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Archive for February, 2012

I had this awesome system for storing and organizing the patches I was making to bring to shows this year. There was an empty cubby in the storage shelves behind my embroidery table, so every time I made a patch, I put it in a plastic bag with its price tag, ready to hang at a show, and threw it into the growing, slippery pile of bagged patches.

For some reason, Mike thought this system could use improvement. So yesterday, this is what he built for me:

Check it out! Peg boards!  Most pegs have two designs hung on them, to conserve space, but each of those has a little cardstock divider between them that tells me what both designs are. And now I know that I have 10 “I Want to Believe” patches made and NO K-9s or Faces of Boe, which is a crime that must be rectified. I had no idea about either of those. So, I guess my giant pile of patches wasn’t really the best system after all…

Go figure.

 

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Kate, on the right, in 2003.

I first met Kate in 2003.  We were both doing Pastimes’ Robin Hood Faire for the first time, and Kate was probably about 15 years old.  I didn’t get to know her very well during that show, in part because she was incredibly shy. It wasn’t until that winter, when she confessed her love for Fight Club and Chuck Palahniuk during a break in a stage combat workshop that we all got a peek at the very cool kid lurking beneath the quiet surface.

Back in those days, the Pastimes shows didn’t have an actual costume designer.  Costumes tended to be pulled at the last minute, and while this worked well enough, it was a process that was less than ideal.

Kate in her Eowyn dress, taking a Norman guard to task.

In 2004, I joined the staff as their costume designer, and that year’s Robin Hood Faire was the first one I had a hand in.  It was also when I first became aware that Kate was also a budding seamstress. She brought to me a dress based on Lord of the Rings‘ Eowyn, and asked if it would work for her character in the show, and I gave it my approval.

After this, I have to admit, my timeline gets a little blurry.  We became good friends, and the Pastimes shows got larger and more ambitious. I started Storied Threads, and found myself, and my time, pulled in more and more directions. And Kate became my assistant costume designer for the Salem Pirate Faire. She took on a lot of alterations and construction jobs, and started pulling costumes and doing fittings when I couldn’t make a rehearsal.

Redemption Wall's wedding dress

In 2008, when she created an intentionally wonderfully awful wedding dress out of a $10 ’80s vintage dress, a handful of dingy lace curtains, and a ton of pink ribbon, I knew we were a match made in heaven.

It wasn’t long after this that I started hiring Kate to make some of the more basic Storied Threads stock.  Pirate sashes. Hester hats and Alan a Dale hats. She started coming down to the studio when we were both free, and rooting around in the scrap fabric bin finding the pieces that would work together that I’d forgotten all about. And by now, she’s a full-on member of Storied Threads, taking on not only stock but some of the commissioned pieces. Every time she comes to the studio she learns to make something new, and I send her home with a giant duffell bag full of fabric, patterns, and trim.  She’s become my preferred co-worker in the booth at shows as well — it’s wonderful to have somebody there who can talk to the customers about how things work and what we can make just about as well as I can, and who understands the pieces we sell as well as I do.

Kate and I (and Beatrix, of course) at CTRF in spring 2011

Storied Threads has grown.  And while I’m still (on paper, at least) a one-woman show, it’s become more than one person can handle.  If it weren’t for Kate, I’m pretty sure my head would explode, and brains can be a bear to get out of fabric without staining.

Sometimes, I worry that I don’t express to her well enough how valuable she is to me, as a friend, and as a part of this budding business. So, I’m taking the opportunity now to write this blog post, because nothing says thank you more than embarrassing amounts of public praise.

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The concept of investment is one I sometimes have trouble wrapping my brain around.  Every time I buy something, or every time I’m not in the studio physically making something, I start to stress out.  Luckily, I have sensible people around me (specifically Mike, my husband and idea-man, and Kate, my assistant and back-up brain) to remind me that these things are investments in my company, and things that (when planned well) will help to create a better Storied Threads.

Purchasing Idris, my new embroidery machine, is the large and obvious investment I’ve made this year. But there was no question on that one — we sat down, did a bunch of math, forecasted what my year might be like, and at the end even I couldn’t argue that it wasn’t a smart purchase. But other things are less obvious, and learning to take advantage of all my resources and view them properly has been something of a learning curve for me.

Idris, stitching out an awesome custom messenger bag.

