Wednesday, September 23, 2009

JCSO Review

Hey, kids! Elizabeth Newlin of Bent Creek came and checked out your interpretations of Swirlygig. Are you swooning?



As people have mentioned this year's book (that's magazine-speak for magazine) is laid out differently. More like a Leisure Arts Christmas Cross-stitch book (like what normal people call a book): there is a photo of one themed group followed by all the instructions for those ornaments. The Christmas stories are included here, but the recipes are compiled in the back. Unfortunately the designers didn't get the memo so some of the stories were about the recipes or the designer merely said, "enjoy this recipe," which wasn't even there. I have an idea. It's a cross-stitch magazine. No more recipes!

So I was hoping against hope that these changes meant that all the patterns and their respective color charts would end up on the same page--which is really useful for the end user. As it turns out, that isn't the case. Why the massive shift, if the end result isn't any more user friendly?

Every year I make the dude look at the ornaments on offer and pick the ones he likes. This year as we were flipping through he remarked, "Isn't this the same every year?" While I might have defended it in years past, this year, I kind of got that feeling as well. There are a couple of specific patters I could compare to old ones, but I shall refrain. Word is the designers don't get paid for this. I'd totally mail it in myself.

Still that makes the designers who put in extra effort somehow well, either wonderful or naive. A designer I spoke to (e-mailed) said that these ornaments were their gifts to the stitchers. Which makes you wonder how much the ornament issue brings into the JCS coffers...I'm a cynic and a critic...I tend to look at these things a little differently. But I digress.

Up front are the snowy ornaments: three unimpressive snowmen and a cute sheep*. The ice skating couple has a cute story and I like that the guy's sweater is stitched in woolly thread. Not so much that his trousers are, and why not her sweater? There are several "stitching" ornaments; the first appears here--a white tree made up of scissors, needle and thread. Not for me, not as a Christmas ornament anyway. There's an angel with something at its feet. At first I thought it was a penguin. At second glance, it looked like a dog**. It turns out its a JABC Jesus button (maybe just a baby?) in a stitched manger. Apparently, I need to have my eyes checked. I think the angel might be too tall, throwing off the Jesus proportions. But what do I know? How tall are angels anyway? Favorites on this page are Mosey's sheep and Blackbird's Peace House.

The next section hosts the Christmas Trees. One is a stitch sampler which impressed the dude, and I like Cindy Valentine's tree too. Amy Brueken (the half sister and best friend) has another sheep, though I am not crazy about the finishing (same as in the preview issue). Speaking of finishing, Fine-ally Finished has a mistletoe ball that is kind of weird, but she did thorough research on the meaning of mistletoe. Also, there's a frog charm on it, and it's called "Mistletoad" which completely perplexes me. Our friend Monique is on this page with her dingbat*** person. She's got a needle and it's titled "Christmas Stitching." I might make that into a needlebook rather than an ornament. There's the Tiny Tim quote, "God Bless Us Everyone" which I like but the dude doesn't think it is Dickensian, well, in the sense that Tiny Tim wasn't speaking for the author. It's rough living with a Dickens scholar sometimes.

The next section is labeled "Winter Wonderland." These are the pinky/purple ornies. I love Forget-Me-Nots In Stitches (the most cumbersome name in cross-stitch)--the colors, the fabric, the shape, the finishing, the carnation--though I'd probably change or omit the quote ("What can I give Him, poor as I am? What I can I give Him: give my heart") on the band that turns the heart into a mattress ornament. I like the shaker ornament--think of a shaker card from papercrafting--as well. I think it was Kathryn who said she'd use foam core, but you'd have to have a very sharp knife and steady hand not to end up with raggedy edged foam core. And I am not that person. Still, why does this one look like Curacao? (See what I mean?) Charland has a long story about how angelic her mother is; you'd think that an angel ornament would follow. No, a bell pull with "rejoice." Huh. Brittercup has a Britter Kitty and Ladybug Lane gives us a Scottie dog. I think Cross-Eyed Cricket's little elf is adorable.

Blue Christmas is, you guessed it, blue. Susan Greening Davis has a cute house, but the quote, "It took a miracle to hang the stars in place" isn't right for us. There are three more generic snowman, and a blue bird called "Twitter Blue." It's not the bird from Twitter, not even that cyan shade of Twitter blue. Heartstrings Santa isn't roly poly this year. Little By Little's Chilly Frilly (white flowers) doesn't frill me. Big Toe, whose designs I will probably never stitch, has a pretty cross.

Primitive, Celtic, and Quaker ornaments make up the "Old Fashioned Holiday" section. I like the Penny Angel though the dude didn't know what it was supposed to be. There's a spot ornament. Small spot samplers don't work well, I think. "It's messy," said the dude. Moss Creek gives us Haw berries and a long lesson on Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Haw. It's a scissors keep. I like the Jeanette Douglas "Christmas" (over one) and the La-D-Da "Merry Christmas." I can see stitching the Cherished Stitches for Edgar and lo! it's a needlebook. This might be the best section.

