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Thursday, December 13, 2012


Here a just a few tips and things you may, or may not know when taking your finished top and backing to your favorite long-arm quilter.

When a long-arm quilter places your top, batting and backing onto their machine - they need the ability to set it on a frame, which means they need extra fabric to roll onto that frame so they can do the actual quilting onto your entire top. So...

What you need to know about your backing before taking it to a long-arm quilter:

1. Provide your long-arm quilter with enough yardage for the backing that not only fits your top, but has an extra 4-6" around it so that they can load it onto their machine properly and have the ability to quilt the entire top.
2. When putting together your backing, ideally you should run the backing lengthwise (horizontally even though that might entail more yardage). The reason is it provides additional stability.
3. It is truly very difficult for a long-arm quilter to center your backing perfectly. So unless your backing demands that it be center, it really shouldn't matter where the seam falls (if the backing is pieced).Here are a few tips to help prevent that from happening before you take it to your long-arm quilter:

Additionally with all the lovely and beautiful quilt designs long-arm quilters can do, well sometimes between the movement of their stitching and the design it can cause your top to become a bit stretched or off-center.  Especially if you have a lot of bias pieces in your top.  Here are a few tips to help prevent that from happening:

1.  When placing your border onto your quilt, unless the design demands it, make sure that you place the border on-grain.
2.  Especially if your border or overall quilt has a lot of bias pieces in it:
     a. First cut the selvages off your backing (assuming you've provided your long-arm quilter with that extra 4-6 inches for them to grab and work with). 
     b.  Take the selvages and stay stitch them around the edges of your top for extra stability.
3.  Simply stay stitch your top.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Overcoming the fear of using Specialty Threads

I've been back from Quilt Market for a week now and finally found the time to share some of things I've learned.  We'll begin with a great Schoolhouse session I attended regarding the use of specialty threads.  This Schoolhouse was put on by the Wonderfil folk.

The Wonderfil folk were trying to help allay the fears of many when using all the various types of specialty threads in sewing machines - metallic, 12 weight threads, monofilaments, polyester and so much more.  The fear, using a variety of specialty thread in your machines - well don't you have to play with the tension? 

What the Wonderfil people were trying to say is, "no."  They said you can use just about any thread in the top of your machine up to a 12 weight, i.e. 12 wt Perle Cotton.  And in the bobbin they recommended using an 80 weight thread, such as their Deco-Bob thread. 

There are 3 reasons you want to use as thin/light as thread in your bobbin versus the top if using different types of thread:
  1. You don't want to add 'thread' bulk.
  2. You don't want the bobbin thread to be seen.
  3. You don't have to play with your thread tension.
Truly. Wonderfil was trying to say that you do not (necessarily, there's no guarantee - all machines are different) have to fiddle with the tension of your bobbin, at all.  And when I returned back to the shop and told this to our Cotton Club team, well Carol - our Thread Master - said, yep, that's pretty much correct.  She doesn't have to play with her tension if she uses an 80 weight thread in her bobbin.

Now mind you, Wonderfil said they thought using a 100 weight thread is best, but they admitted that there would definitely be some thread tension adjusting that needs to happen.

We think that is just simply great news because the other thing that I noticed at market and here at the shop (and last Spring Quilt Market) is the trend to do more and more embellishing on our quilts.  Especially since we have so many great sewing machines that have all those embroidery stitches on them.

Do not be afraid.  Use the many wonderful (no pun intended) specialty threads out there to create an even more personalized and unique quilt by adding threadwork design of beauty.

Here are a few photo examples - the bottom two are done by Carol, our Thread Master, did; the top one, by the Wonderfil gang.

The first picture shown was done by someone at Wonderfil.  At the bottom of the wall hanging, the grass, she used a 12 weight perle cotton.  The remainder of the threadwork is a variety of thread weights and types from Wonderfil.

The next 2 are done by our very own Carol, The Thread Master.  Here she uses a variety of threads, metallic, polyester, etc.  Some of the threadwork, the thread was placed into the bobbin (more about how to do that another day).  Some of the other design elements, the threads were placed on the top of the machine.  All quilts, above and below, used an 80 weight thread in the bobbin.
One last thing I'd like to add.  You might ask - well if you use a thinner/lighter weight thread, well, will that hold up well in a well-used quilt.  Again, the Wonderfil people assured me that yes it would.  Typically a well-used quilt will show the stress in the seams, not, as a rule, in any embellishment.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My First Quilt

Do you remember the first quilt you ever made?  I certainly do.  And there's no question "beginner's luck" was with me all the way through.  I'm not exactly sure how long ago I made it but it's probably been at least 25 years.  And I still have and use this quilt today.

Honestly I don't know why or how I was inspired to make a quilt.  It could have been that one of my newest friends at the time was the first "quilter" I ever knew.  Or it could have been that the fabric I wanted to use really wasn't "dress" material.  I can't remember.

I only know why it eventually happened.  It was because I had bought some wonderful fabric from Liberty of London when I was in London in an overseas program during one of my college semesters. 

