Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Bit of History

While we are working on improvements to our shop, we are also sorting through a lot of "stuff".  Cleaning out drawers and cabinets and nooks and crannies is a thankless job.  It's mostly in the storerooms and workrooms behind the scenes.  And it's not a scene we really want our customers to have to look at, because it's not a pretty picture!  But I did come across one picture that you might like to see----

Yes, that's our spot!  Bear Patch occupies part of "The Parenteau Building", one of the oldest buildings in our downtown.  In the picture above, you can see the same basic structure that exists now.  At that time, the door was clear over to the right of the picture, on the corner.  That was moved and replaced with windows.  If you look at the front of the building, you will see one little door between the front windows.  That's an entrance to the apartments upstairs.  Our current entrance was built just to the right of that little door in place of that large window.  To the left, by the telephone pole, is the Sewing Center entrance.  To the left of that is a building that now houses a karate studio.  

Here's another vintage photo of the building, thanks to White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.  It looks more like our current store front.

There have been a lot of businesses in these shops, and they are all interconnected.  If you walk across our shop floors, you will notice the creak and squeak of the original boards.  It's a real challenge to keep something that old in working order, so sometimes things don't work like they are supposed to, but we work around it.  We love our location in the middle of a community that feels like a small town.  We can walk just a block or 2 and find just about anything we need.  Several options for food and beverages, too!  I don't know the entire history of the building we are in, but I do know that some of the businesses that have occupied the space are:   variety store, men's clothing store, furniture store, livery stable, wedding accessories store, Native American gift shop and shoe repair shop.  And apartments upstairs, still in existence.  So we have quite a history!

One problem that we have always had with the store is temperature control.  The heating system was an ancient big boiler in the basement.  During the cold months, one of us had to go down to the basement at least once a day, sometimes twice depending on the weather, and manually open a valve to fill the water tank.  If the system ran out of water, we lost all heat, and it took hours to get it back up to steaming through the radiators.   When we lost heat, the residents of the apartments upstairs did, also.  That boiler replaced a year or 2 ago by a new and much smaller boiler system that fills itself!  Amazing!

During our all-to-brief summers, we do get some hot and humid days.  We would like to have our doors open most of the time, but then we have problems with creatures.  Besides the everyday wasps and bees, flies and gnats, I have seen (and helped remove) a squirrel and a bat!

We have had 3 wall unit air conditioners high up on one long wall of the store for a long time.  They worked and worked to keep us cool, but were often inadequate.  That makes for an uncomfortable experience for our customers wanting to spend some time shopping or taking a class.  And you might know how all of us ladies of a certain age do not enjoy any added heat to our environment!  Layering was mandatory if you worked at Bear Patch!

Well, we are looking forward to a whole new experience this summer, thanks to our business owners!  We now have 2 of these units installed, with a lot of messy labor to get all the necessary lines in place to make them work.  But the result is fabulous!  Even though it's not hot hot yet, they are maintaining lovely dry, cool, fresh air for us!  It's a miracle!

I don't know much about HVAC, but I do know that we would not have this if it weren't for the fact that Debbie and Bob's son, Andy, is a heating and cooling specialist and owns a company that keeps people comfortable -- AR Engh Heating and Air Conditioning in Cokato, MN.  It's good to have people!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's a Big Project!

It's the season of DIY in so many ways!  Whether at home, in the garden, or at your local quilt shop!  It's just as important to refresh, renew and rejuvenate for the store as well as at home.  I know how great it feels when we get to re-arrange and redecorate at home, even if it's not major.  So we are in the process of some of those changes around here, too!  Some of these are way behind the scenes, some of them are out in the open.  Here's some highlights (or lowlights, depending on the stage of the project!).

Sort of "before", this used to be the "tech room".
There were 3 workbenches for the Bernina repair department,
 along with all of the necessary tools and equipment and parts.
And this is "after" partway done.  That cabinet on the wall is actually a radiator cover,
 so it's kinda cozy to snuggle up to that in the winter!
This will become part storeroom, mailroom, office,
copy room and staff room.  All fit in like pieces of a quilt.

And this is where the repair/tech room has moved to.
It's shared with desk and file space for bookkeeping and
Bernina storage.  And a lot of this moving around was done while
 Beth (our own very special Bernina whisperer!) was away
for part of the winter, and luckily, she likes it!
A prime example of how it gets worse before it's better!
This used to be an office area, and it is going to become
part of the sales floor soon.  But right now, it's a major mess!
And Bob in action!  After he wraps up his real job during the day, he comes to
Bear Patch and toils away on all of these changes.
He is the King of Almost Everything when it comes to tearing down and fixing up.
If you haven't been here to meet Bob, he is Debbie's husband,
 and the go-to guy for sooo much for us!  

