Updated: Feb 8
Why it’s good to have 150 spare needlecases…
I’ve been packaging my own hand embroidery kits for over 20 years and here are some things I’ve learned along the way: a kit is far more than the sum of its parts; full skeins are always more impressive than cut lengths (and are far cheaper in labour costs to pack); half decent product photography is worth its weight in gold; diagrams are an absolute pain to draw but are worth the investment of time; a house-style and/or brand is a good idea. Oh, and there is no such thing as a quick-to-pack kit, especially if it is going to be worth the cost to the customer.
The labour cost of packing a single kit is extremely high.
Getting a new kit is an event - or at least I think it should be! Opening it for the first time should feel a bit like opening a present from someone who always knows what to give you. There should be nice outer packaging (maybe a box or a pretty bag), with a lovely photo and some tempting words. A logo is always reassuring. The box or bag is opened, and - gasp! - beautiful threads, fabrics, beads, sparkling things and so on all lovingly displayed - perhaps a rustling of tissue paper and/or a scattering of filler material. Look! A needle-book with lots of different needles inside. And then there are The Instructions - a gorgeous little booklet with more photos, diagrams, step-by-step explanations and - gosh, how modern - QR codes on each page linking to various demonstration videos! I can’t wait to get started!
Let’s rewind at least 6 months, or more likely, a year. I have an idea for a class and start to doodle some design layouts on a scrap of paper, which gradually starts to look like something stitchable (and teachable). A stitch plan and colour scheme begins to grow, and eventually some actual stitching will take place. During all this time, I’m refining my ideas, searching out and test-driving threads and fabrics etc. Eventually I will know exactly what the design will be, as well as the lesson plan, the support materials required, and what will need to go into ‘The Kit’. Wholesale and small scale suppliers are contacted and a new sample is worked with far too many photographs taken for the eventual instructions and for marketing purposes. Nearly there? Not quite because regardless of how simple or complicated the project is, there will always be the need to package all of the above into a single parcel which can be shipped anywhere on the planet. Ideally before the online class starts.
I have learned the hard way that pre-packaging as much generic content of a kit as possible, far far in advance is the only way to avoid the process taking over my life for weeks at a time. In the early days, I would have cut lengths of coloured threads depending on how much was needed in the design - now I toss in a whole skein and move on to the next item. Not so long ago, I would have made up a project-specific needle book, but this too has become the latest time-saver - now all my kits get stacks of different needles, regardless of whether they’re needed or not! That way I can make up loads in advance - usually whilst enjoying a Miss Marple episode after dinner! And then there’s the packaging: yes, it’s pink! Yes it’s rustling tissue paper, organza bags with ribbon ties, and lots of crinkly pink paper stuffing in the gaps between the goodies. Oh yes, the instructions have pink in them as well (it’s my brand, I can’t help it). A few pretty stickers with my logo on it and hey presto! I have a kit that I am proud to put postage on and send out into the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually spend the majority of my time figuring out how to be a better teacher and a more adventurous designer, but the thought of a student opening up that box for the first time… Magic!
In my workbox...
One of the most important things in my kits are clear labels! Students may never have done a particular technique before, so how are they to know what the different things in the kit are, if I don’t label them clearly? This is particularly important with something like goldwork for example - it’s all sparkly and bling, but what’s the difference between bright check purl and wire check purl? And so I have labels. Some are quite large to go on the outside of the kit box, but mostly I use small round ones like these on Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/3RjwggP They’re about the size of a sewing machine bobbin, and they go on everything from, unsurprisingly, sewing machine bobbins, to small paper labels on organza bags as well as on to various other resealable, recyclable plastic bags holding everything from gold threads to beads. I have a template set up on my computer with all my various labels - another time-saver I’ve learned to employ over the years!
(I make a small commission if you click through to Amazon from my blog link.)