Behind the scenes at The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery

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Is there anything happier than a little pile of finished projects?

Today I’m going to share a few behind the scenes personal thoughts and some inner workings of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery!

Last  Fall Ashleigh & I decided to do things a little differently and I wanted to share some business-y stuff with you today! And a lot of it is personal but let’s have a real life talk this Friday k?

When we design a pattern, it’s now stitched three times before it’s available for sale. Yup! Three times! One of us will stitch it using whatever specific floss the pattern calls for, then one of our sample stitchers will use all DMC and one sample stitcher will use all Cosmo.

We started doing this for a few reasons:

  • Sometimes colors don’t convert quite right. Example:  we pick a DMC pale pink and we think we’ve matched the Cosmo pale pink version but when it’s stitched up, it doesn’t look the same.
  • Testing the thread quantities. Everyone stitches differently and depending on your method, you could use more or less floss than we do. When we have *big* projects, we want people to only have to purchase supplies once and have those supplies last the entire year.
  • We have the budget to help two stay at home moms earn a little extra money. We pay them the industry standard, give them all the materials and we let them keep the finished project. In return we have the peace of mind knowing our pattern works well!

When we decided to stitch in addition to hiring people, I was more than happy to let Ashleigh do the majority of the stitching. She’s a beautiful cross stitcher. I am *not* the best stitcher. And I’m *really* hard on myself. I overly analyze every single stitch, I’d stress out that I was too slow, I’d compare myself to friends who have been stitching 20 years, etc. But! Partnership doesn’t work like that! I felt super guilty because Ashleigh already has a ton of work (she does all of our PDF building, graphics, shop maintenance, etc) and hello, I spend 70% of my day encouraging people to try cross stitching or go from aida to linen. Time for me to BUCK UP!

Sooooo in September/October I started stitching The 12 Days of Christmas with the knowledge that we’d be using my project for all the photos, pattern covers, etc. NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING RIGHT?!

It ended up being a really enjoyable project. I’d get up in the morning, have coffee and listen to podcasts and just STITCH. It became relaxing and I started to learn what works for me and what doesn’t. I think this project I fell in love with cross stitch and now it’s pretty much all I want to do!

What works:

  • I love using hand dyed floss. I find it inspiring in the same way I find hand dyed yarn inspiring, it’s subtle and it’s beautiful to watch each stitch develop. If I had the chance, I’d stitch EVERYTHING using hand dyed floss. But I know not everyone has the budget for it which is why our patterns contain DMC/Cosmo conversions. 
  • I prefer to make each individual stitch, rather than the Danish Method of doing a row of  bottom stitches, then coming back and completing the stitch.
  • Loop start method. It doesn’t work for hand dyed floss and some traditional stitchers don’t like this method because your causing half of the thread to twist into it self but I really like it.

What doesn’t work:

  • Waste knot method of starting. I somehow never catch my ends.
  • Stitching on smaller count fabric, I tried 32 and thought I was going blind. This is constantly drama between Ashleigh & I because she LOVES smaller count fabric!
  • Stitching at night. I just can’t, I prefer daytime stitching.
  • Big blocks of color! I prefer stitching lots of little bits of color.
  • I haven’t found my preferred hoop/frame/stand yet. I love the tight tension of QSnaps but they can hurt my hand after holding them for a while and they do squash my stitches (I stitch loosely). Scroll bars are awesome but mine is a strange size.

So back to business, before we release a pattern, it’s been stitched three times which is awesome! From a business stand point, this is a big deal.

Why?

Because before the pattern is even sold, we have a fair amount of money invested into it. Smaller projects we have $200-300 and larger projects like Once Upon a Time we have easily double that.

In terms of business, this where we are different and it’s risky. We could very easily post on facebook and ask for sample stitchers in exchange for free patterns, we’ve done this before and it’s totally fine, lots of designers do this and there is nothing wrong with it. At all! We could provide the materials to our stitchers but keep the finished project to use for our photos. We could ask for free thread, fabric and supplies from the shops we work with to keep our costs down. There are a LOT of options that would involve less monetary risk for us but at the end of the day, I want to be the best small business owner I can possibly be. I want to be fair. I worked for many, many, many years for free and you know what? It stunk. So my business = my rules. Are our sample stitchers getting rich? No. But they have a regular income that they use for fun money or dance lessons for their kids or whatever they want. This way there is no question of what we expect from each other!

