A Common Thread
We are just past Easter Weekend. Friday and Saturday were beautiful sunny days, something that has sorely been missing this winter. At least in our part of the country, the snow is pretty well gone, except for the inevitable piles in parking lots. Unlike last year, spring has been slow coming and we've not had many days above freezing, enticing us outside. Perhaps it has allowed you a few more days to enjoy stitching while waiting for warm weather.
I hope you've been checking out Neale's online updates with the latest patterns and products still arriving after our trip to the Nashville market. Make sure to go to our website and look for the All New Arrivals area. It is organized by date that we posted them so you can keep track of what you have seen and what is new. And we haven't finished yet. We have been so busy since our return from the market that we've been getting home for supper at 8:30 - 9:00 each night after a full day of customer service and processing inventory. Unfortunately my bookeeping pile is growing. But that's an aside.
There were sooo many great new designs and products we saw while at market. While shopping there, Neale & I are always on the lookout for designs we think would be fun shop models to stitch and be good sellers for us. This year, there were lots of options to choose from. It remains to be seen how much time we'll have to work on anything new, but work doesn't stop us from looking!! There's numerous canvas & cross stitch designs we really want to do. Currently we're working on: Lizzie Kate's Jingle series, Country Cottage's Santa's Village series, Little House Needlework's Sheep Virtues and Hometown Holiday series. We're glad these multiple pattern designs will be released at different times throughout the coming year or we'd never keep up. We've both chosen a project for our newest "Stitch Along with Liz Almond", doing a blackwork design from Liz's extensive list of over 300 designs. The SAG group is meeting bi-weekly on Saturdays, from 1-3 pm. You can still join the group, and you'll find more information later in this newsletter.
A Review of Nashville
Many of you have been to the April or October Creative Festival in Toronto, enjoying all there is to see and do for the day. Going to market is similar to that, only now imagine 4 floors of suites in the Cool Springs Embassy Suites hotel in Franklin TN, just south of Nashville, where every suite is decorated or filled with stitched models of that designer's newest releases (and sometimes a lot of their design list) or new products, threads, fabrics and designs carried by distributors or manufacturers. If you can imagine it, then you have a bit of an understanding of what this is like for the stitching senses.
Our job is to walk the floors, visiting the rooms, talk with designers and shop owners alike, seeing all the newest and latest. Then we'll have to decide what & how many to buy, how much of what colour fabrics, and finally what to bring back, and what to ship (We decided with last year's trouble at the border coming home that we would ship most of our purchases back via FedEx and let them deal with customs). On the 2 day trip to Nashville we review the downloaded list of designers and exhibitors attending market to see where we must go to find the 150+ orders our customers want us to find for them plus what we think is going to sell. This year, after driving through rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow, we checked into the Embassy Suites late Wednesday afternoon and got settled in. We took Thursday to relax, shop a bit in the massive shopping areas of Franklin, register for market and do a bit of stitching in our room. It was wonderful, but the next morning market starts.
Friday classes at market cover business topics or stitching and finishing techniques, giving shop owners a chance to learn and practice new things they can use and teach in their shops. There is a shop owners luncheon where many shop-related topics are discussed and successful ideas are shared to deal with common problems. From 5 - 7 pm there is a "Make-it, Take-it" session where designers offer small designs or kits or teach a "quick to finish" technique. Many shop owners are there to see, but there are limited quantities available for purchase. Again it's "quick decision" time to buy a quantity of kits to sell at home, keeping in mind that the majority of purchases will happen in the next two days and that there is a budget to keep to. Beginning at 7pm Friday night, numerous designers open their rooms for "Early Bird Shopping". If these rooms have items you really want, it's best to arrive asap to make sure you get what you want or need. We went to Picture This Plus first to pick up the hand-dyed fabrics used in many of the latest releases because these fabrics move quickly. Off to Nancy's Needle to pick up her newest designs among them "Holiday Tree IV" that some had seen early and asked us to get for them. This pace continues from 9:00 Saturday morning to 6pm Saturday night and 9:00 am Sunday till 4:00 pm when market officially closes. On Sunday one designer asked me how my legs were holding out since we choose to use the steps between floors instead of waiting for the elevator. I commented it was my hip that was hurting not my legs. When asked why, I said that it was the hip from where I keep my credit card for quick easy access. By that time my Visa was burning from being swiped so often (no chip readers). She smiled 'cause there were a lot of shop owners in similar shopping overload. However, because this is such a passion for us, it really is a wonderful weekend. It's mentally and physically exhausting, but we don't want to miss it!!
