Saturday, September 28, 2019

When 2916 became 235

I have alluded to this story before - how from the outside, the dye lots of threads seem to wander or change over time and what is behind it.  So after over a year of work, color 2916 is now 235.  What does that mean?

Back of a 17th century stumpwork picture and one 'draft' of a color palette
Go back to around 2011.  I am working again on the color palette for the original course, Cabinet of Curiosities.  This is the work that will define all thread making going forward, a set of around 40 colors that will replicate the color families on the back of 17th century stumpwork.  By this time I have 'inventoried' the colors from the works, counted about how many shades in a color family were used and looked at motifs and thought about what would be the minimum number of shades in a family to effectively embroider these motifs.  That was then combined with our knowledge of natural dyes and many samples of wools or other threads dyed in natural dyes and compared to the back of the embroideries.

Pre-2014 Au Ver a Soie color card.  Everything is in order
by number.  1033 looks a little out of order there!
So out came the color card for Au Ver a Soie.  What no one understands is that color cards are a snapshot in time.  They are really hard and expensive to make with little pieces of cardboard wrapped with a few inches of every color in existence.  But there are several colors introduced every year, custom dyed for companies like Hermes for their needs and the excess of the order are added to the line to sell it out.  They will be one-time colors.  Sometimes they are on the color cards - only if they were in existence when the card with made.  Some colors are gone.  When you got the color card stock of them existed but doesn't any more and they will not be remade.  Why?  Well, perhaps it was not a 'barn burner'.  Meaning that it was made 15 years ago and it took that long for that color to sell through one manufacturing run.  Not a profitable thing.

So if any of you have seen the old Au Ver a Soie color card, you will know that the colors are in numerical order.  Sometimes that corresponds to a color family.  Sometimes it doesn't.  The color numbers have been assigned over 200 years.  So yes, there are some things that just don't make sense as they have been assigned by so many people who had different reasons for choosing that number.  So putting color families together is a bit of a challenge.  You might find three in a row that look well shaded but you want a darker version and it doesn't have one or you know that in natural dying the undercast color shifts towards something as it gets darker or lighter and the color family in these synthetic dyes don't capture that nuance.

So I started grabbing things from other parts of the color card and in the other silk thread families.  The colors used for soie perlee, soie d'alger, soie paris, etc. are different.  There are a handful of colors that are used in each (the heavy sellers) but in some, such as soie paris, the colors are defined by the distributors or companies that special order that thread.  You are getting it not because it was defined as a thread for the hobby hand embroidery market but as it was a need for finishing scarves or making buttonholes and the colors have built up over time to be a product line based on their custom orders.

As an aside, Soie Paris was a thread developed because Access Commodities asked for it.  Lamora knew that a need in the American market was a stranded filament silk thread which was the same weight as the soie d' alger series.  Once Au Ver a Soie agreed to make it, she picked the colors that the largest buyer of silk threads at that time used in their sampler designs - Shepard's Bush.  So a group of about 10 thread colors they used were dyed in this new Soie Paris thread.  That was the entire line.  As designers tried it, Access would order new colors to be dyed to fulfill credible requests.  And slowly the line grew.  Each time the cones were emptied, a decision had to be made.  If Access request it to be dyed, they have to buy the entire batch.  If Au Ver a Soie sends a dye pot list for February that they are dying in X, if the thread type is compatible, you can throw in a kilogram of your thread type to be dyed and only have to buy that smaller amount.  So colors can slowly grow that way or never happen again.  It's business.  Not some bible of colors that must exist.  
So I grabbed things like 2645, 945, and 2916, 2914, 2012, and 1011 to make a red family.  We dug into those colors on the shelf and sometimes found that there were cones which had a brighter or duller cast to them.  We had little spools marked 'old 2914' and 'current 2914' on them.   These were all slight differences in dying over a decade.  Some of those minor changes were due to changes in environmental laws about water use and discharge.  If you have ever seen any lecture on natural dying (I just did at the MET), the water use is enormous and dirty.  I was shown a lecture about how an entire village picked up and moved to another region because an earthquake shifted the ground water to a seam that released more iron into their water and thus their natural dyes didn't take the same way.  So they moved the village!

