Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mysterious clarifications!

Have you ever tried to write instructions for something and make them crystal clear...even if there's not a photo or video to explain? It's a challenge...and that's me at mystery sampler time!!! Every time I do a mystery sampler, I agonize over the instructions. Every mystery (this is our 5th) I get a little more detailed, but there are still a few "mysterious" elements that were not intended!

Lots of you have received SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler Part One and I know you're eager to get stitching and make some progress.

***If you haven't received Part One yet, I'm sure it's coming. You are welcome to inquire at your needlework supplier. We shipped EVERYONE on June 15, so there are definitely some mysteries still in the mail, and on the airplane across the pond, and being rerouted from shops to all of you.

I've seen a few questions popping up on Facebook, so I want to clarify a few details. These instructions made sense to me and my 3 proofers, but I totally understand if you all have questions. Inquiring cross stitch minds want to know!!!

* Under the "If using embellishment pack" instructions...I refer to a cadet "diamond" motif. That is referring to the group of 3 motifs - just to right and above little witch. They are four sided and look like diamonds to us. Whatever you want to call them, if you're using the embellishment pack, don't stitch the center black stitch on the top left one. Attach a tiny black button instead. You will see this motif cropping up again in Part Two and Part Three. If you've been reading my Cross Stitch 101 blog posts, you know that repetition is a favorite design trick. Our eyes find repetition pleasing!

* Also in the embellishment pack instructions, I used the word "onyx" several times. It should says KOHL. I got my WDW black colors mixed up (SORRY!), and this one got past the picky proofing crew. Whatever name you use...kohl, onyx, it's BLACK!!!

* Also in the embellishment pack instructions, I refer to "quilt motifs". Those are the 6 motifs that run across the bottom of the chart - sandwiched between the 2 horizontal lines of sweet potato stitches. These are my best rendering of a quilt motif. Maybe if I were a quilter??? You will see these fun motifs pop up again...but I can't tell you when...because it's a MYSTERY!

* I've seen some comments about fabric precut size. Marilyn and the PTP crew hand dyed, ironed, cut and labelled each piece. If the size of the finished fabric does not exactly match the size printed on the label, make some slight adjustments in the placement of your sampler on the fabric. I ALWAYS measure a piece of fabric and do the calculations with the stitch count before beginning a stitchery. See next paragraph.

To calculate finished stitchery size, just divide the overall stitch count (227W x 97H) by the count of your fabric. If you're stitching on Aida, divide by 14 for 14 ct. Aida, and 16 for 16 ct. Aida. If you're stitching on linen, you are stitching over 2 fabric threads. If you're stitching on 32 ct. linen, divide by 16. If you're using 28 ct. linen, divide by 14. This will give you the finished size of the stitched piece. You may not have a full 3" around the entire size, but it will be adequate for stitching and framing.

* I have seen some questions about using overdyed threads. Whether to complete each stitch before moving on, or do a whole row of half stitches and return to cross them, or use one strand of thread put end to end through needle (whew - 3 choices!) is totally up to you. I don't complete each stitch, because the end to end method is faster for me. And I'm ALWAYS in a many models to stitch, so little time for everything else.

If you would like the overdyed effect to be less muted in one specific area - like the little witch's face in Part One - then do that. I didn't want her face looking too stripey. But that a problem if you're already a witch?! You can see the "muted" effect of overdyed threads used end-to-end on the BONUS fob below on another witch's face. Could they be related?

* I've also had questions about the photos available for the BONUS Bewitched 2 sided fob. You can find them here on the blog (and in earlier post) and also on the L*K website at What's New.

Wishing all of you "mystery stitchers" a fabulous SPOOKED! time this summer. Can't thank you enough for joining the "club" of mystery stitchers all over the world. Isn't it great that needlework makes the world a smaller, closer little crossed stitch at a time?!

And yes, I am working on other new stuff that will be coming soon in July and August. More details soon!

Monday, June 13, 2016

SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler Final Countdown

We're busy packing orders to needlework shops everywhere - all over the US and around the world. This takes several days, and we'll ship EVERYONE on the same day - Wed., June 15. No matter whether the shop is large or small, near or far...everyone goes out the same day. It's harder for us that way, but it's the closest we can come to "mystery equality".

