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4/17/21

A Bit about Binding

 Bindings.  Love them or hate them, they're the (mostly) required last step to finishing your quilt.  

I say mostly, because you can finish a quilt by doing the envelope thing ( I call it envelope style...where you turn it inside out, sew around the edge, leave some open, turn it right side out, then top stitch) There's probably a "real name" for the technique but it's coming up on 11pm as I write and I can't think of it.  Pop it in the comments if you think of it!  I digress.

But there's a ton of different ways you can do a binding, and since I feel like I've done nothing but bindings lately, I thought we could do a little primer.  If you're a more experienced quilter some of this may seem like, "No duh!" but for beginners and less confident quilters some of these basics will help you when you reach your binding. 

How wide should you cut your binding?
Well, that's kind of up to you and what you prefer.  The most common binding strip widths are 2.25" and 2.5".  Mom prefers 2.25" because she likes her bindings a little narrower and tighter.  I like mine at 2.5" because I can easily reuse the leftover strips as non-binding scraps if I want to.  Some folks go as narrow as 1.75", and others was wide as 3".  It really depends on what you like.  A consideration though, is how thick your quilt sandwich is.  If you've got a flannel top, high loft batting, and a minky backing, 2.25" might be a skosh too narrow.  If you have a cotton top with a low loft batting and a cotton back, maybe 2.25" is just right!  

How do you know how much binding you need?
Most of the time, the pattern will tell you the yardage you need and how many strips.  But you won't always necessarily have the pattern handy, or even be using a pattern at all.  So you need to know how to calculate it yourself.  
1. Measure your quilt's length and width.  For the sake of example let's say your quilt is 65"x 85"
2. Multiply both measurements by 2 (to account for all 4 sides) and add them together to get the number of inches around the sides of the quilt.  EXAMPLE: (2 x 65) + (2 x 85) = 300
3. Most of the time you'll be using 42" strips for your binding.  Divide the total by 42 to see how many strips you need.  EXAMPLE: 300/42 = 7.14.  Always round your answer to the next whole number - so, 8.
4. You need 8 strips for a 65"x85" quilt.  Decide how wide you want your strips to be.  I like 2.5".  EXAMPLE: 8 x 2.5 = 20.  You'd need 20" of fabric for your binding.  2/3 of a yard will do ya!

When do you need to use bias binding versus "regular?"
Bias is used when you have an irregular edge like a scallop or maybe a hexagonal shape (think Grandma's Flower Garden).  The bias is good and stretchy so it will help move around those funky shapes better than a regular WOF strip.  Or, maybe you chose a stripe or plaid, but want it on the diagonal - bias is good for adjusting the pattern on the binding strips too.  

What is the right way to put the binding on?
Trick question! There's not a right way to do it because it depends on what look you like and what works best for you.  Some people like to stitch it down by hand, and others by machine.  Some people like to use a cool stitch on their machine to add a little flair!  I like to do mine by hand because I feel like I have more control, especially in the corners, and I also am phenomenally bad at doing it by machine.  Mom likes to do hers by machine because it is fast and easier for her, and it turns out great!  You're no more or less of a quilter for doing it either way.  You'll find which you like better, and do it that way.    

How do you pick a good binding?
This is totally and 100% subjective.  Choose what your eye likes.  Use a solid, use a stripe, use a print, a batik...whatever you want! Like anything else in quilting, there's no Quilt Police that are going to rappel from your sewing room ceiling to slap the fabric out of your hands (if this happens, please let me know, I have some real questions).  I think it's a good idea to wait until you have your quilt quilted to pick the binding.  Why?  Because sometimes what we think will work ... doesn't.  Here's  a real-time example!:

I was at the shop earlier tonight to pick a binding for the sample I just finished quilting.  


This whole time, I was 100% sure I wanted the dark pink for the binding. 


But I went to cut it and when I saw it up against the quilt, I didn't like it.  I mean, it's fine.  Nothing wrong with it at all.  It's a solid, safe choice. But for me it was too matchy-matchy and just didn't do much for me.  

So I looked around awhile and landed on this green.  I expected to hate it.  But I didn't!  I really liked the dark edge, and pulling a punch of green out more into the border area. 


Glad I waited to pick, because I wouldn't have been very happy with my original choice and I would have ended up with strips I didn't use (although, I mean...I'd have found something to do with them!)

I hope this helped give a little food for thought when picking your binding!  How do you like to do your bindings? Let us know in the comments!

4/15/21

A Word From Diane: News on Fabric Prices

 This week, I think it's time to talk about the Gorilla in the corner: fabric prices. There is a lot of stuff is circulating around about prices and price fixing etc., so here is what I know today:


Most companies have raised their wholesale prices by anywhere from 10% to 20% on average. Our solids have gone from $3.50 to $4.20 (wholesale cost there) which is a jump of .$0.70 . While that might be small potatoes, other cottons are jumping up to $6 (wholesale) and higher. Most retailers will double their cost and add shipping. The recommended MSRP about is $1.00 a yard so we are looking at $13.00 for most woven (or $12.99). Flannels will hit the $13.99 price point or very close to it.

