Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Here comes "Sampler Claus"!

I hadn't planned on designing a Santa this year (truly, I had NOT!!). But something unexpected happened this summer. I was overcome with the holiday spirit on a hot summer day, retreated to my office to piddle around with my design software...and guess who emerged? Santa Claus himself!

I had the BEST time working on this jolly old elf. I literally surrounded Santa with my favorite vintage sampler motifs - Lizzie*Kate style - it's so fun!

There's no "saying" on this Santa design, so he differs from the previous 20+ yearly Santa designs, but change is good...right?! I think he's letting the cheery Christmas motifs do the talking.

We're calling him Sampler Claus. Alan thought of the name, so he gets the applause. This name makes me smile. And, truth be told, I don't take Alan's creative advice very often. I usually smile and say something like "yea, I'll think about that".

Sampler Claus "Sneak Peek"

When I work on graphing a design like this, I always have "leftovers"...little bits I have graphed that don't end up in the final design. Sometimes they're some of my favorite bits, but just don't fit in with the final design.

That was definitely the case this time, as I began my Santa design by graphing a red and pink house. I've never done a red/pink house before and those colors just made me happy. I mean...who really has a red/pink house...but again, why not?  Alas, the charming house didn't make the final cut for the big design.

Sampler Claus "Joy Sampler" Sneak Peek

So I did a smaller design and began with the little house. Then I surrounded it with other fun "leftovers" and filled in with some snowflakes here and there.

***And here's what I've learned about my almost "retirement". It's SO much more relaxing to work on a design when you aren't on a schedule....when you don't have to churn out 4 more designs to release at the same time...when stitching a model is pure pleasure and you're not on a time crunching schedule. Not to complain about my previous life as a designer, but this is so much more chill and sigh...rrrreeeelllaaaaxxxiiinnngggg.

We are headed west soon on a road trip to Salt Lake City to visit the gang at 123stitch.com. We'll be carrying a big load of L*K including Sampler Claus (in our sleigh?). We will also deliver 17 oldies (vintage L*K chartpaks) that have had "facelifts" and been reprinted in our current chartpak format.

Sampler Claus will be available to purchase soon at 123stitch.com.

We'll keep you posted when Santa "comes to town"!












Sunday, September 9, 2018

Lizzie*Kate and 123stitch.com

As we previously announced on this blog, one of the steps toward our retirement has been establishing a partnership with 123stitch.com.

Here's a link to the "official" announcement from 123.stitch.com:

What does this "partnership" mean???

* From this point forward, 123stitch.com will be selling our kits. Because of reasons we've already explained, it wasn't feasible for us to sell kits through our distributors (who then sell to retail shops and finally to stitchers). We did send distributors all of our chartpaks, Snippet and Flip-its.

In order for some of these kits to still be available for you, we decided to let 123stitch.com sell these kits. Some L*K kits may not look the same. While the designs will be the same, they may elect to sell them as patterns only, with supplies available separately. Check each product for details.

123stitch.com will also be selling other L*K products (chartpaks, Flip-its and Snippets), as will other needlework retailers around the world.

* We have also agreed to let 123stitch.com reprint old designs, as existing supplies of printing are gone. We are working with our graphic designer to "give a facelift" to some real oldies - you remember those chartpaks with the glued-on photos? Now some of them will look like our newer chartpaks with beautiful 4 color printing.

* I have also agreed to do a few NEW DESIGNS every year - available from 123.stitch.com! After feeling pretty burnt out on my 30+ designs a year schedule, it will be dreamy to do a few designs, as I'm inspired.

I've been working on a new Santa design that I'm anxious to share with you. I'll do a blog post soon with a sneak peek and some details. I had SO much fun working on him!

What does our "partnership" NOT mean???

* It does not mean that other needlework shops are out of L*K inventory. We shipped huge orders to needlework shops everywhere after we announced our retirement. We did dozens of reprints just to fill these orders.

Needlework shops continue to order L*K products from their distributors. Check with your favorite needlework supplier for L*K goodies you want to purchase.

Thanks for stitching Lizzie*Kate for the past 22 years and going forward!



Thursday, August 9, 2018

Where in the world is Lizzie*Kate?

