A Few of My Favorite Things

A Baker's Dozen of Things That Make My Embroidery Life Easier

 I was visiting a friend’s woodworking shop one evening. I was picking up a spice cupboard he had made for me…a fantastic affair that reaches from floor to ceiling and has all the hallmarks of a true craftsman. He gave me the cook’s tour of his shop, explaining how he had made it, and I was absolutely amazed at the variety of hand and power tools. He has machines that plane the wood, stripping off paint and roughness in a flash, and others that slice through the hardest lumber like a knife through soft butter. He has routers and joiners, sanders and shapers—everything he needs to make designing and building a joy instead of a chore. He is a true professional, enjoying his work and creating a quality product.

 The next morning, working in my studio, I took note of the things that I use to make my work easier—none are power tools, but they all give me the power to produce a professional product and have fun doing it.  When I think about the hum of my shop on a fast and furious day—especially during the holidays which we have just survived—what comes to mind are the tools that help me get and stay organized, or hoop, stitch, trim and fold better, or learn more or just simply enjoy the profession I have chosen.

 The Right Stuff

 January is always the right time for new beginnings and resolutions. It is a time for giving thanks for the good fortune  (not necessarily money) that visited us in the old year—and looking forward to more of the same in the new year ahead. So, I thought I would curl up with some eggnog and give thanks for a few of my favorite things—a toast as it were. I also polled my Internet email forum,  Embroidery Line, for some different prospective. See how these favorites match up with yours!

 The right tool for the job can save time and enable us to be more precise. Sometimes we can’t buy that tool and so have to invent it. The enthusiasm and creativity that drives members of the decorated apparel industry to do just that is what makes our profession so fascinating.

             1) The Hoopmaster

 A product that fits this bill—the Hoopmaster—was created to make hooping easier for the Mack family. They now manufacture hooping aides instead of running embroidery machines. Although I hooped on a tabletop for years and swore by my hard-earned lessons, when I tried the Hoopmaster I was sold. I love the absolute absence of wing nuts and other parts that can fall into dark spaces or roll into obscurity across the floor.  The Hoopmaster makes matching left and right chest placements simple and the working surface boasts numbers and letters (embroidery latitude and longitude) that can be recorded on an order form for easy repetition on the next order. The Hoopmaster was the top choice of my Embroidery Line members as well. (www.Hoopmaster.com)

             2) The Embroidery Line

 This email forum is one of my favorite things—because it allows me to give back to an industry I love. A no-charge-to-members, uncensored exchange between embroiderers, it is the largest assembly of professional embroiderers in our profession—a lifeline as well as a source of camaraderie for many. It came in second in my poll for favorite things among my members and readers as well. (www.EmbroideryLine.net)

             3) An Order Form

 Back in 1992, I developed a business order form to make my life easier. In 1994, I started marketing what became known as “The Hart Form.” I went through many prototypes before settling on the final model, and have many customers who have never used anything else in their business. I haven’t been able to retire from stitching like the Hoopmaster developers, but business is good in spite of copycats—most of whom I know aboutJ.

             A good order form—mine or yours—can make a huge difference in the accuracy of your work and in the ability to remember all the details of any order so you can make your customer feel like a million bucks…by not asking them to bring in a sample from the previous order so you can remember their needs. It reminds you where you bought the goods, how much you paid, what sizes and colors you ordered and even the name of your contact. A good form can take the place of half dozen pieces of paper…for example, the Hart Form provides everything from a call slip to a simple profit and loss calculation to keep you on track. (www.Hartforms.com)

             4) Gridded Backing Paper

I carried on a conversation with a member of this industry for over three years about gridded backing for the professional embroiderer—I kept asking and asking for it…he kept trying to make it happen. It is finally a reality, but named after someone who had nothing to do with it...not the Hart Grid that we had imagined. Nonetheless, I still say it is a great idea.

I am a champion of placement grids…years ago I suggested to a re-seller of some transfer paper that the product would be doubly useful with lines on the backing paper to assist placement—it now comes that way. I would rather have the grids on any backing than not, even if I don’t need it on a certain job…because then, when I want or need it, it is there. I think it assists in precise placement and precise repetition of placement.

             5) The “Hypodermic” Needle Oil Applicator

             The application of the single drop of oil that the raceway of the hook assembly periodically requires is made a lot simpler with this tool. It can often be found as a give-away at trade shows. It is refillable and precise. It cuts down on spills and over-kill. I keep mine within easy reach in the rollaway bins under the front of my machine.

             6) The Rollaway Bins

             I picked up three rolling storage units with drawers and dividers in the close-out section at my Office Max store. They fit right under the front edge of my machine and keep my needles, bobbins, tools, scissors, fabric pens organized and close at hand…all the things that might make this list if I didn’t have a word limit.

                7) Darning Egg

             Those storage bins also hold a darning egg and some cylindrical lint removers. I use the darning egg to create and hard surface against which to hold any sections of embroidery I need to remove with a seam ripper or razor…or even a battery-operated mustache trimmer.

                8) Lint Remover

 I once substituted a lint roller when the darning egg went missing…and loved the way the sticky surface pulled the loosened threads away from the face of the fabric. I rub the roller against hoop marks for quick removal and clean up loose threads before the folded garments go out the door. Roll one over the embroidery and any missed thread ends will pop up for quick snipping.

             9) Digital Camera

             The only way to keep a permanent record of our creative triumphs is to photograph them—and how much easier that is since the development of the digital camera. Combine one with a regular or snapshot printer and you have a perfect avenue to a scrapbook or portfolio that can be a major marketing tool. I keep one camera handy in the shop and take pictures as I work, for I never know what story I will tell that

             10) Professional Embroidery: Business by Design

It’s hard to keep everything in your head…so I wrote down the things I’ve learned along the way…and shared them with my industry. I always wished there were books to read and study to learn about embroidery. This book—and the one that follows—were on the lists of many of my Eliners…and I keep them on my favorite list as I don’t have to remember things now…I just look them up in my own books. (www.HelenHart.com ).

                  11) Professional Embroidery: Stitching by Design    

            My grandfather always said that we shouldn’t have to memorize things. If they are written down in a book somewhere, easy to find, why waste time studying and remembering? Just look things up! This book is on my favorites list because I often forget the troubleshooting tips, maintenance guides and needle designations I have compiled here. It sits on my machine, easy to reach. (www.HelenHart.com ).

                  12) The Internet         

Catalogues to browse and search engines to help us find them—what a wild and wonderful thing is the Internet! I have a hard time realizing and remembering that only a dozen years ago it was unheard of…We can set up a complete retail site with a shopping cart—or just a brochure to let our customers see our products and prices as we talk. We can link to complete catalogues our vendors have available, saving time and money on website development. The possibilities are endless in cyberspace!

                 13) Printwear

This would make my list even if I didn’t write this column. I love the scope of the magazine and how I learn about things other than embroidery. I have added transfers and embossing to my business this year and look forward to articles that broaden my thinking as well. I have learned so much about other decorating techniques and business tips. I can grow my business my contracting out to others…and Printwear helps me find the people I need to make this happen.

What Are Your Favorite Things?

            Take a moment to think about the special things in your life…the things that make your work less of a job and more of a joy. Take another moment to make a list of your favorite people…and make it a point to remember them each month this year.