The New Generation of Creative Grids

I am reading the biography of Steve Jobs and am fascinated by his success.  Some contemporaries consider him a “tweaker”.  He didn’t actually invent the cell phone – he took a device that everyone owned –  and improved it so much that he made the original obsolete!

That is what Creative Grids has done – they took the best ruler in the industry and made it better.  I am proud to say that I am a member of that team.  And, why is it better?  We owe it all to you…

Every time you stopped by our booth at Market, talked to your sales rep, or talked to a designer or demonstrator and shared an idea, we wrote it down.  And the results are simply amazing!  The squares and rectangles that you know and love, are now even better!

But how about if you see for yourself?  This is the current version:

And, this is what will start to ship next week:

Large Numbers

The members of the design team range in age from 40 – 65.  EVERYONE had to be able to read the markings – without reading glasses.  The size of the Item Number was also enlarged so shop owners could read to re-order directly from the ruler.  The size of the CGR logo was reduced, in many cases, so it does not obscure needed markings.

Gripper Strips

The Creative Grids Basic Range rulers have grip all around the outside edge of the ruler – and they are AMAZING – so we added it to the new version of the squares and rectangles.  Two adjoining sides have dashed 1/4″ lines and 1/4″ grip.  The other two sides feature 1/2″ grip, which accentuates the patented Turn-A-Round feature.

Numbering System

All whole numbers are black – printed on a white background.  When you turn the ruler around to use the 1/2″ markings, the numbers are white – printed on a black background (and they are right side up).

White Centering Lines

There is a white horizontal and vertical line on each ruler so the center is showcased.  This feature makes it easy to fussy cut squares and rectangles.  Wait until you need to trim an applique block or want to fussy cut a stripe for a sashing – it is simply amazing!

MS Tags

That little square in the top left-hand corner is called an MS Tag.  If you have an I-Phone, and scan it, you will be able to view a video demonstrating how to use the ruler.  We are in the process of adding these tags to the entire line – the improvements continue….

Instructions

All of the instructions and videos for the rulers are now downloadable from the Creative Grids USA website.  If you forget how to use one of our rulers, a video (and written instructions if you prefer), are just a click away!

The Company

I am of an age when honesty and integrity matter.  So let me tell you something that the owners and managers of Creative Grids won’t – they are the most honorable, ethical, honest people I have ever met!  As a company, they have decided never to sell to chains.  They want to provide shop owners with the best quality product that can only be purchased in Independent businesses.  Their goal is to give quilt shops an edge and offer them a product that can’t be purchased anywhere else.  They never cut corners – quality is always number one.

So, the next time you see them at Quilt Market or the Checker Open House, take a moment to thank them – integrity is alive and well – and business as usual at Creative Grids!


Friendship Strips & Scraps – Swaps are Back in Style

It is rare in this day and age to produce a classic – but Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts has done it.  This book is already in its third printing and has been a runaway success!



Item #L11262  Retail $27.95

Good news!  It is once again available – and in stock – to meet your customers needs.  When they start the New Year by wanting to use up their scraps, let them do it with class and style!  These are not our grandmother’s scrap quilts – these are works of art!

Edyta has an amazing sense of color – and elevates her quilts from the standard Civil War era quilts by adding batiks.  The batiks add a depth and spark to her work that makes her quilts instantly recognizable.  But, for once, I’ll shut up and just let you enjoy a sampling of the projects inside….

Dollhouse Table Topper


Tumbling Block Table Runner

Edyta with the Cover Quilt



Shimmering Birches Quilt

Summer Star Quilt


This book comes with a set of templates that make it possible to make all of the quilts featured in the book…



Item #LBQ0264  Retail $38.00

Scraps have never looked so spectacular!!!


Teachable Moments – Rotary Cutters

Sometimes when I am teaching a class, I forget how much I know because I actually lived it!  And, in quilting, the industry was forever changed when Olfa developed the first rotary cutter and mat!  The year was 1979 – and that is the year I had my first child and hand quilted my first quilt!

I’m not sure when this technology made it to the U.S., but I will tell you that I was horrified when a shop owner first showed me one!  I couldn’t shave my legs without cutting myself – and she was calmly telling me that I was supposed to put pressure on a “razor blade on a wheel” – and cut through eight layers of fabric at once!