In addition to sample stitching we have a team of three proofers! These ladies check all the patterns for errors. We have two who proof exclusively larger patterns and one who works just on the smaller patterns. They are paid per PDF. Why do we hire people to proof our patterns? Because when you buy a cross stitch pattern for $19.95, I want to be dang sure you are getting the best we can personally give you for your hard earned money. Ashleigh & I literally look at these charts for 8+ hours per day, mistakes slip by us. And since our charts now come in color + b&w, printer friendly + mobile device friendly, that is a LOT of things that have to line up and keep track of! Do little things still sneak by eight sets of eyeballs? Sure! We are human. But we try really hard to avoid that at all costs!

I still get butterflies in my stomach right before we release a new pattern, what if we missed something! What if no one likes it? “What if” is a line of thought I’m constantly struggling with, especially now that we do have people who depend on us! Ashleigh just bought a house. Chop & I are currently saving for a down payment for a home. We have three shops who carry supplies for the patterns, that’s a leap of faith on their part. What if everyone downloads it illegally and we only sell two copies? (this is a major concern 24/7 for all designers. Seriously.) It’s a little nerve wracking (ok, very scary sometimes!) but at the end of the day, I realize we are working harder than ever and I truly believe that hard work pays off. We both have become big on taking leaps of faith, celebrating small successes and enjoying what we do. After a particularly trying time, a few facebook friends said “you guys should just design what you LOVE, with materials that make you happy and ignore the rest” and they were absolutely right. I think when you love what you do, it’s infectious. I know I personally support small businesses who I watched go from a tiny shop to a legit big deal. I am SO emotionally invested in their success. I’ve never even met half of these people but watching them achieve their dreams is so incredible. I am a huge small business cheerleader. Sometimes I take a step back and see that we have our cheerleaders too, I can think of five people off the top of my head right now who have bought every pattern we’ve ever made since the beginning. These are the people who I wish I could hug (I got to do this at Stitches West to two girls!) and say “hey, thanks for believing in us when we kind of had no clue what the heck we were doing but we really wanted to do this”. These are the people who I want to look at our patterns and think “dang, I’m proud of you girls!” It’s kind of cheesy but it’s totally true. Because I know I have friends who when I see their success, I want to squeeze them to bits.

In the past two years, we’ve grown SO much as small business, as designers and as a partnership. Am I saying we have it 100% figured out or we are the best in the business? No way! I don’t think we ever will. We are constantly evolving and learning what works for us. We have a lot of things we are trying and some things work, some don’t! Are there days when I want to cry when I see someone taking our hard work and copying it? YES. I wish I could say I’m joking but there is another monthly sampler that is literally a copied & pasted version of ours. NIGHTMARE! But are there days when someone I admire mentions us on their podcast and I do a dance and call Ashleigh screaming with excitement? YES. Do I see someone who’s blog I *love* cross stitching one of our patterns and fall out of my chair thinking “how do they even know we exist?!” YES. The excitement typically outweighs the negative because…well, I get excited real easily. We’ve sold patterns to over 20 countries world wide and I get REALLY excited when I have to google where one is located (Andorra! <3!) Do I sometimes text Ashleigh and say “Did you see so & so’s finished project?! omg so cute!” YES. CONSTANTLY.

This little pile of finished projects will hopefully provide some eye candy for you today. I guess the point of this post is just to share with you what we try to do as Pumpkins and maybe inspire you this weekend to try something new or take a leap of faith on something you’ve been thinking about?! Or maybe make you excited and think about your own personal success! Also, I struggle with sharing and being personal on my blog. I went from being incredibly open/bordering on TMI to sort of becoming a clam. I sometimes think that blogging requires a cape and a monogrammed leotard because being open about your life, goals and how you choose to do things takes courage.

I hope you have a good weekend <3

Zombody Loves Ewe Socks

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I finally finished a pair of socks!

I feel like these took me so long, my left hand gets super grouchy if I knit a ton so I have to take days off which is totally a bummer. Nothing makes me happier than a pair of plain socks on my needles, I like being able to work on them with friends or in the car and not have to do a whole lot of thinking!