Here's what's been happening as we near our big day:

Two weeks ago we received 3 giant boxes from the colorful folks at Weeks Dye Works.  My photo is blurry, the boxes look less than perfect, but the threads arrived in perfect condition. They're sorted by color with 100 thread skeins per bag, bundled in neat little packs of 10...which we then proceed to take apart!

We unloaded the boxes and sorted the lovely threads all over the basement floor - office is too crowded. As we have watched the piles diminish the last couple weeks, we know we're almost finished making thread packs...whew.

We set up thread assembly stations at both the office and at home. Our helper, Carmen, found a clever new way to get those pesky threads into the zip bag. After literally thousands of thread packs with previous mystery samplers, we've improved the process...slightly. There's just no super speedy way to get the job done. It requires time and a good TV series/lots of movies!

Here's Alan on a typical evening in the basement. I'm sitting on the nearby sofa stitching on a model...of course.

We filled a nice pile of plastic totes (the ones that hold inventory for Nashville Market every year), and toted the totes to the L*K office.

Last Friday Alan traveled to nearby Abilene, Kansas to pick up a car-FULL of fabric from Picture This Plus. Marilyn and the gang had packed and neatly labeled the boxes of 28 and 32 ct. Ale linen, and 14 and 16 ct. Ale Aida. 

The PTP ladies cut, serge and individually label and package each piece of linen and Aida. I don't think we could handle this process at our crowded office. We appreciate this extra service so much, and so do the needlework shops. NOTE: these fabrics may appear darker in these pics than in person.

After all the invoices have been typed, we're finally ready to pack SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler orders...yes! We set up an assembly line on our shipping table. From right to left...SPOOKED! Part 1 charts, 4 kinds of fabric, embellishment packs, and the order invoices. Where are the thread packs? They're on the right, just out of sight on the pic.

And here's the happy packer...Mr. L*K himself, Alan. This is how he spent most of the weekend, and many hours to go, I'm sure. Sitting on the near side of the packing table (bottom of below pic) are pulled orders. Each one of those boxes - or sometimes more than one box - represents a shop order. We accumulate several pulled orders, then stop and box them. 

Alan loves the satisfaction of a "well-packed box". It's kind of a "thing" when you do a lot of shipping. A well packed box is when you choose the perfect size of box (not too big/not too small - on the first try) and everything fits neatly inside for happy shipping.

After all the boxes are packed, we begin labeling using online postage from the US Postal Service. Even though we save addresses for our regular customers, it will take most of a day to complete labels.

We ship the cheapest method possible, and nowadays that's usually USPS. Just a few years ago, we had a close relationship with the UPS man with a daily pickup. Now, we see him occasionally. But...surprise, surprise...he also delivers to our new house, so we still get the occasional "how ya doin'?". We'll put the super big shop orders in UPS boxes. International accounts advise us on their preferred shipping method.

I had better get back to packing. There's a deadline in a couple days, 'ya know!!!

But before I go, I want to tell all of you a giant THANK YOU!!!

THANK YOU for joining us on our summer mystery adventure (whether you pre-ordered or join the party later), THANK YOU for reading these blog posts, THANK YOU for your comments and encouraging notes, and THANK YOU for being loyal L*K stitchers and making this job a reality for us!

Let's have some FUN!!!

****I keep getting Facebook comments, blog comments, emails, etc...asking where to order SPOOKED! It's easy...just order from your usual needlework supplier. Lots of stitchers don't have local shops anymore (sad), so rely on shipping from shops around the country. You're not alone, if you're in this boat! But don't let yourself sink...there are tons of great shops out there who would love your mail order business. You can find a list of shops on the L*K website. Just click on the Info for Stitchers button. Many of these shops will be happy to mail you. Some have online ordering, some you will have to contact by phone or email. Hopefully you will find an awesome needlework supplier that can help with all of your urgent cross stitch needs!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

JABC buttons get SPOOKED!

