Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sewing Tips for Ten!

There are some tips and information that I want to share with you regarding my new quilt pattern, Ten.  This is kind of an add-on bonus to the printed directions for Ten.  The Ten pattern is available for purchase at Bear Patch
Ten by Emmaline Design
Quilt MN 10th Anniversary
The blocks in Ten used quite a few of the "corner squares", AKA "snowball", or "cheater corners".  I re-named them because in my opinion, it's not cheating to build a better block and improve on techniques!
When I first learned quilting, in 1980, things were mostly done by hand.  So I learned that to make a piece that looks like this:

I would use a triangle template and a matching strip that was cut at a 45 degree angle on both ends.  Simply hand stitch on the seamline, and you've got it!

Then came the sewing machine revolution!  We discovered that our sewing machines could stitch together quilt block pieces in a fraction of the time of hand sewing!  We went through a period of adjustment and acceptance before this machine work was viewed as legitimate.  When I started attending my local quilting group, Ham Lake Piecemakers, the majority of the group did entirely handwork.  Or maybe they were learning to piece by machine, but always quilted by hand.  Thanks to a few friendly and open-minded members, they took me in anyway!  Now the tables have turned, and those who do hand piecing and hand quilting are few and far between.  I still dabble in the art of hand quilting a bit, but I love my machines!

So now, there is a method to make those little triangle pieces on the corners of a larger strip or square or rectangle by machine.  By stitching a diagonal line across a square shape and the larger shape beneath it, we can mostly eliminate any problems with stretch on that bias edge.  But, we need to practice accuracy or else we get sloppy results.

There are 3 methods I am going to cover for this technique.

1.  Place a strip of masking tape on the bed and tabletop of your machine, in line with the foot.  It only needs to be about 4" long.  Mark a straight line down the tape.  Put the needle down and center the marked line with the needle.  Make sure it isn't slightly angled one way or another.  Don't let the tape come in contact with the feed dogs.  That would really screw things up!  Feed one corner of the little square to the needle.  Keep the opposite corner of the square on that center line as you continue to feed it into the needle.  No need to backstitch because these will be sewn into another seam later and prevent the ends from loosening.
Drawback:  this doesn't work with large pieces because you can't get a line of tape extending forward far enough to accommodate something like an 8" or 10" square.  Depending on the type of tape used and how long it's left in place, you could get some gummy residue.
Advantage:  it's cheap!

2.  There are several products that can be purchased to use instead of the masking tape.  These all afix to the bed and tabletop of your machine in some way.  Probably my favorite is Clearly Perfect Angles.  It is a "cling-on" sheet of plastic that has the markings for the diagonal seams, plus more.  There are directions for using the additional markings in other piecing.  Plus, if you are sewing garments, there's a 5/8" line printed on the plastic to guide your fabric.  Here's a link to a short video demonstrating some of the features of this product.
Drawback:  purchase required, and you have to remember where you put it!
Advantage:  it is easy to put in place and has the option to be left in place indefinitely (so you don't have to remember where you put it!).

3.  Draw a pencil line on the wrong side of the little squares from corner to corner.  Use a ruler that's small enough to be convenient and just a little longer than that diagonal line needs to be.  It's best to use a sheet of very fine grit sandpaper on the table top.  You can even purchase sandpaper boards.  The grit holds the fabric still but isn't rough enough to make a bumpy surface.  If you have the fabric on a smooth surface and apply much pressure to the pencil, you can get a little "wave" of fabric just ahead of the pencil, and that inevitably turns out crooked.  Use a mechanical pencil to keep a sharp point and fine line.
Drawback:  takes longer to prepare
Advantage:  very little expense required (sandpaper and mechanical pencil).

Now, let's talk about a pressing matter:
You might have noted that quite a few of the newer patterns call for pressing your seams open instead of to one side.  If you have made garments, pressing seams open is the norm.  For a long time, we have had it drilled into our quilting brains that we always press seam allowances to the side, usually the darker of the 2 fabrics.  I'm not 100% sure of why that was the absolute correct way to do it, but I have a theory!  When seams were hand stitched with a running stitch, there could be little gaps visible if the seams were pressed open and then stretched.  By pressing to one side, anything visible through a tiny gap in stitches would just show as ordinary fabric.
Flash forward to today, with machines that sew a neat and tidy seam, and there are no gaps!  So if that was the reasoning behind the pressing question, it now is invalid.  And we can press any direction we want!  When I have some bulk in the seam at points where seamlines cross, it can look much neater to press open.  And I have a handy little helper for that!

The Strip Stick!  It's a fabric covered stick, flat on one side and slightly curved on the other, and available to purchase at Bear Patch.  When I lay the seam on the curved side of the stick, it is easier to get the tip of the iron started on the seam correctly between the 2 layers, and continue the length of the seam.  There are several lengths available, I use the 18" size for all of my needs.  I can press one section, then slide and reposition for the next area.

