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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Embroidery Kits vs Sourcing Supplies: Value, Time, Quality & Money

 

Lately, I’ve received some interesting emails from readers, asking questions or relating experiences that have to do with embroidery kits.

And heck, who doesn’t like to talk about embroidery kits? It’s a topic I love, so I’m always game for a discussion!

One interesting conversational thread that has surfaced is the topic of purchasing embroidery kits as opposed to sourcing your own supplies for a project.

The topic is multi-faceted. I could never cover every detail or share every thought I have on the subject in one article. You’d be asleep by the end!

So, instead, I’m introducing the subject here, sharing a few of my thoughts and some basic principles behind them, and asking for your input and feedback.

Embroidery Kits vs. Sourcing Materials

Two emails in particular prompted me to write about the notion of embroidery kits and sourcing supplies for embroidery projects.

This is email #1:

I want to work Hazel’s Late Harvest along with you, but I think the kit is way overpriced. I’ve never paid that much for an embroidery kit, and I’ve worked lots of kits! I’ve been looking for the supplies and found some of them but not all. Can you help me find [the supplies I’m missing] online so I can order them?

This is email #2:

I thought I could save money sourcing my own supplies for Late Harvest. The only thing I could source locally was the DMC thread, which I purchased at Michael’s. I don’t have a local needlework shop nearby, so I had to order fabric, beads, needles and the wire for the stumpwork elements online. By the time I tracked down all the beads, they were coming from four different online suppliers. I made a mistakes with some of them because I couldn’t see them in person and I had to re-order some. The fabric I ordered, a Zweigart linen, wasn’t going to work for surface embroidery like this, so I ordered a different linen online and bought some muslin locally to back it. Then, to make matters worse, I made a mess with the design transfer and had to start over. Good thing I had ordered extra fabric! By the time I was ready to begin stitching, I was working on getting everything together for over six weeks and by the time I paid for everything, corrected my mistakes and paid for shipping, I ran up quite a tab of just over $70. I wish I had bought the kit in the first place.

Commercial Embroidery Kits

While there are many embroidery kits available to the stitching public these days – thanks mainly to the internet, since most people don’t have local needlework shops, and if they do, the shops don’t have a high concentration of surface embroidery offerings – there’s an obvious distinction between the types of embroidery kits available today and how (and who) produces them.

Let’s talk about commercial kits first, which are produced in bulk by a company, often one with a hand in the manufacturing or distribution of at least some of the supplies involved.

Take, for example, these tiny Mill Hill bead kits that I wrote about not too long ago. They’re produced in bulk, and they contain products belonging to the producers (i.e. the Mill Hill beads and the perforated paper).

When a company like Mill Hill produces these kits, they aren’t having to pay for the same levels of distribution that we (the retail shopper) would have to pay for, when it comes to the supplies involved.

They’re also supplying partial amounts within the kits – enough to work the kit. So, instead of full skeins of DMC thread, you’ll find a few strands of each color. Instead of the full retail container of beads, you’ll find enough to complete the kit. Instead of a full sheet of perforated paper, you’ll find a small piece large enough to work the design.

And so, for about $8, you can buy a little kit and complete the whole design with the supplies required. If you had to buy, retail, all the individual supplies to create the tiny object, the cost would be significantly more. Sure, you’d have left-overs (we all love stash!), but would the value of what you embroidered be comparable to the price you paid for the supplies? If you had to spend $20 or more to assemble all the supplies, would it be worth that tiny embroidery on perforated paper?

Similar principles apply to kits produced by Bucilla, Dimensions, and other commercial producers whose kits can be found in big box stores, discount craft shops, and the like. With these latter kits, you can also add other dimensions to the principle: when it comes to commercial kits like these, are you getting quality supplies that are deserving of the time you’ll be putting into them? Often, no. Where are the kits produced, and what is the cost of labor in those places where the kits are produced?

So, the upshot: commercial kits are often much less expensive than if you sourced the materials yourself for the same project.

Designer Embroidery Kits

For lack of a better name for them, designer embroidery kits are kits that come straight from the designer. In most cases, the designer either works alone, or she (or he) might have one or two assistants that help with packaging and assembly.

The designer, who has already stitched the project and knows it inside and out, has sourced all the supplies and ordered them (normally wholesale, or at least with some discount from the retail price), paid shipping on them, and divided them up according to the requirements of the kit.

Designer kits often include full skeins of thread, as opposed to small quantities estimated as enough to finish the design, because a designer knows that every stitcher is different. While the designer may have only used half a skein to complete her original design, that doesn’t mean every stitcher will only use exactly half a skein.

Also, when it comes down to it – and especially when it comes to most cotton threads – it’s often less expensive to include the whole skein than to pay yourself or someone else an hourly wage to cut it up into small pieces.

The designer has sourced beads and needles and other similar requirements in bulk – exactly the ones needed to produce the finished design.

The designer has also sourced the ground fabric, usually bought wholesale in quite a large quantity, and has cut it down to the sizes required for each project.

Further, with many designer kits, the designer pays a screen printing service to print an accurate design on each piece of fabric or has hand-transferred the design on each piece of fabric herself.

Then there’s the packaging! Packaging and printed materials must be designed and paid for. Packaging and printed materials are expensive, especially for small businesses. The smaller your business, the more expensive they are, so small businesses have to invest in advance in bulk to get reasonable and affordable prices.

Finally, the designer may have to pay an employee to help with assembly, or, in cases where she doesn’t have an employee, she has to pay herself for the time she spends on all of this – from designing, to stitching, to sourcing, to packaging and mailing.

In the end, she has to make a reasonable profit, or she can’t continue doing what she does. And if she can’t continue doing it, designer kits will no longer be available for us.

Quality, Success, Passion, and the Art

The designer has carefully selected the best materials for you to use, to produce her design in her kit. She (or he) knows that your time deserves the best quality materials for your embroidery. And she knows what materials will work best to produce a beautiful result with her design.

The designer has a vested interest in your success. She wants you to successfully complete her kit, and to complete it well. She doesn’t want you to be frustrated by lesser-quality threads or fabrics. She doesn’t want your finished product to look “not quite as good” as it could, because of poor quality materials. She wants you to be thrilled and happy with the end results.

Why? She wants you to come back for more, yes, but she also has that desire to further the whole notion of the art of embroidery. She is passionate about embroidery, and she wants you to be, too. So she’s going to give you the stuff that she is passionate about. She’s not going to settle for less than what she would use in her own stitching.

So, the upshot: designer’s kits are more expensive than commercial kits. But there’s a whole lot more to them, too!

Sourcing Your Own Supplies

I think the two emails above speak pretty clearly about the difficulties of sourcing your own supplies for embroidery projects.

In the first case, the writer needs help sourcing supplies – she doesn’t know where to find them, and she is already frustrated by having to spend time looking for them. And so she wants someone else to do the searching for her. It’s not really a service I can afford to provide. Sure, if I know where to find something off the top of my head, I don’t mind sharing that knowledge. But I can’t afford to spend my time sourcing supplies for another designer’s kit, so that the stitcher can save money at my expense. I know it sounds harsh and ungenerous, but that is just reality. The designer has already sourced the supplies and produced a kit.

The second email demonstrates everything that can go wrong when you do source your own supplies for a complicated project. In the end, financially, the stitcher saved herself about $20, if you consider postage on that particular kit. Was it worth it? She didn’t think so.

When it Makes Financial Sense

For simple projects worked on a readily available fabric with widely available threads, it’s easy enough to source your own supplies. And it makes financial sense to do it.

But with complex projects that involve harder-to-find fabrics and threads, lots of specific embellishments, special tools or the like, it is usually makes more sense – financially and emotionally! – to purchase the kit. You’ll save time; you’ll avoid frustration; you’ll avoid individual shipping costs on retail supplies ordered from different places; and you’ll avoid any mistakes you might make in ordering things online that you aren’t sure about.

Supporting the Art

But there’s more to it than just financial sense.

When you purchase a designer’s kit, you are supporting the small business of the designer – which goes a long way to keeping the art of embroidery alive!

And What About Your Time?

Time is the one element that many stitchers don’t take into consideration.

As yourself:

What is your time worth? And what is worth your time?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Most Valuable Element of any of your embroidery projects is your Time.

Is it worth the hours of time it would take you to source materials for a complex embroidery project, to save the money you’d save if you don’t buy the designer’s kit?

Maybe, in some cases – if the supplies are simple enough to find and you can get some or all of them locally.

But in many cases, is the $25 or $30 you might save, after spending ten hours looking for supplies, a reasonable return for your time?

Your Thoughts?

Like I mentioned at the beginning (and that was a long time ago!), these are just some basic thoughts about embroidery kits, sourcing supplies, the value of time, money, and quality supplies.

I’d like to know your thoughts! Do you have any points to add? Pros, cons, otherwise? Do you agree or disagree with any points I’ve made? Do you have any questions about the topic, or additional insights?

This is a topic I’d love to see discussed and fleshed out a bit, and especially to hear your take on!

If you’d like to join in the discussion, feel free to leave your comments below!

 
 

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(231) Comments

  1. I rarely buy kits and not simply because of the cost. I like to be able to make my own choices about fabrics and threads and so on. And also, having been stitching on and off for 30 years, I do have a considerable stash – including a lot of leftovers from other kits! So in general, I prefer to buy designs and instructions, or sometimes pre-printed fabric, and then make up my own ‘kit’ of threads and other materials. That means that my work doesn’t usually look exactly like the designer’s piece, and I’m happy about that, because it means mine is unique.

    I’d love, for example, the Crewel Work Company to start selling their printed designs with instructions but not including all the wool, needles etc. I have plenty of crewel wool in stash to use up!

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    1. I agree! I got tons of Crewel wool – the same wool the company uses. It would be madness to order more.

      Some designers indeed sell different kits. For example, a full kit including everything, a medium kit with speacialty threads and such (but not common ones like DMC) and a small kit with (pre-printed) fabrics only. I think that is a good policy as customers can choose the most fitting option and the company gets sales it otherwise probably wouldn’t.

    2. i agree too!!! i would buy all the designs from the crewel work company if i could just buy the preprinted fabric and instructions. this would also help with costs as being in the u.s. the dollar exchange rate makes they kits very expensive i paid $250 for the marriage pillow and can only do this about once a year for budget reasons. but i love their designs so much i will keep going back. I also purchased hazel blomkamp’s preprinted linen from austrian needlearts and had excellent service with time and cost. i used threads that i already had at home.

    3. I hope this reply gets posted close to Ros’s post–but I just wanted to mention that I recently emailed the Crewel Work Company about that very matter: I needed the instructions but not the materials for one of their project (incidentally, the Mellerstain firescren that was just featured here as a giveaway), and they got right back to me saying they could sell me just that! So, especially with these small independent designers, it’s worth it to reach out, because they might be able to accommodate small special orders like that. 🙂

    4. I feel similarly. I usually buy just the pattern because I almost inevitably make changes to the design. However, I splurged and bought one kit recently and I had to go out and buy additional materials because the designer picked such gross colors! Sure, it looked ok on the picture on the website but when I actually got the package…. I didn’t know thread could come in neon 80’s slime green!
      Good thing there’s a local children’s museum that is always looking for art supplies for their “messy room”. Kids like slime green, right?

    5. In relation to printed twill and instructions packs only. Keep an eye on The Crewel Work Company website. I believe that they have plans to do just that in the future.

    6. Ros, reading your email I think you make a statement that really attests to why it is, in the long run better to buy a kit. And/or buy the book.(I do like the books sometimes as it tells you what stitch and shows you how and plenty of other good stuff).
      You say – “including a lot of leftovers from other kits!” This interests me.
      This says to me it is to be preferred to buy a kit as most designers allow a few extras in the materials if you lose a few beads or have pull outs of thread.
      I can also speak about that matter ‘what to do with left overs’. All types of kits. I put left overs with the finished article to be used in future if the item needs repairs could be next week, or 50 years on. Those items that were not possible to use, I made a sampler that has all the left over bits sewn onto it. Nothing grand, but it has name of Kit or item name & date completed. Thread name, DMC, Anchor 612, Blue. I make a small skein and lash it to sampler. If beads I just thread them and in a line I sew it to fabric lashing stitch between each bead to hold it down. I think you get the drift. Then I roll my sampler up and put it in a tube. The tube is dated from beginning. When the sampler gets too big for the tube I cut off the end. Seal up the tube and date accordingly. Put a bit of dried lavender and or cloves (in a little bag – very easy to make, make like square ravioli.) I don’t let any of it loose as it could stain the sampler. Finally put a little silica gel pad (I have kept from food packs). NOT MEAT ones. The rolls will stack nicely and you have a repair kit for the item.
      If you want to change your kit, the sampler is still good as you can see what was suggested by the designer but add your own choice to it.
      I have on occasions wanted the design in a different colour. I contacted the dealer and ask if that is possible,(I don’t particularly like blue)so if not could I have just the design? Sometimes, yes sometimes, no. It is their prerogative. It is not their responsibility to suit everyone. You buy it or you don’t,so be it. BUT if you don’t ask you never know! There are many Dealers who just sell the design. I have been stitching for over 60 years and you want to see my stash! To make matters worse no daughters to pass onto. My best friends x 4 are to when I die, get a trailer and clear out all my “stuff”. My husband and son know this and it is written in concrete in my will. Also if my friends die before me it all goes to auction and the proceeds go to my favourite charity.
      So Ros it is all up to you. But no need to waste a thing just re use or distribute and ask nicely, you could be pleasantly surprised.

      Happy stitching all.
      MM

  2. As you point out – kits can be a great time-saver, and can provide the stitcher with both a design and everything needed to produce that design.

    I would add “… as the designer intended.”

    The execution of kitted designs according to the original designer’s specifications and vision is indeed a skill of high order. Exquisite works can be made. Having the guidance of the designer’s expertise is very comforting – especially for those learning new skills or venturing into new styles.

    That being said, I personally find fully-furnished kit execution to be unfulfilling. Again – kits can be exquisite, but for me stitching is a journey. If I am wandering along in my work, and have an itch to modify the design, try a different stitch, learn something new in context, or make other departures, kitted materials do not always have the “comfort-margin” needed to accommodate my change.

    That’s why I greatly prefer self-designed or adapted projects, which I source independently. Red beads instead of green? No problem. A thicker stem line requiring more (or a different type) silk? Again, no problem. You know, a little bit more of that gold would make the design pop… And once more, no problem.

    You can argue that my weird need to tinker can be accommodated by buying a kit, then adding materials to it. But I find that dye lots and quality are hard to match. It’s easier to buy materials all at once than to try to find the right shade of blue intermediate to the two that were kitted, of equal finish and thread quality – especially when the kit is provided with reeled components divorced from point of origin and color number labeling.

    Again – there’s nothing that makes buying and working kits any less impressive an activity than independent design and sourcing. But for some of us, the unruly ones who can’t leave well enough alone, kits, with the rigid restrictions on materials and follow-me one way didactic approach – are too constricting to be a source of ultimate fun.

    So to finally answer the question – it is not worth it to me to purchase fully sourced, kitted projects. I vastly prefer design-only, or (even better) design as example, and to draft my own.

    YMMV of course.

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  3. I rely heavily on kits. I think that if you are stitching someone else’s design, and they have produced it in kit form, there are big advantages in doing so – as you have outlined in your piece. But what I really want to do is to design my own pieces – if only I had the confidence/skills/time to do it. So that is my aspiration. In the meantime, I am contenting myself with going “off piste” a bit with kits – using different stitches or colours from those recommended, and using my accumulated stash of wools to do so.

