Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hurricane season, 2014

It has been 9 years since Hurricane Wilma removed the roof from the building housing Needle Nicely on Royal Palm Pointe.  I still have nightmares about the ensuing week.  Actually, I still wake up when I hear heavy rain on the roof and jump out of bed because in the summer of 2005 Needle Nicely's building had a terrible roof that was replaced, I think, 3 times.  None successfully.  Now you must understand that the NN building had apartments on the 2nd floor.  So who thought water could travel that far?  Not me.  But all the summer of 2005 when we had afternoon/late evening thunderstorms, I would be cooking dinner, hear the downpour, turn off the stove, and head to the shop to see where the newest leaks were coming in. Once the fire department was there before me because the water had set off the alarm in the gift shop next door.  From the outside of our front windows you could see the water pouring down the back wall.   So even now in the middle of the night when I hear a real downpour (and Florida has some real downpours), I awake and leap into action to go deal with the leaks at Needle Nicely.  I manage to stop myself in a few steps from the bed, but it is really not a restful night's sleep.

This year for the first time that I can remember, Florida is having a hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday.  That means that many of the supplies that people purchase for hurricane preparedness are exempt from sales tax.  You say, so what?  Well, Indian River County has a 7% sales tax.  In preparation for this weekend I went through our (my husband and I) stash of back-up batteries.  We have 2 lantern flashlights and a radio  (6 D batteries).  Incidentally we also have batteries for the tv remote, the garage remote, smoke alarms, my computer mouse--I think there is something else but I can't remember it.  Anyway, because of an article in the local newspaper about the upcoming hurricane season, I realized I should check the expiration dates on our stash of batteries.  Most of them have expired, because, surprise, surprise, I purchased them before and after the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.  The interesting thing is that none of the candles have an expiration date (that's a luddite joke!!!).  
These are just a sampling of the "dead" batteries.  I called 2 different agencies (the local waste management and the state one) and neither person could tell me satisfactorily where I could take these for disposal.  I know you don't just dump them in the trash.  As a last resort I went online and found that there are 5 places in Indian River County that accepts dropped-off alkaline batteries. Also, rechargeable batteries are handled differently.  I don't have any of those (except for my camera), so I didn't pursue their disposal any further.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

JP "brick" purse

I love stitching purses for shop models.  That probably contributes to the fact that Needle Nicely has always sold a lot of purse canvases.  The purse I started stitching this week is one from a series of purses that Julie Poitras designed.  I call them her brick purses because that is about the size the finished product turns out to be.  You'll have to excuse me, though, because I thought I had taken a photograph of the entire canvas when I received it in the shop.  It's not to be found in my photograph files, so I will try to take one to include in my next post.  Actually, this won't be a very exciting stitching experience because it is being done entirely in continental and basketweave.  I'm using some black medici from NN's hoard of background colors and combining it with the silver lacquer Balger metallic. When it was announced that medici would be discontinued I stocked up on white, ecru, navy, black and as much khaki as I could find.  My supplier asked me if I were a hoarder--my response, "but, of course!"

I'm about 35% finished with the basketweave/continental stitching on what will be the inside front of the purse.

 In this photograph you can see how I have basted the remaining part of the canvas so it doesn't flop and get in the way.  When stitching a large canvas (like this purse and Gunther the nutcracker I stitched last summer), I like to use smaller stretcher bars.  I then move the canvas down as I complete the stitching.  I prefer stretcher bars rather than roller frames because I think the bars keep things tauter. 

This shows the C-clamp that I am using to attach my frame to the table in the shop where I do my stitching.  I can sit and stitch and watch the front door, or converse with customers who are shopping.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Star/tree mini-stocking, finished

I'm sure some of you have forgotten the Pippin Studio mini-stocking that I was stitching on several months ago.  I resurrected it to stitch on as relief from the frustration I was feeling stitching on the 5" Christmas tree designed by Susan Roberts.  My husband even asked when I would be done with that section of "the tree" because I was muttering so much.  All is well with the world (that section is successfully finished) and I also completed this Pippin Studio mini-stocking.

This first photo is to show how I started the diagonal mosaic over the longest part of the toe section.  This enabled me to establish the stitch in all its glory.  I then turned the canvas upside down to complete the area toward the top of the stocking (with the sawtooth edges).  It made life much easier than trying to hop-scotch around those sawtooth pieces. 

