When Perfection isn’t Perfect

I took a walk in the countryside last Thursday. It was a slow day for work, the sky was blue and the temps a breezy 75°F, so I couldn’t resist the chance to take a few pics of late Summer’s splendor. The greens of the foliage will soon transpose to a rainbow of oranges, reds, yellows and browns, and although this transformation is gloriously breathtaking, it might be another 12 months before I get this view again. Playing hooky seemed justified.

Taking advantage of photo opportunities is one of those perks of being an artist – it’s a fun necessity. I must continue to build my library that I reference for various projects, such as when creating embroidery designs in a realistic style. Oh sure, I could surf around the net for hours trying to find the right details in a Maple leaf or the wild shapes of Oak branches, but I wouldn’t get the inspiration and clarity of details (not to mention, exercise) that I get from memories recorded in my own images.  And I like to strive for perfection – well, sorta. The objective for a realistic style is to replicate details perfectly, but Nature isn’t always perfect. If I were to create a symmetrical daisy, with each petal exactly the same by punching one petal and duplicating it for the remaining petals, the results would be so very wrong, at least for the realistic style I’m trying to achieve.

It was quite nice to have a guilt-free excuse on a work day to hike through one of Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas, and this particular place is dear to me – I called it “home” for 15 years. You would think I should have enough pictures after living there so long, but the area is forever changing, especially since the house and barn were removed and the natural foliage allowed to flourish.  Each time I visit, I find something new to capture and add to my reference image library.

The leafy Sumac bushes that once camouflaged the heating fuel-oil barrel now cover the spot where I washed countless dishes, and OxEye Sunflowers have sprung forth from where the old, weathered outhouse once stood proud.  Yes, we even had one of those, and although rarely used, it was kept clean for those particular visitors who were strangely attracted to the experience of using a tattered, wooden privy in the fresh outdoors.

We were also quite grateful for having this not-so-perfect commode, of sorts, as it was the perfect solution one extremely cold year of -50°F when the drains froze.  (I had experienced an icy hell in them thar snow mounds along the frozen path in the moonlight.  I went on a diet until Spring.)

The Violets, Irises and Lilies that had lined the house and other wildflowers have devoured what once was a perfect city-like lawn. Little ferns carpet the ground under tall Goldenrod, Milkweed, prairie grasses and more, scattered throughout, making it necessary to step carefully, so as not to destroy small wildflowers – or be surprised by a snake or other critter I’d rather see from afar. It might have grown to be unfamiliar territory for me, if not for the valley left from the gravel driveway, my surviving patch of Rhubarb and the stately Oaks, Elms and Birch trees that remain.  The bright patches of Goldenrod and Purple Loosestrife still dot the one-time horse pasture on the hill this time of year.

A part of me is sad I no longer live there, but I’m so very delighted I can still occasionally visit and experience this abundance of natural beauty.  Having something to draw on when I’m lacking inspiration is priceless.  I find it well-worth studying the details – those that are symmetrically and/or consistently the same, and those of many changing variations – because these memorized details eventually appear somewhere in my work.

Now, on the other hand, digitizing anything – whether it’s the variations found in Nature or the crisp symmetry of a corporate logo – distortion must be applied to achieve quality results. Compensation for the threads that pull in or push out must be observed, such as widening and shortening columns so the width and length are correct in the final sew-out. Depending on the substrate, this can be a tedious procedure for digitizing small elements, most especially tiny letters. Veteran digitizer, Erich Campbell of Black Duck Embroidery & Screen Printing, recently shared a project he completed of 4 MM letters that turned out quite nice for what he described as a quick job. Most impressive is the clarity of letters that are embroidered on a textured polo, which is a situation that often results in crooked columns with ragged edges.  It’s somewhat tricky to digitize the elements of each letter seemingly wrong for them to appear right. Erich credits one of his favorite lessons learned from the masters, “Embroidery is the art form of distortion.”

