Monday, September 01, 2014

I Made it Monday: Blue Ribbon Edition

One of my goals for the new! improved! blog is to have a post on Monday featuring something I've made. This isn't original to me; I was poking around other craft blogs and saw that there are memes for that. But if I learned nothing else in grad school, I learned that recognizing a good idea is a talent, and I've got it. Thus the adoption. Now I know I am not the best at making stitches every day (each day, two words) but in any given week I do make things: cards, dinner, cookies, whatever. I am going to make it a point to share more of those things.

I will also keep in mind that most of you are cross-stitch friends and that one of my goals was to finish-finish more of my stitched pieces.

In fact, you may remember the tiny smalls I stitched back in January. Pictured here is the one I stitched over two. Lots of you encouraged me to try Vonna's finish with the pocket watches. It took me forever, but I finally got around to it. In fact, I did it the night before the dude was due to drive his fair entries down to the Maryland State Fair*. Because there was a Christmas ornament division, and I thought, why the hell not? I also sent Little by Little's Star Light Star Bright.

This past weekend was our traditional trip to the fair. We met best pal and her family and another family, and had a time eating larvets** (deep fried cream cheese with mealworms), cheering on the sausage eating contest (go, Brave Astronaut, go!***), and watching the kids go on rides.

The dude entered his fabulous melon jam, tomato salsa, and mustard relish (a hot dog relish--"pickle" for our British friends) in the contest. Or should I say award-winning mustard relish! He took second in the "other relish" category. But he was really robbed on the melon jam. We both really thought that was his best (perhaps only) chance!

And my ornament that took first place! (Sorry about the horrible photo. It's in a case. I also don't know how they mangled my beautiful bow so badly. I was really proud of that bow!) (I promise a better photo when I pick it up. And fix the bow!)

Now we can both rest on our laurels.

*Residents of any of Maryland's surrounding states may enter.
**One time only. Not because of the bugs. It just wasn't that interesting. As someone said, "more like a dare than a food." Also, I was raised on grilled cream cheese sandwiches which is pretty much what this tasted like.
***One time only as well, I'm guessing. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September Goals

Bent Creek, Pumpkin Patch
I didn't make goals for August as I was on vacation. So let's just say I had loads of success! I did almost finish my August small, but I ran out of GAST Dried Thyme of this particular hue. (This skein is so much darker than the new one.)

I've looked back over my goals for 2014 which included finishing eight works in progress. I have finished only smalls. Not one WIP finish! And we're entering the final quarter! And Christmas is coming! So I've chosen eight pieces that are nearly done/past due/coming due, and I intend to stitch my fingers to the bone. Or something like that. (Like, maybe, just change my goals.)

1.        Thistle
2.        Our Souls (Anniversary)
3.        Tis the Season
4.        Shining Star
5.        Green Snowman
6.        Elizabethan Rose
7.        16th Century Knot Garden
8.        Emerald Mermaid

Blog Reading

Hey, have you tried Feedly's new swipe thing? I find I enjoy using it on the laptop more. I used to read blogs on my phone because I liked the functionality better, but that made it so hard to comment. So I would have to feel really compelled to switch over to the computer to comment. Now I can do both on one device, and I'm so much happier. You probably already noticed I'm commenting more often. Anyway, the upshot is if you haven't been happy with Feedly, try it again.

Blog changes

September always feels like the start of something new to me. I guess I'm really stuck on the academic calendar! I've been thinking about what's going on around here. And I've resolved to plan more, craft more, and write more. I've come up with some ideas to help me do that, and I hope you will enjoy them. I shall reveal them over the next month and then reassess in December to see which changes will carry on into the new year. So let me know what you think. I'll be sure to ask again for your feedback in December, although your comments are always welcome!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Market Gossip

The other day I got a newsletter from my LNS with a bit of a rant about a market exclusive. Some patterns were available only to shop owners who attended market. They were supposed to wait until the market opened and race over--literally--to place their orders for the limited edition kits. One shop owner flouted the rules and placed her order for all the kits a particular designer created just before the start of market.

It might be unseemly, but I'm not entirely sure this shop owner's actions are illegal or even unethical. All's far in love and war and cross-stitch. It's a business after all, and if you can get a jump on your competitors, why not? On the other hand, designers don't really want to be angering their middle-men.

