Rescuing a Critter and the Word “Digitize”

treeIn November, one of our cats discovered an unexpected house guest who had bedded for the winter in a potted plant we had brought in for the winter two months before. I was stretched out on the couch with my fractured leg propped up, when I noticed Peter’s gaze, his head motionless and his eyes glued to the plants that are in front of the window. Something definitely had his attention.

Suddenly, he jumped from the top of the couch – his throne, as we call it – and came to an abrupt halt in front of the the plants; his nose daring to sniff at something. I considered it might be a mouse – not an impossibility, but a rarity in a house with three cats, so considering I was in no shape to rise and investigate, I told myself it was just a spider, turning my attention back to the movie running on my Kindle Fire. Through my peripheral vision, I saw his Edward Scissorhands paw reach up slowly, tap gently on the side of one of the pots, much too close to my late aunt’s antique lace curtains. “Nooo!” I scolded, and sat straight up, enduring the sharp pain that shot through my knee, while the Kindle slid to the floor with a thud.  Peter didn’t budge.  Unusual.  Any ding-dong, bang or whistle normally sends him running to his haven under the bed.

But Peter wasn’t attacking as he would a mouse, so it had to be something he found pretty darn curious. Now, I didn’t much care that he was at play with a bug, and would have actually appreciated his effort to send whatever it was to the next world, but the thought of shredded lace was quite upsetting.  I summoned The Man from his Cave.

“A baby toad,” my hubby announced, stretching out his hand to show me thetoad gray, warted little beast.  Don’t get me wrong, I like toads. They keep my veggie garden free of nasty bugs.  But I did not want a toad living in my house!  I looked out the window at the snow falling and back at the helpless critter curled up to the size less than a silver dollar in Kevin’s large palm, obviously too weak to be frightened.  It wasn’t the toad’s fault, really.  I should have run a pencil through the soil of the pot before bringing it inside.  And it’s not like we didn’t have the equipment to offer temporary shelter, having had our share of turtles and lizards (Kevin has a thing for amphibians).  Then I saw the plea in his eyes when he promised, “Just until Spring.”    Geez.   Okay, I gave in, but only if we agreed it was not a pet and it would not get named.  So, he brought out the lizard tank and made a trip to the local pet shop for a few dozen baby crickets.

After about a month I noticed the toad was a little greener some days than others, its eyes were getting bulgy and its legs seemed to stretch out quite long.  Even the tiny warts on its head seemed to flatten and raise again with darker spots coming and going, as well.  One morning, we found it looking very green in one of several puddles on the floor.  No doubt it had made quite a splash when it somehow pushed open the tank lid and escaped with a giant leap to the neighboring, topless, 55-gallon aquarium for a midnight swim.  Okay, probably not a toad, but definitely an amphibian.

PaddyKevin secured the lid and to appease the little critter we put a bigger pool in its tank, replacing the mayonnaise jar top with a recycled frozen dinner dish. It immediately took a swim and jumped to the side of the tank.    Wait a minute.  Do frogs stick to glass like that?    Then I got a good look at its toes – or perhaps “pad-like suction cups” is a better description.  A quick search at some of the web sites where I’d been surfing for emergency amphibian care revealed that the yellow stripes on its legs clarified it was a Minnesota Tree Frog – a species that has warts and changes color almost like a chameleon.  It’s important to know whether it is a toad, a frog or a tree frog to give it proper care.  Although they are all amphibians, they each need a little something that the other doesn’t and if I’m not careful, this rescueTreeFrog operation could turn deadly.  So after four months of calling it “the toad” we began annoying each other with continuous corrections or we would sputter out, “the toad … uh, frog … er, tree … that dang critter in the tank!”

And that brings me to my two stitches for this post:  

I am a digitizer.   I am not a digitalizer.   To digitize is to create a derivative via technology.  To digitalize is to administer digitalis or digoxin.  (Do not ask me to do any digitalizing for you.  I might kill you.)