Christmas Confetti (is that a real thing?) follows. Love the layout: the ornaments have been photographed on chartreuse sequins. When I showed this to the dude he pointed to the flamingo and said that was just wrong. But no! You know I have a soft spot for the Jemini designs birds--and they're back. My favorite ornament in the whole book is Day One from monsterbubbles. I'm sure it is not for everyone but you do know this review is my informed opinion rather than yours. Charlette's Collectibles remains scary. I think it's because she can't spell her name, godblessher. Country Cottage has a cute one in her usual style--"Visions of Sugar Plums." I like the pomander by Ink Circles, but perhaps the fabric should be more orange? "Run, Run Rudolph" is Raise the Roof's tribute to those stop animation films of my (our) youth. Still 21st century me hates that horribly sexist, conformist version of the story. Then there's some stuff on perforated paper.

Deck the Halls is a section of red and green ornaments. Imaginating Breast Cancer ornament has a horribly depressing blurb even though it's about hope. Shepherd's Bush finally turned their designing pencils to the true meaning of Christmas, giving us "Santa's Flight." And it's about time! Victoria's Sampler Christmas Tree Scissors Keep matches her Gingerbread Stitching House. Now that I know these women aren't getting paid, more power to her and the others that stitch something to match something they have for sale!

In "Joy to the World" we have the red but not really religious ornaments. Here, I like Fancy Work's "Jingle all the Way," Tanya's primitive spot sampler, Loopylou's little Christmas Tree and Midsummer Night's lamb. I love the sheep, peeps.

Quick show of hands: have you ever cooked any of the recipes in the Just Cross Stitch ornament issue? Or should we scrap those six pages in favor of getting the color charts and patterns on the same damn page! See survey right.

There are a few pages of "exclusive" mail order kits. You know there's something wrong when the tiny BBD ornie runs $49.

Some quick takes:
* Frank grew a beard to play Santa for his grandson. He strikes me as such a fun guy. He's probably a right prick. But I'll maintain my fantasy: he is Santa Claus.
* Stop sending in diet recipes. Okay, send them, but don't tell us they are low fat. You people are pooping on my party.
* Roasted vegetables is not a Christmas recipe!
* Is peach salsa "Christmas in July" or "July at Christmas"?
* Check the ads on page 19. Cat's Whiskers needs a closer look. Wow. That's bright. I like Prancer's antlers (Hinzeit).
* Amy Brueken--let's party with her. Vegas, baby! Now that's a Christmas story!
* Who knew Workbasket designed from two continents? Coming soon, update on my Workbasket piece!


*The dude wanted to know what sheep had to do with Christmas, but fortunately all those years (okay, four) in Catholic school learned me about the Lamb of God.

**The fact that the design was called "Glory to the Newborn King" apparently means nothing to me.

***In the graphics sense, not the idiot sense.

34 comments:

Kristen said...

The Elizabeth Newlin, herself? Yes, I am swooning.

(Though I want to add: Ms Newlin, are you trying to bankrupt me by releasing one cute design after another? Another adorable photobooth? Another must-have snowglobe? The Branch Series with all of those cute little critters? I just can't take it, I tell ya! :)

Kristen said...

Also, Anna, I want to thank you for the review of the latest JCS ornie issue. I will buy it, since I've heard that there are a few designs/finishes not to be missed. Still, I don't like the fact that none of the designers are paid for their submissions.

Bronny said...

Thanks Anna, I have the last 2 years issues, and might as well stay with them. I think I'm over obsessing with ornaments - besides I have plenty of other options. The recipes mean nothing to me in anycase.

mymarkdesigns said...

Another great review... I laughed out loud a few times ;) Just for the record, Frank is a genuinely nice guy.

Renee said...

I actually made a pistachio cake a couple of years ago from one the recipes in the ornament issue... but only because I love pistachios and it caught my eye.

Barb said...

I haven't seen the issue yet. Waiting for DH to bring it home when he remembers to buy it at the newsstand where he buys his morning NY Times. It makes me a little nuts to have to search for the chart that goes with the picture. They must save money by doing the layout as it is, but you're right. Eliminate the recipes and save the space. They could at least put the page number with the photo with the chart which in some issues they didn't do.

Barbeeque4 said...

Another super post!! I laughed out loud at your comments and agree with many. It just happens I had my issue with me at work and just followed along with your descriptions. I also vote "drop the recipes."

staci said...

Great review! Personally, I really dislike the new layout. Such a pain in the *** to have to leaf through the entire thing in order to find which ornaments I want to stitch.

