Friday, 30 January 2015

Completer Finisher Quilter! Motto for 2015

Blog Post by Liz Holpin, Director of The Cotton Patch

My motto for 2015 is "Completer Finisher". I would like to think I was one but the evidence is unfortunately stacked (in little fabric piles) against me.  Some of them are in big piles come to think of it but if I put those big piles in big boxes and close them, pushing them carefully under the large table in the sewing room I can forget them for....well years actually.

Does any of this resonate with anyone else.

2013 was an epic year for the beginning of a turn in the tide, a seed change if you will. Time is seldom on my side and I can't say that it was due to my kicking my heels, wondering what to do next. More likely it was the reminder every time I saw Pam Webb at The Cotton Patch.

Pam on the left and Diana on the right at the Malvern Quilt Show
Now, I don't see Pam very often - she works Saturdays but Pam has been at The Cotton Patch ever since she started working for us at the Malvern Quilt Show when Di Wells introduced us and that is a long time ago. Pam commutes up from Winchcombe to Birmingham on a Saturday and her knowledge of patchwork and enjoyment of meeting like-minded souls has been a winning combination for her and for us.

So, Pam had been on to me for around ten years about my Log Cabin Quilt - the quilt kept getting dragged out at Show and Tells throughout the 1990s quite honestly. I mean really I needed to get it finished. It was well into double-digits in age and I still hadn't finished the quilting let alone the binding. I did the centre using my old Bernina 1130. What great metal machines Bernina made. It's still going strong but it was beyond my abilities to wrestle with my quilt - most of the time it felt like a wild thing .....

A wild thing...large green moray in my feeding bucket at Stingray City - it felt just like this.

....and it was only through the use of regulated medicinal quantities of Australian unoaked Chardonnay that I was able to do the feathered wreath in the centre of the Double Quilt. The back was flannel and the wadding was wool so it was chunky to say the least. 

What I really wanted was relaxing quilting, not to have to fight it. So, that's when I decided to finish it on the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen and it all became nice plain sailing as I steered my quilt through the large arm doing feathers and stippling....

Central feather quilted on my Bernina 1130

Free-hand feathers in the dark sections of the Barn Raising Log Cabin

Lots more space on the Sweet Sixteen!

Stipling and Feathers

Completed and on our bed at last!
So, thank you Pam for not letting it go....I have the joy of seeing this lovely warming quilt every morning.

Next project to complete -  a William Morris Block of the Month Club quilt by Marti Michell circa 1998!  The great thing is it's practically an antique and I haven't pieced all the blocks yet. I just dug it out of that big box in my sewing room....updates will follow.

So, here's to all of us out there with our UFOs - let this be the year of finishing quilts!


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Friday, 16 January 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.

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Friday, 2 January 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....

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