There is a growing acceptance of using the word digitalize in place of digitize and it has even become the #2 meaning in some dictionaries.  I suppose it’s because everything has gone “digital” in today’s world.  Look up digitalizing or its base word of digitalis and you’ll find a slew of explanations from its original floral reference to the name of a recording studio.  Look up digitize (or digitise, as it’s spelled across the pond) and it has one precise technological meaning.

It’s my observation that the world trends with whatever is most commonly used, I suppose because it becomes tiring and seemingly rude to correct folks.  It’s one thing to not offend a customer, but it’s another to ignore the misuse stated by an industry professional.  While a novice in this industry, I referred to a Melco Digitrac as a “digitalis”, to the repeated frustration of my boss, so I’m not innocent of that error and certainly not trying to judge.  But for the sake of clarity, I’d like to encourage the experienced to kindly correct the newbie.  Don’t let it just slide by.  Maybe my personal plea is a battle I’ll lose in years to come, but eventually, I hope folks will see the value of sustaining a word with one precise meaning and the nonsense of using one with multiple meanings, as well as more syllables than necessary.

In my opinion, if one has trouble getting it right, the word “punching” would be the appropriate alternative.  Although it, too, has many other different meanings, it is quite acceptable, because punching tapes to create an embroidery design was the original method; hence, the original appropriate terminology.

That’s exactly how we are settling our current problem when referring to the critter residing in the lizard tank.  It just seemed to need a word with less syllables than “the tree frog” – a simple, yet more appropriate, word to eliminate confusion (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  Kevin has named it “Paddy”.     Is it Spring yet? 

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

Inspiration in the Woods

© 2012 B. Landsberger“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.” – Albert Einstein

During sunny seasons I want to lay in a patch of violets and clover, look up through the trees at the blue sky and watch puffy, white clouds float by. But I know better. My allergy problems are so unpredictable during the warmest seasons and I’ve had to accept that “smelling the roses” is not always the wisest activity for me. I allow myself to get caught up in the daily indoor grind, while stifling the feeling of being cheated out of outdoor pleasures. It’s not until the temps drop to the 60s and leaves © 2012 B. Landsbergermorph from the deepest greens to earth tones of orangey-reddish-browns that I’m pulled outside uncontrollably with the hope to find something remaining of Summer’s splendor.

Last week my big break finally arrived and I dashed out for a © 2012 B. Landsbergerwalk in the woods, camera in hand, hoping to capture the sustaining summery stuff. And indeed I found a few flowers, bees and a bunny or two that scattered faster than I could point and shoot. Startled by my rare presence in their domain, they sprang from under fallen branches and dove into the surrounding brush or below another pile of fallen branches. © 2012 B. Landsberger

© 2012 B. LandsbergerThe storms and flash floods in recent months have certainly made their mark. Splintered branches are dangling overhead, tethered by spiraling grape vines as thick as the branches they entwine. 

Many of the stately trunks bare scars that © 2012 B. Landsbergercause the mind’s eye to see faces with expressions frozen in time, revealing the pain endured when their branches were ripped away.  Their scars display the © 2012 B. Landsbergerstruggles that they had no other choice than to push through, and push they always do. I imagine it’s one reason they can survive for hundreds of years.

Some “tree expressions” take on a more extra terrestrial appearance after woodpeckers have their way, digging for bugs and creating coves perfect for winter nests – one of many ways Nature takes care of herself.

© 2012 B. Landsberger

Nothing goes to waste in Nature. That which falls to the forest floor is always put to good use as shelter for a variety of critters or it serves another purpose, as the fallen leaves that blanket the wild grasses, insuring the forest floor will return in Spring.

And there’s just something special © 2012 B. Landsbergerabout dead wood. Not one piece looks like the other; each with its own unique details of © 2012 B. Landsbergerlines and dots in a swirling grain of marbling tones.  I could meditate, ogling these images for hours, studying the shapes and flows of colors as the inspiration is absorbed.  It takes me on a non-drug induced, artistic high, reduces my stress factor, while at the same time, ideas are born … peaceful, yet motivating. And of course, I even ponder how these wonders might be digitized for embroidery or how to describe them in words. I find each piece of dead wood unique with a “story” that is incredibly fascinating.

