Wednesday, February 11, 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! 

Friday, February 6, 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!

Friday, January 30, 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!


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....