Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What's in the Frostings Box?

The New Frostings Box!
So this is the spoiler alert - if you are waiting for your box and don't want to know what is inside the box - don't read any farther!  Come back later!!

The Frostings Session 2 box contains six different thread types.  It expands and finishes the color line of the Tiny Silk Purls with the addition of five red family colors, three purples and two blues.  This brings the entire color line up to 40 colors!! So we have a great set of medium sized purls and a wonderful set of tiny purls to select from depending on our project needs and scale.

Tiny Silk Purls in ten colors
For those who want to do stump work and use a wire edge to your motifs, you know how painful it is to either wrap a piece of wire with silk or spend all your time doing a buttonhole stitch around the edge to cover the silver wire.  If there just was a wire that was
already covered in silk!! Well now there is!  I have chosen seven colors to have made as silk covered wires that just disappear in your detached work - easy to cut and put down as a scaffold and then do your needlelace and no more extra work.  It is included in the Frostings box in:  a red, pink, yellow,
yellow green, dark green, blue and purple.
Seven colors of silk wrapped wire

Looking for an alternate to braiding your own tiny strings for purses or edgings?  The Frostings box has a new round braid with either gold or silver in the braid.  Included this time in red or black in each of the two metal variants.  They will be so useful for blackwork or redwork projects.  I already have one Frostings project underway to use one for you - watch for it in August!

Red and Black silk braids with gold or silver
And we have a new gimp thread for couching down.  Crinkle Gimp is a thin gimp that has been wrapped with a second gimp to make it more bumpy.  It can be sewn through the fabric if you use a big enough eyed needle.  I love this for making clouds, grass, or water as well as giving the fuzzy look of feathers.  It is extremely variable because wrapping one gimp with another can have the second gimp squish or expand as the machine spools.  If you like it more smooth or bumpy, run your fingernail one way or another to compact or pull out the
Crinkle Gimp
overwrap to give it the look you want.

The last two threads are related, silk covered plate which I see on stump work all the time.  This is the 11S size of gilt plate and it is covered in three different greens to make a smooth and bendable covering.  Use it for grass and couch it down with gimp or purls to make amazing patterns that are textured, contrasting the threads against the smooth silk plate.  And once you have silk covered plate, you can make crenelated plate! This is just the coolest thread and I have been getting emails from people who want more of it in the greens or more colors!

Crenelated Silk Wrapped plate in three green colors
There will be projects in the early fall and these threads are currently part of the Harmony with
Nature Casket Stitch Along as well.  About 160 of the kits are still available.


Silk wrapped 11S plate in three green colors

Friday, July 14, 2017

They are Here!

Packing the frostings boxes in process!
For those in the know, you know that the Frostings Boxes were delayed as the first printing was done wrong and it took an extra four weeks to redo it all.  Ugh.

The boxes arrived a full day early and so we were packing and making labels until the wee hours last night!  1/3 of the boxes went out this morning - I am very excited!!  I have a big workforce of robot kids arriving in minutes and we expect to maybe even finish today!  So be on the watch for those exciting threads.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Milton Mannor Casket on Video

I have been sent a few links to an Antiques Roadshow video (UK S39E26 Caversham 2) that showed around June 14-20th on TV in the UK and featured a long video scene of a  SPECTACULAR and almost untouched embroidered casket.

The piece starts at 48:33 in the video and then had a slight respite and comes back again for opening. Pull up a pot of tea and watch it over and over again!  Do it soon as it is likely that the material will be taken off-line as the BBC is really diligent at getting their video material off sites and the iPlayer for BBC doesn't allow other countries to sign up and watch.

It is really quite amazing.  Once you have looked at it once, take another watch through and look at the details of the finishing.  The finisher did a few neat things like doing the horizontal tapes first on the top and wrapping around the edge of the lid, which produces a clean edge because there aren't any cut edges.  But the interior shows so well the colors and the details!

Now they totally have the storyline wrong on the piece - around the bottom of the casket the storyline is that of Abraham.  The front is Abraham banishing Hagar, the back is her looking for water for her son, etc.   And I would say that the auction estimate is low.  :-)

Watch the video

image1.PNG


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Treading Water Anyone?

I know the blog has been rather sparse of late.  It's because I am treading water.  I think it is the 'get up and go' of everyone really starting their caskets that is causing this high water mark.  The order volume at Thistle Threads went up by 250% in November and has held constant for eight months.  That is great - but it is still only me.

So I have to apologize for extra time it takes for orders to get out!  It is also making it tough to keep on top of CDs, making instructions, stitching the next project, getting items cut and ready for kits and etc. etc.  Fortunately it is summer and I was able to garner some summer labor - my robot girls seem to be happy to make money and when they are here - surprise, surprise, I often get a bit of free robot boy labor (sticking stickers, etc) as well while they chatter.