So I would embroider on the white, cream and neutral backgrounds that my students would work on.
Trying the red family out on fabric with multiple types of thread
One of the things I had learned over the years was that med-pink is a big wild-card in embroidery.  A pink that looks amazing on the spool and you swear will look wonderful on the fabric will take on the cast of the fabric and change its looks.  Almost always it shifts to barbie doll pink.  So undertones of brown in a pink will make it look more madder in look when it is stitched on our neutral sampler backgrounds.  So I was extra careful with the pinks.  That is why 2914 became 741.  Lamora and I determined that we needed to use the 'old 2914' in the color family and not the new 2914.  So the first packages contained the last of those identified 'old 2914' cones on the shelf while we commissioned a dye bath of it - with strict instructions to match the old 2914 and not the new one.  So of course, it needed a new number because we couldn't call it 'old 2914'.  It was assigned "741".  I have no idea why that is the number - don't ask me.  Now if you were to run around the warehouse for Access Commodities, you would sometimes find little sticky notes on cones that say 'Tricia's cone' or "Don't fulfill Tricia's orders with this'.  I have to just hug the lovely ladies who fill orders for all their care in identifying these little details on when we have a shift in color happening and which cones are 'approved COC' ones.  It does get a little exhausting for all of us to remember many of these things.

Ok - so I am set.  I have a color line and we are speeding along with it, sending soie ovale to others to get other threads made to match, etc.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Paris they have their own initiative underway regarding the silk colors.  The business has been shifting from custom runs for fashion companies and increasing for hand embroiderers.  Hand embroiderers love shading.  People making buttonholes on high end fashion don't need that.  So there was a move to reorient the color cards into shaded families so embroiderers, stores, designers, etc could more easily choose colors and in that process some 'fixing' would go on.  That means that the families might have a color jump in it. Two colors that were too close together so they were a bit indistinguishable or too big of a difference in between.  Those places were identified over many years before the new color card was to be launched and they were fixed by shifting the next dying to the right place in the gradation.  
The 'old' 2916 seen on the old AVS color card

OHHHHHHH - I hear many of you understanding why such and such color is not 'the same dye lot'.  You are starting to see why over a period of 20 years, no color is set in stone.  There are so many forces on them.  People like me, the way business goes, the length of time it takes to get the manufacturing run sold, how long it has been in that drawer at the store or on the shelf at the distributor, needs to shift colors to satisfy current businesses, etc.  

So 2211 was the next victim.  It had been a darker color and now became a lighter version of itself.  I happened upon this when I put the Goldwork course out again.  That was a 2007 course and yes, 2211 was now not what it once was.  So I ended up with about a hundred tubes of something too light.  And I needed to follow up replacing it with 2212.  So I had a batch dyed... 

And then came 2916.  The original 2916 was a lovely bright pink that came after 945 in the series.  But the new color card had it shifted to be almost 945 in its own family that needed a darker version to make the family
The new 2916 in its color family on the new AVS color cards
The new color card organizes of the families instead of in
numerical order.  So much easier to figure out what
threads you want to get for shading.
correct.  See the old color card and the new color card here.  
 So now they were almost indistinguishable and there was a big leap between 2916 and the 741 color.  (You may ask, why didn't I use the 2915 that was already in the 2910 family?  Well look hard at it in the picture of all the threads on the pink silk above.  You will see a skein of 2915 laying near the top on the right.  It's undertones are blue.  Not a natural madder/cochineal look.  These undertones are something that we really pay attention to.)

So when Lamora and I traveled to Paris last October, this was one of the things on our list to get fixed.  I needed a 2916 that was like the old one.

This is when I got to see 'the drawers'.  I had brought my new stitch samples and a tube of what I wanted it to be.  Mark pulled out the historic 2916 color family drawer.  That is a drawer of the last 200 years of samples from dye batches that happened.  Wow.

It was exciting to see and to figure out which one was exactly what I wanted.