There is also a movement afoot with manufacturers about minimum pricing. This means that a store cannot sell for under the minimum price set by the fabric company. Right now, it looks to be in the $10-11 range. This is to help small retailers, like local shops, not compete with big box stores that cut prices way down.

So what does this mean for prices at The Cotton Patch? I see it like this: whatever the price on the floor is at the moment, it will stay that way. We have not, do not, and will not raise prices on goods that already arrived. However, as new fabrics come in we will continue to double the wholesale cost and add shipping as we have always done. And, as I have always said, if I save on shipping, so do my customers.

Here is a little editorializing; I am not in the business to have a giant house on the hill, drive a fancy car, or have the biggest store in town. I run this store because I love quilters, quilting, sewing, and of course fabric. I love to see creativity in sewing. It is truly my first love (outside of family and friends). I want to have great fabrics at good at fair prices. All of us signed at the end of the newsletter are committed to that as part of the store.

I hope by telling you about the pricing that goes on behind the scenes that you will be able to know if you are getting a fair deal on what you buy. An informed consumer is the best thing in the world!

Diane

4/13/21

Thread Basics


Thread is one of those things that seems so small but makes a huge difference in our work as quilters.  Whether it's to top quilting, or our piecing, we have considerations we know to make with our thread.  The Cotton Patch sells Gutermann, Aurifil, and Superior.  But sometimes, we need to change from our norms for different reasons - maybe to a different weight or fiber.  

Here's a quick run down of thread and things to think about when choosing a thread for your project

Thread Basics 101
Thread Weights
Yes, just like wire, thread comes in "gauges," referred to as the thread's weight. The higher the number, the finer the thread. A good middle weight thread, and most commonly available is 50wt. and it will get the job done with most moderate thickness fabrics, like flannel, cotton, batik. 60wt. is more intended for bobbin thread, or sewing with lightweight fabrics like chiffon. A 40wt. thread is best served for things like corduroy, canvas, and denim; its thickness will prevent it from breaking as it is pushed through the heavier fabrics. 

Cotton
Cotton really is your go-to thread. It works well for most projects, is durable, and comes in every color under the sun at a reasonable price. Cotton thread is "Mercerized" meaning it has undergone a process to give it smoothness,  a bit of luster, and it accepts dye well. It's good for sewing cottons, rayons or linens. Cotton has very little give to it, so if you're sewing knits or anything in which you need to retain stretch in the seams, cotton is not the right thread for the job.

Polyester
Polyester is widely available, and the subject of hot thread debate (yes - there's such a thing - check out the quilt groups on social media!). There are some who swear by polyester and who will use nothing but, and there are others who completely refuse to use the stuff. I suppose it comes down to personal preference, as with most things, but consider your purpose. Polyester doesn't shrink or fade because it is a synthetic fiber, and as such it is intended for use with other synthetic fibers. It works well with knits and polyester, but can also be used with cotton.

Rayon
It is lustrous and a great thread for decorative stitching. It is a synthetic fiber with little give, so it's not suited to anything with stretch (unless in the capacity of embellishment, not seams). It does tend to slip out of machine needles and break, so it can be a little trying in the patience department, but the effect is worth it. It can be used in seams in a pinch, but it's not really the best choice for  piecing.

Nylon/Monofilament
Nylon thread is meant for synthetics when used in a seam. It is mainly used for top quilting, as it is "invisible" and very forgiving as it embeds in the fabric well to hide stitching errors. While after completion it is very strong, it can snap when sewn too fast. Some nylons are iron safe, and some are not - it depends greatly on quality and whether they are coated with another heat-safe substance or not, so be attentive! Use a Metallics needle for best results in a sewing machine.

Silk
Silk is perfect for hand applique. It hides well in the fabric and glides through the pieces like a dream. It is on the spendy side, though. It is best suited for "luxury" fabrics because of its cost and its natural sheen. It is very strong, but the color array is more limited. It also works well for garments, because it can easily be hidden and it isn't bulky.

Wool
Wool thread is meant less for seams and more for embellishment and hand applique. The common wool traits are applicable here - it is thicker, coarser and more expensive than cotton or polyester. You can use them in a machine, but you will need a larger eye for your needle and they fuzz like crazy, so clean out your bobbin case regularly.

Metallics
These are meant for embellishment and top quilting only. It snaps easily, making it challenging to work with. It is not suitable for piecing. These have a very striking effect on a quilt or garment, but can overpower quickly too. To cut down on snapping, use a Metallic needle in your machine for best results.

