birthday which is coming up later this month - and since I'm turning 40, I WON'T be celebrating, so everyone else can instead. lol

There will be three prize packs:

First prize (first name drawn) will receive a package with one of each of my current published designs (including a copy of Just Cross Stitch containing Tulip).

Second Prize (second name drawn) will receive a package with five of my designs (your choice).

Third Prize (third name drawn) will receive a package with 2 of my designs (your choice).

To enter, you need to be a follower of my blog (new followers are welcome to enter) and post a comment below.

I will be drawing the winners on Sunday, May 13th at noon EST. :)

Good luck, everyone!

In other news... the weather here has turned hot and humid suddenly. We've gone from early spring weather (cool and damp) to mid summer weather (hot and damp) overnight. Where did spring go??

In the interest of sharing everything between us, my beloved Jon has shared with me his awful cold. I had been keeping it at bay for two weeks and thought I had successfully avoided it, even last night I felt alright, apart from a bit of a chill. Today I feel like a mass of phlegm has invaded and I ache from head to toe. UGH. Hopefully with all this healthy eating it'll pass quickly!

On the diet front, I haven't weighed myself lately - I really must pick up a scale - so I'm not sure how it's going. My clothes feel looser, so that's a good sign!

In stitching news... I've been trying to overcome the loss of mojo. I started a birth sampler for a friend's newborn little girl. I converted Hearts Entwined into a birth announcement, and am stitching it in a softer palette (pale pink, green and white AVAS) on 36ct Flax. It's sort of coming. I've got the top band done and the top border. If I feel up to it I might try to stitch some later today. Still waiting on some colours to be sorted out for some new designs so I can get some more models underway. Other than that it's been pretty stagnant on the stitching front. The desire is there the will isn't. Hopefully this passes quickly too!

Have a great weekend everyone. :)


Sunday, April 22, 2012

My luck strikes again.

I don't know if this last week has been a good one or a bad one. It's been up and down like a yo-yo.

Everyone at work has jumped on the weight loss bandwagon and are doing this silly "ultimate challenge" in which they're basically betting on who will lose the most weight in 2 months. I find it silly because they'll starve themselves or exercise like mad for the next two months and probably drop weight but they won't keep it off and they'll likely binge and all that unhealthy stuff. What I find amusing is they're saying I'm an inspiration, yet not one has heeded my warnings about guzzling the diet drinks or eating like birds instead of just eating healthy. They're mystified as to why I don't want to join since I'm doing so well. Well, because I'm not under the illusion that I'm going to lose weight each and every week - and there will be times when my weight goes up even though I'm getting thinner because muscle mass weighs more than fat. BUT if you gain any weight you get penalized and have to pay more money. Again, very silly. And everyone wonders why they're soooo tired.

As far as my weight, I've lost another 3 pounds, but it's been a pretty tough week. I was doing really well early on, but the later part of the week brought the period from hell. I actually had to stay home, pretty much in bed with a heating pad alternating between my lower back and lower abdomen to try to fight the cramps. Needless to say my eating habits weren't great for those couple days, I broke down and had a pepsi and McDonalds. Nasty. I was immediately thirsty and guzzled water like there was no tomorrow! Back on track a bit better now. Today is "officially" cheat day, but I'm not doing too badly. I had a couple of pancakes for breakfast, so I did cheat a little but two pancakes aren't terrible. AND they have eggs in them which is about the only way I can bring myself to eat eggs!

That brings me to a question. I want to add a cardio workout to my exercise regimen. There are two problems. Time and body issues. Time in that I can't go to the gym - I really don't have time. It has to be something I can do at home. The other problem? My knee. I can't do anything like step or exercise bike or anything like that that puts pressure on my knee. I've had several reconstructive surgeries and I have been putting off another one so it has to be something very low impact. I'd love to do swimming and when the lake heats up I will probably start that, but the closest pool is a 20 minute drive - time I don't have. I'm thinking of getting an elliptical machine? I don't know if that is a good option? For now I'm walking a fair bit, plus work is very physical, and I'm doing Yoga 3 times a week.

I did manage to find bread I could eat at the grocery store in the frozen organic section. I didn't find most of the other things I was hunting for though. Will have to look again in other places.