And the designers don't get paid? Seriously? Because I'd be willing to bet my last dollar that the Ornament issue is the best selling issue every year. I wonder how Just Cross Stitch justifies that. If the designers are doing it for free (as a gift), then dontcha think JCS should just hand them out for free (as a gift too???)

MNStitcher said...

I haven't bought the ornament issue in years - they started looking the same after the first few so I quit. I confess I made a cookie recipe from one of the first issues - still love that recipe. That was the one and only - I ended up buying 2 copies of that issue, one for stitching and one for messing up in the kitchen. That being said, I think the recipes should go. And if the designers aren't being paid, pay them so we get some creativity once in a while!

valerie said...

I breezed through the mag just looking at pics and nothing totally jumped out at me. By the time I have time to read the thing, it's March!I've never done a recipe either.

Donna said...

I'm skipping reading this post until I do my own analysis. I've had the issue for a week, but have been too busy...

Silverlotus said...

I still haven't been able to hunt down this year's issue. I have heard that some people weren't too impressed with how some of the ornaments were finished.

Honestly, I only end up making two or so ornament out of each years issue, if that. But I'll buy this one just because I want the Dragon Dreams ornament.

As for the recipes, I've never made one. I don't even look at them. Give me the picture and the chart on the same page, please. (And do that for the Halloween ornaments too. Argh!)

bethcross said...

Okay - I gotta know. Are the Hinzeit reindeer ALL in the magazine or do you just get the one? Are they in the Ornament issue or in the next real issue? Are they going to be sold thru the Hinzeit website. Oh I am confused! I'm usually not a fan of theirs - but I like those reindeer. Also haven't bought the O issue in years - all the same stuff over and over. Just haven't been impressed. Really ticked if you gotta buy the whole mag for one reindeer! Cheers - Beth

Cathy said...

I'll get my copy eventually. I think I've stitched exactly on ornament out of the ornament issues, but I do love them and the stories. I think the recipes are generally a cop out so people don't have to write stories. I always love your reviews, though. My favorite line of this year is "But what do I know? How tall are angels anyway?"

Real Live Woman said...

Thank you for making the connection between the Victoria Sampler's gingerbread house and the scissor keep. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why it was called Gingerbread Scissor Keep when there was only a Christmas tree on it. Now it makes sense!

I also loved the Monsterbubbles design and hope it will be a series with all 12 days.

Noticeably absent this year - Lizzie Kate, after last year's half-hearted attempt.

karenv said...

Thanks for another great review. I thought the baby Jesus button was a penguin too LOL. However, I actually like the ornament so I ordered the button and it does look like a baby IRL. I *don't*, however, like the angel's neck (she looks like an alien), so will be changing that.

I really dislike the new format - it's too messy and I can't remember which section to go to without checking the index. Definitely get rid of the recipes and put the chart/photos together another year (hope someone from JCS reads this). Also, they'd be better with the kits just putting enough thread to stitch the ornament, rather than full skeins. $49 for that tiny BBD (I've stitched this year's Halloween one and they're *small*) is ridiculous. Wonder how many of them they will actually sell?

Nic said...

I'm in the habit of getting the ornie issue, although it can take a while to arrive in the UK - but I'm thinking more and more it's not really worth it, there's so many 'samey' ornaments, trite little stories where 'you had to be there' - and recipes that don't translate well out of the US. Yellow cake mix? WTF? Cups? Okay, I can do cups, but it strikes me as terribly inexact for baking...

That said - the ornie issue is worth it just for your review!

Meredith said...

Anna, I am a follower of your blog but I think this is my first time commenting. I loved your review! I've looked through this issue several times myself but have to say that as I flip through it again with your commentary in my head I agree with most of your opinions and thank you for the laughs along the way! I think the only ornament I will stitch this year is the Visions of Sugar Plums and that's disappointing when there should be so many more that I'd want to stitch. I agree with you - no more recipies. It is such a disconnect for me. Love your posts and thought it was time to say "hi"! Meredith

Deb said...

I've collected these since they first came out. I won this year's on a blog giveaway. I don't think that I've stitched one of the ornaments nor tried one of the recipes. Not to say that I won't at some point. Thanks for the review. You made me laugh at some of your comments. I didn't know, though that the designers didn't get paid. I suppose it's like advertising for them. Well, someone is raking in the dough if not the designers.

mainely stitching said...

What? The designers didn't get paid?? That's outrageous. Just how much does JCS rake in for it's ornament issue every year anyway? Do they donate it to charity?? Hmmm.

Um anyway. Yeah, swooning about the BC lady herself checking in. Wowsie. You're golden. And I'm surprised that Workbasket designs from two continents - impressive. Diet recipes do not = Christmas in my chubby heart. Calories don't exist that time of year, right? Some sort of divine arrangement, I'm pretty sure.

