Happy Thanksgiving

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EnMart will be closed Thursday, November 24 and Friday, November 25 in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.    We will reopen on Monday,  November 28, 2016.

We wish all our friends and customers a happy and safe Thanksgiving. 

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Customer Spotlight – Tricia Maloney

triciamaloneycustomerspotlightName:  Tricia Maloney

Business:  Orphan Quilt Designs by Tricia Maloney

Website:  http://www.orphanquilter.com

Blog: http://www.quiltwithaview.blogspot.com

Tricia Maloney is a quilt designer, author and teacher.   She has written three books about quilting, Orphan Block Quilts, A Russian Journey in Quilts, and her latest book,  coming out in November,  I Love Precut Quilts,  which is available for pre-order.   We are proud to say that our Iris Thread is used to create some of the quilts in that book,  and we’re excited to even have a small part in the creation of Tricia’s work.  Tricia will also be doing demos in the EnMart booth,  booth 1365,  at Quilt Market.  We’re excited for her to share some details about her new book,  her experiences with quilting,  and her experiences with Iris Thread.  Before, however, that happens,  we thought we’d let you get to know Tricia a little better here.

What do you like best about what you do?

Quilting is never boring.  One day I might be working on my computer designing or writing or connecting with people.  Another day I might be piecing or quilting at my sewing machine.  Yet another day I might be lecturing or teaching.  Sometimes I do all three in the same day.

I also love connecting with people.

Did I mention the fabrics???????

What is the biggest challenge you face in doing your work?

Time is my biggest challenge – there’s never enough of it.  I have a tendency to take on a lot of projects all at once and sometimes I get a little frazzled, but everything usually works out just fine.  If only I didn’t have to sleep……

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry as a whole?

Rising costs of fabric, supplies, books, patterns, etc.  The more costly things get, the more quilters have to make tough decisions about their buying practices.

Were you always creative?  Did you make things as a child?

Yes, I’ve always been afflicted with creativity.  LOL!  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making things.

As a young child, I used to love to draw toy catalogs and write the descriptions of the toys.  Later I wrote stories and poetry.  I made dolls and even some of my own jumpers and dresses.  I made my first quilt after I graduated from college and it’s been an exciting ride since then.

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Was there a mentor or someone in your field that helped you when you were starting out?

Yes, when I began to seriously think about writing a book, I had the opportunity to talk to a local designer who had just written her first sewing book.  She very graciously connected me to her editor which eventually led to the publication of my first book, Orphan Block Quilts.

What one tip would you give people starting out in your field?

I would tell people not to be afraid to fail.  You just have to pick yourself up and try again because there’s really no failure in trying.

What are your goals for your business?

I want to see my business grow steadily over time.  I plan to write more quilt books, work with a greater variety of magazines and other publications, and I want to get back to designing fabric collections.

If you could time travel back to when you started in this industry, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to do my homework.  It’s so very important to know what’s trending right now and what’s coming in the future.

What’s your favorite leisure time activity?

I enjoy reading a good book, preferably something that will make me smile.

Why do you buy from/work with EnMart?

The products are high quality and the service is friendly and efficient.

What EnMart products do you use most?

I discovered Iris Ultra Quilting Thread around the time I started my new quilt book, I Love Precut Quilts!.

Why do you use those products?

I was very impressed with the quality of the thread.  It was strong yet easy to work with for both piecing and machine quilting.  I’m really excited about the new colors, too!

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How To: Vinyl and Rhinestones on a Cubbie

Please note:  The manufacturer of Cubbies does not recommend that Cubbies be used for anything except embroidery.   This was an experiment that an EnMart customer did that we wanted to share with you.

WeIMG_3897 have long maintained that Cubbies are about a lot more than just birth announcements and can be decorated in a variety of ways,  some of which don’t involve thread.  Today we’re going to prove that to you,  by featuring a Cream Dumble,  decorated by Brandi Womack of MommaWombatCreations.   This adorable little guy is decorated with both rhinestones and vinyl.  Best of all, Brandi provided us with some hints and tips on how you can create your own decorated Dumble or other Cubbie, using these materials.