So too is the bark of a living tree that continues to stretch and crack, evolving into vignettes of merging images only the mind’s eye can see.

© 2012 B. LandsbergerToo often I overlook the most brilliant beauty around me, believing if I don’t see what I yearn to see, then the beauty must not exist. But when I recognize the beauty that does exist – when I really look – it’s amazing!

“Look deep, deep deep into nature.”  What do you see?

[I see many things in the bark of this tree — turtles, faces, snakes, butterflies, Leprechauns, Angels, Jesus and more.]

all images © 2012 B.Landsberger ARR

Stitches Magazine is 25!

Back in 1986 I was a contented, part-time print artist without one thought about machine embroidery. It was a nice, peaceful few hours each week at a custom print and embroidery shop where I could get lost in the black ink on white paper that would be magically turned to colors by sublimation or screen-print ink. Ah yes, it’s amazing what can happen with a technical pen while the mind flies away into the rainbow gardens.

Then one day my boss approached me with the proposition of full time hours if I could learn how to use the Melco Digitrac®. (See History at Wikipedia Machine Embroidery.) I looked over at the tall easel-like monstrosity with a sliding T-square shaped crossbar and input pad with a transparent plastic bulls eye that moved on an X-Y axis, devouring the space next to the Melco Super Star embroidery machine, daisy chained to a floppy drive, as well as a tape punch machine. “Ummm, I don’t think so.”

Understand, I already had a career as the local hospital’s head cook and I would soon become the kitchen supervisor after finishing one more month of school for certification. I was set. It was too late in the game for me to start a new thing. He gave me a key to the shop and the manual and told me to “play” any time I could fit it in, and then decide.  “I have school,” I protested.

This is your school,” he replied, with a gesture towards the monstrosity.  Well, what artist addicted to hand embroidery wouldn’t be curious enough to accept the opportunity for at least the experience?!  So I did. And it didn’t take long – a few days, maybe a week – when I knew I would no longer be creating menus and cracking eggs every morning.

But it wasn’t easy!  Back in those days (omg, I’m starting to sound like Grandma!) we didn’t have personal computers, much less the Internet. There were no schools or books for “punching” which was the common term then for “digitizing”, evolving from the tape punch process it required. We thought it a grand transition when we moved up to the floppy drive – the big one that really flopped. Without editing software or even a personal computer, trial and error was the only real teacher. I taped a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the Digitrac and insisted on working evenings to avoid interruptions. Other employees who had a message or question for me knew enough to stand quietly in my peripheral vision until I turned to speak with them, and if they didn’t … well … it wasn’t pretty.

So that first year was quite intense with late nights, punching and watching every stitch sew simultaneously on the machine, which I also had to learn how to operate and maintain to be sure in my testing of work on different fabrics, stabilizers and thread weights that any error was not caused by the punching that created the design. Back then there was absolutely no way to cancel a punched function without eliminating all of the work, so I learned to create very small files to avoid those duh-moments like forgetting to punch the needle down and watching the machine dance in the air for 15 minutes after an hour of digitizing. Then the small files were combined by writing a program using the machine’s keyboard – a process done very carefully, because the only way to test the program was by running the machine – a time and material waster if the program had errors. And I pushed my tenacious self through the turmoil of fabric puckers, columns too wide or too thin, the use of underlay where and why, thread breaks, gaps between objects, disappearing stitches, loose stitches and unraveling stitches, stitches too short or too long, and coverage too sparse or too dense. And I’ll spare you what was involved in creating “special stitches” of motifs and patterns in fills that were created only by manually sectioning each element into multiple objects. Needless to say, I desperately struggled while sinking deep into the land of stitched woes!

And then … that glorious moment arrived when my boss placed into my hands the very first issue of Stitches Magazine. I swear, I heard the angels sing! I wore out the pages of that issue, finding the answers to a year’s worth of built up questions. Since then, each issue has brought a continuous stream of ideas and solutions for all of us in this industry, and personally, I can honestly say I couldn’t have gotten as far without it!