Debbie is our paint color picker outer, and she has really been
challenged with the situation on these walls.  
A lot of this was real rough unpainted bare wood, 
and the colors on the paint chip are nowhere near how it turned out on the wall. 
 So there has been much debate and sampling and additional coats 
applied to be deemed acceptable.  You know how we quilters get about color!

Another one of Bob's recent projects is a huge help with our quilts on display.
It is hard to find good ways to mount quilts on the wall.
Some of them can be heavy and bulky.  We've had various hanging systems in use,
but Bob has started mounting a new wooden hanger that he has devised
 and it is great!  There's a lip on the top of the board so we can clothespin
or use binder clips to get those quilts up there.
So much easier and better for the quilts, too.  Thanks, Bob!
That covers some of what's happening at Bear Patch, we are constantly evolving to make your experience better all the time.  I'll include some more pictures as things progress, but I just wanted to share this with you so you understand why some things are moved and shifted around and sometimes even hard for us to track down.  We appreciate your patience!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Favorite Things 2

Linda P. is in LOVE with her #53 Edgestitch foot for Bernina!

In fact, we sometimes call her "53" to distinguish her from
 Linda E.!

Linda works in the Bernina sewing center and teaches classes, too.  She is an excellent resource for just about anything, and if she doesn't know the answer, she knows ways to find it!

Here's what she has to say about the #53 foot:

Bernina Foot #53 is a unique and versatile foot for straight stitching and one of my favorites!  It is Teflon coated so the foot moves easily over leather, vinyl or other "sticky" materials as well as being invaluable for sewing wonderfully on all quilt and woven fabrics. 

The left "toe" is 1/4" wide and the right toe is 1/8" wide.  By using the right toe as a guide, any topstitching becomes precise and accurate.  This is my Go-To foot for the final topstitching when inserting a zipper.  The 1/8" wide toe is perfect for using as a guide next to the fold as the toe is skinny enabling stitching to be closer to any edge.

I love this foot so much that I actually have 2 of them as I would go into an absolute panic if I were to lose one and not have an extra one available!

Thank you, Linda, for your enthusiastic testimonial!  If you click on the link in the first line above, you will go to the Bernina website information and video about this foot.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Few of Our Favorite Things! Stripology Ruler

We have started a new feature for Bear Patch.  This is not a brand new idea to the world, but I have seen it used at Barnes & Noble and Total Wine, so why not at Bear Patch!?  It helps me pick a good book and a bottle of wine, so it could help you pick a new favorite thing, too!

We are highlighting some of our favorite products and an explanation of why this is such a game changer for us.  We get the ball rolling with Debbie:

Debbie is always on the lookout for a great new product for our customers, but she wants them to be as useful as possible.  This was a ruler that at first seemed like it wouldn't be essential.  But after using it for more than one project, she was sold!  Some of her reasons are:

Accuracy of cutting improves because you don't have to pick up and move the ruler for each cut.

There are handy little stars and squares on the ruler to bring your eye right to the inch or half-inch markings.

It's a heavier acrylic material so it's more stable than another brand of grid cutting ruler.  And like all Creative Grids rulers, it has little grippy spots on the back.

It's really perfect for cutting into your fat quarters, and then 
sub-cutting strips or strip sets.

It's the brainchild of a local designing talent, Gudrun Erla 
(GE Designs).  We like to support local entrepreneurs!

Directions are included in the ruler packaging, with additional video support on Creative Grids and Checker websites.

2 books ( Stripology and Stripology2) plus additional single patterns by GE Designs are perfect for learning to use this
 new ruler!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Summer Classes 2016

We have been working on a whole new batch of samples for summer classes!  Enjoy our slideshow!

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You can view all the details, dates, times, fees, etc., over on our website page for classes.  Click on any of the individual classes to open the complete information.  You can email a registration using the form in the dropdown menu for Classes.  Or you can call it in at 651-429-1039.  Or you can come to the store to write down your class choices while viewing the samples up close and personal.  Next Saturday, May 7, will be our official sign-up date starting at 8 AM.  Individuals in line at that time can take a number and will have first dibs on class spaces, followed by all the other registrations taken in the order they are received.  So even if you can't make it to the store on Saturday morning, you can still get your name on the list!