This Thing Called “Black Friday”

Knowing how busy I’d be this week, I began writing a post for today about a month ago, and considering the topic involved the history of Black Friday shopping, it will soon be sliding into the Desktop trash can. There is just too much on the agenda and good intentions of tending to little extras like a blog post go to the wayside as soon as the holidays begin.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t share a few of my thoughts, so before I chuck all of my notes …

The phrase “Black Friday” was first coined in about 1966 when it was used in a newspaper article to refer to the opposite of businesses being “in the red”. Then, in 1975 after a recession that brought the price of coffee up to a cost affordable by only the richest (those who actually didn’t need the caffeine to get themselves to work each day) it made a comeback as a spur to increase shopping on the day after Thanksgiving – an opportune time as many folks have the day off and with kids out of school, the whole family can holiday shop together, and of course it created a needed bump in the economy. For me, like others who had jobs that required working that day, Black Friday shopping was never an option up until online shopping became a reality. Then, about 2005-2008, Cyber Monday was added to the event, along with pre-sales and previews as early as mid-October, and my email box began filling with all sorts of spam that I actually welcomed from my favorite online shopping sites. Having a business that must be maintained with working, updated technology, and facing the end of my tax year, it’s become the perfect time to buy.  I try to prepare all year, researching reviews and studying products that I suspect I’ll need, and then I sit back and wait for Black Friday offers to hit the inbox.

November for me is also a busy family time with anniversaries, birthdays and the like going on, so the sales are the perfect solution for my gift-giving. I managed to pick up a $169 TomTom XL 340-S GPS unit for an anniversary gift to my husband in an early sale for $89. It’s exactly what he wanted – one he had been drooling over and gushing about since he’d borrowed one from a friend, and gee, wouldn’t it be great if he had one for the jobs he was traveling to soon?  Yeah, I took the hint.  Had I waited to give it to him for his birthday at the end of the month, I’d have saved another $40, as TigerDirect.com has announced a refurbished model for $49 (I love refurbished/recertified electronics – always good as new and usually include a 3-12 month warranty) but I suspect refurbished models don’t include the lifetime upgrades anyhow (and besides, there was the drooling and sighs).

Black Friday Faces via HuffingtonPost.com

Yes, Black Friday has turned the entire month of November into an online shopper’s paradise – no crazy grandma’s fighting over the toy of the season, no camping out in the cold to be able to say, “I got mine” and no dodging the pushers, grabbers and screamers. According to a Wikipedia report, “Black Friday 2010, a Madison, Wisconsin woman was arrested outside of a Toys ‘R’ Us store after cutting in line, and threatening to shoot other shoppers who tried to object.” This brings to mind the sad 2008 tragedy of the Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death by the crowd. I read the story that day on AOL‘s News Stream, wondering what the hell had gone wrong in the outside world – seems “stuff” has become much too important!  I had made the decision at that moment to never attempt offline shopping on Black Friday, and any regrets of never having the opportunity melted with intense cyber-appreciation.  God bless e-commerce!  It seems a much happier place.

To those who agree and would rather save a few bucks on gas, as well as their sanity, most big chain stores have now made their sales available online. Sure, there are some in-store specials that aren’t found on the net, but you’ll also find “online specials only” announced in that wonderful seasonal spam or on home pages of cyber malls like Amazon.com. To help, there are a few websites specializing in hunting down Black Friday deals, such as TheBlackFriday.comThe best part: you can do your hunting and buying nestled in your jammies, while chewing on a turkey sandwhich. 

But if you’re looking for a way to work off those extra Thanksgiving calories or you simply prefer to experience the battle over items that you’ll probably enjoy with less energy than you’ll use in gaining their possession, do be kind, and don’t forget to ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” – especially if you are staring into the snarling eyes of a determined grandmother who is clutching the other end of the Elmo box in your hand. If you wait until next month, you might find that same item on Ebay at half the price, and simultaneously, make an old lady smile.  Well, maybe; maybe not.  But, at least, you’ll both still be able to smile.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 🙂

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Winners! – Stitches Golden Needle Awards™

I am so excited that I can’t even think of the best way to begin this post, so, I’m just going to dive right in … CONGRATULATIONS! to this year’s winners of the Stitches Golden Needle Awards™ : Steve Freeman, Qdigitizing; Tanda Bundy, Bass Pro Shops; Affinity Express Team; Jane Swanzy, Swan Threads; Lee Caroselli, Balboa Threadworks; Marjorie Corrow, Life’s A Stitch Embroidery; U.S. Digitizing Team; Peggy Severt, Pegboard Crafts; Cathy Cattle, Sew B It Custom Embroidery (cover); and Barbara Stuemer, TexDesign!  Kudos to each one of you for some of the finest digitizing in the industry!

As one of the judges, I have to admit it was a difficult event this year to find something to write down as a “con” with so many beautiful, interesting and highly technical entries.  I found it near impossible to keep opinions silent about my share of the entries since I opened The Box last July.  (I said many “WOW!”s as I opened each entry!)  So, let me say now, the 2011 contest entries – including many that didn’t make the list of winners – proved to be some of the most astounding and simply awesome pieces that I’ve had the pleasure to critique.  Thanks to all who participated and made this contest so tough to judge!  See for yourself and check out the November issue of Stitches Magazine!