Erich also posted a recommendation for perhaps one of his secrets, a Gutenberg book titled OF THE JUST SHAPING OF LETTERS from the Applied Geometry of Albrecht Durer, Book III.  This free e-book download, is an excellent reference to have in reach during the creation of any size letters, be it print or embroidery, as it explains everything you need to know about the basic rules when replicating shape. An excerpt regarding the letter B: “… in this way you shall describe both curved limbs: and they must both be broader towards the top than towards the bottom, as follows naturally with the stroke of a pen, and, moreover, while approximately round, they are not to be circular ….”

From this point, we as digitizers, must apply the embroidery rules of distortion to achieve exact replication in the final sew-out. The book is available for Kindle, and if you didn’t know, you can now download the Kindle for PC application, making e-books available to even those without gadgets.

Until next week … I’ll leave you with the suggestion to begin your own reference image library for design, starting with captured shots of your surrounding, natural environment. There’s a design to be created from Nature found everywhere, from the driest desert to the wettest swampland.  It can even be seen pushing through the cracks of cement and asphalt or rooftops of the biggest cities. Perhaps, visit a local florist who is willing to let you take a few snapshots, and at the same time, you just might snag an embroidery order for garden aprons, donning a logo with tiny letters.

Embroidery designs pictured are available at Moonlight’s Design Shoppe.

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A Week of Mistakes & Smiles

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein said it well. In recent weeks, I tried quite a few new things and made quite a few mistakes. But the quote of a genius doesn’t justify my stumbling and only I can redeem myself, learn and move forward.

First, allow me to apologize for the mistake I made in last week’s hastily written blog post; a portion of the title may have sent out the wrong message, and I’m sorry if the title was misleading. To clarify, the president had very little to do with the content of the blog. The title has been edited appropriately. [Please note, my attendance was purely to observe an historical event; I do not campaign for any party or openly voice my political opinions, and although I have them, they will never be posted here.]

I’ve made quite a few mistakes lately, either from trying new things or from neglecting old things while correcting mistakes from trying new things. I have been blaming it on Mercury in Retrograde – not that I really know that much about this astrological phenomena, it just sounds good.

Some of my mini catastrophes (pardon the oxymoron) have been due to a lack of attention, such as another blog mistake I’ve made: adding too many tags and categories to my posts. WordPress doesn’t like that. My tags are now “on suspension” while I prove to WordPress I won’t offer more than a combination of 10 tags and categories on one post.  I knew that. I learned about global tagging at WordPress.com Support last year when a different blog’s tags were suspended (clicking on the tabs take you no where). I haven’t used WordPress enough to be software and policy proficient, so the information is resting below stacks of new incoming facts being stored in the “things I’m supposed to absorb and recall forever” part of my brain.  Perhaps I need to eat more blueberries.  Evidently, even though the recommended ½ cup daily serving is enough to turn my tongue indigo blue, it isn’t enough to improve my memory.

Last weekend I forgot to wind up my vintage alarm clock, and had it not been for three hungry cats, I might have signed in late at EmbroideryDesigns.com where a few hours each day I help customers shop and use their designs.  Now understand, I do own a modern, electric, alarm clock that sets itself each night, but I am experiencing Presbycusis in the ear I don’t sleep on and can no longer hear the alarm’s mellow high pitch.  Sleeping on the good ear is my mistake, but impossible to control.  If I depend on the “gentle” alarm it results with my husband shaking me awake on the only days he can sleep in. The better option is to use the wind-up with its thunderous, vibrating, heart-stopping ring that doesn’t bother my husband – as long as I shut it off as soon as I bounce back down from the ceiling.

Fortunately, my husband is patient by nature, unless I pilfer his special goodie stash, though that’s usually not a problem.  Sweets are something I crave only on occasion – like a couple of days ago when I ate his fruit pie (of course, by mistake). I tried to make up for it by offering to bake an Apple Streusel Dessert.  I’ve been hoarding it in the freezer for a special occasion, because it may be the last, if it fails to return in Schwan’s new season.  But he objected, saying that running the oven would put the AC into overtime.  I assured him this somewhat thin pastry required only 25 minutes, and I promised to turn the oven off as soon as the streusel was done.  He claimed I’d forget.  I wagered I would not.  The pastry came out, and at the same moment, a hummingbird appeared at the feeder – that hummer I’ve been trying to get a still picture of for weeks to use as reference for a digitizing project. I set the pastry on the counter to cool and slowly reached for the digital camera I keep by the window for just such a moment. I failed to notice the sweltering heat before he shut the oven off. (He ate most of the streusel. I will pay the electric bill.)

