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Archive for January, 2011

Birka, ahoy!

There is a LOT going on at Storied Threads lately.  This weekend, we’ll be vending at the Market Day at Birka, up in New Hampshire for the first time.  I’ve spent a good chunk of my January trying to build up stock for this event, and I have to admit, I still feel under-prepared.  I wanted to build more sideless surcoats and tunics and such, and there just wasn’t as much time as I thought there would be. Oh! And, of course, the fact that my serger bit the dust last weekend didn’t help. I had planned to bring it into the shop Saturday afternoon for repairs but (fun story!) my dog ate sunscreen, I had to make her vomit, and then we went to the emergency room. By the time we got back, the repair shop was closed, so that outing was put off until this coming Friday. I’ll drop it off on my way to NH instead, and hopefully get it back quickly.

What I DO have, though, are quite a lot of hats. I’ve built up some flat caps, and fur-lined Barbarossa hats, and New and Improved arming caps that fit MUCH nicer than my old ones. (I still have a few of the old style. Those will be for sale, too, at a greatly discounted price.) I also have three lovely new pick-up skirts, a lot of belt pouches, and lots and lots more.

In other “unprepared for Birka” news, I do not have the clothing racks I had expected to have.  I have one small collapsible rack, but I wanted two, and I wanted them to be a bit better quality than the one I have.  So I googled around, and found a few being sold through Amazon. The one I chose looked really good, was a nice size, very sturdy looking, and had lots of GREAT reviews.  So, at the beginning of January, I ordered two of them, imagining I’d have them in plenty of time, right? The seller (who was not Amazon themselves, but a shady operation called NEED A RACK ONLINE (yes they spell it in all caps)) notified me on the 7th that it had shipped via FedEx. Yay! Except that I still haven’t gotten my racks now, on the 25th. And despite 9 voice mails and 5 e-mails, they have yet to respond to me at all. Not even to give me the alleged FedEx tracking number.  So, consider yourselves warned — don’t buy a clothing rack from these people! As soon as I get my money back, I’ll be writing them a lovely negative review over at Amazon.

All of these are incidentals, though. Despite the serger, and despite the rack fiasco, and despite missing my traditional Friday night date night with my husband, I’m really, really looking forward to Birka this weekend.  I had a lot of fun there as a patron last year, if the preliminary lay-out I saw holds true, I’m sharing my island of tables with another fantastic vendor, and I love the idea of a show in the middle of the winter. Hope to see you all there!

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Sometimes, I have really great ideas about new things to make. And sometimes, other people have really good ideas, and they think, “I can’t do anything with this idea. But Veronica can!” and then they give it to me. And that’s how I ended up making partlets this weekend.

Back in October, I was vending at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire.  We had hit that time of year where it was downright COLD in the mornings, but you know the sun will come out later and somewhere around noon or one it will warm up, and you’ll be just fine in the low-cut chemise and bodice you’ve laced yourself into. And in the meantime, you just suck it up and hug yourself warm, because cloaks are bulky and awkward. Especially when it DOES warm up, and you want to take it off, and now you just have to carry it around for the rest of the day.

I was walking through the faire site one of those mornings when I got called over by Dan, of Materialis. “I have an idea,” he said. “I thought maybe you could use it. Warm partlets — easy to put on and stay warm in your bodice, easy to take off and tuck away when it warms up later!”*  “Brilliant!” I said.

Fast forward to this weekend, and I decided to actually get these made before Birka. And voila! Partlet!

S0 far, I have three partlets made. In theory, they are sizes 34-35″, 36-37″, and 38-39″.  In practice, though? I only know for sure that the middle one is right, because that’s my size. (See above photos.)  So, here’s where you guys come in! I will be at Birka on January 29 with my three partlets for sale. But what I’d love is for all of you bodice wearing ladies to come by and try them on. Even if you’re not one of the sizes listed. And even if you have no intention of buying one. Because the ties under the arms give a range of versatility that I may well be underestimating.  The 38-39″ may well fit up to a 41″ chest, for all I know. And maybe I messed up, and the 34-35″ fits somebody who is really a 32″ chest. Before I can put these up on the website, I really need your help to make sure the sizes are right. And to make sure there’s no fine tuning needed in the pattern itself.