As well, congratulations to Stitches Magazine, honored as “Magazine of the Year” by the American Society of Business Publication Editors in the 33rd annual Azbee Awards of Excellence competition!  And congratulations to ASI publications, honored by ASBPE with eight national and 11 regional awards of excellence for writing, editing, research, design and photography.  Whew!  I must say that all this gives me great pride as both a writer and a digitizer to be a contributor to such a fine publication by a fantastic organization!  Read more …

Now on to other things … which there isn’t enough time for.  I am swamped!  As we near the holidays, custom digitizing orders fill every extra moment and I fade to the background of blogs and e-clouds, as well as anywhere outside my home office.  “Just My Two Stitches” is currently a difficult task to keep on the schedule so, I’ve decided it necessary to cut back to posting every other week, at least until the rush has passed. I’m hoping that you won’t notice because you’re staying just as busy!  See you back here in a couple of weeks! 🙂

Digitizing – Easy as Apple Pie

Homespun Country Apple - Moonlight's Design Shoppe

My hubby set fresh picked apples on the counter and asked for pie. I sighed. Business has picked up with holiday custom orders, so domestic things take a back seat. I try to keep a little holiday cheer going this time of year, but things like baking from scratch have to be scheduled, because if it’s not on the white board, it won’t happen. I just can’t think about that sort of fun until custom orders are delivered by holiday deadlines, usually the first part of December.

Can’t we just stick with Sara Lee® this time of year, please?

As if he heard my thoughts, he announced, “I’ll do it, just tell me how.”   Visions of a floured floor and sugar-speckled kitchen flashed through my mind.  I think not.   But, if I didn’t bake them into something, these tart apples would only be good for squirrel food.  Anyhow, I hadn’t baked an apple pie for awhile, so perhaps it was a good time to refresh my memory.

I had a double-crust, ready-to-bake crust in the freezer, so I didn’t need to worry about rolling out dough – half the battle. But, first I had to hunt down my grandmother’s apple filling recipe, which is actually a list of basic ingredients with a few instructions: “some of this and some of that – and it depends on how many apples you have and their size, and what kind of apples they are to know how much of ‘this and that’ the pie needs”.    Grandma was a “dumper” – eye-balling measurements and judging the unbaked taste and texture before putting it in the oven. Not everyone would chance baking without a measuring cup; baking requires a specific science.  Grandma was a pro at baking. I am not.

Long ago I had jotted additional notes on those instructions after experimentation with various combinations of apples and amounts to determine default measurements.  So, I began digging through the jungle of books, papers and cards I keep stashed in an antique pie cabinet (that ironically never gets used for its original purpose of keeping fresh baked pies), but when the recipe didn’t immediately surface, I headed online for the basic ingredients of any apple pie, hoping it would jump start my memory.  I found one that sounded similar, and the fact it was named “Apple Pie by Grandma Ople” sold me – until I got distracted by another recipe of Food Network‘s Paula Deen whose recipe included applesauce. I had an opened jar of applesauce aging in the fridge, so I figured it would be worth combining it with the first recipe I found, which would work if I compensated for the extra liquid and sweetness by adding a little more flour and reduced the amount of sugar.

Paula’s recipe suggested a crunch topping, that sounded worth a try, and considering I had enough apples for one high double-crusted pie, if I spent a little time making the crunch topping, I could make two pies – and perhaps even get more than one piece (Kevin loves pie).

After the pies were baked, I was only disappointed with the topping that I thought would be crunchy like yet another recipe I’d found.  Mine lacked enough crunch – perhaps, a bit too much butter. (I should have known. Paula Deen is the Butter Queen.) I considered drizzling a vanilla icing over the top, but hubby stopped me with a smile, claiming, “It’s perfect” – the main objective.

Digitizing is very much like baking apple pie. First you need to plan and calculate the ingredients: consider what kind of fabric and/or garment it will be sewn on and what weight/type of threads will be used. Then a preliminary plan is done by mapping the path on the artwork, decide stitch types, calculate whatever automatics can be used for efficiency, punch with compensation for push and pull, and choose the best values for parameters like density, stitch length and column width.  After digitizing, the design file is then test-sewn to be sure the results are what’s intended; and if not, time is taken to polish it for results of a smooth running design that meets with the customer’s satisfaction.

Each design comes with different requirements.  If designs were consistently the same, digitizing would be easy – easy to quote, calculate and do.  Specific steps and parameter values for each type of art, fabric and stitch types would be memorized via repetitive action. But just like the ingredients that have to be considered for pie, the ingredients for a design have to be carefully measured.  The next design will be completely different, and the next; it could be years before the specific needs discovered in one design will come around again. When you find a digitizing recipe that works for a particular art/fabric/thread/stitch type combination, write the parameter values down in a notebook and keep it close to your design system (as I refer to in “Software is a Tool – You Control the Digitizing!“)  Having a collection of these technical recipes to reach for exactly when needed will save hours of digitizing time – time that you can use to bake pie.

Baked Apple Pie Design by Concord Collections at EmbroideryDesigns.com