This week in the office, I set up a new computer and was introduced to Windows 7.  I do not like it.  Frankly, it’s the little things in the interface that are driving me nuts – those fancy-dancy things that glamor it up, but slow my routine actions to a crawl.  I was so flustered by the new bells and whistles, I mistakenly assumed Windows 7 had added the annoying little ripples that suddenly appeared behind the cursor every time I clicked.  But by the time I remembered that these click-drips are activated by my Bamboo Wacom stylus/pad (previously discovered during a Windows Vista installation and long forgotten), I began feeling a bit sea-sick.  Although I couldn’t find a way to turn off the screen animation at Wacom Support, I did so at the NX9420 blog – “How to fix tablet issues with the Wacom Cintiq in Windows 7“.  (Thank you, NX9420.  I can now put away the Dramamine.)

On the other hand I am thankful for what has gone well without a hitch, such as the installation of my new I-Cliqq upgrade just in time to began planning a collection of designs that will be featured at Bonnie Domeny’s Masterpiece Embroidery next year.  I’m pleased that one of the mistakes I made in this blog last week, might not have been witnessed by a lot of folks who were away learning new stuff at the NNEP – one of my all-time favorite embroidery events that I unfortunately could not attend and will be watching for reports with great envy.  My Google+ friend list is slowly growing with a few more folks added to Circles; I find the more I use it, the more I like it.  And, even though the image is not digitizing worthy, I captured a recognizable still pic of a hummer’s head.  Oh, and I didn’t burn the streusel!

A French Reporter & Embroidery in the Park

Why Cannon Falls?” a young girl asked President Obama. It was a question we all wondered, who were among the lucky few hundred allowed to attend the first stop of his Town Hall Bus Tour in Minnesota on August 15, 2011.

“Well, I had heard that Cannon Falls has some of the smartest, best-looking kids around. And you have confirmed the rumor about the outstanding children of Cannon Falls.”

A loud cheer was heard throughout the town from the proud children who were listening on speakers set up downtown. Older generations applauded with pride for them, but there was another truth revealed later that gave us all a reason to stand straight with heads held high. It’s rumored that Cannon Falls had been chosen from a number of small rural towns in Southern Minnesota, because the Secret Service who were scouting a few months ago found the people genuine and the town to be quite beautiful. And beautiful, it is. But sometimes we genuine folks who live in such beauty tend to forget that it’s not the same all over the world.

Before the president arrived, I was approached by several television reporters who requested an interview, to which I said “nay” to the cameras, but politely answered: Are you from the local area? “Yes.” Why are you here? “To hear the president speak.” Do you support President Obama?  “I have respect for any U.S. president while they hold office – it’s a tough job.”  And of course, Will you vote for Obama in 2012?  “We’ll see.”  My brief answers were met with disappointment and I could sense they suspected me to be an “empty country bumpkin”; but alas, I am not one to discuss politics with even friends, much less the state, national and international 6 o’clock news.

However, there was one reporter, a woman who represented a French newspaper and whose somewhat non-political questions were a pleasure to answer.  My guess, she was writing coverage of the event with a human interest slant.  She understood I wouldn’t discuss politics, but we chatted about the area in general, such as the tranquil beauty of the park and how it was a bit sad many of the shade trees had to be trimmed to allow a clear view for surveillance to protect President Obama.  We talked about the quaint shops in town, the factories and the surrounding farmland and wildlife.  The way her pen continued to dance French shorthand across her steno pad, you’d think I was giving away top secrets!  And then after asking me to write my name on her steno pad she asked, “What do you do for a living?”

