Time Travel Tuesday: Catalogs

JCPenney CatalogWhen I was a kid,  I loved catalogs.   I’d look at all the different outfits I could buy,  furnish my imaginary house with the different furniture and housewares that were shown and covet all the cool toys and games in the Christmas Book.  I know this will make me seem old,  but I was a kid before there was the Internet.  If you wanted to see what people had for sale,  you had to go to their shop,  or you had to order from a catalog.   Those were pretty much the options.

When EnMart first started,   we decided,  in addition to the website,  that we needed a paper catalog.   For the first five or so years,  we printed catalogs a few times a year,  and they kept getting bigger and bigger with the pictures and print getting smaller and smaller as we tried to cram more products into the space.    After a while,  printing the catalogs became a losing battle,  we were adding new products so often that catalogs were obsolete practically as soon as we got them back from the printer.   We talked about doing a catalog in a binder,  where people could replace outdated pages with new ones,  but we wondered if people would bother,  and we also felt we’d end up in a perpetual cycle of printing and sending out new pages.  The more we talked,  the less it seemed like any form of printed matter could do what we needed it to do.

Finally,  we realized that we had the perfect catalog in our website.  Categories are clearly delineated. Color pictures are available for almost every product.   The mechanisms for obtaining more information or contacting us are clearly marked and easy to use.   The website is also ever expanding – new products can be added whenever necessary,  and the process of adding new products creates no waste or redundancies.  A website isn’t printed,  so there are no pages to throw out and replace.   A website offers an easy ordering mechanism as the ordering platform and the product showcase are right there together.   A website also gives much more space for information,  anyone who wants to know more about something can easily follow a link for a more in depth explanation.

I understand the lure of catalogs,  it’s fun to look at the pictures of all the stuff you could buy,  and daydream about what might become yours.  The problem is that catalogs aren’t really cost effective these days,  not when there’s a much better solution available online. We discontinued catalogs a few years ago and haven’t missed them.   We’ve saved printing costs, and been able to pass those savings on to our customers.   We’ve also been able to expand our product offerings and to make those new products available to our customers in a timely fashion. For us and,  we hope,  for our customers,  moving away from print and going totally digital was the right decision.

Featured Friday 1/22/16

iStock_000012611933MediumI’d like to make these posts more of a regular thing but,  when I think about it, I realize that having them appear once in a while is more effective.   If I wait and save up all the good stuff I’ve seen and read,  the posts have more force when I finally make them live.   See,  there is a method to my madness.  (Insert evil laugh here).

First up this week is a great post from All Things Embroidery about sticking to the rules you’ve made for your business.  Chances are that those rules were made for a reason and most likely are in place to help you avoid stress and extra work.   It’s tempting to bend or break the rules,  especially when a customer is pressing you to do so,  but the rules are there for a reason.  This year,  resolve to remember that,  and keep to the rules you have in place.

Second on the list is a great post from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog about getting your embroidery space organized.   I’m sure this is something that is on everyone’s list,  but it’s often tough to know where to start.   This post gives some good ideas for where to start organizing,  and how to go about it.

Third on the docket,  caps can be a profit center for many businesses,  but embroidering them isn’t always easy.   Joyce Jagger offers 9 rules for easy cap embroidery which will help make embroidering hats a simpler task.  All the tips are good,  but I think the one I like best is the one about always using cap backing when embroidering a hat. I’ve seen hat embroidery turn out poorly because the stabilizer wasn’t heavy enough for the job.  If you’re working with hats,  this post is definitely worth a read.

Fourth at bat is a terrific post from Retail Minded that asks “What is Your Company’s Customer Service Persona“? The post outlines five customer service approaches and details the strengths and weaknesses of each.  If you see yourself or your company in one of these personas,  it might be a good idea to take a minute and see if the analysis of strengths and weaknesses match up to your experiences.

Fifth in the rotation is a post from John Michael Morgan spotlighting 10 books every leader needs to read.  I’ve heard of most of these books,  but haven’t read them myself,  so I guess my reading list has just gained a few more entries.   If any of you have read any of the books on the list,  comment and let us know whether or not they were helpful.


Supply Spotlight: Pearl Cotton

FiveGroupWhen most people who vaguely know of pearl cotton think of it,  they probably think of tatting or making doilies.  While this is a common use of pearl (or perle) cotton thread,  it is by no means the only use.   Pearl cotton has a variety of applications when it comes to crafting,  needlework and crochet.  It is a versatile thread,  which should be a part of any embroidery, crafting, quilting or crocheting tool kit.

If you aren’t familiar with pearl cotton, we’ll start with the basics.   Pearl cotton is a non-divisible thread,  which means it cannot be separated into strands the way that embroidery floss can be separated.   This thread is sized like most threads,  with the lower numbers being thicker and the higher numbers being thinner.   Size 3 and 5 are heavier threads,  size 8 is a medium weight and size 12 is a fine thread.

Pearl cotton has a variety of uses.   The size 3 is perfect for cross stitch,  crewel embroidery and crochet.  Size 5 can be used for needlepoint, crochet,  smocking and applique.   Size 8 pearl cotton is ideal for quilting,  crochet,  lace making, and tatting.   It can also be used in bobbins.   Size 12 which is the thinnest thread,  works for embroidery and cross stitch, smocking and tatting.  pearl cotton also can,  depending on size,  be used in embroidery machines,  long arm quilting machines and sewing machines.   Pearl cotton is also ideal for quilters,  as it is very useful in stitching decorative lines.

One nice thing about pearl cotton is its sheen.   This type of thread is a mercerized thread,  which means the thread has undergone a process of submersion,  first in sodium hydroxide and then in an acid bath.   Mercerizing thread increases the thread’s luster, strength, ability to be dyed and resistance to mildew.

To learn more about pearl cotton and how it can be used,  take a few moments to watch the following helpful videos:

Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Tutorial

How to Chain Stitch Crochet with Beads

Beginning Shuttle Tatting