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 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 

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 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 surprise. But for needle workers, those lovely 4 seasons mean lots of great opportunities for beautiful projects. 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, 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?'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 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.


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'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 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!


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!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

L*K has BIG news!

Drumroll...let's get right to the scoop...

We will be closing our official Lizzie*Kate "world headquarters" office on March 31.

We will be releasing our final design, #190 Spring Smalls, on March 1.

It is with much gratitude that we share this with you - our loyal cross stitchers everywhere. It's hard to find just the right words, but I'll try.

When I reflect over the past 22 years, the word I associate most often with my job is JOY. Who knew this job would be so fun, continually challenging, and bring pleasure and creativity to talented people around the world?!

When I began Lizzie*Kate I knew that I loved stitching. Most often, it was my favorite end to a long day. I could hardly wait to get the kids into bed and pull out my stitching. Before I finished one project, I was already dreaming of the next one and gathering supplies from my local needlework shop.

What I didn't anticipate when I became a designer, quickly became apparent to me. I could help others enjoy their favorite stitching hobby!! It's been so special to enable cross stitch fanatics to pursue their passion with L*K designs.

Sarah "Lizzie" and Alison "Kate" in our basement storeroom, circa 1996

It's been 22+ years since I made an appointment to chat with my LNS owner. I wanted to discuss a crazy idea I had to design cross stitch patterns. I needed a little extra income so I could continue to "stay home" with the kids. She didn't think I was serious, but she patiently told me about the needlework biz. 

Six months later I was sitting in the Lizzie*Kate booth at Charlotte Needlework Market on Row 14, "conveniently" located at the far back of the convention hall by the snack bar and ladies' room. My mother and a friend traveled with me. We had NO idea what we were doing, but we were there with 20 new "hot off the copier" L*K designs. Before market I hurriedly drew a logo for Lizzie*Kate, fully intending to revise it later - I never did.

For 3 hectic days we were unexpectedly swamped with shops owners eager for something new, placing large orders. We busily wrote orders from the nearby snack bar tables, and promised to ship ASAP. We were grateful for other kind vendors who helped us navigate the market. It was overwhelming.

Boy, were we busy when we returned to Wichita!!! I spent the entire first week tallying quantities, and ordering all the printing and photos we needed. Our basement air hockey table was completely stacked with printing, and I almost filled an entire grocery cart with photos. I remember the photo bill was $1700! 

It was summer so the kids and their friends jumped in to our "emergency" (OK, I coerced them and donated to their clubhouse fund) and helped us glue photos and assemble thousands and thousands of chartpaks. Alan helped me every evening as we attempted to ship 10-12 boxes every day.

We hustled and managed to get those original 250-ish orders out the door in less than a month. Complicating things, though, were the new orders piling in from non-market attendees, and those optimistic re-orders. We were blessed by a pile of orders that just wouldn't seem to disappear.

Standing in front of antique L*K door - leading to the basement office

As we were struggling to ship those original 20 designs, one question kept popping up -  "When are you going to have more designs?". MORE designs, I thought? Yikes! Can I do more?

Fast forward to 22 years later...
The L*K girls grew up and our family grew, along with our Lizzie*Kate business. Our family and L*K will forever have a special connection. 

Linda, Alan, Sarah "Lizzie", Jeff, Ali "Kate" and Barclay

As we close the door on Alan's L*K warehouse/office, he'll miss the day-to-day rhythm of L*K with inventory control, phone calls and emails from shops, and shipping. Our home will undoubtedly be cleaner when I'm not buried in all the stages of product development, designing and publishing. It's pretty hard to keep L*K contained in my home office - it gravitates all over the house!

We are so THANKFUL for the presence of Lizzie*Kate in our lives. In fact, I can't imagine doing life without L*K. I was able to use my creative gifts in a way that enriched the lives of others, and have a ball doing it. Because of L*K I was able to work from home and Ali and Sarah got to experience entrepreneurship first hand - whether they wanted to or not! 

Alan joined the biz full-time about 10 years after I began. From our beginning in 1996, he was always behind the scenes doing accounting and supporting me. He's the voice answering the biz phone and chatting daily with our loyal needlework shops everywhere.

Alan and I celebrating our 60th birthdays (several years ago!) with a Hippie Party 

Now Alan and I are ready for a change. We're not sure what the future holds for us "soon-to-be-retirees", but we are excited to have some time to explore possibilities and opportunities.

THANK YOU for the blessing you have been in our lives...sniffle, sniffle...and allowing us to come into your homes and your stitch at a time.

***If you need more L*K designs, no worries. You can contact your favorite needlework supplier. We have a lot of inventory that we will be shipping to them and also their distributors. Just be patient as orders will take longer than order as we are assembling tons of stuff!

If you have a favorite L*K design or memory to share, LEAVE A COMMENT below. We would love to hear from you.

Love and best stitches,
Linda and Alan

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

NEW for 2018!

Hey L*K Blog Readers...I'm BACK!!! It's been a long (mostly unplanned) break from blogger-ville and the day to day happenings at L*K. After a nice holiday respite, I'm back in the groove and ready for 2018.

I want to tell you about 2 new Lizzie*Kate designs that are coming your  way SOON! We'll be shipping to shops worldwide on Wednesday, January 17. 

#189 Winter Smalls

Our seasonal Smalls series continue with 4 little winter projects. We've spelled out WINTER with fun motifs, just like Summer and Autumn. The other 3 projects are Snow, Sweetheart (Valentine's Day!) and Snuggle

Has anyone noticed that every season all of the projects begin with the same letter? It's a fun little design challenge for me and I'm wondering if anyone notices?! Check out #182 Summer Smalls (Birds, Bees, Berries) and #185 Autumn Smalls (Hoot, Halloween, Haunted). Now you know about my alphabet obsession!

B59 The Things We Love Inspiration Boxer

I've loved this quote for a long time and was surprised to find the source - St. Thomas Aquinas. It's a timeless saying...don't you agree? Boxer includes 32 ct. Lambswool linen, bonus pattern and beads.

Hope all of you are off to a wonderful 2018!

Please tell me I'm not the only person who hasn't finished putting away their Christmas decor?! I've rounded everything up - well almost everything - and hauled it downstairs. Now I'm trying to put it away in a "meaningful way". What the heck is that?

I'm trying to clean out/edit years of Christmas decor, instead of throwing all the stuff I used on top of the decor that didn't make it out of the totes this year. It's hard to part with some of that stuff, but it also feels good to pare down. And that's my excuse for why it's taking so long to put Christmas 2017 on the shelf!!! For some reason I find this kind of organization really exhausting/boring. What does that say about me? 

****BONUS POINTS if you noticed what is funky about the photo on the Winter Smalls. Look again! Is there something maybe 3 noses? Yes, I forgot to stitch the noses on the 3 snowmen. I know exactly how it happened. I'm sure I didn't have orange thread on my little cart, and figured I would do it later. And I didn't...and I forgot. I didn't notice the ominous missing noses until the finishing was done. 

Digital correction to the issue. The 3 noses are rightfully restored on the final cover photo on Winter Smalls. WHEW!!!