At that time I used to make my own clothes, but without realizing it then, I must've been a quilter in the making because I used to always go into cities, find a fabric shop and buy fabric, supposedly to make that next dress, pants, shirt or skirt.  But this fabric I purchased from Liberty of London - well once I brought it back to the states, as much as I loved the fabric, it just would not work for me as a dress or skirt.  Waaayyy too dowdy, no matter what dress design I selected.

So what was I to do with the fabric?  I soon realized it clearly had "quilt" written all over it.  So I bought a book to teach me how to quilt.  You know the book - one of those "how to" books that Sunset published. And so I began.  I cut my 6" squares, created a 4-patch block and stitched it all together.  Then I got the only batting available then - that very puffy polyester kind, and I used a sheet for the backing.  I then pinned it all together.

But before I began to quilt it, I realized I didn't want to do a binding.  I didn't like bindings then (and really I am still not wild about bindings).  Since this was a quilt that would end up on my bed I wanted to finish it off with a pretty lace or fringe.  So I found some and sewed it to the top (I think).  Except I didn't know how to do a mitered corner so instead I just cut the ends and left them.  Probably the only very noticeable and huge mistake in the quilt.

Then I began to quilt it, except that I didn't want to hand quilt it.  I knew if I attempted to hand quilt it I would never get it done.  And I wanted it done!  I thought why can't I just feed it through my machine?  So I did.  And amazingly it worked, without lowering the feed dogs, without a walking foot - and all that batting... I did it!

Of course it is not heavily quilted.  And I didn't press my luck to far by trying to machine stitch in the opposite direction to quilt it down some more.  I just did some cross diagonal stitches about 10" apart.  And to this day I still have the quilt.

Funny thing - I still had some other material from Liberty of London.  And I was on a roll now.  I thought I know how to quilt!  So I decided to do my "second" quilt ever.  I gotta tell you, I wasn't quite so lucky in this next endeavor.  In fact when I pulled it out of my trunk the other day i saw that it was nearly a complete disaster.  I did everything the same, except somehow my piecing and blocks don't line up.  The quilting is atrocious, and I even tried to hand quilt it this time, and the backing bunches up, and, and...

Problem is I still love the fabric.  It's beautiful.  I wonder if it's salvageable.  I can only hope.

Happy Sewing,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chic & Savvy Fabric by Robert Kaufman

One fabric is chic and the other is savvy, but both celebrate a girl who likes her city.

In a 24" repeat MW279 City Girls takes you in style to one of the world's favorite cities - New York. And, then MW281 Who's That Girl takes you to Europe to experience Paris - at the Eiffel Tower, on a bike, on a bridge crossing the Seine and to Rome on a motorcycle and eating Gelato. When we saw these fabrics we were thinking they would make great backings for the venture seeking female graduates of 2012, but now that they are here we want to also use them as theme fabrics on the fronts of quilts.

Still thinking about graduations? What about a T-shirt quilt for either a guy or a gal? First, a book, "Terrific tees - I Can't Believe It's a T_shirt Quilt,". You will need it for the instructions and with it you will be able to make a more exciting quilt. Using the denim theme fabric to pull it together and/or back it will make it the perfect quilt to drag off to the next stage of life.

Notice the light batiks above. Well, it turned out to be good timing when our light batiks had dwindled to almost nothing. We were able to choose from a large collection and ended up with a wonderful variety of color, scale, texture and design. If you want the convenience of ordering them individually with one click, then Click Here. On our site, when you want to order this way, just scroll to the bottom of any page and click on "Display All Items in Detailed View" and use ONE CLICK to order many items. Since most batiks are mediums this would be the ideal time to add light batiks to your collection.
And, don't forget, we now have an Organic Cotton Collection - Safari Sweet. It feels good too, it is soft. What a great start for a baby.

Monday, February 13, 2012

February Cotton Club Issue

The February, 2012 Cotton Club mailing went out to our members the middle of January. It does that 10 times a year. It includes a 4 page newlsetters along with 8 - 4" useable squares. We have been sending this mailing to our members, since 1986. In February, we featured the Smitten Fabric Collection by Barb Tourtillotte for Clothworks. We thought this line was more about love than Valentine's Day and that the free pattern they designed was a really fun one and would be fast to make.

We do have all 11 fabrics in the quilt so a kit is available. To see the issue and the kit, Click here.

Then, a new Quiltmaker Magazine arrived in the mail and with it, another quilt made from the line. This time it was Hearts Afloat on the front cover. We are able to kit it too, but you will need the magazine for the pattern. A neat thing about the magazine is that it does not matter where you are, you can download the magazine right to your computer for the same price you could buy it on a magazine stand. That is what we did to get our pattern so we would know the amount of fabric required for the kit.

Though it is rare for us to feature one fabric line in The Cotton Club, once in a while we are motivated to do so.