They have helped me get all the Frostings box contents prepared (done), we will finish the CDs for Stumpwork next week and have the contents for the 1st Stumpwork kit done.  I am finally breathing a bit lighter this week - especially after four of them processed 60 pounds of wheat paste for me into 600 bags.  (This is a job that can only be done in the summer as it goes everywhere!).  We had to hose them down in the yard when they were finished (I think it was an excuse for a water fight).

They have allowed me to keep shipping the daily orders and caskets while knowing that progress is being made on the core business.

If NOTHING more goes wrong at the box maker place - we are driving to Rhode Island on July 14th to pick up the first pallet of frostings boxes and plan to have all the shipping boxes labeled and ready already so we can ship them out Saturday morning.  I refused to wait for them to ship them to me.  So I have a pizza party planned and about a half dozen teens.  I expect a fight for the shrink wrap station.  That is always popular, ha ha.  

It has been fun so far, several of the kids are entrepreneurial and so I have been discussing the particulars of small product companies, building web infrastructure, etc.  Funny to see them absorb information on credit card processing, PayPal, etc. while packing stumpwork forms.

Tricia

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Guess Who I Met In Texas?

Talk about a surprise in the garden cafe at the Dallas Museum of Art!
I am right now at the SCR EGA Seminar in Houston, TX and just finished giving a lecture.  But I took the opportunity to come to Texas a few days early and enjoy some things in Dallas - like the two caskets and beaded basket in the Dallas Museum of Art!  YUM.  I was able to invite some of the locals to come with me to enjoy the day and also included Rachael Kinnison who had alerted me to the presence of a beaded basket in that collection I would want to see.

Rachael's son, her patient sherpa for the week
Rachael drove 11 hours to be with us at the museum and brought her pieces!!!!!!  With her boy sherpa (a lovely young man - her 6-foot tall son) to carry boxes she was able to bring out her AMAZING beaded basket, the small beaded basket she is teaching in Bath this summer, her music box casket and the beaded mirror case.  What a wonderful time was had looking at these modern treasures.  We both kept it secret from the lucky ladies who were visiting with us - to see if we could find a space near the museum to look at them and we were happy to have found one.  You can imagine the excitement everyone had when they realized that the 'show' wasn't done after we saw the museum pieces!

Thank you Rachael!!

I am sooo thrilled in this picture, I seriously didn't think I would ever see this
magnificient item in my lifetime.

Look at the fantastic boxes that Rachael had made to travel with her pieces!



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Frostings 2 - 19,500 Items

Wow.  It has been a total production facility around here this week.  Ok, that is the rosy view of the place, my husband and kids would instead characterize it as a 'little plastic box sweat shop'.  Why?  Because I am getting geared up for the Frostings Box Session 2 to be packed and sent out to the people who are excited to get new threads.  Tonight my husband spent three hours watching comedy shows while placing stickers on little plastic bags.

It is a long road to getting the box in your mailbox!  There are the months (in this case 18 months) of designing threads, checking colors and waiting... waiting... waiting... for the threads to start trickling in.  The last one arrived days ago.  There are 39 individual threads/colors and 500 boxes to pack so somehow all those big spools that come in have to be divided up and labeled.

Just the act of opening up the little clear plastic boxes to put something in takes a tremendous amount of time, then you line them up, load them and close them and then apply a label.  If I do a box of 500 of them of one thread, it can take me about 6-8 hours.  So this time the family has taken quite a bit of pity on me and finally pitched in to help.  19,500 little boxes or bags have to have cut and wound things put inside and labeled.  Then there is the packing of the actual white frostings boxes and shrink wrapping - that will take a week before I sit for a whole two days and making/printing shipping labels.  A couple of hours then verifying that the label is correct and marking up the database that a box is leaving.  And then many emails assuring people that the label I created on Monday and wasn't ready to adhere to the packed boxes until Thursday hadn't gotten lost by the post office as I haven't gotten a slot in the post office truck schedule until Friday to do the massive pick up.  :-) All-in-all the process is about 1.5 months from starting to cut the threads to the boxes leaving on their journey to you.

Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend, I cried 'uncle' and decided to bring in the big guns, paid teenagers.  While I only intended to hire one of them - one of the girls on the robot team that I knew was looking for some work - I managed to get a gaggle of them.  Guess they are all growing up and realize that all my time helping them with roboting costs me dearly in my work time.  So amazingly when she showed up there were others in tow.  Over the course of two days (and some sleepovers) I had four different teens (boys and girls - sorry if a few labels aren't as straight as I might like) here to help me as well as family too.  We voted on movies and had a whole Pirates of the Caribbean marathon.  Took them to see the 5th movie on Sunday to celebrate getting 3500 little plastic boxes packed and labeled in three days.  It would have normally taken me seven days.

