Tokens and Trifles Closing – End of an Era

November 15th, 2015 by tokensandtrifles

I am a bit sad today.  Many of you may or may not know that Tokens and Trifles is a business of mine – a joint venture with two friends: Justyna Teverovsky and Wendy White.  We started this company back in 2005 when the time was right for all of us to look into a big new project.  Today starts the beginning of the end.  Wendy, Justyna and I have decided to shut down the company and place all the remaining stock on deep discount.  Instead of just telling you to go to the site and grab some of the sewing cards for your stash, I thought you might be interested in how small companies in the needlework space come into being and then close.   A window into the brief lifespan of lovely materials – they are fleeting.  I know I say this over and over again and yet watch people tell me over and over – “I’m planning for that [insert course, box, thread, etc] when I finish [insert sampler, job, retire, etc].  I so want to take them by the shoulders and yell – “it won’t be here then!!”  I know only too well about the life and death of threads, linens, fabrics, etc.  I have watched so many companies die or products go away because the expertise or machines have gone.  50% of the kits I used to produce in Thistle Threads aren’t anymore because a component doesn’t exist anymore, not because they aren’t viable.  And other needlework businesses are not large enough to buy one when it decides to fold, so they just disapear.

The originals came in plain center and perforated center so an assortment of woman’s accomplishments could be worked on the cards. We loved this idea so the original Tokens and Trifles came with a ‘blank’ too.

Wendy and I had discovered sometime in 2004 that we each had a passion for the ‘original’ perforated paper.  Back when perforation machines were developed, about 1860, the idea to combine die cutting and embossed paper with embroidery was hatched as part of the ephemera explosion of the Victorian Era.  This perforated paper could be as small as 32 holes per inch and was rarely as course as 18 holes per inch.  It was made from thick, luxurious paper with a smooth finish – and decorative edges that made the unstitched pieces works of art before the embroidery.  They were the ‘quick projects’ of their time, often called trinkets.

She and I stumbled upon one in an antiques store with a group and I bought it.  Later she called me and admitted that she had a collection of them and what did I think of these little cards?  I told her that I loved them and had been musing over them in some books for years.  ”Why doesn’t anyone make these?” I said.  She discussed what she knew of how these may have been made and challenged me – ‘You are an engineer, aren’t you?’.  Within a year, Tokens and Trifles was born.  They say to never make a product that you don’t desperately want yourself .  We loved it and wanted it so much that we brought these decoratively edged, fine count cards back to life.

A delicate and still perfect original that was over 100 years old. I found it on a ski trip in Vermont and couldn’t wait to show it to Wendy


We were about to cut this pattern when the company doing out manufacturing failed to get their annual loan and closed. This was my personal favorite and I still mourn that we never even tested the finished design file!

Wendy and I scoured the antiques markets and built what is definitely the largest collection of these perforated paper wonders in the world.  We even have the printing plates that pre-printed the patterns on some – including the unstitched versions and stitched versions.  We were planning a book with the definitive history.

Justyna came aboard as she had just finished an entrepreneurship MBA, was an engineer like me and a stitcher.  Between us we had all the skills needed.  We learned tons about packaging, manufacturing, partnerships, design patents, and more.  It was looking great as the market really liked the little cards, they were featured in magazines, other designers were using them and they were in stores around the world.

An Ebay find that led me to visit the seller in Germany,she had so many treasures

Then 2008 happened.  You might remember back then capital was so tight as we all felt like we were going back into the Great Depression.  Banks stopped loaning to anyone.  The Great Recession was compounded and magnified by this false impression, banks refused to loan to businesses that were seasonal who used the capital to float the business until the Christmas season and then repay and take out their next loan.  There are many very successful small business categories where this is the mode of operation – stationary is one.  Calendars and greeting cards have 90% sold at Christmas time.  So those companies need to use small business loans to float their payroll and then payback and take the next.  It is how those businesses work and have been a great and stable loan group for small banks for  a century.  The system broke in 2008.  By January 2009, companies went back for their next loan and

An outstanding example of the flights of fancy available in the original ‘perforated paper period’.

were refused, profitable and long standing companies.  Massachusetts is full of them as this is the birthplace of greeting cards as well as where American perforated paper was made.

Wendy, Justyna and I had searched out a very special operation with some incredibly good equipment here in Massachusetts.  I had a background in laser holography and so knew what type of laser

There were patterns for cut and stacked perforated paper made in France

system we were looking for to manufacture our ideas (Tokens and Trifles).  The system was custom built and with it, we could make these cut edge, 20 count pieces with a satin finish.  Unfortunately, it was part of a greeting card company in the middle of Massachusetts.  Our hearts sunk in March of 2009 when after stretching themselves as far as they could to make payroll and were searching for a bank that would give them their annual loan, they had to take drastic steps.  By summer, the company was closed and the equipment had been divided up into a dozen lots for auction.  The lovely staff had let us know but we just couldn’t float the $75K for the system and then build a building with proper high voltage/ventilation, etc to save it for our company.   It was horrible, a viable family business that was profitable – killed by cash flow issues caused by the unwillingness of banks to loan for six months, so many 20-year employees out of work.  And now, we couldn’t make Tokens and Trifles anymore.

