Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter Blues?

If you follow me on Twitter you're probably sick and tired of hearing me whine about the weather. I'm one of those people who simply cannot wait for the first snow fall. I truly enjoy going out on freshly fallen snow and getting silly with my kids, but that feeling of joy lasts about a week or so and then I get sick of it and want to run screaming in the other direction (which would probably be South). Just look at what I have to look forward to this week...

Brrrrr.... If I still lived in Costa Rica, I'd be looking at this all week...

Ahhhhh... beautiful! Which reminds me, my aunt and uncle, who currently live in Atlanta, GA, flew out to Costa Rica for vacation yesterday. I am green with envy but wish them an amazing time! Some day, some day...

So, how about something to brighten up our days? A few weeks ago, the talented ladies at Sew4Home emailed me a concept board containing about a dozen tutorials they planned to make with Flora & Fauna and I just about fell out of my chair! Not only were the projects gorgeous, as they usually are on their site, but they were just concepts, which means that they were drawn up on the computer using just small JPGs of the fabric designs. I was instantly blown away by the creativity and graphics talent!

Now it is finally here!


Starting today, through the entire month of February and into the first week of March, you can check out these gorgeous kitchen projects (free tutorials!) made with Flora & Fauna over at Sew 4 Home. They're kicking off the show with these Everyday Reversible Placemats...


In case you want to sew along and are planning your fabric purchases ahead, here is a list of the fabrics they will be using for all their upcoming projects. Check out the full list of projects at the bottom of this page.

Wondering where to buy Flora & Fauna? We have a list of national and international retailers on our website... just scroll down to the bottom of this page.

Also, our new MODKID patterns are now in stock! We have them for sale on our website but also strongly encourage you to shop from your favorite online or local retailer. There is a list on the bottom of this page.

And finally, how about some giveaways? Hawthorne Threads is giving away a Hummingbird Quilt pattern, and one of my testers, Carol Plaster, is giving away a MODKID Dress Bags pattern.

Here's wishing you bright and happy days ahead...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Inquisitive Minds

My little Sophie, at the wise old age of 8, has been plagued by the question of all questions... "what will I be when I grow up?" As much as I try to assure her it will come to her sooner or later she seems to be convinced that she must figure it out right now. In the last few days we've heard everything from "artist" to "veterinarian" to "bake shop owner." She spends all her time doing "research." She reads, observes, asks tons of questions and watches Animal Planet like there's no tomorrow.

Lately she's been watching me as I buzz around the house with my camera strapped to me like an extra appendage. She observed intently as I photographed her little sister for a future promotional campaign...

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She witnessed me running out to our driveway in below-freezing temps to get a shot of our sewing pattern delivery truck...

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Then documenting the stacks of boxed-up orders as they headed out the door to our customers...

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So, I figured it was just a matter of time before she got bit by the photo bug. Today, as we were heading out the door to run a few errands around town she asked "Can I take a picture of you with your camera?" (notice how she has already realized the difference between my camera and hers). I hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and thought, why not? I carefully placed my very-heavy-and-expensive-you-drop-it-you-die camera into her little hands. I'm pretty sure my hands were trembling more than hers. As I wrapped the camera strap around her neck I thought, if she drops it, she's coming right down with it... eeek! (with the lens and the speedlight attached to it, this camera weighs about as much as she does!)

I quickly showed her how to manually focus and let her take a couple of practice shots while I held on to it. Then... I let her have it... by herself. *gulp*

She stood on top of our kitchen stool *double gulp* and took about 20 shots of me and 2 were in focus.

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Well, this one's a little soft, but I still like it.

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Not too shabby, eh? Uh-oh, I think "photographer" may have bumped "bake shop owner" out of the running...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Print Job -- Part 4

It's quite normal to see customers back in the pressroom during print day because that's when you can catch any errors or irregularities before it's too late. But hardly ever do customers go down to the bindery during finishing time, so it was quite a treat for me to get to go back there today and catch my print jobs as they were trimmed, folded and stitched.

First up is a stack of pattern sheets ready to be trimmed.

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The cutter trims off all 4 edges of the patterns sheets using the trim marks as guides.

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The trimmed edges are then collected...

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And thrown into a recycling bin.

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The neatly-trimmed pattern sheets are then stacked up next to the folder.