So, with the deepest of my own gratitude and on behalf of those who struggled their way up and through this industry, allow me to wish Stitches Magazine a well-deserved and sincere congratulations on 25 years!

This also seems to be an appropriate time to announce that entries are now being accepted for this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards! There are a couple of new exciting rules that will leave no excuse for not giving it a go. From the editor, Nicole Rollender:

Enter the Stitches Golden Needle Awards Today

Our challenge to you: Enter ONE design in this year’s Stitches Golden Needle Awards for embroidery and digitizing excellence. Choose the best work that you currently have and show it off to us. We want to make this year’s contest the best we’ve ever had: http://bit.ly/gAzZ4W

Remember, you don’t have to fit this project into your schedule – just submit the best stuff you’ve already done!!!

And on another stitch … in regard to the announcement in my last blog about Moonlight’s Design Shoppe soon to close, I’ve found it’s necessary to change the word “soon” to “in the near future”. Disassembling a sister domain of e-commerce without affecting the other sister domain for a custom digitizing service, I’ve discovered, will take a bit longer than expected. (I’ll whine about that process another day.) So, in the mean time, I will continue to deliver sales and will see about dusting off some of the cyber-cobwebs with a few page upgrades, but for now, my new stock designs will be introduced each month exclusively at Masterpiece Embroidery. (A big welcome to the newest member of the group, award winning digitizer, Erich Campbell who submitted three wonderful designs to this month’s collection!)  Masterpiece Embroidery is the place to shop for embroiderers looking to increase their stock library with high quality designs created by 15 skilled digitizers at an unbelievable price of $9.99 – and that’s the total cost for over 30 designs! No memberships necessary, no sneaky fees – just one short month before the price changes, so don’t delay!

Till next time kids, keep on stitchin’! 🙂

Pruning for Production … At My Age

A few years ago a crabapple tree popped up outside of the garden edging that keeps the lawn at bay. After the discovery while mowing the lawn, we decided to expand the edging around the little 2-leaf stem for protection while we waited to see what would occur at Nature’s hand. We thought it a nice spot for the tree where it would have a fair chance to grow in the protection of the taller trees, and a convenient way to secure a replacement for one of a few that are beginning to show damage from harsh Minnesota winters.

We have several different varieties of crabapple trees in the yard, and this sprout was growing so close to a white blossom crabapple tree, I worried it might be a root sucker. If so, it should be eliminated to avoid depriving the main tree of nutrients, but I hesitated to remove it, because the leaves appeared to be more of the pink crabapple’s shape. I crossed my fingers and let it be. Then last year the baby crabapple finally produced two small blossoms – just enough to prove it indeed was pink.

Now, mind you, we do not know that much about pruning any sort of tree properly, nor do we do more than trim dead branches and try to keep the trees alive the best we can. But it was obvious from the baby tree’s production of only two small blossoms, the sun was likely being hindered by its neighboring old relatives. So, last Spring when my husband took to the task of clearing away some of the large branches of the older trees that hovered over and near the roof, he made a point of removing enough to let the sunshine through. I admit I was a bit sad to see the larger trees thinned, but this past week, the pruning paid off when our new baby displayed bunches of blossoms on small, but hearty, branches.

The blossoms created smiles that helped me trudge through the rest of my very taxing week. This morning while scanning Facebook over coffee, I saw a Maxine Crabby Road cartoon reminding folks it was tax deadline day and felt relieved my taxes had been electronically filed a couple days ago. Nothing like putting things off close to the last minute, but sometimes the last minute is the only one I find. Nevertheless, even though final calculations didn’t make me jump for joy, it’s a project done and turned in on time. So I win.

I love Maxine. I’ve enjoyed her quips for years and now that I’m starting to look a lot like her, she often gives me advice at the right time by delivering tons of food for thought in a mere sentence or two. Today’s cartoon so graciously stated, “It’s tax day. Of course at my age every day is pretty taxing.” Great chuckle and all, but for me, I gained a little bit more in the phrase “… at my age ….” I am in my last month of my 50’s and have fulfilled the major goals I’d planned in my 20’s – at least all but one: I have not yet managed to retire, which is something I’d planned to happen before I hit 60. Time has a way of changing goals made for the “golden years” and I no longer believe complete retirement is a possibility in my life time, much less the next month.  But I have decided that some parts of my work life must be pruned. There is simply too many other things to do at my age.

