When I started Mabel’s Fancies the plan was to sell only digital chart packs. No postage to calculate, nothing to pack up, no stock to store, people could print them out as often as they needed, and they were able to use whatever materials they liked. Then I found that my favourite titanium-coated squissors were getting unobtainable, so I set about obtaining them and they became part of Mabel’s range. Then, because of some classes and workshops I’d been teaching, an idea started to emerge about the need for small, inexpensive kits for beginners and people wanting to try out Hardanger to see if they liked it. And so the Needle book kits were added. Before I knew it some rather fun foam-covered notebooks and a trial order of colourful hand-made wool felt gift tags had led to two more kits, the Felt bookmark kit for beginners and the Notebook kit for slightly more advanced stitchers (whom we wouldn’t like to feel left out).
Kits, then, are obviously addictive, or I wouldn’t be considering adding yet another two to the range using the simplified coaster designs I’ve been playing around with (the picture below shows what they will probably look like), as well as the Shisha flower card I’ve been experimenting with for workshops. And as I was putting together a list of things that would have to be included I pondered what you might call the Generosity Principle of Kits. Grand name, I know – positively philosophical. But what I mean is that people who sell kits, however much they love stitchers and want to provide them with a wonderful experience, in the end have to make a profit. It’s not quite so pressing for people like me for whom it is not our main business, but even there the general idea is to cover costs and have a bit left over for our trouble. That margin basically depends on two things: the cost of putting the kit together, and the price that is charged for it. And that’s where the juggling starts.
If the price is too high, no-one will buy the kits. If it’s too low, it’ll barely cover the costs unless… unless you start cutting into the materials. Not literally, of course. That would just be silly. But when you are an experienced stitcher (and I assume that most people who put kits together are experienced stitchers themselves) it can be tempting to stitch a model and see how little you can get away with. I can stitch the little bookmark motif on a 4″ square bit of fabric held in a 3″ hoop. It’s a bit cramped, and I may have to stitch “in the well” (holding the hoop back to front, see below), but I can do it. Likewise, I can stitch the Kloster blocks and satin stitch in the coaster design using two lengths of perle #5. Just. If I stitch as economically as possible and use the bit left over from the central motif to help out with the last corner motif. So when putting the kits together it could be argued that a 4″ square of fabric is all that is needed for the bookmark kit, and that 2 lengths of perle #5 will do just fine for the coaster kit. And it would be wrong.
Few things are more frustrating than opening a kit and finding that the fabric is barely big enough for the design, let alone for putting it into a hoop comfortably; or reaching for another thread as your project is nearing completion only to find that there isn’t any thread left in the kit. I know many kit manufacturers will send you extra thread if you run out, but the point is that you shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of contacting them and waiting for the extra thread just because you don’t stitch quite so thriftily as their model stitchers (if you ran out because the dog ate half a skein that’s another matter, of course).
So as I make up the list of kit ingredients I try to determine what would be a comfortable size of fabric rather than an adequate one, and what amount of thread would leave room for differences in individual stitching styles, in the hope that the people who use the kits will find them pleasant and enjoyable rather than annoying and infuriating.
But I’m sure there are more issues than just fabric size and thread allowance. What do you find particularly irritating in kits? No photograph? Creased fabric? Confusing charts? I’d really like to hear from you so I will know what to avoid when putting kits together!