Give it a try--you might just be surprised at how you like it!  

I hope that this is some help to you not only for your Ten quilt,
but many other sewing and quilting uses.   If you are interested in purchasing the Clearly Perfect Angles and/or Strip Stick, please contact the store at 651-429-1039.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Quilt MN 2016!

Enjoy our gallery of quilts and displays celebrating the 10th birthday of Quilt MN!

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Learn All About It!

Hi there!  It has been busy, busy, busy at Bear Patch during our past 9 days of sale fun!  We heard from many of you that the extended days were greatly appreciated.  That allowed quite a few people the chance to come shopping even if they were tied up with work, vacation, family, etc.  That's good to know!  It also allowed happy quilters the opportunity to make repeated visits!  A great chance to do some advance planning, scout out the goods, and land a good deal on supplies for a project still in the envisioning stages!

Also, a huge THANK YOU to our employees, who really stepped up their game and came to work for extra hours over those days, and even in advance to get things ready!  It takes a great team to make it all come together.  Arriving early, staying late, crossing the line between Sew Center and Quilt Shop, fetching lunches, squeezing in a few hours after their "real job", and sharing cookies and laughs--these are a few of my favorite things!

Now, as we all take a deep breath today, I found some great entertainment for you!  Have you heard of Cotton + Steel?  If you have, and you like it, you are part of a growing cult of fans of this design company!  If you haven't, you really must take a look at their fabrics!  Look through their artistic images on their website, and treat yourself to the touch and feel of the real thing at the store!  These fabrics are also some of my favorite things!

I've picked up this Cotton + Steel video from their website, because it is one of the best short stories about fabric production that I have seen.  I know you will learn things about cotton and fabric that you never knew before!  For example, I learned about a machine used to check that the weft threads stay straight at a 90 degree angle to the warp threads as the fabric is produced!  The skewed angle that can happen when the yardage is rolled and rolled and rolled through the machinery is what makes us so frustrated with prints that don't line up on the grainline.  I always thought that problem was inevitable, due to the manufacturing process, but now I know that it is correctable with the right equipment and attention to detail.  So have a cup of coffee (that's what I'm doing!), sit back, and enjoy!  And thank you, Cotton + Steel!

Made in Japan: Our Manufacturing Process from Cotton + Steel on Vimeo.

Monday, July 11, 2016

19th Anniversary & Remodeling Sale!

Our annual Summer Sale has been super-sized!  

It has grown from 3 days to 9 WHOLE DAYS!  July 15 - 23!

25% off the following:
 all fabric on bolts, including already discounted sale fabric! 
(minimum 1/2 yard cut)
25% off in-stock patterns, including clearance
25% off in-stock books, including clearance 
25% off regular priced in-stock kits 
25% off wool on bolts

Please note that these items do not receive an additional 25% discount:
wool cuts already discounted for clearance
selected kits already discounted for clearance

This is going to be fun!  Don't miss out!

Regular store hours:  
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday  9 am - 9 pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday  9 am - 5 pm
Sunday 12 noon - 4 pm

PS - If you think this is good, wait to see what happens for 20 years!

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Rhubarb Rally!

It's getting on in the season for rhubarb, but my clump is still going strong!  It hasn't launched out any of those big seed head stalks, and I don't notice any change in the flavor, so I keep on cutting.

At a recent event at the store, Bear Patch Circle of Quilters, Jeanne shared her Rhubarb Muffins with everyone.  They were a big hit!  So here's her secret recipe:

Rhubarb Muffins from Jeanne T.

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar        Topping:  ½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. baking soda                         ½ cup nuts
½ tsp. salt                                       ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 cup diced rhubarb
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients.  In a small bowl mix egg, milk, oil and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients and mix only until blended.  Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with topping & press into batter.  Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Bear Patch Becomes Pumpkin Patch For A Day!

Yesterday we had a bumper crop of pumpkins here!  We had a full class of pumpkin creators and lots of laughs!  Here are some examples--

These are made from the Mini Pumpkins pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful and is made with the Mini Quick Curves Ruler.
As a special bonus, everyone in the class got instructions for the mini pineapple block.  The bottom part is made just like the pumpkins, and the leaves are a free download on their website. 

For an added bit of fun, our afternoon treat was Pineapple Poke Cake!
Even though I improvised on the recipe, it turned out tasty!
I baked a regular yellow cake mix according to directions.  Then I poked holes all over the top.
I had a can of crushed pineapple, and I ran that through the food processor to make kind of a slurry.  I poured that on the cake and let it soak in.  I smeared back and forth a bit to get more of the good stuff into the cake, and left a thin layer of pineapple on top.  Topped with whipped cream makes a perfect ending!