Monday, October 2, 2017

New "Treats" for October!

Yes, we are doing NEW DESIGNS  - other than Part 2 of our Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler!  Still, it's that mystery mania that is filling our days (and nights and weekends) and keeping us on the phone begging our partners for more supplies. So far they haven't stopped answering our calls!

We are shipping newbies to shops around the world today, after a busy weekend of assembling and packing orders. Here's what will be arriving at your favorite needlework source soon:

Dear Santa, I've Been Good #187

You can thank a long-time (and very persistent) L*K customer for this design. She's been patiently requesting this saying...year after year. Christmas came early for her, and now she's busy stitching multiples of this for family Christmas gifts. Includes 3 white snowflake buttons. Many thanks, Esther!

Nutcracker Sleds Snippet S133

It's sled time! Three more charming designs are great for your tree, stocking stuffers, package toppers or whatever you want. Snippet includes varied embellishments for all 3 sleds.

Stocking Sleds Snippet Snippet S134

The more, the merrier...we've got another set of 3 sled designs for 2017. They're a snap to stitch and finish and "snow much fun"! Embellishments for all 3 sleds included.

Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler PART 2

It's time for the second (middle) part of your mystery sampler, and I know you're ready! This section includes more text, some classic L*K holiday motifs, fun embellishments (optional) and more MYSTERIOUS fun! 

Thanks for your patience. I know many of you have been waiting for Spirit of Christmas supplies. We always have the charts, embellishment packs and Needle Nannies available to our shops, but there have been some backorders on threads and fabrics (especially orders placed after our original pre-order deadline).  It's been difficult for our suppliers to keep up with your mystery demand, and we really appreciate all of their hard work.

***Have you figured out the author of our beautiful holiday mystery quote? 
HINT: This quote was part of a Presidential address 90 years ago on December 25, 1027. 

LEAVE A COMMENT with your "Presidential answer". Happy Sleuthing, everyone!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Button mystery magic from JABCO

Their name may be Just Another Button Company, but there's nothing ordinary about the creative magic that happens at JABCO every day.

We've worked with Cecile, daughter Rachel and the talented team for many years to supply and create special buttons for L*K projects, including mystery samplers. So I decided to enlist their expert help again for our Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler.

Last year I shared a bunch of behind-the-scenes pics of them crafting their clay masterpieces for the SPOOKED! Mystery Sampler. AMAZING!

This year we included some custom clay buttons, but are also using their new hand-dyed buttons. These colorful gems come in lots of different shapes and sizes. AND they will dye them to match DMC colors...brilliant!

Here are button pros Colleen (foreground) and Hollie. Hollie mixes clay, packs order and, yes, counts buttons! They are counting darling little sweetheart bird buttons for our sampler. 

***Colleen gets "extra credit" because she dresses to match whatever projects she is assigned that day. She has on poinsettia earrings and gorgeous scarf that coordinates with Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler. I sometimes listen to Christmas music when I'm designing Christmas in March, but dressing the part...I'm impressed! Colleen is also a stitcher and is delighted to be a part of our mystery journey.

Here are Cathy and Colleen counting out hand-dyed buttons. Cathy answers the phone and takes orders - but EVERYONE in the office pitches in to count. All the ladies can count by 2's in their sleep!

Dying the buttons looks a bit like playing in the kitchen. Here's Rachel mixing dye to add to boiling water. You can see part of the inventory of undyed buttons behind her and the open door is their "natural ventilation" system. A nice air-exchange system is in the JABCO future.

I love this picture - the wooden spoon bouquet! They use different colored spoons for different colored dyes. If you look closely, you can see a button "recipe" on the card at bottom. 

These buttons are going into a dye bath. They use a strainer buasket so all the buttons come out of the dye bath at the same time. Check out the pretty purple spoon!

Here's the high tech button drying system...beautiful hand-dyed buttons chilling out on towels.

Here's a super closeup of tiny buttons on a mesh rack. Otherwise, they fall right through the holes on the strainer baskets.