Have you ever wondered how the gals at Just Another Button Company do their button magic with polymer clay? I just look at those gloriously detailed buttons in awe. They're truly little works of art!

Well, I didn't take a field trip to JABC, but I do have some behind-the-scenes pics of SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler buttons being made at JABC.

We're offering a very special SPOOKED! Embellishment Pack for the mystery sampler, which will have goodies to embellish SPOOKED!, as well as the 3 BONUS projects included. When I think "cool embellishments", I immediately think about JABC. They are so happy to work with me and customize fun, whimsical buttons for L*K projects.

Even before I was done stitching the SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler, I sent them an actual size color printout of the design from my computer design software. I had some ideas about where to put embellishments, but I invited the button professionals to play around with the design and make suggestions.

**When I know I want to use embellishments in a design, I have to consider this while the design is "in progress". In addition to selecting appropriate buttons, I have to make sure buttons are correct scale for the design. This sounds like more of my Design 101 posts!

Shortly, the JABC whiz team returned my printout with lovely little buttons taped here and there, and helpful notes in the margins. Decisions, many buttons, which buttons, where to put them...enough to keep a cross stitch designer up at night.

I ended up selecting 4 different JABC buttons, and included 6 JABC in the pack (there are 3 of my fave little buttons - see it being made below). The SPOOKED! Embellishment Pack also contains tiny black and cream buttons from another source, and golden olive beads. We've got a serious buildup of packs at the L*K office now, waiting for our June 15 ship date.

Here's my official SPOOKED! Embellishment Pack assembly box that follows me everywhere...while I'm watching TV, in the car, whenever I have time to make a few dozen (or hundred) packs. 

Just Another Button Company is a family business, like so many other vendors in the needlework biz. Creativity definitely runs in the family. Below are 3 generations of button ladies...Cecile, Rachel, baby Anna (Miss Button 2) and big sister Amelia (Miss Button). As you can see, curly hair also runs in this family. Personal NOTE:  I keep reminding God that I want curly hair when I get to heaven. I know envy is a sin, so I'm just "hoping" for heavenly curls in the hereafter. 

Speaking of heavenly...check out this pic of Amelia, nestled in a pile of buttons. Amazingly, the contest winner who guessed closest to her delivery date won that entire stash of buttons - button dream come true!!!

The button we'll "profile" today is the little black/burnt orange quilt block. For scale, see photo below. I have a 2" square Tupperware container brimming with buttons. They're tiny - 1/4" across. We scaled our button selections so they will work well on multiple fabrics...28 or 32 count linen, and 14 and 16 ct. Aida.

Our button guru, Donna, begins building a "cane" for the button from polymer clay. You can see her tools at top of pic.

You can see the button starting to take shape as she cuts and combines the black and burnt orange pieces.

...and here's the final button. But WAIT...why is it so JUMBO SIZED! Before the button is sliced,baked and drilled, it has to be S - T - R - E - T - C - H - E - D!!!!

Watch video below and you'll see Cecile make a different button cane and see the whole large-to-small button evolution. She's a whiz, and super you will see!

Just like our previous posts on hand dyed linen at Picture This Plus, and overdyed fibers from the gang at Weeks Dye Works, I'm so glad I'm doing the DESIGNING part of this job. I don't think I have the patience (or skills) for this button building biz. But the more I learn about other needlework artisans, the more respect I have for what they do...and the lovely products they bring to the cross stitch business!

Ready to get SPOOKED!??? Alan is busy this contacting shops all around the US and outside the US, verifying pre-order amounts, and accepting additional orders. We'll begin packing boxes next weekend and ship SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler Part One to shops everywhere on Wed., June 15.

Have a great weekend, stitchers!

Monday, June 6, 2016

SPOOKED! Bonus #1 closeup and "thread heaven"

 So much info to little time to blog!

We're super busy here at L*K headquarters, preparing to ship SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler to shops on June 15. It's literally a day to day countdown for us right now.

We just received 3 large boxes of gorgeous Weeks Dye Works threads. OH MY - lots of thread packs to assemble and lots of points on our airline credit card. I literally DID NOT leave the house as I waited on this shipment last Friday. Way too many pretty threads to leave laying around on my porch. I didn't want my neighbor's pet white goose taking a liking to hand-dyed threads.