 I wanted the toe to look different from the cuff area, so I left out the French knots.  Then I did the chain stitch swoops on the dark green in Kreinik Balger metallic.  Warning: It's awkward to shape into the stitch because of its stiffness/kinkiness.  But I do like the finished effect.

In another finish, I completed the couching filigree design on the 1st section of Susan Roberts' 5" Christmas tree. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5" tree, III

I should listen to my own "maxims".  I always tell my students that if you keep telling yourself you can't do a stitch, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I reminded myself of that earlier this week when I took the first Susan Roberts' Christmas tree canvas to the shop.  I thought it would be easier if I stitched earlier in the day--i.e., at work.  It was.  I took out the 2nd color I had started putting in and made myself finish the first part of the stitch, done in color one.

After admiring how pretty this looked, I started adding the 2nd color as an outline X.  Pleased with that result, I did the final step which was a "tie-down" stitch in silk lame braid.  Here is the finished product.
Whew!  Now to go back and couch down the curlicues on the left side of this section of the tree.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

5" tree, II

I think every needlepointer has stitches he/she prefers.  I know I have my favs.  I'm mentioning this because I am not crazy about bowties, and especially bowties that have to be compensated.  That said, I'm stitching them because they are what is called for in the stitch guide provided by Susan Roberts Needlepoint.  When I'm stitching a shop model of someone else's design, I follow their recommendations because it is less confusing for my customers.  Substitutions call for explanations and life is just easier, I have found, to go with the original program.  In my own stitch selection repertoire, however; you will not find bowties anywhere near the top 50 (unless they are in a straight row).  Whew!  Confession is good for the soul!!

I'm including this close-up of my first row of bowties.  If you look closely at the upright bowtie, second from the bottom, you will see that the top stitch is crossing from the wrong direction.  I'm glad I checked, because I am anal about things like that and it would bug be forever if I finished the whole thing and then spied that.  Many people wouldn't be bothered by it.  I say, more power to them.  You have to know yourself to know whether you can live with an error or have to frog it. 

Here you can see my progress after I had frogged and restitched.  Now I will be holding my nose and forcing myself to finish the basic layout of the bowties before I permit myself to add the finishing touches.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sharing the wealth--of experience--and passing it forward

The past few weeks I've had many opportunities to think back about the beginnings of needlepoint shops in South Florida brought on by the fact that Erin is opening a new shop in Stuart (Needlepoint Land).  At least that's her blog's name and I assume it is the shop name.

As background,  I've been in this business for over 45 years, for many years as the shop manager for Trubey Walker and then as the owner after I purchased Needle Nicely from Trubey.  In the late 70s there were no learner's manuals for needlepoint shop owners.  In fact, there was an almost unhealthy feeling of territoriality.  No one offered "trade secrets".  The one exception I particularly remember was that Barbara Eyre was very receptive to the questions Trubey had about the technical aspects of canvas painting.  Most designers were reluctant to share any ideas--and shopowners were even more reticent.
What a pity .

Over the years, that's why Trubey and I always made an effort to share some tips about business survival with people who asked us for advice.  I still shudder when I remember the women who came into the Blowing Rock, NC, location of Needle Nicely in the late 1970s and mentioned that they intended to open a shop "like this" by putting a second mortgage on their home/s.  They had no idea how much money was tied up  in our inventory. 

When Holly Crook was preparing to open Absolutely Needlepoint in Miami, Fl, she and her then-husband were in Vero Beach to visit with friends.  They stopped in at Needle Nicely and we chatted about various business decisions like what fibers to carry, how to price items, and other topics vital to the success of a needlepoint business.

Several years later, Kathy, the owner of Needlepoint Alley in Palm Beach, consulted me before she
opened.   We had several conversations about what fibers did well at NN.  I sold her 3 skeins of every color of DMC floss, though I cautioned her that I really didn't sell much of it.  NN also sold a lot of Paternayan Persian wool yarn.  Kathy's shop was further South in Florida and her customers had less interest in pure wool.  Ironically, the first time Kathy came to Needle Nicely she was accompanied by Betty McGrath who coincidentally is the mother of Erin, the owner of Needlepoint Land.

