Friday, January 16, 2015

Sew Steady Table - Making Sewing Easier

Blog Post by Liz Holpin, Director of The Cotton Patch

This post starts a bit like a fairy tale!  

Once upon a time....I was in Houston, Texas at Quilt Market, which is the buying show for shops like The Cotton Patch and which takes place the week before Quilt Festival. So I was walking around the show and I bumped into the very lovely Lynn Graves who was the quilter who designed the Big Foot and Little Foot machine feet - 

Big Foot
Lynn designed the Big Foot for free motion quilting - it's really easy to see where you're going and holds the quilt down as the needle goes down, smoothing out any puckers. It comes in four types (Low, High, Singer Slant and Viking) and if you're not sure which one fits your machine you can go to the Little Foot website and check your model - Usability Guide for Big and Little Foot 

Little Foot
The Little Foot is a quarter inch piecing foot with markers 1/4" before and after the needle position - great for pivoting and techniques like sewing on binding. It comes as Low Shank (fits most machines and fits Berninas with the addition of a Low Shank Adapter), snap on, Singer and Viking Fittings. 

She was demonstrating using a large perspex table on her Bernina 1130. I was amazed at how easy it was to quilt using the extended work area and how smooth it was plus you effectively had a two layer work area because you could keep your scissors and pin cushion, etc just under the clear table and still find it easily.

This is what the Sew Steady Table looks like - it has a cut-out specific to the type of machine you have so they are custom made to the free arm of the machine (with the tool tray removed if it has one). It has four legs at each corner with adjustable feet and an extra foot on a suction cup which you position near to the cut-out which is to give additional support. The tables also have a ruler at the front which is quite handy and saves locating a ruler when you just need to do a quick check on a measurement.

I was so impressed by the table that I asked Lynn where I could get one because I had the exact same machine as she did - a Bernina 1130! Well, Lynn said she would point us in the direction of the supplier but if I wanted to take this one home and try it out for myself I could buy hers right there and then!  So I did and the rest is history as they say - for the past 18 years we've been supplying these tables to quilters all over the country.

Since then manufacturers have realised how important it is to have a large working area and so more machines now come with these kind of clear perspex tables than back in the 1990s. But sometimes you need a bigger working area still and the Super size is 24" x 24"....

The Sew Steady Tables come in three sizes - we'll need you to enter the Manufacturer and Model Number when you place your order. We'll confirm by email that we can get it made (they are precision laser cut and the cut-outs are known for most but not all models - specific shops like John Lewis own brand for example can be a problem). We'll tell you when we expect it in stock. 

We ship these from the USA to order and they take about 6-8 weeks for delivery depending on when you order. Unfortunately we can't supply abroad.

We also have a number of tables in stock that fit specific machines that can be shipped straightaway - just follow this link and scroll down to see which models we have. You'll need your sewing machine Manufacturer and model number. 

The other benefit of the tables as Lynn pointed out is that it doubles as a light table - just get an Ottlite or Daylight light underneath and you have a ready made light table - very useful for applique.

So there we go.... I love my Sew Steady table and the quilt I have on my bed at the moment - a Barn Raising Log Cabin was all pieced on my Bernina using the Sew Steady Table. It is true, I've lived happily ever after.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Punk Chicken - or was it the Egg that came first?

Post by Liz Holpin, Director of The Cotton Patch and unexpected Chicken Farm Expert

Starting from the point of view that if you can't beat them, join them, it was with some trepidation that I enrolled on the "Radiance Challenge" through one of our Handi Quilter HQ18 Avante Customers - Annelize Littlefair. Over twenty of us were politely cajolled into doing the challenge using Robert Kaufmann Radiance fabric - a mix of silk and cotton in beautifully intense colours. Each person would have a different colour in an 18" square piece. The aim was to quilt it as a wholecloth quilt using a Handi Quilter Avante or Sweet Sixteen. 

The Sweet Sixteen has a 16" throat - just a bit easier than trying to do it on my little Singer white Featherweight (which just sits on a shelf to be honest because it looks so beautiful!)

Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen and Singer Featherweight!
The Challenge was based on Lisa Calle's challenge in the USA and Annelize got in contact with Lisa to say that she there would be a bunch of us in the UK entering the Radiance Challenge (this was the commitment stage). Then...Annelize suggested that the quilts be exhibited in the UK through Grosvenor Exhibitions and before we knew it it was a done deal (never ever commit to Annelize unless you really intend to do it is the moral of this tale).

Luckily we had had Debby Brown, a Handi Quilter Educator over from the USA in June as well as Kimmy Brunner and Jamie Wallen and for those of us lucky enough to attend those classes the skills we learnt were very useful to this challenge.

My first thought for a wholecloth was to do an Art Nouveau style. I love the trailing leaves and organic shapes and having done some research I did some sketches..

But I felt that the intense bright in your face pink fabric which I had for the challenge would not work and before I knew it my project had morphed (with the help of Joe Bennison in the Longarm Learning Curve Facebook group) from Pink "something" to "Pink Chicken" to "Punk Chicken". 