Here are (left to right) Cecile, Janice and Rachel. Cecile and Rachel run the biz (I am so jealous of their natural curls...sigh). Janice formerly worked at Hillcreek Designs where she hand-dyed the buttons. JABCO recently acquired the biz and Janice taught them her tricks of the trade.  I used hand-dyed buttons from Janice for many years. I'm so grateful that JABCO is carrying on the colorful tradition.

And perhaps the most important "ladies" behind-the-scenes? These are Rachel's 2 darling daughters (Cecile's granddaughters) - Anna and Amelia. They are lovingly nicknamed Misses Button 1 and 2

Who can recognize the "mystery visitor" in the back? It's a surprise appearance from Cathy Habermann, aka Hands On Design. This pic was snapped on a visit from Aunt Cathy to the button factory. I love Cathy's darling, creative designs and beautiful finishes. Shout out to Kathy from L*K! 

Many thanks to Cecile for furnishing and narrating the photos for this post!!!

Meanwhile, we're expecting another button shipment to deliver tomorrow. Which means, more Spirit of Christmas Embellishment Pack assembly on our agenda.

Happy Week ahead, everyone!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mystery Sampler Madness!

Here's the big question we're asking ourselves at L*K headquarters multiple times a day...
"What the heck is going on???"

As in, "why is Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler going CRAZY?" We've done 5 mystery projects before and this one is topping them all...easily...and we're just getting started.

***The demand is making it really hard for our suppliers - and therefore, us - to keep up with orders. If you didn't order before our pre-order deadline on August 10, you may have to wait a few weeks. Some recent orders will not be shipped until October 2 - our Spirit of Christmas Part 2 ship date.

Here's why...everything is HANDMADE! Our fabric, thread and embellishment suppliers are working hard to get you their products, but it all takes time. We had extra inventory (that was adequate based on previous mysteries) on hand after our original shipment, but demand quickly depleted our supplies. 

1. The fabric from PTP is hand-dyed. Here's a pic of our new Heartland fabric on the drying racks. We'll post more soon about the busy ladies at Picture This Plus in Abilene, Kansas. Marilyn will be driving a new shipment to Wichita next week. Meanwhile, she and her staff are working on hundreds more pre-cuts. 

2. The over-dyed threads from Weeks Dye Works are hand-dyed. We visited Miranda and her team last summer and were amazed at the beautiful, intricate business of dyeing fibers. We call and update WDW several times a week on quantities and they're doing their best to keep up, but...we're not their only customers and it's a busy time in the cross stitch biz. 

Every time we get a package from WDW we're thrilled. Then we begin the tedious process of assembling the thread packs. We can turn these around in a day, with a little help from the L*K elves. If threads arrive one day, we're ready to ship the next day. But you gotta get them first!

3. Our buttons from Just Another Button Company (for embellishment pack) are hand-crafted and guessed it! We'll also do a blog post soon behind-the-scenes at JABCO. Cecile, Rachel and the gang have been shipping us thousands of beautiful buttons and they're working on thousands more this week. Picture above shows some buttons being dyed and dried.

4. The Spirit of Christmas Needle Nannies are hand-made! I know...this is getting repetitive. Kim and the dotty girls at Zappy Dots make these little magnetic wonders by hand. I can't imagine the stories they have to tell from working with these powerful magnets. We have a host of them ourselves! Who knew the Needle Nannies would be attracted to the metal legs on our work tables?!

***So...long story short...if your favorite needlework supplier tells you she's waiting on a shipment from L*K, she is!!! And...we are waiting on shipments from our suppliers so we can assemble and ship the needlework shops around the world. No worries, though. The Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler will be revealed to everyone, eventually. 

On a different note...Alan and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary over the Labor Day holiday!!!!

We didn't mean to dress alike...but it happened

I know...FORTY! Sounds like such a giant milestone, and I think it is. We summoned our daughters (and L*K namesakes) and their husbands home to spend the weekend with us...chatting, eating and enjoying the little lake in our backyard. We even got a new lake toy - a standup paddle board with pedals. It's easier to balance than the traditional paddle board with an oar.

