Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Omnigrid Rulers - Right First Time

Posted by Liz Holpin Director of The Cotton Patch

When I was learning patchwork I remember Louise Glover who taught our Cotton Patch classes in the 1990s always emphasising that we should "Measure Twice and Cut Once". 

Accurate Cutting + Accurate Piecing = Happy Quilters!
We really need to get it right first time - sometimes it's because we have a certain amount of fabric to play with and we know the shop doesn't have any more!  Pressure!!!

Not only that but accurate cutting is essential for accurate piecing and that makes EVERYTHING so much easier especially for quilts like these. Joy Edgington does excellent Introduction and Lap Quilt Classes that give you a firm foundation in how to cut accurately. You can see the schedule of Joy's Classes at Pastures New Quilting - they are held at the Cadet Training Centre in Shirley, Solihull, England.

So, here are some Rotary Cutting Tips and Techniques and Introduction to the Basic Rotary Cutting Rulers from Omnigrid. Thank you to Prym Consumer USA for the photos.

We've been stocking Omnigrid Rulers and Mats since we started The Cotton Patch in 1990. The reasons we really like this brand are as follows:

  • Consistent measurements from ruler to ruler - they are laser cut to within .002 inch accuracy
  • The grid lines show up on light and dark fabrics
  • They feature uniquely patented double site lines in yellow or green and black
  • Printing on their underside eliminates viewing distortion
  • They’re made of durable, premium quality acrylic
  • They feature smooth laser cut edges

Omnigrid rulers come in many different sizes and I’ll focus on some of the most popular ones and how they’re used.  
The first one that we recommend you get for Patchwork and Quilting is the 6” x 24” which is a basic all-purpose ruler, perfect for beginners. It’s great for cutting long strips, borders and bias pieces. 

First Cut - Straightening the raw edges
First Cut – straighten raw edges

  1. Fold fabric in half lengthwise.
  2. Place ruler on right-hand edge of fabric (use opposite side for left handers).
  3. Line up grid lines on the width of the ruler with fold in fabric.
  4. Rotary cut along edge of ruler, walking your fingers and thumb across ruler as you cut – apply firm pressure as you go.
Cutting Strips using the 6" x 24" Omnigrid Ruler
Cutting Strips

  1. Turn cutting mat so fabric is on right-hand side (opposite for left handers).
  2. Place ruler over cut edge of fabric at desired width. Make sure vertical lines of ruler are parallel to the cut edge of fabric.
  3. Horizontal lines of ruler should be parallel to fold of fabric.
  4. Cut fabric strip
Tip: if you find that you have a "V" shape where the fold is, you probably didn't have the line parallel (Point 3 above).

6" x 24" Rulers are available from Omnigrid in either the original yellow Omnigrid version or the Omnigrip version. The Omnigrip has a special surface on the underside which helps prevent slipping. It is useful if you are new to rotary cutting, especially when you are first learning the technique. Some people prefer the Omnigrid. It's your choice.

If the 6" x 24" Ruler is purchased with the Medium Omnimat (24" x 18") you can cut patchwork fabrics, which are normally double-folded, straight off the bolt; most patchwork fabrics are 42-44" wide.  The 24" x 18" mat is a great size for giving as a gift to a new quilter. Also, you can get some good starter set offers on Mat,Cutter, Ruler sets. 

The 6” x 12” ruler is a very handy size for classes. It’s ideal for cutting folded fat quarters into strips or making secondary cuts on strips. You can easily turn it for making quick short cuts.
Cutting Squares from Strips using the 6" x 12" Omnigrid Ruler

Cutting Half Square Triangles using the 45 Degree Angle on the 6" x 12" Omnigrid Ruler
Making a Pinwheel Block

  1. Cut strips of fabric in two colours.
  2. Layer strips together and subcut into squares the same width as strips.
  3. To cut half-square triangles, place 45° angle line of ruler along edge of square. Cut diagonally through centre of each.
  4. Sew one triangle of each colour together, on long sides, to create a square. Arrange squares so colours are alternating to create a pinwheel design and stitch together.

3" x 18"

The 3” x 18” ruler is portable, with extra length for versatility. Great for cutting sashing with ease! A useful ruler for taking to classes.
Cross-cutting with the Omnigrid 3" x 18" Ruler
Making a Four-Patch Block

  1. Cut two strips of fabric in two different colours.
  2. Stitch together on long edge, and press seams.
  3. Subcut strips into pieces same width as the original strip.
  4. Sew together two of the subcut pieces, rotating one piece 180° to form a four-patch square.
Using the 3" x 18" Ruler to cut Diamonds

Making Strip-Pieced Diamonds

  1. Cut two strips of fabric in two different colours.
  2. Stitch together on the long edge and press seams.
  3. Place 45° angle line on ruler along the edge of your fabric.
  4. Subcut strips into pieces same width as the original strip.
  5. Sew together two of the subcut pieces, rotating one piece 180° to form diamond.

The 4” x 14” ruler is quick and easy to manipulate. Cut folded fat quarters into strips.
Using the 4" x 14" on the Omngrid Foldaway

Making a Simple Seminole Design

  1. Cut four strips in four different fabrics.
  2. Stitch strips together on long edge, and press seams.
  3. Subcut strips into pieces same width as the original strip.
  4. Position strips to create a multi-colour diamond effect. Stitch together.

