They May Be Mini, But They’re Charming!

Good things do come in small packages! min charm blog 2I admit it, I collect mini charms! I prefer little projects, so of course, little bits of fabric are going to interest me. OK, it’s a bit beyond “interest,” as I now have a great stash of mini-size charm packs waiting for me to use them.   mini charm blog 1Moda started this whole thing when they began producing pre-cuts of their wonderful fabric lines. They are still the leader in that effort, though a few other companies have decided to also produce pre-cut packages.

Two years ago, before Christmas, I had the crazy idea to try something – I had a pattern that called for 5” square fabric pieces. I thought “What would happen if I used mini charms (2-1/2” squares)?” Since I love small projects, this worked out rather perfectly! I made four of those table toppers for Christmas gifts!   min charm blog 2Now, when I see a pattern that calls for charms, I immediately think “Mini Charms!” You don’t have to do any math, other than perhaps resizing borders and backings, but that’s basic enough to not give you a headache.

There are now a variety of designers using those mini charm squares for their patterns, so you can choose something small right from the beginning.

Moda offers two books of mini charm patterns. The 1st (A17866) has 18 projects, while the 2nd book (A27096) has 13 projects. (Both are on the page linked above.)  We have models of one project from each book. Choose your favorite Mini Charm pack, and make these items all your own!     mini charm blog 3mini charm blog 4Here’s a tip from Cathy Young, who made the samples: using a fusible batting for fleece makes quilting these small projects so much easier! You save wrestling with pins and basting, while giving your project a wonderful finish.

We have Mini Charms from bright groups, country groups, traditional groups and, at certain times of the year, holiday groups. For just a little money, ($4.00 for 42 pieces,) you can have a lot of fun!mini charm blog 5Thanks to our Cathy Mark for this fun post!


Quick Tip – Pre-washing Fabric

My current purse is showing signs of wear after using it for a long time, so I followed my tip about using Liquid Stitch to prolong its life. (57949, about midway down the page.)  In the meantime, I’m starting a new one.  I prewash my fabric for clothing or purses. So here’s another tip, about avoiding birds’ nests in the dryer.

Clip all four corners of each piece of fabric on the diagonal.1 with arrowsBelow is what those corners looked like when I took them out of the dryer. (I try to take fabric out before it’s completely dry, and then spray it with Best Press to iron it.)

washedThis is what a raw edge looked like after the dryer. Sure beats fighting all those loose tangled threads to separate the fabric, like I did before I started cutting off the corners!  edgeI hope, if you haven’t tried this before, that you’ll clip those corners next time you wash fabric!  What do you think?


(To find an item or event on our web page after clicking on the highlighted words, hold down the “Ctrl” key and touch F. Enter the item number in the box, press enter, and you’ll be taken to that item.)

You can see what’s new at Erica’s almost every day!  Any page of our website has a column on the left that tells you where to find things, and all you have to do is look for “What’s New” in purple, and click to find out.

Two Quilters, Two Rulers!

Karen and Lynne work in the same office.karenwolfe

Karen is our Website Coordinator. Among other things, she puts up all the new items on our website. That means she gets to see them first, too! That’s a really fun part of the job. But the tool she chose as her favorite isn’t a new one. It’s an old standard.CGR24

My favorite tool is the Creative Grids 6 ½” x 24 ½” ruler. I have learned that one of the most important things in making a quilt is the correct size of your fabric pieces, and this non-slip ruler makes it easier to get it right.”

lynneforrestLynne deals with shipping problems and is our technical writer.  She formats the procedures and manuals for our store.

She was really excited when I first demonstrated this to the staff! A26607b“The Quilter’s Slidelock 24″ ‘Lighted’ Edge is my favorite tool of all time.  Despite my limited arm strength, this ruler holds my fabric securely while cutting.  For years, I always ,veered off, at the end of a long cut (like a golf ball heading into the woods).  That’s history now.    Plus, the ‘lighted’ edge helps me position the ruler accurately.  It’s so much easier now to piece a beautiful block – no more nudging and re-dos.”

If you’d like to read how I (Erica) cut with two rulers, you can download it by clicking here.

You can see what’s new at Erica’s almost every day! Any page of our website has a column on the left that tells you where to find things, and all you have to do is look for “What’s New” in purple, and click to find out.

Let’s Color!

As a child, almost nothing made me happier than a new box of crayons and a coloring book or blank paper. The ladies at Crabapple Hill Designs must have felt the same way because many of their recent patterns include coloring. And yes, they use crayons!  I also enjoy handwork, so these patterns are a “win-win” project for me. Never mind how charming Crabapple Hill patterns are in general. Here are some tips for enjoying coloring once again, while creating and embroidered project.

Use Crayola Crayons. They may cost a bit more, but they’re worth it because they have more pigment, (the stuff that gives the crayon its color,) and give smoother results. This especially matters when you’re coloring fabric rather than paper. You want a crayon that puts the color down smoothly, providing better coverage.

Trace your pattern onto your background fabric first. You can use a light box and which ever type of fabric pencil, pen or marker you like.crayon blog 1

Be sure your fabric is smooth and sitting on a hard surface, like a table top.