My stitching mojo returned this week, and it was welcome! I finished up the first square on Trip Around the World Quilts - though I'm debating redoing the beads because I found a colour I like better. Not sure yet. Then I did some work on Antique Lace Band Sampler. I really am not destined to model stitch this one. I'm on my third restart. The first because I didn't like the floss I'd picked so reselected and decided on Gloriana Ecru. Then I matched up fabric samples I had here - and when the fabric came in, it was two shades lighter than my sample and the floss came in darker than my sample, so there went that idea too. So I finally restarted on 35ct Almond Bar from Weeks, only to find that it ISN'T 35ct. It's 40ct. The beads and ribbon don't fit. I'm NOT dumping them from the design so now I have to find fabric again. I've emailed Weeks in hopes that it might have been a dying error and not shrinkage that is the problem. I'd try the 30ct, but then I won't have enough floss so that idea is out. It kills me because the colour is perfect and after so much switching around, I really have my heart set on chocolate brown fabric. But it has to be 34, 35 or 36 ct AND has be available in a full yard piece. 

And I'm aching to start the models for a Sampling of Seasons, but Valdani is STILL out of stock on S12 Black Bark silk and I need it for all four seasons. Might have to just forget it and go with something else, it's been out of stock for six months now and I can't keep waiting and hoping.

So now I'm working a little on Rhapsody in Red but all this is killing my mojo again, it really is. There is nothing worse than being totally psyched to start something and then everything going wrong. AGAIN.

Going to do some Yoga and clear my head!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Today - a rant of a different kind

So I'm on a diet. Scratch that, it's not a diet in the modern sense of the word, but changing to a healthier way of eating. You'd think eating healthy would be easy, right?

Surprisingly, it's not. You'd be shocked at how hard it really is.

About a month and a half ago I joined the Beyond Diet program. It's about heathy lifestyle choices and eating REAL food. Forget all that diet, low cal, low carb, low fat (and low taste) stuff that's loaded with chemicals. Sure it's quick and easy to toss in the microwave, but it takes me about 20 minutes to make a meal that tastes 100 times better, and is actually GOOD for me. No chemicals. All real, natural ingredients.

There's a short intro video on their website that gives a brief explanation of the program, and actually tells you several different foods to avoid - and even if you DON'T join, following those few tips she gives you WILL help you lose weight and feel better.

That brings me to my rant. I'm beginning to understand why it's so hard for people to lose weight after reading labels and comparing those to the things I should eat and the things my body can't process and put heavy stresses on it. Almost everything in the grocery store from breads to cereals to deli meats to canned fish to peanut butter and even fresh meats contain things they shouldn't. Finding things that are healthy, not loaded with sugar, salt or chemicals is HARD these days. Since when should meat have an ingredients label???? Shouldn't a fresh chicken breast just be a chicken breast? You'd be surprised. Almost every package of meat I looked at in the grocery store also included salt and water. Thank god I work at a butcher shop and don't need to buy meat there. I know exactly where all our beef, pork, poultry and lamb comes from, what it ate before we got it (we slaughter on site, we don't used boxed products) AND that there were no steroids or antibiotics injected into it. The bonus is that it's cheaper anyway - plus I get an employee discount on top of it. ;)

However, that's the only thing that cheaper. I haven't gone to organic veggies, they're too expensive for me to justify. I might eventually, but for now I'm still just buying the normal ones.

All natural anything is expensive. In a lot of cases, you have to do a lot of searching to find it because the grocery store just doesn't carry it. Even stuff that's labeled all natural or healthy choice and stuff like that? When you read the label it's loaded with things like sugar or salt. OR it has a list of chemicals that sound more like an experiment than food.

That's part of the reason I'm taking this step by step.

I've got a long way to go to make the switch to totally healthy, but so far the changes I have made? I've cut way back on sugar by giving up pop, juice and fruit drinks (never was one for energy drinks but I wouldn't be drinking those either). I've given up breads and cereals for the time being until I can find actual healthy versions. I'm drinking tons of water. I've switched to eating 5-6 small meals per day - breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack - so my stomach always has something in it. I'm eating protein with EVERY meal or snack. Well I started this in March and have been gradually making changes since then. I was already losing weight because I ramped up my activity level a few months ago, BUT since making these changes I've lost 15 pounds now in 5 weeks. My energy is better and I feel better. I find I care more about my appearance again and my self confidence is through the roof. In other words I'm starting to feel like me again - the me that disappeared years ago when medications, injuries, surgeries, a very BAD relationship and the resulting depression kicked my butt. But wait, my butt is (from it's heaviest point) 60lbs lighter than it was... so now who's kicking butt??? :D And Jon is happier because I'm happier. He's even starting to try to eat a bit healthier himself because he's realized that maybe that's why he's so tired all the time. :)