But, after watching her cut out a log cabin quilt in less than an hour, I was hooked.

This article is meant to be a generic article on rotary cutters, but all pictures are of Olfa cutters – sometimes we need to pay homage to the original.  And, when I checked out the top 100 Notions from Checker, all of the top sellers were by Olfa.

Rotary Cutters are available in four sizes:  18mm; 28mm; 45mm; and 60mm.  The most popular size, by far, is the 45 mm version.  The original was #20 on the top 100 list over 30 years after it was invented.  That is truly amazing!  45mm is the width of the blade.  Every quilter I know has this size.  The handle or brand may be different, but the blade size is the same.

Item #RTY2  Retail $20.49

This rotary cutter can easily cut through eight layers of fabric at a time – if the blade is sharp!

The 60 mm version is the largest size made.  I love this larger version to trim quilted projects before binding; cutting fleece or Minkee; and thicker fabrics such as wool and flannel.  You can use it to cut the same fabrics as a 45 mm, so many of my friends use it for everything.  The handle is larger, so as they get older and arthritis flares, this model is easier to grip.

Item RTY3  Retail $32.49

Sometimes, a pattern calls for a smaller blade.  The 28 mm is popular for cutting curves.  The smaller circumference of the ruler makes it easier to cut circles.


Item #RTY1  Retail $14.49

The smallest version is an 18mm.  This is for very small, detail work.  If you need it, the pattern will refer to it – and tell you why you need a mini.  Some customers take it to class, but I prefer to use the same tools I have in my sewing room.


Item #RTY4  Retail $13.49

Until 1999, this was the only style available.  That year, Olfa released an ergonomically correct cushioned handle.  Because of the curve of the handle, the rotary cutter could not just be flipped for right or left handed use.  Therefore, it was engineered so the blade could be switched.

Item #RTY2DX  Retail $28.49

I love this rotary cutter, but when I owned a shop, I couldn’t use it.  I am left-handed and most of my customers and employees were right-handers.  They constantly switched the blade, so I never had a “left handed” version available.  It was my rotary cutter of choice at home, however.  It has a nice cushioned handle and saves a lot of wrist strain.

Enter the newest improvement:

Item #RTY2NS  Retail $32.49

I LOVE this version.  The blade protector is actually two pieces.  Therefore it works for right and left handers without changing the blade.  Expose the appropriate side of the blade with a flip of the switch.  But, if you DO need to change the blade, you can do it one handed!  You no longer have to take apart the washer, screw, bolt, blade, and handle – and then take a picture of it with your phone so you put it back together in the right order.  You don’t even have to touch the blade!

This version – and the ergonomically correct version above are available in the most popular sizes – 45mm and 60 mm.  Both are perfect choices for those customers who are experiencing grip issues with aging.

If you have not re-visited your rotary cutter needs this century, it is time you did!  Your customers will buy what they see you use – and once they use the best, they are not going to go back to the original!  Quality tools are always worth it!



My Heart belongs in February!

If you didn’t own a shop, and I was in the same room with you, you would probably smack me about now – but we all know that Christmas sales are winding down.  It is time to organize the new displays so when your customers have a chance to catch their breaths, they will be inspired….

Snowmen

Most of you already have snowmen patterns, books – and the samples that support them.  Now is the time to put them front and center – instead of the backdrop for Christmas.

Take a walk around your store and pull all of the blue and white fabrics, samples, and patterns for your center display.  If you don’t move them now, your customers will think they are part of the Christmas fabrics that will be a part of the clearance rack at the end of the year.  Re-order the patterns or your samples – and include some new ones.

Valentine’s Day

Pull your red and white fabrics – and any book or pattern with hearts – for a Valentine’s display.  Many of the Christmas reds are complimentary prints that work for any season.  Here are a few of my favorites….

Blackbird Designs

These sweet little appliques  have a folk art feel that is simply charming – and can be made in an afternoon.  This is a perfect project for a secret sis program…

Item #BBD426  Retail $9.00

Bareroots

This little candle mat is one of a series.  Why not feature a different one each month at the register.  Have a needle and floss available so you can show them how easy it is to do the buttonhole stitch.