The answer caught in my throat and my mouth dropped open with a croaky, “Ahhh … well …” stuttering as I always do before explaining my occupation. I had no business cards because we weren’t allowed to bring in bags and I had limited pocket room. I suppressed the temptation to suggest she do a net search.  (I didn’t want to appear snarky and I knew she’d probably google me later anyhow). “I’m a designer” I said, the easy answer for those who I assume would not understand what a digitizer is or does, especially to someone who speaks a different language.

But obviously it wasn’t enough as her journalistic curiosity prodded, “What do you design?”

I took a deep breath and looked around at the garments in the crowd, searching for that one logo I could use for an example. All bodies were turned away from us, facing towards where President Obama would be making his entrance, and there’s just not any jacket back embroideries to be seen in the middle of summer. With the exception of the “Men in Black” who appeared to be cool as a cucumber, wearing suits in the 80 degree heat, most of us were dressed for a Sunday picnic in the park. There were a few folks sporting Tees with political messages printed on the backs, but I couldn’t see anything stitched and – gasp! – not even on me!  At a loss for an example, I muttered, “Embroidery design.”

Ohhh!” she said, nodding as if she fully understood, and gave an example, holding her steno pad as one would hold hooped fabric and moving her pen in the other hand like a threaded needle.

No, not hand embroidery patterns. I’m a puncher – a digitizer – for embroidery machines.” I could see the frown of confusion growing across her forehead, so I continued, “I create the little programs that run computerized machines.” And then to my relief, one man turned around wearing a polo with one of the local bank’s logo I had digitized. “Like that design on that man’s white shirt – right here,” I said patting above my left pocket.

An “Oprah aha moment” twinkled in her eyes. By gosh, I think she got it. She was certainly writing fast enough. “You are a deejsheetizer! (a word that sounds very pretty with a French accent.) “You make the designs for machines – broiderie machines.” Yes, yes, she got it!  “Soooo …. you deejsheetize for the Shineese factoreeze?

Say what?!

No, no, no, no! I have digitized for some embroiderers in other countries, but not China, and most of my regular clients are in the U. S.”

I felt as shocked as the look on her face as she asked, “You have many broiderie factoreeze in the U.S.?”

We do, indeed, I claimed, wondering why she found that curious. “There’s an embroiderer most everywhere you go in the U.S. We have four businesses right around this rural area – some large, some small shops, and one is even located on a dairy farm, where she runs two machines and pulls in a good deal of work.”  That dancing pen of hers shifted into high gear, while an eyebrow raised in surprise, so I just had to ask, “Don’t you have many embroidery businesses in France?”

Oui – we do for specialized, some for bridal and fashone – a few here and there. But the broideries, like for beesness logos (pointing above her left pocket) it is not so easy to find. Without a lot of money it is difficult to start beesnesses like that in France, so we get most through Shineese factoreez.”

I offered an apology for not having said much about my political views to help write her story and she held up her steno pad, flipping through a few filled pages with a smile. “Look at theess!  You give me very much for my storee!  Merci!

As well, this French reporter gave me “very much” to think about while President Obama addressed health care, social security, creating jobs and more, and stressing the importance of compromise to accomplish it all.  And he reminded us about those advantages that we already do have and that we sometimes unwittingly forget while trying to make it another day.  “Obviously America has gone through extraordinary challenges over the last two and a half years,” he said. “We’ve [experienced] the worst recession since the Great Depression, dating all the way back to 2007, 2008. But … if you ask people around the world, people would still tell you America has got the best universities, we’ve got the best scientists, we’ve got the best entrepreneurs – we’ve got so much going for us that folks would gladly trade places with us. Around the world, people still understand the extraordinary power, but also the extraordinary hope that America represents.”

Thank you, President Obama for visiting Cannon Falls!  It was truly a moment of inspiration and insight!

New Blog Day & Hungry Critters

New Blog Day – Sundays in Summer and Fall are too fun to be blogging – at least until the snow flies.  Most of us in the Upper Midwest have to get outside when we can! So to accommodate the weather, I’ve decided to move blog posts to Tuesdays.

