North Carolina – Part One (Squirrel Edition)

July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m backtracking a bit but I wanted to share some of the unique places we found ourselves last week on our Summer vacation.  I like quirky places and there is none other than Brevard, NC…home of the white squirrel.  Uh yes.  Not an albino, but an actual squirrel that is white.  Brevard is home to the largest group…most are found behind the university (ahhhh…smart arts and liberal squirrels).  The town’s focus is undeniably this unique critter with gift shops dedicated and plush white squirrels smiling out of shop windows throughout…but beyond the squirrel, the town is amazing.  A lovely bustling downtown with interesting shops, restaurants and even a museum about…white squirrels.

Brevard is definitely nuts about its squirrels

one of the more unique shops downtown…an actual toy store with vintage toys and games!

lunch at Hob Nob! Delicious mushroom soup and yummy croque monsieur.

for the cross stitch fan in me…yes, you can stitch your own squirrel

This is the only REAL squirrel we saw…sorry he’s dead! I wish I had captured the sign below that said “please don’t touch our squirrel”. lol.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Atlanta Market!

July 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’re back from market!

Wow!  It was a great show.  Not a ton of surprises trend wise…it has actually helped me stay above trends by having a strong foothold in the handmade movement and being active in places like Etsy and Craftsy.  What I did see was a renewed enthusiasm from both buyers and vendors – I think everyone is ready to shake off the doldrums of austerity and let loose…a little.   Okay what did seem to be on trend?  Here’s my short list:

  • nautical anything – anchors, stripes, knots, rope – even saw an uptick of mermaid stuff
  • woodland inspired – from cute creatures, to activities of fishing, hunting and camping.  (mushrooms were the big item in this trend and owls continue to thrive)
  • bold geometrics (such as chevrons).  Neon for kids and slightly muted for adult accessories and decor
  • vintage – duh.  reproduction linens, ball jars, anything you’ve seen on Etsy in the last three years.  (the hot trend was to retrofit vintage baskets, ball jars, even cheese graters into light fixtures)
  • handmade-ish knit and felted wool creatures either for children or morphed into home decor/gifts for adults.
  • accessories.  nearly every gift line is dabbling in jewelry.  We found some neat things to mix into the shop.
  • succulents – this doesn’t directly apply to gifts and decor – but they were used in many showrooms.  Look for items such as terrariums or glass orbs to help display customers’ collections.

Now for a little seen and heard…

  • Kurt S. Adler snagged the licensing for a line of Downton Abbey ornaments.  I totally wanted to order but C said no…too many of our customers prefer Duck Dynasty to Downton…so we got this:
  • Also, at Kurt S. Adler, I walked in on a buyer’s total meltdown.  OMG!  They usually have buyers for large stores and apparently none of the true decision makers were in the group.  Drama ensues and someone (some guy) nearly cried…”guys (choking back tears), I just don’t want you to think I’m not pulling my weight!”…”Jeffery, just write a proposal and he will review it” – what what?  Y’all know we’re shopping for Christmas ornaments, right?
  • Magnet Works probably lost my business 4ever.  I’ve been ordering for a while, like years.  I go to their booth, and it was like tumbleweed.  I’m greeted and the specific questions I ask are barely answered…okay, I ask for a catalog so I can look up the answers.  Nice lady grabs one out of a cabinet of 200-300 catalogs.  I’m flipping through it and trying to navigated their booth – which is a hot mess – stuff too high to sort through and a really awkward astroturf/stepping stone path that I kept tripping on.  “Can I just bring this catalog home tonight and give you a written order tomorrow?”  since this was just taking too long.  She asked for a business card and it’s the ONE thing we forgot.  I explain; she scowls.  “No, sorry I can’t”  “Really…I’m going to place an order, a reorder”  “Oh I guess”  Um yeah, retailers/vendors please take note!
  • We got kind of caught up in Building 2’s upper floors of 16 through 18.  It’s a lot of huge showrooms dedicated to rep groups.  So ultimately, millions of little booths…a bit of a headache to navigate.  We ended up finding these super precious items from the Aspen Companies, we found ORE products (a friend and I had had success with them in the past in another venture)…I don’t know if they were exhausted but they had a little trouble identifying their best sellers…eek.  I looked into Sloane Ranger…I’ve been watching them for a while as they have adorable fabrics used throughout their bag collection, its just the zippers are HUGE and the labels…ridiculously huge, like someone driving 50 miles an hour can read it’s a Sloane Ranger bag in detail as you walk along the street.  They had a few modifications in the zippers that I liked but the damn labels!  Then the very twee sales girl shows me a case of jewelry (see everyone is into accessories)…and she picks up these very twee anchor charms and seems mesmerized in their tiny, special, twee-ness and I don’t even know what else, picking up each one and then repeating in the same order – saying little but how tiny and special they were. Everything was telling me “abort, abort”…I ask what the minimum is and she says $500 – uh bye.
  • I fell in love in the back room at Raz.  Well, with their closeouts. How long has everyone known about this???  Some of the case lots were ridiculously large (not as large as Sloane Ranger tags…but almost).  As one lady shopping next to me put it when she couldn’t touch the case lots offered on most items  “My husssbannd sez wer smaall potatoes”  and yeah, I guess I am too.  But I got some fabulous finds and a good price I can pass on to my customers.
  • We made into the Market Buyers Club…Oh yai!  The Buyer’s Guide detailed that based on our past attendance we now had access to two specialty lounges – ooh la la.  However, they were never on an actual floor where you would possibly want to shop.  Oh well, we were excited with the extra little mention on our badges…like we were big small potatoes, or something. 

