Cross Stitch Patterns from Fine Art by Scarlet Quince
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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

What’s with all the blended colors?!
Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Many people tell us, “I like your patterns so much — now if they just didn’t use blended colors!” or “There are 450 DMC colors — why isn’t that enough for you?”

Here’s what happens if you replace the blends in a couple of our patterns with the closest solid colors. The pictures on the left are the actual patterns, with blended colors — the ones on the right are using solid colors only.

With blends
With solids only

With blends
With solids only

Feedback
Friday, July 30th, 2010

I’ve been a believer for many years in continuous process improvement, which basically means that when a problem occurs, you look for the root cause and do something about it so that the same problem doesn’t occur again. So for example, if someone returns a pattern because they thought they were buying an art print, I look at how I can make it clearer what is being sold. The thing about feedback is that you have to understand it before you can act on it.

Recently, I’ve heard from a couple of people in Canada that their orders took much longer to arrive than they had expected. One told me, when her order finally showed up, that the package had been cut open, then taped back shut (presumably in Customs). When the second person received her order, I asked if it looked like it had been opened, and she said the flap of the envelope had been taped, so that one was opened too. I’ve been puzzling over this. Why would Customs need to open the envelope? The customs form says clearly that the contents are cross stitch charts and the value. What else would they need to know? Were they curious? It didn’t make sense. The problem was that shipments were being delayed because Customs was opening them — but why?

Then I had a request from a regular customer in the UK, where cross stitch charts are supposed to be duty-free, to add “printed matter” to the customs form. He told me they are having their shipments held up in Customs, they have to pay the duty, and then apply to get the duty refunded. (I’m not sure why it has to be so circuitous, but maybe British Customs doesn’t open the packages.) I suddenly realized — if “cross stitch chart” doesn’t automatically tell you that it’s “printed matter”, you must not know what a cross stitch chart is. Canadian Customs must be opening the packages to find out what’s in them. At least this is the first explanation that makes any sense.

There is already a numeric code on the customs form which indicates the content is printed booklets, and this code is part of a supposedly internationally-agreed upon system. I don’t know why that isn’t enough, but apparently it isn’t.

So I’ve changed the wording on the customs form to “cross stitch booklets (printed matter)”. I hope this will help international orders go through faster. I don’t know how Customs works (and I’m sure it’s different in every country) but I can imagine that if they can determine whether a package is dutiable or not by looking at the customs form, it goes through quickly, and other things go into a pile for some backlogged person to open.


Summer retail needlework shows
Sunday, July 11th, 2010

There are two online needlework shows coming up in the next month — both retail.

First is the Needle Show Retail, July 15-18 (Thursday through Sunday).

Following that is the Counted Wishes Cross Stitch Festival, August 1-7 (Sunday through Saturday).

banner

Scarlet Quince will be featured in both shows and we will be offering different show specials, so be sure to visit both shows for the details. These are retail shows which means everyone can shop the shows, so don’t miss them!


New computer blues
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Several months ago, I had a problem with my computer which I was ultimately able to fix, but it took several days. I realized then that Scarlet Quince really needs a spare computer — there are spares of most other equipment, but not the computer. Unfortunately, aside from being busy, I really don’t like to shop and especially not for a computer. My last few have been Dells, but nowadays when you go to configure a system on their website, there are ALL these different processors and very little information about how they differ. Sometimes they don’t even tell you the clock speed. It’s like they’re not even trying anymore and it just makes me tired.

Luckily, a friend’s company benchmarked a bunch of processors and he said Intel’s i7 chip blew everything else away. So, armed with that hint, I went looking for a computer with an i7 processor. Now, generally, my instinct when buying something new (especially in the technology area) is to look for another exactly like what I already have. MRA’s instinct is to get whatever the very latest thing is. (It’s easy for him to have this instinct because I do all the system administration.) This time, he persuaded me to go with the 64-bit version of Windows 7. I found out that most of my old 32-bit software should run in some kind of compatibility mode (not my 16-bit copy of Quicken, which is so old that it has trouble with years after 1999, but I soldier on with it).

Unfortunately I didn’t think about device drivers. My printers and mouse are all pretty old (but good) and while they all work in some fashion with the new computer, it’s not the most desirable fashion. For example, HP put out a 64-bit printer driver for my color printer but they didn’t bother with the toolbox, so instead of clicking on a menu to align the printheads, you have to press and hold the Power button, press the Resume button two times, and then release the Power button. So instead of having a new computer and a spare, I now have a two-computer network. Fortunately my ancient database software works over a network, which never ceases to amaze me. (I think I bought it in 1995.) It’s not what I had in mind, but at least if one of the computers conks out, I’ll still be able to send and receive email. And I can work on gradually upgrading things.