The infinity heart was a design that Brandi created herself,  because she couldn’t find an existing design that she liked.  At first the heart and the infinity symbol were intended to both be vinyl,  but Brandi decided to add a little bling to the design by creating the infinity symbol from rhinestones instead.   Templates were created using a Silhouette Cameo.   Sticky flock with hotflex tape was used for the rhinestone template.  The vinyl is Siser Easyweed.  The vinyl was pressed to the ear using a heat press set at 310 degrees.  It only needed to be tacked in place, so it was only pressed for a few seconds.  The rhinestones required that the temperature on the heat press be bumped up to 325 degrees and required a press time of 25 seconds.

The other ear has a vinyl monogram featuring the initials of both Brandi and her husband.It was created offset in two layers.  It was pressed at 310 degrees to tack it into place and then pressed for a full 22 seconds to secure it to the Dumble.  Please keep in mind that pressing temperatures will vary based on the type of vinyl used for the project.

Finally,  Brandi added the jaunty bow around Mr. Dumble’s neck as the finishing touch.   The bow was created using ribbon and floral wire.   The first step was to fold the ribbon end over end and then twisting floral wire around the middle of the folded ribbon to hold the bundle together.  Then the ribbon was fluffed until it achieved the desired fullness.  After that,  a longer piece was cut to go around the Dumble’s neck,  using a noose like loop.   Additional floral wire secured the bow to the loop for the neck.  The wire was trimmed as short as it could be to match the length of the ribbons. Once the wire was trimmed,  the bow was slipped over the neck,  and the ends of the ribbon were trimmed to a length that suited the size of the Dumble.

This is a great design for an anniversary or wedding gift,  and would be a treasured memento for any couple.   It also goes to show that vinyl and rhinestones can be an elegant way to decorate a Cubbie.

To see more of Brandi Womack’s work,  visit MommaWombatCreations on Facebook.

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Customer Spotlight: G. Barner Quilts

CS_G.BarnerQuiltsName:  Greg Barner

Business Name:  G. Barner Quilts

Website:  www.gbarnerquilts.com

Greg Barner creates fabulous quilts in a variety of styles.  His work is bursting with color and geometric shapes.  Visit his site, www.gbarnerquilts.com to see a wonderful gallery of his work.  You can see a small selection of his wonderful quilts in the picture gallery in the middle of this post.  He also instructs and gives classes in the art of quilting.  Here’s what he had to say about his craft,  the industry and why he uses EnMart products.

What do you like best about what you do?

GB: I started quilting fourteen years ago when I needed something to do that was creative, mathematical and involved problem solving.  Quilting fit the bill.  When my mother retired she took up quilting for others and I would help once in a while. When I neared retirement I knew I needed something to fill my spare time so I took up quilting with the intention of seeing how good I could get and doing some instructing.  I continue to work at getting better and I have done quite a bit of instructing around the area.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

GB: I like the challenge of learning new techniques and patterns,  but I also like creating my own patterns,  especially abstract patterns.  In fourteen years of quilting I have not lost interest in learning more.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry as a whole?

GB: There are a lot of quilters in Michigan,  especially Northern Michigan.  The biggest challenge is to continue to grow as an industry,  involving more people in quilting,  particularly the younger generation. Another major challenge is cost,  mainly the cost of fabric which continues to increase.  If the pattern continues it will make it difficult for some people to continue because they can’t afford the fabric.

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Were you always creative?  Did you make things as a child?

GB: I have always been doing something creative.  Growing up I was involved in vocal music and drama as well as sports.  I taught elementary school for forty years and tried to be as creative as possible in my approach.

Was there a mentor or someone in your field that helped you when you were starting out?

GB: My quilting is mainly self taught (trial and error a lot of the time). I do have an extensive library of quilting books and magazines for ideas. I have found shop owners and other quilters very willing to help me improve.

What one tip would you give people starting out in your field?

GB: I would encourage people starting out to pick smaller and simpler projects to learn with.  This would allow a person to experience more techniques in a shorter time and perhaps with less frustration.

What are your goals for your business?

GB: My goals for the future are to continue to experiment with new patterns and techniques.   I would like to create more of my own patterns.

