Friday, April 29, 2011

A jolly good slumber party! should we celebrate the early morning royal nuptials? How about a grown-up slumber party?  Girls only, of course!  A group of six friends gathered at my friend Connie's house last night about bed time.  We all brought our overnight bags, wedding hats and assigned food items. We munched on cute (and surprisingly tasty) cucumber sandwiches (I made them and used flower cookie cutters to shape them), finished our breakfast prep, then set our alarms and went to bed.  After a bit of giggling and late night chatting, we aimed for as much sleep as possible before our 4 AM wake up call!

It was painful climbing out of bed so early, but we put on our robes and hats, and gathered in front of the TV, turned on the fireplace and snuggled in our blankets. Connie remembered to put our egg casserole in the oven and as we watched the royal wedding, we soon realized we were, indeed, HUNGRY!! Was it the excitement of the royal wedding, the finally revealed wedding dress design, the crazy parade of hats and inexplicable English clothes...or was it the smell of breakfast? Whatever!

After the ceremony was finished, we moved to the table for a royal breakfast!  We feasted on lemon blueberry scones with lemon curd and Devonshire cream.  It turns out Devonshire cream (or clotted cream) and lemon curd (tastes like lemon creme pie!) are both extremely yummy.

We also had chocolate dipped strawberries, egg casserole, and tea....lots of hot tea served in Connie's grandmother's beautiful china teacups. Oh yea, orange juice mimosas also magically appeared! After the much-awaited royal balcony kiss, the gals with "real jobs" got dressed and left to be at work at 8 AM. We'll talk later to see how perky they were today?!  The 3 of us who remained did the dishes and savored our royal morning a little longer.

What was the best part? That's easy, old chap! Having fun with my own "royal" girlfriends!!! Cheerio!

Monday, April 25, 2011

How I spent my Easter vacation....

Easter...that lovely time of year when you gather with your children...or NOT!  When we realized neither one of our children could come home for Easter this year, we were sad! So, I mailed them $$$ to buy  new Easter dresses, instructed them to email photos of their own Easter day, and got to work on Plan B for "Empty Nester Easter celebration 2011"!

A few days before Easter, I exercised my inner Martha Stewart and did some non-needlework crafting! Our church has a partnership with an elementary school where nearly everyone speaks Spanish. Our ladies group meets with a group of dedicated Moms who are busy in their own English Literacy program, learning English and life skills to live in Wichita, Kansas! We gather with them once a month to have lunch together, practice our English/Spanish language skills and just have GIRL FUN! Since I'm in charge of programming, we often do a hands-on project.  Even if our communication isn't always perfect, we do a lot of bi-lingual laughing!!!

This month we made tiny pompom rabbits - conejitos!!!  They sure didn't look this small on Martha's website, but they were so cute and quick. Well... relatively quick, since I spent hours cutting and prepping the little creatures and bagging them into little kits the night before. Recognize the tiny black eyes???  L*K Flip-it buttons! The "whiskers" are pink floss.

I also made cute little Easter buckets to use for favors and table decor.  Check out the little bunny eggs - super simple to make with crepe paper, white pompom and magic marker eyes.  I glued them in mini-muffin cups so they would stay still! I also made PEEP cupcakes, which were pretty cute!

Right after the meeting, we "hopped" in the car with 4 other friends and drove to Tulsa, OK for a short road trip. We are all avid bike riders, and we were excited to explore the cool bike trails in the city.  We managed to avoid the rain and had a great time exploring the "wildlife" in Tulsa! I'm bottom left in orange shirt, and Alan is the spandex geek in purple KState jersey on top right. 

We got home Sat. night in time for me to do some Easter baking for the next day's dinner with my mom and my brother's family. My brother John and his wife are fabulous cooks, they have teenagers (always entertaining) and the cutest dog ever (next to our granddog, of course).  

What a lovely weekend...the only thing missing was a visit from the bunny...I'm definitely experiencing a chocolate shortage!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elf shoes & strawberry seeds!

What makes my stomach instantly flip-flop and brings terror to my heart?  When someone calls/emails to tell me about a mistake on a recently released design.  So early yesterday morning I'm in the bathroom fixing my hair and Alan comes in to tell me about a MISTAKE - horrors - nearly dropped my flat iron!

But I recovered quickly when I read it - probably the SILLIEST blooper we've ever done!  I'm not too worried, because everyone can figure this one out  Ironically, it is on the Strawberry Sampler Quick-it, which I previewed here on the Wed., April 13 post.  When we cut and pasted instructions from the previous Quick-it "Where's the Party?", we inadvertently left the "elf shoes" in place.  We added the strawberry seeds instructions, but neglected to delete those pesky shoes from the instructions! I'm always so obsessed with proofing the charting and symbols, I completely overlooked this humorous error.

So...for those of you looking for elf shoes on the design...STOP!  They're not there! Just use the attached beads to embellish Flora's lovely (very large) strawberry!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sweet relief!