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  4. I started embroidering in High School, over 35 years ago. At that time embroidery kits were very easy to find. Now-a-days they are very hard. Cross stitch and crewel kits you can find easily, but embroidery kits? No, not so much.
    Now that I’m older and have gotten a bit better at embroidery, I do much more my own designs. I decide on the design, fabric, thread, extras, etc. and source them myself (or use my stash). I have found in just the past couple of years that, as Mary puts it, there are lot more “designer” kits. I have gotten kits from Mary and Trish Burr among others and have always been happy with them. To me, these kits are better than commercial kits, for all the reasons Mary lists. Yes, they do cost a bit more, but I can be confident of the quality and directions and that my finished product will look like theirs.

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  5. For me time is worth a lot, so buying kits that have already been put together is well worth it for me. It just takes hours of time to find the right materials, so I figure in ‘time spent’ to justify the sometimes higher cost.

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  6. I think Late Harvest is really overpriced. I really enjoy getting all my needs for a new project. It was much easier when my friends lived closer as we would share the threads, beads etc. Also I feel I can change colours that I might prefer for my individual project.

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    1. I believe it is very important to differentiate between over-priced and expensive. Over-priced implies gouging, whereas expensive talks more to quality and is likely a more accurate description of Hazel’s Late Harvest, with its many high quality bits and pieces sourced from far and wide. Furthermore, I have a friend who was once berated by her husband for buying yet anther expensive needlework kit. She asked him if he had just finished playing another expensive round of golf. His answer was yes. And what do you have to show for it?, she asked You spend x amount of money, played for 5 hours and you have nothing to show for it. As far as Late Harvst goes, it is less expensive than a round of golf at a fine club, it gives the stitcher hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of pleasure working on it, and is a masterpiece to be admired and enjoyed for years and possibly generations….when you amortize it out like that, it’s not so expensive after all, and it most certainly is not over-priced.

  7. Buy the kits! I’m all in favor of buying kits. I know I’ll get exactly what I need. I don’t have to stress about finding all the stuff from different vendors. Even if I decide to use some different colors of threads or whatever, one or two changes are easy compared to searching for an entire suite of products. I am supporting a wonderful group of artists. And I can cut to the chase and get straight into the project. I understand having stash, and perhaps if I were younger or making embroidery a career or major hobby, I’d do things differently. But right now, I’ll let the artists do the heavy lifting, and I’ll color inside their lines. Thanks, Mary, for a wonderful blog and always interesting discussions.

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  8. Kits work best for me as it is really difficult to get supplies I need on Maui. I end up ordering and paying shipping. Then waiting for the supplies ordered. Shipping can take 4 days to a month.
    I’d like some simple floral kits. Any suggestions company would have that?
    Hopefully you are feeling better and enjoying Spring!!

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    1. Try Tanya Berlin’s website – lots of kits graded from beginner to advanced. Flowers, Animals, gold work. and other types. Great kits and her instructions are stellar.

      Trish Burr, royal school, – many worldwide sites.

    2. Celia ,
      I live in Hilo. Before that in Illinois. I have always ordered by mail. Originally ,
      50 years ago because I was used to designs and fabrics from Sweden and Denmark. Try NordicNeedle.com . They are in S.D but manage to get my in stock orders here usually in 2 days sometimes three. I have no idea how. BIG catalogue which covers ALL kinds of needlework. Small kits to
      Heirloom quality. Supplies, fabric, books, and accessories. Hope this might help.

  9. As an intermediate fabric/sew-a-holic of many years, I wish that I would have mainly purchased kits because creating a stash is also expensive (altho’ fun to do). One never uses it all up and must find/fund a way to store it.
    The designer prices are somewhat of a deterrent to purchasing, but whenever possible I support their business. I love the stitching process, but perhaps am not as originally creative as the previous posters.

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  10. I am not a total beginner but have been away for years. Got back via Crazy Quilting. For me, a kit is a godsend – I don’t have a stash and do not have a comprehensive list of good suppliers. I can’t seem to make a quilt kit by following directions but not so eager to mess with directions on an embroidery kit – maybe that will come with time and experience. Right now, kits are my answer!

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  11. I am in the process of starting my 2nd kit of Hazel Blomkamp’s. I finished one and decided to go ahead and purchase materials for 2 projects because I can’t decide which one to do. I may do both. It has been tough attempting to get all those specialty threads and beads. I should have just bought the kits or even the partial kits. I have spent alot of time searching, some things I had to buy internationally and that was the reason I didn’t want to purchase the designer’s kits. Lesson learned. Never again.

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  12. Your article on kits was informative and helpful to me as a beginning embroiderer. However, my need follows a different path. My goal is to learn basic stitches and eventually grow into more challenging stitches. Repetition is a part of my learning process and I would prefer to practice these stitches individually rather than jumping into a “project”. Is there an educational kit where I could follow instructions and then practice the skill or skills to perfection? I am not looking to hang something on the wall but to learn and polish a skill before I try something grand.

    Sheila Shaffer

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    1. Sheila
      I recommend buying books and creating samplers for practice. You can also purchase patterns alone to transfer and use whatever stitches you want. I like urban threads and sublime stitching. Sublime stitching also had basic affordable kits. Iron on transfers that are really fun, etc. A great book for stitches is Stitch Sampler by Lucinda Ganderton and Doodle-stitching by Aimee Ray

  13. I ordered a kit from the French Needle. Well, to my surprise (but shouldn’t be) the insructions are in French. This happened once before with another kit. It was a Scandinavian company. You guessed right again. Only this time Swedish I worked my way through it in more ways than one.In the end, the piece turned out beautifly. Now, on to the French kit.

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    1. Pat, you could try to put the instructions into Google Translate. It might involve some typing but you could do it little by little, just the section you are working on!

    2. Thank you Beth.
      Instructions should be in multiple languages. Especially when they are being sold world wide.

    3. I’ve seen online translations of needlework terms in several languages. I’ve used them in the past when confronted with instructions in French or Italian.

    4. Hmm, this is an interresting one. I am Dutch, but live in Germany. I sell my kits internationally. What language should I use? I have found that the Dutch market is very, very small. Not worth it to translate instructions into Dutch. Most Dutch people can read English or German, however, some costumers are not too happy that I don’t provide instructions in Dutch. Especially as it is my native language. They forget that it takes me about half a day to a day to just produce a Dutch version. That’s a lot of time. It is similar with the German texts. Not many sales, but Germans are far less likely to buy a kit that does not have German instructions. In the English speaking world, it is rare to find people who are fluent enough in German, let allone Dutch, to be willing to buy a kit in either language. So what do I do? Be as stubborn as the French and just use my native language and let you figure it out with Google translate and a dictionary? Would love to hear people’s thoughts on this!

    5. Jessica Grimm, in response to your query, how about investing once in a translation of each kit in English, French, Dutch and German, making a bunch of photocopies, and then just picking the relevant one depending on the language preference of your client. If you didn’t know, or they didn’t specify, you could default to English or German since you say that most of your customers in the Netherlands and Germany read English well enough. This would mean you could then also market to the UK, the US, Canada, and other countries where English is widespread (if you have French instructions, you could doubly market to Canada). It might be an expensive initial outlay to get the instructions professionally translated but after that, you’d probably make up the difference in sales.

      Just a thought.

    6. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the language issue. Unfortunately, paying for professional translations is out of the question. My ‘best-ever-selling’ kits sell about 10-15 times. And that is when they have instructions in DE, EN and NL available. Luckily, me and my husband both have worked as translators during our university years; so we are pretty good and quick. As embroidery language has quite a special idiom, a professional translator wouldn’t be automatically better, let alone faster.

    7. Pat, I’d check with them to make sure a mistake wasn’t made. I’ve ordered several embroidery kits from them and they’ve always been in English.

  14. So many people I know tell me that they are not prepared to buy expensive kits, but find if you want the knowledge and expertise that goes with them then IF you can afford them do so. If you get a fabulous Crewel Work Company kit you get the best instructions, best materials and plenty of them. I hate kits that give you strands and My hobby is important to me and I when I embroidery I want the embroidery to last. Buy tat and you will work with and produce tat. A kit may cost be £100 but over the 12 months it takes me to stitch it is worth it. I agree the time for me is precious and should be spent stitching. This subject ruffles my feathers and often those producing the kits will sell you fabric as well. What a subject.

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    1. I do buy kits on occasion. I want the expertise of the designer but I have in the past just bought the patterns and have spent way too much time and money to get supplies. I have a large surplus of supplies…but never the “right” fiber/fabric! Buy the kit!

  15. I really use kits to learn something new. But if I already know the technique, I’ll still buy the kit if I want that exact result. Otherwise I tend to improvise with supplies I already have, or go questing, because I do enjoy a good quest. I also look at finished products and say, oh, I like that, but maybe in a different color, or size, or whatever. Then I’ll buy whatever I don’t already have and use the original as a launch point.

    I hope that makes sense.

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  16. Mary, this is a frequent discussion at my stitching groups. Researching and collecting supplies for a design can be a real chore. Here in Phoenix we have several needlework shops that specialize in counted thread — cross stitch or needlepoint. So my personal challenge is finding quality ground fabrics. I visit Needle in a Haystack a couple of times a year which helps but it’s a challenge.

    I love designer kits because they are generous with the supplies provided even for me with my froggy problem; rip it, rip it. There’s always a new mistake to make – life is so exciting.

    Thanks for the topic. I am really enjoying the comments from my fellow stitchers. All the best, and thank you for all your work.

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  17. For cross stitching, I learned that sourcing my own materials is less expensive. But when it comes to designer kits I prefer to get them from the source. Like you said it’s much less expensive in terms of time and shipping and it encourages the designer to continue creating new work. Also, sometimes materials are discontinued and get even harder to find. Buying a designer kit might make that easier as the designer would have found a substitute to create their kits.

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  18. Mary, Good topic! Sometimes I source my own, and sometimes I buy a kit. Depends on what items are needed. Some classes have only been offered with the kit priced into it. If I don’t like the colorway(s) offered, I won’t sign up.

    If the supplies are at all out of the ordinary, I don’t have any local sources. “Buying blind” works some of the time, and sometimes – oh, well, I’ve just added to my stash.

    You say it well — it can take a lot of time and effort to source things. I’m fortunate to belong to some online groups that have been able to help each other locate unusual items.

    And then there’s the “backordered” problem, with both local and online sources. It can take me months to get everything.

    I definitely appreciate designers who identify their suppliers, and who list reasonable alternatives (for example – Anchor/DMC substitutions, or overdyed/solid alternatives).

    A long-winded way of saying it’s not “one size fits all” for me, and not always easy.

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  19. Excellent points all around, Mary.

    I’ve found that most designers are happy to provide you with manufacturer information if you want to source your own materials for a kit. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for hard-to-find materials.

    I don’t often buy kits, but it’s mostly because I’m that person who thinks, “Oh, that’s gorgeous, but I’d rather stitch it in (insert color preference here).” Of the kits I have purchased, 99% of them have been smaller kits so that I could learn a new technique or learn how to work with a new material.

    Sourcing your own materials for a kit can work if you know exactly what you need and where to find it, but for bits and bobs that are harder to track down, most people would probably be better off purchasing the kit.

    As to value for dollars spent, I think turning around the question you asked is important: How much is the designer’s time worth? Designers like Hazel, Trish Burr, yourself, and Jessica Grimm are insanely talented women who are experts. Not only are you getting a well-designed and well-planned kit (or book, or pattern), but you are getting the time they put into designing and creating it in the first place, along with their expertise. Good-quality kits from expert designers are not the same as sub-par clearance bin kits you find languishing on the shelves at big-box craft stores. We talk a lot about how much women’s work is worth, but we too often do not walk that talk.

    That doesn’t mean we should all shell out money we can’t afford, but I hope we at least understand that supporting each other as skilled artists and craftspeople doesn’t mean expecting designers to under-price themselves into oblivion.

    Apologies for the longer-than-intended response, but this subject falls under the general umbrella of valuing our work, which has been a theme I’ve run into quite a bit lately, so I’m on high alert, lol!

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  20. When I was a young girl, my father taught me to put a price on my time. As I have gotten older, the price on my time has gotten higher as I have less time left to squander. Since my time is currently running somewhere above $300 an hour in value to me, I need to save a great deal of money to go searching out my own supplies. This can be offset, however, by the value of modifying the supplies in a given project so the finished look has my unique take on it. The answer to this question is not always consistent from one project to the next. The final answer comes when I determine whether my time is more valuable to me or the uniqueness of the finished project is.

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  21. There is nothing better than a kit from a designer or if you can’t get one to reproduce the exact items a designer used. I am currently working on Sue Spargo Block of the Month. This is not a cheap kit. It comes once a month, but when I am done–I know I am going to have a quality project that I love. I also gave it to myself for my birthday present. It makes it easier that way.

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  22. Generally I do not buy kits, because I find that they are often not very generous with the fabric to enable proper mounting, and as I have all of the DMC threads, I much prefer not having to deal with their threads. However, recently I took an online canvaswork course and thought I would just purchase the threads locally, so no need to mail a kit across the country. Well some of the threads I was not able to find locally and even Nordic Needle required a pre-order on that thread. I would have been financially ahead to just buy the complete kit.

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  23. Like Ros,I have tried both kits and working my own designs from pictures etc. If like me you end up with a stash of stuff over time, it’s quite easy to find what you want – working with your own design as it’s yours, you can change it! I generally find I change stuff on kits anyway. That’s why I could never appreciate the discipline of cross stitch and needlepoint. Too much of a free spirit, I guess, or a rebel!

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  24. Mary, that’s the best explanation of why designers’ kits are a good thing that I’ve ever read – but then, as a designer of embroidery kits, maybe I’m a bit biased. But so often I have had potential customers contact me ‘just for a bit of thread’, or to ask,’can I just buy the chart?’ – when they don’t seem to realise the work that goes into all the bits and pieces of a kit. I know that people build up stash over time (my stash is huge!!), but a well-designed kit really is a better bet in the long run. Use your stash for projects that you design yourself from scratch, or for designs sold specifically as charts only. For designs sold as kits, there’s usually a reason for it – the kit contains something special, that you might not be able to source yourself. And that element that you spoke of, Mary – TIME – is the most crucial thing. Save as much time as possible for the stitching!!

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  25. I like the convenience of kits….one stop shopping is great. However, the small businesses are left out…..the stitching shops where we browse to see what’s new, chat with other stitchers, see and touch the merchandise before we buy. As a disclaimer, I do not own a shop, but have experienced the demise of beloved shops in my area. Now I can find DMC in certain chain stores, but it’s nothing like the personal touch added by a specialty shop, who can source just about anything to meet your needs, and lickety split, at that!

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  26. I’ll agree with the other comments – the most critical factor for me is how happy I’ll be to work the project exactly to the designer’s specifications – which is also related to how much of that technique I’ve done before and what I have in stash. (Secondary factor – how specialized are the materials. Even if I’m going to make some mods, if there are things in the kit that I know will be a headache to source myself, it can be worth buying for the convenience.)

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  27. Mary, thank you for writing a straight forward, clear and sympathetic article about artisan kits. Speaking as an artist and crafter, I often see professional artists/crafters/designers complaining about others saying that their kits are too expensive.You have put forward all of the issues facing small businesses who only make a few kits in such a lovely way. I may have to send a few people to read this article to see how it’s done.

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  28. Hi Mary,

    What a great article! You have expressed my feelings and clarified my thinking about kits. I’m in the process of considering offering kits to my online students and every single thing you mention about designer kits is absolutely true. The time is what is the most “expensive” when producing a kit for a specific project – finding, ordering, sorting, assembling, packaging, posting…all takes time.

    You are right when you say that we want the people who reproduce our design to have the best possible experience and to produce the most beautiful piece of embroidery possible. It’s all about keeping the art of embroidery alive and thriving for as many people as possible.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and insight!