What products sold by EnMart do you use most, and why?

GB:  I was introduced to Iris threads a number of years ago by an embroiderer. I piece (sew) with the Iris Ultra Cotton thread and I quilt almost exclusively with Iris thread.  My long arm works really well with the Iris UltraBright polyester thread and customers like the look of it.  I have tried other threads,  but my long arm quilter prefers the Iris thread.

Note:  If you’ve visited the EnMart booths at AQS Paducah or Quilt Market in Houston,  you’ve seen Greg’s work.  He very graciously allows us to display his quilts in our booth at these shows.

 

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Featured Friday 7/15/16

megaphoneWith all the problems in the world right now,  it seemed like a good day to spotlight some of the good that’s happening in the world.   People sharing knowledge is always a good thing,  and we’re lucky to have so many smart people out there who are willing to share what they know.

First to share knowledge this morning is Eileen from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog.  She’s talking about stitching in ombre, a look I really like.  I’m with her in liking this look.  It’s visually interesting and doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to do.

Second on the list is Stahls with a great post about different ways to get ready for football season,  if you’re the shop outfitting the team.  From two-a-day practice uniforms and athletic wear to sports bags,  Stahls has decoration suggestions that are sure to make your local football team happy.  It’s definitely time to start thinking about back to school,  and this post covers one aspect of decorating school apparel.

Third in line at the knowledge drop today is the Retail Minded blog,  with a discussion about rebranding and when it’s time to do so.  If you’re considering a rebrand for your business,  make sure it’s happening for the right reasons.  This post talks about some reasons to rebrand and how to refine your vision of what they new brand should be.   If you’re thinking your business image needs an upgrade,  this is a great post to read.

Fourth on the docket is a piece from the Purple Daisies Quilting blog,  which talks about the cost of all the free knowledge that people are sharing.  The post makes a good point,  people who love their craft and want to share it,  also love to share knowledge,  but sometimes sharing that knowledge is their business as well.  This post recommends trying to support those who are teaching you for free by purchasing their products and supporting their work.  I think it’s a good recommendation.

Last up,  I want to share a post from Seth Godin called “The Flip is Elusive“. With all that’s been happening in the world,  and because I’m kind of a crusader at heart,  I’ve been thinking about how we can change the world for the better,  and I think this post answers that question quite well.   It’s not about big and flashy.  It’s not about making others wrong so you can be right.  It’s about persistence,  and trying to understand what others are saying.  If we keep showing up day after day and try to make our little piece of the world better,  I believe we will succeed.

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Time Travel Tuesday: Not Just a Patch

ensign logo pictureMost of you probably know that EnMart sells blank patches. These squares and circles,  ovals and oblongs,  rectangles and rockers are a popular item,  but they’re not just for embroidering with a name or a logo.  Other markets for patches could include the souvenir market,  morale patches,  merit badges and more.  Over the years,  patches have taken on many different meanings.  In this Time Travel Tuesday post,  I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of them while,  perhaps,  pointing out some potential new markets for patches.

The use of emblems to signify allegiance with a particular group has existed pretty much as long as recorded history.  Heraldic emblems were common in this time period.   An heraldic emblem or crest was often used to represent a noble house or knight,  and would show up on flags and tapestries when that particular individual or family was represented.  Wearing a heraldic badge showed allegiance to a particular family or house.   The two sides in the English “War of the Roses” used white or red roses on, among other things, badges,  to symbolize which side they had taken in the war.   A badge was an easy way to identify who was friend and who was foe.

Badges as collectibles or a record of having been to a particular place, souvenirs we’d call them now,  also have their root in history.  Pilgrims in the Middle Ages used to get metal badges from the famous shrines they visited.  This was such a common practice it was even mentioned in the “Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer. In later years,  when automobiles and trains and planes made the process of traveling simpler,  many people started collecting badges from National Parks or other attractions they’d visited to help commemorate their stay.  There is even a market for national park collectibles, particularly vintage badges.