Woo-hoo!  We finished our packing and shipping a day early and everything is OUT THE DOOR (except for our international customers).  We'll finish the customs forms and get those shipped tomorrow.  The UPS man came an hour ago and kindly carried away the pile of boxes on our driveway.  Alan is at the airport post office while I write this, delivering a car full of mail crates with boxes for our favorite needlework shops!

Here's the promised daily SNEAK's our Summer Alphabet embellished chartpak.  We are having so much fun with this seasonal series!! Every letter of the alphabet has it's own little font and border, and we fill in the gaps with seasonal motifs. Each chartpak includes embellishments to finish it all off.  The Summer Alphabet includes sunglasses and shell charms and tiny brown buttons. There's a gorgeous garden photo in the background, too. 

Even tho this is called SUMMER Alphabet, you can enjoy it anytime you want a dose of sunshine & happiness!

Gotta run...I'm expecting 14 guests for Lenten Bible study tonight - gotta clean and roll the BIG stitching lamp out of my family room!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sneak peek!

OK - things are a little crazy (and messy) around here. We packed orders all day and we're tired.  But, we're also really thankful for every shop who orders from us! We release new products 5-6 times a year and work hard to ship every shop who participates in our automatic program on the same day.  That means alot of messy buildup in the office for a few days as we assemble and pack all the orders.  We'll celebrate when they go out the door on Friday!

Here is the promised SNEAK PEEK!  This is the new Flora McSample Strawberry Sampler Quick-it. You saw a preview of this design on the earlier blog post on Friday, March 11.  We were still stitching the model at that time, so now it is all framed and published and ready to leave home. 

Who is this Flora person, you ask?  Flora is our (fictitious) sampler girl who helps L*K with her new line of sampler-ish designs.  Flora was created recently as a friend of Jenny Bean (and Theresa from Shakespeare's Peddler). Theresa invited other cross stitch designers to create "friends" for her Jenny Bean sampler character.  We were already interested in doing some sampler-inspired designs, so it was meant to be!

This little Strawberry Sampler is a Quick-it, which means that it comes with a pattern and embellishments.  The embellishments are lovely dark berry colored beads which become (you guessed it) the seeds on the strawberry. I've been busily gluing the beads in these designs, while Carmen assembles the Halloween Rules Double Flips.

Here's our little assembly line we use when packing auto orders. Each cardboard bin holds a pile of the new designs. I stand on this side of the table and pull each order, according to the shop's desired quantities.  The finished order boxes (at the far end of the photo) are then handed to Alan.  He stands on the other side of the table and puts the merchandise in the appropriate mailing box. If a shop receives an incorrectly pulled order, it's probably MY fault!  

When we're all finished packing orders, we begin attaching USMail and UPS labels. Henry is already tired, just thinking about it!  What a wimp...we aren't finished for 2 more days!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Halloween horror averted!

For those of you who are following our little "evolution of a design" story, we're taking a short hiatus on that topic while our frame company is on shutdown this week. We'll resume our story when the frames arrive in a week...or two?

Here's what's happening today in L*K headquarters!  We're prepping to release new products this Friday, so we were thrilled to have a delivery from our printer this AM. A couple of the things we are releasing are already printed and assembled. Several more designs arrived this AM and are desperately needing to be readied for their big premier! You can't start packing orders til the inventory is ready!  Actually, not true. We often start packing while our part time helper Carmen is assembling products. More on that assembly line action later this week! Here is the press sheet we ran last week that delivered today. Everything is ganged up together, then cut and folded separately. Below is a big box of corrected Halloween Rules ready for their glue dots and embellishments!

We are in the middle of our big Halloween Rules Double Flip series. Flip-its are our best selling product line and they are super important to us and our customers! We released the first 3 designs in January and are releasing the final 3 later this week. In order to keep printing quality and color consistent (and to make our lives easier) we printed all 6 prints together in January. The first 3 designs were quickly assembled and shipped and we could relax and assemble the remaining 3 as we had time. 

But...HORRORS...we discovered a big (and embarassing) mistake on the final design.  We had the correct big photo on the cover, but the little photo in bottom right corner of cover was WRONG!  Eek!!!  It was the photo from the previous Double Flip and we hadn't pasted in the new photo.  Somehow this escaped us during the proofing process. Note to self: always check photos, not just text and the zillion other little details. The big photo inside was correct, but we decided this was too WRONG and too CONFUSING to proceed!  So we returned all the boxes to our printer to be recycled and reprinted the whole thing.  (We thought about putting little photo stickers on the offendingly wrong photo, but decided against it - not really a quality solution!).

Check back tomorrow...we'll try to update our progress daily and give you some sneak previews of our newest designs...FRESH OFF THE PRESS!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Field trip!!! I am at Heart's Desire, my local needlework shop in Wichita, Kansas. Debbie has a lovely large store in a cool historic building with antique interior windows, soaring ceiling and skylight, and lots of "old" atmosphere. She also has an incredible green thumb and keeps a small blooming forest in here year round (and outdoors in the summer).