Market exclusives are a way to get people to attend market. Mary Agnes of Needle Nicely has written thoroughly and convincingly about the costs to small business owners of attending market. So you can see why the industry needs to offer a special draw. And when she says that needlework shops are small potatoes in the world of small business--currently defined as under $7M in revenue--consider that "cross stitch stores' average gross sales increased from $131,000 in 2004 to $156,500 in 2009." That's from a 2010 industry report (pdf). (And because Mary Agnes has a needlepoint shop, let's compare apples to apples: "Needlepoint stores' average gross sales decreased from $221,000 in 2004 to $169,000 in 2006, and then went back up to $192,500 in 2009.") That's just minuscule in the small business forum! (Remember it's gross not net.) This reminds me of a Sayre's law: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake...that's why academic politics are so bitter." Henry Kissinger will tell you he came up with this concept; I will grant him brevity: "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." And now we can add needlework to the mix. 

Market exclusives bring shop owners to the market, but are market exclusive kits a good idea?

  • They can't be that good for designers: they're only going to make a limited amount of money on their design. It will all be up front money (as opposed to a designer who is still getting small royalties on a pattern she designed eight years ago) and a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, but it will dry up quickly.
  • It's not good for shop owners who simply can't afford to attend market. They are going to lose money to the shops who can attend.
  • Now it's not even good for the shop owners who do attend market (and play by the rules). *NB the designer is helping the shop owners fulfill preorders they had received thinking you know they'd get a couple of the kits.
  • Are they even that great for us as consumers? Do exclusives make us buy without thinking (better for shops, not so good for us)? We've all seen what can happen to oop charts on E-bay: prices shoot through the roof (not so good for us, and not good for designers who don't get that money). Does exclusivity have any kind of benefit for consumers? If the answer is yes, why aren't we all making up our very own patterns--the ultimate in exclusivity?
The industry has tried to mitigate some of the drawbacks for shop owners by making "exclusivity" a limited-time deal. Shop owners who come to the market get first dibs. A month later shop owners who didn't attend can order the pattern for their customers. But is it worth it?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Blogiversary, A Day Late

My dad's birthday is And I can only remember it now because it is two days after the girls' birthday, which is six months after Christmas. For most of my life, I've been calling him on 6/26 only to be told his birthday is tomorrow.

Best Pal's birthday is either August 5 or August 12. Another friend from college has the other birthday. It's okay because they get my birthday confused with my other bestie's birthday which is four days before mine. (In college, people were always trying to have surprise parties for us. Inevitably, someone would come up to me and say, "When's Kiki's party?" [Yes, it's true, Kiki and Nikki.] To which I would inevitably reply, "What party?" and then they'd run off like they were on fire. Or, you know, mumble, "Oh, right," and shamble off.)

So it should come as no surprise that I thought my blogiversary was tomorrow, but it was yesterday.

Last year I wrote a fun retrospective. I was going to go through and pull all the blogiversary posts, but I think you can do that as well as I can. There's a handy archive widget over there. -->

I found these questions when I googled "birthday questionnaire." I changed some to be more blog appropriate to celebrate 11 years of blogging. Enjoy.