Considerations

  • As with all choices in material you can make, consider your purpose. Choose a thread that is best suited to what you're doing and how your item will be treated. 
  • Be mindful of the type of fabric you're sewing and its strength versus the strength of the thread - if they are too different in durability, the thread can wear through the fabric over time and create holes, or the wear on the fabric will snap the thread. If you're uncertain, a good rule of thumb is to choose a thread of the same material as your fabric, and the same size as the weave of the fabric to ensure equality in strength; if this isn't possible, choose a thread weaker than the fabric (a broken thread is easier to repair than shredded fabric). 
  • Always test for colorfastness and be aware of how it will shrink in the wash versus your fabric. If it shrinks more, then it will create puckers which gives a quilt a more antique look. If it shrinks less, the puckers aren't created. 
  • Do you want your stitches to show or not? If you do, use a contrasting color or a thread with a different luster than your fabric; if not, choose the same color or luster as your fabric.
  • Remember, just like fabric, you get what you pay for. While Five for $1 thread is a bargain for your wallet, it may well be as cheap as it is inexpensive.  Unless it is a major brand on markdown, be skeptical of deals like that that sound too good to be true.
  • There are many high quality threads out there, and you have to try several to find what you like and what your machine likes best. You'll have to find your thread brand of choice for yourself and change up your fiber content for the project at hand.
What's your favorite brand of thread to use, and why?  Add your two cents in the comments below. 

4/8/21

Color Theory, the Series! Part III: Black & White

POP QUIZ! 


True or False? Black is all colors combined and white is the absence of color, so therefore there is only one black and one white - they're all the same.

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Answer: FALSE. While it is true that black is all colors combined and white is the absence of color, it is not true that all blacks and all whites are same. Both colors are actually multi-tonal.

Have you ever put on a black shirt and a black pair of pants, walked outside and had someone point out your shirt and pants didn't match? "THANKS A LOT, GUY," you might've said to yourself....or to them...but, deep down you knew it was probably true. When it comes to fabrics, not every black is the same. 


Because. Different companies use different types of dye with different base colors to make their black dye. Go into any quilt store and grab a few different brands of solid black; I guarantee you one will look warmer (red base) and one will look cooler (blue base) and one will look slightly greenish (green base). They're all black, but they have different bases.  You can see this happen in real time before your eyes with the power of bleach.  Dab some bleach on a piece of black fabric and after a few minutes, you'll get a peek at the base color.  Not only that, but because of their different bases, blacks come in a variety of shades even without the addition of white: blue based blacks tend to be the darkest, and green based blacks tend to be lighter.

White functions a little differently. Think of it in terms of a white paint chip - there's bright white, soft white, eggshell white. They are all white and like black, unless you put two different whites together, its hard to tell the difference. In fabric, there is even something called "optic white," which is the white that is the brightest of them all. The softer whites work well in pastel quilts and in landscape quilts where white is necessary. While still creating high contrast with other colors, it's not as stark as an optic white. Optic whites work nicely in more contemporary quilts and in quilts using brights. It creates the crispest line and the highest contrast. Natural light aids in determining what kind of white you have, since artificial (incandescent, fluorescent, LED) light can give fabric a slight cast of color it may or may not have on its own.

So, no, they're not all the same.  A word to the wise!  If you find a bac or white solid you really love...make sure you ot down the brand, line name, and color number.  This way you'll ensure that you're always buying the same one every time.  Nothing sucks more than running out of a background when you have more blocks to go, assuming white is white is white, running out, buying a white solid, and getting home to see that your white solids. don't. match.  Not that I've ever done that. Ever. (learn from my mishaps!)

At The Cotton Patch, you can be assured that our black solid will always be the same.  We always, and only, buy Black Magic from Maywood.  It is a deep, yard-dyed black and just cannot be beat!  (For those that don't know - yard dyed means the thread used to weave the fabric is dyed, then once the fabric is woven, it is dyed again).  So if you get a black solid from us...it'll always be Black Magic.


4/1/21

Project Linus and Fidget Quilts Update

We are once again accepting quilts for Project Linus!  Donna has graciously offered to pick up Linus quilts once a month to take up to Portland for us, which is absolutely wonderful.  If you're unfamiliar with Project Linus, or want to learn more about how to donate and what the parameters are, you can rad all about it on their website here: Project Linus Official Website

Fidget Quilts are also back every Third Friday of the month from 1pm-3pm!  You do not need to sign up and all supplies (except sewing machine) are provided.  A Fidget Quilt provides sensory and tactile stimulation for people with Alzheimer's, Dementia, who may be on the Autism Spectrum, or people with other similar conditions.  These quilts are made to sit on the lap and have a variety of textures to keep hands busy.  Visit the shop on Third Fridays to learn about these and where they go from the group!