Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lolling around when the shop is closed

Weekends like this past one always amuse me--when they're not driving me crazy about what I have to get accomplished.  My customers think that the shop is closed, so I'm sunbathing and going to the beach or hitting the mall when Needle Nicely is closed.  Wrong!!

I'm the typical small business owner who also happens to be a housewife.  Thank goodness my husband is retired and likes to do laundry and clean the kitchen floor!  He also loves the grocery store and goes about 3 times a week (he's from Manhattan so he was accustomed to grocery shopping every day or so there).  I'm in charge of the Big Box stores.

This past weekend I did take some "personal" time and go to the HD transmission of Cosi Fan Tutte from the Metropolitan Opera at my local movie theater.  It was a wonderful way to spend Saturday afternoon.  What a bargain for those of us who can't get to New York and see "the real thing"--and at a much reduced price.  In Vero the HD transmissions cost $25.  What a deal!

 So Saturday was my fun day and Sunday was my nose to the grindstone day.  First I had to start out reading the local mullet wrapper (what we fondly call the VB Press Journal--in case you wonder, mullet are trash fish, so something wrapping it is even lower than trash!!!).  Then I moved on to the NY Times.  After that I reminded myself that I had to do the week's sales, doing the bookkeeping and then producing the deposit.  I then did the recording in Quick Books.  I also realized that I hadn't done the quarterly reports for the 2014 first quarter.  That includes a report to the federal government of Needle Nicely's payroll, but it also entails doing what Florida calls the "Reemployment report".  That's unemployment by anyone else's name.  Sadly, governments have gone to the computer for their reports, but they neglect to send email reminders.  It used to be that your memory was nudged by receiving the paperwork in the mail.  That doesn't happen anymore and we're on our own.  I'm sure large businesses use large accounting firms to take care of details like that, but Needle Nicely is so small that I'm the accounting firm--on one of my Sundays "off". And I have to rely on my now somewhat suspect memory to remind myself of when the reports are due.  Like, you can't schedule a sales tax payment online if there is an intervening weekend--that is, if the tax is due on Monday, you must arrange to pay on the previous Friday, it can't be done on Saturday or Sunday to be withdrawn on Monday.  Sure, I'm right on it!!  I've tried leaving notes to remind myself, but they always manage to get buried.  My smart phone is almost pristine in that I have had it a year and have yet to install an app, so there's no reason for me to put something on a calendar there. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stitching slump

Right now I'm in a stitching slump.  I'm trying to blame it on the busyness of "the season" that each year drains my creative energy--until I have time to recharge my creativity.  I have 3 projects currently in progress.  They are the star mini-stocking; the 13-mesh silent night pillow; and the personalized key fob.
None of them excite me.  I grudgingly pick one or the other up and stitch a strand or two.  Then, I put it down.  Ho, hum.  I've got to find a project that will jump-start my enthusiasm and let me finish each one of these boring projects while alternating my stitching with a more interesting project.  What can it be? I have several under consideration, but am hesitant to make a choice since it may turn out to be just as booooring as these.

To fill my stitching void, I'm going to feature a past class project from my pre-blogging years.  Amanda Lawford has a series of about 40 or so designs that fit the same format:  about 5x5, 13mesh, checkerboard border, dotted border.  Other than their individual attractiveness, from a needlepoint class standpoint their major plus is their similarity in design features so one stitch guide fits all.

Amanda has a multitude of designs in the center from this pig to a sheep, flower basket; rooster, and on and on.  I actually selected the pig for the model because I thought it would be the least popular with my students. 

This is the stitched canvas that has been inserted into a framed pillow.  Notice the tiny twisted cord of perle cotton that I had the pillow finisher attach to the join between needlepoint and fabric.  Usually I use a tiny fabric cording, but had no matching yellow fabric so fell back on this perle cotton.

This is a cut-out of the border elements.  First I did a row of black continental in silk 'n ivory.  Next a row of the fern stitch, again in silk 'n ivory.  Then a border of alternating Scotch stitch in silk lame braid.  Again a row of black continental and then the inner border of diagonal mosaic with a counted pattern of black dots.  The dots on the canvas aren't counted--I'm too much a former library cataloger to allow that, so I counted out a pattern. 

And the star, Needle Nicely's shop model.  If you look closely, you can see the silver push pins we have used to attach this to a wall that features other  canvases in this series by Amanda Lawford.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A custom key fob--and several finish/finishes

Last year my attempt at having a personalized key fob finished by one of Needle Nicely's belt finishers resulted in a really disappointing product.  Since then I have managed to locate the metal hardware on line and so had the NN studio design a custom key fob for me that will serve as a shop model.
 But, obviously things are not meant to be perfect--I usually cut my perle cotton once, since I like stitching with long lengths.  However, I noticed that the needle was abrading the fiber and there were several streaks in my stitching.  I have started cutting the strands in half and stitching with that length.  I'm using DMC 996 which is a "hot" bright blue. 
UPS brought this beauty from our finisher yesterday.  I just love this pajama bag, though Macy commented the pajamas needed to be small!  Guess I'll have to leave it in the shop and not take it home for my jammies!!
 This is the back view.