12 1/2" Square

The 12-1/2” square ruler squares up blocks 12-1/2” and smaller. It’s one of the most common block sizes and usually we recommend that this is the second ruler you buy.

 Squaring up Blocks - an essential quilt-making skill!
So, now we've gone through the basic Omnigrid rulers, let’s talk about some of the accessories for rulers such as InvisiGrip and the Double Patchwork Ruler Grip.
Invisigrip is a clear, non-slip material that you apply to your rulers to prevent slipping when rotary cutting. It is easy to apply and does not obscure the markings. When you want to apply pressure it prevents rulers from slipping but slides easily when no pressure is applied.

Double Patchwork Ruler Grip

If you find holding the ruler difficult for whatever reason you may find it makes things easier to have a large handle to hold onto. This is a great addition to your tools cupboard.
Its for smooth rulers like the Omnigrid and Omnigrip and attaches in seconds.
Instructions for using the Double Patchwork Ruler Grip:

1. Flip up both black levers to release suction cups. 
2. Place Ruler Grip against surface. 
3. Gently press down on Grip while flipping down both levers. 
4. Position ruler or template for cutting and press down on Grip to keep ruler in place. 
To remove Ruler Grip, flip up both levers and slide finger under suction cups to break the seal.
Well we hope that you found this useful - Happy Cutting! 

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Friday, 6 February 2015

25th Anniversary of The Cotton Patch - In The Beginning...

Posted by Liz Holpin, Director of The Cotton Patch

2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of The Cotton Patch! 

A Retropective and Bit of History
It all began twenty-five years ago when Jean Sewell had an idea. 

In the past few years we've seen quite a few people start craft businesses and that is absolutely brilliant and we love the fact that Etsy and the internet is making it so much easier for women to follow their dreams but twenty-five years ago and not having worked since Nik was born in the early 1960s, for Jean to start her own business was a pretty big deal.  
Classic 1960s shot - Nik and Jean

Luckily she was married to my Dad.

Geoff Sewell as Chairman of CPS Computer Group Plc

His experience in business has proved to be invaluable over the years. He worked for IBM in sales after being a Production Engineer in the Midlands car industry and then he started his own business in the 1970s buying and selling used IBM equipment - the kind of equipment that large banks, insurance companies, etc would use. 

He did that through to the early 1980s and then organised conferences and ran a computer leasing trade association in Europe.
Sewell Family 1980s

Meanwhile Nik, David (my other brother) and I had all started pursuing our own careers and left home.

Nik ran a boards game design through his own company Three Wishes. David studied archaeology predominently Eastern Mediterranean at sites in Cyprus while getting various Masters degrees and ultimately a PhD. I was working for IBM in between bouts of travelling whenever I could!  

Jean started to think about what she could do and had the idea of starting a shop. She was already into Patchwork and Quilting through a group at the Manor House in Solihull where she also did embroidery. The 1980s saw a large number of fabric shops closing and cotton fabrics were not easy to source. Jumble sales where cotton fabrics could be picked up by patchworkers were a good source but Jean had the idea of starting a shop to supply the kind of fabrics, tools and accessories that were designed for patchworkers but there weren't many in the UK at the time and certainly not in Birmingham or Solihull. 

Jean phoned up Geoff one day while he was at work and said she'd had an idea - he wisely let her continue....she said "Do you think I'm too old to start a Patchwork and Quilting shop?" Her idea was to convert a property he'd bought in Hall Green, Birmingham. This was a man who had been to more jumble sales in the past couple of years looking for cotton fabric than most people want to see in several lifetimes but I'm sure this wasn't the reason he said Yes. He knew that it was her dream...and he would support her in her dreams, as she had supported him with his over the years. Or maybe that's just me being hopelessly sentimental!

This was going to be a big project and he knew nothing about retail but...he did know about buying and selling and had sold computer equipment all over the world, so it couldn't be that much different - an entrepeneur in one industry moving into retail.  he had no idea how big it would become.

Front of 1285 Stratford Road
Six months later they had fitted out the shop, started to buy the stock at various shows in the UK and had sourced some in the USA from companies like RJR and P&B.  The shop had a flat above it with tenants so it was just 1285 Stratford Road with the groundfloor only. At the time I was about to re-start a new job at IBM in Leeds so I had a few week in March 1990 when I helped with getting stock onto the PC computer system and we bought the till. That was an exciting moment - playing shop for real!

The month the shop opened Nik and Linda, his wife, had their first child Elorna - Geoff and Jean's first grandchild - it was going to be a busy year!

The baby is born - The Cotton Patch and Ellie in 1990!

Books were a big part of the business in the early days - they accounted for about a third of the sales at that time. The good old days - pre-Amazon!

The book section
Classes took place at the rear of the shop on the table when it was cleared of its Fat Quarters and classes of 8 people would gather in the evenings to learn patchwork.

Jean with a large box of polyester wadding
Rear of 1285 with Fat Quarters and fabrics

Looking through from the front of the shop to the rear. The counter was on the left.
A kaleidoscope of colour!

Jean worked on her own in the shop and it wasn't easy - the classes generated footfall but before the internet, it took a while before you became known.  

Going to shows was important and Geoff soon realised that mailorder was going to be the way to generate more business.

Jean at one of the early Patchwork shows - so many cushion panels!

1285 Stratford Road with Eureka Builders next door!

Nik with his degree in Graphic Art and Design was essential at this point - he took time out from designing boards games to work on a catalogue and.....

To be our next blog post.  Stay tuned!

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