I hope to get back a bit more often in the next couple years.  The trip actually confirmed for me that I’m still offering something of value to my customers and community.

So keep your eye on our main website for all the new market finds!

***not all pics are mine; each is linked back to their respective home on instagram.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Seen and Heard

July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

I am SO inspired by the next three artists I’m about to share with you.  All I found searching hashtags in instagram and each does something special with one of my three loves: cross stitch, fabric and yarn (specifically crochet!)

image courtesy of hookaway

How about some faux taxidermy???  Adorable, unique and yes a little weird…in a good way.  This Etsy shop opened up just last month and already is nearly empty.  Check out sold items as this artist accepts custom request.  I need a unicorn, just sayin’

image courtesy of The Humble Carnival

An A+ for packaging as well as a tremendous overall concept of beautifully crocheted animals with accoutrements.  All wrapped up and sure to be a treasure for any child.  Visit this Etsy shop often as these one of a kind creatures seem to sell quickly.

image courtesy of Kate Blandford

Ermahgerd…last but certainly not least is Kate Blandford.  She is just awesomesauce…cross stitch fabrics through spoonflower and note cards, patterns, and embroidered items through her Etsy shop.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Final Thoughts…

July 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Steotchalong has finally come to a close.  Finishing any cross stitch project makes me a bit sad, I have to admit.  It’s one of those time consuming (but totally worth it) crafts that it just sort of becomes apart you.   No one knew who or what this would be in the beginning days as it was a mystery; kudos to Steotch for putting together an amazing event and challenging pattern.  It turned out to be Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Pulp Fiction.  I was kinda hoping it was this guy…

I have no idea who he is, but I’d like to think of him as sort of my fairy godfather of embroidery work.  Anywho, I remember seeing Pulp Fiction in my college movie theater back in the day.  It was the most high profile movie they had had in long time and I think at $2 a ticket.  That was still a deal in the mid-nineties; that being so,  I nearly was trampled on as they opened the doors to crazed  students flooding  in to snatch the best seats.  Afterwards, beyond being nearly trampled to death, I was actually troubled by the whole movie and remember not being able to sleep a wink that night.  And it wasn’t so much that it was scary or gruesome, but that I actually really liked it.

If you’d like to stitch your own Pulp Fiction cross stitch, the patterns are currently available on the Steotch website and you can stitch at your own pace.  The last pattern available is the quote to the right…three choices are available; I picked the faux biblical quote (it sort of matched my mood du jour) – though, I made the “L” a bit more swoopie to mimic the “A”.  And, if you do stitch the pattern or have been stitching, please be kind and donate a little (or a hella of a lot) to Steotch in the linked post.  Take it from someone that writes patterns, this is quality work and should be rewarded.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Downton Way Down Under

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

image courtesy of kirstatron

It’s always a treat to find my work in other people’s feeds…here’s one of my newer customers all the way down in New Zealand stitching my Downton Abbey Alphabet Sampler!  Squee!!  I love…LOVE…how she used metallic thread for the key and needle…just darling!

Also – I  just received another batch of  gorgeous Bohin stork scissors.  They are the last pair you’ll ever need and such a fancy treat to see when you peek into your notions box.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Silk-screened Successes…

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Feet up, lights low…I’m trying to relax and come down from today while Chico attempts to drag a dirty pair of sweats (someone must of left on the floor – not me) on to her favorite chair.  She’s not even a foot tall, so it’s taking her a while…but she’s determined to join it under the pillow (where she thinks I don’t know about her stash of missing socks and the occasional unmentionable *sigh*).