Chickens have become a big part of my life. I now know more about industrial chicken farming than I ever wanted to know and am Secretary of our local Action Group against having over a million chickens being produced on a greenfield site close to our house (smelly!!!). This is our webpage - No Chicken Farm website!  You see, I need quilting as therapy to stop me thinking about cluck clucks...

Back to the Challenge...I did a few internet searches - I already was going to stick safety pins all over it but the idea for boots and nose ring came from an image I found online which I made my own.

After I'd done a few sketches that I thought I could work with I knew I would have to play with it a bit on a test piece - especially as my aim was to use as many different kinds of threads and effects as I could  (within reason but I did go a bit mad).

So I transfered it onto tracing paper and found a couple of hand-dyed pieces of fabric that I had in my stash. I joined it horizontally so the blue piece I had looked like the sky and the other piece looked like fields. Then I just played!

I was quite happy with how that went and I learnt A LOT about the threads I was using so I pre-washed my Radiance fabric which was the scariest thing because I wasn't confident with the rather exotic mix of silk and cotton. It wasn't a problem though. I then ironed it onto a woven cotton stabiliser which is perfect for when you are working with more challenging or fine fabrics.  so a practice piece so I could test out my tension throughout using exactly the same bottom, wadding and top fabric as my actual piece.

I used the new baste function on the Sweet Sixteen which was brilliant - it just sews a stitch, pauses for 0.5 to 2.5 seconds or so (you set how long) and so you have time to move the fabric and baste your quilt. Genius.

 So now it was time do the same for the fabric for my pieceand attach the traced chicken.

I altered him a bit from the original - made him a bit more leggy and started sewing.

Tore away the tracing paper and revealed my outline. Just a question of filling it in then!


And here the little fellah is in all his glory in his final form!

Punk Chicken!

Doc Martens - he had to have Doc Martens

Annelize was as good as her word and so you can see this quilt (and much more elegant quilts!) throughout 2015-2016 at the Grosvenor Shows.

Here it is in print - "Radiance Challenge by the Longarm Learning Curve" with pictures of two of the quilts - one by Lynda Jackson our Handi Quilter Educator and the other by Vee Jenkins who has an HQ18 Avante. Longarm Learning Curve is the appropriate name for our Facebook Group which is for Handi Quilter customers where tips, techniques, encouragement and photos are shared and friendships are formed.

So, if you would like to see them, the first one I believe is at Malvern in the Autumn. 

 Oh, and I've put some bling on him since I took these photos as he just seemed a bit dull....

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oriental Blue Fabrics from Makower

Oriental Blue is the latest fabric range from Makower. It features hand painted designs inspired by traditional blue and white porcelain recreating in fabric a design classic. Blue and white or cream fabrics and almost universally popular. As well as the fabrics by the metre we also have an Oriental Blue fat quarter pack. Finally Makower have a quilt pattern designed by Lynne Goldsworthy for the fabric range. We have kitted the pattern  to give you a Quilt Kit includes all the fabrics required for the quilt top and binding (backing not included). The finished size 158 x 158cm (62" x 62").

Oriental Blue Fat Quarter Pack

Oriental Blue Quilt Kit

Oriental Blue fabrics from Makower

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Patchwork & Quilting Gifts & Special Offers

Just launched is our Christmas Gifts & Special Offers e-brochure. 40 pages of December special offers and gift ideas for Christmas. It's a roundup of our best deals, gift suggestions and patchwork ideas for the season. Below are just some of the items featured.
Special Offers & Gifts E-brochure
There are some great deal on fat quarter gift packs with over 20 packs reduced in price.

 Also included are details on some of pre cut quilt kits including the Happi Bunting Kits which are now on offer at 50% off.

Our Big Book Sale has been extended with another 20 titles added to our sale.

 Big Book Sale

 We are adding patchwork and quilting fabrics everyday and one of our latest fabric ranges is Paint. Designed by Carrie Bloomston for SUCH designs and produced by Windham Fabrics

Finally we have some great deals on Wonderfil Threads. We have multi packs of a range of Wonderfil Threads such as Invisavil, Dazzle and Decobob each with a free Super Satchel Thread Box worth £14.95. so you can start storing and organising your threads straightaway.

Wonderfil Thread Packs

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wonderfil Threads are Wonderful!

Blog Post by Liz Holpin, The Cotton Patch

Debby Brown, all round amazing quilting teacher and Handi Quilter Educator visited The Cotton Patch in the summer of 2014 and it really gave us the opportunity to play with Wonderfil Threads. 

Debby Brown at our Handi Quilter Retreat in June 2014

They work well on domestic and longarm machines. So here are some examples of Wonderfil Threads where I've used them recently.

"Bang Head Here" Workshop

This is Debby's Quilt - 

In this one-day workshop we picked a word or phrase that had meaning for each of us. These words would go onto our wholecloth quilt and we would then use thread and quilting designs to quilt that phrase. The world was our oyster!