So, after considerable thought of the options I’ve been weighing in recent months, I’ve decided to cut away a few things from the schedule. Somehow over the years I managed to give myself too many duties and when one has too many things to accomplish, something is going to be delayed and good service becomes impossible. Moonlight Design has never worked that way and it never will.

First on the cut list, I will soon be closing my online stock design website, MoonlightsDesignShoppe.com. The undecided exact date of closing (except to say, “soon”) will be announced one week prior via various social networks as a courtesy, but without big affair.  The site has been growing cyber-cobwebs the last year for my lack of maintenance and time thereof. Established in 1997, it began somewhat as an online catalog for my regular custom digitizing clients to answer one FAQ, “What do you have in stock?” It was a time saver. It needed no help. Things change. Without the time to maintain the extra web site, and no desire to market hearty to the global masses or hire someone else to do so, the best decision is to drop the unnecessary expense.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m retiring from digitizing!  Be assured, I will continue to offer my new stock designs through a few venues, such as Masterpiece Embroidery each month.  It’s an honor to be a member of such a great group of skilled digitizers!  I also plan to create a few CD collections and make them available through my home base, DesignsByMoonlight.com, which will continue to remain online. Nah, full retirement is not an option – digitizing is something I’ll continue till I can no longer create and click. God knows why. I just can’t seem to stop. But every now and then, one has to prune away those extra branches to let a little sunshine in. 🙂

Tree Buds, Dust Bunnies & Finding the Right Stitch

It’s been awhile since my last post, so allow me to back up a couple of weeks to the first official day of Spring, something that happened quite early here in the Midwest this year. Business had been unusually busy, and it was interfering with my seasonal habit of venturing out to the garden when the time was right. It was obvious the calendar and Nature had decided that the time was right and I was not yet ready. It set me in somewhat of a panic.  I’d had all orders but one caught up and had run into a brick wall, turning creativity into a ragged discombobulated mess. So, I ventured into the kitchen to take a break from the puzzle by finding something domestic to strike off the To-Do list.

While gazing out of my kitchen window, trying to distract myself from the tub of dirty dishes my hands were trying to make disappear, I thought of how dismal the bare tree branches seemed against Winter’s left-overs of a drab, dry, greenish-golden background. There hadn’t been enough snow all season to appropriately blanket and compliment a leafless tree. Everything looked dead. Oddly depressing, to say the least.

To lift my spirits I set imagination in motion, while picturing the lush beauty of the apple tree filled with delicate, white blossoms. It won’t be long, I consoled myself, but first there must be leaves, and for that we need buds. Little specks of green suddenly poked out from the grey tips as if dancing to the musical notes of a song, many popping up in close unison to greet the sun. I blinked with the assumption that my imagination had gone into overdrive. It was a good call, considering the green of the specks were about the same tone of green that dominated the design I’d been digitizing. But then the little specks turned into larger dots, and eventually, I realized I’d just witnessed my apple tree budding – something one can go a life time without seeing unless it’s in a video. Cool!

It brought to mind motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s thought provoking statement, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Well, perhaps this particular situation was simply nature being nature, but it was cool – and a darn good way to bring attention to Dr. Dyer’s most recent work, Wishes Fulfilled. Earlier, I had seen a few minutes of his public television presentation and heard him say another statement I’d been chanting while tackling the design, “If you want to accomplish something, you have to expect it from yourself.”

Well said, Dr. Dyer!  Perhaps that’s why I have dust bunnies in the corners of the steps that lead to the Man Cave. I expect the clean-up to get done by nagging at my hubby. (Yeah, like that has ever really worked in the history of man and wife.) He doesn’t notice so he obviously doesn’t expect it of himself and I certainly don’t expect it of myself, though occasionally he will claim the little bunnies are made up of thread scraps, putting the fuzzball in my court. I think not, dear sir! So there remains the little clumps of cobwebs and dust, knitted together with cat hairs – little furry critters that nag at me, and then I nag at hubby, and so goes the circle.    But, I digress.

