Thursday, September 29, 2011

About that kit...

Before my last "wildlife" post, I was chatting about the new Christmas kit (Sept. 22 post). Since I sorta "forgot" about this one, it is fast-tracking through the production process. Here's what's happened since the last post:

1. We are busy cutting fabric with the rotary cutter. Yes, it's dark outside. I was listening to Good Morning America, sipping tea (red mug on ironing board), and cutting fabric. Carmen (my part-time helper) arrived later to help.

2. After it's cut, we iron the wrinkly pieces. Thankfully, most of it is pretty smooth and escapes the iron. Then we fold the pieces, so kitting will go faster later. We're still expecting another shipment of fabric, but this batch is almost processed.

3. While I was in Colorado for my "moose" adventure, the frame arrived at my local needlework shop and Debbie framed it for me. I went straight to my photographer (he's in the same neighborhood) and shot it.  A professional photograph is expensive, but I really think it's worth it.  I don't have a great camera, lighting, or any of that. And the better the photo you begin with, the better the finished product!

4. I've also been working on the graphic design for the cover. Evidently you're not supposed to photograph your computer monitor, because it looks funky (see the strange texture that mysteriously appeared?!).  I really LOVE doing this part, playing around with colors, fonts and all that. I try to resist getting too many elements and busyness that will detract from the stitchery photo, but that's hard! 

I finalized this layout and emailed it to the printer. The next morning my husband Alan delivered the actual stitchery to the printer so they could match the colors more accurately. The printer will deliver a proof for our approval before we proceed with printing. That's when we can tweak the colors or anything else we're not happy with. We also delivered another file (the black and white stuff) to another printer. Different printers...different jobs!

Meanwhile, catch a sneak peek of the bottom of the design and ...BE JOLLY!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I met a moose!

We just returned from a long weekend in Colorado.  Is it worth the 10+ hour drive each way for 2 days in the mountains...definitely!  Especially when you're travelling with friends and car time is full of chatter and laughter.

We did a lot of hiking, because the weather was Colorado PERFECT...cold in the morning and gorgeous in the afternoons. Our friends were speedy hikers, so I didn't get as many pics as usual. I typically brake (and catch my breath) for photos of all sorts of plants, flowers, animals, whatever.

We were fortunate to see a bunch of cool mountain animals...elk, moose, deer, marmots, and a ton of cute chipmunks.  The best encounter on our hike was a pair of moose! Is "moose" the plural for "moose"? The male moose (bull) was keeping watch (see that wary look in his eye) while his happy partner (cow) chowed down on the aspen trees. You aren't supposed to get too close to moose, so I zoomed my camera to the max. All the hikers on the trail slowed to a stop to enjoy this lucky treat! They were HUGE!!

So we returned to our cabin, feeling fortunate for our experience, and guess what we found in our neighbor's yard?  More moose!!! There was a mother moose lounging in the grass while her youngsters munched nearby.   It's hard to tell the size from this pic, but the "baby" was bigger than a really big dog. 

Coincidentally, our neighbors had a decorative "moose" sign in their yard. Who knew moose could read road signs?

It was aspen season, so the aspen trees had turned a brilliant gold and glowed on the mountains. Check out that blue sky, too!

On the way home, we stopped at a historic little diner for sliders...yum!!  Hey, the drive is SO long, you have to keep up your energy. The Cozy Inn has been serving up sliders (baby burgers) for almost 100 years in the same tiny building. You have to make a decision when you get there...order from the outside window (for the feint of heart) or step inside and commit yourself to smelling like fried onions until your next shower. So, of course, we went inside and watched the young grill guy smushing those sliders with his spatula. When I got out the camera, the counter girl and the grill guy asked if they could join us!

Here's the L*K challenge of the day...where is Cozy Inn located? I know a lot of Kansans will know the answer, but how about the rest of you? I have seen articles about the Cozy Inn in several national magazines, and I'm pretty sure they've been on that "Diners, Driveins and Dives" show on the Food Network.  

Warning...if you're casually driving through Kansas (hint: it's not in Colorado) and stop in, don't ask for cheese!  Or anything else "custom". Cozy isn't a "have it your way" sort of place. Just take the pickle, ketchup, mustard and signature fried onions and enjoy it! And don't ask for one...order by the bag!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sometimes I'm organized ...and sometimes I'm not!