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The folder can have 2 or 3 or 4 units attached to it depending on how many folds the sheet requires. The first unit folds the sheet perfectly in half. Then the next unit grabs it and folds it in half again... and so on...

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Then, after all folds are done, the last unit spits them out and stacks them.

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The instruction booklets go through a similar process, except it's got more steps.

First they get stacked on the cutter...

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Edges are trimmed off...

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Then they go onto the folder. See that striped unit on the left side of this next photo? The sheet gets sandwiched in there and folded in half. It moves so fast that it's nearly impossible to see.

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They come out at the other end all neatly folded in half...

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Then this next machine (the stitcher) was the most fascinating to me! Check it out... it takes a folded inside spread and places it onto this moving belt then it drops the cover sheet on top of it and the nested booklets go down the line to get stitched.

In this next photo, imagine the machine moving right to left... first you see an inside spread all by itself, then the cover is placed on top of the inside spread...

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Pretty maids all in a row...

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At the other end, the machine places two staples on the fold of each booklet...

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Then they get trimmed to finished size, stacked and put on top of this conveyor belt, kinda like what you see at the airport...

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And VOILA! Pattern booklets are finished! Ready to be assembled, boxed & shipped...

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Thank you all for staying with me through this little field trip. I so appreciate your comments and questions. I hope I didn't bore any of you to death... haha. I promise I'll get back to normal blogging after all this is done and over. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Print Job -- Part 3

Press checks for the instruction booklets started promptly at 10:00 a.m. today. This time there was nothing keeping me from attending... no snow days, schedule conflicts or delays of any sort... so I was a happy camper. :)

As you come in, the pressman usually has your press sheet up on the table ready to be checked over. They were able to get all 6 of my front & back covers plus 1 interior spread on one press sheet. Pretty impressive, if you ask me!

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The first thing I do is look for registration issues. This is the pressman's lupe. I tried to get as close to it with my camera and see if you could actually see the dot pattern through the magnifying glass, but my photo didn't turn out as clear as I expected it. Oh well! But trust me, you can see each and every dot through that thing. Any registration issues will be clear & visible right away. Everything was in perfect registration. YAY! :)

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Next, we compare the press sheet to the Sherpa proof to see if there are any color discrepancies. In this photo I am holding the Sherpa proof on my left hand while I point at a little bit of redness I noticed
in one small area of the press sheet. By the look on my pressman's face I'd say he probably thinks I'm crazy! LOL!

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I check my signature red and lime green colors from the MODKID logo to make sure the color is accurate and consistent throughout and I also check for good skin tones and things like that. Pressman Kenny is at my side the entire time to answer questions or make quick color adjustments.

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Oh, see those greenish-looking sheets on the lower right hand corner of this next photo? Those are the plates from which the press sheets are made. There is one for each process color, C=Cyan, M=Magenta, Y=Yellow and K=Black. All 4 of those together make up a 4-color print job like mine.

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Here is a closer look at those plates...

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My booklets always go on a 6-color press, like this Heidelberg Speedmaster because in addition to the 4 process colors, they get a Dull Aqueous Coating, which is like a varnish that is applied in-line and is actually considered a 5th color.

(Isn't this thing massive?)

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When the press sheets come out of the machine, they have the coating already applied. We added the aqueous coating to minimize glare on the booklet when your are sewing and also to protect the pages from fingerprints, grease, water, etc.

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Next up... trimming, folding and saddle-stitching. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 08, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Print Job -- Part 2

I hope you guys enjoyed the first portion of the tour.

Well, we were snowed in yesterday, schools canceled, etc. and wouldn't you know it? My rep calls saying that the pattern sheets are going on press that morning. I nearly screamed. Mostly because I hate missing a press check, but also because I had already committed to doing this little "behind the scenes" tour for you guys and I hate to let anyone down.

Kids are not allowed back in the pressroom, but I wouldn't want to take them back there anyway.... too many chemical fumes and too much heavy machinery for inquisitive little fingers.

In a situation in which you cannot attend a press check yourself, you can always nominate someone to go in your behalf. I quickly called Jon to see if he could sub in for me, but he had a schedule conflict. My sales rep agreed to press check for me so we were back in business.