This trade show is sponsored by The National Needlework Association of which we have been a member since we began 13 years ago. It is an organization that is dedicated to keeping all forms of needlework alive and they sponsor several trade shows throughout the year and across the US. We've chosen to attend the Nashville market because it's the show that focuses mostly on cross stitch and counted thread work, more appropriate to our customer's needs.
In past years, TNNA has sent out a survey to all retailers trying to get a vision of the health and strength of the needlework industry in North America. Then they publish the results for all TNNA members. It's always an interesting read. However, this year along with the survey for retailers to complete, TNNA's asked us to extend an invitation to our customers to fill out a 10 minute survey about your experiences with the needlearts you enjoy whether cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, knitting, crocheting, spinning or weaving. You 'll find questions about which types of projects you prefer, how you learn, and what you'd like to see needleart shops do better. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, your opinions and suggestions are important & needed. Your answers are anonymous and your responses will not be used to market to you. It is one way to help grow the needleart industry.
(Please note: Neale and I want to put our own little blurb here about the survey. We think the survey is very important and hope you will take the time to fill it out. We are a cross stitch/counted thread shop but you will notice that there is a lengthy section on knitting. That's because knitting is TNNA's major focus and has been since it began. If you are a knitter that's great. If not please fill out the part of the survey that pertains to your hobby since there is much more to discuss. You will also notice that a gift card giveaway incentive is provided. But, notice it's only for US citizens!!!!! One thing about TNNA from our perspective as Canadian retailers, is most of the benefits for membership are applicable only to US shops. Other than admission to trade shows and classes, most benefits can't be used by Canadian stores. Even in this survey, that trend continues. We don't know the logistics of giveaways like this but if you find the gift award giveaway only for US citizens a little offensive, please fill out the survey. But at the end where there's space to add your comments, encourage TNNA to enlarge their circle of prizes to include the international community of stitchers they are surveying. If they want to know what you all do with your time and money, then they should include a chance for you to win. Perhaps it will help them rethink the survey in the future. Closing date for the survey is April 30. Thanks for sharing your love of stitching with them.
You can take the survey by clicking the following link but please remember to come back and finish our newsletter.
Blackwork Stitch Along Now Underway
Saturday, March 30, was our first meeting of the Blackwork Stitch Along we are currently hosting. Even being Easter weekend, we had 4 enthusiastic stitchers plus Neale & I to enjoy an afternoon of starting our blackwork designs. Many others couldn't join us at the first session but will be at the next one while others are joining us from a distance. Since we are meeting every other Saturday, it's not too late to join the fun whether getting together with us at the shop or stitiching along from home. To be part of our Stitch Along with Liz Almond, choose a design from her website www.blackworkjourney.co.uk. We'll order the pattern for you. Then you pick your fabric and threads to work the design or we can help you out with purchasing what you need. If you don't live in London and can't come to our Saturday group, just send us pics of your work in progress and we'll post them on our website for all to enjoy. There's no limit to which design(s) you can choose, which fabric (colour or count) or threads you can use. If you've never done blackwork before, it's basically backstitch or double running stitch. We can email some easy to follow instructions on the double running stitch that will help you. Liz has all kinds of styles from traditional blackwork, some combining cross stitch and blackwork or hardanger stitches and blackwork. She has small, simple designs up to large, complex designs, but all are unique and certainly beautiful when done.
Call or email us today if you would still like to join the group. And make sure to check our website often after the 13th of April when our second session takes place. We'll be posting pictures of participants progress on their designs.
