Turning the Page

January buzzed by without one word from me. Considering that it was my blog “anniversary” month, now at three years of babbling, I feel a bit disappointed I’d let it slide, but I won’t be too hard on myself. It was only a temporary blog pause that was necessary to make way for the “new”.

My recent leg injury forced a few changes that have helped me take a good, hard look at where I’m headed. Although I’ve always felt it best to live in the moment, I think I had been a bit too ignorant of particular consequences.   Artists are like that.   If not for keen focus, many contracted works of the masters would not be completed. (The Sistine Chapel might be bare, if not for Michelangelo‘s passionate discipline.) But there comes a time for all of us creative types when the reality hits – when you realize your own creative needs are being neglected while everything that you are accomplishing is for someone else. Yes, getting paid to be “someone else’s pencil” is pretty cool and a great way to make a living, but there has to be balance. Without equalizing the playing field of creating for self as much as for others, one might be led to cut off an ear.

Self Portrait - Vincent Van Gogh(Okay, so I’ve heard that Van Gogh actually may have lost his ear at the hand of his rival Gauguin, but it definitely reveals the time bomb reactions that can churn inside the frustrated mind of a working artist.)

During the last few months, I found it impossible to take on any new custom digitizing orders and I couldn’t even allow myself to give an “I’ll be back” notice. Instead I placed an announcement on my web site stating, “Custom services are no longer available.” And after all the changes that occurred in January, I’ve decided that notice will remain permanently. No, I am not leaving the embroidery industry. I am simply putting custom services at Moonlight Design to rest.

Actually, I’ve been planning my retirement days since I purchased my first digitizing system at the shocking cost of $25,000 (in 1995 that was considered a bargain – one half the cost of the previous decade). At that time I was employed as the in-house puncher for a 50-head embroidery shop, Write-On Embroidery, a great place to work, run by wonderful employers. But I was looking to find a way to work from a home office, believing I’d be more productive in my solitary peace, away from daily business interruptions and roaring machines. I was also hoping to establish my future “retirement job”. (Who in today’s world can completely retire? Besides, I’d shrivel without a job to wake up to, and flipping Mc-Burgers or greeting Wal-Mart customers are not of my forte. I am more capable of creating their logo and need those particular folks to make my lunch and point me in the right direction. Alas, we each have an important purpose in this world.)

The only way to afford such a luxury of having my own digitizing equipment was to take on custom orders, which indeed helped pay for the machine, computers and necessary software programs. When the payments were complete, I found myself obligated to an established client base whose work generated profits on a roller coaster margin as it followed the erratic economy. During the up years, it was necessary to resign my position at the embroidery shop, and then during the down years I had a choice: walk away from digitizing completely and find another line of work; or market, market, market and work a zillion hours to meet a zillion deadlines in order to stay afloat. I chose the latter. I didn’t get much sleep.

So a few years ago, I decided to take a part-time position working from my home office as a customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, which offered a steady income to count on when custom orders were slow. Every day since I’ve enjoyed conversations with EmbroideryDesign.com’s customers who need help shopping the web site, using their designs, and while sharing my knowledge about everything embroidery. In return, I discover what embroiderers like or don’t like or what they want to see on the design market – inspiration for my own stock design sales. They reveal their hair-pulling woes, offering ideas for my articles in Stitches Magazine or issues I can address in this blog. And at the same time, I am representing the work of some of the highest quality digitizers; many of whom I’m fortunate enough to call a colleague and whose work I respect with the highest regard. I love that job!

Last November when I injured my leg, I was suddenly forced to reduce the hours I sat in front of a computer each day, and even though it was during the time of year that custom orders bring in the highest profit, choosing to work only for EmbroideryDesigns.com was the most logical decision to make. What a wonderful freedom I had found – no burning the midnight oil to meet those “yesterday” deadlines or contacting clients with the disappointing statement of “sorry for the delay”. It even allowed for more time “playing” with the ever-evolving I-Cliqq software, taking my time and having fun with my own creative expressions.