I get a cheat day once a week, where I can eat what I want - within reason of course. I should still try to eat my 5-6 smaller meals per day, but if I really want chocolate? I'll have it. Grilled cheese? Yeah, okay. Funny thing is I'm finding that since I cut out all the sugary stuff and have gotten used to unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit, water instead of pop... when I do break down and have something I miss they are SOOOO sweet! I had half a brownie today and the first bite was pure heaven... a serious OMG. But after that I realized just how sweet it really was!

The biggest things I've noticed apart from the weight loss is how much energy I have, the huge decrease in body pain I'm feeling, and that I'm eating a LOT more than I ever did before. I'm rarely hungry unless I get lazy and don't make dinner right away when I get home from work. Oh, and my hair is thicker and shinier than before. And my skin looks better. I'm sleeping better. I FEEL like exercising. I FEEL like doing stuff. I FEEL great, to be honest. And my colitis is SOOOOO much better. To be honest, that was the main reason I started this - I was having far too many flare ups and the prognosis was another round of steroids, which inevitably meant another massive weight gain. So I decided to try this first. I'm very glad I did.

Okay on to other more stitchy matters... I want to again thank everyone who took the time to read my blog posts on infringement. I won't inundate you with details again, just again say thanks. :)

And other stitchy stuff... well I haven't been stitching much. This past month has been such a whirlwind - printing, shipping and re-inventing my whole lifestyle - it's been very hard to concentrate. I have done a little, but I haven't taken any pics lately. I worked on Sleeping Beauty a bit, started the Antique Lace Band Sampler and started Rosewood Manor's Trip Around the World Quilts, but haven't gotten that much done on any I'm afraid. I have however, been doing some designing, and will be starting the model stitching on a new series as soon as one of the colours I need is back in stock from Valdani. :) It's a very colourful seasonal series, which can each be stitched on it's own or all together as one large design. I can't wait to show it off to you as I work on it, in fact I wonder a little if my focus on this design is part of the reason I don't feel like stitching - I want to be stitching this!! :)

Right now, however, I do have the stitching bug. So with that I'm off to stitch a little before bed. :) Happy weekend everyone!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In response

This is in response to a post from Laurylyan on her own blog:

http://perlesdesoies.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/what-is-right-what-is-wrong/

Laurylyan, you make some excellent points, and I personally do agree with much of what you're saying. First let me just say that I do not agree with SOPA/PIPA. While the intentions are good, the methods and means suggested have little hope helping the problem.

The statement in the original post was this: "So yeah, not every person who downloaded it would have bought it, but even if one in a hundred did it still adds up to a massive amount of lost revenue." If you're talking about a small number of people participating, then I might agree with you. We're talking about well into the hundreds of thousands of people in a relatively small industry. So even that 1% is still a large number of lost sales. We'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

The problems with selling online are as massive as the benefits. First, the likelihood and speed of infringement is much faster because the ability to abuse is much easier  - there's no work in forwarding an email or uploading a pdf file as there is with a paper chart. While the costs of printing and shipping are gone, the cost of security measures increases and it is just as, or in some cases, more expensive. And of all those we've tested to date, I've managed to get around the security placed on them in a matter of a few minutes and remove it or find a way to still share the file without compromising anonymity, though the ways I've done it I would rather not discuss publicly.

There was also something I saw mentioned on Martina's Yahoo group about the reselling of digital files. I can't speak to the laws anywhere else, but in the US and Canada, digital files are excluded from first sale doctrine. First sale doctrine being that you can resell an item you have legally purchased. It is limited to tangible items - movies and software on DVD, music on CD, books in print form and in this case, charts in print form. Digital versions of the same - direct downloads of software, mp4, mp3, ebooks and pdf charts are excluded from this unless specific permission is granted by the copyright holder. This is for several reasons, the two I can recall without looking it up being that first, when you purchase in this format you are not purchasing the actual file - that is to say that you don't own it, you are merely purchasing a license to use it. The other main point stressed by the copyright office for this reasoning is that because the responsibility falls to the seller to delete or destroy their original file after a sale is made, there is too much room for abuse. Whether people agree or disagree with this, it is the law here as it currently stands. It is of course up to each designer how they want to deal with it.