Some of the 2916 family of threads the master samples
Working on the new 2916 color - see my stitch sample at the bottom with the old and new 2916 stitched into it like a cross
So we finally decided upon the change and the spool was set aside and the decision was made that the 2916 in the new color card would stay and the new 'Tricia's 2916' would be dyed in all the threads again and given a new number :  235

So now you know.  There is quite a lot of hand wringing behind every color.  On that piece of linen in the picture above is another issue - 703 and 710 are too close together.  There is a brown issue we are working on.  2125 and 2126 have need of attention.  It goes on.  All about making and keeping a big color palette that can be used to do 17th century embroidery.  

Now knowing all of this background, you might realize that before this Cabinet of Curiosities effort, there was no way to switch between threads like Soie Paris to Soie Gobelin in the same colors.  You couldn't all of a sudden decide to pick out a figure and use Soie Perlee instead of Soie Ovale.  It wasn't built into the Au Ver a Soie line because that isn't how the line has developed.  Lamora and I sometimes sit back and marvel about the achievement of having a full color line that has portability across soie trame, soie paris, soie perlee, soie gobelin, soie ovale, 100/3, silk gimp, three silk purl sizes, silk scallop, crinkle silk, silk soutache, silk lacet, Soie de Tresse 1/6, and so on (Have I forgotten one?).  

That is an achievement in itself outside of the caskets.  It makes creative embroidery more fun.  

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Why is the Answer No?

You likely got to this blog post because you clicked the link next to the 'please don't ask me to sell parts of this kit to you'.  Of course I woke up to yet another one of those emails today asking me to sell only part of the Harmony with Nature course and so I have written this blog.  If you are new to my courses, there are very well thought out reasons why the Harmony with Nature class or any other class on my website are packaged as they are and pieces/parts of the experience are not sold separately and will not be sold separately any more.  It is not a lark on my part or an interest in gouging anyone.  It is a part of the natural wrap up of a massive effort to bring embroidered cabinets back for a short time period.

If you are new to Thistle Threads, you will not have the storyline and thus not understand why things can't be broken up and may be tempted to ask.  Don't.  Please don't.  

Let me tell you the story - it is too long for a blog and even the brief outline of the story is too long...

I am a materials engineer and an embroidery historian.  Through my work in product engineering for decades I have had the opportunity to visit many production facilities and deal with getting products to market.  I know this aspect of business well.  So for me engineering of a new heated jacket and remote control in China is exactly the same as getting new threads to market.  It's all technical specs, prototyping, quality control, supply chain, packaging, etc.  So when I was working in my off time on a set of embroidery projects for teaching that required threads I couldn't find in stores and started visiting the suppliers of linens, threads, gold threads, silk, needles, etc for our embroidery hobby - I freaked out.  I could look at a business and see it through the lens of a production engineer and I knew exactly what I was seeing.

I was seeing an industry that had been contracting for 100 years.  Businesses were getting smaller and smaller every decade and less of them.  The owners would often boast of how they now had 'all the equipment', meaning that everyone else had gone out of business and they bought all the machines as they did.  So they had everything.  The world's supply of that type of machine.  Sometimes they had the archives of all the businesses for the last 200 years - the samples of everything that had been made and some notes on the making.  Where would it go if they closed???

Concerns that used to make gold threads had shrunk to the point where we were down to two experts in the world who could remember 'the old days' and how to make most of the threads from the 18th-19th century.  These were the only people on earth left would could possibly have the knowledge to figure out how to make the threads I wanted - those from the 17th century.  And they were past US retirement age already.

I saw businesses where the equipment was 18th century with a computer added to the side in a Frankenstein hacked together way.  Or old Victorian iron and had their labels on them proudly proclaiming that they were made in 1850.  There were no dials, computers or anything to tell an operator what settings it was at.  I asked many questions.  I would find out that 'Herb' was the expert at that process because he knew where to put the brick on the lever to make the rollers the perfect distance to make that thread.  He knew which of the dozens of scratches on that lever was the right one.

