Thursday, September 27, 2012


As is a State Fair tradition, I didn't frame my cross stitch entry until the absolute last minute.  Even though I made it months ago.

If you've been to my Etsy shop, you've probably noticed that the majority of the cross stitch items for sale are unframed.  There are many reasons, most of which can be summed up by telling you that I'm lazy and framing is a pain in the ass.  For you, the consumer, framing adds an extra expense.  Professional framing would raise the final cost higher than most people would be able to pay (or so I assume, based on the complete lack of people clamoring for framed cross stitch).  And, as you know if you've ever gone to a frame store ever, tolerable frames aren't cheap.  So, putting it in a frame costs money.  Having to ship a framed item costs more than shipping a thin piece of cloth with string all over it.  Pick out your own frame, that's my philosophy.

 As an arteest, I wanted something that paired elegantly with the design while being available at A.C. Moore a few hours before I had to submit it.  I also felt that my vision did not include spending more than $5 for a frame.

If you do buy a cross stitched item that's already framed, you should expect to pay a bit more, but don't buy something that's been poorly framed.

This example is not the finished piece, but keep in mind that the picture they chose still includes what looks like hoop indentations.  While this is a fairly simple design, the finished product will be matted and framed.  This would probably make the $45 price slightly more reasonable, but this is the picture they chose.  You probably don't want someone who won't even iron the thing for the picture to frame it (and at $45, they're framing it themselves).

Sometimes the stitches will tighten up the fabric, so you'll get bulges around groups of stitches.  This may not be fixed by ironing, but the hoop indentations and hand crumpling will.

Here's the real framing process:
1.  Iron.
2. Iron some more.
3. Trim stray/extra long threads.
4. Place in frame.
5. Trim edges of fabric.
6. More ironing.
7. Place in frame.
8. Examine cross stitch from the front, curse.
9. More trimming.
10. More ironing.

Repeat until cross stitch is beautifully framed or you stop caring.  

Monday, September 24, 2012


Not only did I need to actually make entries for the State Fair competitions, I also needed to actually make them look nice.

This is my first sweater.  I guess babies have bigger arms than I thought.  Piecing it together was pretty simple, but I'm not sure I agree with the pattern's uneven sides thing.  Which is actually in the pattern and not something I made up to hid my own ineptitude.

The biggest challenge: finishing.  I decided not to use buttons since they're a choking hazard.  Also, I didn't have any matching buttons.  My baby-safe alternative was to use snaps.  Mostly because I could find those in the house and quickly sew them on.

I think I would feel more confident about the finished sweater if I actually had a baby to put it on.  Are babies the same size as American Girl dolls?  I feel like the answer is no, and that's why I don't have any pictures of Kirsten modeling the sweater and hat.

Oddly, the colors don't look as close of a match on the finished items.  I think it's because the blocks of color are thicker on the cotton items than on the sweater.  

Adding to my angst: once I got to scenic Doswell, Virginia and was putting my tags on my items, I was next to a woman with a baby blanket, a baby set, and a crocheted rabbit.  Naturally, I was entering an afghan, a baby set, a crocheted animal, and an 18ct cross stitch piece.  I almost immediately considered withdrawing Hat, Sweater, and Blanket Buddy--especially once I realized I wasn't smart enough to bring safety pins so I could attach my set to itself.  But then I remembered that I'd invested 20 cents of my own money.  And her set was severely lacking in a bunny that could be chewed and puked on.  Also, I assume modern babies either like bright colors or are not at all discerning in their tastes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

All Set

I wasn't originally planning to enter the State Fair this year since, well, they were bankrupt a few months ago.  But apparently there is a new State Fair with basically the same website as the last State Fair, so I'm quickly making some things to enter as a baby set (and bringing some other things I've already made).

Since noticing that Lily Sugar 'n Cream's Over the Rainbow and Bernat Baby Coordinates' Posy Patch were basically the exact same colors, I've been wanting to make some matching items with the different yarns.  I couldn't find anything that actually defined what a "baby set" has to include, so I've decided that it's a bunny blanket buddy, a hat, and a sweater.  And if the State Fair says differently, it's their fault for not including that on their website.

For the brim of the hat I used some Hot Pink from a project that I'm totally going to go back to and finish one of these days (except I'm not, and it's just going to keep sitting in a bag because I'm a liar with a short attention span).  It's not an exact match--just like Posy Patch is a slightly different texture and probably not exact--but close enough.

All of these items have been worked on while watching British television at various levels of legality.  I may have to start watching The Tudors just to get this sweater finished.