At first examination of the artwork of the design I was working on, it hadn’t hit me as something too exciting, but it appeared quite elementary – a few common elements against a background of a faint gradient blend and colors in close tones ranging from yellow to green. Piece of cake, I thought with a slightly smug confidence. After all I’d digitized this type of logo more times than I could recall. And after 26 years of punching, I expected it of myself.

But what I had originally, so quickly assumed to be an easy job, soon became apparent that the artwork needed something to make it pop. Without it, the design in thread would sit like a flat, drab, boring patch of the same tone that would swallow the inside elements, even if nicely stitched. The embroiderer shared that thought, suggesting a pattern fill background to help separate it from the inside elements. The finished design would be sewn on sturdy fabric, but the size was fairly large, so I wanted to keep the stitch count down. And there began the quandary that led to days of test-sewing different pattern fills till I found one that would please my eye – a wavy pattern that seemed appropriate for the elements set at a long stitch length.

The embroiderer was pleased.   I was not.  There remained something uncomfortable to my eye. I had become so distracted by trying to improve the appearance of the background that I’d failed to foresee how the inside elements had became over-shadowed by the pattern. Changing it to a flat fill background with a shorter stitch length would bring out the inside elements, but it could add a ton of additional stitches, along with the fact it presented the possibility of buckling.  As well, I personally thought it just wouldn’t look so hot. What to do? And then, I literally awoke one night with the idea that a see-through crosshatch pattern seemed perfect for the situation. A light density of stitching offers color and detail, but even though it’s attractive, it doesn’t overpower the inside elements. All it requires is being sewn on a fabric color that works with the colors of the design – perhaps an applique to offer color without becoming the immediate focus, and plus, it’s achieved at a low stitch count.    I thought it was perfect.    The embroiderer thought not.     … sigh

I returned to using the pattern fill and stayed in tune with the wishes of the embroiderer, whom I believe has a better artistic judgement when dealing with thread. Embroiderers have more hands on experience with thread color, whereas, digitizers spend more hours gazing at monitor colors – it’s just the way it is. Put that together with the fact that this particular embroiderer has produced some pretty nice work, and her judgement was not in my mind to question.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling there had to be more. So while discussing the possibilities with her I studied the image of her sewn sample and noted that I really liked the fabric she’d chosen to test the design on – it really was a shame to cover it up. And then it was as if the light bulb went on in both our heads at the same time as our vision of the finished design came together, by heading in an entirely different direction. We simply needed to eliminate the majority of the background stitches all together and let the fabric work for the design.

Sometimes – perhaps, most times – as the good doctor suggests, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Happy Spring!

Blog Data, One Rock Jock & Chicken Embroidery

Yay! It’s post number 30! I think that’s supposed to mean something, but I’m not sure what. I’m not a blog specialist. I just ramble here. Nine months into posting and I’m actually surprised that I’ve managed to get this far. That first post started as a lark, and, back then, I honesty didn’t think that I could obligate time to another task. Isn’t it amazing how all it takes to get something done is to start?

For me the best part of posting has been all of the little perks discovered; both interesting and fun – things that would have otherwise lain to the side under some indifferent rock. Take, for example, the “Summary of Searches” in my WordPress.com blog Dashboard.   I just found it.   (I did mention this blog started as a lark.  Seeking the blog’s marketing and research value had never been a priority, but it’s now being reconsidered.)

I’ve been aware of some of the stats like the traffic graph that shows how many folks read the post, and the database lists the links in my posts that are clicked (currently, EmbroideryDesigns.com shows the most hits, with Stitches Magazine coming in a close second.)  As well, it shows where readers click from, like Facebook or Twitter, and a great deal are stumbling upon my blog when searching for a wide variety of phrases.