Alan, Linda, Sarah, Jeff, Ali and Barclay

Saturday night we had dinner at a fabulous farm-to-table blackberry farm near our house, Elderlie Farm. We snapped this pic during the appetizer course on the patio. Then we moved inside for 5 more fabulous locally sourced courses. It was a perfect evening...quiet so you could talk easily, sharing wonderful food and paired wine with our favorite people - our daughters and their spouses.

As sometimes happens when you've been married to someone a VERY long time, Alan and I showed up in matching blue-and-white striped outfits - without planning it. So funny and a little sweet!

After 40 years, I'm still pinching myself for choosing the right life partner. I don't think we "thought it through" as much as many young couples do nowadays. We just went "hey, we love each...let's get married". And figured out the rest of the stuff as it happened over the years...and years...and years!

We're both looking forward to the years ahead...and a little more sleep after the Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler is solved!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lots of DOTS!!!

We're drowning in DOTS at L*K headquarters!

Well, officially they're called Needle Nannies and they're made by the creative gals at Zappy Dots. We simply call them DOTS!

For the first time in "mystery history", we're offering a matching Needle Nanny for our project. We worked with Kim and the gang at Zappy Dots to create a Spirit of Christmas Needle Nanny.

What do you do with a Needle Nanny?
It's a super magnetic little dot where you can park your needle and/or scissors. You attach it to both sides of your stitching fabric, or wherever you want to hold things securely.

These little magnetic marvels are SUPER strong, and I'm not kidding. When we're working with them around the L*K office it's not uncommon for them to jump out of your hands if you near another metal surface. Thank goodness we've done this before and have developed a method to handle the magnetic magic.

Here's how the process unfolds...

First I chatted with Kim and she agreed to work with us on a special Spirit of Christmas Needle Nanny. Then I created and emailed her several art files so she could make samples. Then Kim got to work and emailed me pics and then mailed actual samples. We both agreed on a design with a snippet of the sampler and the logo on top of it. In case you collect these little buggers, you will know which one this is...the one that says Spirit of Christmas on it!

A couple days ago a heavy box arrived at our house. When we opened it we were greeted with sheets of metal covered in darling DOTS. We're expecting another shipment next week because you all surprised us with your Needle Nanny enthusiasm!

While I was waiting for the dots, I designed and printed piles of Spirit of Christmas inserts to hold the Needle Nannies inside their 2" x 2" zip bags.

Then our favorite employee Carmen got to work! She's our favorite employee as well as L*K Employee of the Month - every month. Admittedly she's our ONLY employee, but we can't sing her praises enough. Carmen has been working for us a couple mornings a week for 9 years now! I met her while volunteering at a local elementary school. Her son, Elizeo,  was in 3rd grade when she began working at L*K. He just began his senior year yesterday...hard for all of us to believe. Elizeo is an honor student and so proud of him. 

What does Carmen do when it's not mystery time?
Almost anything that requires assembly...designs put in sacks, embellishment packs, kits...Carmen's fingerprints are on it. And she does everything faster than we do! I used to hire high school girls for extra hands at L*K, but they kept getting cars, graduating and moving on. Carmen has become an important part of the L*K family. 

This picture shows package inserts, a couple Needle Nanny tops, and the rare earth magnets that we put on the back. These little guys are SO strong, you can't just pull them apart. You have to slide them off sideways.

These white discs are the spacers that come between the magnets. Without them, we'd never be able to separate the magnets. After they've done their important job, they end up in the trash.

Here are the finished Spirit of Christmas Needle Nanny packs. Yes, they are all stuck to each other!!! Carmen lines then up in a box and they're one marvelous magnetic pile. We'll separate them when we're packing orders. That could be interesting...

Here's what's on schedule this WEEKEND at L*K headquarters and our remote office (our house!):

* We're expecting 2 more boxes from Weeks Dye Works today, so we'll be putting together hundreds more Spirit of Christmas Thread Packs.