I spread out my 3 stitcheries on the frame table and generally make a mess, pulling lots of mouldings off the displays and trying lots of options. Debbie helps me with measuring (I used to do this myself - she is much better).  After we select the frames (frequently consulting other employees and whoever is around), I contact the frame companies directly and they send me the frames at no charge.  In return, I list them on the publishing as the supplier and mail them a copy after it is published. It's a good deal for both of us! 

Here are Debbie and Carol behind the checkout counter - a beautiful old wood and glass display case. Behind them is the business office - conveniently located in the center of the store with windows to look into the shop on 3 sides.  It's hard for Debbie to hide when I come in to mess up her frame table! 

Here is the L*K area of the store where lots of L*K models and charts hang out, hoping for someone to give them a nice home. Newer L*K models and merchandise usually stay on the "What's New" table with new releases from other designers.  Alot of my models spend their time touring the country in my 2 trunk shows.  When models are tired from their travels, I sell them at market (very cheaply) to needlework shops so they can spend their retirement being admired, rather than spending time in my attic!

Now it's time for me to email the frame company to order the 3 frames, so I'll update this process as soon as the frames arrive. Back to designing NEW STUFF...I need something to stitch!  Multi-tasking abounds!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Next step...framing!'s the next step in getting a design from my original scribbles to published leaflet. Before we move on...I realized that in my original post, I forgot to put a photo of my original sketches. Here is my notebook page of sketches for the new Boxer series.  Scary, right? Before I start graphing using my cross stitch software, I do a quick sketch in my notebook (or napkin or post-it or whatever is handy!).  Observe my desktop terrarium in the back of the photo. I bought this in Franklin, TN while we were at market and schlepped it home. It is so cute...full of tiny ferns and moss and who knows makes me smile!

I'm working on these 3 Boxer kits as a group, so I stitched all of them in the past 10 days.  The colors are all compatible but not identical.  I had so much fun choosing a lovely palette for is a photo of the threads I used and many I didn't end up using.  Aren't they a pretty sight?

Back to my topic for the day...the next step is to choose FINISHING!  If I want a pillow or something soft, I mail the model to my finisher Mona in Tulsa. It magically returns a few days later looking much better than when it left home. But I want to do frames on these Boxer models, so it's off to Heart's Desire (my local needlework shop extraordinaire) to select frames.  I have a lot of frame moulding samples in my office, but I prefer chatting with Debbie and the gals and looking at EVERYTHING before making up my mind.

Here are the models on my desk, ready to leave home! I just got a giant sack of beautiful hand-dyed buttons I ordered for one model - more buttons are coming from Hill Creek this week.  I give them the DMC color I want, and like magic (in about a week) the buttons appear perfectly dyed in whatever size and shape I request. Clipped behind each model is my working chart, printed from my cross stitch software. Here I keep notes about which threads and fabric I used, stitch count, etc...alot of the info that will appear later on the published chart. It's SO important to write this stuff down, because sometimes it's a long time between stitching a model and publishing it! Oh, how quickly we forget...

Next field trip to the needlework shop!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The evolution of a design...or multi-tasking required!

Realizing it was past time for a blog post, and wondering how to squeeze it in because I've been SO busy working on new stuff while getting the semi-new stuff ready to publish and distribute...I decided that might be blog-worthy topic! Confused? So am I!

When you release new designs 5-6 times a year, you have to multi-task!  While you're designing brand new things on the computer, you're stitching something you designed last week and working on publishing things you designed a week or two before that.  It just doesn't work to take a design all the way from sketch to published leaflet without interruption!  If I did that, we couldn't release new products nearly as often.  And that wouldn't make the bookkeeper happy (my husband, Alan!).

So here is the first in a series of posts as we take a design from idea to eventual publication and distribution! (We'll see together how long this takes!). Every year I do a series of Boxer kits and I've been thinking...and thinking...and thinking what to do this year.  I was inspired by a classic quote from Mother Theresa, and after some research, decided to do a group of inspirational sayings. 

I researched bunches of sayings, and finally decided on 3 phrases to begin.  When I do a series, I often graph them all at once, coordinating design elements and colors. Here is a shot of my giant monitor with the 3 designs (bad quality - sorry, it's hard to photograph your monitor and minimize reflection!). In the lower right you can see a bunch of elements I tried, but didn't end up using in the final designs.  Maybe they will appear in a future design?

I stitch all of my own models, so it's time for the fun part!  I select threads and get to work, using a color printout from my design program. I do alot of stitching at night in my family room. I frequently return to the computer to make changes on the design, as I stitch and find things I want to adjust.  Sometimes I throw the whole thing out and start over. Converting a design from little squares on the computer to needle and thread often leads to unexpected (and not always good) results! So I still stitch every model myself!

The first of these Boxer kits will be available in mid-June, so hang with us! Meanwhile, today my desk is overflowing with editing and proofing for the next batch of releases scheduled for April 15.  We're delivering files to the printer Wed. and are making last minute adjustments on 5 designs that will be on the press soon.  I'm a little stressed, but the grand dog under my desk is happily snoozing the afternoon away.