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  29. Even though I don’t do embroidery, I’ve followed your site for a long time because I love your work! Also I’m always inspired by your patience when working ( or sometimes, re-working) a piece.
    I loved you article about purchaing kits. I sew lovely baby items that I sell in a local shop and often price them low because most people don’t understand the quality of materials or workmanship involved. Maybe it’s time to rethink that?! Thanks for the pep talk!

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    1. A simple retail test: Attach the word “exclusive” to some of your items, price them higher, and track the sales of those items vs. the lower-priced ones. If the higher-priced items start selling out at an equal or greater rate, gradually raise your prices over a six-month time period. It’s a genteel approach to what would otherwise be sticker-shock to customers who’ve gotten used to paying what is probably far too little for your work.

      You should be paid what your time and talent are worth, and you should never under-value either.

    2. Lynn, I’ve custom-knit sweaters for people, and I’ve sold some of my framed cross-stitch patterns as well. I worked out a formula that suits me since these events are rare. It goes cost of materials + time it takes to complete the project (often a guesstimate by me) x 2 for my labour. I 3 times the labour if the knitting requires a lot of yarn colour changes or the pattern is made difficult with twists and braids, etc., or if, with embroidery, if there is a lot of beading or other embellishment. This usually nets me a sum I’m happy with, and luckily, no one has ever squawked “What!?!?”

  30. Designers kits also include extra instructions, and like Hazel Blomkamp’s kits, really necessary to reproduce the stitching. Tanja Berlin’s instructions are so complete that it’s like being in a class of hers. Several designers will try to answer questions you might have about a kit.
    Commercially produced kits…you get what you pay for. The wool is below par, the cotton floss is horrible. And I don’t like Aida cloth. For me, I am paying the total price just for the pattern and minimal, often incomplete, instructions. Once, I requested to buy additional floss for a commercial kit. The company sent a list of DMC equivalents…which was way off.
    Australian kits, because of the postage, are very expensive. There is an LNS, in Denver, A Stitching Shop, http://www.StitchingShop.com, that has in the past recreated thread kits to go with patterns, saving much of the postage on the threads and fabric.

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    1. I had tried to source my own supplies for Carolyn Pearce’s Home Sweet Home and could not find everything. The Stitching Shop said she was doing the kits, but was waiting for some of the threads. Told her I wanted a kit and she said it would be around $300. I still wanted it and she said she would contact me. I never did hear from her even though she said she had my order in her computer. Was not happy with her follow through and she lost a $300 sale.

  31. Great article, Mary, and I fully concur with your thoughts on purchasing kits, especially “designer kits”.

    I am stitching a project I purchased as a kit, Sample 1 from Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jane Nicholas. The kit does come with partial skeins of the threads and small quantities of beads but more than enough to do the piece twice over.

    One thing I would add to the list of benefits of purchasing the kit, certainly true for this one, is that some of the prep is done for you. All of the threads are cut to lengths and put onto thread cards and clearly labelled. No sorting through trying to find the right skein. Also the wires for the detached petals have been coloured saving me from purchasing paints/dyes in the correct shade and another prep job.

    I’m a big fan of kits, especially “designer kits” and having put together kits for a class I teach, I know how much work goes into them. I think they represent good value.

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  32. There have been so many projects I wanted to start but became discouraged because of the difficulty and expense of sourcing all the materials. By all means, spend the money on the kit and support the designer.

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  33. I am a relatively new stitcher. Therefore, I very much appreciate the specific direction by the designer and the work that they put into creating a kit. There is no question that the kits deliver a lot of value. In addition, I like the opportunity to bring more revenue to the designer (although it may not be much). I am grateful for the amount of work and talent that the designers deliver and am aware of how little they are compensated.

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  34. I’m also a free spirit…kits make me feel like I’m manufacturing instead of creating as an artist. I usually make my own designs, but sometimes will use existing patterns. I like being able to pick my own colors, threads and fabrics.

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    1. I agree with you Kate, I prefer to design and make my own pieces. I mix different threads of different thicknesses and fibre content willy nilly, put a bead or two in here and there just for emphasis and so on.

      However when I wanted to try a new technique, eg, thread painting, I bought a complete kit from Trish Burr. If you want to reproduce exactly what a designer has done, buy the kit – it will save you tons of angst apart from anything else. But if you are a free spirit like Kate, me and others, then by all means do you own thing. BTW I live in a small town in rural Australia and buy all my supplies online so I need to be patient while I am assembling what I think I might need for a project and also to accept that I am going to have lots of additional material for the stash at the end.

      Finally, thank you Mary for a wonderful exposition of this subject.

  35. Hmmm … an interesting topic for discussion! I have mixed views depending on the technique. For designs that use a fairly simple range of materials that are widely obtainable (one type of main brand threads and fabric) I like to buy the chart and materials separately and then having extra for my stash. On the other hand, if a design uses some specialist, hard to find materials it’s so much easier to get the kit and not have to fuss with all the extra postage and tracking stuff down. Anything that reduces the number of hoops to jump through before I start is a huge bonus, and I agree that it’s nice to support the designer. Also if I’m trying a new technique it’s nice to buy a kit with all the bits and bobs ready to go. I’ve seen some designers offer a specialist threads/findings pack alongside the charted design, which allows you can buy the remaining regular embroidery threads locally. I think that’s a useful halfway house option.

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  36. This is just one point among the many you raised. Recently I picked up a UFO started many years ago, a stumpwork piece with 4 leaves. I had cut the wire for the leaves but lost one piece. Needless to say, I couldn’t finish the piece with only 3 leaves and didn’t want to order special stumpwork wire for one 4″ piece of wire. I checked out floral wire most of which was to heavy. Then someone suggested looking at jewelry-making supplies at my local arts & crafts store. It was perfect. It came in many gauges and colors. It would not be suitable for every use, but it was for mine. It was inexpensive to boot. If you HAVE to put together your own kit that wire is one of the harder elements to find.

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  37. What a dilemma. I’ll buy commercial kits when I’m in NEED of a project and it appeals to me. Like when I’m stuck somewhere and need something to do and there just happens to be a big box nearby. BTW..I rarely finish them. I’ll buy designer kits because I live in an area where needlework supplies just don’t exist, so that leaves me the daunting task of ordering on line and like the example in Mary’s post, by the time I get that all done I’m wishing I’d of just ordered the kit and gotten it over with. In my travels, I’ve come across wonderful, but rare needle work shops that will “kit” a design for you. It’s worth it because they know where everything is and saves time.

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  38. Hi Mary,

    When looking at Hazel’s sight I find the price confusing since it is not listed in dollars. Also, her design kits from her two books do not include the stitching directions with the kit. You need to buy her books for that. So you not only buy the kits but need to have the book for stitching the piece. I opted just to buy her books. Her work is inspirational. But in the end I must decide just how much on supplies I will spend.
    Barbara L.

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    1. You can download free currency conversion apps to take the pain out of foreign currency-priced purchases.

  39. I love kits, it gives me chance to try different ground fabrics and threads as well as learn new techniques. I also like it when you can buy a thread and bead pack for a design, it means if you want to stitch it again, you can buy another thread pack. It saves time and money buying kits and thread packs, especially when you have no needlework shops close by and everything has to come by post.

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  40. I bought kits when I started with goldwork, primarily because I didn’t know what supplies were what, or where to get them. I wouldn’t bother with a goldwork kit now, because I know what I like and where to get the supplies, and I prefer to make my own designs. I would buy a crewel work kit, though, for similar reasons of being a beginner in that style and wanting the guidance.

    My bugbear with kits is less whether they are value for money – that’s entirely in the eye of the beholder. My problem is when kits don’t provide you with all the materials you need to actually finish the project, and don’t suggest suppliers either. The firescreen is a great example — beautiful kit, totally want to do it, but I want to actually make a firescreen. The Crewel Work Company doesn’t list a supplier for firescreen frames, so where do I get the correctly sized screen? Same with the pillows – finishing materials are not included. Maybe not everyone wants these materials, but not providing the option to buy them with the rest of the kit is a big missed opportunity.

    This actually stops me buying the kits at all, because I’m a beginner in that style of embroidery and so I don’t know what finishing materials I’d need, nor where to get them, and I’m not going to take a punt on a £140 kit that isn’t actually complete.

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    1. I second that – kits that don’t contain everything to complete the article are No Fun At All. I bought a kit from overseas for a biscornu once, an expensive designer one, and was mortified that it didn’t contain – wait for it – the fabric. Yes, you read that right – the FABRIC!

      I couldn’t believe it. When I asked them about it, thinking they must have accidentally forgotten to include it in the package, they said the fabric is easy to get and anyway, not everyone wants the fabric in the colour they have, so they don’t supply it. It’s not available everywhere, or anywhere that I’ve been able to find, in New Zealand.

      So the kit has been sitting there, unmade, for years. It was a waste of money and I’ll never buy from that designer again. It was the first kit I’d ever bought and after that I’ve been very picky to make sure before I purchase that I know exactly what is and isn’t included in the kit.

      My thinking on kits is that if I want “that thing, just as it is” I’ll get the kit but only if all the materials I need to complete it are in the kit. If I want to change anything about it I’ll design my own instead.

  41. I think there is a decided difference between “designer” kits and those put together by companies: Dimensions,Bucilla,etc. I have discovered much to my dismay that the threads included are not color-fast like my pwn purchased DMC threads. I have had reds and purples run when washing the project. But when I prewash my DMC threads (just in case) I have yet found one that bled into the water. The individual designer kits do deserve some extra “pay” for their talent and time.

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  42. Good morning Mary
    Very well said.
    One other thing. If you purchased the kit from
    the designer you will be able to contact the designer if you need assistance. If she/he is aware that you purchased the kit rather than sourced it out, she/he would probably be more than happy to help you.
    One of my favourite designers, Tanja Berlin, offers great assistance when you purchase her kits. And, her kits and instructions are first class.
    Sharon
    Manitoba, Canada

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    1. Total agree. I handsome several kits from Tanya Berlin and love everything about them.

  43. Thank you very much Mary for such a great article on kits. As I am one of those people who makes designer kits (great name!), I know all too well the different perspectives on the price I put on my kits. In my case, the kit price also includes the possibility to contact me to help you on your way when you get stuck or to have me send you extra material as you ran out. Because although I do provide you with a generous amount, sh.. sometimes happens :). And thanks Liz n. for calling me an insanely talented woman. I am sure some of my family and friends would very much agree with the insane part :). Because after all, we are not in the embroidery business to become rich. We do this because we have this insane passion!

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    1. You ARE crazy-talented! Every time I open the blog links in your newsletter, it’s a treat for the eyes!

      You’re also very generous with your time, so you get double points for just generally being a good person. 😀

  44. Hi Mary and embroidery enthusiast,

    I’m a hand embroidery designer who has been selling my original designs in kits for the last 2 years

    Remembering the joy the Erica Wilson kits gave me as a kid in the 70, I wanted the same experience for my customers!

    These kits have been a labor of love and has taken a team of loyal individuals to produce. Graphic designers, fabric producers, cutters, printers etc, the list is extensive! Thank goodness I have these folks so I can have the time to design and embroider

    After retiring from 30 + years of hand embroidery commission work it is a joy to be sharing my designs. If I could turn on one little girl as Erica Wilson did so very long ago, then it’s worth the time and effort put into these kits.

    Thanks so much for letting me tell my story and happy stitching!

    Xo Jennifer Alba

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  45. I love many of the kits and as you say they are often very good value compared to sourcing supplies. Unfortunately, although the internet gives us global access to wonderful designers I have found when it comes to ordering from overseas the shipping and import taxes can more than double the cost and make things prohibitive. It seems such a shame that this can potentially limit the market for these fabulous designers.

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  46. I rarely buy commercially prepared kits as I do not enjoy separating a knotted bundle of threads into colors, especially when the colors are close enough that you have to guess which corresponds to which symbol on the chart. Plus, I always feel with that sort of kit that I have to be so careful in my use of thread, not knowing if a generous amount of thread was included. It does not make for a relaxed stitching experience for me. I’m also leery of the quality of the threads. Kits with beads are aggravating, too. I don’t want to spend precious stitching time separating beads into color groups.

    I often buy designer kits, especially if threads I’ve never used before are part of the design. It’s a good way to experience new threads without investing blindly in a large quantity of threads you’re not sure you’ll enjoy using. Usually designers include whole skeins, as you mentioned. Those that do not provide whole skeins usually go to the trouble to separate the threads onto thread cards with labels. I really appreciate that.

    All of that said, I thoroughly enjoy THE HUNT for supplies. It’s like a game to me. I absolutely love hunting down and using threads from Canada, England or Australia, for example. Silly, I know, but it makes me feel like a world traveler.

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    1. Mary A.,
      I’m with you: I’ve often described assembling my supplies as a scavenger hunt. Along the way, I’ve learned things, and found many good sources. My latest big search was for some lighter weight linen threads, by Bocken. Ordered from Switzerland to US – East Coast, and was here in about 10 days time (could have paid extra for “express” shipping). There were some US sources – mostly lace making suppliers, but I didn’t find one with all the different weights, so it was easier to order this way.

      That’s why in my local groups I’m known as the “crazy thread lady”.

  47. Mary – you are absolutely spot on in your evaluation of designer kits vs. sourcing your own! The only thing I would add, is that sometimes stitchers have color preferences different than designers. I never do exactly the same thing as a pattern. I always do my interpretation… I love to go to shows and buy beautiful threads, so sometimes I have already what I need, and sometimes I buy kits and switch out some color(s). It seems to depends on the stitcher’s desired outcome.

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  48. i love kits. my biggest frustration is that being in the u.s. there is so much out there for counted cross stitch which i cannot do – it gives me a headache. i just wish that there was a u.s. source that stocked all the wonderful kits out there from other countries such as the crewel work company, hazel blomkamp, to name just a few there are many others. would a u.s. source help with the cost? I also wish there was someone in the u.s. making wonderful quality kits as i think there is a market for it. I would love to make the tree of life kit from tristan brooks priced at $130 but is currently out of stock.

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    1. I am intrigued: trying to find the tristan brooks tree of life, but can’t see it – can you send me the URL please?

      Thanks

    2. tristan brooks.com what i call the tree of life is her design CR-1 Jacobean Pastoral – a beautiful kit i have been wanting to work but has been out of stock

  49. Mary, I couldn’t agree with you more. I especially like your point about supporting the art of surface embroidery and the passionate designers who keep it alive and vibrant. I started out using cheap kits and learned quickly that you get what you pay for. I then moved on to designer kits and, eventually, to self-directed projects. I’ve learned a lot from both and gotten great pleasure doing both. Now I trade off between carefully selected kits that challenge me to try something new and self-directed projects to experiment with what I’ve learned and make it my own. I’m delighted to support the designers; they’re like mentors.

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  50. I just love kits, have many quilt kits. Where I live there is no local store so I buy online. Kits give me an opportunity to see fabrics that I would never otherwise see.

    I am now dabbling in embroidery and although Late Havest cost me $138.00 due to our lousy exchange rate I feel it was worth it. To source the materials in this kt would cost me more than the kit as I would have to pay shipping for each purchase.

    One other advantage is that iif I was to buy via mail order in my country I would be paying 3 times the USA price. Another is that I do not know what the item is. I had no idea about wire, its size or where to get it. I now know about stumpwork and wire.

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  51. You really did cover it all. I made kits in the 70’s and it is not easy. I agree, support the designer, enjoy making the kit, love it forever. If you change it that will overshadow what you really wanted for years to come. I wish people would add the real time that it takes to make a project. After many years I realized I had a really fun hobby, but not a business to make a living. If you really like a kit, buy it, you will not be sorry when it is half way done and you run out of something and can not get more.