We got this box of threads yesterday, but we're waiting on 2 more boxes today before assembly begins

* Tomorrow, Saturday, we're driving to nearby Abilene, Kansas - the home of Picture This Plus. We will be picking up several thousand pieces of precut Spirit of Christmas fabrics!!! Imagine that many fabric precuts, all in one place. I'll share a picture next week. I'm hoping Marilyn and her helpers are still speaking to us after we swamped them with fabric orders. I think we better show up with some refreshments.

Embellishment Packs for dinner, anyone?

* Our dining room table is still full of Spirit of Christmas Embellishment Packs. We'll take a pause in assembly while we wait for another shipment of mystery buttons....whew.

* Alan will be at the office confirming quantities - via email - with needlework shops around the world.

What are you doing this weekend???  LEAVE A COMMENT and have a fun one!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How was your ECLIPSE day?

We had so much "eclipse" fun, I want to take a quick break from MYSTERY SAMPLER scoop, and share! I promise another behind-the-scenes mystery update soon!

So here we are...looking geeky in our official eclipse glasses, gaping at the historic event. But where were we? We traveled to sunny, scenic Missouri...our neighboring state. Many months ago we signed up with a group of friends to ride our bikes on the KATY trail during the eclipse.

What's the KATY Trail State Park? It's our nation's longest continuous rails-to-trails conversion with almost 240 miles of trail from St. Louis to Kansas City. It has beautiful scenery and is super well maintained...and did I say it is blissfully FLAT?!

Cool stone railway tunnel behind us at beginning of ride. See how refreshed/unsweaty we look?

We drove to Missouri with 6 of our favorite bike buddies, 8 bikes and enough snacks/drinks/photographic equipment for a long expedition. Alas, we only rode for one day...but what a day!

The Total Eclipse of the KATY ride was organized through the Missouri State Parks. We signed up many months ago before our Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler even crossed my imagination. Leaving town the week before our September 1 shipment wasn't a great idea, but it was a once in a lifetime eclipse...right?

For a brief moment I considered packing my Spirit of Christmas Embellishment Packs but decided to let them rest at home and wait until I returned. The drivers will thank me for not distributing random beads and buttons in their back seats.

We began about 9 AM, cruising by cliffs on one side...

...and the calm Missouri river on the other side

Every time you pass through a small town on the KATY, there are charming little "depots" with important stuff like restrooms, benches and bike repair stations. And during this ride...SNACKS and DRINKS!

Check out these scientific eclipse cookies our friend Vicki made for us

My husband Alan (right) and 2 other K-State faithful in their purple

Alan wore a Kansas State (Go Wildcats!) jersey which was a great conversation starter along the trail. There were riders from many states and it's so fun to meet new people as you roll along. 

Beautiful views everywhere!

But what about the eclipse??
We were in the area of TOTALITY, so we kept our geeky eclipse glasses handy as the eclipse began about 1 PM. 

We would stop our bikes. gaze at the eclipse, then ride on

We managed to finish the 37 mile route about 2 minutes before TOTALITY. It might sound like good planning, but it was definitely accidental. It was getting really hot on the trail, and I just wanted to finish the ride.

We viewed "TOTALITY" with other gazers in Jefferson City, MO

Below are some pics our bike friend Bob took for us. Aren't they amazing? AND...he carried his camera on his bike!

After we were done riding, the organizers served us a hot dog/hamburger lunch with tons of iced tea/lemonade/water, which was great. I'm not sure a mini bag (alright...2 mini bags!) of chili Fritos have ever tasted so good. Then we waited to shuttle our bikes and ourselves (in separate vehicles) back to our starting point. During our wait we chatted with some of our 500+ new bike buddies about our adventure.

Now it's back to work on the Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler. Can you identify the goodies in the picture above??

* Your eclipse adventure
* What are the "covert" items in photo above?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mystery Color Revealed!

One of my favorite things about doing a Mystery Sampler is working with suppliers to make custom goodies for us! There are SO many creative people behind the scenes at an L*K Mystery!!!