I went into high gear, we had already found all the US manufacturers who could do volume laser

This one is printed with the pattern over the squares

cutting and we went back and worked with several.  We also investigated overseas, but to great disappointment in quality.  We had tons of stock and could survive awhile, the market had significantly slowed due to the recession all around for needlework, until I solved the technical problems.  Unfortunately the systems that exist could not cut free edges and we just couldn’t get the hole quality with them back down to 20 count.  With the previous system, we could even cut down to 32 count but the needles that were used in the Victorian Era to stitch on them don’t exist anymore (another long story as I investigated that – a victim of World War I).  20 count was the finest we could go and still have a needle that worked.  Now, we were limited to 18-count and decided to launch a new low cost line called Trinkets.

We are incredibly proud of the product lines

and so, so sad to close.

We had hoped that this would save us for the long haul.  But we just couldn’t survive the loss of Tokens and Trifles combined with several other factors.  In the last decade we have all gotten a bit older – or more importantly – our families have.  The conditions that got us into Tokens and Trifles in the first place had now moved on their inevitable paths and responsibilities like taking care of parents in another city, getting kids into college and other issues were draining our time.  The Plimoth Jacket

had come up and we all felt it was a very important project and devoted time to it as well.  The time was right for the Cabinet of Curiosities.  Our E-Textile work exploded.  All things that made it hard for us to devote the time we needed to make the company come back from the blow in 2009.

We have known for several years that it was time to close – yet the love of the product line has kept us open.  So much so that it really doesn’t make sense anymore.  So today is the beginning of the last phase.  Our site will remain open for 1-year from today for people to access the free patterns, but operations and sales will be closed down soon.  So if you would like some of the sewing cards for yourself or as gifts, please visit the site soon.

Tricia, Jusytna and Wendy


Apologies and Explanations

April 13th, 2013 by Justyna

Hi everyone.

So some of you are wondering, I’m sure, what the heck happened to the blogging around here.  Well, what happened is that I took what I needed to keep blogging off of Tricia’s hands.  BUT, that meant I needed to do a bunch of computer stuff, much of which I didn’t know how to do.  So there’s a learning curve.  I’m working on it, but I’m going to need a little more time yet.  Check back in at the end of the month!

Butterflies in the Third Dimension

March 22nd, 2013 by Justyna

OK, time for a quick recap.  As most of you know, Tricia was the primary blogger around here up to December.  Those of you who follow Tricia’s blog over at Thistle Threads  know that the reason she’s not blogging here now is because she’s in the midst of a massive house move and renovation.  Which is why I still haven’t posted the winners of the “Happy Birthday” giveaway – Tricia drew the names, but she’s been too homeless to get them to me.  I think we’ll just give her a break…

In the meantime, I owe you all another dose of spring.  And I think this picture is just the ticket.  I have been a stitcher since I was a little girl, but for many many years everything I made was flat.  Then I discovered the stitching third dimension – things like stumpwork, sure, but also things like mounting stitching to a three-dimensional item.  It was Wendy who proposed what we call Buildable Shapes for our sewing cards, and what a great idea it was!  Shapes like Bon Bon, used here for the butterfly wings, and Confection and Basket were designed to be linked together to create 3D object.  They’re really a lot like Legos – once you start asking yourself, “What can I make with this?” all sorts of great ideas start popping out.

Bon Bon and Confection are available as Trinkets.  Basket is right now still available in the 20-count Tokens & Trifles package, but I hear we only have 60 of those left!

More Bon Bon critters to come…

Just a Quick Note…

March 15th, 2013 by Justyna

The winners of the “Happy Birthday” giveaway have been drawn, but I haven’t yet received the list of names.  But rest assured, we’re on it!


Think Spring, Think Spring…

March 14th, 2013 by Justyna

When I look out my window, I still see plenty of snow.  I live in New England, which means that I’ve gotten a lot of the white stuff in the past month.  Despite that, I know spring is coming.  The evidence – 1) the daily temperatures are high enough to really melt that snow, and I’m starting to see parts of the lawn that have been buried for months; 2) the arrival of Daylight Savings Time (still getting used to waking up earlier, ugh); and 3) I have been struck with the urge to wash windows, reorganize closets, and start some home improvement projects – I think we call that Spring Cleaning.

In honor of spring, I’m bringing out the “Bee & Butterflies” project, designed by Tricia, and featured in the April 2007 issue of Just Cross Stitch.  This project uses another of our versatile “buildable” shapes – the Bon Bon:

So, take a bunch of these and ta-da, look what you can make!  Yup, your very own butterfly and/or bee.

Stay tuned – I will be posting more images and some how-tos soon, including some critters that never made it into publication!  Also, we will be doing a giveaway of the magazine with this project in it – I’ll announce the details in a later post.