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  52. I used to look for ways to save money so I could buy more linen, fibers and designs. Over time I realized I was spending a lot of my time and energy tracking down difficult to find items. Not having an LNS this was usually a frustrating process since I can’t see, touch and feel the supplies.

    Today I will gladly pay the extra money for a designer kit so the entire experience is pleasant from the moment I open my new stitchy mail to the day I put in the last stitch. I also agree that its important to support the designers who are creating these great works and sharing them with us. They can only do that if we support them.

    Do I sometimes swap out fibers or make changes? Absolutely, but usually they are minor. I’ve fallen in love with design enough that I want to invest money and my time to complete it – usually its because I love the overall design as it is.

    I source my own materials for small or straightforward projects, but for a designer project, I definitely find value in supporting the designer and purchasing the kit from them.

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  53. Thanks for the great topic. I actually felt like I was cheating buying a kit. However, I love kits and not having to decide which colors to use. Color and design are not my strengths.

    My challenge with moderately priced kits is that often they are very juvenile and not that interesting. Then I discovered etsy. I spent hours researching their selection and ended up buying 2 kits. I have not started them yet but the designs spoke to me.

    I do like to work off simple designs that require very little prep time . Mary,s patterns are great and come with good suggestions for thread color and stitch choice. This hobby is so individual. By the way I completed a hedge hog kit designed for an 8 year old. Gave it away as a baby gift. I loved every minute of stitching. Have a great day. Mauri

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  54. I’m a huge fan of designer kits! For embroidery, quilting, and garment sewing. I want to spend my time stitching/sewing. Not shopping.

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  55. As a designer believe that my kits are a well worth the price that I charge my students. They have access to threads and supplies that I have already found and taken the time to collect. I try to introduce them to some things that are not easily available so that they can have fun working with new and quality supplies.
    It is always a trade off if the fabric and thread are easily found so my retail patterns use different threads than the teaching kits.

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  56. I have done a lot of kits and non-kit projects. Obviously it is easier to get a kit then stitch it, and I have only once found a designer who didn’t include enough thread to complete the kit (although she supposedly had 50% extra). I have also replaced things I don’t like in a kit.

    But I like changing colors and things. When you have a good needlework shop you can spend wonderful hours looking for just what you want.

    When you don’t have a good shop conveniently located, like where I now live, this is a problem.

    So both sides of the question have advantages.

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  57. I am not a fan of kits. Perhaps the problem is that far too many times I have not had enough floss to complete the project. And I am a thread miser!

    I far prefer assembling the items for the project myself. I have been stitching long enough to know my preferences in thread, fabric, and accoutrements.

    That said, if the kit is from a particular artist, and not one of the mass produced ones, I cam be tempted.

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  58. I like kits and use them extensively. I want to stitch not spend hours finding this and that emailing vendors, hoping I get the right thing ordered, shipping costs…

    Yet, kits put me into a creative rut and I find I rely on them as a crutch. I need to start using my own creativeness to design my own patterns and figuring out stitches and colors.

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  59. In general, It’s a wise move to purchase the kit: 1) everything’s included and 2) so, you save a little cash… you pay much more in angst.
    However, and there’s always a however. I recently bought the Ring Pillow pattern and instructions from Inspirations. The materials were all readily available, except that I couldn’t find any 38 count linen for love or money. I improvised and bought 36 count instead and am I glad I did! I can barely see the 36 count with an illuminated magnifier, so would have stood no chance with 38 count. The upshot? Use your loaf (common sense), as we say in the UK and all will be well.

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  60. Hi Mary, I am not an avid embroiderer but I have purchased many kits for quilting projects and I presume the experience would be similar. Over the years I have found that kits are the way to go. They may seem pricey in the beginning but as was pointed out, by the time you spend time, money, shipping costs, etc., the kits is worth every penny just to have everything you need.
    Carol Mc.

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  61. As usual, Mary, you have really hit the nail on the head. I do mainly canvaswork and sometimes I will buy the whole kit(designer) and sometimes I just buy the chart. When a project involves many, many different threads, beads, etc some of which I am not familiar with or I know will be hard to find, then I buy the kit because I know everything will be there. If I have a choice and the kit doesn’t come in colors that I like or uses a few threads that I know are easily available, or maybe I have the threads in my stash and just want to do my own thing with threads and color, then I go with just the chart.
    Over the years I have spent a great amount of time tracking down an elusive thread and you can never get everything from 1 shop so there are multiple trips or orders. In the long run, it is actually less expensive to buy the kit. I am talking only about the “designer kits”.
    Another factor I think needs to be considered is the integrity of the design. Designers have an idea of the final look and when stitchers substitute threads, colors, etc then the finished design is no longer what it was originally.

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  62. I agree with your theory concerning buying a kit. If you love the piece, you want to recreate it and so you buy the design, kit and all. As a former designer and now an instructor of needlepoint canvas enhancement, I am constantly dealing with students who love a painted canvas, but don’t like some of the painted colors and so will not purchase the canvas. I repeatedly tell them that they can adapt the colors to their liking, but they are “afraid”! I want to pound my head against a wall! And so kits represent the same situation. People like the design, but may not be happy with some of the color choices. They don’t understand the role of color in a design and when it is OK to do some substitution and when it is not! As a result they try to re-design the kit and it rarely works out well. A designer works hard to create a palette that is pleasing, and chooses threads that are appropriate to the design and the learning curve. Why second guess a professional????

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  63. I agree with all the points you made in your discussion of this topic. If one is designing an original embroidery, then one would source all the materials to have control over all the design elements.

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  64. For myself, I don’t care for kits, as I like to make up my own designs in whatever craft I’m doing.

    But I wanted to give someone a gift of a Harry Potter-themed cross-stitch kit, and apparently they don’t exist. So I bought a PDF pattern from etsy, and I’m having to gather all the supplies and package them up, which is a pain in the you-know-what.

    Bottom line, I think if I wanted to work a design that comes in a kit, I’d spring for the kit!

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  65. I particularly am interested in substituting silk thread for cotton floss. Therefore I would be the kit if I am using all the floss, but if I have to purchase a lot of different silk floss it doesn’t make sense for me to buy the kit.

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  66. the only thing I would like to add is the right number of supplies in a kit. I have had kits put together by shop owners/ or suppliers that lack enough thread or beads, incase you make a mistake, or drop a bead and don’t have enough to finish . I would gladly pay extra for one or 2 pieces of thread or beads extra. If they aren’t used they will be put in my stash.

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  67. Wow you really touched some nerves as there seems to be a ton of responses to this topic Mary! It can get tiring to be confronted by those who want whatever they see even though our budgets may not allow us to indulge and we all know the budget wins most of the time! My solution to that is usually to say, “Sure, okay, my fee for that is $50 per hour payable by Paypal. Send me your email address and I’ll send over an invoice.” That sometimes solves the issue unless they respond with “Okay.” In that case, you could add, “I require a minimum of 3 hours to research sources.”!

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  68. This is an excellent article on the challenges of putting kits together. As you said, we do not get paid for the time and energy it takes to assemble the kits. The profit margin is minimal at best – most of us have kits for convenience of the client.

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  69. What a great summary, thanks Mary! I am a big advocate for buying kits (as my stash proves!), however I do only buy designer kits. I don’t like the lesser quality you receive in the commercial kits, and I’m a big supporter of these designers who do such a wonderful job not only designing the project, but also spend their valuable time putting together the kits. I’m also a little lazy, and would much rather have the running around done for me so I can just dive in, and know that I have the right supplies and good quality of one’s too, so I will get the best result I can with my ability. Having said that, I do appreciate the option of not buying he whole kit, as I’ve now been embroidering for a few years, and have a stash of threads, and when I only need to buy a few to top up the requirements I’d rather use what I already have.

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  70. I think you made some excellent points. Especially the point about asking someone to provide the list of sources for another’s kit. They are asking you to do their homework. I have found my experience is similar your email number 2 in a detailed project. I often find it impossible to find the exact supplies used in a project I have seen in a magazine, book, or on-line, much less locally. So when someone offers a kit, and you want the exact product that has been illustrated, it is best to buy the kit. Often the details that made it so special and appealing are difficult if not impossible to find, and to ask someone else to find them, and spend time to compile a list for them is asking too much. A kit (that someone has spent the time to research and gather those nearly impossible to find specialty items) has already done your homework for you. Mary, I am so thrilled that you have introduced me to so many places on-line where I can find those specialty items that I never even knew existed.

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  71. I saw a completed cross stitch project in a needlework shop and just fell in love with it. I was on vacation at the time and probably never would have gotten back to that particular area. I purchased the design as a kit – had the shop put everything together, and ship to my home address. The ‘kit’ wound up costing me approximately $300.00 which I would never have spent locally. However, I loved the design and had everything at the ready when I did get to work on it. The finished design turned out as beautifully at home as it looked in the shop. It is not something I would do often, but I have never regretted buying such an expensive ‘souvenir’. Hopefully, the completed piece will be enjoyed by many generations to come

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  72. Not a kit person myself. For the projects in the Crewel Intensions book, I would prefer getting my own supplies,as I don’t care for the colors used in the projects for the most part. The colors are too grayed down for my taste. In the Late Harvest project, for example, I would prefer the “grapes” to be grape colors, rather than the topaz color.

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  73. Stitching is my vice. I don’t smoke, gamble, do drugs etc. I figure I’ve saved plenty of money over the years that I can afford to purchase a kit when I choose to,

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  74. The only reason I often shop for supplies rather than buy a kit is because I really want what I make to reflect my taste and be different from others. Silly? Oh yes, but I imagine there are others who do the same. However, since there is now a dearth of shops near me that carry quality supplies for embroidery, I purchase kits and go to my stash to make some changes.

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  75. I live on the island of Newfoundland, a province of Canada. Some of our mail and supplies may arrive by boat and because of our changing weather these boats could be delayed. Trucks then drive across the island and hopefully snow is not an issue. Our postal service is slow as well! I always ask for a pattern to be kitted up so I can expect it to arrive in a couple of weeks if they have everything in stock. If not it will take more time. If I ordered supplies online from different sources I could be waiting a longer time. Don’t forget currency exchanges and customs charges as well as shipping charges. Whenever I order outside of Canada I will pay much more money!

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  76. I have found this discussion to be extremely interesting. I prefer kits. Having said that, I have yet to purchase a designer kit. It’s a cost versus time issue. If I’m going to spend what I’m convinced is a reasonable price for a project I want to be sure I can invest the time it will require. To date I have been very satisfied with kits purchased at “big box” stores. Most of those have been gifted and appreciated by the recipients. I have always found the materials to be very generous thereby adding to my stash. I also own a good number of books and pamphlets with designs requiring me to source my materials and although I have used these as a starting point I always come back to complete kits as more satisfying. As a previous comment stated, it is not one size fits all.

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  77. Stimulating article, Mary. With regards to fibers included in kits, I have such a large stash of cotton floss that I often substitute lesser quality cotton floss from kits with similar colors of better quality floss from my stash. One example is a recent project my daughter was doing. The six strands of cotton floss provided in the kit wasn’t covering the canvas adequately. She ended up substituting all the colors with floss from my stash and she’s much happier. The colors she selected also made a little more sense to her. Though I agree with many of your commenters that most people want to stitch and complete a project as the designer intended, with mass-produced commercial kits, I feel there can be some leeway for personal creativity in thread and color choices, especially for quality.

    This article can also segue and complement an article on sourcing materials because one has to. An example is the projects for Home Sweet Home by Carolyn Pierce. The projects in her book require a lot of different threads, but there are no thread packs available, unless a needlework store or site has assembled them. I sourced all the threads and fibers myself, but I’m lucky enough to live near a world-class shop that stocks many different threads. I also bought the supplies a little at a time and was flexible in substituting whenever I couldn’t find what Ms. Pierce required, so I felt I didn’t spend an arm and a leg all at once. I’ll have some extras after the project is completed, but with two young daughters who like to stitch and experiment, I don’t think having stash is a problem.

    I agree with some of the commenters about kit “levels”…full kits, or the ability to purchase some combination of instructions, fabric, threads and embellishments. A perfect example are the Chatelaine and Mirabilia kits. My daughter courageously embarked on a Mirabilia and there’s a Chatelaine mandala in her stash. She’s a beginner stitcher who found buying the stitch pack a lot easier than sourcing her own materials. Actually, after reviewing the kit with her, I agree that buying the thread/bead pack would save her time and probably a little bit of money. She only had to buy the linen herself and she ended up choosing a different color.

    One last comment I want to add is that sourcing one’s own materials is so much easier and more fun when one can go to a shop in person. That’s a given. However, that also comes with a warning … At least with my daughters and me, we have been known to stray into another new project while on the hunt for threads for another project. There is just too much temptation out there….

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  78. All very good points Mary.

    When I see people say something is “too expensive”
    I always hope they mean that it is “too expensive for them” and not that they feel the item is “too expensive for what it is worth”.

    When one knows the amount of time, effort, and money that went into something like that, it is rarely ever overpriced. I find that in this modern world we have unfortunately gotten used to the low prices of machine manufacture and sweatshop labor. I see people complain, for instance about the price of 20$ sweater.

    I am very grateful to people and companies who refuse to stoop so low.

    Not that that is necessarily the case here with this product, or with the embroidery world, but that I have seen this trend over and over in my country at least.

    Fair trade and bringing manufacturing back is all well and good until you have to pay a normal, fair price and can’t afford to get what you want. Things cost what they cost and you can only cut corners so far before you are sacrificing the welfare of the products, people, or animals involved.

    I hope this doesn’t sound too negative or soapboxy, it is an issue that has been in the news a lot lately where I am.

    As far as embroidery specifically goes, my favorite knitting blogger says to compare the price of the item with the number of hours you will be enjoying it. So a movie ticket, without any refreshments, is say 12$. You pay $6 an hour for your fun. But a $100 embroidery project that takes 2 years of avid work to complete only costs about $4 a month!

    I think the cost is well worth it! : )

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  79. I am about 50/50 – sometimes I buy kits, sometimes I source materials myself, especially if I want to change the design or make adjustments to the colors or something. In my experience, sourcing materials is really not that hard. Granted, one of the essentials is that you have a very good embroidery shop with a knowledgable owner who can help you track down obscure things you’ve never heard of that appear on materials lists and of course not everyone has this luxury. (Small loyalty plug for my favorite embroidery shop – Christine at a Stitching Shop in Denver is a miracle worker when it comes to tracking down obscure things you’ve never heard of. I experiment a lot, do design stuff, dabble in dying embroidery forms and I bring her weird requests all the time and she has been tireless in finding the weird things I dig out of the forgotten corners of the embroidery world. I don’t think I can remember a time when she has failed to find something I want).

    But aside from that, a lot of it is common sense and attention to detail. In the second email Ms. Corbet shared, the lady could have saved herself a lot of hassle if she just looked at the page for the kit on Hazel Blomkamp’s website. It says very clearly that the fabric is cotton/linen blend, so why buy Zweigert linen if you know the designer used linen/cotton blend? She tells you right on the kit page what fabric you need and if you somehow needed additional confirmation, Ms. Corbet has devoted a lot of time to the question of fabric selection and appropriate fabrics for surface embroidery herself. The lady could have avoided buying a fabric unsuitable for surface embroidery if she had even done a search on this blog, where linen cotton blend has been discussed in detail for surface embroidery. Fabrics aren’t interchangeable and if you want to source your own materials, it is important to acquire the base knowledge that enables you to make informed choices about those materials. If you’re not willing to put in the time and effort on not only finding the materials but knowing enough to know what you’re looking for and what materials can be used for what types of embroidery, then you’re probably better off going with the kit and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sourcing materials yourself isn’t worth it for everybody.