Now we are 11.
Where are you now? Work. Shhhh. Southeastern Pennsylvania.
What is the weather like? Gloomy. Hot and humid. One of the first uncomfortable days of the summer, which is entirely remarkable for having been so temperate.
What’s the last movie that you saw? What was the last movie that you loved? Saw: Chef. Loved: A Separation.
What do you wish you could own right now? A flat in London.
What do you want your next vacation to be? Someplace exotic. But I'm also thinking we should do a drive up the coast to the Canadian Maritimes. When we go up to Maine, people always want to see us but we just don't have the time; this would give us time. We have also discussed going to South Korea where my cousin's husband is now working, but only for one more year.
What are you most worried about? Oh, Christ, what am I not worried about? The whole of the Middle East, Ukraine, Ferguson, the Constitution, malaria in Africa not being treated because of Ebola, poverty, hunger, racism, the widening gap between rich and poor, Round-up. 
What is your favorite recent memory? Holding Special K for the first time.
What were the top three accomplishments from the last year? Getting a job. Setting goals with the dude at the new year. Connecting more with people.
What made you laugh the hardest most recently? The dude always says things that are incredibly hilarious but don't work entirely well out of context.
What are you best at?  What do you think are you greatest assets and skills? I guess writing and 
researching. And sarcasm.
What are your life goals at the moment? Did you make any progress on them? Saving for retirement, which has improved significantly since I went back to full-time work in an office that matches my contributions to 5% of my income. Also, the goals we made on New Year's Eve included connecting more with our friends and other people, and I think we can claim success there as well.
What are your wishes for the upcoming year? Travel more. Worry less. Cuddle babies.
What do you think you will be doing this time next year?  In 5 and 10 years from now? This time next year I will probably be in Maine. In five years, I will probably be looking for or starting my next job as director of the "shop." I don't plan further out than that.
What project would you most like to finish in the coming year? Birth samplers for the babies--even though they are not on the list for this year. I think we've settled on Lizzie*Kate's Oh Baby, which will let me make coordinating samplers. (We're into coordinating rather than matching.)
What project would you like to start? Oh, the girls are going to need Christmas stockings, don't you think? (Next Christmas; they'll be too small to appreciate these this year.)
What new crafting skill would you like to learn? To clean up after myself!
What is one piece advice would you give your future self? Relax.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Baby Notes

My sister has finally gotten off her ass and written thank you notes. Ha! Listen, honey, I know exactly how busy she is. The real reason she was able to write them was that our mother was with her, and they could play man-to-man defense against those kids.

The even better news is that I can show them to you. These are the ones that we made at the crafty-girls shower. (Not the one my cousin and I threw; that one was sadly curtailed due to the fact my sister had swollen up like Violet Beauregarde off her diuretics.)

Aren't these the cutest? We did a great job, though I say it myself. Well, really, it was all Lisa, but the rest of us completed our assignments with gusto. (It was an assembly line job; I embossed the hippo.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Away Again, Naturally

The dude and I did a piss-poor job planning our vacations this summer. No sooner did we return from Canada than we were off to the sea in Maine. Poor planning or not, it was still a relaxing time away from the office. We drove up after work, so I didn't get much stitching done. And I forgot my cheaters (actually, I didn't. I couldn't find them and then I bought a new pair and then I found them again). Where was I? Oh, forgetting the cheaters, so I stuck with a project on lower count fabric so I could see. And that was my August Small, and I'll save that one to show you later.

Speaking of not being able to see, I did have a visit with Maggie while I was in New England. Her eyesight continues to deteriorate, and she is doing less. She gets out plenty--a couple of restaurants she eats at regularly and movies with my aunt. Funny enough, she asked about you. She wanted to know if it was okay to get rid of the 100+ cards you sent for her 90th birthday. Since that was over two years ago now, I gave her permission. I hope you don't mind.

Coming home from our trip to Maine always makes me feel like summer is ending. And today when I walked into work at 8:00 am it certainly felt that way. And then my colleague told me I didn't have to be in until 8:30 because summer hours are over. There were so many things I meant to do on my half-day Fridays but never did. I was waiting until I had a rainy day to scour thrift shops for some supplies for garden accessories I wanted to make. I was going to use another to clean the craft room. I'm sure there were many other "meant tos" on my summer list. But there were some fabulous "instead ofs" too. Like this:
Helping make babies fashionable, scrubheaven

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stitched Up News

I don't think I ordered that from my favorite ONS:

The same story with the "not your grandmother's stitching" spin. Hell that's not even my stitching. (And PS you do not know my grandmother.)

Need an idea for your next tat?

Roll out the Doctor.

Celebrity face in cross-stitch. This is the weirdest story: guy cross-stitches Marilyn Monroe piece in honor of the 52nd year of her death. Was he just two years late in thinking of it? And why is the newspaper covering it? There is like one sentence related to the stitching, and the rest of the article is fleshed out with Monroe trivia. Of course, I have now written nearly as many words about the article as the article has. And in clicking through, we will send the wrong message. The Burton Mail will be all, "hot damn! Look at all those hits! Let's run that article about the nun who created the portrait of Cardinal Romero with hot dogs!"

Now that's a picture. Aren't you glad I read the internet for you?