Merit badges are another type of badge that has been around for quite a while.  Anyone who has participated in the Girl or Boy Scouts is familiar with a merit badge,  which is awarded for completing a series of tasks or learning a new skill.  The Boy Scouts began using merit badges in 1911.  The Girl Scouts in 1912.  Merit badges are popular with many clubs and can be used to showcase achievements and new skills,  or to signify new ranks earned within the group.

Emblems have a long history of providing identity and cohesion for a group,  of commemorating an event or occasion that people want to remember,  or memorializing the learning of a new skill or the achievement of a new rank.   Part of the reason the trade in vintage emblems is so brisk is the fact that these emblems symbolize and event or memory of which people want to be a part.   Who wouldn’t have wanted to be one of the people entitled to wear the mission patch for Apollo 11?  What memories would a person have if they collected a badge during a visit to every National Park?  Emblems are part of our history and also a little piece of history themselves.

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Happy Independence Day

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EnMart will be closed on Monday,  July 4, 2016 in honor of Independence Day.   We will resume normal business hours on Tuesday,  July 5, 2016.

We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday!

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Marketing Monday: The Sample Dilemma

question-markSamples cause a lot of questions among decorators. Who should receive them? What impact does a sample have on bringing in new business? When should samples be offered? Where should samples be offered,  online,  only in brick and mortar shops,  only if a customer is in front of you and asks? Why should samples even be offered at all?  How should samples be used to increase business?

That’s a lot of questions,  and there are probably just as many answers,  depending on who is supplying them.   Some companies elect to offer no samples at all. In some cases, instead of samples, a company will offer a sketch or a design mock-up.   Other companies will offer a standard sample,  but won’t do custom samples.  Another option is to offer one custom sample for free,  but charge for additional samples.   In some shops the rule is,  if you want a sample,  you pay for it.  The answers tend to depend somewhat on the philosophy of the shop being asked for a sample,  somewhat on what the competition in the market in question is doing and,  often,  on the size and potential profitability of the proposed job.

So,  given all the questions, and all the potential answers,  how do you decided what your company policy should be regarding samples?  The final decision will have to be based on the realities of your business,  but here are some things to consider while making your decision.

How does your competition handle samples? Do a little research and see if you can determine how your competition replies when asked for a sample.   If customers are conditioned to expect a “yes” when they ask for a sample,  it makes business harder for your company if you’re the only “no”. Finding out if and what everyone else charges for samples is useful too.  Knowing the norms for your market can help you decide what your company will do.

Can your shop do samples without sacrificing production? – Smaller shops that are one man bands, which have a single head machine or a manual press may not have the ability to produce samples the way a larger shop would.   If making a sample is getting in the way of work that is producing income,  it’s fairly easy to see what needs to be running.

Do you track the ratio of samples to actual jobs? The purpose of a sample is to convince the customer to give your company the job,  so you want to know how many times that actually happens.   Your tracking can be as simple as a spreadsheet,  but there should be some way to see what samples are going out, and what percentage of those samples are resulting in jobs and money coming in.  If you find you’re making a lot of samples,  but not getting a lot of jobs,  it may be time to reexamine your sample policy.

Standard samples vs. custom samples – Standard samples are samples of a product that are generic or were made simply to allow the customer to see and feel the product in question.  Some companies will have a look book or a design wall that allows customers to see and touch the work so they can understand what their particular job might look like.  For many customers this will be enough.

Custom samples, as the name implies,  are samples created for a specific customer,  generally using that customer’s artwork.  A custom sample takes more time to produce and is generally only done for larger jobs.  While customers may insist on custom samples at first,  often their questions or concerns can be addressed using a standard sample.  Creating custom samples also demands a high level of tracking,  since you want a high ratio of custom samples turning into jobs.   If you find you’re doing a lot of custom sample work and not getting a lot of orders in return,  this is another sign that your sample policy may need some thought.

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Featured Friday 6/10/16

iStock_000012611933MediumIt’s been a while since we’ve had a Featured Friday post,  so I figured today was a good day to do one. I have some new, good information to share with you,  so let’s get to it.

First up is a post from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog about how to handle rush orders.  A rush order can create stress in a shop,  but it can also be profitable, and a great way to build credibility and gratitude with a business owner or event runner,  if you can get their order to them quickly.   The blog post makes good points,  one being this,  make sure to get all information in writing,  not over the phone.   When people are in a hurry, they make mistakes,  so having things in writing protects both parties.