The WP Summary of Searches in my blog database reveals what or whom readers are searching for when they end up here. If the keywords and phrases are noted in my blog even once, that post inevitably makes the list of someone’s search results.

Not surprising, the number one search is for my friend, Mindy Collins, who rocks the Florida airwaves via 96.7/101.7 Pirate Radio WKYZ. (We miss Mindy in the Twin Cities! I’m waiting patiently for Pirate Radio to stream.) Besides being one of my favorite fun people and a great friend, she’s always been “there” to make the world seem brighter – it was Mindy’s voice that kept me going through hair-pulling moments of frustration, while learning how to punch a decent embroidery design.  And of course, there’s her great choice of fantastic tunes.  Ah yes, the power of rock!

Second in line of top searches, and the most helpful in respect to digitizing, has been those for particular embroidery designs:

embroidery design for leap year

embroidery designs for newborns

embroidery design pirate

elephant busting through brick wall embroidery design

wagon fill stitch embroidery design

design stitches for sneakers

the very hungry caterpillar machine embroidery design

No matter how odd some ideas seem, knowing what people are searching for is key when trying to create that next design.  If it’s not in demand, it’s not going to sell. (This search thing could definitely pay for the time I spend posting!)

I’m also beginning to find a lot of the search phrases very curious like “droopy petunias” (a phrase found in the title of an earlier post). Makes me wonder – do we have an epidemic of wilting petunias?  Perhaps there’s just a lot of folks new to petunias who don’t realize it’s natural for this annual to droop when they get wet in rain or high humidity and it’s also part of their cycle to bloom, wilt and dry to a crusty brown. [A tip for those petunia growing newbies: if you want to see blooms for the 4th of July, pluck the early blooms in mid-June, even if they’re not yet droopy, and offer them shelter in a hard rain.]

Then, of course, there are search phrases that make me scratch my head, laugh or both:

get my trainers embroidered

two grandmas fighting

cat frowning in shower

worn out keds with toe holes

flexibility in the towns+skice

secret service agents never smile

stressful nature of environment in chicken embroidery industry     [WHAT?!!]

apple pies with apples on the side and elmo

dear santa lets just concentrate on that

embroidery digitizing app ipad

My first reaction: Good luck with that digitizing app! I just could not picture punching with a hand held device!  But I had a quick change of attitude while drifting into retrospect.  I started punching without software and saw it speed to where digitizing is today, and nothing really surprises me anymore.

CHICKEN AND THREAD - Copyright Great Notions; found at EmbroideryDesigns.com

A “digi-app” will likely happen, if it hasn’t already. I sure don’t know of what use it would be to me, though, or anyone else who strives for accuracy while calculating measurements for tiny elements.  Perhaps it would make for a great editing app with the ability to remove or add machine commands like color changes and trims.

But, as for digitizing?  I just don’t think it’s for me. Then again, perhaps it’s something that could help the stressful nature of the environment for that chicken in the embroidery industry. 😉

February Moonlight & a Month to Observe

Snow MoonThe full moon this week has brightened the night sky as if to proclaim the glory of February!  Seems appropriate considering all the events and celebrations – a list too long for this post – but allow me to touch on a few …

The rising moon caused a lot of ooo’s and ahh’s in Washington D.C. as it ascended above the capital; a photographer’s dream shot, as seen at “Daily Eye Wonder”. The Full Snow Moon is so named by Native American tribes because it’s a time when the heaviest snowfall is expected, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2012.

© Copyright by Concord Collections - EmbrideryDesigns.com

This winter there hasn’t been much snow landing in my Midwest backyard and no heavy storm is predicted (yet). Nevertheless, Groundhog Phil in PA saw his shadow on February 2, indicating there would be six more weeks of winter. Well, considering that in Southeastern MN, we woke up to thick fog that morning, I’m putting my money on Unadilla Bill in NE, a stuffed groundhog residing at Unadilla’s local pub of the same name, who has decided it’s time for Spring.