Alas, it was a GORGEOUS weekend in Kansas and we spent most of it wistfully looking out the window. OK...we did take the occasional paddle board and swim break. Above is my husband, Alan and our friend, Eddie, on his maiden paddle board voyage.I think they look pretty good for 60 year olds on "surf/paddle boards". 60 is the new 40!  Admit it...Kansas is prettier than you thought...right?

I promised you a close-up of the BONUS 2-sided fob in SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler Part One. There's a BONUS project with all 3 parts of SPOOKED! I had such a good time working on these little gems...pure delight.

My fab finisher, Mona, did a great job finishing the fob. Lucky for you...she will be posting complete fob finishing instructions on her blog soon. I love the "hairy" black fiber she used in her twisted cording. If you don't want a fob, you could easily turn this into a pin pillow or whatever other mini-project you like. 

You can spot a few "goodies" from our SPOOKED! Embellishment Pack in these fob pics. There's a tiny black button on Side 1 and a JABC black/white mini quilt block button on Side 2.

You can spot the other 2 BONUS projects in our SPOOKED! sneak peek collage photo (above). Winnie Witch standup will be included with SPOOKED! Part 2. Don't you love the pumpkin standup finish with the real twig stem? The biggest BONUS of them all will be included with SPOOKED! Part 3. It's called "For the Birds" and the unframed stitchery is folded next to the fob. It's got a flock of blackbirds and a wily cat. 

Check back soon! I'm working on a beautiful post with behind-the-scenes pics from Just Another Button Company. They are magicians with polymer clay, and I think you'll be as fascinated and impressed with their business as I am. And you can see them working on a SPOOKED! button.

Still want to join the SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler Club. It's never too late! Let your favorite needlework supplier you want to join the fun. This isn't a Limited Edition project. For those of you reluctant to commit to a mystery project, you can join us later as the mystery unfolds. But if you want to join the group of "mystery stitchers" around the world this summer, now is the time to get SPOOKED!

HAPPY SUMMER 2016!  If you haven't pulled out your white shoes (or flip flops)...Memorial Day is history and it's officially SUMMER. Enjoy!!!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tour Weeks Dye Works and their wonderful world of color!

Grab a cup of coffee or a cold drink and join us on our "private tour" of fabulous Weeks Dye Works and their wonderful family business.

We've got lots of pics, and I think you'll enjoy the whole field trip. There is SO much to share about the WDW wonderful world of color! Heck, I was so excited talking with Miranda and John about their business...and how they do what they do...I didn't even remember to pick up any samples of their gorgeous linen, wool and fibers. Major mistake!!! I was overwhelmed with admiration for the business they have created over the last 20+ years.

We flew to Raleigh/Durham International Airport and made the short scenic drive to Garner, NC. WDW shares a warehouse type building with John's architectural office. Here's Miranda in her "official" office (John's office is in opposite corner of large room), although you can often find her in the WDW "back room" where the color magic happens. I hear someone cleaned her desk for our did look suspiciously vacant.

As WDW has grown, so has their darling family. You can recognize their children's names on WDW thread colors. Here are Morris (Morris Blue) and Sophie (Sophia's Pink) and a couple canine friends. They were the first kids home from school, which means "home" at the office until quitting time.

There's a big table for home work and a kids play area with bunk beds and toys. The entire WDW facility was decorated with kids artwork - you never knew where it would pop up. I should mention that every year at market the WDW kids are the most courteous "yes, ma'am, yes sir" kids as they greet customers and help around their booth.

The younger kids, Michael (Michael's Navy) and Sally (Sally's Sunshine) joined us later. Lots of smiling blonds in this family.

We arrived a lunchtime, so began our tour (appropriately) with some authentic Southern barbecue in downtown Raleigh. Pulled pork and 2 competing sauces, hushpuppies, biscuits, collards, black eyed get the yummy idea. We had the BEST time chatting about the needlework biz and everything else. We have a lot in common...both of us have husbands in a largely female industry, our companies are 20+ years old, and we've both learned a lot as we've created/developed our unique businesses.