The biggest point to note is that those selling in this fashion, digital vs. print are not selling any more than those who don't. The fact is that the designer/distributor/shop model still guarantees the best sales to costs ratio for most of us. Most companies who sell in both methods, retail and wholesale, sell at a higher volume to distributors and shops than individual direct sales. There are only a few who sell higher volumes in pdf format. The reason for this? Because the average stitcher still prefers to go to a shop to buy their supplies. The average stitcher buying their supplies is not a technological wizard and many still resist shopping or buying online. A good example of this is in my own local area, where I live and design and yet almost none of the stitchers in this area had heard of me until the release of March/April's Just Cross Stitch. Why? Because I did most of my sales and communications online and that is just unheard of for people around here. Balk at it if you like, but the bulk of people who purchase are not doing so direct from the designer - yet. Those who do shop online still tend to purchase from an online shop rather than direct, I'm guessing from my own purchasing patterns, that is because they like to order supplies as well, which in a lot of cases can only be purchased from a shop, so it's easier to order it all in one place. While the number of internet shoppers is growing, the old method of distribution is STILL the best way to ensure sales, so we need to maintain the current model while exploring new possibilities. At the current time in the current market, cutting out the middle man is NOT a solution, as it does remain the best sales vehicle for designers.

Some of us have discussed things like centralized secure servers for shops to use for purchasing everything from charts to supplies. The charts they would print themselves, the supplies they would have colour cards on hand for customers to choose from and then the supplies ordered would ship directly to the consumer. It's a great idea that would get shops new items much more quickly and allow them to access a greater range of products than they can currently offer. It's also a good compromise in that it maintains to some degree, the current sales model - a stitcher goes into a shop, picks out a design and materials and buys it (in person or online) - while introducing a less costly way to distribute charts and materials. But it also has a lot of issues that make it difficult to govern. Things like quality control are an excellent example - who is to say that each shop will use high quality materials for all their printing to guarantee that each customer everywhere gets the same quality chart. It also relies on the willingness of designers, dyers and other manufacters to participate. And the biggest, who is going to pay for setting up and implementing this model? 

The reason I've been researching all of this is because I do plan to start offering my charts direct, but I'm trying to find the best and most secure method to do so.

To your comments about different standards - I HAVE lived in those shoes and not so long ago. I went without a lot of things and had to make conscious decisions as to whether to buy groceries or pay for my hydro because I couldn't do both. In one instance my mother bought me supplies to stitch a model as my birthday gift. Thankfully we made it through that period, but I still do go without lots of things to be able to balance what I love and what I earn and am still FAR from well off. We still do without things like cell phones, satellite and cable, dinners out, going out on "dates" in exchange for enjoying our hobbies. But I digress. I have to admit to finding that reasoning a little off - if these are people who can't afford to eat, how can they afford to pay for the internet to download charts? In a lot of these cases, these are NOT the people we're talking about. Many of the people we're talking about are purchasing hand dyed threads and fabric, expensive stitching stands and STILL downloading illegal copies of charts. I see the discussions on these sites all the time about silk threads and linens and the like - so claiming hardship in cases like these is more than a little hypocritical on their part.

As far as products declining in price after a period of time, there are reasons that that isn't as feasible in this industry as it is in others. In some cases, like in technologies, the cost of production goes down after manufacturers find new and more efficient ways of producing, or because the technologies become quickly obsolete and are replaced by newer and faster products. In our case, the cost of production doesn't decrease over time, but increases as the cost of paper, ink and shipping increase. I can see it being feasible as more designers make the transition to or addition of selling online, but with the current model it isn't. When it still costs us just as much or more to produce as it did when it first came out, it won't happen, apart from shops putting older charts on sale to clear out old inventory. I don't disagree with you here, I'm just telling you why you won't see it happen anytime soon.