For many of you visiting such places, you might wax romantically about how they 'do it the old way'.  But as a production engineer - I had a complete emotional meltdown.  I mean it changed my life.  A complete meltdown.   I often cried when I left.  The list of what I 'saw' was:

- The companies were too small to weather ups and downs of production volume.  Too few orders or too many and they would be stressed to the point of breaking.
- Everyone working was over 55
- Everything was based on artisan knowledge
- No parameters for a piece of equipment were written down for a product
-The knowledge wasn't being passed down to anyone else
-The equipment had no process controls that would allow you to go back to exact conditions time after time (think your oven temperature controls)
-There were no replacement parts for production equipment
- Apprenticing would mean years of working with someone who didn't have years left

 and I could go on and on...

I was standing there in my mid-30s wanting to embroider the most difficult and interesting historic embroideries for another 45 years and I was seeing in front of me that there might be at best 10 years of most of the knowledge left before it was gone forever.  I was witnessing extinction of rare species.  I spent some time getting to know everyone and discussing this with a few others in the business who were long-term knowledgeable to see if that was the estimation they had as well.  Everyone felt the same - we were at the brink of never being able to make current things or remake things I wanted to embroider with.

The most common thing people say upon this realization is 'Someone should do something'.  I knew that there was no 'someone' out there.  If I wanted threads for myself, and to achieve my lifetime goal of making an embroidered casket, I would have to be that 'someone'.   All my life I have done a little exercise every 5 years.  I write everything I can think of that I want to do on little post its and then organize them into goals.  It makes decisions easier.  Making a casket was a big one.  I had also just recovered from an arm injury that almost took the use of my right hand away.  My stitching hand.  So unlike most people, I was acutely aware at a young age that everything I stitched could be my last and I had to get rid of 'cute projects' and do the stuff that I really cared about.  A stitching bucket list.

So I put together a huge 15 year plan.  I was already maybe 5 or more years into the research and looking for my own cabinet maker willing to make me just one cabinet.  I had been talking to many well known historic furniture makers and was compiling a list of issues I had to solve so they could even consider the project.  I had by that time realized that to get the ONE casket I wanted the way I wanted it - I would have to teach it as a project as that was the only way to get the locks.  The locks to make the boxes so they could have secret drawers required locks that don't exist today.   I had to make almost 1000 boxes to get locks made.  That was a HUGE thing.  I mean HUGE.  Now I would have to add thread making to the list as I had just found out I couldn't just 'order it'.

I should have given up at that point.  Really.  But I didn't.  That means I am crazy.  Who would do that?

I often think of one of my favorite scenes from National Treasure where they are talking about the protection of the Declaraion of Independence and how they would need to steal it to protect it:

Ben:  We don't need someone crazy.  But one step short of crazy, what do you get?
Riley:  Obsessed.
Ben:  Passionate.

Yes, so I am crazy, obsessed, passionate.  I would bite off putting together a supply chain to allow 1000 caskets to be made again with all the bells and whistles, bottles and inkwells, hundreds of amazing threads that didn't exist on the market.  I would put all the profits for 10 years into it to make it happen.  I would document the thread companies, the processes, reinvent the supply chain, and it goes on and on.

All so I could have one myself.

I could list out the 15 year plan but it took me about 900 pages of pictures and text in the course Cabinet of Curiosities to explain the process to figure out how the cabinets were made, figure out the hardware and locks, redesign them, remake them, how were the embroideries applied, make the papers again, design the glue...

And test.  That means prototype so you can have a successful project.  What happens when the complicated expensive box gets thrown around the FedEx facility?  Design packaging boxes with a packaging company and ship several test $3000 boxes around the country and back.  What happens to the box when a student lives in Florida in super high humidity or the New Mexico desert?  Yes, we made caskets take a bath and take an oven bake.  Extreme testing resulted in changes.

The glue, the locks, the tapes, the papers... Now start on the threads.  Video the makers making the threads to preserve the process as best as I can.  Make small machines based on their machines in my home and prototype threads so I can explain what I want - the companies are too small to take time to research themselves.  They can't be making threads to make money for their salary that way.  Fly to Europe over and over.  Solve supply chain issues for the companies - find them the supply of colored silks they need - smooth over business relationships.