So recently, when I was offered a full-time position at EmbroideryDesigns.com, I accepted without hesitation. I’m not sure how my physical time clock is going to handle 8:30-5:30, Monday thru Friday. My body and brain may very well panic, but it’s time for me to take charge of such things. I have to look at the bright side. For the first time in years I will be working a routine schedule of weekends off and will actually have opportunity for those 4-day weekends that I hear most folks cheer over; not to mention I’ll finally understand the true meaning of TGIF. But I doubt if I’ll be a Monday hater – without a day to begin a new work-week, surely, the alternative would be to sit idle, feeling useless. No, thank you.

Digitized by Machine Embroidery Designs

I admit I have had a bit of an argument with myself with this decision, fearing I might be deserting a few favored clients, but I am wise enough to know I am not the only master digitizer out there who can handle their work. I’ve never been a competitor, but a team player, and I’m most confident my colleagues, as well as the promising new punchers, won’t mind if I leave custom services to them.  After all, I’m not closing the book, but simply sailing on to the next chapter.  

Today, I saw a status on my Facebook stream that said something similar to: “I’ve reached that age where my brain went from You probably shouldn’t do that to what the hell, let’s see what happens.” Yeah, that’s where I’m at. The future may hold a bit of mystery, but I’m now quite certain that I won’t be cutting off my ear any time soon – or anyone else’s, for that matter. 🙂

Strolling through the Stitches

snowI couldn’t decorate this year for Christmas – no tree, no tinsel, no lights, no pretty shiny bulbs with ribbons and glitter – but I sure had a lot of cheer. That’s something folks in the apparel decorating industry rarely get a chance to experience during the holiday season. But I was more or less forced into it during my long and “hoppy” month since my tumble from the step stool. My leg injury has opened my eyes to many wonderful things, but it’s been an up-and-down ride. A couple of weeks after the X-rays determined the damage was no more than a hefty sprain, the clinic called with a different story.

Further investigation of the X-rays had been done as a routine double-check by the Mayo Clinic (the parent clinic to our local Mayo Clinic Health Systems, lucky me). They had determined the X-rays revealed what might be avascular nervosis. Geez, sounded bad. (Even spell check doesn’t recognize it.) Well, all big medical words sound bad to me, considering the biggest word in my vocabulary for the last 27 years has been “digitizing”. But I’m not one to take chances with health issues, so, without hesitation, I agreed to add “MRI” to my schedule.

Now understand, this was my first MRI, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect or how long it would take. I had heard horror stories from the claustrophobic, but assured myself, that I’d never had that problem. I envisioned perhaps a half hour inside a tube and convinced myself it would be a dandy opportunity to meditate. (HA!)  I was wheeled outside in the cold to the large heated trailer that is parked in front of the clinic once a week (our rural facility is serviced by a “MRI-mobile”.) The technician explained how the process worked, while dangling a metal washer on a string in front of the white tubular opening. The washer flew up and danced around like a drunk fly until it glued itself to the inside opening of the tube. Eerie.

I then realized why the doctor had asked if I had any metal in my body, to which I had answered, “only if it was left behind the last time you guys were digging around and cutting things out.” She had snickered in a slightly devilish tone and remarked that we’d soon find out. Touche. I watched the tech pull away the metal washer and let it spring back a few times to display just how strong the magnetic current is, and imagined my body slamming up to the top of the cylinder, glued at the abdomen, limbs flailing, helplessly. I was so very relieved to be told only my lower body need be scanned.

I shoved the ear plugs in my ears as instructed, which then muffled the tech’s voice as she pointed to various digital panels on the front of the tube. So I pulled out one plug requesting she repeat the instructions and she replied, “I know, sorry. I’m like the dentist who asks you a question when they are digging in your mouth,” after which she promptly walked away to another room of the trailer to engineer the process.

