A grade schooler once asked me, Is your last name “Notions?” Even my husband was once addressed as Mr. Notions—hmm, that didn’t go over very well! Notion is the term used by most North Americans to describe the general category of sewing and quilting tools and supplies. In 1979 when I started Nancy’s Notions, a direct mail company, the alliteration of Nancy and Notions was, if I do say so, catchy and appropriate.

If you’re wondering where I am going with this topic, I thought you might be interested in knowing how an idea turns into an actual notion. From idea to completion, the process can take upwards of two years. Case in point: The Stack ‘n Stitch Thread Tower.

Early 2009, my staff and I had the idea of designing a thread tower to complement the Stack ‘n Store Bobbin Tower that was launched in 2008. (The Bobbin Tower stores up to 30 bobbins in minimal space and is part of the Nancy Zieman line of Clover products.)

Stack 'n Store Thread Tower by Nancy Zieman

Yet our concept for a thread tower was more than just a storage unit. We thought it could also be a thread delivery system. In other words, thread spools could be stored and used or threaded into the machine from the same tower.

You’re going to laugh at this next photo; it’s our first prototype. Made of wood and looking like a poor version of Tinker Toys, we had this model fabricated and tested. Soon there were revisions—lots of revisions.

How an Idea Becomes a Notion by nancy zieman

After a few more wooden samples, we submitted the plan to Clover in the United States and then it was sent to their headquarters in Japan. Thankfully, Clover’s design team could transform our rough model into a modular unit that really works. (It always worked in my mind—it didn’t always work out well in the wooden version!)

How an Idea Becomes a Notion

After four or five additional prototypes, a product was manufactured. The Stack ‘n Stitch Thread Tower was launched at the Houston Quilt Market a little less than two years after the idea was born.

Stack and Store Thread Tower by Nancy Zieman

I keep the tower next to my machine. It is compact and handy, holding up to 30 spools at a time. As you can see, the threads guide from the tower right to my machine.

I even numbered each spool pin area with a Sharpie so that when embroidering, I can keep my threads in order.

We have a few more ideas in process. Some of them will come to completion, and others… Well, you get the idea.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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