But back to our tour. These ladies keep the front office humming, working with customers in the cross stitch, needlepoint and quilting niches. They were so cheerful and it was fun for me to put faces with the charming Southern voices I hear regularly on the phone. 

These ladies don't sit all day - they pull and ship orders! Above are neatly piled orders waiting to be packed and shipped. There's a mix of linen, wool and fibers hiding underneath. 

The front office is where the inventory is neatly organized...and I mean ORGANIZED! First I spied the boxes of numerical WDW overdyed floss....floss heaven! Each box contains one color. Inside that box of floss are large cones of floss, as well as floss in skeins. Skeins are banded in groups of 10 and bagged in groups of 100. As skeins are sold, spools are sent out to the LOL (little old ladies) who neatly put them into skeins. They can tell at a glance how much of any specific color is available, or when it's time to dye.

So much floss, never enough time to use it, but always room in my stash!

I was happy to spot one of my favorite colors, Busy Lizzie. I helped create this color for the Things Unseen Mystery Sampler last year. Other colors that are WDW/L*K collaborations are Oscar and Clockwork...and of course the upcoming SPOOKED! color (more on that later in post).

Nearby are similar boxes of overdyed Perle cottons.

All around the perimeter of front office are tags...tags, tags everywhere! Originally they printed, cut and punched tags themselves. Now their local printer does that unless it's a "thread" emergency. Organizing and inventorying tags for all the WDW products takes up a surprising amount of space.

Beyond the overdyed flosses are shelves full of linens and wools. They are so BEAUTIFUL! Just look and drool. Seeing them altogether was visually stunning. I definitely want to use more in upcoming L*K creations...the textures and colors are positively yummy. 

I could have lingered in the warehouse area all day, but let's move on to the BACK ROOM, where all the dyeing magic happens. The back room looks like a real factory with interesting, complicated, customized equipment. Honestly, I can't remember what happens in area above, but it's impressive...right?

Above is a "formula" for an overdyed thread color. Each WDW color has a specific formula of dye colors that they replicate every time the thread is dyed. That's why WDW maintains amazing color consistency from dye lot to dye lot, over the years.

Dyes are measured inside this high tech "dye booth" that John built. Miranda says John has a tendency to overbuild stuff. Maybe yes, maybe just what the job calls for. No guess work here. Dye booth is the yellow enclosure on right with clear walls. 

Inside this sealed environment, colors are carefully measured and weighed. I know...who knew? So now when I call and they tell me Miranda will return my call later because she's in the "dye booth" I know where she is and what she's doing! 

Lots of dye containers, sized small to extra large!

But, even with these exacting measurements, colors fluctuate slightly every time they dye. WDW is dyeing natural fabrics...cotton, linen, wool...and it's a bit of an experiment every time. That's why they maintain the formula card (2 pics above) and keep adjusting dye until they get the best color match. I really appreciate that WDW works hard to maintain color consistency. As a designer, this is really helpful to me and I know to all of you stitchers out there in blog land.

Here are rolls of various fabrics awaiting their turn in the dyeing process.

And then the color magic happens to linens and wool in this area. Sorry, no closeup photos of the fabric dyeing process. Let's just say it's wet, colorful and fantastic things happen in this important area at WDW. Check out all the washers and dryers...bunches of them! Laundry happens at work, as well as at home for the McGahey bunch and their employees. Newly dyed fabrics are washed and dried after their colorful baths.


Also nearby were giant bags of salt and soda ash. In the chemistry of dyeing, these aid in treating the water and facilitating the dyeing process. 

After the newly dyed fabrics are dried, ironing is the next step. Check out the oversized ironing board and an employee smiling while she irons a giant piece of linen. 

These talented ladies work in the back room. They're smiling, but they're not telling how they work their color magic. It will remain a MYSTERY!

"What about the overdyed flosses?", you ask. As to the actual overdyeing process for the threads, we can tell you PART of the story. The rest of the story is a "trade secret" and we understand why WDW wants to keep it that way.