    As far as the beads go, I’m not sure why you would need to see the beads in person when the size and color number of the beads are all given once again on Hazel Blomkamp’s site on the page for her kit. If you need a color reference, she also sells the beads herself aside from the kits so you can see what the beads look like, as well as their size, number and color name so it’s pretty easy and confirm you’re getting the right bead with whatever source you are using for your beads.

    As Ms. Corbet points out, sourcing your own materials correctly does take time and effort, which may not be worth it for a lot of people, but for those who want to, it’s by no means an impossible task. All it takes is a little background knowledge and careful reading of the materials list. A good shop that knows how to find things also doesn’t hurt.

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  80. I have not bought a kit in a very long time because I was so dissatisfied with them, and I really have no experience with the designer ones, so I am talking more about the mass-produced ones. With rare exceptions, such as simple ones for beginners, I don’t think they are worth it.

    The main problem I have had with them was that they show a very nicely matted and framed picture on the front, but not once did I ever get enough fabric to have it finished in that way. Yes, there was enough to stitch the design but only with the bare minimum of fabric. There may also not be enough extra thread if you make a mistake.

    Another time I was surprised to see a kit for a very lovely design that I had seen in a magazine and was intending to stitch. I bought it, thinking I was saving myself time collecting all the supplies. Imagine my surprise when I compared the contents of the kit to the supply list in the magazine. Several different shades of the same color thread were meant to give subtle shading, but there was only the main color in the kit. And once again, the bare minimum of fabric. I returned the kit.

    Another company I won’t name was the worst of all: several colors of thread were missing completely and the chart also had some elements left out.

    As I said, these were mass-produced kits but I don’t think they are worth it.

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  81. I don’t mind paying extra for the kit. I only have experience with quilt kits, not embroidery. The thing that makes me shy away from kits is that I make mistakes and then run out of fabrics I need.

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  82. I love to buy kits from designers. I don’t have a LNS close and the nearest one has limited choices. I try to support them and buy all my DMC floss there although its costs more than the large craft stores but find kits from designers a wonderful option. They have the specialty items and fabric and it’s all ready to go. The projects I have to source myself are very frustrating. I never find one one-line source for everything and spend a huge amount of time trying to get locate sources. Then I inevitable run into things on back order. I support designer kits whenever possible.

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  83. Whether I source a project myself or purchase a kit depends on (a) whether I have most of the items required already in my stash, and (b) language differences. (It took me a long time to learn that “courgettes” meant “zucchini.”) Sizes, weights, and definitions of project supplies may mean something entirely different to the designer than would occur to me until I had spent considerable time working on a project that left me with nothing in the end but frustration.

    I’m an American quilter who grew up making my own clothes. If a designer specifies “calico” I think of a printed lightweight cotton. If she’s using the “Queen’s English,” however, what she calls “calico” I call “muslin.” If the term “muslin” is used, there is still a big difference in the weight and hand of the fabric.

    Finally, even with the cost of international shipping, it might be well worth the expense to get the correct supplies, or in some cases supplies that are only readily available overseas.

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  84. I really enjoyed this discussion and all the comments. Since all views are represented, there is no single “right” decision! It just depends…..! I do really like “designer kits” for all the reasons you listed. One might see it as taking away the stitcher’s “creativity” (color choices, etc.), but you can also see it as a new experience — especially if a variety of hand-picked materials are involved. You are generally purchasing high quality materials, the designer’s design, AND the designer’s artistic eye.

    There is also the “overseas” dimension to kit purchases, as well. As many pointed out, Crewel Works kits are expensive, and they use a single brand of thread that (a) many of us have in our stashes or (b) can purchase locally (or at least within the country). That option would be welcomed. I like when some companies give you a number of options (European Cross-stitch comes to mind) — buy the chart. chart and fabric. or complete kit. or only the “specialty” items (mostly the required beads — I find those the most difficult to efficiently source the types, sizes, colors, and amount).

    Best rule for me, however, is to always buy the best materials that you can afford. Designer kits always provide that, but if you can’t afford it, do the best you can — but KEEP STITCHING!!

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  85. that’s all fine and good, but when you start looking at kits that are over $100 and upwards of $200, that $70 becomes a moot point and becomes of no account. besides, most work doesn’t entail the elements you encountered in this so to me it just depends on what’s in the kit and how good of a researcher the embroiderer is.

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    1. I’m a little confused by your comment.

      I think the point Mary and the second commenter were making is that the 70$ she paid for materials for the kit was as much as the whole kit cost.

      The commenter only saved the $20 or $25 in shipping she would have paid for the kit. And that definitely doesn’t include the “cost” of the time she spent looking for the right materials.

  86. Love this article Mary. I don’t think we take into consideration the fact that it is a lot of work to put kits together.

    The work involved in setting up the embroidery is a big deterrent for me: I have a full time job, and finding a pattern I’d like, buying thread,transfer setting up – too much effort.

    That’s why I was really interested in Hazel’s kits. They are beautiful and easily accessible. The problem I have is that they are quite complex, and I don’t have the skill to do them justice. More practice on basic projects is needed before I can commit to that amount of money.

    Mary, besides Hazel, are there any other designers that produce such quality kits but for beginners?

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  87. I like kits and I do agree with pro and contra you’ve pointed out. I like kits. But sometimes I want to play a bit with threads and colors and check for possible substitutions.rusult will change would I make some palette changes. This is a special kind of fun for me, guessing and choosing with all my stash, but of course when I’m alone, because my DH doesn’t realise the volume 🙂

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  88. Despite having a huge stash, I do buy some designer kits. There are two primary reasons for this: First, it is a wonderful package to open, and you can get right to the project. Second, I heartily agree with the principle of supporting the individual designer. Just as we have lost so many thread shops by not patronizing them, so will we lose access to the marvelous designs available while the artist can afford to share her art.

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  89. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for the insight into purchasing embroidery kits vs. sourcing. I agree 100% about the time it takes to source yourself. The idea of helping the designers by purchasing the kits is a valid point that most people don’t really think much about when choosing to purchase.As for the cost differences I think as you stated that kits that are put together by a designer are a good value since all of the necessary items to complete the design is included and the stitcher can focus on the embroidery piece and probably feel really good about the quality of the finished design. Beside all this, getting a new kit in the mail is like getting a gift at Christmas!

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  90. I am one of those people who buy the whole kit. In fact, I just did for an EGA GCC. Why when I have a huge stash and can order what I need online? Because as I looked at the supply list, I wasn’t sure I had the right supplies and I have no local beading store with the supplies I need. It was just easier and less aggravating. I do the same with the big canvas projects I do. I may(probably will) change the color or threads, but at least I have the kit so I can see what the designer had in mind. It is nice to have options like only have specialty threads and no DMC or just the canvas with the design. But what a lot of work for the designer! I know when I finally get to Late Harvest, I am getting the kit. Thanks for enabling us!

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  91. I just had to jump in to this discussion. I agree with so much of what you had to say. I have been particularly frustrated with the “off the shelf” kits from large manufacturers (especially Bucilla) that contain very poor quality materials and instructions. That said, I do appreciate the opportunity to purchase a kit for a special project that requires out of the ordinary materials, and I’m willing to pay for the convenience of it.

    Usually, this is for a new technique or, as with Hazel’s project, a project that uses a lot of different materials that may not be readily available even online. I just spent $100+ for supplies for a goldwork class on Craftsy. Yep, that hurts, but it’s my first foray into goldwork, and there’s no point in buying a lot of bulk supplies that I may never use again.

    But I don’t do this often…I view these types of expenditures as a special treat and spread the purchases out over a long period of time. In the meantime, I have plenty of UFOs and stash with which to keep busy. I have “missed out” a couple of times when a kit was no longer available…but “oh, well.”

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  92. Couldn’t agree with you more! The only time it is worth sourcing yourself is if you are not sure about the quality (colorfastness) of the embroidery threads provided. Most companies and designers will provide help and great support if you have any difficulties with your kit. Mill Hill usually provides enough beads and fibers to do the kit twice! I’ve been stitching for 60 years and it is WAY WORTH IT!! Also if you want to have something easily portible to travel with, or take to work, EVERYTHING is already there!!!!

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  93. That was a wonderful description of the pro’s and con’s of kits. I sew for a living (home/business interior decorating drapery, slipcovers, etc.) There are many customers who sometimes question price. I provide the best for customers in product and craftsmanship, because I want that customer to order or refer me to others again.

    Thank You,
    Gina Emily
    Gina’s Custom Designs

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  94. As a whole, I agree with you Mary, and I had not thought about the aspect of supporting the designer. The pleasure of having everything I need to just begin a project is worth the small savings I Might have if I gathered everything myself, and certainly saves me time which I can use for stitching. My only hesitation, is when I receive a kit that has not separated the floss and I must discern the difference between light, very light, and ultra very light. of a single hue. So I just take not of that and try not to order from that company or designer again. One other solution is to find a well-informed shop owner who is willing to assemble all the supplies for you. I have never met the dear friend I use and she lives states away,but when I want to complete a project I cannot find in a kit, she graciously completes it for me and I love supporting a brink and mortar store, even if it isn’t near me. I envy those who can just walk into her shop and I want to keep her there for them.

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  95. Thank you for taking the time to put together such a comprehensive discussion on this matter. Too often the value of the artist’s (designer’s) work is ignored in considering the cost of designer kits.

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  96. Lots of good discussion! Thank you for the topic, Mary!

    For me, it depends on what the item is. If it’s a technique I have never tried before & specialty items are involved (like goldwork) I will definitely buy the kit. Another consideration is: How badly do I want to do it? Is it something that I like enough to put into stash for “someday” or do I love it so much that I need to start stitching it RIGHT NOW. That might influence me to buy the kit if one is available! Is it something that I think might be discontinued or that supplies might be hard to find later? Then the kit is the way to go. I recently gathered supplies for two very large HAED projects. I decided that gridding the fabric was not worth my time, so abandoned that and ordered the pre-gridded fabric. Didn’t order threads as it’s all DMC and I have tons of that. Nope, I don’t have all of it. Or maybe I do but those skeins are distributed amongst the multitude of UFOs (not sure I want to disturb those, the supplies might never get back there and they’ll be UFOs for a lot longer!) And since my stash is “curated” over many years then I began to worry about dye lots. So I spent several weeks going to multiple stores with long lists trying to get all that DMC. And trying to shop at off hours because who wants to stand in line behind somebody buying 300 skeins of floss that have to be scanned individually? And on second thought who wants to stand there waiting to pay for all those? LOL If I ever do another project that large I might opt for the kit even though it is only DMC. I’ve realized that my time is a consideration too and I’d like to use more of it for stitching!

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  97. Personally, I think the better/finer kits are an excellent value. Usually, when one likes a finished design so much so that they desire to make one, a kits makes sense. All the supplies are coordinated and assembled for your convenience. If one should try to duplicate a designer’s project, excess threads, yarn, and fabric most likely will have to be purchased. The time ordering and assembling your own supplies can be better spent on actual stitching time.

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  98. A well written piece Mary. I fully support your comments about purchasing speciality kits direct from the designer. It is very important we support the designer to keep our love of embroidery and our ability to take part in wonderful projects alive. As I live in New Zealand the postage I have to pay to have anything shipped from overseas is huge. I would rather buy a designer kit and know I am getting exactly what is reguired than spend hours searching the net to order the indiviual threads, fabrics etc required. The postage I would be charged on indiviual pieces would be in excess of the price for one kit. As a small country our ability to purchase from a retailer is even more limited than in the USA. Thank you for this discussion.

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  99. As a designer I loved your analyse on designer kits. I have a passion for my designing and have struggled to put it into words. Thank you and may I use your words in a newsletter and other advertising to describe “THE DESIGNERS” passion.
    Kind regards
    Jannz

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  100. Hi Mary – this is a question we got asked so many times that Ryan developed a kit function on our website. However, hours of work go into trying to find the threads the designer has used. I agree that substituting the materials often changes the look of the finished piece. We really recommend buying the kit and supporting the designer! The only downside is that you are getting just what you need to do the project and if you rip out a lot, like I do, sometimes you run out and can’t find a match! Keep Stitching, Debi

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  101. A few thoughts on embroidery kits and kits of other ilks.
    Time, my time devoted to a project is given freely and thoroughly enjoyed; I consider it a treat to be able to create something with my hands and mind. Even when a mistake requires undoing hours of work, still worth every minute.
    Finding the components to make the project is why I don’t buy kits, I’m also an avid quilter and don’t like quilting kits either. Gathering the pieces that will make the project is part of the entire creative process. In some cases I’ll find a bead, a piece of fabric, thread or something else that I use instead of that which is named as a needed component. With the myriad of sources available to us via the ‘net I’ve always found what I needed. Okay the time issue in doing the hunting and gathering; it is all part of the creating. Just when I think I can’t find a needed piece, voila there is a tiny shop in Wisconsin that does nothing else but make that piece.
    So without rambling on anymore I believe I’ve made my case for not using kits. Notice I said “my case” as I know each person has their own wants. All in all I believe when you see the beauty in a design or pattern created by an artist you can make it your own by devoting your time to gathering the needed items, put them all together and be proud of what you’ve made.

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  102. I can relate to this frustration. Local stitch store doesn’t know the fabric require in surface embordery. They specialize more in cross stitch. Google church cloth or church linen? Mystery of what you get. This is a road block I have been trying to get around for a long while now. I enjoy reading about surface embordery but my experience has just been dish towels and canvas bags. I have done cross stitch and hardanger, so I am not a total novice, but the smooth linen I got turned out to be very bumpy and difficult to trace a design on. The tracing pen bled and I Had to start over. I guess I will try the old red pencil stand by and iron it on. I can’t afford to waste it. Is this linen thick enough not to be lined? Line it any way just to be safe? Muslin I have. But my hardanger hoops don’t seem to be tight enough for surface embordery. Didn’t know about evertight frames until I had the Edmund’s stretcher bars. Trying to use what I have available. Will it look good on the wall? Only time will tell. Framing it is another expensive.

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  103. Thanks Mary, everything you say is true. Especially resonant to me as I am a designer of kits.

    My mission is, as you say, to bring a greater love of embroidery to the world of creativity, with an emphasis on those just embarking on a creative life.

    My kits are for the absolute beginner. Specifically young people. Aged 6 years and up, although I have many adult customers. My kits are exactly as you describe, thoroughly researched and sourced.

    There are virtually no commercially produced kits for this market. I volunteer in public school (3rd grade) and currently have 70 students all taking their first tentative stitches. They ask me where they can buy kits, in Michael’s? In Joann’s? There is nothing for the young beginner. Although I try to keep my prices low it is hard to source the best materials and keep prices low.

    Thanks for your thoughtfully written article. Anna

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  104. I am new at embroidery. Could someone please tell me what kind of fabric to buy for surface embroidery? Thank you

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  105. I agree with what you say. The other scenario is buying a designer piece online from a shop. The shop substitutes threads because they do not keep or have all of the designated threads. The finished piece looks OK but you will never know if it could look better or whether the correct threads may have behaved (sewn) better.
    Pam

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  106. As usual, I am in complete agreement with you. I am lucky enough to have a couple of local needlework shops that have an incredible collection of threads, fabrics, beads and charms, and I have a Huge collection of all of them that I just ‘fell in love with’ with no specific plans, so when I am doing simple, small, or designs where I know want to change colors, I usually source them myself. But for most of the larger pieces, I love to be able to order the designers kits. Except for the little Mill Hill kits, that I enjoy making up for relaxation, it has been years since I have made any commercial kits.
    Thank you for a great forum, Lynn

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  107. I found Mary’s information re fabric for surface embroidery on her Tips and Techniques tab. Very helpful. Thank you

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  108. A kit is the only way when disabled or in a remote area. But saying that, have had a couple of kits that the treads have been just enough and felt like string. 99% are beautiful and worth every bit. An embroidery kit is different to cross stitch as usually just need the cloth and what threads you don’t already have.