I completely agree with you about charts going out of print. While I did give reasons that it happens, that is not to say I agree with the practice, just that I understand why. I'm all for designers re-issuing old books and designs that I missed out on the first time around that I would love to buy. As a designer who does my own printing and is working towards making direct online sales an option, it's very easy for someone like me to keep everything always available. However for a really popular designer, it can be difficult to keep up with printing, shipping, shows, model stitching, designing and everything else this entails, so they choose the option of using professional print services. Having just printed several hundred charts in the last week while still trying to work, design and all the other things I do every day, this was not a quick or easy feat, so I can completely understand why a designer would choose to go this route. I have my reasons for doing it my way, they have their reasons for doing it theirs. Here though, is a perfect case for coming up with suggestions or alternatives to designers rather than people just complaining about it. Perhaps suggesting that once a design is no longer popular enough to justify using a print service they simply print on demand themselves or offer it in another format. Some might agree to do it, some may not, that is their decision. If a chart was originally offered as a limited edition, it's highly unlikely this will happen. Sometimes the designer no longer has the files to reproduce the chart again (yes, this does happen). Some may be loathe do it because they can't reproduce at the same quality as the professionally printed version that was originally sold because they don't have the equipment to do it. And some may be happy to do it when and if they can. So like I say, while I won't be retiring charts personally, I can understand their reasons.

Regarding libraries - they don't buy books for the same cost that you or I do, they pay a much larger fee - much like a DVD rental store pays a higher cost for a DVD they will rent out than for one they will sell. I don't know exactly what the cost they pay is, but as I understand it, it's much higher than normal wholesale or retail to include royalties. Also, making the working copy to stitch from is only legal as long as they keep the book in their possession as well - as soon as the book is returned to the library, it is illegal to keep the working copy.

As to the Russian group, I don't know all of the details from either side so I can't and won't comment on it. You would have to speak to the designer in question to find out why they declined, not just the group who wanted their designs.

I completely agree with you on the point of designers limiting charts to one use. It's not a common practice, that I can tell you, and it's just plain silly to expect people to comply.

I'm all for change, believe me. I'm open to new ideas and new methods and means, especially those that make things easier for me. But the plain fact is, as I said earlier, that the current model of selling still outperforms online direct sales to such a huge degree for most designers it is unlikely to change in the very near future. With this scenario you have to maintain a delicate balance. The best and fastest way to grow your business in the current state of the market REMAINS through shops - brick and mortar OR online. While you may agree or disagree with this practice you can't deny that the most popular designers in the world are not the ones selling only independently via the internet, but those whose charts are on store shelves. To keep your charts on store shelves you walk a fine line - if you make the changes to keep up with new sales strategies you run the risk of alienating those shops who have always supported you. If you don't make the changes you run the risk of alienating stitchers who want those alternatives. That is literally the bottom line.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Something a little more cheerful today...

The past week has been a printing frenzy. Moments ago I finished printing the last one for my first shipment to Hoffman. WHEW! Next week I'm going to start printing a few copies of everything to keep on hand and ready to ship so that it's not a rush like this every time I get an order!

Since I love to review things, I thought I would give a little bit of a review on the new printer. 

Overall, I give it a rating of awesome. There are a few minor little things that are kind of irksome, but nothing that makes me regret my choice in any way. It's louder than my little inkjet, but it's not bothersome since I'm generally at the computer working while I'm printing anyway rather than trying to watch television or something. It gets paper jams a bit. I'm hoping to remedy that with a change in paper, next time I order I'm going to try the Xerox 28lb paper instead of the Staples brand. Staples brand just went up in price so the price of the two is comparable anyway.

After a few hundred pages of printing, it does slow down dramatically as it cools off. Again, not a major deal. What I do is print a batch then check them all over and then start the next batch while I bag. So I've already found a workable solution. 

As far as ink usage, the printer is phenomenal. The ink costs $99 for each cyan, magenta and yellow, and $290 for black (of course because you use more black, right?), and each pack comes with six cubes. So each cube of colour costs $16.50, and each cube of black costs about $50. So far, for 6000 pages, I've used 1 cube of each colour and 2 cubes of black, printing the colour covers on high quality and the charts/instructions on normal quality. About half of them have colour in the chart for the specialty stitches. The manufacturer suggests you'll get about 2500-3000 pages per cube, and that is exactly what I AM getting, unlike other printers where you get less than half of the suggested yield. Very impressive. It also requires a maintenance kit, either every 10000 pages for $70 or every 30000 pages for $110. All in all it's costing an average of 3 cents per page (not including paper). So while the printer is fairly expensive, it will pay itself off rather quickly in savings on ink. A note to designers or anyone who does a lot of printing - the Xerox ColorQube 8870 is a great investment.