It seemed a good time to make the switch, considering a minor accident has temporarily put my right hand out of commission and typing with the hunt-and-peck method is not my thing.  So for now, I’ll leave you with a little something I had prepared earlier that was intended for a post elsewhere.  My Two Stitches will return Tuesday, August 16.  Till then, enjoy all that your day offers – beauty can be found in the smallest of things.

Hungry Critters on My Lunch Hour

After trying in vain to get a clear still pic of a hummingbird at the feeder, I turned off the camera that was attached to a tripod on the kitchen table. I then proceeded to eat lunch but one bite of my tuna on whole grain and of course the flitter-critter returned. I didn’t want to move hastily, because it seems they are alert to all motion around them – even through the blur of UV protected glass. One little move from me or one of my cats and they disappear fast!  I was getting tired of playing this focus-camera-and-dart-away-game, so, without taking any time to adjust settings and focus, I just hit the video record button and hoped for the best. Eventually he noticed me – or seemed to – and took a couple more drinks, then moved to the outside of the feeder, popping his head up and down, as if curious about me. He filled his belly and then sped away, but I knew he’d soon be back – a hummingbird needs to sustain the energy required to keep its wings in motion, consuming up to twice its body weight in nectar every day.

Oxeye Sunflower

I got up to fill my empty coffee cup and looked straight into the eyes of a Cottontail Rabbit or Hare (not an expert – it’s a “bunny” to me).  It froze on its hind legs near the sliding glass door, hoping to blend into the old deck, I suppose.  Seeing a few bunnies is common after a lot of rain and the yard is need of mowing.  Notice, I did not say “lawn”.  Our yard has been invaded by the adjacent “forest floor” of the woods – wild flowers, catnip, clover, you name it.  Bunnies tend to get lost in this sweet pasture, grazing their way up from the woods to the deck.  Slowly, I set the coffee cup on the table and grabbed the camera that was still connected to the tripod, the extra weight making it hard to hold the camera still.  I turned it on and awkwardly aimed, but by the time I got the bunny in the view finder she had braved from her instinct to freeze and hopped off to the garden.  Drat!  So I dashed to the garage, and while struggling to focus through the dirty window, I caught the fluffy vandal snooping around the garden, eventually creeping through a hole in the netting that covered the strawberry patch.  It’s okay – no berries till next spring again and she’ll just chow down the tall sweet grass that appeared from the seed “dropped” by the crows that ate the last of the strawberries after getting through the hole of the netting that the squirrel  manage to make.

Baby Watermelon

Baby Watermelon

Never a dull moment around here.

As long as I was out in the garage, I decided to put a few slices of dried bread on the flat feeder.  I opened the garage door and the bunny shot out of the netting and headed for the woods while I emptied a cup of seed onto the flat feeder along with a few slices of the dried bread.  Then, since it was so nice outside at about 80 degrees, but no humidity, I removed the tripod from the camera and made a quick inspection of the yard, calculating work for the damage done from all the wet weather.  The radishes have “gone to seed”, the peas had been devoured (I assume, by the bunny) but the humid-loving watermelon is doing okay, for having been planted late.  A patch of wildflowers were “dropped” along side the garage by one bird or another, grapes have invaded and imprisoned every and anything!  Found a strange teeny-beetle type of bug on an Oxeye Sunflower, a white spider on a Coneflower, and gnats on a huge mushroom growing in the hollow of an old oak tree – all critters looking to find a bit of lunch. A few wasps seemed to be having a party on the grave vine that suddenly appeared on the evergreens, but they wouldn’t sit long enough for the camera and refused to preform much in video mode.  I took that as my cue to get back to my lunch, so I could get back to my office.