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  109. I so agree with your comments. I am a beginner and it is difficult, at least for me to find, “quality” designs and kits from US companies. I recently brought a crewel beginners kit from the Crew Company in the UK based on your newsletter. Lovely but quite expensive, based on current exchange rate. Truly grateful for your online expert information. I have looked at all your advertisers and there isn’t much variety in the designs offered. As you stated if I am going to put in the time and expense I want something more than cute animals etc. to stitch, which is fine for some but not me. Know that your voice is appreciated.

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  110. Buy the kit in total. It saves time and bother.
    If you want to make a project a bit different then use your stash.

    Some kits you can buy beads only or thread. In those instances I usually buy the beads. The thread you can use the stash and alter colours slightly if you have a similar shade.

    Mainly though I just go for the lot. I have found that I can start to sew immediately and not wait. That way I usually finish a project and not get bored or frustrated trying to find whatever is needed.
    Work out how much you save buy getting all for yourself. Time you take looking, cost of items and how long and cost of and to receive by post.

    As with Hazel she has taken the time to let you have exactly what she made. That is why we are buying it.
    I have found over the years to collect all items required for a project. I ran into thread not all to be had from one supplier. Same with beads. Products deleted.
    Give me a whole kit.
    Mary hope you are well as I hope for all subscribers.

    Regards

    MM
    ACT

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  111. This echoes many other comments but that is the best description I’ve ever read regarding the skills, time, costs, etc. (especially the etc.) involved in producing designer embroidery kits. The concepts must apply to many other types of artistic work as well.
    I’ve never been involved in any remotely related employment. It’s easy for us non-professionals to forget that our beloved hobby has to be facilitated by other people’s work.

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  112. This was a very good post. I have found that kit are many times much more practical for the cost. I can get the materials that are needed and have no leftovers to store and hope to find a use for later.

    Regarding time gathering materials, I remember a principal telling me as an elementary teacher that “time is money.” I said I could make the items for less than for what the companies sell them. But, he was right, I wasted loads of of my personal time that could have been more productive outside of my job.

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  113. Sourcing for us here at the momeny is not an issue nut what annoys me is when some well known person comes in from overseas and charges $130-$145 for kits when there is a minimum of 10 per class. Our local experts charging as lityle as $30-50. Aus $. One has the cheek to want it in euros so it can’t even be spent in our country. Do yhey think we are colonial hicks and can’t see we are being ripped off. Of course those with lots of money can do it but I understood that crafting was all inclusive.
    Sadly I will not be going to the overseas experts but I am looking forward to going to some of our own to learn from them

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    1. I agree with you on professional tutors etc. Sadly, I find the costs involved too expensive so I do without. However, tutors are not get rich quick folks, having designed the project etc etc. I am very wary now , as not all tutors are created equal. My experience was with one where the design was crooked, and inadequate amounts of threads etc…..not good EVER!

  114. I like to buy kits since I enjoy embroidery but not thinking about it in depth! I have on many occasions talked myself out of the beautiful designer kits I really want since I don’t consider myself an accomplished embroiderer. After reading your newsletter though I think I’ll treat myself to a designer kit. I love really good materials so maybe I should trust myself enough to indulge.

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  115. Mary,
    I very rarely purchase kits..However I did purchase 2 kit from the French Needle the little rooster and breath of spring returned one and did not finish the other very poor quality fabric and threads not enough supplies. Would have been happier sourcing my own materials. But that’s just me.

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  116. It’s been fascinating reading all of the comments. Like many, I’m selective about the complete kits I purchase. If a kit has a lot of unusual or interesting (or hard for me to source) fibers, I’ll go with the kit. Especially if I love the look of the model.

    If it’s a new media or technique for me, I’m more likely to try a complete kit, too. I’ve gotten several different kits from Laraine’s of Capri in Australia…interesting designs, often using a variety of unusual fibers. Now that I’ve seen it in person, and completed the kits, I’ll be more inclined to source my own in the future.

    Otherwise, I have a lot of stash I’ll paw thought to find fibers for my projects. Like many, ground fabrics like linen for surface embroidery aren’t easy to come by. I rely on Wooly Thread and Hedgehog Handworks for them.

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  117. I have stitched as long as I can remember, and love trying it all! So yes, I have my stash, but there is nothing I love more than breaking out a new project! And as I get older, I appreciate having everything for the project such as a kit. I also find that the quality surpasses what I would have maybe come up with on my own, so I truly enjoy touching each fiber the designer chose, and often they are new and fun and stretch my boundaries just a bit. As I look at pieces I’ve done, there is not one that is just the original pattern, every one has my Lauralized touch of embellishment and flair.
    I also believe in Karma, so I wouldn’t want to start a project under duress or stressed by having to locate hard to find pieces because it would show in the piece. My handwork is all about the joy of the journey, so when I treat myself to a fun purchase like one of Mary’s beautiful kits, I can’t help but infuse it with creative bliss!

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  118. Thought provoking article. Mill Hill, Lizzie Kate and some others are great for small projects. But the big commercial ones can be really discouraging. I had to get a Disney kit, as that is the only way they come. I threw out the fabric and used my own. Plenty of floss and minimal instructions. But I do a lot of counted canvas using specialty fibers. I definitely count on the designer to provide more than enough fibers (I might make a mistake and have to frog). Also, I am sure of the correct dye lot which can make a big difference. I love my LNS but she doesn’t carry a lot of the specialty stuff. Kits from the designers are the best way to go.

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  119. If you are a beginner, naturally it would be to your benefit to buy the whole kit. I do prefer a kit in the stumpwork line as there are so many elements. If it is just a simple little cross stitch than I do head to my stash. But keep in mind, my stash is over 25 years old. Almost an embarrassment, it is so large. I don’t like have to race all over the place to get things I need, so a kit is the perfect answer

    p.s. Mary, I hope you are doing well. It is time for a physical up date for your many friends that care

    Tans

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  120. I mostly buy old 1970s (and early 80s) kits from eBay. They’re cheap (I usually pay more for shipping than for the kit itself!) and they’re often better quality than the Bucilla, Dimensions, etc. kits made today.

    And also I mostly do crewel. There’s not many crewel kits today that aren’t horribly expensive. (Partially because wool yarn has become more expensive, but also because the kits aren’t being made in huge quantities.)

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  121. I think a lot depends on the kind of stitcher you are. There are some stitchers who want to keep things simpler for themselves and stitch to someone else’s designs exactly. Then there are others who want to step outside the lines, change colours, materials etc and (I think) these people will then lean to designing their own also.
    I like a kit when I’m learning something new, but I now have enough stitching hours behind me to appreciate that I can make my own choices for things I’m more familiar with.
    Recently I’ve started producing small inexpensive Goldwork kits – specifically to encourage people to try small chunks of the technique without having to fork out a lot of time or money on a style they may not enjoy.

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  122. I have embroidered & sewn & knitted since early childhood. As a young woman, working full time & raising a family (& sewing clothes, cooking, gardening and all those other things we need to do) I used to purchase embroidery kits from time to time. This was pretty much the only way I got to do embroidery. Initially I started with cheaper kits from department and chain stores– but problems with quality soon put me off. Later, I started buying Inspirations magazine (early subscriber) and moved on to their kits, ordered online. I felt the higher cost was justified given my working income and the savings I made in so many other areas by sewing my own & my child’s clothes, etc. Now that I am retired, with a large stash, many embroidery & craft books (bought, given and inherited) plus so much inspiration from online sites like this one, I have many, many projects-in-waiting. Given that I now have time & a modicum of experience, I usually work on my own variations and track down my own materials, though I will also succumb maybe once a year to a kit – perhaps because it is just so beautiful, or perhaps because I just want to stitch without thinking too much – though like others I often substitute for my own colour preference. For my own projects, I keep lists of materials so that I can make larger orders when ordering online, especially if needing to order from overseas (which I do maybe once a year). There are also a couple of great online stores here in Aus which I buy from wherever possible – “Allthreads” being particularly good for its range. I also really like being able to get downloadable patterns (e.g. some of Trish Burr’s lovely thread-painting designs) and I can then source materials myself. I’m lucky that I now have some many projects, plans and stash on hand that I could probably work from years without buying anything new….except that beautiful designs and ideas keep cropping up! I know I am getting a new embroidery book tomorrow for my birthday (Embroidered Landscapes by Judy Wilford), because I ordered it myself online and gave it straight to my husband to put aside once it arrived – such restraint! I have admired Judy’s work for years in a local gallery and am excited by the prospect of learning more of her techniques – but of course this will mean more projects.

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  123. I live in a rural area without a needlework store, so I greatly appreciate complete kits with all necessary fabric, beads, and thread provided I’ve often found shipping costs very disheartening as well. One large supplier (Nordic Needle) proudly states that they have a $5.95 shipping charge. I suppose if you are ordering a loom or stretcher bars that is a reasonable charge. However I’ve tried to negotiate a lesser shipping charge when I needed only a skein or two of thread; they hold fast to their $5.95 charge.

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  124. I agree with you Mary. I myself have in the past tried to source materials for myself to finish a kit because the initial cost sounded so high. In the end I spent way more running around getting things to complete the project because I always found something else I liked in the store. I think the designers know way more than me, and paying for their expertise is well worth it. I have enough kits to keep me going for the next 50 years, if I live that long LOL.

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  125. When it comes to cross stitch, I’ve become very wary of kits. The floss often feels inferior, and the fabric doesn’t feel ‘right’ either.

    In addition to the above issues, the fabric often seems to be totally unsuitable to the pattern. I’ve had a few kits with aida when aida was completely inappropriate. There was a Bambi birth sampler where there’s 1,000 fractional stitches in the legs so you’re piercing the aida with a sharp needle to be able to get the right look.

    Or I bought a baseball kit off ebay (never again), where I think the ‘seller’ had taken the kit, xeroxed the instructions so my working copy looked like a copy of a copy, and then included a piece of aida that wasn’t anywhere near large enough for the piece. I had looked at the pattern and decided to sub evenweave in due to the high number of fractional stitches in the pattern. I then used the aida to make birthday/greeting cards out of. There was no issue with the amount of floss thankfully.

    I also despise kit floss when it’s provided in hanks instead of pre-sorted. You have to attempt to sort similar colors (not always with # of lengths provided to help figure out which is which).

    On the other hand, when kits are put together appropriately, they’re wonderful. Currently working on Theresa Wentzler’s Fruit Bellpull and I would be totally lost as to what to back it with if I didn’t have the kit. Now I can go to the fabric store and find another piece (or 2) so I can do the fruit bellpull for me and the floral bellpull. This kit also has the floss organized by length with a designation as to how many meters there are, so if you want to do the pattern later, you can estimate how many skeins you need.

    So my opinion is avoid mass produced kits if possible, be wary of kits sold on ebay, buy kits if they include a variety of specialty materials which would be more hassle to try and source yourself.

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  126. I have purchased the odd kit some have been really good with enough thread and with some left over, but what I have found with some especially with cross stitch and other techniques not enough allowance at the edges to allow for framing.
    So now I prefer to just buy the pattern and trace it on I usually have most of the threads I can source DMC an Anchor easily other threads I have to get by mail order ( I do have a really good stash)

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  127. We all seem to agree that mass-market kits often skimp on quality and materials. The reasons I don’t buy designer kits are twofold. One is that I rarely want the finished article; I might love the design, but I don’t want to use it in the way suggested. For example, rather than make a framed picture or box-lid, I might want to decorate a blouse. Another reason is that I have a huge mental file of projects I intend to work one day. While a project remains in a mental file I can vary it as much as I like, but once it’s committed to fabric and threads etc it becomes stash. Instead I build up my library of source books – Hazel’s books, for example, are lovely and inspiring – and plan what I will work One Day. If I did decide I wanted to work a design as published, you have persuaded me that a kit (with the possible exception of threads) would be the way to go.

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  128. I used to think that if I bought a kit I’d have an embroidery that was a copy of something many others also had, but now I realize that I don’t have the eye/talent for choosing colors that are satisfying.When I spend many hours on a project and then realize I should have chosen different colors of thread, the fact that others have the same embroidery in their homes isn’t as important as having an embroidery I can be happy with for myself or someone else. I use my own threads for practice stitches that I hang in my work room where I can see my progress – hopefully.

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  129. In addition to all the pros and cons you just laid out, the sheer pleasure of having a complete kit, ready to begin, is a complete treat–all together, ready to start, no waiting. Bliss!

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  130. Hi,
    I have often found, as you say, that if the materials are “common” (muslin and DMC) then I can source it myself economically, but when the project is complex or the materials specialized, then, for me, a kit is a blessing. The only time I tend away from this is if I need to change the colorway for me to love it

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  131. I will buy a kitted up design if I don’t have the items on hand. Places like Needlecraft Corner will discount the combined items. Buying from a good online shop it’s usually easy to get it all in one place.

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  132. My goodness we are excited.

    I speak now about overseas Tutors. None in particular.

    Here where I live, Australia. We are very isolated from the rest of the world. If I were to want to have a well known and exciting tutor here.

    Like us all if the Tutor was in another State we would have to travel. We can hope we have reles and friends in the other State and we could billet with them. There are still air fares, bus fares and if driving petrol. Just so I cover it all, Mule or Horse, boarding for them and food etc.
    It all adds up.

    Now then I believe that the Tutor has expenses too. If they are a regular at shows they also have costs to bare.
    Lets get serious here MONEY. We are all affected by money. The other special word is BUSINESS.

    Tutors are business people and they need customers. You and me. We help to lessen the burden by attending these classes. Nothing is free. Only a Mother’s love.

    What do we get?
    We get the Tutor’s attendance, experience, learn little tricks of the trade with getting a better out come for our work. Get to meet some very nice and pleasant and helpful Tutors. Most of us enjoy ourselves.
    Commerce is commerce it is there to make money.

    At the end of the day we have a choice, don’t attend. I would not attend unless it is where I live.

    We are lucky here in Australia we have many wonderful and most experienced tutors of our own. They too have wonderful books so I always look at what I have here before buying overseas.

    Then we have MARY CORBET. How lucky have we been over the years. Her unselfish guidance and special input is immeasurable.

    So my Mary Listers. It is over to you, buy or not buy that is the power we have.

    If you have not dealt with a Seller don’t bad mouth them and if you have, only buy through a banker that will give you protection.

    There are ways to buy and pay that have product – transaction protection. (Somewhere to complain if item not as expected). Get money back

    So don’t shoot me I am only the messenger.

    Buyer beware!

    Good luck

    MM
    ACT

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  133. I have just started to dable in Embroidery. I have just joined our local Embroidery Guild for experience ad meet some lovely ladies. I have chosen a beautiful design of Hazel Blomkamps. I have never done Crewel/Jacobean stitching. I go to an awesome shop in Napier New Zealand and Jan there will make the kits to what i need in the right amount of beads etc. Her shop is JJ’s Crafts if you are ever in New Zealand, going to Taradale, Napier is a must visit. The girls are so helpful. Reading everybody’s comments i am still not sure if i would buy a kit. I will cross that bridge when i come to it & when i have a bit more experience.

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  134. Dear Mary, I’ve read through most of the replies to your question and I wonder why none have suggested that the design itself should be acknowledged financially. As the actual inspiration component not to mention fabric, thread selection, thread colour selection, beads, gold threads etc is not only time consuming but a challenge, all of these considerations should be taken in account (literally) by a designer when pricing her/his kit. As kits supply all of these necessities – plus someone’s hard work, time and creative ability – I’m surprised at all the fuss. I’d hate to think that we, as embroiderers, undervalue the true cost of designer kits. It’s almost like devaluing an artwork.