If you're someone I know who is expecting a baby, your baby could be getting this potentially award winning collection!  Unless your baby has been declared male, in which case I'm working on something else and may have already made you something that I have repeatedly failed to mail.  Suspense!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My First Craft Fair

I did manage to get 61 Lucky Cats made in time for the Have a Heart Bazaar.  My awesome planning and production skills did not account for my packing materials, so only 50 little cats and 4 paired cats (two cats on a bigger canvas) actually made it to the show.

When packing up, I remembered the advice on Craftster that having too much stock of too much variety could confuse and confound potential customers.  As I looked through my already made items, I decided that I had no idea what people might actually be interested in, so I might as well bring some lightweight items and put price tags on them.

I bought acrylic frames for my brand sign and a sign for the Lucky Cats.  I had wire shelves so the Lucky Cats sign and my framed cross stitch could sit a bit higher.  I didn't bring my camera since I didn't want to have to worry about that, but my set up looked great.  Lucky Cats in little protective sleeves (with a Jupiter Star Power label on the back) lined up on one side of the table, crochet and cross stitch items on the other, and a sign up sheet for custom items in the middle with my Jupiter Star Power sign.

Unfortunately, I was placed in the middle of resellers.  "Bazaar means glorified yard sale," I texted my sister.

"Yard sale?" Kristen texted back.  "Damn, there's all kinds of crap you could have sold."  I don't think she realized that even if it was junk from our grandparents' house, I couldn't just leave it in my parking spaces at the end of the day.

My two spaces were also in the middle of the sun.  Sitting down, the sun was directly in my eyes.  It wasn't much better standing.  Along with the true meaning of the word bazaar, I also learned that canopies weren't optional.

Yes, I knew I was going to a parking lot in Virginia in early September.  Yes, I knew smart people used canopies.  I also knew I could not afford to invest in a canopy for my first craft show.  I could always put my leftover minicards in sold Etsy orders and my acrylic sign frames were 60% off at A.C. Moore (since I was smart enough to recognize that Staples' pricey professional sign frames were really cheap craft store frames).  The rest of my set up was borrowed from my parents, and I might not have signed up at all if we hadn't had a folding table in the attic.  The chairs were on loan from Amy, my accountant and legal intern.  I don't actually know how much a canopy would cost, but I assume it's too much for someone dipping their toes in the land of craft fairs.  Also, once the wind started to really kick up, it probably would've blown away.

I didn't account for the wind.  I taped my sign up sheet down and gradually started taping down the little cross stitch pieces, but I don't know how we could have secured the increasingly cracked and chipped acrylic Lucky Cats sign.  By the fifth or sixth time it blew over, I was ready to throw it as hard as I could and swear loudly.

There were never very many people.  Several people walking by slowed down to look at the cats and say, "How cute!" or pick them up and look at the backs, but my explanation of the prices seemed to scare them away.  Two different Baptist churches came to scout for their craft fairs.  After giving me a flier, a large woman picked up one of the hats and fondled it while repeating how cute it was.  She ran her hands around the inside and tugged on it and put it back down before walking on to the next booth.  A well dressed woman from a different church took one of my cards and handed me a flier.

Julia came to visit.  She picked up one of the hats and immediately wanted one, "in my size.  Dark red.  Not bright red."  She tapped the frame of the Super Mushroom cross stitch.  "Not this."  I asked her to write it down on the custom order sign up sheet (earlier in the day I'd considered adding Marcela's rainbow scarf like putting a few coins in a donation jar to get people started).  We talked yarn choices.  We mostly talked about her new job and my now less new job.

A woman came through with two elderly women--Miss Maxine and an unnamed woman with a cane.  The younger of the three--though older than me--was either a nurse or a devoted family member.  Nurse or Devoted Relative looked at the cats and told one of her charges that she would like those.  Then they kept going to their real destination: the reseller next to me.

"These are the shoes I like," said Miss Maxine.

"What's your shoe size?" Nurse or Devoted Relative asked in the tone used for the mentally incompetent or the presumed mentally incompetent.  Miss Maxine was already taking off one of her own shoes and sliding her foot into one of the pink shoes.  She had enough balance to pull this off, but not enough to use her hands to help her try it on.

"You're an 8 and a half," said Nurse or Devoted Relative.  Miss Maxine had already moved her foot back and forth.  The shoe fit.  "How much?" asked Nurse or Devoted Relative.

"$3," said one of the people running the table.

"How about two?" asked Nurse or Devoted Relative.