They certainly made the work much more fun.  Sounds like they are planning on coming back for the shrink wrap party - heck - why not?  Sounds like cool tech toys and we all know robot boys like cool tech toys!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

World Championship Finalists*


It is with great, great, great pride and also some sadness that I announce that The Brainstormers are the World Championship Finalists* for 2017!  This is just an astounding accomplishment... there are 5,200+ teams in the world.  Depending on their path, they need to be usually one of the top 1-3 teams at a competition of 32-72 teams to move to the next level, having gone through five levels now.  At each competition, they will play between nine to 18 matches and come out as elimination winners in the last nine.  Because of the narrow number of teams that can move on until the super regionals, we certainly saw some amazing and great teams fall by the wayside and not move on because our state is a powerhouse that can't send all the world class teams on from the state because we are a small state.

Working on the practice field and explaining features to
another team watching
The kids worked quite hard before we left for the championship and managed to completely develop a new autonomous strategy to deal with some of the problems we had at competitions, especially with set-up issues with the fields.  It required both mechanical changes and some significant new programming feats - all accomplished in less than five weeks.  And it was killer.

This year with the splitting of Worlds to a North and South to double the number of teams who could attend because of expansion of the programs, there was a decision to give a percentage of spots to lottery because the logistics of expanding the super regional level had not occurred on schedule.  So that meant that teams who had never progressed to Worlds on merit were allowed to put their name in the hat and get a slot by lottery.  But that meant that some partners weren't as strong as others.  The kids did great during the qualifiers, almost overcoming some partnerships with teams that only scored five of the 250+ points our alliance put up.  We all felt good, the robot was working and working well.  Teams would stand and watch them practice, that felt good to be admired by their peers.

This is a favorite picture of mine because of what it says.
This is the captain of another team, sitting in our booth
watching an important match of ours on the live stream with
Rob.  Our team is known as general 'good actors' and we
have many hang out with us.  When we were in the finals, the
only cheers you would hear was for our alliance.  I find this
important - when your peers not only admire your work
but find you good people and want to see you win.
I have mentioned that at previous competitions teams have come into our booth to thank us for our how-to videos and Worlds was no exception to our complete surprise.  The one that really tickled us - the Russian team thanked us and showed us and Sofia their robot - they built their shooter based on a design she came up with and showed in one video.  As the youngest member of the team (8th grader) it was just such a great thing to hear.

It was a nice experience as my brothers came as well, driving from Michigan to see their nephew compete for the first time ever.  Part of the reason they came was that the team 'grandpa' and my brother who makes their shirts at his screen printing business, had decided to surprise the kids with a set of special commemorative hockey jerseys that would be something they could wear and keep for years past these experiences.  They included an American flag patch and a special 2017 Worlds St Louis patch they designed on one arm.  It was a great night when we got the kids together to have him give a speech on how they had inspired so many people they didn't know and give them the jerseys.  They were just blown away!

This is how they move around - together.  No one is 'out of it'.
They are attentive and in the moment and on point.  
Near the end of the competition, it became obvious that we were a highly desirable alliance partner and so one of the World Champions from last year started asking us to make some autonomous routes together.  The kids got to work and there were some outstanding joint programs written on the fly - that worked and later (as we did become partners) blew people away in the eliminations!  That night, we went out to a great Italian restaurant and I took the opportunity to make a speech as the seniors were flying home for their prom the next morning right as the elimination matches were to begin.  I reviewed their amazing accomplishments over the years and that year and that no matter what happened the next day - I was so proud of them and would miss them so much.  And that if I am not invited to their weddings, well, there would be hell to pay!
The new jerseys!

My son was trying to hold it together and not cry and as soon as I sat down, the first senior stood up to my surprise to say some words.  And one by one the three of them stood up and gave the most inspiring speeches, each about a topic.  Ethan, only on the team for two years, talked about Family.  How John and I had invited him into our special extended family, made him feel part of it within days and how that made him feel.   Then Ben, an original Brainstormer starting when he was nine years old, got up and gave a long talk about Trust.  How the arc of being on the team had taught him to trust others, trust in their collective abilities, trust others to do their job, and trust that all would be good in the end no matter how dark and horrible some situation looked at the moment - no matter how broken the robot seemed to be he could trust that somehow they would figure it out and get it running in the 5, 10, 30 minutes they had.  It was an amazing speech, of course I remember each of their personal journeys from wanting to control a task because they didn't trust another child to do a good job to today, when they could give up control and inherently understand that they were all on the same team and how talented each was and hardworking and so trust in each other.  An amazing journey and something that Ben said they would all take forward in the future in how they treated others they worked with.

