Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Business of Stitching

I just received a new shipment of my kits from JCA, the people who are manufacturing them. I am still at the point that I get a real thrill out of opening a box and seeing my name on the kits. I feel I have been in an up-hill battle with the stitchery thing. For sixteen years, I built a reputation on my knitwear design and then I had to go and shake things up and start stitching again. It must be a flawed trait of mine - when I have success - abandon it and try something new.

After I had the bulk of Colorful Stitchery done, I approached Alan Getz who owns JCA with the idea for a line of stitching kits. I have known Alan professionally for about twenty years – he was always “the competition.” I stopped by at JCA unannounced (yikes) on the way home from a hair appointment in Pepperell with a basket full of C.S. projects and daughter Julia in tow. Alan pulled his team together and they looked. To my surprise, he was interested.

I went home, started drawing some ideas for pillow kits and visited JCA when I went to my next hair appointment (without Julia and a little better dressed). The JCA team picked eight designs (I was hoping I could convince them of four – boy was I overjoyed.) Then I had to source the colorful linen fabric and stitch the designs. Then my dad died.

In February of 2005, they were done and they “debuted” at the CHA show in Atlanta which I attended. Alan said not to expect much and he was totally right. The show was huge – there were two halls and all the action was on the “scrapbooking” side. I stood in the booth for as long as possible trying not to get depressed. But the kits looked good and an editor from Meredith (the Better Homes and Gardens and many other magazines) people liked them.

Alan then had to hop on a plane last summer and take the kits to the “chain buyers” – ACMoore, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s. And then I waited and hoped. Michael’s, the biggest craft chain, sets their stores twice a year. That’s it. Either you get put into the "plan-a-gram" or you don’t.

Last summer was the year of "knitting is hot." The craft store chains were looking at increasing their space in “knitting." They weren't going to add any square footage. You know what had to go? That’s it – the tried and true stitching department. There went my chances
. Alan was skillful enough to get my kits into Hobby Lobby and I am still hoping against hope he gets them into some of the other chains. I have no control and I just sit here doing my best to generate publicity and excitement from my humble little basement studio. And then hoping that someone notices.

Surprisingly to me, very few knitting stores are interested in my stitching kits. I thought they might be but they are too busy selling knitting. It used to be that knitting stores carried needlework kits. No more – only a handful do. And many of the stitchery, cross-stitch, and needlepoint stores have closed. I wish I could get the knitting stores interested but they only have so much space.

If I don't sell kits, I don't make any money on the time I spent developing, designing, and stitching. It's all on a commission basis. I was feeling helpless - at the mercy of about four chain store buyers and their bosses. Enter my on-line business. If customers liked the kits and couldn’t buy them anywhere, I might as well sell them myself. My talented friend Lori developed my “order form” and I figured out the Paypal system enough to start my little stitchery kit business.

I thank all of you who have bought my kits from me - especially over the last few weeks. I've become a regular at the local post office. The retail sales of the kits makes me a little more money and keeps me going. I feel good interested consumers can actually find the kits. Better get back to stitching that last new kit before JCA loses patience.


patty bolgiano said...

I don't know if this will help, but here in Maryland there are needlepoint stores, quilting stores, yarn stores, and of course the Joann's that can be found across the country. Each store has its own clientele. The cross stitch store always has business as does all the other stores. I believe it is called the Stitching Post. You might try doing some small press releases to these stores, and seeing if a particular rep visits them and have the rep pull out your kits as something new on the market. You also might ask if you can set up a teaching seminar with said students who buy your kits.

I find the internet to be vastly more rewarding in terms of finding unique items. You may just be an entrepenur that is getting the word out and will later so into stores to further your distribution. Times really have changed and a couple of last thoughts.

Check into local colleges that offer entrepenurial classes (might help you out)
Try Nordstroms, and Sax 5th Avenue for their xmas sale stuff--they like unique one of a kind items
Develop a teaching schedule to promote and share the stitching enthusiam (contact Lily Chin, Stephanie McPhee aka Yarnharlot for the technical aspects)
What about book signings with kits as a purchase.\?
Remember you are probably ahead of the curve. It takes a while for others to catch up,
Felting is really hot right now, a bag with stitching might be something to post to your website...just a thought

Patty in hot, humid, Baltimore

Susan said...

I really like the "stitching on felted items" idea that Patty posted above. Yesterday I was in a high-end fabric store -- Silk Road -- in Austin, Texas and a young woman came in to buy buttons for a bag she had knit and felted. (This place sells the most incredible buttons and has a huge selection of one-of-a-kind.) The bag she felted had some very simple running stitches done in a contrasting color to outline the shape of the purse. It was her idea -- not a pattern.

I personally would much prefer to do some embroidery on a felted piece than to have to do it in intarsia. I say this without having tried it! Maybe stitching on something felted isn't so easy...

Holly said...

I wrote an email to Kristin, but I should post here to encourage others. I received an order the other day of two kits plus the Colorful Stitchery book. I am loving this book - it is crazy-inspiring, and the kits look terrific. The fabric is really nice. Thanks again Kristin. I hope you have big success with this.

Kelsey said...

I ordered two of your kits in June and I love them so much! I'm a knitter who's just recently taken an interesting in embroidery. Your kits are E-X-A-C-T-L-Y my style and taste and they've really inspired me. I'm making 2 pillows for my best friend's bday and I can't wait to see your new line of kits - your blog is bookmarked so I can keep checking back.

Your work is lovely - I wish you the best. I'm wondering if stitching will become the "new black" at some point, like knitting has in recent years? Your kits inspired me to check out a needlework shop in Portland OR (where I live) hoping to find more kits like yours. There's nothin'! It's all very much targeted to an older crowd, I think. JUst be patient - I really think you're on to something.

Marsha Finney said...

Kristin, there is a wonderful, relatively new needlepoint store in Dallas, Creative Stitches and Gifts. I found them shortly after buying your book, Colorful Stitchery. They have the most amazing array of thread. I went nutz! Anyway, they should carry your kits and your book. They are really all about needlepoint, but with the thread, why not have some inspiring stuff for stitchers? It’s a really nice store!!

217 Preston Royal Shopping Ctr
Dallas, TX 75230
(214) 361-2610

Kym in Kalamazoo said...

Kristin: I live in Kalamazoo, Michigan and we have one yarn store that actually sells needlepoint and stitchery kits as well as "knitting". It's called Stitching Memories. I haven't seen your book or kits in there, but I think they'd do really well. How can I help? Can you mobilize folks like me in local communities to talk with their yarn stores? Hang in there -- your stuff (both knitting and stitching) is great. You're my favorite designer and I hate to see you frustrated!

Martie in Taos, NM said...

I love that you're getting stitchery out there for a LYS owner, I have to add my 2 cents and say that we have lousy luck selling kits, knitting or otherwise, even when discounted. To hear the chain stores carry them ensures we'd probably never sell them (sadly). It is hard to compete with the chain stores and many internet companies that discount or offer "deals". But..we plan to carry your book soon as we can get it...and I'm proud to say we carry the full line of Julia yarns and love them!

Karen in Connecticut said...


I think you should contact Craft Sanity to see if she'd like to interview you for a podcast. Denyse Schmidt (she makes very pricey quilts in a loft in CT) was interviewed. Alicia from Posey Gets Cozy as well. A little self-promotion is a good thing and I really believe you're about to see stitchery take off like knitting has done. Your designs are light years away from what's hanging in bags in Michael's right now.