 

For instance, on Saturday, I had a one-on-one lesson scheduled at Able Sewing Machine, where I had purchased my new MB-4.  That morning, I mentioned to Mike that I was reluctant to lose the studio time. After all, I’d had the machine for 3 weeks already, what would I get out of a lesson, when I could be making something? He reminded me that it was impossible to know all about the machine yet, and that an investment of my time in a lesson was no less an investment. And it turns out, he was right — I went to the lesson, and learned some really valuable tricks that have made me even more time-efficient when it comes to embroidery. I spent one hour, and who knows how much time those tricks will save me?

I also need to keep reminding myself that Kate is an awesome assistant who can make lots of stuff. I’ve got a board in my studio to which I stick all of my commission and custom orders, so that I don’t forget anybody, and I was COMPLETELY stressing out about it — there were so many of them! I was going over the list with Kate, and mentioned that one of them was a Mordred Vest, a garment that Kate has made for stock before. And she said, “You know…I could do that one.” And it was like lightning struck my brain. Why wasn’t I giving commissions to Kate that she was perfectly capable of? Why wasn’t I being smarter about sharing the work load? I also had a couple of hat commissions, and Kate already makes a good 75% of the hats for Storied Threads, so why wasn’t she making those?  As a result of this conversation, my commission board has been reduced to half what it was, as I passed along those pieces to her, allowing me to focus on the real custom orders, and the pieces that require a serger. Because Kate doesn’t have a serger. Yet.

So, yeah. Learning to use all of my resources. Learning to view things as investments. These are my lessons for 2012, and the result will be a bigger and better Storied Threads.

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Papal Seal Banner

A lot of what we do at Storied Threads is obvious. We do clothing, and it’s all over the website. We do patches, and there are tons of them up at Etsy.  But we also do a lot of work on a commission basis, sometimes things that we’ve never made before just because somebody asks us to. So when Paul Stickney, playing Cardinal Claudio at the Florida Renaissance Festival, asked me to make a couple of banners to hang in his stage area, it was a great chance to stretch my sewing muscles.

The banners he asked for will hang vertically from the cross beams, and the picture here doesn’t do them justice. They’re seven feet long, and bear a shield embroidered with the Papal Seal at the bottom.  I laid this one out on my too-short cutting table to take the picture, and the last two feet are hanging off the back end — it just doesn’t fit. Hopefully I’ll soon have pictures of them in action at the Festival!

Bran Falling at Winterfell

We’ve also been working hard to get a bunch of new patches made, and I’m REALLY happy with the results!  I got six new patches run this weekend, and will be debuting them on Etsy and Facebook over the course of the week.  Today’s new patch is this one, of Bran falling at Winterfell, from George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

Two or so weeks ago, up in the studio, this image just sort of popped into my head, along with the quote from Jaime Lannister.  I knew immediately that it was completely morbid….and yet, my brain insisted that it be made, and you creative types out there know how it is when something gets into your brain like that. The only way to get it out is to give it what it wants — life. So, with the help my my awesome husband (who drew me the tower), I got it digitized and stitched, and am quite happy with the results.

Speaking of my awesome husband — I feel so lucky that he helps me as much as he does with this business. Not only does he draw stuff for me when I hand him a scrap of paper with a terrible sketch that I had to label so he’d know what it was, but he even gladly donates his own time to help me figure stuff out when I need a second opinion.  This weekend, for instance, he went with me to Templecon, in Rhode Island, to check it out as a potential vending opportunity for 2013.  I know I want to do at least one con next year, and there are three that are local enough to me to be serious contenders — Templecon, Arisia, and Boskone. I made this plan too late to check out Arisia, and don’t think I’m going to make it to Boskone, so Templecon is the only one I’ll get to see in person this year. It will have to serve as both a scouting mission for that con specifically, and also as a template for cons in general, for me to get a feel for what vending the others might be like in terms of set-up and such. We didn’t spend too long there, a few hours at most, but we got to walk through all of the various vendor areas, see what they were like, talk to a couple of vendor friends who were there to get their thoughts on the show, and on the way home it was incredibly helpful to have Mike to bounce thoughts off of, and get his opinions in return. I’m still not sure what my plan will be for next year — there are so many factors to consider — but it was really helpful to see one of our local cons in action, and to think about how I might do there, and how different factors (location of my booth, what stock I focus on, etc) would affect my potential sales.

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