Find the experts and convince them to join my journey of madness into the rabbit hole.  When working as an engineer I got a backhanded compliment once from a vice-president of the company.  He was shaking his head and said that I could sweet talk anyone to jump off a cliff with me.  Well, if the gain was enough and the vision is big enough... yes, someone will want to come along for the adventure.

Experts aren't usually 20 years old.  They are usually 50+ years old.  They have a lifetime of learning and experience and study to give you.  And unfortunately today, the market for many of the things I need have gotten smaller and smaller so there aren't budding experts behind them.  When you add to that how the hand skills of the younger generations haven't developed - there really isn't anybody to fill in once the expert retires.

So I went and found my experts and they were in the last phase of their careers by definition.  That is of course why they were interested in my adventure.  It interested them and they wanted to be part of something else.  They believed in it - so they agreed to put a significant amount of their time and expertise to support the project.  We gave it a time frame that coincided with their needs to retire or go on to some last opus project of their own before they retired.  And what I was asking was a really, really big ask.  Imagine someone who only makes individual custom art furniture agreeing to make 900 boxes over 10 years that are exactly the same and don't even have beautify grain of wood on them.  That is like telling you that you can't embroider with thread and yet you have to make 1000 of the same sampler.  But they all believed in the project.

So we are at the end of that time.  The end of the Cabinet of Curiosities.  I can't guarantee that the materials, threads, finishing materials, etc will be there in a few years or even next year so I can't any longer sell patterns, boxes or materials separately.  I know that the boxes have to have their finishing materials to work properly.  I have gone out on risk and had over a half a million dollars of stuff made so the last of the boxes can be done as projects.  Why would I take out a part?   I can't replace it.

So please don't ask me to take a piece out of the kit.  It actually hurts me to get those emails, they are painful.  I am sorry that you didn't hear about the project when I started it and you could have gotten in on the easy ground floor.  I am sorry that it wasn't the right time in your life.  I am sorry that you didn't believe me when I said that this was for a limited time every time I gave an interview, wrote an article, gave a lecture, made a mailing, or placed an advertisement.  I said over and over that it was a 10-year ride at best before everything started to collapse.

And that goes for threads too.  Yes, there are threads that you have seen someone have and no, they aren't available in that color anymore.  I get questions of 'when will you be getting that back in stock?'.   I don't know and I am starting to put up on my site if things are now permanently gone.  It isn't because I don't want them - it is because for some manufacturers we are actually working on a priorietized last list of what they make before they disappear - and they are already retired.  Some we ask what they want to make and they tell us what they don't want to make anymore - it is no longer the situation where everyone gets a purchase order and makes that.  If you are 75, you come home from a vacation with your wife and you call us and say that you have a few days to make threads - how about X in Y color.  And we say YES!!  We will take whatever you are willing to still make.  Someone will want it.  This summer I had one of my summer interns inventory vast amounts of my stash and remove threads from inventory - making me a list of the things I need to take off the market for my own use for the next 30 years.  I haven't taken enough I know, and I will be sorry too.

And since I did all this work to develop them, yes, I have first rights to sell them when they are made.  So you can decide I must be bluffing and go off and call a dozen shops... good luck.  I am sorry that the casket costs more than you want it to cost.  That is how much it costs.

So the invitation is to join the adventure and get on the rocket ship with the rest of us - the ride has been so amazing and it is hard to put it all in words.  It is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity.  But please don't email me and ask me for just part of the adventure.  I will have to wait for the next astronaut willing to go all the way to the moon.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Harmony with Nature Casket Course - Open for Registration

I have mentioned before that my cabinet maker is retiring from this project in a year.  During that time, we will have finished 250 short flat caskets and 65 double caskets that have not been purchased previously by the Cabinet of Curiosities students.  In addition, the entire 'infrastructure' for Cabinet of Curiosities - the caskets - is coming to an end.  Everyone was around 55-65 when I started this originally about 12 years ago.  And guess what - they have gotten older.  There are many things that have already been discontinued or the last runs have been made or planned.