No wait! Really, what did you say?!! The words got stuck in my throat as she disappeared too quickly behind a wall. I didn’t dare move. She had told me not to. And I recalled the metal in my dental work and didn’t want my head slamming into that thing. I struggled to read a tiny notice on the tube, “Do not stare directly into the light … severe damage ….” What light?! The one right above the notice? Maybe that’s not a light, but it sure looks like one. If that’s not the light, which light and just where am I not to stare? Why did they make such a warning so damn small?!

Then my attention was directed to the digital panels she had pointed to as they lighted and I discovered they were count-down timers that I was able to watch – something to keep the mind busy, I suppose, perhaps an attempt to comfort the patient, but they only reminded me of the digital count-down for a bomb. And then suddenly I found out what the ear plugs were for. As it scanned in 3-5 minute intervals, its swishing rat-a-tat-tat began, a sound similar to a worn out washing machine I once had when it went into the spin cycle – the one we had named “Old Tommy-Gun”. For 15 minutes I pondered, why in this new high-tech world does this sophisticated device have to make such a racket? What the hell goes on inside that thing? Well, I’ll probably never know the answer to that, but I decided that an MRI experience is certainly not the ideal time to meditate!

A few days later, a day after I was limping around the house, catching up cat-chairon domestic chores, the clinic called again. The specialists determined that they didn’t find what they were looking for but indeed, trouble was lurking on the inside where X-rays couldn’t go; a couple of small fractures in the area of the knee cap and one in the ball of the tibia. Long story short, I am now on crutches, wearing a knee brace and still very thankful for that chair on wheels that I had traveled on (to the dismay of one cat who had decided the new chair in the hall was hers.  I actually had to fight her for it.)  “You were lucky,” said the physical therapist, “if you hadn’t used your office chair to get around for the last few weeks, we might be talking about surgery.” … whew!

He instructed to not put any weight on it for two weeks, and afterward, only a bit at a time. And then he gave me an approved application for a handicap parking sticker good till April.  April?! It’s going to be one long winter!  I felt some relief when he said I need not use the brace, if I can remember to not bend or put weight on the leg when trying to get around on the crutches. I have one cat who has claimed that particular leg as her bed for the last 15 years and another cat who found the brace so disgusting she has tried tearing it off with her teeth. After spending a good amount of time trying to pick cat hair off the Velcro straps, I tried the “no brace method”, but quickly found out how easy it is to forget the rules. It was quite frightening to find myself standing in one part of the house, suddenly aware my crutches were no where to be seen.  I had been so preoccupied I couldn’t even recall if I had babied the leg and limped there!  I now keep the furry brace on as a reminder. I do not want surgery.

Fortunately, I’ve found that my work station for EmbroideryDesigns.com is the most comfortable place to sit because it has ample space for my leg to stretch straight out with my foot resting on a pillow. But I hadn’t given much thought to needing such a position when establishing my digitizing station. Punching has been slow-going because it’s very difficult to concentrate and let creativity flow when uncomfortable. I’m planning to set up my I-Cliqq digitizing software soon on my laptop, so I can punch while stretched out on the couch. Perhaps I won’t move through a design as swift as when working in my office, but I intend to take advantage of my forced slow-down. Digitizing is more enjoyable when you can stroll through the stitches, instead of rushing without recall to the end.  And so is life.

Although the dust and cat hair are merging into puffy bunnies, my husband is learning to do laundry and at least trying to cook something other than toasted bagels. I am sincerely appreciating the snowflakes drifting by the windows, the serenity and moments of silence.

fluteI even took my Native American flute out of its case, a custom made Christmas gift from my husband that I have only spent time with when creating a design to embroider on buckskin.  I had been thrilled with the gift and had vowed I’d start learning how to play it “as soon as the holiday rush was over.”  I was shocked to realize it had been hanging there for 13 years, waiting to sing. My name is engraved on its underside, followed by the name of its maker, friend, Lakota George Estes, dated 12/6/00. “A flute should be played,” George had told me.  I wanted to.  I just did not.  No time for play, I had to work.  Didn’t I?