We just marveled how WDW has devised processes to perfect overdyeing threads. They have designed and built custom equipment. From machines that wind the threads neatly so they can be immersed and dyed, to the actual overdyeing process, WDW is using original equipment they have designed. I always wondered how you could dye large batches of floss without getting a tangly, mushy mess. Problem: solved! John is a whiz at imagining the right machine for the precise job, and making it a reality. It was so innovative and totally impressive. Definitely a worthy "trade secret"!

Overdyed threads from WDW are actually dyed 2 times! They begin with white thread and dye a solid color for the base. Then this colorful base is overdyed - step 2 - to create the beautiful overdyed threads.

While we were there, they were working on a batch of our exclusive new color for SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler. Sorry, no pictures of the actual overdyeing process, but I can reveal the name:

Marmalade!!!  As in "orange" marmalade. 

Once I talked to Miranda about dyeing me a new color, I gave her several DMC colors for inspiration. I wanted a beautiful yellow-orange that was unlike anything in the WDW current lineup. And I'm thrilled with the results. Above are some of our "test runs" with light, medium and darker variations on our Marmalade theme. 

Look carefully and you can see Marmalade hiding among the other thread colors we're putting in our SPOOKED! thread pack.

Here's one fun story:
While Miranda was working on test batches for the new thread, I was brainstorming color names. I kept emailing her lists of ideas, looking for things that were golden-orange in color, and names that haven't previously been used. No small task! 

Because this thread color reminded me of a strawberry blond hair color, I began thinking of famous redheads. I sent Miranda a list of some redheads I thought might be thread worthy...Lucy, Wilma (Flintstone), Pippy (Longstocking) and my favorite quirky idea - Midge!

If you're of a certain age, you should remember Midge, Barbie's best friend! She was the red-headed part of the Barbie clan and I loved her freckles (probably because I was so freckled). Alas, as we consulted the whole staff at WDW on possible color name selections, we had a divided vote (gasp). Some ladies were firmly in the "Midge" camp, and others thought it made no sense. Perhaps an age thing? I understood this, so suggested the compromise "Marmalade" to unite the golden orange front. And that's the rest of the story, as they say. 

Anyone still have their Midge doll? I still have Chatty Kathy on my closet shelf, and her custom clothes my Aunt Connie sewed for her. But Midge, Barbie and Skipper disappeared somewhere. Wish I still had that Barbie dream car!

Thanks for joining us on the fabulous WDW "magical mystery tour". I can't tell you how fun it was to finally see the entire production facility and have an opportunity to spend hours with Miranda and John. Usually it's a quick "Hi" in the hallway at market. And now I have an even greater appreciation for the lovely WDW products. 

P.S.We did have an unfortunate quirk in air travel (hate it when that happens) on our way to NC and long story short...spent the night in the St. Louis airport due to mechanical problems. During the long, extremely NOISY night of airport camping I had a number of "deep" revelations I feel I should share:

* Muzak gets louder after midnight (due to lack of people in terminal)
* Listening to CNN all night with Hillary, Bernie and Donald isn't entertaining (also very loud)
* The "Zamboni" machine they use to clean tile floors makes 1000+ passes down the corridor
* The cleaning crews materialize out of nowhere and kinda freak you out
* Security staff was never seen - also a little creepy
* Those seats are NOT made for sleeping - big ridges that don't promote sleeping
* It's COLD at night....brrrrrrrrrr...I raided my suitcase for my raincoat
* I'm TOO OLD for this!!!!

But thanks, and shout out to gate agent "John S" who went beyond the call of duty and did more than offer his apologies. He spontaneously brought us a pile of blankets, 2 Sprites, and the remaining stash of pretzels and peanuts from a plane over-nighting at the gate (see sack on bottom left)! Kindness happens.

COMMENTS? Questions? We've love to hear from you about the WDW magical color tour.

Don't forget...Part 1 of our SPOOKED Mystery Sampler ships to shops everywhere on Wed., June 15. If you're not on the pre-order list and need some mystery in your life this summer, let your favorite shop know NOW! The countdown is ON!!!