On to the subject of model stitchers, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who offered and that for the time being, the positions have been filled. :) I must admit, being the control freak that I am, it is difficult to relinquish control but I'm very happy to have found some wonderful stitchers and hope to keep you guys busy. :)

On to designs and stitching... well I've got a new series in the works. It's a four part series called A Sampling of Seasons, with each season being it's own design, which can be stitched individually or together as one big sampler. I'll be starting the stitching myself soon and again, because I'm so darn indecisive, I've decided to include two colourways for it, one classic and elegant and one fun and bright. It's a more complex series of pieces, with lots of specialty stitches. The floss for these came yesterday and my goodness the colours are pretty! Valdani does some really wonderful colours, truly.

And on a non stitchy note, I can't help but be cheerful this week, I'm back into jeans that I haven't been able to wear in ten years. :) I'm getting there!!! About 30-40 pounds to go.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Sad Commentary

I was very saddened last week when Kirsten Edwards announced that she will cease publication of The Gift of Stitching e-zine. I was also very saddened by the fact that Martina Dey will cease sales of pdf charts and SALs because of the same problem - copyright infringement. I'm sure you've read many designer blogs of late commiserating these losses to the needlework world, and I know you're probably sighing and shaking your head and saying "here we go again, another lecture on copyright." That is not my intention today. In reading a lot of the comments on various different message boards, yahoo groups and facebook groups, I keep coming across a disturbing misconception that seems to be shared by many - that we're over-exaggerting the problem, and that most of the people who downloaded it would never have purchased it anyway. My intention is to give you a bit of data to show you how big this problem really is and a peek into the kinds of things we see every day.

Let me just get this out of the way first. It does not matter if you download a chart that you would never have purchased. The law doesn't care how many people MIGHT have bought it, theft is theft. It's like saying just because you wouldn't buy a television set in a store, it's okay to steal it - the shop wouldn't have made the sale to you anyway. See my point? Downloading a chart online illegally is no different than walking into a store and shoplifting it. In both instances you got something you didn't pay for by illegal means, whether or not you use it is immaterial. When lawyers, judges and law enforcement agencies calculate damages and criminal penalties, it is based on how many times it was downloaded, not by how many of those downloaders might have actually purchased it. 

Also on that note, there are many people downloading who WOULD have purchased things. How do I know? I follow the illegal sites and have infiltrated different private groups (some thankfully now shut down) and have watched the following conversations happen time and time again. This comment in particular comes up frequently in these private groups:

"Does anyone have this chart before I buy it?"

There's also this inevitable conversation every time Heaven and Earth Designs has a sale:

"I'm going to buy these charts in the sale and will send them to you as soon as I've got them. What's everyone else getting?" 

It's a co-ordinated effort to make sure that no two people buy the same design... and in many of these cases, the files quickly make their way from these smaller private groups to the larger download sites within a few minutes of purchase. You can always tell when there is a sale because the number of HAED designs being illegally uploaded multiplies during that time.

Another point that people are constantly throwing out there that while partly true, may not be as true as people think. The point being that stitching has declined in popularity due to the economy and lack of interest. While that IS true, the numbers aren't as substantial as people believe. YES it has contributed to a downturn in sales, but when you see membership numbers on illegal websites that are in the tens of thousands (one such site had at it's peak over a million) it makes you wonder just how many have quit stitching and how many have just stopped paying for designs. Membership numbers are climbing and new sites and sharing methods are cropping up every single day. It's not just a couple of Chinese and Russian sites, it's happening on every platform everywhere where files can be uploaded, from Facebook to blogs, photo hosting sites to web servers, p2p networks to Yahoo groups and everywhere in between.

Now on to the point of us making a big deal out of nothing. Here is some data I've collected that might make this a bit more understandable to you, and help you realize just what a big deal it is.

I'm not going to name the sites this data comes from for obvious reasons, but they are not Chinese or Russian, and the person in question is not Chinese or Russian, but American. What she's done is amass a large collection of illegal files from various membership only sites and made them available publicly via several well known file-sharing networks, some legal, some not so legal. On one network alone, she's made available to date over 10,000 different designs over a 3 year period (and I'm not even done cataloging yet), which have resulted in over (are you ready for this??) 5 million designs downloaded illegally, or approximately 500 downloads per design. Some are much higher, some are much lower, but you get the idea. The estimated losses are staggering, and I can't even give you an accurate number because many of the designs are out of print, or designers gone out of business, so I can't find out accurate dollar values on those. I actually gave up on dollar amounts after I passed ten million dollars and I wasn't even halfway through the list. However, to give you some further idea on losses, there were about 650 designs from Heaven and Earth designs alone - at approximately $15 each, each one downloaded over 500 times, well you can do the math. And those weren't included in my calculations mentioned above. This is on ONE website. She's made the same available through several other sites as well, though most of those we've been able to have removed through the co-operation of the site hosts. However, consider that the numbers on those sites, while not as high, still add to the overall figures and we're talking about a lot of money.