I finally poured that cup of coffee and managed a quick sip before seeing one of the neighborhood squirrels zeroing in on the dried bread. Grey Squirrels look so skinny this time of year, having shed most of their fur in the heat – such a difference from their puffy, fuzzy winter-wear.  They actually remind me of wet rats!  But after all, they are a member of the rodent family.  As soon as he saw the bread I heard the loud piercing call of a Blue Jay overhead.  Evidently, they both had the same plan.  So up the tree went the squirrel to fend off the squawking Blue Jay, twitching its tail to file his chow claim. Then the squirrel’s attention was taken by a ground foe to shoo from the scene (I suspect the bunny who may have been hiding beneath the deck) – or else, he just fell from the tree.  No matter the reason, the Blue Jay took advantage and made a grab for the bread, but changed his mind when he caught sight of the squirrel making its way back to the feeder.  (No worries for the Blue Jays, as they returned later for theNapping Squirrel seed and corn, while the squirrel took a nap in the crabapple tree.  After more seed was put out, the squirrel filled up again and then napped in another favorite place, the birdhouse where Catbirds nest in the spring.)

I shut off the camera and turned back to my own lunch just in time to see Tator, the “irri-tator” as my husband calls her, now gingerly pawing at the remaining half of the tuna sandwich, perhaps thinking it had surely been abandoned. “Shoo!” I scolded, having fed her not just five minutes before making my own lunch.  Startled, she jumped in mid-swat, sending the top slice of bread into flight, which landed and slid along the floor, collecting the cat hair like a Swiffer ® Duster. (During the summer shedding season, cat hair is an occasional, unintentional condiment in this house, even when we observe the “no 3-second floor rule”.) She dashed to the bedroom in shame – or more likely thinking like any other critter, “until the next chance I get”. I picked up the hairy bread slice and tossed it into the drying bucket, settling for fewer calories.  Just as well, anyhow; it was time to get back to work. Grabbing an apple from the fridge to take back to my office, I concluded that the camera, perhaps, should be banned during lunch hours – but then again, perhaps not.

If you’re curious, here’s the combined attempts of the lunch hour shoot: Hungry Critters – not the best quality even for an amateur, but safer than looking out the window for 5:24 minutes and leaving your lunch at the mercy of a mischievous cat.  By the way, there are no cats in this video.  And, no critters were harmed during the filming, with the exception of a skeeter who attempted to chow on me.

Happy Feet & Imported Embroidered Sneakers

I have fat feet. To make matters worse I have spurs on my heals, big toes that continue to grow inward and a high instep that butts up against 10” ankles, hindering natural rotation – genetic deformities that would need surgery to change, but I think not. As long as I don’t have to wear narrow shoes, stilettos or boots I find no real reason to fix something that is still working okay; never mind what looks cool or what might make me look cooler. I’ve never been keen on shoes like many women and can’t understand some of the extremes they go to for the sake of style. I’ve heard there are even those who have toe surgery or removal to fit into pointy shoes – and to that foolishness, I say, “OMG!!!”  Nope, I’m just not a cosmetic surgery kind of gal! I’ll save the surgery for when I really need it to stay alive, thank you. So, considering the majority of my day is accomplished while planted in an office chair where only my cats occasionally get a gander at my feet, instead of trying to cram toes into pain-inducing pretty shoes, I look for those that are functional and make me say, “ahhh!”  Alas, the bliss of casual comfort!

Comfort must take priority. My big toe doesn’t just grow inward, it pushes out at the side of my foot, and a pounding bunion is as distracting as a migraine!  I need to keep to my schedule without such interruptions. A pair of bunny slippers might suffice, but they make my feet hot and besides, they’re just not functional. I can’t run in bunny slippers. And I never know when a fast pace will be necessary, like a dash to the basement to stop the washing machine from dancing. My leather athletic shoes are great for shopping or outdoor walks, but too clunky for inside. So, for my “house shoes” I opt for that classic that I’ve worn most of my life – the canvas flat or deck shoe, once called a “tennis shoe” and best known as the “sneaker”.

First invented by Keds ® in 1912 , many knock-offs and variations followed. As I grew older, I discovered it didn’t matter which brand I wore, holes would appear quickly in specific spots caused by my minor foot deformities. So, I’ve always purchased the inexpensive department store brands, direct from elsewhere in the world. The price made them somewhat disposable, so if I found a pair that fit well, I’ve stocked up. I recently wore out the last pair but haven’t had the opportunity for brick-and-mortar shopping. Most of my shopping is done online now, as it is for many people who live in rural areas. Home delivery is a blessing for us – we invented it. After all, it was the demand of the rural customer that caused mail order to flourish. So, recently, when the Schwan’s Frozen Foods delivery man poked fun at my “air-conditioned shoes” I immediately surfed to my favorite online mall, Amazon.com.