I had forgotten to show you the finished Oriole mini-stocking. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring, the Masters and Blowing Rock, NC

This past weekend my husband and I watched Bubba (now he says he's from Baghdad, Fl--I wrote about him in April, 2012, as being from Milton, Fl--along with Heath Slocum and Boo Wheatley) win his 2nd Masters.  Almost none of the golfing pundits picked him.  Shame on them!  I love Jordan Speith (what's not to like about such a well-mannered young man?), but I was rooting for Bubba.  The pundits weren't giving him any respect and that offended me.  But he won and it was wonderful!

Actually why I'm writing this post is because years ago when Needle Nicely was located in Blowing Rock, NC, we had a delightful customer from the center of Florida, Anne Snively.  In the spring she and her husband began their trip from Florida by stopping in Augusta, GA, for the Masters.  That next week they continued their trip on to their summer home in Blowing Rock, NC.  I knew the summer season had started when I spied Anne Snively on Main Street.  It brings back such memories.

This is The Hayes House, Needle Nicely's home for many years,  It was purportedly the first home built in Blowing Rock as a summer residence.  The front door was the original and no key existed for it.  When the door was open, Needle Nicely was open.  People used to close it, "to keep the air conditioning in".  There was no air conditioning!  Trubey had her studio upstairs in the right front.

There is nothing more beautiful than spring in the North Carolina mountains.  I went to college there and spent my student teaching commuting "down the mountain" in the spring.  It was wonderful seeing the shades of green on the trees.  Spring started first at the foot of the mountain and then gradually progressed up those 4,000 feet to Boone and Blowing Rock.  It was a glorious experience, even when it was at 5:45 am and my eyes were barely open!  Appalachian's then president Plemmons used to say it was where "Springtime spends the summer".  I thought he was being hokey, but looking back on it, that's how it is.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My favorite needlepoint designer

With so many talented designers now available, it is difficult to select one as a favorite, but I have one.  I first saw designs by my favorite designer, Terry Enfield, when I visited my sister in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in the late 1970s.  I don't remember the name of the shop, but the owner's name was Phoebe.  I can still see her shop in my mind.  I was particularly taken by Terry's designs and asked for her contact information which Phoebe was generous enough to share.  In those days, shop owners and designers were loathe to share their sources and it was the rare person who would be helpful.  When I returned to North Carolina, I contacted Terry.  She sent her photographs (she didn't do "markets"), and Trubey and I made an order.  Over the years Terry has moved from being her own agent and personally painting every canvas to having someone else do the production and shipping.  She is currently represented by The Red Thread Designs. 

I am currently pulling canvases from my inventory to put on sale.  However, Terry's canvases never make it to the sale area.  I love them so much that I'll keep them for myself to look at, even if I don't manage to stitch them.  Here are a selection of  her designs that I have in stock.  Many of her canvases that I am drawn to are larger wall hanging-types. 

This canvas is the exception to that--it is a 5x5 for a pillow insert or box top painted on black canvas.

I'm not really a wildlife lover, but these ducks just speak to me.

I have this canvas pinned to the wall in Needle Nicely's back room.  I plan to stitch it.  I can't justify taking time from revenue-producing stitching just now, but some day soon I'll be working on this beauty.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Culling the herd

As they say, familiarity breeds contempt.  I've had all winter to contemplate my canvas inventory, and it has given me time to realize I need "to cull the herd".  What actually precipitated this action on my part was a telephone request for photographs of 13-mesh 6x6 canvases.  While going through the 5x5, 6x6, and other small canvases, I began to realize that some of them were a tad long in the tooth (as I get older and bite myself on the inside of my cheek more often, I begin to understand the derivation of this saying).  That realization caused me to start examining the remainder of Needle Nicely's inventory.

For the most part our canvases are categorized by subject:  flowers, sports, people and places, field and barnyard animals, frogs.  But then we digress into purpose:  purses, bell pulls, doorstops, Christmas stockings, and the all-important category, belts.  Needle Nicely has over 400 belt canvases--we sell a lot, so we stock a lot. It's inevitable that there will be some dead wood lurking among the jewels. So, I had my minions (doesn't that sound lofty, like I have an empire?), Macy and Marcia, start sorting through the canvases.  It was interesting that no Christmas stockings qualified for "the cut", but then I had put some of them on sale in November.  So on to the sayings.  Whew!  Lots of candidates there.  And on it went, through the categories.  There's quite a pile now and not so surprisingly, there are now empty hangers and space on the canvas racks.  How wonderful!  You can actually slide the hangers along the racks with some viewing space.  It's a wonderful thing, this culling of the herd!  And I'll be doing more of it this coming week.

 And just so you know that I haven't totally reformed, here are some of the new canvases that arrived this week.
This blue & white design if from Designing Dogs.  It has such clear, crisp lines. And this comment refuses,  after multiple attempts to the contrary, to go beside the photograph rather than above it!