Still think we're over-exaggerating? This is one individual. Consider the fact that there are thousands upon thousands partaking in this same type of activity on a massive number of different kinds of sites. Heck, doing a Google search for a design sometimes brings up illegal links ahead of legal ones, which I discovered recently. What does that mean? Well Google ranks the results not only by the search criteria, but also based on the popularity of each link. When that happens it means more people are clicking on that illegal link than on the legitimate sources. So yeah, not every person who downloaded it would have bought it, but even if one in a hundred did it still adds up to a massive amount of lost revenue.

Most popular designers can expect a short lived grace period between the release of a new design and finding it on one of the popular download sites. Magazines and books can be expected on the sites as soon as they start appearing on store shelves, digital files can show up within a few short minutes of release. With books and magazines, some of these aren't even purchased before being scanned and uploaded - we've seen cases where the library stamp is visible in the scan. The more popular a design is initially, the more quickly it will appear and once it does appear and begin to propagate from site to site, sales begin to slow almost immediately. It's not just the designers who are hurt by this, but artists who would normally receive a royalty from each sale, distributors whose sales are steadily declining, and shops who are closing at an alarming pace and it is proportionate - while this is happening the membership numbers on these sites are steadily climbing as the sales are steadily dropping. The point is, once it has been uploaded even once, it WILL make it's way around the net in a matter of days.

What I can tell you is that I'm sick of seeing the excuses and justification these people use. One being that they can't afford the designs. There are lots of things I can't afford, I simply don't buy them or wait until I CAN afford them. What they can't afford is the thousands of illegal charts on their hard drive. If they actually purchased what they planned to stitch, the question of affordability becomes a little more reasonable. What makes this excuse laughable is that in one breath, a user is complaining about the cost of charts, and in another post on the same site contemplating the purchase of a $400 floor stand. Really? You can afford the $400 floor stand, but you're complaining about a $20 chart? Being able to afford it has little to do with it. On one of the sites, the administrator inadvertently made public a logfile of the people who had donated money to the site - and there were a couple listed who were donating upwards $50 a month. So they can afford $50 a month to participate in illegal downloading, but not $20 to actually buy a chart. Interesting. 

Another I often see is that they participate in sites like this because they can't get the designs where they live. Of course we all know that isn't true. There are countless businesses online who ship worldwide, so not being able to find it in a local shop on the other side of the globe isn't exactly what you'd call a problem. What they really mean is that they don't want to pay for the design and the shipping to their country. That doesn't make it alright to steal it, and it never will. If they're technically savvy enough to find that chart illegally, surely they are technically savvy enough to find and purchase it legally?

Yet another is that it's okay if charts are out of print. First, out of print does not mean out of copyright. The reason behind a chart going out of print is generally because of the cost of printing when a designer uses professional printing services. The more charts they print per batch, the less expensive it is per copy. When a chart is selling well, they will continue to get additional batches printed. When sales slow, printing an additional batch of say, 1000 charts, becomes cost prohibitive because it's unlikely they'll ever sell that many more. Printing an additional batch of say 100 charts makes the printing costs jump much higher per chart, so is also cost prohibitive in that it actually costs the designer money instead of making them a profit. Another reason is because a designer retires or quits the business. One of the reasons for a slowing of sales and designers going out of business is copyright infringement, so by participating in this activity people are actually making charts go out of print and designers go out of business more quickly than they would have otherwise. And when a designer does go out of business, the people on these sites lament that there will be no more new designs from them. Case in point, last weeks announcement from Kirsten sparked a conversation on a Chinese site about how everyone will miss the magazine, yet this same Chinese site was almost always the first place it was uploaded minutes of release. I frequently see the suggestion that designers should continue selling in pdf format to avoid the out of print issue, however this rapid "deployment" of pdf charts is the reason why most don't do that.