I'm still here in Kansas, looking out my office window at the sandpit lake in our backyard, dreaming of the coast!


I haven't blogged since March 28...yikes! After so many inquiries about the "future of the L*K blog", I decided it was time for an update.

Thanks to all of you for being so patient with me during this incredibly busy period of our lives. Since we announced our L*K retirement on February 12, life just hasn't been the same. We were swamped with orders and our little L*K world headquarters was strained with the volume. 

On our path to retirement, we were suddenly busier than we had been for the previous 22 years at L*K. It was completely unexpected, thrilling and overwhelming. We finished shipping orders to needlework shops around the world by the end of April. 

But we're not done yet!!! We have spent the last few months reprinting, assembling and shipping hundreds (and hundreds) of pounds of L*K inventory to our distributors. Needlework shops can then order from these distributors.

We pored over sales records for the past several years, and consulted again...and again...with the distributors trying to get them the right quantities of everything they desired. With hundreds of different items in our inventory, it has been a long process.

Almost empty shelves at L*K headquarters

We also reached an agreement with 123 Stitch.com to continue selling our L*K kits. Because of distributor fees, we had never "allowed" kits into distribution, and it was not feasible to do this going forward. This new agreement will enable many of our kits to still be available to you through 123 Stitch.com. 

WHEW! We are still in the L*K office, extending our lease on a month to month basis with our flexible landlord, hoping every month that will be our last. Really...I think we'll be done by the end of August. We're having a big office sale in a couple weeks to sell dozens of racks and other office equipment.

One of my friends shared some wisdom saying that "Closing your business will be the hardest thing you've ever done". And we agree...much more time-consuming than we had ever anticipated. Hey - we've never done this before!

So what's next???

The short answer is "we need some free time to determine how we want to spend more free time!". Does that make sense?

We are excited to have more time to spend with family and friends, and are excited to pursue more volunteer activities. And, of course, more TRAVEL! We returned recently from 2 weeks in Spain visiting our daughter and husband (who live in Barcelona) and touring their beautiful country.

I've been active for many years on a school partnership team at my church. After weekly events for a long time, I almost "dropped out" the past couple years when I was busy managing my mom's care and daily needs. Now I'm excited to rejoin the team and go "back to school" this fall.

Could they be any cuter?

What's a church/school partnership?

It's so cool!! Over 10 years ago our church began a partnership with the elementary school closest to our church building. It's near downtown and has a high poverty rate. Most of the children speak Spanish in their homes.  A few years ago we expanded this ministry to another nearby elementary school. These schools are wonderful and interesting places!

Basically, we do what a really supportive parent group might do. We send a team of tutors and mentors into the building every week. We also work with the social worker, principle, nurse, whoever makes a request...to do special projects for the teachers and the students. We furnish school uniforms, underwear, socks, even a washer and dryer to do laundry. And more...

This week we're hosting Back to School Luncheons for the entire staff of each school. We invite them to our church building and we dine together. This is the week that the teachers return to school. The students won't be there until next week!

I'm off to serve taco salad and ice cream sundaes to a big school staff this morning...thanks for reading!!!

***I've missed sharing my life with you all. If you're interested in future posts, please send me a COMMENT below. I promise to share more cross stitch related content, too!












Wednesday, March 28, 2018

4 Seasons of Busy-ness!

Every year we have the same 4 seasons...no surprise. But for needle workers, those lovely 4 seasons mean lots of great opportunities for beautiful projects. And...BONUS...you get to pull them out and enjoy them year after year.

During my 22 years designing for L*K, I've done a lot of seasonal and holiday designs. SO MUCH Christmas and Halloween, and all the other holidays...Independence Day, Valentine's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day...even one little New Year's Day design.

#190 Spring Smalls with embellishments

I also have several seasonal series...Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. I just completed the most recent seasonal series with my Seasonal Smalls - a set of 4 small adorable designs for each season. ***Scroll back through the last 2 posts if you haven't seen the Seasonal Smalls!

Lately, we've been spending busy 12 hours days at the L*K office, then returning home in the evenings to prep for the following day. What does prep mean? We put thousands of things in little bags...buttons, beads, charms...so they're ready for assembly the next day in the office.