Item #BR131  Retail $5.50

Buggy Barn

Buggy Barn has several projects that would be perfect class opportunities.  This is my favorite…

Item #BUG202  Retail $9.00

Sweetwater

This simple pattern for a Coffee Cozy is a great little thoughtful addition to a teacher’s card or Secret Pal.  They won’t be able to stop at one.  Why not buy a friend a coffee or gift certificate – and include this?

Item #LS501  Retail $3.00

Shabby Fabrics

This simple table runner uses a variety of red scraps so it is a perfect project for kits.



Item #SF48524  Retail $9.50

St. Patrick’s Day

It may be a little early to set up a display, but it is NOT to early to pull any greens from the Christmas lines that are appropriate for the next holiday on your list!  By the time you make samples and cut kits, it will be time to set up the display!  As a shop owner, you always have to think two holidays ahead of your customers!  Happy Holidays!!!

New Books Hitting the Top Twenty

Many of your favorite authors wrote books for this Market and we now have them in stock.  Order them early – and you may still have time to get them in before Christmas!

Let’s face it, our customers may be right on top of the holidays, but their families are not!  Many of them wait until the absolute last minute to shop, so if you get in some new titles, there is no question if they already have them!

I love the muted quilts so popular in Japan.  Pat Wys features quilts that have this same colorway in her new book – Spotlight on Neutrals.  Why not display the book with some fat quarters of coordinating neutrals?  You probably already have them cut!

Item #B1096T  Retail $24.99

For those customers who love Civil War reproduction fabrics – and miniatures, Jo Morton has combined 25 of her applique blocks in Prairie Flowers Encore.  Now all of their favorites are combined in one place.  Again, a fat quarter packet of these fabrics would be a wonderful companion.

Item #PHBK21  Retail $25.00

Darlene Zimmerman’s “Fresh from the Clothesline” will be a favorite for those customers who love depression era fabrics.  This book features 22 large and small projects that are nostalgic – but many are also featured in other fabrics.  A collection of 30′ and 40’s fabrics is the perfect accent.

Item #W0937  Retail $24.99

For those customers who love ALL needlework – rug hooking, cross stitching AND quilting, Blackbird Designs has a new book – Weekend.  This book offers a great selection of smaller projects that are actually doable!  Those customers who love handwork, will love this book.

Item #BD198  Retail $27.00

I specifically chose this assortment of books so it would appeal to all of your customers.  A display is sure to peak the interests of everyone!

Teachable Moments Begin

We all look forward to that moment in a class when the veterans (those who have taken quilt classes for a number of years) say, “That little tip was worth the price of the class.”  That random comment is why we teach!

At the recent Fab Shop dinner, many shop owners mentioned that class attendance is down.  Many said that they felt like party planners – events were not only anticipated, they were expected!  Classes were not enough.

How do we increase attendance and make them a viable part of our business again?  Give a perceived value to every class!  They have to walk away knowing they learned something that is going to improve their quilting skills – or life skills in general.

For instance…..

I live alone which means I don’t have a “man cave” in my garage full of tools.  So, recently, when I needed to hang some pictures, I was lucky to find a hammer and some nails….a level and retractable measuring tape weren’t in my tool box.  (Actually, I found the box for the measuring tape – but had cut it up to make some Snap Happy bags!)

I had 10 of these Santa cross stitch pictures to hang on the soffit before a party.  As I was laying these on the counter trying to figure it out, I realized I was hanging a quilt on the wall.  Blocks and sashings – easy as pie!  So what is any self respecting quilter to do????

Here is teachable moment #1 – I used a water soluble marker.  My walls are painted with a matte paint so the marker washed right off!  I would test first….

Teachable Moment #2 – Keep these water soluble markers in the refrigerator.  They are a moisture based product, so they will last much longer when stored in your vegetable drawer!

Item #48C  Retail $4.79

I literally drew a grid on the wall with my handy, dandy Creative Grids 8 1/2″ x 24 1/2″ ruler!  After I hammered in the nails, I simply wiped off the markings with a damp cloth and hung the pictures!  In less than an hour, I hung all 10!

Item #CGR824  Retail $28.95

It was so much easier than a carpenter’s rule or retractable tape!  In this particular case, the nails needed to be inserted 8 1/2″ from the bottom of the soffit so this ruler was the perfect choice.  But now that I know how versatile these rulers are, I have the right tool for the job (it’s just in my sewing room instead of the garage).