 Of course, a shop in Vero Beach has to have some sandpiper canvases.  This one is by Needle Crossings.

 This "beachy" doorstop was also designed by Pat of Needle Crossings.

 This dragonfly was designed by Amanda Lawford to go in one of the lacquered boxes she also sells.  I got the boxes in 5 colors, but Marcia had tucked them into the glass display case away from my camera's eye.

 And another of Amanda's designs for her boxes.  I love how she combines the multiple geometric  patterns.

I'm also partial to asymmetrical designs like this one from Amanda.  It looks pretty in pink, but would be easy to change the color to almost anything.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Star/tree mini-stocking

People often ask where to start a pattern stitch on a canvas.  I'm sure the decision varies from person-to-person, but I always start where I can establish the pattern--that is, do at least 5 or so "repeats".  It's easy then to go back and fill in "the edges" (those odd areas that seem to confuse the issue).  The star on the following mini-stocking is an example of this.

Pippin Studio has some 13-mesh mini-stockings that have large blocks of colors and thus lend themselves to pattern stitches.

I have started the nobuko stitch on the star using Balger braid #16.  I wanted to start the row of stitching at the place where the right point of the star joins the top point.  I drew my needle to the right edge of that right point and that's where I started my first row of stitching.  I will go back later, turn the canvas upside down, and do the remaining stitches in the right point and the top point.

Here you can see the completed star.  I have started stitching the green background in the basketweave.  I have also started the red using the diagonal mosaic.

This is the shop model pillow back from the finisher.  Miraculously the fabric exactly matches the silk 'n ivory I used for the background.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fiber coverage and mathematics in needlepoint

Of course, there is mathematics in the retail business of selling needlepoint.  After all, someone has to total the receipt.  But many people don't realize that the determination of how much fiber to purchase is calculated with mathematical formulas.  I have stitched inch squares of different fibers to see just how far one yard (or strand) of a fiber will go when stitching on 13-mesh or 18-mesh, etc.  It's nice to have a visual reminder as well as then having translated this into a mathematical formula.  I have also drawn rectangles showing 13.5 square inches (area covered by one skein of DMC perle 5) and 7.5 square inches (area covered by one skein of DMC perle 3).  Seeing the area definitely helps with the calculation of background fiber amounts.  People groan when I mention pi r squared, but that is the formula to determine the area of a circle. 

In kitting (that is, pulling the fibers) a canvas, the first order of business is to calculate the overall dimensions and square inches.  So it is 12x12 for a total of 144 square inches.  The background is how many inches?  I mentally let the design "fall" so that I can compute how much of the area is background.  Try it--the first time or two, it is confusing and difficult, but you soon become accustomed to visualizing how much space the design takes when it is compressed along the bottom of the canvas.

Rules of thumb for fiber coverage in basketweave:
          Perle 5 covers 13.5 square inches
          Perle 3 covers 7.5 square inches
          1 strand of Paternayan persian covers 1.15 square inches of 13 mesh; 1.25 of 12 mesh and 1.40 of
          1 skein of silk 'n ivory covers more than 22 square inches
          1 skein of impressions, 1 ply, covers 18 square inches; 2 ply, 9 square inches
           a 10-meter spool of Kreinik covers almost 6 square inches  (I'm sure the 8 covers more than the
                      16 but not enough to really matter)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Florida "Season"

"The Season" in Florida varies by which part of Florida you're in.  I can only speak for the Treasure Coast,  which is sort of the lower middle of the state on the Atlantic seaboard.  Vero Beach is at what they term "the top of the tropics".  That refers to what will grow here and our weather.  In case you wondered, what can grow here is a jungle if you don't keep cutting it back!

People who come South for the winter are politely called "snow birds" (we won't go into what they are so impolitely called in some places!!!).  Their stay varies by whether they own a home or are just renting.  Most rentals are at least one month long, and many places require a 3-month lease.  Vero Beach has few motels since the hurricanes of 2004 and 5, though there are several under construction.  The community always fights any proposed motels on the barrier island ("the beach"). 

Home owners typically come down in October to reopen their homes and schedule any necessary maintenance.  Then they return North for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Their arrival back in Florida can vary from December 26 through mid-January.

Three-month renters arrive as soon after January 1 as they can manage.  Depending on where they have rented, they have golf, tennis and dining privileges until March 31.

A word to the wise:  The absolute worst place to be in the world is I-95 (which runs the length of Florida on the Atlantic seaboard) the last few days of March and the first few days of April.  If you ever rent in Florida, do yourself a favor and check into a motel until about April 4th before starting that long drive home.  You'll thank me.  I-95 becomes a parking lot during this time frame.  Not a pretty sight.  I'm sure the same is true of the Florida turnpike up the center of the state.  Nuff said.

Other than March 31st, there are other trigger points for departure.  Some people still return North to file their taxes.  Others want to spend Easter up North.  Others have discovered that the most delightful months in Florida are May and October.  And if you check the temperatures in July and August, Vero Beach is often cooler than Washington, DC, or Richmond or New York City.  Those ocean breezes really make a difference.