The yarn is Zombody Loves Ewe by Desert Vista Dye Works it was a Valentine’s Day present from Chop. I liked working with it because I’m such a sucker for a speckled yarn, the decayed bits cracked me up!

I truly love knitting the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, it fits so well and is really fun to knit. I know I sound like a broken record but if you haven’t tried this heel yet, give it a try! It’s super satisfying.

Naturally I’m already plotting a new pair of socks. I saw this braid of fiber a few months ago and pretty much died. I loved the colors so much but I’m absolutely not a spinner! I tried in college and just failed at it. I’ll just live vicariously through you guys. I fell over when I saw that Mutant Flamingo was now available as sock yarn! I literally texted Ashleigh and did a little dance of excitement. Can you see the little speckles?! It’s so cute, plus I’m a sucker for anything zombie/mutant themed. Also: cat label!!! <3

My knitting time is also slim because I’ve been cross stitching so much and to be honest, I’m addicted! I’ve been enjoying my afternoons just cross stitching and listening to music. I feel pretty lucky that people seem to enjoy stitching our patterns, it just makes us design more and work harder. When I go a few days without stitching I start to miss it! I’ve started becoming border line obnoxious to Ashleigh, I text her cross stitch work in progress photos about a million times per day. It just doesn’t get old!

I took a few photos of a new project we dropped off to be framed, I’m going to share them later on this week. Cross stitch is surprisingly tricky to take photos of! One of the projects is on this hand dyed green fabric that is so hard to capture, it’s really unique. I think I love indie dyed linen just as much as I love indie dyed yarn. We recently contacted two different thread manufacturers to hopefully work with later on this year. Both are really beautiful and smaller companies who I think if you like to stitch, you’ll like to use their thread!

Are you guys familiar with Welcome to Night Vale? It’s a very spooky pod cast that is presented like a community broadcast and it.is.weird. In the very best way! Chop & I have been listening in the evenings and sometimes we just look at each other and go “WHAT THE WHAT!!!!!” It’s very dry and twin peaks like. I’ve also started reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown which is also spooky and strange. I read The Darkest Minds this weekend and I was kind of let down. I loved Liam (darlin’) but I couldn’t muster any feelings towards Ruby.

:):)

Sunshine & Shadows

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Yesterday after a very productive business meeting (think a million Halloween cross stitch patterns) & a dr’s appointment, I went by Trader Joe’s and was SO excited to pick up a new plant! I have a super soft spot for Oxalis. I love how they open during the day and close at night. And $2.99? Perfect. I’m keeping mine on the kitchen table. Last winter I got a solar bear at a local store and he looks EXACTLY like Party Bears, he is loving the sunshine today and he makes this sort of clack clack clack as he dances. You can see his little gray body in the first photo. Hilarious.

I finally finished a sock! It feels like it took forever but really it was only three weeks. I’m using Desert Vista Dyeworks in Zombody Loves Ewe and it’s been a joy to knit with, the yarn is soft and the colors are just dreamy. I’m pretty sure I say this whenever I knit striped socks but they are so much fun to do because you just tell yourself “one more stripe!  and I’ll cook dinner. one more stripe! and I swear I’ll cook dinner. one more stripe, there are leftovers in the fridge right?! ” and suddenly you have half a foot done! ;) I can’t stop watching Susan knit her Zombody Go Bragh! on Instagram. Soooo cute.

I bought yarn off eBay last week! That’s a first for me. I saw this Opal Smile Sock Yarn on ravelry and it reminds me SO much of an upcoming pattern that I’m cross stitching that I had to get it. Doesn’t it look like sushi?! I ordered it on a Thursday and it arrived the following Tuesday. I was so surprised since I’m in California and the yarn was from the UK!

Have you seen that Romi Hill has a mystery shawl KAL this month? I’m totally going to do it. I picked two yarns from my stash: Cakewalk Yarns Sincerest (these have attempted to be socks 5x now) & Plucky Primo in Big Sky. Very, very, very different color combos from what I usually knit with and I like it! I originally picked a Koigu that looks like dryer lint (in the very best way!) but the base yarn is so different than the Plucky! I thought about buying a different yarn briefly but there is something really fun about a mystery pattern making you look at your existing yarn in a new way. I was VERY close to using a skein of Cakewalk Yarns Weenie and Plucky Feet in Barn Door. The red and the gray looked great together but I’m not sure I’m ready to use that last skein of Weenie just yet.