I keep trying to find a way to get help with this, but inventory is flowing through the office so quickly, it's hard to plan ahead. I would literally need to send stuff home with someone one day and need it back the next morning. That sounds like a job for Alan and Linda, right?

We've got more daily help in the office than ever, and we're cranking out an amazing amount of L*K product each day. But it's a daily struggle to keep enough 1" x 1" zip bags filled with appropriate goodies for whatever product bin is running low. ***And we have to have the needed embellishments IN STOCK, so we're ordering beads, buttons, charms, etc. every day.

Actually, after a full day at the office, it's great to SIT DOWN with our current Netflix addiction, make some popcorn (and a cup of tea for me), and prep for the next day.

Longmire - current Netflix addiction - men in hats and boots!

Speaking of Netflix addiction, is anyone else watching LONGMIRE? Oh my! I had this recommended to me by a girlfriend. I heard it was a Western, and couldn't imagine loving it, but I'm hooked (actually, Alan loves it too). The setting is so unique and the stories are great. But I can't neglect to mention the best part - the MEN of Longmire. Need I say more? Is it warm in here?

FINALLY...here's what I really wanted to blog about:


#001 Hats Off to Halloween - our very 1st design in 1996

As we pull orders every day, we see trends of what is selling best. Sometimes it's expected (Halloween Rules and Christmas Rules Flip-its, Seasonal Smalls, etc.) and sometimes it's a surprise. The designs that usually sell the best are selling well now. We're also selling a lot of "oldies, but goodies". I can't believe how many shop orders include our very first design - Hats Off to Halloween.

Lately, we just can't make enough of this seasonal series (pictured below).They're called 4 Seasons Flip-its. (I know...original name!). They originally published in 2014. With only 4 designs, hey're the smallest set of Flip-its we've ever done. And at the time, they were moderate sellers. Now they're super hot...go figure! I've always loved them, and really enjoyed designing and stitching the models.





Each seasonal Flip-it comes with 3 tiny buttons...mint for Spring, pink for Summer, black for Autumn and white for Winter. We just keep ordering in more and more of these tiny buttons.


These bitty buttons aren't only used for 4 Seasons Flip-its...they're literally included with hundreds of L*K designs. The ones that don't get tucked into little 1" x 1" sacks get sucked up with the vacuum. Which, by the way, really needs to be exercised around the L*K office.

B41 Dance in the Rain Inspiration Boxer.

One thing I've discovered over the years...just because I really love a design doesn't mean it will be a top seller. I've learned to listen to my customers. If bunches of stitchers request a saying, it will probably be popular, even if it's not my fave. Prime example is the Inspiration Boxer above. It's our best seller in the Inspiration series, and I never would have guessed it. But thanks to persistent requests...

Thanks, as always, for reading along. Back to the shipping table!

LEAVE A COMMENT and tell us your favorite "Longmire man"...and why you chose him!













Tuesday, March 20, 2018

More DOTS!

Those busy ladies at Zappy Dots have been at it again - creating more little Needle Nanny masterpieces with L*K designs!

Clockwise from upper left: Winter, Spring, Autumn and Summer Smalls

Kim, one of the "mistresses of dots" just sent me this darling graphic, and I wanted to share it with you.

What is a Needle Nanny?
It's a super magnetic little dot where you can park your needle and/or scissors. You attach it to both sides of your stitching fabric, or wherever you want to hold things securely. And then you enjoy how cute this little functional "dot" looks while you are stitching.

These little magnetic marvels are SUPER strong, and I'm not kidding. Last fall when we commissioned a special batch of dots for our Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler we had lots of funny experiences with these magnets. They will literally slide/jump towards anything metal. We have a small batch of Spirit of Christmas Needle Nannies remaining at the office - all firmly magnetized to each other!

Here's a link to all the L*K Needle Nannies in the collection.

ZappyDots

190 Spring Smalls

We just released our final design in our seasonal Smalls series last week - Spring Smalls. In addition to the 4 designs, it comes with a little embellishment pack with small white buttons and a dragonfly charm. I have been sacking so many little dragonflies, I'm seeing them in my dreams...and on the floor. 