Our pattern sheets are printed in black ink only (or in printer's speak 1c/0c) so I wasn't too worried about them. There is not much that can go wrong in a 1c job except maybe wrong paper stock or the screens being out of whack.

Here is a picture I took last year on my iPhone of our last print run. This is our Nina pattern sheet. (Don't ask me what all those buttons do!)

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Our pattern sheets are put on a 2-color sheet-fed press (meaning they are individual sheets, not on a roll) and are later trimmed to size and folded.

Sometimes I bring my own lupe (magnifying glass) to look at lines and screens more closely but when I forget, I can always borrow the pressman's lupe.

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Through the lupe you can see registration issues (which, again, on a 1-color job, there are none) and dot size on the screens. That means that on the gray areas, like on the bodies of my potty girls, you can see if the dot pattern is too big or too small or muddled, which means there's too much ink going onto the sheet.

We've never had a paper stock or screen issue with this printer so I am confident that the pattern sheets will be flawless... plus my rep signed on the dotted line for me. haha

On Monday, my instruction booklets go on press, and I fully intend to be there for them (knock on wood). Our pattern booklets are printed 4-color with an extra aqueous coating, so they need to go on their 6-color press in order to do the coating in-line. You'll see what I mean...

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Print Job - Part 1

A few of you have expressed an interest in the "behind the scenes" action here at the studio. We're always buzz, buzz, buzzing around when it's print time for our patterns. I print locally at a commercial printing facility because I like to have the option to attend press checks and discuss pre-press edits directly with my rep.

The pre-press proofs for our 6 new patterns arrived yesterday. I immediately spread them out on the floor because I find that the best way to work. I thought I was the only one who did that (because I'm "vertically challenged") but come to find out a bunch of my creative tweeps work that way too. I'm guessing us "creative minds" don't like to be confined to the strict parameters of a table.

These are the "Sherpa Proofs". They are large digital outputs made on a high end AGFA machine. We use these to check for color variances, image resolution and registration issues.

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This is about the closest you can get to what it'll look like on press, without actually creating the plates. The pages are impositioned in the same fashion they would on press, in our case we print our booklets as "work and turn". Here's a closer look:

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After I look these proofs over with a fine-toothed comb (as if I hadn't already looked at these patterns a gazillion times!) I check the "OK TO PRINT" box and sign on the dotted line... then my heart beats a little faster.

Next, is the "folding dummy." As this title would indicate, these proofs are used to check for page positioning, binding and finishing. This proof is in no way to be used to check for color or print quality (that's what we have the Sherpas for!) As a matter of fact, the color is often way off and the image quality is poor. We look these over to make sure the pages are in the correct order and the booklets have the right amount of pages and are folded and saddle-stitched (stapled) as they should be.

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There's that pesky "OK to Print" box again. I always hesitate a tad before checking it.

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And finally we get to look at proofs of the actual pattern sheets. These are black & white and full size and usually come folded to the size the final printed ones will be folded to.

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We check for all the usual stuff... placement, resolution, image quality, size, folds. I also give it a once-over to make sure the MODKID logo is sized consistently throughout and the fonts and type sizes are also consistent. I'm super OCD about those sorts of things.

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And wouldn't you know it! No matter how many times we proofed, edited and re-proofed the files before sending them to print, it's not unusual to find something at this stage. That's why I'm so happy I get the chance to OK these before they go on press.

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PHEW! So glad I caught that! ;) I make a little note on the sheet, mark my proof as "Need Corrections" and off they go to get plates made.

I hope you guys enjoyed seeing what goes on behind the scenes at the studio. My printing company has graciously agreed to let me bring my camera into the pressroom later this week so I can document what goes on "on press." It truly is a fascinating process... well, at least it is for me! I hope I'm not boring you guys to death!

Until then...

Monday, January 04, 2010

Off to a great start...

Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope you all had a great New Year's celebration. We enjoyed dinner at a Japanese steakhouse with the girls, then I spent a quiet evening at home accompanied by a good movie, a great beer, a delicious bowl of popcorn and an amazing guy. What else could I ask for?

New Years Day was a fun and relaxing one. I rolled out of bed at noon, took a long hot shower then visited a local quilt shop that was featuring my fabrics and patterns during their annual Football Widows' sale (that title cracks me up every time). Then we went to the movie theater with the kids and friends and ended up spending a couple of hours (and more money than I wished to) at Barnes & Noble. It was a great start to the year.