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    1. Catherine, I am glad you raised this issue. I think most practising artists – apart from those at the very top of the tree – would agree that it is difficult to get what their labour is worth in any transaction. My husband is a fine woodworker: he sculpts in wood and makes fine furniture, boxes and so on. If he charged more than about $50 per hour for his work, he would never sell anything and even at that it is a struggle convincing people that it is a fair price. Designers of embroideries fall into the same category. As I know from my own experience (designing buildings), designing isn’t all fun and games and drawing pretty pictures. It can be a very hard slog, sometimes quite unrewarding even, and then to have someone say your time is not worth paying for is simply to add insult to injury.

      So yay for the kit designers. Make sure your prices take account of your time and effort. Creativity may be God-given but that doesn’t mean it should be given away freely once you have it.

  135. Mary, you have said it all – I tried to find the Pertinacity materials (from Hazel Blomkamp’s Crewel Intentions), but gave up and bought the kit – I have not regretted it. I am working my way through it slowly, and enjoying myself – creating heirlooms, I keep saying.
    Incidentally, I have seen a copy of the book in a bookshop’s sale – they obviously don’t appreciate the value of it – and someone is in for a good buy!
    I think your comments about designer kits is right on the button – I love seeing the specialist threads they have used – stuff I would probably not ever buy by myself. I know so little about thread weights, properties, etc, that using someone else’s knowledge and experimentation is very rewarding.
    At the same time, I am perfectly happy to buy DMC standard thread & other standard things locally.

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  136. Great discussion, really good points being put across!

    One point that hasn’t been stressed over-much is shipping expensive kits overseas – not just the cost but the risk of having the parcel opened and searched through by customs, and then being hit with Import Duty charges. I’ve had it happen to me – it’s so gutting to discover a once immaculate parcel to be a heap of tangled threads, scattered beads, etc, AND to have to pay an unexpected extra for it!

    I put these concerns to Hazel Blomkamp recently, and she understood immediately. I bought the screen-printed design pack, and she offered to send me just those bits of the kit I couldn’t easily source in the UK. So its always worth contacting the designer and asking.

    I am a designer but I don’t kit any of my designs. I prefer to provide ideas/guidance on thread choices, encouraging creativity and also helping to support local needlework stores/suppliers and hand-dyers. I do understand this doesn’t suit all types of design however, and artisan kits especially can be a wonderful ‘gift’ to yourself, provided customs don’t rummage through the parcel first!

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  137. I think it depends on the project. Many people live in a “desert” when it comes to sourcing needlework supplies so I do feel it is an advantage to have the fabric included and also the threads. There are so many beautiful threads available but they are not always easy to track down apart from DMC and even there the whole range is not available in my part of the world.

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  138. Hi Mary! I’m late catching up with blog reading, but here are my thougts.

    I find most kits over-priced, but part of that could be resenting the duplication of supplies I already have more than enough of and that there’s often no choice – It’s full kit or nothing in the UK. At a Show last year, I was horrified to see simple kits going for almost £30 ($45 or so US). I would have paid £5 for the chart, but I already had all the threads etc. It can be exasperating. It makes me feel that, should I wver start commercial designing, I will stick to easily available materials and offer a pattern pack and/or one with enough of any more specific supplies (beads, perle cotton and so on that folks may not have).

    I have a huge stash of over 1600 threads, more than 100 different bead shades/sizes and plenty of fabric, trimmings and even stumpwork wires. It’s rare I ever really need anything beyond something very specific and specialist.

    Another factor is how concerned the stitcher feels about using the exact same materials as the design states. I don’t mind substituting and often adapt designs to what I already own and/prefer to work with (i.e. I hate working with wool and I can’t afford a number of silk threads). Because of this, sourcing supplies can be simplified.

    Interesting topic! 🙂

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  139. As you say Mary there are many different opinions about this subject. If I am buying a designer kit I like the idea of having everything in one pack and as you say they usually give you plenty of supplies in case something goes wrong and you have to unpick. I have to say one thing with kits, and there are a lot of them that do this, they do not give a list of materials and thread numbers and if you run out of certain colour it is quite difficult to find a good match and I end up having to get in touch with the company and only a few will give you the number, not all.
    But to sum up, if I am buying from a designer I buy the kit and support them because I know what it takes to make up all these kits. If what I am looking for is something to give as a gift once it is finished I don’t mind buying my own things. Keep up the good work Mary.

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  140. I have to agree with many of the posts here. I love the idea of having a printed pattern on high quality fabric, but I am 90% of the time unhappy with color choices in a kit. I love choosing my own thread colors and beads.
    Thanks for sharing insight on Embroidery Kits vs. Sourcing Materials.

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  141. This is very pertinent to what I am doing at present. I do kits, but mostly I purchase a leaflet as I have a stash of threads accumulated over decades, and other materials. However, I am branching out into crewel work and gold work so I do not have ( yet) a dragon horde.

    Crewel thread, is challenging as I did not know what I wanted or more importantly what is available. Appletons have a sampler card available but at a ridiculous price, not like the handy dandy DMC leaflets. The gold work threads I was able to source in my country of NZ, but ended up driving to 3 hours to and from in order to eyeball the stock. I had a wonderful time taking a young person to the other side of the North Island on a glorious sunny day, so I was able to justify the trip quite easily. I belong to the embroidery guild here, but as we are rural, the shopping options are limited, but I think the hunt is part of the fun. IMHO!

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  142. My issue with kits is where they do not supply enough thread or have cut it too short to stitch well with (lots of starts and stops and knots), and they do not say what the thread brand is, so if you do run out it is difficult to source additional supplies to finish the kit. I have found some commercial kits better than others (DMC have been generous, but Make It not so – and I did tell them that too). I think they are great as starting points or if there are special embellishments. Even if you do source yourself, your time is cost that is often not factored in, so a kit provides certainty and immediacy for starting. My other issue is with the quality of the pattern printing – the ones with multiple colours and duplicate symbols make it difficult to read and to interpret (Dimensions do this). I have done both kits and stitching from charts, and each has it’s place.

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  143. What an interesting discussion.

    I rarely buy kits, having accumulated a lot of stash over the years. However, if I am trying a new technique (boutis as well as Ruskin lace work at the moment), or the design includes fibres or accessories which are time-consuming to source, I’ll usually buy the kit. This was the case in a kit of Hazel’s I drooled over for quite a while. I didn’t think her kits were too out-of-the-way expensive (although the postage was swingeing), but perhaps that’s because I’m in the UK.

    Location might be a factor, I’m thinking as I read through this discussion. Many interesting kits from the US, for example, will have lovely threads like Au Ver a Soie silks. But I can buy these very easily here — sourcing isn’t an issue — but it does seem like coals to Newcastle to send French silk to Scotland via the US. 😉

    Can I also thank you for raising the ethical issue of where and by whom many mass-production kits are made? It is a very important point, and often one that is lost when one’s first consideration is simply the final sticker price of the kit.

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  144. Whether I have purchased a kit or not is situational on the project. But, I am lucky to live close enough to Nordic Needle in Fargo, ND, that the extra time is more than worth going into the store and searching in person. Without access to a quality needleshop, I would probably lean towards buying kits more than not.

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  145. I’ve bought many kits and I’ve bought patterns and materials separately. I agree with you, Mary, that it depends very much on what I’m doing. Unlike Ros (comment #1), I am happy that the Crewel Work Company packages everything together and sends it as a kit because I don’t have enough experience (not to mention stored supplies or space to store them) to be able to find the materials on my own. Ditto some kits from The French Needle that depict scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry. These are stitched on very tightly woven linen (in fact, I thought it was cotton at first it’s so unlike any linen I’ve ever felt) and the wool is unusual. The supplier winds long shanks of the required colours onto card stock. The first pattern I did, I had loads of wool left. For cross-stitch patterns such as Mirabilia and Lavender & Lace, I do just buy the patterns, linen, and beads separately because I can get DMC floss locally. But I am extremely uninspiring when it comes to selecting the linen type, colour, size, etc. so I tend just to go with what the pattern states was used in the first design. That makes my life much easier. Also, since I have to order everything online, and often this involves exchange rates (and the CAN$ sucks at the moment), I have to consider whether the kit will save money as well as time, in the long run. Maybe a kit from the Crewel Work Company translates into a lot of CAN$ after making the exchange from £ sterling but it is still probably cheaper than buying the fabric, wool, and needles individually. Also, they are quick and friendly so that is a factor too. Laura Turnbull and I are almost BFFs by now.

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  146. In the past 4 years Ive returned to embroidery from other needle
    and quilting projects. Im lucky to have several fine needlework shops in Houston
    and I like to support them BUT, because Im
    exploring new techniques and methods, I really enjoy the time I spend online
    finding resources I never would have known about. I also love that
    friends in my groups share online info like Mary Corbet’s site to expand my
    searches. I would not have known about The French Needle or
    Inspirations magazine if I had not found Mary Corbet. This info you provided
    made me think of my time and costs differently. Thanks Mary!

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  147. I have been thinking about this topic for some time now. For those of us new to the needle arts, kits are very helpful. However, I have occasionally been disappointed with the quality of wool/fabric in some crewel kits. I have bought kits from The Floss Box (http://www.theflossbox.com/store/embroidery/kit/) and from Tristan Brooks. They both have good quality materials at a reasonable price. You can just purchase the pdf of a pattern at The Floss Box if you want.

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  148. Hi – It is really funny that you have made this post right now. I have followed you for som time now and I am really fallen in love with the Late Harvest projekt.

    I therefore visited the website of Hazel Bloomkamp the day before yesterday and without hezitation I ordered two books and 1 kit.

    Yes it is a bit expensive but considering just what you have wrote concerning materials etc. I find it rather cheep. I am looking forward to receiving a kit with nice and neat materials that I know will fit together spending a minimum of time ordering it. My time is too valuable to search for every Little detail that probably will not fit together after all.

    So thank you for your wise Words in which I totally agree.

    Kind regards
    Jette

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  149. What a great article with a lot of interesting comments! I’ll add my two cents even though it has probably already been mentioned. I love kits and buy them all the time. I have no capacity whatsoever for designing my own patterns, picking out colors and types of threads. So I leave that to the designers, who are invariably much better than I in that regard, after all, that is why they are designers! However, my biggest pet peeve is when not enough of the materials are included in the kit. Then I have to track down the threads (that’s all I have ever run out of), and sometimes can’t find them. This happened to me with an Australian kit. When I finally ordered the thread from the manufacturer, it turned out to be quite different from what was originally in the kit, even though the tags were exactly the same. I still haven’t figured out how to address this.

    Also, I love to do whitework on fine linen, which can be difficult to source. Over the years I have a list of people from whom I can order, so that makes things easy. Fine cutwork threads and needles are available from Vaune Pierce and Lacis. I looked at Hazel’s site and agree that while her kits are expensive, they are not in any way overpriced. I’ve never seen anyone who makes much more than a meagre profit on designing and selling kits.

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  150. I agree with everything you have said. Having used both types of kits and been frustrated with kits from discount stores or chains. Designers really do work much harder at getting supplies and putting together written directions and printing costs are incredible. We really must consider more of these points when deciding on purchasing designer kits. Having said all that I also agree sometimes they are cost prohibitive. We still must live within our means.

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  151. The first email asking for your assistance was just silly. I think kits are wonderful for many people. I feel experienced enough to change out a color or stitch if I just don’t care for that one. The kits I have ordered have been all over the range…… Some plenty of extras, some barely squeezed by, and once completely too little of one color. Sometimes I don’t start right away or even close to that year, so trying to get more of anything is out of the question.
    I will continue to buy kits and sometimes just the pattern. Each project I analyze…….. Sometimes I do want it exactly as I see it. Other times I know I want to play. This love of stitching is worth every dollar, I will budget other things in my world.

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  152. Mary, thanks for writing about this important topic. I haven’t thought about designer vs DIY on embroidery kits. I don’t have a lot of patience for trying to find things & then discovering inferior products. So if I ever do want to do a designer project I will definitely order the kit!

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  153. Then there is the problem encountered when there isn’t enough thread in the kit – which I have encountered twice in the last year. The first instance once I had tracked down an email address for the manufacturer -Eva Rosenstead – it took about a month to recieve the thread I needed. The second instance – a small designer – I have been waiting 6 weeks for the thread. The project is taking up frame space and I could have finished it long since if the supplies had been adequate!

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  154. I have completed embroidery projects both with and with out kits. But… if I like the kit/pattern the way the design made it up, I will buy the kit hands down. The quality is good, time saved is good, and shippping costs (from one source insted of many) are really good! If I want to use just part of a design or don’t like the colors, beads, if I have most of the supplies in house, etc., then I find my own way.

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  155. Thanks, Mary, for such an insightful posting! And also to the 157 readers who have already chimed in. You raised some points about designer kits that I’d not previously considered. For me, the answer is . . . it depends. I’ve had some marvelous kits and some clunkers, and I’ve had fun sourcing some designs as well. I’ve also been terribly disappointed by some design-only purchases. In a perfect world, one would have the choice of purchasing just the design, the whole “kit and kaboodle,” or any combination in between. :}

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  156. I love kits. I like having the picture in front of me and the threads all prepped and collected. I don’t get much time to stitch, but I don’t want to waste it on sourcing threads and the kits give me directions that I an follow and I don’t have to think how to do most of these things, so I can practice the new technique, laying the threads exactly how i want them without lots of prep. I may remake a few ornaments or kitchen towels, but other than that I never make a project more than once so I don’t need any leftover threads just taking up space either. I already have plenty of fabrics, sewing threads and hoops to organize.

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  157. I appreciate your article. It articulates my searching, yet it whispers the quest the need to design something of my own.

    When I thought of my adult daughter sketching onto dish towels for me recently, her quintessential dragons styled on her childhood poodles head (with wings) arched overhead (giving the toy poodle majesty power and form he had not except in her mind and heart.)

    As I followed the color of the Koh-I-noor wood less pencil outline in DMC floss, as my needles wandered past the dragons wing I began to wonder. Would I fill the dragon in, this is a big dragon! It’s just a dish towel should it be work of art? There are, more dragons. Where will they fly? Calmly I lay my needle down to go and run an errand. Next month there will be another visit to see grandbaby and perhaps I will have a trade in store; a dragon stitched dish towel to hang for baby and mama to try wrapping around a few coffee mugs gladly in exchange for th next drawings,

    Or possibly I can Xerox the image to reutilize, to place and plan a higher craft- with better fabrics.

    It feels so humble, stitching on dish towels, such magnesite art- art of my heart
    Beloved daughters drawing tumbling across my lap and my love overflows. I guess I source myself.

    But I yearn for a leader, better ways to apply the art. Thank you for your web blog, and your article. It all makes more sense, the myriad of opportunities for loving the color and creation that can flo, flows through our hands in threads of many colors,

    Thank you for all you do to promote that.

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  158. What about the instructions? Comprehensive instructions with step-by-step photos are extremely time-consuming and expensive to produce and need to be paid for on top of the materials cost.