We pulled our K-State Wildcats through a tough March Madness basketball game last night - with 10 of our faithful sports fans anxiously huddled in our basement. While we all cheered, Alan and I were madly sacking charms and chartpaks! I get so anxious during close games that the distraction of having my hands busy really helps.

Receiving more dragonflies in mail today - they keep flying away

It's really appropriate that we are experiencing the busiest time of our L*K career during March Madness, because that's what it feels like at the overwhelmed L*K office...March Madness/Mania/Cross Stitch Overload.

"Vintage" Purple Power People pic at our old house

Hope you're enjoying the annual basketball bedlam...and can keep your hands busy with stitches during all the fun!






Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Organized chaos" at L*K world headquarters

Three years ago we moved to a different home and moved our home office into a nearby strip mall. We jokingly began referring to our new office as L*K world headquarters. It's not very glamorous, but it's 5 minutes from home and on the way to groceries and all sorts of neighborhood things.


I guess the "world headquarters" thing is really true, though. Would you believe about 15% of our total biz is OUTSIDE the US? Maybe we should try to visit those shops when we retire?!

I remember many years ago I walked into a cross stitch shop in Paris. I was traveling with my best cross stitch buddy Judy Whitman (JBW Designs). We literally trekked all over Paris looking for this shop because Judy was determined. I mean, we walked miles and miles looking for this shop...BEFORE cell phone navigation.

Judy Whitman (JBW Designs) at elusive Paris cross stitch shop

Anyway, we get there and the shop is lovely and large and thoroughly charming. I spotted a little pile of L*K designs and was thrilled. Then I tried to tell the shopkeeper that it was ME - I am Lizzie*Kate. Nothing. Total failure to communicate. Humbling and funny. However, we did buy some cool stuff in that shop. And a stop for gelato afterwards (gelato was our daily food requirement) made the afternoon perfect.

But I digress...back to my L*K office story...

Shelves with L*K inventory surround our shipping table

When we moved into our new office Alan had "a vision" for how to arrange things. He was so sure this setup would work, he practically banned me from the move/set up. Which was great for us both...he got to arrange it the way he wanted and I didn't have to help!

Shipping table view from other side - supplies underneath

And it has been a great little office, next to a chiropractor and smelling distance from the best Italian restaurant in town, DeFazio's. (Pietro DeFazio is actually our landlord).

The best feature is our shipping area. Literally, every L*K product is lined up on 3 sides on a big shipping table. Underneath the table are shipping supplies. There are sections for each of our product lines...chartpaks, Snippets, Flip-its, kits and embellishements - with everything in numerical order.


Alan's "desk" made the move to our "real" office. Really it's just a piece of plywood on top of file cabinets. I also have a "fake desk" where I never work and stuff piles up. I always work from my home office. We call/text each other constantly during a typical workday.

So...What's the point of this post?

Just to say that USUALLY our office is pretty well organized and not too embarrassing when the mailman or UPS guy drops in daily.

Scary office scene - work in progress!

AND here's what happened when we announced we were retiring and you all flooded us with your heart's content worth of orders!!! This pile of orders )pic below) is like some weird sort of reverse thing...the harder we work, the bigger it gets. Orders go out, but more orders pile in.

I am calling it "organized chaos"!

Piles of orders is "haunting" us every day

This pesky pile of orders is just not getting any smaller. We're ordering reprints and supplies every day. We recently ran out of 6" x 9" plastic zip bags (horrors!) and even the roller adhesive we use for color photos on our oldest products.

Overflowing "to do" table - designs that need assembly!

We have created a NEW office area during our transition time. We set up a folding table devoted to products that need to be assembled. Usually we just piled these on Carmen's desk, but the pile is too big and evolving too rapidly. Now both of our helpers, and Alan and I, grab designs from this table (and under this table) and get to work.

Here's one little challenge you might not consider. Lots of our products use embellishments...brass charms, tiny buttons, beads, embellishments of all shapes and sizes. We need to have these in stock, but we have to be able to FIND THEM in our office - I know, embarrassing. We're trying extra hard to keep track of popular embellishments (tiny white and black buttons, white beads, dragonfly charms, etc.) and reordering frequently.