I've been working with Miranda and the talented gang at Weeks Dye Works for many years. We've created several cool colors together...clockwork (Spooked! Mystery Sampler), Busy Lizzie (Things Unseen Mystery Sampler) and Oscar (Holly & Hearts Mystery Sampler). Not only do I get to request and collaborate on a NEW overdyed thread color, I get to help with the new color fun.

This year Miranda agreed to create a new color especially for Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler. Our new color will be a part of the Spirit of Christmas Thread Pack, along with 8 other lovely WDW colors. There will be 10 skeins in all, including 2 skeins of one color. 

And....drumroll...the NEW COLOR is...OYSTER!
I'm not sure OYSTER is a holiday word, but hey, I guess lots of people make oyster stuffing? Here's how "Oyster" became a part of the L*K/WDW family.

To begin the process I described the color I was dreaming about to Miranda. It's not a traditional Christmas color, but I thought it would blend beautifully with the muted pinky reds and greens in the sampler. I gave Miranda several DMC numbers that were similar. Since WDW threads are overdyed, they incorporate several beautiful hues.

Then Miranda got to work, mixing her color magic, and sent me 5 sample colors. I'm sure this is a really time consuming and tricky process, but Miranda is a sweetheart. Those of you who have met her know this already. And she has that charming North Carolina accent and politeness that makes me just want to call WDW to chat with everyone in the office. **There were originally 5 color samples,  but I played with 2 of them - stitching, taking out, restitching on sampler -  before I made my final decision.

What color is oyster?
Just like a real oyster, it's a beautiful blend of muted colors...lilac, taupe, pink and gray. It's just yummy (no pun intended)! Do you like to eat oysters? Being a Kansas girl...not so much for me.

I love playing with words, so I originally sent Miranda a list of about 30 possible color names. Maybe I was inspired by the oyster shadowbox hanging in my hallway - from my favorite source, Home Goods?! The colors at WDW are often named after something organic...plants, flowers, birds, animals, fish, get the idea. When we finally chatted on the phone, we both agreed that OYSTER was perfect for this color. 

Fast forward to the exciting day when we received a couple GIANT boxes from Weeks Dye Works with our threads for Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler. **Thanks to your generous response, we had to order a couple more BIG boxes, and the WDW gang is busy at work dyeing more threads, putting them on cards, and readying to ship us next week.

The beautiful threads arrive conveniently packaging in a bag of 100. Inside the bag are 10 bundles with 10 skeins each and a label with name and person who packed it. So organized!

Then the fun begins! We set up 3 work stations to assemble thread packs - 2 in our basement and another in the L*K office. It's a little tricky to get the threads into the plastic bags, but we've developed a system involving that piece of cardboard you see in middle of table.

Then the finished thread packs get stacked in big totes (on loan from the US Postal Service!). Eventually they will find their way into orders from shops around the world...and finally to your house!

Our Spirit of Christmas Thread Pack is available to order NOW! It's an optional purchase, but so convenient to have full skeins of all the threads you'll need. For now, it's the only place you'll find WDW Oyster. Oyster will be available in general distribution in March 2018.

The Thread Pack will have enough threads to complete your mystery sampler. **If you stitch the 3 BONUS charts (you'll receive one with each of the 3 mystery parts), more threads may be required. 

Here are some of the friendly (camera shy) staff hard at work at Weeks Dye Works in North Carolina. We asked them for a few pics, and they sent us these colorful views.

Getting the orders to shops

Beautiful threads and gorgeous wools

Those giant cones of colorful floss!

I've got 100 more thread packs to assemble before the next big boxes of threads arrive next week, so back to work for me and Netflix in my basement.

CHECK BACK SOON for more behind-the-scenes peeks at our upcoming Spirit of Christmas Mystery Sampler!

**One more thing...we keep getting questions if it's too late to order Spirit of Christmas. Definitely not! Just let your favorite needlework supplier know. We will be shipping needlework shops around the world on September 1. That shipment will include Part 1 charts with thread key, 1st BONUS design, thread packs, fabric precuts, embellishment packs, and Spirit of Christmas Needle Nannies. 

HAPPY OYSTER, everyone!