Does this sound familiar? MOST of my life, personal and business, is pretty organized...I think. Then I completely forget about something important, and I start to wonder if I could be wrong about this "organization" thing. I'm in charge of a program at church that kicks off...TODAY!  Even though I had all summer to contemplate the first fall meeting, I pulled it together this week.

From the needlework biz perspective, I always release a special Christmas kit, or even two. And this year...I FORGOT!  But now that I have remembered, I'm just saying..."I delayed!". I'm not sure what happened. I've been SO busy and distracted with those 6 new men hanging out in my office...aka The 6 Fat (snow)men series. I also have a whole pile of other projects in "production" mode, in various stages of completion.

But no worry...the annual Christmas kit is on the way ASAP!! Last week I designed it and stitched furiously over the weekend. It's a L*K interpretation of a band sampler with lots of colorful bands of holiday fun.

Here's a little timeline of what happens when I create a new KIT. Developing a KIT is a bit different from other projects, because I have to think of materials during the creative process.

1. Sketch some design ideas with pencil (and eraser!)
2. Graph the design on my computer
3. Choose fabric and check on availability BEFORE beginning to stitch. On this kit, I knew I would need a lot of fabric, so I contacted several distributors to see what was available immediately. I didn't have time to order had to be in stock!! I was fortunate to find a large quantity of a really cool fabric, at a price that would allow me to kit. (Sometimes the fabric is just too expensive to cut and kit). 
4. Order the fabric
5. Stitch the model (I already had a piece of the fabric in my stash, so I could start stitching).
6. Order the frame. I rushed out to my LNS as soon as I finished the model (actually it wasn't QUITE finished) and chose an awesome frame. I can't wait for it to arrive later this week, because it is so pretty.
7. Order embellishments. Once I finished stitching, I ordered the beads I had decided to use. As soon as they arrive, we'll put them in little zip bags.

That's where I'm at on the far...but I'm pleased. The fabric just arrived last night (those UPS guys work long hours), so I found it leaning on my office door this AM. I got 2 giant boxes of fabric, so I see a lot of quality time with the rotary cutter in our future.

Meanwhile, today I'm delivering the stitched model to my LNS so she can frame it for me. I had the frame shipped directly to her to arrive tomorrow. 

Oh yea...remember that church meeting I coordinated at the last minute? I've been baking for that this AM, and I'm off to spend the lunch hour with the English/Spanish language gang. We haven't met with our Spanish-speaking ladies since last May, so it will be fun to see them again and help them practice their English skills. See you soon...hasta pronto!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Some spooky stitching!

I can't believe it's the middle of September! Which means, it's time (or past time) to put out my fall decor. Even though the kids are grown and gone, I still haul out the pumpkins, spiderweb runners, black candles, beautiful fall leaves and "all that" to decorate the house. I banish the summery ferns and bird's nests to the basement!

It's surprisingly aerobic to do all this re-decorating...a lot of trips up and down the stairs! But when I'm finished, it's rewarding and there's a surprising amount of orange in my house. Below is the arrangement on my little entry hall table, tucked under the stairway. I liked this vignette so much last year, I photographed it (because I can't trust my memory) and re-created it this year. Much faster that way! Thank goodness for my photo Memory Manager system on my computer. I'm still not that familiar with the program and don't use half of the features, but it sure helps with photo organization.

As always the challenge is locating all of the stuff. I have big totes in my basement that are labelled for the holidays, but sometimes things get pulled out of them during the year...and not returned. We're always working way ahead of seasons at L*K, so I'm rummaging for Christmas decor in March!

But I'm getting distracted...this blog post is about spooky STITCHING, not my home decor! There's still plenty of time for fun fall stitching projects, so I decided to feature a few of my faves. Some are quick, one-day projects, and some are bigger commitments.

This one (#149 Autumn Alphabet) is new this year and the colors are gorgeously autumn! I really enjoyed designing and stitching this model...from the hooty little owl, right through to the swirly letter "Z". Chartpak includes a couple antique gold charms (squirrel and moon) and some teeny tan buttons. This is part of a seasonal alpha series....Winter Alphabet is coming soon! 

Above is the Limited Edition Fall Fab Fob kit (K48). This kit includes the rusty fabric, buttons and beads and thhe custom chartreuse/purple bitsy scissors. You can probably stitch this one is an evening or weekend, then enjoy it for many seasons to come! They are not quite sold out - there are about 30 numbered kits left on our shelves, so if your LNS doesn't have one, ask them to order. 