“Blue Tongue” Giveaway

March 6th, 2013 by Justyna

Giveaway time!  If you would like a copy of the April 2006 Just Cross Stitch that contains the “Happy Birthday” project (as featured in my March 1st blog entry) – send BLUE TONGUE in the subject line of an email to  Put your address in the email and we will pick out six winners to send a copy and a Trinkets sewing card.  Enter by March 13th at midnight EST.

Here’s another part of the project – a Britannia circle here playing the role of birthday card/gift tag.  I love seeing the many ways our sewing cards can be used.

Blue Tongues and Pom Poms

March 1st, 2013 by Justyna

Our products might have been inspired by history, but that doesn’t mean that they have to look old-fashioned.  One of Tricia’s projects, “Happy Birthday”, really shows off our contemporary side. This scrapbook project was published in the April 2006 edition of Just Cross Stitch.

I loved the picture that inspired this project from day 1 – just look at that blue tongue!  And I loved how the ever-versatile Confections triangle became a birthday hat here, complete with chenille pom poms.

Check back in here next week, as we’ll be doing some giveaways of the magazine with this project.  Details will be coming!








A Brief History of the Trinket

February 23rd, 2013 by Justyna

Back in September 2012, Tricia told the story of how our company was born in this blog.  When we officially opened for business, our product line consisted of three items: Petals, Ivy (oval), and Britannia.  Of course we knew we needed to broaden our offerings.  And one thing that’s true about Wendy and Tricia – they are idea factories.  The trick wasn’t coming up with potential sewing card designs, it was deciding which to ones to pick for production!

Now, we knew we were producing a bit of a luxury product.  The truth was that the process we were using to produce all those lovely fully finished edges wasn’t terribly fast, and this was definitely a case of time = money.  Added to that, a fully cut out card needed post-production handling (at this point, everyone should be realizing that I’m the MBA of our trio – sorry, can’t help it) which brought costs up even more.

We knew we wanted to create a version of our sewing cards that didn’t cost as much – something just about anyone would be willing to add to their pile of treasures at the local needlework shop.  That meant using a whole different process, a much faster process – and accepting its limitations.  The first limitation was the hole count – 18-count was as high as we could go.  The second limitation was that the product would have to be tabbed into a card, rather than fully cut out.

It took a while to figure it out – the exact production settings, the right number of tabs, the way to put the information on the product.  But by 2006 we had done it, and the first Trinkets™ cards debuted. 

We loved that the cards were standalone products – no extra packaging required.  My sister, who is also a stitcher, quickly realized that after she punched out the Trinket, she could use the card as a template for cutting out a backing material.  Brilliant!

Today, of course, we are in the process of transitioning our entire line to the Trinkets™ format.  Confection, Heart, BonBon, and all the Kugels are now available as Trinkets.  We were particularly happy to have Confection available – it had been sold out for quite some time, and it is one of the most versatile shapes.  What can you do with a triangle?  Plenty!

Experiments, Seconds, and “We Ordered What?”

February 21st, 2013 by Justyna

Spring cleaning came in the fall for us this year.  Since the original 20-count Tokens & Trifles™ cards were to be no more, it was time to do something with the boxes of cards that hadn’t ever made it into a retail package.

Going through the boxes was a trip down memory lane for the three of us.  There were the experiments – “remember this product concept?”, “oh, colors! that was fun”, and “too bad we couldn’t make these work for production.”  There were the seconds – the products that didn’t pass our rigorous quality control inspection for retail, but that are still fine for stitching on.

And then, there was my favorite – the “we ordered what???” product.  You see, when we designed a shape, we always created the artwork for both a perf and a blank.  But we didn’t always make a blank.  One shape that we sold as “perf only” was the Confection triangle.  One day, I got an email from Tricia entitled, if I recall correctly, “Oops.”  You guessed it – she had accidentally ordered Confection blanks instead of perfs, and didn’t realize it until the order arrived.  I fired her.  For 10 seconds.  Then I rehired her and we set them aside.  Now, years later, here they were, waiting for a chance to be used in beautiful projects everywhere.

All the experiments, seconds, and yes, the blank Confections are now available for purchase at fantastic prices.  Look for the Seconds Sampler, the Confections Blanks, and a special package of the 2005 Kugels B style – somehow we had more of those made than the A style, but let’s not talk about that…


This May Be Your Last Chance…

February 19th, 2013 by Justyna

We announced some time ago that our 20-count line of sewing cards, the original Tokens & Trifles™, is coming to an end.  The one-of-a-kind machine that produced our higher end, fully cut-out cards no longer exists.  Fortunately, we have Trinkets™ cards to save the day – and more about that in a future blog post.

But in the meantime, we have marked down our remaining stock of 20-count Tokens & Trifles™ packages to 35% off the original price!  We don’t have that many packages left, so this may well be your last chance to purchase the original products.  Don’t miss out!