The thing that bothers me the most (now that I have gotten the desktop icons not to be huge — funny how annoying minor issues can be) is that Windows itself doesn’t seem really stable. Stuff that was working half an hour ago stops working, and I either have to restart the program or (more likely) reboot. Not that we look for quality from Microsoft, although I’m sure things will get better as time goes on and they fix more bugs. On the positive side, this is a really fast computer. The hard disk is ridiculous — one terabyte. (By the way, if you want to look it up, it’s an HP Pavilion 170t.)

It has taken me several days to get things sort of limping along, and I’m still in the phase where every time I need to do something new, I have to install something else or reconfigure something. But maybe now I can start to get back to whatever I was doing before.


The sorry truth about tracking
Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Once in a while, a package I’ve shipped doesn’t arrive when expected, and I get an email asking if I have a tracking number. I always say, “We don’t ship with tracking because things almost always arrive even if they take longer than they should, so please give it a bit more time and I’m sure it will arrive, and we’ll replace it if it doesn’t.” Just about always, people get their orders within a day of asking where it is (which is very odd). My feeling has always been that (given the very few orders that really get lost) it is more cost-effective to just replace them than to pay for tracking on every shipment. I think the only package that ever got lost, within the US, was sent to an address where no one was home for 6 months, and when they returned, surprise, their package wasn’t there. Not so much lost as stolen.

But recently there has been a spate (where spate = 3 or 4) of orders that took a lot longer than they should have to arrive, which I reshipped. So I looked into tracking.

I found that basically the Postal Service doesn’t do tracking. (They claim that they handle too much mail to scan every piece — like anyone is asking for that anyway.) You can get delivery confirmation, but that only tells you that the package has or has not arrived, but not where it is. I’m not worried about people saying they didn’t get their order when they really did, so that doesn’t help. And I doubt that that little tag with the bar code leads the post office to handle those pieces any more carefully. (I once sent something certified mail and they didn’t ever scan it so I got no information and they were completely unrepentant. I know the person I talked to about it WASN’T sorry, but couldn’t they have SAID “sorry” anyway?) The only service that includes actual tracking is Express Mail, which of course is much more expensive, particularly outside the US. We could switch to UPS — UPS tracks everything — but it also costs quite a bit more than ordinary mail, plus UPS is particularly destructive, so everything would have to go in boxes which adds to the cost of shipping, and would make the packages heavier, which adds again to the cost of shipping. And UPS outside North America is absurdly expensive.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing about why tracking has to cost so much. But it seems to me that there’s a business opportunity for someone to offer non-express shipping of small packages with tracking at a reasonable price. I would think that the Postal Service intends to force people to use Express Mail if they want tracking, except they don’t make it at all clear that that’s the case.

And back to the original problem — a package I shipped to Canada on November 16 arrived, finally, on December 30. Not to some village on the Arctic Circle — to a city. The reshipment sent on December 15 hasn’t arrived yet. I know there’s snow in the midwest, and the holidays are just over, but that is ridiculous.


Retail show — looking for feedback
Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Did you attend the recent online retail needlework show? Hopefully everyone is familiar with the wholesale show that’s held twice a year — well, this was a show where everyone, not just shops, could buy. We didn’t get much advance notice of the date so there wasn’t time to put an announcement in the newsletter, but I did announce it here.

So: if you heard about it, did you visit the show? If so, what did you like and dislike about it? Right now the organizer is looking for feedback about whether to continue with it and what should change. It probably wouldn’t be this same time of year — July has been suggested. What would be a good way to get word out about it?

(I posted the same questions in the forum. Feel free to reply whichever place is easier — no need to reply in both.)


Online Needlework Show
Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I just forced myself to finish proof-reading my page for the online Needlework Show.  I feel like I have checked and checked so when I get that email saying “here it is, check one last time” it’s very hard to fire up for checking AGAIN.  But I found a couple of errors, so it was good that I checked.  I don’t have this kind of issue with proof-reading other things.  I don’t know what it is about this. But it’s great to be DONE, two whole days ahead of the deadline.

I’m trying something new for this show: introducing a new pattern at the show.  Not featuring a pattern that was just added to the site, but a pattern that is not on the site yet at all.  It’s a nifty vintage Christmas pattern which I like a lot.  I’m not going to tell you what it is — you’ll have to visit the show to see it. (It will be added to Scarlet Quince after the show.)


The very nicest pirates
Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I’ve been quiet for a while — I’ve been visiting family, having friends to stay, preparing to protest my property taxes, working on getting a new roof, worrying about a sick cat.  Oh yes, and tracking down pirated patterns.