After more than a decade, it’s finally being used for its intention other than a wall decoration; a personal quest for my ears and spirit only, but I am now committed to not stop until I learn to play Love Mountain – Wayra the Wind.  So that could mean I’ll be trying till I die.  Alas, a flutes I may never be, but I’m definitely finding a wonderful, inspiring peace within the process.  And that’s what it’s all about.

Yes, it has actually turned out to be the most enjoyable month of December I’ve had in 27 years. Not once did I have to crawl out of bed before 7 a.m. and if I stayed awake past 10 p.m. it was because I wanted to. I have not fretted over lost or delayed orders, and by gosh, it hasn’t hurt at all. So, let me also take a moment in this post to suggest you all learn to gear down a little during the holiday rush; something I know well is so very difficult to do for those who are in an industry of “Santa’s elves.”

If your holidays have been zipping by blindly, now is the time to take stock of how you handled things these last few months – or how things controlled you. Acknowledge where changes can be made for the better, and then resolve to make those changes next Fall! Don’t let the years of precious holiday smiles get smothered during the stress of deadlines and chaos of caps, polos and jackets. Slow the pace a notch, enjoy. Stop the machines now and then and step away from the computer to smell the pine and and taste the peppermint. Don’t wait to break a leg to remember how special the holiday season can be!

Wishing you all a most prosperous and peaceful New Year! 🙂

Good Intentions – Dusty, Hoppy Endings

by Concord Collections – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with family and friends! Personally, I ate a scrumptious plate of turkey, with all the fixin’s that my husband handed to me when he returned from his family’s dinner. There I sat in the middle of the kitchen on one of my office chairs, devouring every little morsel, deeply grateful and not even noticing that dear hubby had dashed down the stairs to the Man Cave to get his football fill; nor did I care that the three cats were circling around me, hoping for a share. Ah, yes, exciting as it does not sound, it truly was a grateful moment for me!

Now, I know that might sound a bit odd, so let’s back up a few days to the previous Sunday. It was a glorious morning. I felt great and eager with a well thought-out plan. By golly, this Thanksgiving Eve was not going to be a terror trying to get things done! I was determined to get the house cleaned, bake a few goodies and maybe even put up the Christmas tree – something I normally don’t do till December, but since it fit on the agenda, why not?!

I finished a brief, early morning shift as customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, and closed the office door with a to-do list in my hand. First on the list was to fetch my grandmother’s holiday dishes she used for cookies down from a top shelf. I recently acquired them after finding them on Ebay (among those finds I previously blogged about). I climbed up one step of the step stool, found the dishes and set them on the counter. Then I noticed what appeared to be the top of a salt shaker that had been lost for years and took another step up to get a better look. Cool! I grabbed the silver top, along with a few plastic straws that didn’t belong there and descended by taking one step back down.

The straws flew from my hands; one straw landing inside one of the toaster slots and I immediately worried that hubby may have just used that for one of his favorite breakfasts of French Toast Bagels. But thoughts of a melted plastic mess disappeared, while an excruciating pain shot from my heal to thigh, forcing my knee to buckle.

With my right leg still in the air, my body came down in what felt like slow motion, while a million thoughts raced through my head. No! Don’t break the fall with my hand and arm! I don’t want another shoulder wound! Last time it took almost two years of diligent Yoga to heal – I couldn’t type, I couldn’t digitize, I couldn’t do anything without pain. Think! what to do? The answer came from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, stored from a 1960s gymnastics class.Tuck and roll!