Now, I know you aren’t going to give a class on hanging pictures, but this is one of those little gems that will have your customers coming back for more!  Make their lives easier, and they will come!!! They may even start buying these supplies for their spouses!

Backings Part Three – Minkee

I love the textured polyester fabrics on the market!  Many companies make a variation of it – top sellers are Minkee by Benartex and Minky by EZ Fabrics.  But, many of you are afraid to use it because there is a learning curve.  Once you know the tricks, it is beautiful stuff and adds that awe factor to every project.

Item #674DB-85
Item #MIP112-SAGE

Item #SWC-MLTWHT
The choices have increased a hundred fold and include “adult” prints and textures so these are not just for babies any more!
Tricks for Longarm Quilting

I love to use these fabrics as backings for my quilts.  Since they are 58 – 60 inches wide, many times they don’t need pieced when backing a throw.  In fact, I design my throws so they are 54 inches wide so I can use this product.  Since I don’t have to piece the backing – and buy two lengths of 40 inch wide fabric (which will result in a 20″” wide strip that will go into my stash) – it is sometimes the same price!  And with the new choices that were offered at Market, who can resist???
This is a decision that should be made before the top is pieced.  Since cottons and flannels will shrink – and polyester doesn’t – the cottons and flannels should be pre-washed.  I don’t pre-wash the polyester since it won’t shrink anyway.  If you don’t pre-wash the fabrics, once the finished quilt is washed, the polyester will “pucker” and take on the quilting design.  I like this look and think it brings additional interest to the quilt so you might want to give it a try…
These fabrics are different from traditional fleece.  Traditional fleece is reversible because the nap is on both sides.  The Minkee type products  have a nap on one side with a slippery backing that feels like a lingerie material.  It stretches across the width of the fabric but does not stretch at all parallel to the selvage.  If you are quilting on a long arm machine, the “stretch” should be contained by the rollers.  DO NOT stretch the fabric by clamping the sides!  When you release the tension, the quilt will not lay flat – been there, done that – so learn from my mistakes.  When I placed the selvage on the rollers, I never had a problem.
This fabric is messy to work with because of the fluff when cutting the nap.  Just throw it in a dryer on fluff.
Tricks for Machine Quilting
If you want to quilt on a sewing machine, this is a great time to use a fusible batting or a basting spray (Item #QBS).  If you need to iron the fabric, place the nap side of the fabric on a thick towel and press with a pressing sheet on a low setting.  We are quilters who are used to pressing cottons at the highests settings on our irons.  This is the time to dial back so you don’t melt it!
A walking foot is extremely helpful and sew with the fleece on the bottom.  A larger stitch length is also helpful.
Batting
I use a lightweight cotton batting – Batting by the Bolt.  It is 60″ wide as well so it is the perfect companion for these backing choices (Item #6715WNCH for unbleached and #6720WNCH for bleached)  It helps stabilize the stretch and adds a little warmth and absorbs the seams of the pieced top.  But, if you use batting, the quilt will need quilted.
Simple Bllankies
For simple “blankies” that are sew popular right now, buy 1 1/8 yards of Minkee and a 1 2/3 yards of cotton fabric.  This is enough fabric to make two 30″ x 40″ blankies.  Pin every inch and sew with the cotton fabric on top OR stabilize the edges of the stretchy sides of the Minkee with Easy Knit.  It now comes in a 1 1/2″ width on a roll.  (Item #STEK150-30 – 30 yards for $13.00 or STEK150-10 – 10 yards for $5.50)  Use a pressing cloth on top and a towel on the bottom – and apply to the smooth side.  You can whip these up in a flash – no batting required.
Insert ribbon loops in the seam to create your own version of a popular quilt.
Check out our website to see all of the fabric available:  http://www.checkerdist.com/products/search?f_cat1=34138&page=1&limit=100&sort=score
Every quilter makes the same New Year’s resolution – finish projects before starting anything new.  That means you need to have the backings on hand so order these fabrics now for those January sales.  Why not offer a demo day to teach them how to use these fabrics?


Backings Part Two – Batiks

I love batiks and using them as backings is just spectacular.  Visit our site to see all of the beautiful choices:

http://www.checkerdist.com/products/search?f_c=34203&page=1&limit=100&sort=score&f_cat1=34138

Most of these must be ordered – or sell out quickly – so place your order now so you have them in time for those January sales.