Here’s the funny thing:  I have found most stitchers to be the nicest, friendliest, most helpful, and most honest people around.  So why don’t they understand that copying patterns and “sharing” them is wrong?  I’m not thinking so much of the people who post all over the place that they will share with complete strangers, or the people who sell scans of patterns on eBay.  Those people know at some level that what they’re doing is wrong and have rationialized it — they’re helping designers by giving them free advertising, or the designers charge too much so they deserve it, or whatever.  I’m thinking of the people who would never dream of doing something like that but WILL give a friend a copy of a pattern they’ve bought (and then the friend gives another friend a copy…).   I recently found one group where people chip in, buy several patterns (all different) and then they each get a copy of each pattern.   And they admonish their members not to go sharing with people who don’t share their values, whatever those are.  Would they go into a needlework store and while one person pays for a pattern, all the rest stuff a pattern into their bags and sneak out?  Of course not.  That would be stealing, and it would be wrong.  What I can’t figure out is what difference they see in what they’re doing.

I realize that people don’t understand copyrights and copyright law.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version:  books, magazines, cross stitch patterns, music, movies, and basically anything else that comes printed on paper, on a CD, on a DVD, or that you can download, is copyrighted.  That means it’s dishonest as well as illegal to make even one copy, no matter how broke your buddy is, how urgently they need it, how over-priced you think it is, or how little harm it seems to be doing.

You CAN sell or give away a pattern you don’t want provided that you do it in a way that doesn’t increase the number of copies in circulation.  If your copy is clean because you can keep your place without marking the pattern, or because you never used it, go for it.  If you have a clean original because you photocopied it and marked up the copy, then you can’t give away or sell the original.  It’s that simple.  When you scan a pattern and upload it to the internet, you have effectively made an infinite number of copies.

The sad thing is that this hurts more people than just the designer (and some designers have had so much trouble with piracy that they’ve given up designing).  All the time I spend reporting copyright violations to web sites that enforce copyright (though they aren’t proactive about it) is time I can’t spend designing or adding tips and techniques to the web site.  And sadly, some web sites won’t do anything about copyright infringements, which leads to a great deal of angst and stomach acid.  I wish I could rise above it, but it’s hard.

I get requests all the time to sell patterns in electronic format.  No waiting for the mail!  No postage costs!  Well, this is the main reason I don’t and will not ever do that.  If someone is going to pirate a pattern, they’ll at least have to make the effort to scan it.

“Pirate” seems like such a harsh word for people who, really, are very nice and well-intentioned.  But what else would you call them?  Thieves?

Kind of a downer, I know.  I myself am very discouraged.


Confounded Inflation
Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

There’s so much other financial bad news lately that inflation has not been getting much attention, but I’m here to tell you it’s alive and well. Since I buy the same items for Scarlet Quince over and over (envelopes, labels, ink, etc.) I have the opportunity to notice prices going up. (In “real” life I tend not to notice until things reach a pain threshhold and then I don’t know for sure what the price used to be, though I’d swear that mushrooms used to cost a whole lot less than $5 a pound.) Since I’m trying my best not to increase Scarlet Quince prices (and I do feel like a lone voice in the wilderness) my shopping process is this: I go to the last place I bought, say, envelopes; notice that the price has gone up; spend a bunch of time looking for someone with the same thing or maybe an equivalent for less; buy the envelopes someplace else and still pay more. I never gave any thought, all the years I worked for companies big enough to have a purchasing department, how much work went into keeping that supply closet stocked. All these price increases mean that reordering something, which should take 5 minutes, usually takes several hours.

Fortunately the internet makes it much easier to comparison-shop, although one of my vendors, a big office-supply chain (I won’t name them but they’re one of the big 3) has an irritating way of having drastically different prices in their store than on their web site. Although their store is only 4 miles from here, I often end up ordering online from them, because their store prices can be 30% higher than their online prices. What sense does that make?? Maybe they figure that anyone who shows up at the store is desperate and will pay whatever they have to. They used to have free shipping on orders over $50 but now they add a fuel surcharge to all orders (they claim it is “some” orders but no matter what I’m getting, there it is). I wouldn’t mind if they changed the minimum for free shipping to $75 but this double-talk of still having free shipping and the fuel surcharge is somehow not a shipping charge drives me crazy. (Not that the shipping was ever free; it was and is built into their prices.) I shouldn’t complain because even WITH the fuel surcharge, my online orders cost less than if I picked them up at the store. But I hate that kind of weaseliness. (This is the same place that was out of my ink one time, suggested I drive to a much farther distant store to get it, and when I asked what good their in-stock ink guarantee was, I was told that it wasn’t a GUARANTEE guarantee, more like “if we’re out, we’ll be really apologetic”.) Weasels!

Last week I thought I had found a good deal on cover stock (for pattern covers). I felt a positive glow all weekend that not ALL prices were going up. Well, yesterday it arrived, and — yep, you guessed it, I ordered the wrong thing. Actually the price of floss labels has held steady since I started offering them, and while the shipping charges have fluctuated, they have been fluctuating down (only a little, but it’s something). So that is one tiny bright spot.




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