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  159. That first email is a bit cheeky! I would have been sorely tempted to reply with a “let me google that for you” link, but then I can be quite cheeky myself. 😉

    As for kits, I’ve bought a few commercial ones in the past, mostly counted cross stitch ones, some of which I even managed to complete! The quality has been very variable, mostly notable in the quality of the thread and ground fabric. I’d be the first to admit that I am no expert, so if I can tell that it’s not good, then it’s really not good! I don’t buy cross stitch kits any more, partly because I’ve moved on and partly because I found them to be creatively unstimulating. When it comes to my main craft interest, patchwork and quilting, I am very much a DIY girl – I enjoy the challenge of creating my own designs and I have access to a few fabric shops locally that are pretty good. But if I wanted to give surface embroidery a serious try then I would definitely consider a “designer” kit as a means to learning techniques using the right supplies carefully chosen to give an effective, planned result. There’s very little near me in terms of embroidery/needlework shops so if I wanted to source anything then it would have to be online. I love me some internets, but for craft materials there’s a lot to be said for seeing and feeling it in person, and I would be willing to pay a premium for a more experienced person to have done that for me in this case.

    Hope you’re doing well, by the way, and enjoying your break from pokings and proddings! 🙂

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  160. Hello All,

    Coming from the world of cross-stitch, I’ve bought a lot of those kits over the years. I love them, but I’m an inveterate modifier of my projects, and it’s not unusual for me to add beads or a bit of sparkle here and there.

    As I delve into more surface embroidery techniques, I have yet to buy a kit, either a designer kit or otherwise. Part of this is because I haven’t been attracted to subject matter. I’m read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and I’d far rather dragons flaming thread out of the sky (difficult enough to find in cross-stitch, let alone a stumpwork kit!) to flowers. In general, I prefer subjects with some kind of ‘action’ or ‘movement’ to still-life pieces.

    The other thing that prevents me from buying designer kits is the expense. It’s more from a household economics view than anything else. Expensive kits mean expensive materials, and if I screw that up too much, I’ll have to order *more* of those expensive materials. When all is said and done, it’s not that I think the kit isn’t worth the expense, it’s more that I hesitate to buy something so expensive when I need to buy tires for my truck, and I’m not familiar with a specific technique the design calls for (example: Brussels stitch, which continues to defeat me). I can’t afford to waste the expensive materials that come with the kit when I’m trying to learn a new technique.

    Instead, for learning new stitches and techniques, I go to my own stash of leftover threads and what-have-you, and pull those out to practice, in the medieval sense of ‘sampler’, when samplers were literally practice samples of new stitches!

    For all of that, I’m not a very good artist and color picker (I’m an engineer by trade and much better at calculating wavelengths associated with said colors than actually picking the colors themselves). So for me, the initial pattern and color design are very important, even if I want to substitute silk embroidery thread for DMC cotton or add a few beads here and there.

    Because of my household economics equations, it’s very hard to justify buying a $120 kit, much less some of the needlepoint hand-painted canvases, or the goldwork kits I’ve drooled over. Maybe at a later date I can afford them. My best option for expensive kits is the ‘partial kit’, where the more difficult-to-find materials are included with pattern and instructions. Alas, even these are often too expensive for my budget. Woe!

    Happy Stitching!
    -Monika in Mobile

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  161. People who complain about the cost of kits need to keep in mind that the price includes not just the cost of the materials, but the cost of the design, to pay the designer for the intellectual work of designing the piece.

    Also, kits often include a lot more materials than one needs for the piece. I recently worked Mill Hill’s three Celtic Santas. Although one expects Santa to have strong red and green elements, the Scotland Santa’s tartan was green and blue. I wanted to translate the tartan to the one for my maiden name, Crawford, which is cranberry and forest green. After working one Scotland Santa according to the instructions, I worked a second one in my tartan. I had nearly enough thread and beads left from the original to work the Crawford Santa. In a few cases I had to add a little thread or beads, but was able to find those in the leftovers from the other two Celtic Santa kits (Ireland and Wales).

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  162. I agree that buying the designers kit is a good idea. I bought a Lorna Bateman ribbon embroidery pin cushion kit and it was lovely to work and I have a beautiful finished item. But I am put off by the prices of a lot of kits as beautiful as they are. So often I design my own and use materials i can buy locally. I enjoy these projects as much as any kits. However in total favor of kits I will say this; you simply can’t beat them for learning a new technique.

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  163. When putting together the design packages for Threads in Bloom designs, I list all of the EdMar rayon thread I have used, which is available on my website. Other threads, elements or ribbons I have used are in the design package (unless I expect the stitcher will be changing the colors as with silk ribbon) are in the design package, so stitcher does not have to search for the items or go 3-4 different places to find them – By that time the stitcher has probably just put the design in the drawer, frustrated. Also, on my website product information, I list all threads I used, so stitcher can purchase them when they order the design, if they do not already have the colors. Listed in the description of the threads, etc I used, are the other supplies – the customer knows they do not have to spend hours looking for addition supplies to finish the design. I rarely put together a ‘complete kit’ with threads, as it IS very time consuming, costing more in the long run and you only get enough for that one project, with no left overs to build a stash of supplies for future use. DMC is not in the design package, since it is easy to find. by my listing what colors I use, the customer can use those, or change to their colors.

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  164. One plus about a kit is you know you have the correct things. Different areas call things different names and if you use something a bit different you may get a poor result. One example is fusible backings which have lots of names is USA and different ones in Australia. So I buy kits for a lot of my work. It saves frustration – but keep an eye on what you get.

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  165. Hi Mary,

    Isn’t it surprising what people will ask you to do? I’m a designer (not of embroidery – other things) and give my designs completely for free.

    You’d be amazed how many people demand help with them without even saying “please” or introducing themselves. They’re often rude like an angry customer would be entitled to feel if they’d paid for an expensive pattern and, say, a portion of it were missing. Almost without exception the problem is that the person asking hasn’t read the instructions properly (believe it or not, it’s usually the Abbreviations they haven’t bothered reading).

    I often wonder if people don’t value me or my time at all simply because I don’t charge and think they’d treat me a lot better if I did make them part with some of their hard-earned money to get their hands on one of designs.

    But then I tell myself that for every one of those people there are probably a thousand more who do really appreciate the pattern and they’ve been able to make something lovely for someone that they otherwise might have been able to.

    It’s difficult for artisans when we are asked for help, I think, because along with our love of our craft(s) comes a love of people and it can be really hard for us to say “No”. The older I get, though, and the less time I feel I’ve got left to do what I want to do, the more I realise that you’re quite right. Time is the most valuable thing we have and we can’t go out and buy some more of that when we run out.

    So I’m very, very grateful for everything you do for free, giving up masses of your time and yes, even costing you some of your own money to do it. I thought I’d take the chance to say “Thank you, Mary, for the wonderful gift of your time”.

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    1. Sorry, Mary and any other readers. Please feel free to mentally edit for sense where my proof-reading has failed me. It’s always after I hit “submit comment” that I see the mistakes I’ve made. Of course I mean “get their hands on one of my designs” and “make something lovely for someone that they otherwise might not have been able to”. ;-D

    2. Megan, my late mother-in-law was a painter who exhibited her works in lots of shows locally. She was a very modest lady and priced her works low (too low, imo) but one time she put in a painting that she really didn’t want to sell so she set it at more than double her usual price. It sold within minutes. I have seen this sort of thing over and over. Apparently we feel that the more we pay for an item, the ‘better’ or more value that item has. Ergo, something we get for free has no value.

      On the other hand some of us value the intellectual property and hard work designers must put in to make a good design, whether or not we pay money for it.

  166. Oh Mary! If a designer has gone to the trouble of finding the best quality supplies at the best price, I cannot imagine NOT buying the kit…..unless….the stitcher is head strong making creative adjustments. We all know we want to make it personal and sometimes our budget doesn’t allow for specialty items. I have been on both sides and must say, if you want to stitch exactly like the designer advertises, buy the kit. It’s so much more affordable than seeking out your own supplies.

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  167. Mary I have to say that I do not always read the entire list of postings. So I only by chance saw you had a birthday. Well done my dear and Happiest of Birthdays to you. A wonderful year til the next one. xxOO

    Mary delete if you don’t like the next lot blurb. I sleep well.

    Re: To buy or not to buy question.
    I am over it now as I am sure there are multiples of the same experiences.
    One of the best suggestions I saw was if you have a question or a concern with the producer/seller. Contact them.
    With all things we buy it is buyer beware.

    I buy only the kits, as the work is done and only the pleasure of doing the work for me is left.

    Translation, is our responsibility. If you buy from a non English speaking country. Tough…
    Cruel I know, but don’t write me death threats as I am too old to care.

    Something you can easily do is contact the seller and find out before you purchase.
    The type and quality of the fabric and even type of threads. Contact seller before you buy. Some sellers are so good that they tell you can substitute say DMC with Anchor, as the seller thinks that one or the other is a better fit to the design. Colour variations.

    America is very well resourced having a greater population than most. Australia is not and we to are multinational. For a country of 24 million I think we are very lucky now as communication has broadened our horizons and contact is only a mega second away. Email or Skype we are well served.
    Get to know your neighbours ….. I bought the Ricamo embroidery book from Italy. I could understand a lot but before I found out that a translation had been made. I was in a bit of quandary as I wanted to get started.
    I knew that there were Italians down the street so I thought I would ask for assistance.
    Boldly I knocked on the door and ask the woman if she would mind if I asked for her help. Showed the book. Goodness she literally grabbed me and translation began. We have been friends ever since and sew together once a week. I gave her my Italian Ricamo book as I did order the translation.
    So we both have one and it was a present from me for being so generous.
    I think I am very lucky to have taken a chance in this instance.

    If I buy a kit and the pattern is already printed on the fabric, if I don’t like the fabric I will copy the pattern and put onto my own fabric. Maybe the colour or the quality.

    I appreciate the fact that some kits may seem expensive, if I feel they are, I don’t buy. OR if I really want it I save until I can.
    I say to myself… remember what it takes to release a kit, breaking it down into sections.
    Having Hazel Blomkamp’s books I could have easily just do my own thing. But I liked her example and wanted that.. The American dollar has been better valued than many other currencies. Your OS postage is a killer so I no longer buy US.

    Those of us who find the patterns poor or the fabric not of a good quality and feel let down. Want a refund. I certainly don’t go on the attack. More flies with a little honey than a bucket of vinegar.

    We should all know that there are many unscrupulous people in this world.
    Don’t grumble get active you not only can help your fellow embroideries you may even get a seller to up their game. So happy all round.

    As to doing your own thing remember that those sellers/designers are allowing you to use their designs as many times as you like. No Copyright mentioned. It is a done deal I think we are pretty lucky.

    MM

    Happy sewing days to all.

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  168. I think there are two issues here. If you buy a kit, you buy the soul of the designer and therefore should pay for it. My problem is always that I want the kit and the designers ideas but I also almost always want to somewhat at least, redesign it. Therein lies the problems. If I want to do this, I think I should have to pay the price.
    I recently worked a kit with silk painted thread for a section that required needle-lace. Now I have an opinion about needle-lace. I think that the stitches should be defined and that this is more important than the shading that the designer was more focused on. The silk in the kit to my eye was too fuzzy, so I reworked it with my idea. So there is a cost to being opinionated!!
    In the end, get over it! If you want to save money but have plenty of time, then resource it. If you are opinionated and you want your way above all else, then you’ll no doubt be willing to pay the price. Your choice!

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  169. I ALWAYS want the kit no matter the cost. I hate to have to make the decisions from my stash. I never have the right colors to go together, nor the right amount to finish the design. The best advice I have ever received is “remember, floss is cheap, throw out the leftovers”.

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  170. I am a graphic designer, hired by JHA Embroidery Designs, in New Hampshire, USA. I design the paperwork that goes into her designers kits, build/manage her website and design other needed materials. I was AMAZED on how much time and money goes into just one kit.

    She works our of her home… between teaching hand-embroidery, creating new kit designs, and putting together the kits, (she does not have hired help) it is a full time job. Thousands of dollars and hours have been invested. She is passionate about what she does and wants to share her knowledge.

    After seeing what goes on behind the scenes… the designer kits are worth every penny.

    Since working with Jen Alba, JHA Embroidery Designs, I am now an embroidery enthusiast! It’s the kits that hooked me. We are fortunate to have people willing to invest so much of themselves to share their world of embroidery.

    http://www.jhaembroiderydesigns.com

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  171. I start to have embroidery lesson for one year end I really bought only one kit because of the price.
    Well I preference to create my one kit or change some ideas in my lesson .and maybe buy some pre printet fabric as well.
    I still love this whey .it can be longer but is nice.

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  172. Unless a kit specifically says “DMC Thread”, I discard the thread and source my own. Even if it does say “DMC Thread”, I check it against my DMC Color Card.

    I do primarily cross-stitch so I change out all kit Aida cloth for linen or even-weave cotton.

    Jacie Spence Coker

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  173. I just join the conversation and would like to add to the list of very nice designer kits the ones made by Talliaferro (crewel(http://www.talliaferro.com/) who are exquisite. They do not provide the fabric nor the threads but only the design and the instructions which are very explicit. Also, for the ones who can read French (or use google translate), there are the kits commercialised by Pascal Jaouen who is a very-well known embroidery designer in French britanny (embroidery using Ver à Soie silk threads – fabric and threads + instructions (in French…) included,
    http://boutique.pascaljaouen.com/mercerie/2-nos-kits). I recommend both 🙂

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  174. The reason I like to purchase the designer’s patterns online is because after so many years of handwork, beading and embroidery and purchased kits, I have a huge stack of materials which i do not wish to keep buying. Therefore, it is my preference in only acquiring the pattern on line.

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  175. I tried to copy Bucilla felt kits only because shipping costs for Greece almost doubles their price and because I am unemployed and have endless free time. I agree with the persons who mentioned that their work is unique when they make changes in embroider kits but I think that this is only for very experienced crafters.

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  176. I work full time and don’t often have the time to source supplies for a project. Not only that, when I see something that makes me drool, it’s usually due to the choices the designer made. I have also worked in a local fabric store making kits so have an appreciation for the time it takes to put them together. If I want to get creative, I plan a project myself and love the process. If I had to do that for every project I do, I’d get little done. So I say keep the kits coming and if anything, OFFER MORE! If I get a project where I’m not entirely happy with a color in person, I’m happy to switch with something in my stash. What I don’t like is when you pay a lot for a kit only to find substitutions from the original. Those should be clearly delineated so that the buyer can choose whether they want to take a chance on liking the substitute or try to find their own supplies. I’ve made a lot of kits and have been most pleased with the designer ones. I’m not going to waste my time anymore on inferior materials. My Mother taught us all to be frugal but that just doesn’t pay when it comes to the time you spend on embroidery. Keep those designers in business and get a kit every once in a while! 🙂

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  177. Could I recommend Roseworks embroidery kits? Threads are not included in pack and so I chose to try out Madeira threads.

    The instructions are very clear and well thought out and I can’t wait to send for another kit –
    possibly the ‘Serenade’. The one I’m working on
    at the moment is ‘Minuet’ which is an absolute
    delight.

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  178. I have been having some fun finding supplies, but let me tell you about a kit I have found. It is Russian, and of Orthodox Saints. They are ALL bead work and are very simple but relaxing to do. The image is printed onto canvas and the colours are coded to the supplied seed beads. The face and hands are the only areas not worked. I am working one of the BVM images. I am hopeful in receiving 2 more from RUSSIA soon (I hope!)

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    1. That sounds quite fabulous Melanie. How did you find them, and how can I? Can you provide a link or something please?

  179. A thought provoking article. Living in NZ we have linted access to a lot of supplies. Like others I have tried to find locally items required for a design in an overseas magazine. It is impossible, so the purchase of a ready-made designer kit is by far the best option for me. It saves so much in time and avoids the hellish frustration.

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  180. As with many situations, its the explanation of what is involved in the making up etc of kits which is interesting and worth knowing. I often wondered why designer kits are so expensive, and now I know a bit about the ‘why’ and can respect the fact that I need to save up if I want one and that I am receiving an investment of their passion as well as the items. It is really worth knowing things like this.

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