Here are the three finished partlets that will be for sale. (For $40 each, by the way. Just so you are fully informed.)

Do you see, for instance, how that first one looks a little odd on my dress form? That’s because my form doesn’t go down to a 35 inch bust. I think 38″ is the smallest it goes. So, I can’t really tell how it fits. The shoulders look weirdly narrow, but I think that’s mostly because of the too-large frame it’s on. But I won’t know for certain until I see it on a woman of the right size.

So! Looking forward to seeing you all at Birka!

*I am paraphrasing, of course. This was three months ago, and I don’t recall Dan’s exact words. But this was the sentiment behind them.

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On the importance of graphic artists

I run a regular ad in Renaissance Magazine, and have had the same one in place for about a year now.  I decided a while ago it was time to change things up, and contacted my graphic artist, the amazing Patricia Lupien, to get the ball rolling.

Fast forward a week or two, and I was working on the new website, and feeling creative.  So, I decided to play around a little bit. I’d just done some wardrobe work for the Great Model Shoot, and had some fantastic new photos to work with. So, I pulled up PhotoShop, and decided to make an ad myself.

I started with this picture:

Harley Quinn, photo by Peter GordonThis photo was taken by Peter Gordon, and features model Harley Quinn wearing an outfit of my design.  Frock bodice, tricorn hat, and split skirt (though that last can’t really be seen in this picture). I’m not sure which model randomly brought a harpoon to a photo shoot, but it was a perfect prop for this series of pictures, and gave this one a lot of energy and action.

Okay, so — awesome picture, right? Now all I needed to do was turn it into an awesome ad.  Crop it to size, add my logo, some flavor text, etc. It’s already against a neutral background, so I didn’t really need to worry about visibility and such.

And so I made an ad. And you know what? It was good!  I really liked the end product, and it got really good feedback when I put it up on Facebook, and I was quite happy.

Tricia e-mailed me the next day, and said she’d seen it, and liked it — but would like to play with it, if I didn’t mind. Little things, she said — like the fact that print ads come out darker than they look on your screen (really? I didn’t know that!) and that I should keep all text and whatnot a certain margin from the edge, just in case it gets cut off in print. So I said, sure — I’d love for her to perfect it! I sent her the ad with all its bits and layers intact, and she went to town with it.

Here are the two ads, side by side.  On the left is my original ad.  On the right is the final product from Tricia.

I know the changes are subtle. But what a difference! For instance, I love the drop shadow under the logo that Tricia added — it gives the whole thing more dimension, and I never would have thought of it. The lighter color makes the whole thing pop a little bit more, and the adjusted placement will ensure that it all looks good in print, as well as on my computer screen.

And that, boys and girls, is why I have a graphic artist. Because I’m good, and I can do stuff like this. But she’s GREAT, and will make my ads stand out from the pack. Which, after all, is what advertising is all about.

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It’s true — after months of talking about it and then not DOING anything, I’ve begun a blog for Storied Threads.  Eventually, when the new website is launched, I hope to have this content show up on the main page, so that when you visit the site, there will be new stuff to read. Information about shows I’m vending, projects I’m working on, fun outfit ideas, all sorts of things.  If I do my job right, the blog will get updated once a week — but that will definitely take effort on my part.

Right now at Storied Threads, things are going pretty well. I spent all of November and December working on commissions — I got a LOT of them during the run of the Connecticut Renaissance Faire! Now that it’s January, I’ve taken a break from commissions to start building up stock for Birka, which I’ll be vending at January 28 and 29.  I’m trying to focus on things that are thematically appropriate for the event — so far, I’ve built pick-up skirts and fur-lined Barbarossa Hats.  I’d like to get some sideless surcoats and arming caps done as well, for certain.  I’ll save the piratey things for later in the year!

I’m also, as I mentioned, working on re-designing the site. What I have now worked great, when I started this business four years ago. (Ye gods, has it really been four years?!?)  But I’ve added a lot of products and little nibbly bits, and now it just feels cluttered to me. It’s time for an overhaul. So, I’m learning all about Dreamweaver and CSS as I go along, and figuring out how to lay out a lovely site that will be easy for me to maintain, and easy for you all to shop at.  Stuff will be organized differently — first by period, rather than gender — and I’m installing a proper shopping cart, which is VERY exciting to me. I hope you all like the end result!

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