Second on the docket is a post from Retail Minded about the new overtime rule and how it may impact businesses.  The focus of the article is retail stores,  but the advice it gives would apply equally well to decoration businesses.  I think the best advice in the piece is to start dealing with this now,  so your business isn’t blindsided in December.

Third at bat,  although I don’t usually promote my own writing in this series,  is a post I wrote for our sister blog, SubliStuff, about how to sublimate a Cubbie.  We’ve tried the process and know it isn’t that difficult to do.   It also may add another profit center to your business. We are also in the process of having some decorators test rhinestones and vinyl on Cubbies.  We’ll share the results of those tests when we have them.

Fourth on the list is a post from The Bling Blog by Sparkle Plenty which details 10 rules for working with your spouse.  I know of a lot of decoration businesses that are run by families or spouses, and it is a special kind of balancing act.  This post gives some good tips on how to keep work at work,  and how to make sure the business doesn’t take over the entire relationship.

Finally,  we have a post from the UnMarketing Blog about the fact that anything you put on social media,  whether you say it is personal and not in any way connected to your company or not,  reflects on your company.   That certainly is true for anyone who owns a company,  and often applies to employees as well.  It’s lovely to think that a small disclaimer can make personal and business separate,  but it can’t and it won’t.   The best way to handle this is to assume everything you say reflects on the business you work for,  and speak accordingly.   If you don’t choose to do that,  then be prepared for the consequences if you say something you shouldn’t, because there will be some.

Last but not least,  another plug for EnMart,  but it involves a really good sale,  so you don’t want to miss it.   We’re currently running a special on our sublimation systems for the month of June.  We’re offering free ink,  a sale on bypass trays and more.   If you’re thinking of buying a sublimation system it’s definitely worth check out.

New Ways to Use Embroiderable Stuffed Animals

medium_qf4KrRRQeKKCHueje3tA_CowOne of the fun things about the Cubbies embroiderable stuffed animals is that there are new designs coming out on a regular basis.   We have the most fun deciding which animals to bring in,  and figuring out unique ideas for how they can be used.  Embroidery and sublimation are,  of course,  two ways these cuddly little friends can be decorated,  but the type of decoration that is put on them can change based on the use to which the animal will be put.

Take school mascots for instance.   Schools use lions (we have one),  mustangs ( we have an adorable harlequin horse), bears (in white or brown),  or ducks as mascots.   We also have owls which could be gifted to an especially wise graduate.   Simply add the graduation date,  the school name and the graduate’s name,  or use any of these graduation themed designs to make a memento of graduation any graduate would be proud to own.

If you live in the country or have your business in an area where a lot of people farm or ranch,  the harlequin horse would be a great souvenir for a horse farm or riding stable.   A dairy farm, especially one that sells milk or cheese,  would probably love their very own embroidered cow souvenir.  Ducks,  lambs and pigs would also fit into this category.    These cute farm themed designs from Embroidery Library would be adorable on any of these animals.

Speaking of pigs,  what could make a more perfect mascot for a BBQ restaurant?   Yes,  I know it sounds a bit weird,  but think of how many BBQ restaurants use a pig in their logo.  A cow could also work in this situation, depending on the types of meats served.   Creative Connections has some cute BBQ and restaurant themed embroidery designs that could be used to turn a Cubbie into a fun restaurant souvenir.

Finally,  let’s not forget the Dumbles and the fact that baby themed items are a fast growing market for Cubbies.   Subway art birth announcements can be used to commemorate a birth.   You can find examples of digitized subway art birth announcement designs here and here.  The Embroidery Library also has a wide array of baby and child themed designs,  many of which would suit a Cubbie admirably.

The main thing to remember,  when working with Cubbies,  is to think outside the box.   An embroidered or sublimated Cubbie can be used for many different purposes,  as a mascot,  a memento,  a souvenir,  a promotional item or a collectible.  Your job,  as the decorator,  is to help your customers see all the possibilities in this simple embroiderable stuffed animal.