Begin by coloring white all the areas that will have color. Using the white “preps” the fabric, filling in the fibers, making the surface more even and smoother.crayon blog 2crayon blog 3Then add whatever color you need to the appropriate areas. The amount of pressure you use helps determine how strong the color appears, but you can also work in layers until the color is as dark as you want it.crayon blog 6Heat set your colors by ironing. Place a piece of clean paper or a plain paper towel on top of your colored fabric, and gently press. The heat bonds the color to the fabric and melts the wax. The paper towel absorbs the excess wax, leaving the color behind, fused into the fabric. The crayon can add a stiff feel to the fabric once you’ve colored it, so melting the wax away will also make the fabric softer.

crayon blog 5After white and one layer of color, then ironing:crayon blog 6After one more layer of color, and one more ironing:crayon blog 7Now you can add the stitching to your project and finish it! The crayon color adds a wonderful richness to your project, adding another dimension to your piece.

Coloring is still fun! Who knew as adults we’d once again enjoy coloring with crayons? Enjoy!

Credit for some of the above information goes to the Crabapple Hill Designs.

Thanks to Cathy Mark for this post.


Happy 2015 and More Staff Favorites

melodyedrakeMelodye is one of the smiling faces you see behind our counter and helping people throughout the store. She’s also one of the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever had in my classes. Melodye just loves the TrueGrips!  She uses them on all her rulers, even ones that already have non-slip features.60954bkarengoodnoughKaren is another of our smiley faces. She had a hard time deciding which tool she’d call her favorite. However, after careful consideration, she had to say that the 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″  Erica’s Ruler.’ is “the one that makes me smile. It is so handy in so many ways (I think I own at least 4 of them) & I have them in various places in the house.”

45153bBut she couldn’t stop there.
“I would have to say the ‘Purple Thang‘ is right up at the top of my list, also.”

89838bThat Purple Thang has been a favorite of many people over the years. In fact, it’s been around since before I became “the purple lady,” and I can’t even remember when that was any more!

Note: comments in purple are my editorializing.  (Erica)

We wish you a happy and healthy 2015, and thank you for reading our blog posts!

The Joy of English Paper Piecing

Because I enjoy hand work, I enjoy English Paper Piecing.
This traditional technique for piecing quilts uses paper templates to create precise shapes. Your fabrics are cut into shapes that are approximately the same size as the papers (maybe I like this because you don’t have to be perfect – the papers make it all turn out right). You may also choose to trim the fabrics closer to the paper shape to reduce bulk when quilting. Then, using a sharp needle and thread, you fold the edges of the fabric over the paper and secure it to the paper using a running stitch.paper piece 1paper piece 2

Once your paper pieces are all covered, you begin stitching them together. You don’t have to choose a thread that is an exact match, because you don’t really see these stitches very much. Choose something that blends with your fabric.

Hold two covered pieces right sides together, with edges matching. Using as small a stitch as you can manage, sew the two pieces together. With a little planning (and experience,)  you can stitch in the direction that will lead to the next piece you want to join, saving you from stopping and starting as often.paper piece 3

As you stitch, try not to catch the papers in your sewing; go through just the fabric edges. When you have all of your pieces sewn together, remove the papers – undo the running stitches and pull the thread out, then pull the papers out.

paper piece 4We’ve put together small kits so you can try out this relaxing piecing method. Each of these kits includes a mini lesson in how to do English Paper Piecing as well as plenty of extra papers and a mini charm fabric pack for you to use. We’ve even included a needle, thread and project ideas!
You’ll have perfectly joined shapes, without having to work so hard to accomplish this – no need for exact cutting, prefect seam allowances or precise sewing – the papers provide stability and control. Your shapes line up beautifully, points match and the pieces go together easily. You can create a quilt top of pieces or applique your pieces onto a background.paper piece 5

Papers come in a variety of shapes and are reusable. They come in large or small packages, so you can get enough pieces to complete your project. Books and patterns offer designs and arrangements for the pieces, or you can play with shapes and come up with your own design. Work with scraps or purchase particular prints that can be combined in creative ways for your project.
This technique is great for working in front of the television or while traveling – cut fabric pieces ahead of time and everything you need can be carried in a small bag! It’s nice to be able to work on a project while you wait for the kids, have time before an appointment, or take a lunch break.

Happy Stitching!    Cathy Markcathymark

And Here Are Some More of Our Favorite Things…

Cathy and Shirley are important “behind the scenes” ladies, although you’ll see them in the main areas of the store, too. cathymark

Cathy does email newsletters, decorates windows, makes vendor appointments, books shows, goes to Quilt Market, and a whole lot more. She loves knitting (and does Knitters Notes for our quarterly newsletter,) and is our wool expert.takumi

  Cathy’s favorite knitting needles are the Takumi bamboo needles, especially the circular ones. “I love the feel of the wood and it grips nicely and warms with touch. I use circulars because I have tendonitis in my wrist & elbow and the circulars are better for that. They also allow me to work larger projects with less arm strain.”

For quilting, “ I love my little Erica’s Ruler.’  I prefer small projects, 45153band collect charm packs and min-charm packs, so the 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ is perfect for everything I do!  shirleyfinley

Shirley calls in orders, helps Dick in the office, takes care of our internet clubs, works some of our quilt shows, helps in the cutting department, and all kinds of odds and ends! Shirley’s a quilter, like many of us.

Shirley’s favorite tool is the Gypsy Gripper.   “It helps me 30158bcut accurately. I’m short, and it allows me to put even pressure across the fabric. Without it, my ruler slips while I’m cutting.”