The vendor paused.  I could practically hear her weighing her options.  Not many people had come through. It was already after 10, and no one in our corner of the lot had been selling well.  Her hesitation and her expression screamed that she wanted $3, but she was afraid that would mean the shoes wouldn't sell at all.  "Okay," she said.

Miss Maxine got her shoes in a plastic grocery bag.  She walked slowly off, holding the bag behind her back.

A woman with younger children had come up to look with the shoes while Nurse or Devoted Relative was bargaining on Miss Maxine's behalf.  Young Mom picked up a pink high heel while her children ran around the parking lot shrieking and grabbing toys from a currently unguarded table.  "How much?"

"$2."  I wondered if this was because the woman had clearly heard Nurse or Devoted Relative's haggling.

"Would you take one?"

I stopped listening to turn to Amy and start judging.  We'd both been fervently eavesdropping since it was yet another slow time at Jupiter Star Power's temporary West End location.  We agreed that there was something petty and mean about haggling over a pair of $2 used shoes.  You either want it or you don't was my philosophy.  I find used shoes in my size so rarely that analyzing how I would behave in this situation was akin to deciding that I would never unethically use the ability to turn invisible.

"Yard sale people," Amy said.  "Even my dad wouldn't do that."

My signs and my price tags and my smiling face as I explained prices probably told people I was not willing to dicker.  Or maybe it was my scowl from squinting into the sun or my willingness to reapply sunscreen while sitting behind my table.

It never came up, but I don't think I would have been willing to accept an offer of a lower price.  As always, I'd calculated the cost of supplies and the time I'd put it.  I named prices to myself and decided if they sounded right.  I'd priced some things that morning, holding up an item and telling Amy a number.  She'd either say yes or tell me to go higher, and I that's what I wrote on the tag or sticker.  Even as the hours passed by and Kristen texted, "Sold anything?" I never felt that desperation to sell something at any price.  By 8:30 that morning I'd accepted that I might be out my table cost.  I didn't consider the loss of my supplies or marketing stuff to be a loss; I had it for next time, and I'd just take it with me when I left.

Around noon I noticed condensation inside some of my Lucky Cat packages.  The ones with black backgrounds were getting hot enough to sweat.  I quickly packed them up and hoped their coats of clear sealant would protect them.  I wondered if it was time to consider packing up and leaving.

Across from my table was a couple selling fake flowers arranged in vases and other containers.  It--like the beaded holiday decorations further down--was the sort of thing I might have considered browsing if we weren't trying so desperately to get rid of all the knick knacks and other junk in my grandparents' house.

The wind started to blow again.  Amy and I took up our positions, rising from our chairs to hover over the table in case we needed to grab Kindle kozies before they blew away (the loose cross stitch pieces in plastic sleeves had already been taped to the table).  Across from us, one of the flower arrangements fell.  The vase shattered as soon as it hit the asphalt.  Sympathetic sounds came from all the surrounding vendors.

I looked at my cell phone--12:48.  I looked at the beads of moisture starting to form inside more of my bags.  I saw the couple across from me starting to box up their surviving items, and I saw a lack of shoppers.

"Let's pack it up," I said.

I took the untouched cash box and my bag of supplies back to the car.  I drove it to the nearest possible space while Amy packed up the chairs.  We carried the unsold merchandise and the bundled chairs to the trunk before going back for the table.

Among the bazaar's failings were a parking lot that was too narrow.  I slowly, carefully backed out my father's Honda Accord with greater difficulty than I expected.  I was used to accommodating for his larger car when I drove it, but I think I still would have struggled if I'd been driving my Civic (assuming I could have actually fit both Amy and the table in my car).

Once I'd managed to get the car out and turned around, we faced the typical Richmond driver.  One person was waiting to pull in, possibly oblivious to the pick up truck struggling to back out.  The truck inched back, stopped, inched forward again, inched back.

"You can't drive!" Amy told them.

"Jump the curb," I said as if they could actually hear me.  "You're in a truck!"

We eventually escaped.  We complained about Richmond drivers and the typical yard sale crowd.  "That was like my own private 'Araby,'" I said as we drove down Gaskins.  I recognized Amy's silence.  "'Araby'? From The Dubliners?"


"There's this boy.  Like, 10, 11 years old.  And he's in love with this older girl.  So he wants to go to this bazaar called Araby so he can buy her a present because he thinks that'll make her fall in love with him.  And he thinks it's going to be amazing and exotic--because of the name--but then he gets there, and it's just cheap, tacky shit."