Therefore I decided to use these last two sets of caskets to run two project courses which would come with everything in the project class so I would be ensured that everyone would have what they needed to make the casket successfully.  This also allows me to open it back up and allow people who have been watching on the sidelines into the fun and to make a casket.  I really hope as many as possible take me up on it as these will be the 'last chances'.

I opened the registration this week and already 25 students have signed up in 24 hours.  But I have also gotten the many predictable questions from stitchers who are new to the Thistle Threads universe  - they usually center around costs, shipping questions, fears about 'keeping up' or skills that might be needed.  I thought it would be helpful for those thinking about the course to hear from stitchers who have taken a casket course - to hear from their perspective on what it has meant to them as it is hard for me to express all the facets.  As one student told me - it's not just a project, its everything in my stitching life... as you read below - I couldn't have said it better.

If you love the look of 17th century embroidery and have the opportunity to create and own a replica, it's a no brainer. Why wouldn't you do it? I don't think it matters what your skill set is. No one who started out on these courses could possibly have had all the skills needed. Besides, some of them are quite surprising and in any case learning new skills and working things out for yourself adds more layers of understanding, appreciation and obsession. I was expecting the cost to be hideous, but when you consider the research that has gone into every element - the high quality, artisan-made materials, the distances they've travelled and the fact that you can name the person who made them, not to mention the skills of each person involved in the myriad processes - it represents realistic value for money. As for the time involved - I'd say just start, join in.  - Simona

 I had this conversation with a few people while my casket was on display.  It's amazing but cost, or but not confident in my skills or but can it really be worth the money.  I mentioned all the work that went into the caskets themselves but mostly I talked about the class experience and how much I learned from it.  What it really boils down to is that CoC is something entirely unique - a deep dive into this particular kind of object and the embroidery that went with it - and it is an opportunity that will not come again once it's done.  Too much went into this class, all the research, producing locks and hardware for the casket, the specially woven tape for the exterior, the specialty threads, etc etc.  The combination of knowledge, research, and production necessary to produce this was really a one time thing.  The stars aligned for us to have this great opportunity to learn and to make, and when it's gone, it's gone.  As for skills, when I started this class I hadn't done any needlelace, or goldwork, or really much of anything besides pottering around with some floss and a hoop and I am now coming up on a finished casket.  The class teaches you everything you need to know, and it's not like the originals were made by experts.  They were made by girls who were learning themselves.  - Katie

I would especially recommend this course to people who live in far flung areas around the world. It is a simply wonderful way not only to improve your skills, but to feel part of a community without any borders! The Ning site gives you the opportunity to communicate with people who all share a common interest. Sharing your successes and your questions with like minded people really gives you a sense of community. Even if you live in a large center, how often do you see people's eyes "glaze over" when you mention that you are passionate about embroidery, just prior to them asking you what are you "knitting" now
The lessons are a wonderful way to learn new skills, and to increase your own creativity. There is no pressure to produce an item in a specified time. Being able to work at your own pace takes away all the stress that can come from more formal tuition. And what can I say about the actual content of the courses except that everything has been so well researched. The instructions for all parts of embroidery, from framing up to new stitches are so clear that whatever your skill level is, you will just grow in confidence as you progress. And the kits themselves are superb. You will not find better quality and attention to detail anywhere else. - Leslie-Ann

If you’ve always admired historical caskets in museums and wanted to have one, this is your opportunity. The techniques and reproduction materials are as close to authentic as we’re going to get in modern times. This course is accessible to both novice and expert, whether you want to stitch it as designed or tweak it to make your own (I love the unicorn and would have to move him to the front). There are no deadlines or evaluations, you can work at your own pace and dive as deeply as you like into the historical research provided. Prior to taking this course, my only needlework experience was many years of cross stitch and a single gold work project. Now I’m closely examining 17th century works online and in museums, able to identify threads and stitch techniques and enjoying every moment of creating my own museum quality casket.  - Sheetal