But I hesitated. I’d never bought a pair of shoes that I didn’t try on first. Carefully, I reviewed the online details of each shoe, trying to find a brand with a comfort-factor I trusted, and with respect to the economy, preferably US-made. I knew I wouldn’t find those great $5 clearance bargains, but I didn’t want to exceed $25 until I was sure they would make my feet smile. They not only have to be an exact 7 W, they must be shaped with a roundish toe, not too long of a tongue, and not cut too low, like most slip-ons, because those tend to slip off and on my feet, causing blisters. Hours – nay days – went by until a perfectly-shaped canvas shoe caught my eye. It was 2 a.m. I was tired. Price was a low $9.99 plus shipping. The zipper closing in lieu of laces intrigued me. Thoughts of being able to loosen shoes in the afternoon with a zip and never having to trip over shoe laces again kept my attention.  And then, when I noticed the quality-stitched daisy at the top front, I pushed the Buy Now button. Truly, it was the embroidery that sold me.

They arrived in days and of course, the first thing I had to do was investigate the stitching. Impressive!  I immediately put them on and they passed the happy feet test. It wasn’t till I took them off at the end of the day – long after deciding I needed to buy another pair or two – that I noticed the printed words deep inside, “Made in China”. Uh-oh. So much for good intentions.

I began to justify my purchase, considering that the distributor Carol Wright’s Gifts is based in New Jersey, and perhaps only the shoes were imported and embroidered by a U.S. apparel decorator. Then again, probably not. So, I surfed around and although I haven’t yet found embroiderers or manufacturers offering anything similar to my new shoes, I’ve been distracted by some interesting information.

I googled for “US made canvas sneakers” and one of the first links I found was an article posted in 1994, complaining of the difficulty of being able to find any athletic type shoe made in the US with the exception of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars.  In a brief search I found a few other U.S. manufacturers, but none that produce the style to satisfy my feet.  As well, I found embroiderers who only accepted custom orders for shoe embroidery and none that produced high volume orders using imported shoes – not to say they don’t exist; I just haven’t run across one yet. And I imagine if there are embroidered (decorative, not logo) U.S. made shoes distributed in high volume, my guess is that the embroidery process is accomplished in the shoe factory.

Of course, having a part in the embroidery industry, I began to wonder about the equipment that was necessary to stitch the shoes and first found a shoe clamp for the Tajima machine at Hoop Tech. I also found a couple of YouTube videos of what looks to be the clamp, or a similar device in operation on a Tajima machine, and another on a ZSK. I also couldn’t resist a video about an “ancient device” – the hand – worth watching for a smile.

For those interested in adding shoe embroidery to their services, but wonder about the specifics, the digitizing for the process doesn’t appear to be terribly difficult, though there are a few rules to observe. The more simple, the better, as implied in an online archived Impressions Magazine article:

“The choice of design is dictated by the style of footwear. Intricate details and small letters should be limited to slippers or canvas shoes, as the materials used in their construction are typically lightweight in nature. Athletic and work shoes are more rigid and will be more challenging to sew, but not impossible. Stick with larger needle sizes, such as the 80/12 (or larger) sharp point, and keep the speeds low—in the range of 600 stitches per minute. Additionally, use simple designs and/or lettering as you may be sewing through several thick layers.” — From the Impressions archives

The search continues for a U.S. made pair of canvas sneakers similar to the imported ones that have made my feet so very content. My China made shoes will be rotated down to garden-wear soon enough, so I’ll be needing a new pair of house shoes. [You’re welcome to leave search leads and suggestions in the comments.] If I can’t find what I need, I’ll be forced to buy imported again, but to justify the purchase, they will definitely display little embroidered daisies!  My feet really do love these shoes!