In the newsletter, we also introduce new books, patterns, tools and supplies. In the February Issue, with Valentines still about a month away we featured the EcoluxLighting after market sewing machine light. We have been raving about it for nearly a year now and not a day goes by without us hearing from soneone who made the purchase and loved it. So, if someone loves you or if you love you, it is the ideal gift! We saywe are lighting up the sewing world one light at a time and it is the truth.

We also featured 4 Sewing Card patterns. They are only $3.00 each, fun and fast to make and would perfect gifts for your favorite Valentine. There a funl Little Wallet, Placemats & Napkins, Journal Covers and Pillow Cases. To see the whole issue just, Click here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

EcoluxLighting Sewing Machine White LED Sewing Light

Testimonial - Read what Karen Fox said about her new White LED Strip Lighting: "I sewed with my new sewing machine light last night and LOVE it! I can't believe
how dark it was where I was sewing before I had this light. Thanks for carrying this

All of these years the head of the machine has been shading the area where we most need light. No wonder we were adding lights to our ceilings and buying lights for behind the machine and behind our shoulder and trying to direct it to that area.

The machine (above) lights up the faces of our fellow Quilters when we demonstrate it. And, even though, the Featherweight, because of its large bulb and narrow head has better light than newer machines, the change to white light makes a huge difference. If you already have the Bendable Bright Light, you will still want this one!

There is one to fit any machine, including Featherweights and Longarms. Introductory pricing and satisfaction guaranteed!

Just measure the mostly flat space under the head and buy what will fit. Most home sewing machines use the 4” long 6 light strip. Featherweights use the 3 Light Strip and Longarms vary. If you have more than one machine, you only have to buy one Light Kit, then buy additional Light Strips for your other machines and just move the Power Source from one machine to the other.

Until you see it, you will not believe the difference the White Light LEDs make. And you will love that they are cool. The lights last an estimated 100,000 hours which if you sew 8 hours a day, means they will last 34 years. And, it uses 98% less power. Remember we have added them to our machines and like Karen Fox, we are in love!

For more information about the light, Click here.

Patternista by Paula Nadelstern for Benartex

It is finally time to officially introduce Kaleidoscope Queen Paula Nadelstern's newest fabric line,
Patternista. If you click on Patternista you will see the entire line on one page. It is quite a feast for the eyes. In fact, it is better than seeing it on the shelf. Dragon Feathers is the theme or focus fabric in the line. It is bilaterally symmetrical, has a 24" repeat and comes in 4 different color combinations. To really appreciate all of the color you really have to look at the large images. Below you are seeing an 8 1/2" square cut out of the same place on each color combination. If you click individually on the images below you will see in a 3x5" scan 8 1/2" by 14" of the 24" repeat. It is dynamic and just think it is only part of it!

Four other bilaterally symmetrical designs support Dragon Feathers. They are Chorus Line, Hills and Valleys, Scribbles (8 colors) and the Patternista Kaleidoscope Panels which have become rather famous and useful in a number of pattern designers' work.

This is what Paula said about the line: "I am a Patternista. Patternistas perceive both the outer beauty and the inner logic of the fabrics we collect. Patternistas bring both an esthetic and an intellectual appreciation to what we do, constructing, as well as consuming. This eclectic collection is filled with visual Paulaisms, the point of view I have cultivated about complex fabrics ... Patternista is more than a fabric line that took a very long time: its a bridge to quilts made of simple shapes that read as complex, thoughtful acts of creativity." What a beautiful way to think about our quilts - "...simple shapes that read as complex, thoughtful acts of creativity." Love it!

Recently, Paula said she was looking for maybe miles of a
Deep Marbled Black made by Michael Miller a couple of years ago. We looked into it and it was still being printed so we added it to our Kaleidoscope Miscellaneous Category. If Paula thinks it is terrific, we believe her and since it arrived, we know she is right. You, too, can have some. We are hoping the scan on your monitor looks as good as ours. If it does, you will want it. If you place an order and want a sample, just mention it in the Special Instructions of the Order Form and we will include a 4" square with your order.

In addition to the black, since we last posted to Scope News months ago, we have added a number of other fabrics to our Kaleidoscope Miscellaneous Category, so while you are looking at the black, be sure and scroll down to see the others.

For Paula's, all-over designs, see her Prismaglass colors, Click Here.

And, to see her Sunstone colors, go to, Click Here.

Paula's Giclee prints are still available. With Valentine's Day coming, it might be the perfect time to treat yourself or someone you love to one:

To visit the prints, Click Here.

Also, from this collection of blocks, we still have a good stock of the beautiful notecards, Click Here.

And Paula's Nuance line though still available, as we reorder many are now discontinued. If there are any you especially wanted, pick them up soon. To see what remains, Click Here.

As well as, previous fabric lines books, patterns and supplies, Click Here.

Our goal is to be your best source for Kaleidoscopic fabrics. To visit our Kaleidoscope Category, Click Here.

If you want to receive our weekly Cotton Club updates, Click Here.

If you want to be on our Scope News Email Roster, to which we post occassionally, just send us an email:

Hope you have fun exploring the new line and look forward to hearing from you.
Cheryl -
The Cotton Club