Today was great for a Tuesday, in the summer, of a small – fairly insignificant town.  My efforts busting booty on Monday to push out a lot of silk-screened items paid off today.  This adorable Cajun crawfish towel (2.0 of the this design) – quickly sold out online and in the store.  A new batch is drying as we speak.  It’s funny how I’ll spend hours sewing, cross stitching or crocheting…but out of everything I make people are just drawn to my silk-screened work.  Not that it’s that much easier in comparison but I think we finally have a good system down between sources of screens, inks, and blanks.  For a time though – I was failing pretty regularly.  When I would announce it was the night I would silk-screen, C would gasp “oh no!” and wait for me to explode in a fit of tears.  It was that much of a nightmare!

To prove that I like to keep challenging myself – or as C considers “making it hard on myself” – I’ve also been dabbling into a few accessory items.  I love scarves – however, they must be lightweight because it’s just shy of 100 degrees here AND let’s face it, in Southeast Louisiana it will not be considerably cooler come winter.  I found the perfect jersey knit – a polyester, not cotton, giving these scarves a lovely drape.  I wanted a big chunky chevron…so large that I actually had to paper cut the design to screen it.  They are lovely but quite a challenge…that loosey goosey fabric wants to move without being properly tacked and then there is a massive amount of ink being to push though the screen.  It took every bit of my being to keep the ink on the correct place in the scarf – we succeeded but found ourselves, the table, and the dog – day glo neon.  (Sort of like Tobias – “I blue myself” but with neon).  More colors are coming, we just need to build up our endurance and decide what color we want to be.

Still available from my Manic Make-it Monday are these new polka dot towels.  I’m using a new vendor for blanks, so I got just a few colorways of the design.  So far – I love it.  It’s a nice neutral gold, but near New Orleans it so reads “Saints” football.  So, we hope, a double win for the shop…as we’re not huge fans of glitzy (overpriced) licensed sports merch…so it’s nice to have a handmade option to blend.

Bedtime is calling…as more towels to iron in the AM, a trip to the post office, and meeting with vendors…and possible a taco salad.

–Lisa LeBlanc

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Be Our Guest…

June 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Whew…it was quite a weekend (today is my fake-Sunday as I am in retail and have Monday’s off thankfully– which also makes Tuesday the new Monday).  We spent much of our time off this weekend babysitting our three year old nephew and dog sitting two 70 to 90 pound dogs.  Everyone had a wedding to attend – tho, we did not – and we became the drop off point.  Miraculously, after 1 toddler, 6 dogs, and 3 cats – the house is still intact!  In fact, the biggest baby of them all was the 90lbs sheep dog – who unfortunately cried through most of the night – and when I say cry –  I actually mean blood curdling barks followed by high pitched whines.  *sigh*

I’ve been on a sewing kick for a couple weeks now and started making these super cute crayon wallets.  We always need something for that age range between 3 to 5 in the shop and this seems like such a positive thing for children to respond to (rather than games or movies on a phone).  I’m debating on whether or not to put them in my Etsy shop…it’s a bit of a divergence for me from what is there now.  But largely, I’m fielding SO many convos daily on my existing items (some are so odd I feel I need to post a greatest hits soon) – I feel like it would turn into “I like that but I want it different.”  

Fortunately they do sell themselves in the store as my nephew helped himself to one.  Gosh, I hope he doesn’t grow up to become a shoplifter.  He grabbed my money cat too – I attempted to explain what it is and that it’s not working.  He told me it was “cute” and meowed at it for 15 minutes.  (let’s hope that was the attention it needed!)

So, Monday arrived and with the house guests gone and C at work, I realized I was finally alone…deliciously alone!  Not all Mondays for me are created equally but this one panned out to be just the right balance of productive and relaxing.  I started early in the garden with a few minor projects.  I didn’t last long because its getting near 100 degrees before lunch.  Despite the heat, everything was very much alive!  The birds were fighting over the feeder I put up; even a lot of activity over at the hummingbird feeder.  To my surprise, I found a turtle just finishing laying eggs in the garden…so glad I know where they are because she was very good at covering her tracks.

After all the garden fun (I even saw a snake).  I cooled off for a bit and watched the rest of Bomb Girls (bummer its already been cancelled – I always preferred Meg Tilly over Jennifer) and made grilled cheese.  It really feels like summer with a grilled cheese sandwich – most of my summers growing up, I was on my own during the day and had to fend for myself.  I quickly learned I had a knack for the art of the grilled cheese sandwich.  Today’s was just perfection with sharp cheddar and Virginia ham.  Ahhh, after I regained my strength, I silk-screened a couple new towel designs – I’ll share those in the next day or so; they are SO cute!

–Lisa LeBlanc

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