Floral Heart Applique by Adorable Ideas - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Floral Heart Applique - © Copyright by Adorable Ideas

Ironically, February “observances” are packed into the shortest month of the year, but 2012 is a Leap Year, so at least we’ll have an extra day for celebrations and create smiles for those born on February 29th. (Happy Birthday x 4!Leap Day is said to be a popular time for women to propose marriage, which I suspect might be a Sadie Hawkins moment for the impatient who didn’t get a ring on February 14th. And then those lucky ladies whose proposals are accepted, can plan a romantic wedding for the next Valentine’s Day, a somewhat popular date for getting hitched. The Dade City courthouse in Pasco County, FL even offers a mass wedding to avoid possible overflow.

There’s a slew of other things to observe this month – both respectable and bizarre – from Florida strawberries to spunky old ladies, according to a list at BrownieLocks.com.  Some of the national observances – both logical and odd – include:

Couch Flamingo by EMbroidery Patterns - EmbrideryDesigns.com

Couch Flamingo © Copyright by Embroidery Patterns

And here’s one that I need: National Time Management Month. To help folks manage precious time in both business and personal life, eResources has a few quick tips.

Let’s not omit global observances like International Friendship Month. I’ll mention Erich Campbellthe obvious – Facebook. I still have not yet updated to the new profile. Normally, I dive in and get the inevitable changes out of the way, but life has caused social networking housekeeping to fall to the rears. I suppose I should tidy up soon or it will likely be done for me. I’ve been hesitating wanting to find that one cool pic I can use for the header like some of the pretty darn good ones I’ve seen out there amongst my friends.  My current favorite is that of FB friend Eric Campbell, which displays a portion of his work that adorned last month’s cover of Stitches Magazine. Yeah, that’s pretty nice.

That brings to mind that February is also National Embroidery Month. Celebrated internationally up till this year, folks in all countries love embroidery. Like music and other arts, embroidery is an internationally understood language, whether or not it’s being observed in lands across the ponds. It’s one of the first skills achieved by humans, and an embroidery needle has been declared one of the earliest artifacts found in the line of tools. Embroidery has been used as a method of keeping records and defining honorary titles, as well as making a statement via art and decoration. The first hand embroidery machine, according to Wikipedia’s article “St. Gallen Embroidery” was invented by Franz Mange in 1828. It made gradual advancements up to the 1980s when Melco introduced the first computerized embroidery machine and Wilcom created the software to go with it.  The rest, as they say, is my history as well as other “old dogs” in the industry (and there isn’t a day that goes by we don’t learn a new trick.)

And so, it seems appropriate to decorate this post with designs by different digitizers, many who offer their designs via EmbroideryDesigns.com where I work a few hours each day as one of their customer service reps. It’s a part-time position, but I don’t really consider it a “job” – more of an educational pleasure as I exchange knowledge with countless embroiderers, chatting about the new machines on the market or thread breaks and such, when I’m not rescuing an occasional lost password or suggesting the right stabilizer or design for their project.

Butterfly by Moonlight Design - February Masterpiece Embroidery

It’s somewhat of a fun break in my day from operating Moonlight Design Embroidery Digitizing or working on stock designs as a participating designer at Masterpiece Embroidery, or writing “Punching Sense“, my column in Stitches Magazine, as well as various other duties like creating and updating tutorials for I-Cliqq Software (FYI to users: a new tutorial is penciled in for the near-future so to catch up with recent awesome updates.)

Yes, I have to admit I have a sometimes chaotic, but fulfilling, career that often swallows my time. On the other hand, it also offers me something many folks continue to search for – making a living at what I love to do. After all, if I wasn’t making money at it, I know I’d still be spending time at it anyhow.

Brillian Rose Hearts by Sweet Heirloom - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Brilliant Rose Hearts - © Copyright by Sweet Heirloom

And “doing what I love” brings to mind a video that seems appropriate to mention by movie director Tom Shadyac that I saw on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday last week called, “I Am I could write an entire blog post about my opinion on this thought-provoking and inspirational documentary, but I’ll let you make up your own mind if you catch the chance, and for now I’ll just close with my brief two stitches: worth watching! 

Happy February! 🙂