I bought Teardrop by Lauren Kate to read this weekend. Lately I want to read a million books that take place in the South. I definitely want to visit there someday! And as for The Undead Pool? I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll just say YAYYYY TRENT! I totally gave it five stars on Goodreads!

Did you see that Lindsay opened her shop, Patchwork Threads?! It’s true! I had a super hard time choosing a tshirt, I ended up getting “I quilt so I don’t kill people” which is perfect for me because it’s gray (gray tshirts + jeans = daily uniform) and it’s true! I’ve had ZERO sewing time lately and it’s making me surly!

:):)

Once Upon a Time Sampler: March is for Three Little Pigs!

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Hello March!

And Hello Little Pigs!

One pig was smart and built his home out of bricks. The other two guys? Not so much. They made it out with just the hand knit sweaters on their backs! That wolf, eek! He’s a real grouch. He’s the first of two wolves in this pattern.

I just finished reading Siege and Storm this morning. I have mixed feelings about it! I really enjoyed the story but I felt so annoyed by the two main characters! But then the last 15% sucked me back into the story. People usually ask me if I’m a quilter or a knitter or a cross stitcher but by far, my favorite past time is reading. I’m totally a reader. I’m looking forward to starting The Undead Pool tonight!

I cast on last month for a new Brandywine shawl. I switched from keeping track of which row I was on from paper to adobe reader…well I updated the app and lost my row! So I picked up where I thought I left off and I am WAY wrong. Now I have 3-4 rows of mistakes but I’m not sure I have it in me to pull it completely apart! I’ve done 10 or 11 repeats of the second chart, oi! Sometimes I wish I had a knitting fairy god mother who I could mail project when I get stuck! haha!

We went and saw the Lego movie today…everythingggg is awesomeeeee!!!

;)

Sugar is Sweet Sampler: Sneak Peek

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Helllllo Sneak Peek!

Tonight is a super fun night for Pumpkin Fans. We have our March Once Upon a Time Sampler PDF mass email scheduled and ready to go at midnight PST. The subscribers will be the first people to see the full version of Sugar is Sweet Sampler!!!!

These photos were taken last month and are *not* the complete sampler! They are just a sneak peek! :):) There is one more special element on the top that we want to keep a surprise! Over the course of the next year, we’ll be releasing a total 5 of these alphabet samplers. They range in subject matter, some are symmetrical like this one, others aren’t. All of the projects are approximately the same size and stitched on hand dyed fabric using solid floss (ie- not overdyed threads)!

In addition to Once Upon a Time subscribers receiving the first look at the brand new pattern, they’ll also receive a promo code for the Sugar is Sweet Sampler! Woohoo!

If you aren’t a subscriber, don’t worry! The pattern will go live tonight at midnight in our shop!

This project is *really* beginner friendly. It’s small- just 6.1 x 6.1 inches. For ease of stitching, start in the middle of your fabric with the middle of the chart- it’s the alphabet. Then you can work outwards. It’s very instant gratification, the desserts stitch up very fast! You’ll have generous borders and it could be framed, turned into a wall hanging or even a little pillow! I had mine framed  but I almost turned it into a zip pouch.We are stitching it on hand dyed opalescent fabric, it’s a silver-y gray with subtle brown smudges. It’s really unique and beautiful.

The palette for this project is sophisticated and sweet! It’s an assortment of pink, dark brown, pale yellow, mauve, beige and peach. It was a joy to stitch it because it’s so different than anything we’ve done in the past! I literally had to force myself not to share photos of the WIP every five seconds on instagram! I think it’s one of those projects that you could hang in a nursery and it could stay hung up all through childhood and into teen years. I plan on hanging mine in our kitchen!

We’ve teamed up with our three favorite shops for supplies for this project making supply purchasing super easy!

Picture This Plus

The Cottage Needle

The Workroom

All three shops also carry an amazing assortment of supplies and notions! If you can, try and support independent shops before heading to Michaels/JoAnns!

I’ll be posting some photos of the March edition of Once Upon a Time Sampler tomorrow :):)

Have a good weekend :):):)