11pm Waffle House Run.  The boys were never
full.  I must have ordered tons of room service,
made bagel runs, pizza orders and late night
runs to waffle house.  All the nervousness
makes those wiry 6' frames bottomless pits.
As they were woofing down a big room
service order one night - the girls just couldn't
help saying - 'we are leaving for dinner in
20 min, how come you are eating now!?"
Yeah - they also woofed down pounds of
BBQ only 30 min later.  BOYS.
Then Dan got up, on the team for a little more than three years, and he gave a talk about Failure.  He discussed how John and I had taught them how to fail successfully and created a climate where it was totally ok to fail in the small and big things - that it wasn't failure but an opportunity to learn, try new things and expand themselves individually and collectively.  He discussed how many trials had come up for them all, things that were unfair, parts that broke at the wrong time, and days that didn't go your way but that we had helped them all learn how to face these things with grace and how to turn them into motivation for the next day.  Obviously I cried quite a bit.  It was beautiful and also hilarious to hear all the rest of the kids talk about how they needed to get their speeches started now for next year!

So the next day luck went our way and we ended up partnering with our 'dream partner' in the alliance selection.  The matches were tough and fast paced (I heard that several of you watched - WOW).  Two divisions play simultaneously and the winners of each vie for the championship in a final set.  That is the first time the teams from the divisions meet in competition during the five days.  At the point we won the division, I lept out of the stands and ran down towards the pit and was hugged by each of the kids - most of them squeezing me so tight I almost couldn't breathe while I was crying.  At that point - the worst they could do was be the World's Finalists and take home a big trophy.  They were all crying.

I am not sure exactly how to express what happened next.  We won the first match by more than 150 points, lost the second by the other team making a mistake and preventing our big ball from scoring (questionable call), and it was all down to the third match.  During the last match, one of the opposing teams collected our balls and scored them in their vortex, an explicit major penalty of 40 points and seen by all - all but the referees apparently.  Upon review, the team did it at exactly the same time stamp in the first final match as well - at a time when one team from each alliance was lifting the big ball and the refs would be looking in that direction.  You can imagine how we felt upon review of that video.  It was the first and only instance in competition that this was done worldwide that anyone knows of.

So the kids were sure they had won as the penalty would put them over the top by quite a bit.  Instead, the scores were put up - we lost by the two of our balls scored by them and no penalty.  What??  But in a situation that we now know was an innocent mistake, the organizers had brought the trophies onto the field and as soon as the scores were shown, they thrust them at the winners.  Now, there is a process for disputing scores or calls and that is a marked out box - but it was covered by photographers, and some organizers who were trying to keep the area clear actually held our kids in the driver box and refused to let them out to get to the box which is the only way they are allowed to challenge.  Apparently there will be a huge rule change for next year now.

One of the boys having Dean Kamen,
co-founder of FIRST, sign his special
jersey.  Signing shirts is a 'thing' and he was so excited that
Dean showed up and he was able to get signature. 
You can imagine how this played out.  I won't go into all the details in a public forum.  I was heartbroken to watch my son sob and sob as they weren't allowed to challenge.  It got worse and again I won't say in a public forum.  Tonight, the organization held a call to allow the kids to discuss their challenge but insisted that while the video evidence showed clearly that the penalty should have been called, the refs insist they never saw it and there is no time machine and so they are the World Championship Finalists.  Hence the (*).

Beginning of the fateful last match.  
It is not how I wanted to season to end.  I also can't tell you the depth of hurt the kids have gone through, as the devil is in the details and they don't feel too good about them.  And I will state this - everything they have done was honest, professional, with grace, honor, openness and integrity.   But that isn't always how others play and when mistakes are made by others that let that get by, it is upsetting.

I thought robot season was over but as one of the top teams in the world, they were saved a space at a top-teams only invitational in Maryland at the end of June.  I am taking them as I just can't let this be the ending to an amazing season.  They need to get back up on the horse and ride again together.

At the beginning of the season they declared that they would be World Champions and worked their fingers to the bone to get to that point.  Their arc has gone from starting out as the worst team of 64 at their first FLL competition when they were only 9 years old.  Today they are considered by their peers (we keep getting messages) as the champions.

And they really are... I am so amazed and proud.

The whole crew the weekend after with all the trophies they earned this year - Champions in my book