Once again, I am selling DMC floss to a nascent shop.  I have decided to divest myself of NN's floss and Erin is interested in it.  I have priced it so attractively just so she would buy all of it (my customers really don't stitch with it, so I couldn't sell it on sale in this lifetime.).  She is also purchasing the 18 DMC floss cabinets that I have been warehousing since we closed the Blowing Rock shop, lo these many years ago.  Over the years I have sold some to "crafters", but kept many in case I added fibers for which I would need cabinetry.  This is a perfect time to do a favor for a friend and also divest myself of "flotsam". 

In the what was I thinking department, when Erin and her husband were in the shop today to pick up the floss, he took pictures of Erin and me chatting and laughing.  I didn't even think of picking up my own camera and taking a picture of them.  Duh!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

More new canvases (the last for this season, I hope!)

The Blue Angels are performing in an air show this weekend in Vero Beach.  They arrived on Wednesday and did some practicing on Thursday and Friday.  NN shares a parking lot with KMart and both practice afternoons there were people, mainly male, standing around, looking up with their jaws dropped.  It is a beautiful sight to watch the tight formations these men fly.  They are loud, though not sound-barrier breaking loud.  We even heard them over the singing in the opera this afternoon. 

Some new canvases have been trickling in.  Some have accompanied special order canvases.  Postage is so expensive anymore, that when I special order something, I always add several other items to defray the shipping cost.  One order came in that somehow I missed when I was notifying my suppliers that my season was over and to hold all unshipped orders until October.  My bad so I didn't try to return the canvases or ask for a later billing date.

This is an addition to my clock canvas collection.  It's a Mindy design.  Love those buttons upon buttons!

 This is what I think of as classic Mindy with a touch of floral and lots of oriental motifs.  Gorgeous!

I think anyone who has been to Paris would love this canvas since its motifs are so evocative of the city.  While I love the sophistication of the colors painted, I can also envisage this in hot pink and slime green.  Think about it!!  And something like plied splendor would cover the color change.

These mod girls from Alice Peterson are on a shopping spree.  There are such possibilities for pattern stitches on this canvas.

 I love this underwater night light canvas designed by Elizabeth Turner.

 I think Meredith of Elizabeth Turner has a special affinity for bees.  This one is a beautiful specimen.
This design alerts me to remind people who stitch lamp shades or night lights to be particularly careful with starting and stopping stitching strands.  If you let them encroach into the background, they will wave at you in an ugly way when the light is on.

This is one of my "problem children" stitching projects.  However, I have finished that dark, dark green and can move on to filling in the lighter green tendrils.  Hooray!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jump-starting my stitching

In an effort to jump-start my stitching (and get away from those awful blahs), I have started Susan Robert's 5" Christmas tree.  The tree comes with 4 pieces of canvases with the tree outline drawn on as well as some design elements.  The remainder of the design is composed of stitches combined with fibers to produce the finished product.  Of course, the first step after receiving the canvases and the stitch instructions, I had to order some fibers that Needle Nicely doesn't customarily stock--such as Balger metallic #32, color 003.  Usually NN only stocks the basic gold and silver in #32.  When I made my special order, I also included the green metallic since Susan has also done the Christmas trees on green canvas.  The sizes are 5", 7", and 9". 

This is a photograph of the 3 different sizes of the tree in the red version.  As I said previously, it also comes in a green version.

This is the first of the 4 tree sections. 

The left side is done in the basketweave in Christmas red Splendor before couching the scroll design.  The right side color looks peachy here but it is really an orange-red Splendor similar to 606 DMC.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Star/tree ministocking, II

I've been making slow progress on the star/tree ministocking designed by Pippin Designs.  I took it to be my shop stitching since the green of the tree was too dark for me to see well at home.  I didn't allow for the spurt of business caused by everyone stocking up on needlepoint before heading North for the summer.  Not that I'm complaining.  It's also nice to see everyone when they return in the fall, but it is also enjoyable to be in Vero Beach during the summer when the traffic is much lighter and it's possible to go out to eat without a long wait. 

I've started stitching the red using Kreinik braid in the diagonal mosaic stitch.  The French knots are double-wrapped, again using Kreinik braid.  

These are just some of the colors of persian yarn I received from Saco River this week.  It is an ongoing slooow process of managing to obtain stock in all of the color range.  Now to get all those hanks twisted into skeins of 10 strands each (5 long strands).

I am also spending a lot of time on the internet trying to see all the new items from the summer TNNA market in Indianapolis.  This isn't the time of year for me to be spending much money, but I am making notes of items I will be ordering in the future.