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Archive for December, 2013

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Aww, look at our cute little Arisia 2013 booth! This year will be EVEN BETTER.

Aww, look at our cute little Arisia 2013 booth! This year will be EVEN BETTER.

The past year was a big one for me, professionally speaking, as Storied Threads saw some major advances, starting with our expansion into the pop culture convention circuit. Arisia in Boston was our toe in the water, and we followed that up with successful runs at ConnectiCon and Rhode Island ComicCon.

All three shows are already on our 2014 calendar, along with Boston ComicCon and, tentatively, SuperMegaFest in Framingham. We’re also planning to return to the Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s spring Robin Hood show and fall Henry VIII show, and to Mutton and Mead.

That’s a busy schedule, right? Well, fortunately, I have a full-time helper in my husband Michael, who left his own job to join Storied Threads. My workload simply got too much for me to handle by myself, and I knew the company couldn’t grow without someone here in the studio on a regular basis. It was a scary move, but the fact this year’s Christmas rush was so much more manageable is proof that it was a good move.

We were able to take advantage of the extra time and give the website a long-overdue overhaul. The old site, which I built myself using the Dreamweaver program, had become outdated, unappealing, and not very functional as a direct sales outlet. We decided to scrap the old site entirely and rebuild it from the ground up using a GoDaddy template. I’m pretty happy with the final result, especially the new store function, which allowed me to re-stock several items I had taken down from the Etsy shop.

One of my goals for 2014 is to transition the pop culture-inspired items completely onto the website shop, and keep the original creations on Etsy. I’ll be using my social media outlets to let everyone know where they can find new products as I roll them out, and older products as they transition off of Etsy.

Speaking of older products, it’s time to wrap up this blog post with my traditional “most popular items of the year” review!

PATCHES

PatchBelieveLast year, my X-Files –inspired “I Want to Believe” patch was my number one seller, with 199 patches sold over the course of 2012. This year, it’s the number one seller again, and in 2013 we sold more than 260 of them! I don’t know why this patch has consistently been my top seller, but I’m not complaining, and maybe in 2014 we’ll break the 300 mark!

The rest of the top ten best sellers are:

2) The TARDIS door sign
3) The TARDIS police call box sign
4) Don’t Panic – inspired by Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
5) The TARDIS St. John’s Ambulance seal
6) The Plague Survivor Geek Merit Badge
7) The anti-demonic possession tattoo from Supernatural
8) The Mad Scientist Geek Merit Badge
9) Heart containers, inspired by the Legend of Zelda video game series
10) The Whovian Awareness Ribbon, the patch that started it all!

 

SCARVES

ScarfWinterGrey1Appropriately, the Winter is Coming design, inspired by A Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, is the top-selling scarf of the year. The rest of the top five are…

2) The Supernatural tattoo
3) The Doctor’s name in circular Gallifreyan
4) The Stuttgart scarf, based on the scarf worn by Tom Hiddleston as Loki in The Avengers (available only at cons)
5) Loki’s Helm

 

 

 

 

 

BAGS

MBagDoctorsName1The top design for all three models – the small messenger bag, the tablet-sized bag, and the laptop-sized bag – was the Doctor’s name. The Loki’s Army design was the second-best seller for the small messenger bags; the Iron Man-inspired “Following’s Really Not My Style” design, with the glow-in-the-dark arc reactor, was the number two tablet bag; and the crack in time and space from Doctor Who, which also glows, was the second-best-selling laptop bag.

We have a lot of new designs in mind for all our products, so stay tuned throughout 2014, and as always, we welcome requests and custom orders!

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Unusual commissions

Some friends of mine are having their first baby, and they decided to decorate his room with a medieval knight theme.  As they were planning, they had the idea of a teddy bear knight, but the commercially made outfits they were finding weren’t up to their standards. So they came to me.

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Sir Bear in his custom-made pants and tunic.

They brought me the bear, told me what they were looking for in color and theme, and left him in my capable hands.  I spent one afternoon taking measurements of him, finding fabrics in my scrap bin, and (as it turned out) talking to him. Because look at this guy! You can’t look into those eyes during a fitting (yes, we did fittings) and NOT wind up talking to him.

Once he was fitted out properly in pants and tunic (complete with keyhole neckline, since I didn’t want him to feel choked, after all), it was on to the surcoat. Which, clearly, is the difference between Ye Olde Peasant Bear and Sir Knight Bear.  I knew that they wanted him dressed in dark blue and silver, and with a lion rampant embroidered on the front.  So, armed with a full sheet of teddy bear measurements and some fabric left over from my husband’s Nemo coat, I went to work.