But after all that goofing off, it was time to get back to business. I cracked the whip this weekend and had Jon and Val working overtime proofing patterns for me while I edited, printed proofs and edited some more. My testers' pattern notes were strewn all over the studio floor while Jon and I mulled over nit-picky things like comma placements, unnecessary quote marks and appropriate registration marks until my eyeballs bled!

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All that hard work paid off because late last night I printed the final production proofs and all 6 patterns went off to get printed this morning! PHEW! What a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt like a mom letting her first-born go off to Kindergarten... a mixture of excitement and trepidation, of wanting to hold on one minute longer but also to let go once and for all.

So, now that I find myself with some time on my hands I thought I'd address some Frequently Asked Questions we've received over the past few weeks via email, blog comments or Twitter regarding our new set of patterns.

When will the new patterns be available? We expect to take delivery of the new patterns on January 18th at which time we will begin packing and shipping wholesale pre-orders in the order that they were received. Check with your favorite local or online retailer to see if they will be carrying our new patterns.

What is the finished size of your Hummingbird Quilt? And is this project considered for beginner, intermediate or advanced sewists? The Hummingbird Quilt has a finished size of 42"w x 60"h. I think it is perfect as a wall hanging but would also look super cute on a crib or toddler bed or even draped over a comfy sofa. I consider this a beginner project because there is no piecing involved... it's all raw-edge applique. Plus, as with all my other patterns, I give detailed step-by-step instructions in addition to loads of photos and diagrams to help you along.

A million thanks to my quilt pattern testers Lori Porten and Paula Shasteen for the test quilts below. Lori made the Mustard colorway quilt (left) and Paula made the Stone colorway quilt (right).

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What type of dolls do your doll patterns fit? Our Mini-Modkid patterns were designed to fit the standard 18" doll, like American Girl Dolls, Our Generation Dolls and My Disney Girl Doll (seen below on the American Girl Dolls)

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Do they fit the Bitty Babies and Bitty Twins too? The tops and dresses are a perfect fit for the 15" dolls, like Bitty Twins. However, the pants are too long for their little chubby legs. Check out the photo below showing Mini-Ava, Mini-Kyoko and Mini-Frida on the Bitty Twin Dolls. Middle photo (Mini-Kyoko) courtesy of our pattern tester, Jen Smith Moore.

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Do the mini outfits fit Build-A-Bears? Just like with the Bitty dolls above, the tops, skirts and dresses fit the bears but the pants do not. Check out the Mini-Ava 2-pc. set on Sophie's BABW bear (left).

Are you planning on making some for Blythe dolls too?? We haven't discussed this yet, but never say never, right? ;)

By chance would they be available to fit a My Twinn doll? (23" tall) I do not have that type of doll at home to try these outfits on but my guess is the clothes would be too small for them.

The following are Q&A's I've posted here before but are worth re-posting for new visitors:

Will you allow sale of items produced with your sewing patterns?
Having come from the children's boutique community myself, I am a great supporter of the "indie" or "cottage" industry. All of my sewing patterns come with a legal line that reads: "Modkid LLC allows the right to use this pattern to create items sewn by the purchaser and only the purchaser for personal use or sale. Please direct inquiries for any other commercial use to info@modkidboutique.com. Any printed or electronic reproduction of this pattern in part or whole is strictly prohibited." This pretty much means that YES, you can sell these items if you are an independent sewist (home sewer), but if you intend to mass-produce these items, you need to contact us to work out a licensing agreement.

Can we use your photos for the sale and promotion of your fabrics and patterns on our website?
Absolutely! That's what they're there for! All retailers are welcome to use the product images I have uploaded to my Flickr account. I even have them organized in sets for you: MODKID Patterns Set, Flora & Fauna set, Mezzanine Set, and Andalucia Set.

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These are all the FAQs I have for now, but if I've left anything out or if any of you have any questions you're dying to ask, by all means leave them below in the comments section or feel free to email me at info@modkidboutique.com

RETAILERS: You can pre-order the 6 new patterns now in the WHOLESALE section of our website.

I want to thank each & every one of you for your amazing support in 2009! I am woozy with the anticipation of what 2010 may bring for us. :)