And finally, and probably the best one of all, that we as designers should appreciate all the free advertising we get from sites like these because they wouldn't have even known about us otherwise. Really? We should appreciate that ONE person bought our design and then gave it away to 500 other people. What is so difficult about buying it, then posting a link to where they bought it instead of "sharing" the actual chart, so that those other people could have bought it too instead of enabling them to steal it? That's what the rest of us all do and we manage to learn about new designs and designers just as easily. There are LOTS of legal sites where people can post pictures of things they're working on and tell people about them without participating in theft rings.

In all honesty, tracking and cataloging and forwarding information to the authorities is in itself a full time job - we as designers haven't got the time to keep up with it all. We watch each other's backs and do the best we can to report and report and report. We keep each other informed of developments that we come across, but it is a time consuming, overwhelming and depressing process. Sometimes the efforts pay off, sometimes they don't. But it all adds up and it takes a toll emotionally, which can really kill the creative process.

Here are some figures to help you better understand why this is crippling the industry. Let's use as an example one of my charts that retails for $20, Antique Lace. After the shop and distributor take their profit for sales, my cut is $7. The cost for me to print with my new printer is about 5 cents per page and it is around 25 pages. So now I'm at $5.75 per copy sold. Then figure in the cost to ship it to the distributor which will run me say 50 cents per copy. Now I'm at $5.25. Since it's release I have sold 45 copies of this design if I don't include those sold on consignment that I have not yet been paid for. So I've made $236.25 from this design. The floss cost me about $35, the fabric $35, and the beads $18, plus the shipping on all three, so let's round that to $100. So after materials I've made $136.25. I'm not factoring in the cost of hydro to run the computer or printer here, or the cost of getting the design framed (which I haven't because I can't afford to). Between sketches, studying lace patterns, and actually putting it into the design software, I'd estimate about 100 hours to come up with the final printed charts. I'd estimate it took me a further 300 hours to stitch the model. So 400 hours of actual work which equates to 34 cents an hour to date on this design. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I did it, and I enjoyed it immensely, but how many people could live on that kind of money? To make minimum wage here in Ontario I'd have to sell approximately 780 charts - a far cry from the number I've actually sold. To make a liveable wage and be able to pay all my bills, that number would have to be even higher. So you can understand why I have a full time day job on top of designing. Obviously there are fluctuations here between different designers based on sales, printing methods, shipping costs, distribution methods, materials costs, model stitching, etc, but that puts things into perspective a little and maybe makes it a little easier to understand why we're freaking out so much about piracy. We have bills to pay just like everyone else, and when this behaviour begins to affect our ability to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, we get a little ticked off.

I know I will probably take some abuse for voicing all of this but I really am tired of hearing how we're making a big deal out of nothing. We're not talking about a small percentage of people who partake in these activities, the number is HUGE and growing at an alarming pace. 

In closing, I wish to express my sympathies to Kirsten and Martina. I know these decisions can't have been easy. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Throwing it out there...

As Jo mentioned in her comments to my last post, I figured it couldn't hurt to ask.

I'm looking for a model stitcher, however I can't pay in cash at this time. You would of course get a copy of all of my charts to stitch for yourself, and likely stash and samples of stuff you want to play with. Payment method would change to cash or gift certificates as and when sales start to pick up later.

So what do I require in a model stitcher?

You would need to be able to stitch on high count fabrics. Not terribly high, I'm not talking about 55ct or anything (that's my own insanity and I don't force that on anyone!!). The bulk of my models are done on 34, 36 or 40ct linen, over two. The occasional one will have bits and pieces done over one.

At this time, I plan to do the heavy duty specialty stitch pieces myself. So it would mainly be cross stitch, with maybe the odd other stitches thrown in, but nothing terribly difficult.

A good background of stitching with overdyes and/or silks would be a big plus. Beading and metallics knowledge would be beneficial as well since I'm starting to use those more too.

Speed - well fast is good, but neatness is more important overall. No long carries behind the fabric and things like that but as long as it's not visible from the front or lumpy or anything it's fine. I'm not imposing deadlines for anything - basically anything I don't have to stitch myself is a big bonus for me right now. A few months to finish one is just fine.

I would of course be supplying you with all the materials to stitch any model, so no worries about having to spend any money or anything. You would be given credit in the chart or any other publication the design shows up in. It might be a nice opportunity for someone who wants to play with lots of different kinds of fabric/silks/metallics/beads! 

I know it's a lot to ask without offering payment, but if you think it might be fun and have the time to do it, please contact me at northernexpressionsneedlework@gmail.com.