Boo who is this? This was our very first Flora McSample kit (FM001)we introduced last fall. Flora is our fictional sampler girl, and she had a good time with this funky sampler-ish design. Kit includes muted lavender linen and hand-dyed "pumpkin" button. Please invite Flora for a visit...she's a great house guest!

Eek Boo Hiss (#144) is a group of 3 fun fall designs that you can play with! Stitch them big or small, finish however you please, just have some spooky fun! Tiny buttons and beads are included with this versatile chartpak.

Above is the Sampling Halloween Quick-it (Q-001). This was our very first Quick-it designs and it's...well... a really quick stitch! Quick-it includes antique gold ghost charm. need more Halloween/autumn stitching ideas? We have 2 series of Halloween Double Flips (Boo Club and Halloween Rules) and a scary host of other stuff. Visit our website at and click on the categorical listings for Halloween and Autumn. Don't worry if you don't finish your autumn stitching in time this year...think how far AHEAD you'll be next year!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's HOT at L*K this week!

Just thought you might like to know what we're shipping this week. Actually, a random mix goes out the door every day, but here are the HOT items. As you might expect, it's a lot of NEW stuff, but a few other items are keeping us busy with more assembly.

1) Those crazy (snow)men are rolling out of here! The first 3 designs in our "6 Fat Men" Flip-it series are available. F110 Snowed In, F111 Snow House, and F112 Snow Friends are all chubby snowmen! The remaining 3 guys will be available near the end of October. FREE instructions and graphs for combining them on our website. Invite these men to your house...your husbands and boyfriends won't mind! Pic below shows the models in my LNS. Notice anything missing on the Snow House? Yes, I forgot to backstitch the windows in black and we digitally added it in the photo later - OOPS!

2) B34 When We Do Boxer Kit & B33 I Know God Boxer kits.  This is a new series of Inspirational Boxer kits which include fabric and embellishments. There's also a BONUS design (pin pillow, pincushion or fob) included in each. We tried a new vintage approach to these designs and blogged about it earlier this summer.  Check out the designs with their muted color palettes and the "new" vintage-look covers with some of our favorite things scattered about for props. Pic below is B34.

3) ABC Halloween kit (K46). This isn't new, but suddenly we can't keep the thread packs in stock. Thankfully the gals at Crescent Colours are fast shippers. It's one of my FAVORITE designs of all time - great spooky colors and funky Halloween motifs. It's a big project, but hey...Halloween comes every year! Kit includes pattern, lots of skeins of Crescent Colours and DMC for the small bits. You choose what fabric (color and count) you prefer!

4) Coming to Town - Santa '11 Snippet (S100). Of course, the yearly Santa is always popular. This year he's shaped differently. I don't know if anyone has noticed, but he is usually a square design and this year he's tall and rectangular. Santa has his own embellishment pack, too (S100E).

TODAY...I'm anxiously checking my mailbox for a fabric sample I ordered so I can start stitching a NEW Christmas kit. I just designed it this week and I can't wait to begin stitching!! I'm running a bit late, but sometimes life gets in the way. My Mom has been really sick this summer, and I'm so pleased to share that she is really improving - what a blessing!

Sneak peeks about the new Christmas kit SOON! HOHOHO!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Yes, there is a place in Wichita called Cowtown...actually it's the Old Cowtown Museum. It's a "living history" museum where you immerse yourself in the life of the 1870s in an authentic cattle in all those Western movies! There is a whole line-up of historic buildings complete with boardwalks, period artifacts inside those buildings and costumed history interpreters wandering around. Here's the old Wichita train depot!

You can catch glimpses of Cowtown in a lot of movies.  One of my favorites was the movie version of the beloved book "Sarah Plain and Tall". I wish Glenn Close and Christopher Walken would return to Wichita to shoot another movie! I think I'll put that on my Net Flix list to enjoy again...check it out if you haven't seen it!

The last time I was at Cowtown (embarassingly) was as a field trip driver with my daughter Sarah's 5th grade class. "Whoa, Nelly" (old west talk)...that's been a long time! I also remember volunteering there as a Girl Scout when I was in elementary age. The Girl Scouts always provided a source of cheap labor for the summer season. They loaned you a character costume, and you memorized a short speech to recite whenever visitors came into your particular building. I remember a long, lonely afternoon in the church hoping for company! This lady below looked a little lonely, too - she needs some cross stitch in her hands!

