Purchase photos

Kustom stitches

3/17/2013

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

PHILLIPSBURG -- From T-shirts to sports bags to photo quilts, Kustom Kreations can personalize nearly anything.

The business started more than 10 years ago as a home embroidery business, owned by Dianne Conn and her husband, Mark, helping with the digitizing.

"We had done the embroidery part out of our house for three years before we moved to town," Dianne Conn said.

Their first embroidery machine wore out after more than a billion stitches, and they were faced with buying a new one to complete an order for 500 T-shirts.

Another home machine likely would have 1 billion stitches in three months -- and be worn out again.

A bank representative recommended the couple buy a commercial machine, made "to run eight hours a day, seven days a week," Conn said.

By that time, eight years ago, Mark Conn was busy with his job, and the commercial machine included professional digitizing.

"So I do all my own digitizing now on the embroidery machine. If somebody comes in and wants their brand on a sweatshirt, I scan it or draw it out in my computer, and then it converts it to an embroidery program."

Because she does items in school colors for students, Conn keeps thread in area schools' colors, such as Vegas gold and navy for Phillipsburg, on hand.

That means a lot of thread. Conn estimates she has 350 to 400 colors of isacord thread for her embroidery machine, but her thread isn't for sale.

"There's no place in town to buy it. I have to travel at least an hour to get thread," Conn said.

Embroidering a logo on a T-shirt for Phillips County dispatchers is a fairly routine project for Conn.

It starts with putting the computer design on a floppy disc that goes into the embroidery machine.

Meanwhile, Conn places the stabilizer behind the design and attaches the hooping frame. Once the hooping frame is inserted, she enters the corresponding spool colors for the design, and the machine display shows the order they will be used.

The machine can run from 450 to 1,000 stitches a minute, but it's usually best to run 1,000 stitches a minute -- unless the thread breaks a lot. Then Conn sets it to 750 to 800 stitches a minute.

"It's fun to see how each color adds to the design and brings the design out."

Conn also creates photo quilts.

Her nephew Jeff Dusin's Phillipsburg High School graduation present was a quilt -- a collage of family photos -- held together with Kansas State University purple.

Conn took over the family quilt making from her mother, who made them for her grandchildren when they graduated from high school.

"I was going to do just a friendship quilt (for Dusin), but his mom said he'd rather have a family quilt," Conn said.

She starts by scanning the photos into the computer and grouping them on a block.

Dusin's sister also got a quilt when she graduated, so some of the photos already were in Conn's computer.

Once they are entered in the computer, the photos are scanned onto heat transfer paper in a mirror image. The image comes out correctly when they are transferred to the quilt block.

Dusin's quilt truly is a family project with not only his senior photo, but his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles senior photos.

"Each of us Dusin children have a block," Conn said of her five siblings.

The siblings' grown children, Dusin's cousins, each have a quilt block with photos, too.

"His mom only had one brother, (so) the biggest share of (the quilt) is Dusins," Conn said.

Besides quilts for her own family, Conn made two quilts for the 125th anniversary of Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stuttgart. It featured photos of the German and English seals, church buildings and all of the ministers.

"We were doing a pictorial directory for church, that's where the pictures came from," Conn said.

The large quilt was given as a prize, and the smaller one is displayed at the church.