Lee said...

This is always my favorite blog post of the year, although I didn't and probably won't get this year's issue (unless someone at camp is stitching something from it and I get all crazy.)

And seriously. Enough with the recipes.

Thanks for sharing your talent and wit!

Margie said...

I don't have mine yet but when I have it in hand, I'll be sure to re-read this posting and see if we agree. :-)

vee said...

Interesting, I did not know that the designers were not paid. JCS probably makes a tidy profit on this issue alone so it is unethical (IMO) that they do not pay the designers for the designs. People should be properly compensated for their work. Now I am debating about whether I will buy this year's edition or not.

Coni said...

OK, how crazy is this?....

I was more anxious to read your review of the mag that I was to read the mag itself!

It arrived and went into a big pile o' crap, but now I think it will be a let-down in comparison to your post.

See? Told you I was your stalker!

Redwitch said...

Great review! I was hoping the re-design would be helpful but it isn't at all. I've also noticed the similarity of designs over the last few years, but am shocked that the designers don't get paid, so am not surprised they turn out variations on a theme. Shame on JCS!

I've never made any of the recipes, although I did notice there were two recipes for pumpkin bread and really how many pumpkin bread recipes does a girl need?

I have to admit to not reading the twee happy christmas stories either, come on they must be making them up by now! So much tweeness makes me want to barf! Bah! Humbug!

Nice of Elizabeth Newlin to drop by, I really enjoyed stitching Swirlygig! Great idea Anna!

Michelle said...

Every frickin' year I complain that they need to put a color photo of the ornament on the same page as the pattern. Who gives a crap about the recipes? If they have to have them in there, I prefer them at the back. And honestly, I don't need the "stories". Just give me the ornaments, and let's get on with it...wow...I think my Christmas spirit has been crushed by JCS.

Anne said...

I loved your review! The designers should be paid for their work. I figure they don't have to participate by submitting a design so I feel free to buy a copy. They probably figure it's worth the publicity to donate a design.

My LNS brought in Amy Brueken to teach a class. She kept us in stitches through the whole afternoon! She is definitely the one to invite to the party!

Carolyn NC said...

My favorite was the 3-D heart shape from Forget me Not!

Jeanne - WillowTreeStitcher said...

Very entertaining Anna! I think I'm done buying the ornament issue. I have about 6 years' worth at home and I've stitched ONE ornament out of the whole stack. Usually there's only a couple in each issue that I'd even consider stitching. I think it's time JCS did something totally different for the holidays. And I agree, leave the recipes to Good Housekeeping. We don't have time to bake we're too busy stitching!

Melissa said...

And here I thought sheep were a Christmas animal because they were hanging out in the manager when baby Jesus was born. I don't know what kind of Southern Baptist my grandmother tried to raise but "Lamb of God" never crossed my mind! Whoops!

I haven't received my issue yet, a friend picked one up for me so it's somewhere between here and there. Strange since I'm about five hours south of Birmingham, AL the home of JCS.

After all the build up for the Halloween issue--and other than one or two things I was very disappointed, I have been lukewarm about the JCS Ornament issue. Now I'm interested to see a few of the ornaments you've mentioned.

doris said...

Oh, it's so fun when you make me laugh. My sister and I always look through the ornie issue with a running commentary (at time rude and judgmental), and we think we're pretty funny. I'll make sure I have your post with me when we have the time to look at the issue together. I'm with you on the recipes ... ditch 'em.

About Frank: I met him and Judy years and years ago at the Charlotte market. He's a truly nice man with a great sense of humor. You two would probably get along great.

Lennu said...

I just LOVE your blog :D I don't comment often, but wow, you really know how to write and I so enjoy reading :)

Donna said...

I have to admit that there were fewer designs relying on beads and buttons this year. And I totally agree with you on the price of the kits. If it cost $49 to make an ornament, who in their right mind would make it? Unless it's made with precious metals and gemstones (which would violate my designs shouldn't be all about the beads, etc.)

Alison said...

Thanks for your wonderful review! I always read it with my mag in front of me. This year I got it early cos I ordered it from the states.

Does anyone else think Midsummer Designs' sheepie is a tad Shepherd's Bush????

Anyway, I have stitched many many ornaments from the ornie eds over the years. This one will just continue that tradition. I don't much like the new layout cos, for me, it's a pain in the you-know-what when looking for a particular designer. I always stitch the SB one & now I have to search for the bloody thing.

One more thing (now that I've raved on for ages)...Nic in the UK - attention! Yellow cake mix is what we British commonwealth type peoples call Butter Cake mix (at least here in Oz we do. I'm assuming the UK is the same). Brown would be chocolate. Those Americans are very literal LOL.