So we returned recently with our adult pals for a Cowtown Wine Mosey!  Who knew they drank wine in the old West??? It was a fundraiser (and they always need the support), so we do what we can. Armed with our own Cowtown wine glasses, we moseyed from building to building, sampling here and there, enjoying all the scenery and finishing with a great barbecue dinner. I sure do appreciate all the buildings and antifacts more now than I did when I was young!

Here's some of the action we found in Cowtown. Sadly, the photo ops ended when the sun went down because it is "authentically" DARK in Cowtown when the sun sets in the West!

I checked out the General Store, looking for that elusive needlework. This is a REAL store, imported from a nearby small town with all the cool old fixtures, etc.

Then we moseyed to the blacksmith shop where a very chatty blacksmith was making a prop for his Halloween costume - pretty scary stuff! I'm sure OSHA hasn't visited him, because he wasn't wearing gloves or an apron, and he had the scar-speckled hands to prove it!

We had to rescue our men from the clutches of the saloon girls with their pretty petticoats - those hussies!

Then - HORRORS - a gunfight broke out on Main Street. We were close to the action and the men were really going at it, until this rifle-toting lady in the blue dress broke up the fight! This is a good pic to see one of the dusty streets, authentically scattered with cow doo. The experienced re-enactors carefully "died" away from the stinky manure. 

Afterwards, everyone smiled, made up and posed for photos! That's me in the black shirt in middle and my friend Deb on the left. You can see the rest of the gang on a Wanted poster!

Yes, it was just another day in the Old West and a fun adventure with some of our pals. Happy Trails, y'all!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I hadn't planned to do a 9/11 post today, but it's been a special day of remembering...

At church this morning we had a memorable discussion around where we were that day 10 years ago, and what we remembered. I remember being in my little L*K office, and watching the events unfold on television. I was so stunned and saddened. Even though I live in the Midwest, I felt like I was there. My oldest daughter Ali was away at college, so we checked in with her often and hugged our daughter Sarah who still lived at home.

Not knowing how to react and respond to the situation, I did the only thing I could think of...I stitched and stitched and stitched!  I sketched out a couple design ideas, and went right to the computer to design. Suspending my other work, I spent a couple days stitching models as I watched TV. It's comforting to do something you know and love when everything else is confusing and unfamiliar.

We quickly got the design published and released and researched where to donate the profits from this charity project. We tried to select charities that would serve all 3 affected areas (NYC, Washington DC and PA), and those especially involved in supporting families and children.

To this date, 10 years later, YOU have been our partners in contributing over $8000 to these combined charities:
Salvation Army, Twin Towers Orphan Fund, September 11th Fund (United Way & NYR Comm. Trust), Children of September 11 Victims (Camp Comfort), and United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Your support has made these donations possible and we THANK YOU!

One more thing I just remembered that I want to the days following 9/11, we received many thoughtful notes of condolence from our overseas customers and friends. They just kept flowing in during the days and weeks that followed. It was so reassuring to know that the world was mourning with us and our country, and watching over us. Once again, we love our friends in the needlework the US and around the world!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The day I forgot my ABCs

I know it's been a LONG time since I learned the alphabet, but I thought I had a firm grasp on all 26 letters. I was wrong!

I just finished stitching the new Winter Alphabet design. It's the 4th in a seasonal series of alphabets, with each letter getting it's own "star treatment" with a different border and font. It's been such a fun series, I have truly enjoyed designed and stitching each letter and the little motif sections in between. Below are the covers for the already released Spring, Summer and Autumn Alphabets.

So while I am waiting on the frame for the Winter Alphabet, we are working on the text, assigning symbols, etc. Then Alan comments..."so you decided not to use the letter J on this one".

HORRORS!  I had graphed AND stitched the whole thing and completely left out the very essential letter J!!!  Yes, I know that historically the letter J was often not used in samplers. I have boxes of antique reproduction samplers that I have stitched to prove it!  The sampler experts could explain it better than me (and there are different explanations), but briefly, the letters "J" and "U" are relatively new to the English language. They appeared in the 16th Century. Below are a few snippets from my cache of reproductions, demonstrating the mysterious absence of the letter J.