I couldn't tell if Amy considered this to be an apt literary metaphor or if she was questioning the life choices that had led her to associate with someone who unironically used the phrase "apt literary metaphor."

I dropped her off.  She invited me in.  I carried one of the chairs to her garage and realized I was too hot and tired and smelled too bad to interact with anyone.  I was going to go home and do nothing for the rest of the day.  She was going to go to a party in Fredericksburg.  I was invited.  I'd probably have fun.

Standing in the dim garage, I saw myself as a creature spending the rest of the day in my bathrobe.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Have a Heart Bazaar

This weekend you can live your dream of experiencing Jupiter Star Power LIVE by visiting me at the Have a Heart Bazaar from 8-1 this Saturday (9/8).  Assuming it doesn't rain, I'll be in the parking lot of Costen Floors with high quality handmade items!

The table will be a charming reproduction of the Jupiter Star Power experience as it does not involve a couch, my cat sleeping on craft supplies, or the shameful reality television that powers my muse.

There will be a small selection of official Kate Kindle Kozies and Kate Kindle Kozy Jr (sometimes I want to use up yarn but don't have enough for a full Kindle Kozy) and a whole litter of Lucky Cats.  They bring you good luck without having to maim a rabbit!

I still need to put the finishing touches on some kozies, make the rest of the Lucky Cats, and finish tagging and bagging.  Oh, and go to work like an adult with a real job.
I considered getting nice(ish) bags, decorating them, and charging a little bit extra for a bag, but I couldn't think of an amount that would cover costs and time without just pissing people off.  So, I found brown paper lunch bags.  You have no idea how tempted I am to decorate them and pretend they're collectibles.  I should probably be stopped before I start writing "#/50" on them.  They are reusable lunch bags though--after you take your fine merchandise home, you can put food in the bag!  Or children's party favors! SKY'S THE LIMIT!

Yeah, the Kindle Kozy Kollection is looking a bit sparse, but I didn't allow myself enough time for any serious mass crocheting.  I'll probably bring some of the cross stitch pieces that haven't sold on Etsy.  Maybe it'll give my table that rummage sale look that terrifies and befuddles potential customers, but who knows what somebody might want to buy?  

Monday, September 3, 2012

D is for Dragon

Kristen commissioned this as a present for Helen's baby.  She also felt that having a dragon pattern would be helpful since I know so many people who graduated from the Governor's School (*cough cough*).

Based on what I can tell from the tiny picture on the pattern, the original colors are pretty meh or at least inappropriate for a baby gift.  Normally I size down pictures for viewing convenience, but this is the original size.  Based on the comments that accompany the pattern, I assume this is to prevent people using the picture to copy the pattern.

Kristen and I considered using Harry Potter dragon colors.  This idea was scrapped and replaced with pastels since neither one of us could figure out what the hell "Harry Potter dragon colors" actually meant.

I've talked about changing pattern colors before.  In this one, there were color families used, but no real shading.  Choosing a new letter color definitely helped since that gave me something to match the other colors to.  I ended up writing out the symbols and randomly assigning a new color to them.  Then I sent Kristen this elegant and super helpful picture of what embroidery floss on top of gold fabric might look like.

After this, the only change was to add another green and to find out that the palest purple and the light yellow did not show up on this fabric.  While that might have been fixed once the backstitching was added, it was easier just to reassign colors.

To minimize crumpling the stitches in my grubby little hands, I did the letters all the way across, then started to do the dragons from the last letter.  While I could have started at the far right, I wanted to avoid as many counting mistakes as possible.  Each letter was 18-19 stitches wide and two stitches between each letter put the width at 160+ stitches.  Counting that out would be a terrible idea even for people who actually know how to count.

Also, I managed to fuck up some of the spacing anyway.

For the backstitching, I went with black for the outlines and claws, and sparkles if I already had the color for wings and spines.  Here you can see what the finished stitching looked like before the backstitching was done.

The pink dragon to the right wasn't finished because I also realized that I needed to do backstitching as I went.  Before this epiphany, I'm not sure how I thought I was going to do the backstitching without mangling the dragons in my grubby little hands.

Eyes were chosen from my specialty threads based on the super scientific method of "what would look good" and "what hasn't been used yet".  I think there might be one or two repeats for the eyes.  I did some further color choice adjustment to avoid having dragons with identical coloring or the same main body color.  W and E are both slightly different shades of blue, just like O and L are different shades of pink.  Certain symbols (like the one I assigned to pale pink) were used more frequently.  I erred on the side of Kristen liking pink shit.