The phrase I decided on was "Gone Sailing".  

I love sailing. This is also a great excuse for me to look at my holiday pics when it's raining outside!

Relaxing sailing in nice warm Turkey!

Anyway, back to reality....

First we drew our words onto tear away paper such as Golden Threads paper and then laid it over our wadding sandwich.

We stitched through the outline of the words and then tore it away. 
I recommend tearing it away as early as possible because otherwise you get left with itty bitty pieces of paper between the stitches. Depending on your stitch length and tension, if you pile up the stitches, it is Soooo much harder to remove the paper when there are dozens of stitches laid on top of the paper. Plus sometimes the stitches get pulled out and it doesn't look so good.

If you do leave small pieces between the stitches you may need these tweezers to remove the little bits - I find these easy to use even with weak thumbs.

We used three different colours of  50wt 3 ply Wonderfil Threads called Konfetti (solid colours) and Tutti (variegated) to embroider the words with filler.

In the bobbin for all the sewing in the workshop we used Decobob an 80wt cottonised polyester which works really really well with lots of different threads on the top. For a project like this where you're changing the thread on the top many times you can set your bobbin tension using the "drop test"  and then adjust the top tension each time you change your thread and check it stitches out OK on a spare piece of quilt sandwich before stitching it out on your work of art. 

Decobob comes in lots of colours either on a large spool or in packs of Prewound bobbins which fit either 15K or L (Domestic Machines) or Prewound for Class  M bobbins - you have to select the right one for your machine.  For example, for the Janome 1600PQC select the "L" bobbins. For the Elna 730, Janome Horizon 7700 and many other top loading machines select the 15K bobbin. The M bobbins are the big ones for industrial or longarm machines.

To sew with three threads on the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen we used the Big Bertha of needles - a size 20 Groz Beckert Needle. You would need to adjust to use a size of needle appropriate for your machine.

Finished quilts of "gone sailing"
Initially we used the top layer of fabric and one layer of wadding. When we'd finished doing the three threads section we added another layer of wadding and a backing. You can see later in the photos below that the words do not show on the back of the quilt. Because you're using three threads inevitably you get pokies (thread going through to the back) so to make it look nice and neat we cover it up. 

Shush!  No one else will know.  


Nice tip Debby.

Then we did some ruler work to get the straight lines and other shapes.  The Sweet 16 has a ruler foot as standard but with some machines such as the Janome 1600P you can also get Ruler Feet .  The ruler foot allows you to fit the ruler up to the edge of the foot and then by guiding the material and ruler simultaneously you can much harder to explain in words so here's a video!  Video for Free Motion Quilting using Rulers on a Domestic Machine.

The foot on the left (below) is the Ruler Foot which is what you need for this job - the one on the right is an open toe foot designed for using with Frames. It's called the Frame Foot Set. They come as a set of two so unless you have a frame you won't need the one on the right. (Unless you buy a Grace frame of course in which case it will be very useful!)

We sell the Janome Ruler Feet (Ref 10452) so if you have a Convertible Free Motion quilting foot such as this one below (Ref 10451) - you can change the bottom part of the foot for different purposes.
The Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot (Ref 10451) is sold with many new Janomes and Elnas but note that there are specific ones for High Shank, Low Shank, Memorycraft, etc so  you do need to check which one you need if your machine didn't come with one. You can then add the Ruler Foot to your machine and use the special 1/4" thick rulers that we supply to do straight lines, curves, etc.

Back to the quilt...

So once we had our structure we did free motion filler designs using 50 wt Tutti, 50 wt Konfetti and Mirage - all threads from Wonderfil.

For the sun I used the couching foot on the Sweet Sixteen and some bit of wool I had in the "to be used someday but have no idea when" box which seems to have  alot of such bits in it...a very useful box.  A bit like my husband's boxes of screws, washers, nails and widgets.

Upside down closeup of the sun rays

the back of "gone sailing" quilt.
So there we go - a roundup of my "gone sailing" quilt.

Now it serves as a reminder when I'm miles from the ocean of the wonderful times I've had sailing and windsurfing.

Happy times! OK I''m just showing off now - going over 25 knots!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Walkabout fabrics by Beth Studley

One of our latest fabric ranges is Walkabout and features fabrics by the very talented Beth Studley. Called Walkabout it features lines, dots and spots at a variety of scales. Beth provides an insight into her design process with the fabric range:“Walkabout is a play with some of the elements I love in aboriginal art. Imperfection and simple lines and dots are features within the designs. The fabrics blend the earthy tones of the outback with more vibrant colours to lift the collection. Apart from the main prints which are bold and great for use larger projects, I have designed much of the collection with calm, supporting prints in mind using greys, creams and black.”

As well as fabrics by the metre we also have two fat quarter packs, and on the Makower website you can find a download for the quilt featured below.

Walkabout fabrics by the metre

Walkabout Fat Quarter Packs