Coming again in April, we will be running another beginner Temari class. If you missed the others we have had and would still like to learn this wonderful technique call or email us right away. The class will take place from 12 - 4 pm, Saturday, April 20. The cost for the class and all supplies is only $45 + HST. All you need to bring is a pair of scissors to cut threads. One of our students from a fall temari class has gone on to produce some of the most fantastic balls. Here is just a sampling: Remember to call if you want to learn Temari and don't miss the opportunity to learn this unique craft. On of our previous students has gone on to make a lot of Temari balls. We thought it would be nice to share some of the designs with you.
Take a Little Time for Creativity
Earlier in the newsletter, I talked about the shop models Neale and I are working on and that we were looking at the show for new designs to stitch for models. Why the focus on shop models? The reality is that many times shop models sell patterns. Who knew that 8 years ago when Neale stitched Ironwork Gate from designers Barb and Cheryl, that we would sell over 55 patterns as a result. Now, that's certainly not the case with every stitched model (how I wish) and the reality is that no shop has the time or the finances to stitch every design out there. The fact is while we love stitching and do most of our shop models (over 400 in 13 years), our stitching time is pretty much limited to between 10 pm and 12:30 am. We can't afford to pay a model stitcher 2¢ per stitch on a model in addition to framing & finishing material costs. The reason we have soo many models is many stitchers don't have or take the time to look at a pattern cover to see how beautiful it will be when stitched. I don't mean that comment in a negative way. There could be several reasons that happens.
First, because of our highly technical world creating so many things for us, and our extremely busy lives we're losing the sense of imagination that allows us to see the end product unless we see it in front of us. While the drive to be creative lies within all of us, the ability to take the cover picture of a design and imagine the end result can be hard to develop. Often stitchers look at a cover believing the design will look exactly like the picture so they're surprised to see the actual fabric and threads called for. We've said this so many times before but want to emphasize it again. No matter how hard designers try, pictures are never accurate. And, these days many covers are printed with colour printers or colour copiers, making accuracy even harder to achieve. Unfortunately, many times the first impression of the picture is a determining factor for stitchers to buy it or not. If you see a pattern you'd like to do but the picture is throwing you off, ask us to help you pull the fabric, and threads from our displays and lay them on the fabric (we'll even put the threads away). You'll get an accurate picture of how the design will look. You can always play with thread or fabric colours if some of them aren't quite right for you. I know this is a little more difficult for those of you who don't have a store nearby and can't just drop in to have some tactile fun. But if you see a design on our website and we have it in stock, we'll gladly email you the thread colour list as well as a DMC equivalent to the colour of fabric required. It's more difficult with hand dyed fabrics but here's where your imagination needs to be recharged. Then you can pull from your stash and play with the colours at home. After all, this is supposed to be a creative process so take some time and have fun with the process! Don't eliminate a design because of the front cover picture. And don't convince yourself a fabric will look exactly like you saw it online. Most times it never will and you'll be disappointed.
Many of you have enjoyed using the Needleminders from Kelmscot. Beautiful designs with the practicality of keeping your needles in a safe place. A new company Embellishments Plus is creating a similar product but on a mini scale so they only measure 3/4" x 1/2" and they are beautiful and a great way to keep your needles off the floor. We will be posting these online in the next few days.
If you are always on the lookout for interesting little ornaments, Foxwood Crossings was a new design company with a wonderful idea. They have little sleigh ornaments and along with their designs you can create great little ornaments for your tree or decorating around the house.
And finally, from Dimensions, we have these wonderful little kits that contain the floss, design, needle and 14 count plastic canvas. These Snowglobe ornaments are very cute.
Thanks to our Great Customers
Finally but no less important than anything in this newsletter is that Neale and I want to express once again our thanks to so many of our walk in customers who make every effort to help us out by paying for purchases by using cash, debit or cheque. We know it isn't always possible especially when paying for larger purchases or framing but with credit card fees to retailers continually on the increase, your efforts to help us out by using debit, cash or cheques is truly appreciated.
Kathy and Neale
Thread & Eye
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