Well, I couldn’t completely tuck, and rolling was certainly out of the question, but I managed to bring my head down and pulled both folded arms inward to my chest. The outside of my right shoulder hit the linoleum with a THUMP!! and my right leg hit the stool, which toppled to the side with a crash, coming to rest on the left leg. I heard the silver shaker top bounce on the floor and land – somewhere. I listened to the reverberating tinkle as it came to a stop, and then I zeroed in on my shoulder. Immediately, I began to massage it with a little prayer, and after a few seconds realized no pain. Whew! Lucked out!  I then decided it best to lay still a minute to be sure and rested my cheek on the floor. Oh, geeez, look at all the cat hair and kitty nibbles under the counter cabinets – I’ll tackle that later. Now, where did that shaker top go?

by Embroidery Patterns – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I turned in the direction of where I’d heard the shaker top drop, getting as far as laying on my back. Check: back is okay. I tried to move my left leg that was now trapped under the stool, and let out one helluva yowl. Egad! The possibility of a broken lower limb had not crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just bruised. I pried the stool up with my right foot and wriggled away, as a sharp pain raced upward, closing my left eye and then the right. Anger exploded.  Nooooo! Dammit!  I had also just recovered after limping for a year with broken toes on this same leg that then put stress on the other leg, causing my PAD to flair. After heeding to a healthy diet and Yoga, I had just gotten to where I was finally walking on two legs again and feeling spiffy.

I tried to calm down, acknowledging that anger can make one sick; while on the other side of things, gratitude induces healing.  As well, smiling has its benefits, even if pried by a pencil clenched sideways in the mouth. … sigh … well, it was a nice last few months of balanced walking, thank you God; at least I’m used to this. I smiled, teeth clenched.

Obviously, I wasn’t going anywhere, yet – not in a vertical position, anyhow. Just a little traumatized and likely bruised, but I better get Kevin to help me up. I wonder where he is. Surely he felt the house shake when I hit the floor!  I gave a shout to dear hubby who, as usual, was downstairs in his Man Cave watching football (something he loves more than life itself, but I knew that going in.) I’ll rest a minute and I’m sure he’ll be up at the end of the play. And as long as I’m down here, I can check around for that shaker top. Holy cow, the bottoms of the stove and fridge really need scrubbing!

Not seeing the shaker top and getting tired of staring at the red dots of some sort of food that somehow ended up on the ceiling, I gave another shout for help. Maybe he’s napping. Well, I can’t lay here all day. I propped myself up on one elbow and reached up to the counter, dragging the wounded leg – smiling, teeth clenched, eyes shut. I managed to get up on my right knee when the pain produced a loud, angry, guttural scream, followed by, “Where are you, you son of a … no … now, don’t get angry Bonnie, this is your own fault, so chill.”

As I returned to the floor I opened my eyes to look at what was making my hand stick to the side of the counter. Chocolate milk. HA! And he said he cleaned that mess up.

I decided to make my way to a kitchen chair, crawling like GI Jane, dragging one leg, grunting with each “step” forward. (What is it about grunts that just seem to help?) By the time I got there I realized I couldn’t get myself up on the chair alone.  What to do?   If I headed for the living room couch, I’d never get up again and I had work to do, so I figured if I’m going to get on any chair, it best have wheels on it.  I slithered on down to my office at the end of the hall, looked inside and realized no way was it possible to get one of those chairs out through the narrow paths between desks without lifting them.   This sucks.   And good grief! Look at those dusty cobwebs between the two desks where all the peripheral cables are tucked!    Hey, there’s that pen I was looking for!

I crawled back down the hall to the sewing room where two other mobile chairs resided and opened the door to see the big box of Christmas ornaments I’d brought upstairs earlier. I also noticed the sun streaking in right down upon six cones of thread that I was using on my last project and had neglected to put back on the shelf. Oh my, that’s not good, but I can’t do anything about it now. I can’t get past this blasted box!   I started to cry.  And then, because I’ve never been a whiner, another loud scream of total frustration.  Wait!  I saw the floor vent at the end of the hall.  I crawled nearer to the vent, yelling for Kevin as loud as I could – and whispered a few expletives.

by Digital Giggle – EmbroideryDesigns.com

Through the cross-hatched metal I could see him in front of his computer, playing Texas Hold ‘Em and I could clearly hear the football game on TV. Intensely staring at the monitor, he began to smile and his right fist came up with a shout, “Royal Flush!” His head jerked up to view the TV and his left fist came up, and with both fists pumping he shouted “YEAH!! Touchdown!!”