Sir Bear in his finished outfit.

Sir Bear in his finished outfit.

In the end — I’m pretty happy with how Sir Bear came out. I think he looks quite spiffing, and I felt really lucky to find a spool of the smallest of silver braid trim in my stash. I don’t know when I bought it or for what, but it was perfect for this project.

And even better — my friends seemed really happy with him, too, when they came to pick him up.  They say he’ll be the protector of their son’s bedroom, and I look forward to seeing him in his place of honor there.

 

 

 

 

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What girl could resist taking a selfie with such a handsome knight?

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At San Diego Comic Con earlier this year, Zachary Levi talked about his company The Nerd Machine, and its relationship with the charity Operation Smile. He said, “If you’re gonna have a business, I really believe in conscientious capitalism. Or, what I call conscientious capitalism. Go, run a business. Make your money. Take care of yourself. Do good in the world. And if you can give a buck at the same time? Win-win, that’s great.” It was a sentiment that really resonated with me, and what I try to do each year with Storied Threads.

In past years, proceeds from the sales of the Hiddlestoner Fandom Pride patches, among others, went to UNICEF, and the profits from pet bandana sales went to one of my local no-kill animal shelters.

ImageThis year, I introduced the “Cosplay Does Not Equal Consent” patch to benefit RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). I was inspired to create the patch after reading several accounts of harassment against cosplayers at cons across the country. The “Cosplay Does Not Equal Consent” slogan became a call to action, and I thought a patch would be a good way to raise awareness of the problem, and some money for a good cause.

On a lighter note, I learned through my husband that there was an effort underway to restore the movie “Manos – The Hands of Fate.” This is a truly awful movie, which most people know through “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” and the few copies that exist are in terrible shape.

ImageBy dumb luck, someone discovered a work print of the film, and launched a campaign to restore the movie and make it available on Blu-ray. Fundraising is ongoing, and I thought it would be fun to support the project and introduce a whole new generation to a piece of dubious cinematic history. To that end, we created our Manos – the Hands of Fate patch, and are donating proceeds from its sale to the restoration project.

There’s still time to boost my year-end contributions! Grab these patches at my Etsy shop, and all sales made before the end of the year will be included in my donations.

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The main page of my website as it is now.

The main page of my website as it is now.

We’re coming up on the New Year, which is traditionally a time for personal renewal. I’ve jumped on that bandwagon early, and am preparing to re-launch the Storied Threads website.

I’ve been kicking the idea around for many months now, and have put it off for various reasons, most of which amount to, “I’m too busy.” This business takes up a lot of time with more immediate concerns, such as building stock, filling online orders, updating my books, working shows…the website was always an afterthought, and never a priority for me.

That changed last month, when I received a notice through Etsy, my main online outlet, that some of my patches had been frowned upon by certain corporate lawyers. It wasn’t my first such notice, and those are something of an inherent hazard if you work in the weird cottage industry of making handmade goodies based on pop culture properties (just ask anyone who ever made and sold a Jayne hat online).

However, Etsy only cuts its vendors so much slack on such things, and they made it clear they would shut down my online store if it kept happening. That’s something I very literally cannot afford.

The whole thing caused a lot of stress at first, but it’s proving to be a blessing in disguise. It’s forced me to rethink my merchandise and focus more on original designs, and items inspired by public domain sources. It also forced me to get off my butt and update the website.

It was a daunting decision. It meant scrapping the site I had, which I created myself through the Dreamweaver program, and rebuilding a new site from the ground up – a site with its own online store, so I could completely remove my pop culture-oriented items from Etsy and sell them directly through my own site.

(An aside: the original items and public domain stuff will stay on Etsy, which is still good exposure and a reliable source of revenue.)

The new website-in-progress.

The new website-in-progress.

After doing my research, I decided to stick with GoDaddy, my current website host, and take advantage of their website builder tools. While this means I’m limited to their templates, it also means that my husband can work on the website, leaving me free to focus on the Christmas rush.

I’m not completely off the hook, however: I’ve had to prep a ton of photos for the online store, which I’m building. I’m tackling that in phases, and phase one will involve shifting select items out of the Etsy shop, and reintroducing some items I’ve taken down in the interest of keeping my Etsy presence safe and secure.

Another benefit of the re-launch: I’ll be able to establish a stronger and more pleasing web presence, shift some focus back onto my clothing line, and finally start drumming up more wedding business – a market that I’ve barely tapped.

I’m hoping the new site will be ready to go live within the next few days. Keep an eye on my social media pages for the announcement when it goes up!

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