Think about those Roman letters you learned in school (oh wait...if I don't remember the current alphabet, I probably don't remember those either!).  The Roman spelling for our word Justice was "IYSTICE". Instead of J they used I, and they subbed letter Y for our current letter U. Anyway...I digress from my current dilemma....

Alan made 2 helpful suggestions:
1) leave out the letter J (sure to elicit tons of responses and questions from shops and stitchers)
2) squish 2 letters into the same square (inconsistent with previous designs!)

So I thanked him for the thoughtful advice, and returned to my graphing software to solve this problem! With the design already stitched (and I was really happy with it!), I concentrated on changing as few squares as possible, while not neglecting the letter J.

After some quality time with my scissors removing stitches (see the missing areas?), I'm ready to restitch several sections and return the letter J to it's deserved importance!

Which reminds me those Sesame Street lessons I always enjoyed watching with my kids..."this episode is sponsored by the letter J!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Contest Winners! (and world peace)

Our first ever BLOG CONTEST ended at the end of August, so we just notified the 10 winners (random numbers) by email. Sorry... no surprise door bell ringers, no television cameras, no life-changing prizes. But as soon as we get those old-fashioned mailing addresses, there will be 10 more slime lime calculators being happily used by dedicated cross stitchers around the world! Hey, we do what we can...

Speaking of doing what we can...thanks to all of you for sharing your responses in the contest. What a delight it was to read about everyone's customized stitch niches. I just re-read all the responses and it was inspiring!  Really, I want to visit everyone and check these out in person. Here are a few of the highlights...

WHERE you stitch...
living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen table, on a cruise (bragger), in the car (I used to do this when I was younger), your own personal living room (separate from DH's living room), anywhere you can carry your projects!

WHERE you sit when you stitch...
recliner, chair with ottoman, rocker, chair and a half (sounds nice to me), desk chair (oops..that's me in my office), electric reclining sofa (whoa) and a sofa with build-in cooler (multi-tasking is permitted!).

FAVORITE stitching aides...
Scissors, lamps, magnifiers, glasses, pattern holders, ort jars, magnetic stuff, needle cases, boxes and drawer thingies, boo-boo stick (not sure what this is, but I'm sure I need one), furry stitching aides (pets to add extra fiber, warmth and encouragement), peanut M & Ms with Diet Pepsi (great combo!).

It was fun to hear from stitchers all over the US and around the world (Finland, Canada, UK and Italy to name a few).  Isn't it cool how this hobby brings us all closer together? Maybe cross stitch is the universal language?!  With enough stitchers in the world, maybe we can finally find "world peace"?

On that motivational note, here is a pic of a pink globe (yes, PINK) in my office opposite my desk. It came from a very unlikely source, my son-in-law Jeff. I'm not sure how he acquired it, but he was throwing it out (with Sarah's approval) when I spotted it and rescued it. I love old globes and this one is PINK and it lights up, and it looks good with my curtains. 

Have a great week and let's keep on stitching for mankind!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Going, going, gone....

Remember when summer was defined by your white shoes??  The "official rules" were....start wearing your white shoes on Memorial Day and put them away on Labor Day.  Wearing white shoes outside those parameters was strictly a fashion NO-NO! Ah...I fondly remember wearing my new white shoes to church and trying to avoid those black scuff marks. But if I did get scuff marks...there was that pasty white shoe polish to the rescue! (That same white shoe polish kept my saddle shoes looking spiffy in the winter!)

With that in mind, we released a summer-only Limited Edition kit this year called "Life's a Beach". It's been available this summer, but is going away on Labor Day. But unlike your white shoes, this kit won't reappear next spring. It's going, going, GONE!

We're still taking orders from shops for this kit, but because it's winding down, I'm only making them a few at a time. But a couple good orders this morning sprung me into action. 

First, I cut the fabric. We still have another bolt left, so we're covered if we get more orders this weekend.

Then I fold and iron the fabric's nice to get paid to iron. 

Then I combine the printed material with the fabric, throw in the buttons and sack it all together. Then ship to my favorite needlework shops. 

If you're wanting to add a Life's a Beach kit to your stash. it's not too late!  If your needlework shop doesn't have one in stock, they can let us know ASAP. Meanwhile, we're wishing a happy Labor Day weekend to everyone! Does it begin soon?