Oh lordy. I’m about to really crap on his day.

I sat up and leaned against the wall. Check: I can sit, no problem.  But I refuse to sit in this hallway till the end of his games!    Look at that track of dust that the vaccuum misses along the floor boards!    Suddenly I pondered the cost of contracting a “help-I-can’t-get-up service” but quickly banished the idea. I don’t need that yet –do I? Well, I can’t afford it anyhow.  I took off my right shoe and started banging on the floor vent. Kevin turned down the TV volume and finally heard my plea, rushing to my rescue with a worried expression. Oh, he does care. Now, don’t get snarky, at least not till you’ve got your butt in that chair.

He brought the chair out to the hallway, and then asked if I broke anything while lifting me with his hands placed under my arms. The seat of that chair was so very close, when he suggested, “See if you can put any weight on it.” So, I did. And when the pain shot from toes to nose, my knee buckled and I screamed.  He backed away.  I dropped to the floor.  I looked up at him with that expression of what the hell is wrong with you?  He shrugged apologetically, saying, “I thought I hurt you.”

Go figure … must be the crashing rush from winning games to a sadness when realizing I wouldn’t be making cookies. “Just hold the chair still, no matter how loud I scream,” I demanded, making a painful climb into the chair.

He then insisted on X-rays, which I put off until the next evening after finding that even with the help of the R.I.C.E. treatment I couldn’t ignore the pain while trying to work. Our little journey to the clinic could take another blog post to write, so I’ll brief it up to no fractures, perfect blood pressure and no sign of arthritis in the knee – a plus report for the money. But, unfortunately, I indeed bruised and ripped something and wouldn’t be walking for awhile.

Thanksgiving dinner in my house, of course, was cancelled, but thanks-giving was not. By Thursday, I had become so very grateful for so many things – a verdict of no broken bones and no need to miss work, a couch that I could comfortably sleep on next to my laptop and a cordless phone, a bathroom so small that I can use the vanity counter and the towel rack to hop to the important place, a dust pan and brush set and a Swiffer brush in every room, chairs on wheels, an excuse to not do heavy housework, a mother-in-law who’s kind enough to send me delicious food including cookies made during their family tradition, a husband who has made sure my office coffee pot is ready to go before he leaves for work, a porcelain Christmas tree light of my grandmother’s (another Ebay find) to light my way in the dark, while offering a little cheer, and (perhaps from the help of Vicodin) many things to smile about. I even found that little silver shaker top (again) in one corner when sweeping up the kitty nibbles.

Yep, as I sat there on the office chair, eating my Thanksgiving meal with my fur family, laughing about my stupid move of not thinking before stepping, I acknowledged things could have been much worse. I concluded that life is perhaps a bit dusty, but very, very good, for which I am very, very thankful. 🙂

Take a break – feel the ahhhhs …

I have so many things I’d love to blog about, and unfortunately, at the moment life is getting in the way of writing. But I won’t leave you with nothing. While watching a slide show of photos captured on a nature walk a couple weeks ago I decided, perhaps, it would be a good time to share a few in the “break room”.   … Enjoy

The purple phlox and yellow wildflowers are in full bloom, carpeting the woods in every spot where the rays of sun reach through the trees.Butterflies fluttered and danced from one blossom to the next in the warm sun …Viceroy butterfly

Black Swallowtail butterfly

Nessus Sphinx or Hummingbird Moth

When I first saw this moth (above and below center-left) I assumed it was a baby hummingbird until I saw no beak and it had antennae.  About half the size of a hummingbird, it jets and halts between each blossom and drinks while arching its back and pushing its tail forward.

A beaver has been busy doing what beavers do …

And other critters have been busy …

A pair of Mallords enjoying the peace of a gentle flowing river …

Taking a break to stretch and preen …

And then it’s back to busy …

Oh, to be a duck …

Till next time, many smiles! 🙂

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’! 🙂