Well - - - firstly, to deal with the cost.  Yes the classes are costly -  but the thoughtful way that this has been managed is to use the payment plans - which I've now been doing for years and I LOVE the idea!  It allows me to plan - and to see the progress of the payments in my monthly Paypal statements.  Payment plans for classes have allowed me to be a CoC member - and I think that this is the same for many of the community.
Also - when this CoC eras is done, it's over and it's not going to come back!  If anyone is thinking that they can wait for a couple of years until they retire and "have more time" - then frankly they will miss out.  Back once again to the lovely payment plans - - use the payment plan now - joing Ning for the community - and have Harmony sitting on your own kitchen table ready to go when the time becomes available!  - Wendy
I've admired the caskets in British museums for years.  So when I heard about the course, I immediately went on the website.  I nearly had a heart attack when I converted the cost the course and a double casket from US$ to Canadian $.  Then I took a break and thought about the annual embroidery or bobbin lace convention that I went to every year and calculated what I was paying for air fare, hotels, meals, registration and kits. After dividing that into the cost of the course, I knew how many years I'd have to skip the conventions and signed up. I'm now about 6 months away from completing my casket and I haven't regretted that decision for 1 minute.  - Margot
For me, the most amazing thing has been the sense of community, when I first joined COC 1 way back in the beginning, I thought why not, it may be interesting, but then I realized I was not alone.  In my local group of stitching friends we have 3 casketeers, 2 of whom are way more advanced on their projects than I; then the circle widened to people I met at Koala Conventions, with conversations along the lines “I know your are in COC, lovely to put a face to a name”; and finally out into the worldwide stitching community where I realized I knew far more about things than I had thought. It has all been so much FUN Tricia, thank you so much.  As to the cost.....I’m not adding it up, when I could afford I did, when I could not it waited.  But now I grab everything as I don’t want to miss out for 1 minute. – Mary-Anne 
In looking at this class, the cost needs to be broken down into comparisons to daily activities: 1) The full cost is less than in-state tuition for 6 credits at a state university. Six credits would be one or two classes for 3 months. This class is done over 2 years rather than just 3 months and the learning opportunity is far greater than one or two college classes. 2) The cost per month is less than $5 per day. An average beverage at most coffee shops is about that much. Could one give up a fancy cup of coffee daily for 2 years in exchange for a beautiful treasure and all the knowledge that is needed to produce it?  3) All of this class is done at home. Consider the costs of going to a class out of town - travel expenses, hotel costs, eating out at restaurants, as well as the cost of 12-15 hours of instruction from a very qualified teacher. The costs for that and this are quite similar but that project is much smaller, less intense, and the teacher is no longer available after you go home again. With this course, the instructor is available for two years, (occasionally with a small delay if she is traveling out of town, but even those delays are never that long :)).  In regards to skill level, caskets were stitched by young girls without the benefit of good lighting or quality tools, and to demonstrate what they learned when taught how to stitch. They were beginners. That should mean that anyone with the ability to thread a needle and follow instructions will be able to complete this project if they want to. It will take time and hours of study and stitching, but it can be accomplished. It is not an ornament that takes a few hours but instead 5 or more stitched pictures that are then mounted on a quality wooden product.  I was in the first CofC class. I didn't keep up due to a very busy work schedule. In retirement, I am going about it at a very slow rate, stitching other items as well and enjoying the time I now have to work on it. While I didn't have the experience of sharing with others while everyone was learning the same thing, I have enjoyed going through the materials now that I have time to concentrate on them. I never received a scolding about not keeping up, was never kicked out of class due to not having examples to share, and believe that the same would be true if someone were to take the class and not succeed in keeping up to a monthly schedule.  - Karen

I was also hesitant to take the original casket class because of the cost...until I changed my mindset about the nature of the class. This wasn't a "one-time" deal. It was the time equivalent of getting a Master's degree in 17th century needlework, at a fraction of the cost of a Master's degree. All the wonderful stitching materials, instructions and historical information were included in that cost. Unlike a true Master's degree, I could do the work at my own pace, with no tests, papers or other assignments. Plus, the "homework" was stitching! -Carol