Did I mention we have hired more daily help than we've ever had at L*K? Usually our assembly whiz, Carmen, helps us 2 mornings a week...and that works perfectly. Now Carmen is working every morning. We've also hired a fab afternoon assistant that is a super fast newbie. Joyce worked for years at our LNS, (Heart's Desire in Wichita, KS) so she actually knows and understands L*K inventory. Between Carmen, Joyce and me in the office, Alan rarely has a moment to himself (which I know is driving him a bit crazy, but too bad).

FINAL DESIGN - 190 Spring Smalls (includes embellishments)

In the midst of all this L*K pre-retirement frenzy, we did manage to RELEASE OUR FINAL DESIGN THIS WEEK. We shipped Spring Smalls to shops everywhere last Monday. I should have photographed that pile of USPS totes leaving the office. We were relieved to get those boxes out of our path.

This final "Smalls" series of chartpaks is really popular right now! We have devoted a "special office shelf" to this series - temporarily - to keep track of the rapidly disappearing inventory.

#182 Summer Smalls (with embellishments)

#185 Autumn Smalls (with embellishments)

#189 Winter Smalls (with embellishments)

Thanks again for being patient with us during this busy time. It makes us both crazy to have orders piling up and not being able to ship in our usual efficient style. But we're doing the best we can.

Klutz glove (rotary cutter protection) and favorite hoodie for a big day at work

So long from the L*K world headquarters. The whole gang will be in the office today - Carmen, Joyce, Alan and I. I better refill the snack box...it's gonna be a BIG day!











Thursday, February 15, 2018

WHOA...let us catch our breath!

Since our announcement last week of our upcoming retirement (scroll back to previous post), things have been...how do I say this...INSANELY CRAZY?!

OMG. Never expected THIS. We have been overwhelmed with your emails, blog comments, phone calls, and every kind of sweet sentiment. We feel absolutely blessed by all of your thoughtful, heartfelt words. The stitching community truly is a very special place.

Before this train runs completely off the tracks (that's what it feels like here at L*K world headquarters), we need to clear up a few details. Honestly, we never intended to create a "cross stitch emergency".


RELAX!!!  We have lots of L*K inventory!
We always have excess inventory on hand. That's one of the risks/challenges of the business - printing enough, but not too much. Here's the catch...our products may not be ASSEMBLED and ready to go out the door.

Lizzie*Kate designs are NOT going to disappear after March 31.

We will be shipping directly to shops worldwide until March 31. After that, remaining inventory will be sent to our distributors (who sell to shops). Shops will continue to order L*K products from distributors and it will be ready for YOU.

If you want to make sure you get more L*K in your stash before March 31, contact your favorite needlework supplier and ask them to order. 

We are already SWAMPED with orders from our faithful needlework shops, so we know lots of you have already been ordering.

BE PATIENT! Thanks in advance for bearing with us. Usually we pride ourselves on shipping orders the same day they are received. Because of the current volume, we won't be able to do this. We will do our best to get orders processed quickly.

If we don't have enough printing on a certain design, we'll order more! If we're out of charms for a Flip-it, or supplies for a kit...we will order those supplies. We may be waiting on our suppliers in order to assemble your products, so shipping will be slower.

We are considering various options going forward as some things sell out. We will keep you posted on our future plans when they are finalized.

Carmen in the former L*K office. She's always dressed up, I'm usually in sweats.

Our faithful helper Carmen is already on overtime since our announcement. She is so fast at assembling L*K products, it's a struggle for us just to keep her desk filled. Carmen says she's ready for MORE!

#190 Spring Smalls (with embellishments)

We will release our final design #190 Spring Smalls on March 1. If you're wanting this "historic" design, let your needlework supplier know now, because we're printing soon. We anticipate printing more of this than our usual quantity. If we run out, we'll just print more...and sack more charms!

THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

Our little ride in the needlework biz has been a thrill right from the beginning in 1996. We have never known what twist or turn was hiding around the next corner. It's always been a thrill, and sometimes a bit of a gamble.

Thanks for coming along for the ride of our lives!