Here is just one sample…

Item #302WB-06

The quality of the backing fabric is the same as any other batik which means it is not a good choice if you are hand quilting!  The fabric is tightly woven so it is difficult to needle.  But, if you are machine quilting, it is not a problem at all!  Then, the quality of the fabric shines!

I was teaching a class the other day, and the students said that they were told that you should never mix batiks with traditional cotton fabrics!  REALLY!!!  I love to mix them.  Batiks have a vibrancy that adds texture and interest to any quilt.  It’s a hidden jewel!  But, since the batiks have a tight weave, you may want to wash the fabrics before piecing.  Batiks don’t shrink as much as cottons – and some have a tendency to bleed so a dye catcher sheet thrown in with the fabrics may be needed.

These fabrics are usually 108″ wide so no piecing is required.  Many of them come in 18 yard bolts.  As a shop owner, that is a good thing because there is less waste.

There is no right or wrong side to batiks.  They are totally reversible.  And, because of the tight weave, they do not fray – which makes them a great choice for raw edge applique.  Why not give it a try!



Battings and Backings – Part One

This week I am doing a series of articles on battings and backings because every quilter I know is making a New Year’s resolution – finish all of the projects they have started before they buy anything new!  That means, as a shop owner, you need to stock up on these products!

Checker has been anticipating your demand so we have been receiving semi loads to be prepared.

Now that you have the battings you need, check out your supplies of backings.  We have a wide selection of 108″ cotton backings for sale.  Check out our website to see the entire selection:  http://www.checkerdist.com/products/fabrics?f_c=34203&page=1&limit=100&f_d=&f_s=&f_t=backing&f_v=&f_a=

Item #8367-911

But, you may want to step outside of the box and consider some other fabrics!  I love to use fleece – traditional fleece with the nap on both sides.  This fabric comes in a variety of colors and prints and is 60″ wide.  As a quilt backing, it is indestructible!  I love to use it for a backing on quilts that will get heavy use and be washed repeatedly.

David Textiles offers this fleece in over 30 colors:  http://www.checkerdist.com/products/fabrics/?f_l=629&page=1&limit=100&f_v=D140

Item #2236635AP12

It is a 100% polyester product so it does not shrink and is 58 – 60″ wide.  As a backing fabric, it is also very reasonable.  Since it is a double sided fabric that is so plush, batting is not required.  No batting and sixty inches wide also makes it a great choice for charity and children’s quilts.

And, by using a basting spray (Item #QBS), it is easy to quilt on a traditional sewing machine as well.

Check with your sales rep to see a wide variety of all of the choices available and pricing.

But getting in the backings and battings your customers will want in January doesn’t do any good unless they know you did!  Why not offer some demos in January explaining the different backings – and the advantages of each?  Binding demos are also a good idea.   This is the time to teach machine quilting as well.  Meeting the needs of your customers is why you are a destination shop!

The Twelve Months of Christmas – Part Two

The Twelve Months of Christmas….Part Two

Last week I talked about ideas for a twelve months of Christmas program.  Each month, offer a different class for a Christmas decoration or gift so your customers will be prepared next year.  Give your customers the gift of time….and a little preparation doesn’t hurt either!!!

Month Seven

This tree pattern is pieced out of 2 1/2″ strips.  The pattern includes cutting instructions for all sizes.  Demonstrate cutting the strips with the new CGRY1 – the Fat Quarter Cutter ruler by Creative Grids.  It is a great way to use up coordinating prints from Christmas lines.  Just choose a focal fabric for the border – and cut the strips to match..  It is a fast, fun and easy quilt so even beginners will be successful.  This month, teach them how to piece the blocks.  Next month, you can set aside time to show them how to complete the rows, the next month how to bind…  White trees on a blue background would be great for a winter version.  Autumn colors would also be great.  You don’t have to make the whole quilt  – just one tree in these colors will sell the kit.  Who can make just one when it is this much fun???

Item #CQD01062  Retail $9.00

Month Eight

While you still have a huge selection of focal fabrics in your store, offer this class.  The pattern features CGRMT1 – the Creative Grids ruler with holes drilled down the middle to draw circles so you have a great demo opportunity.  The napkins can be made in two sizes – table and cocktail – your customers will want to make both.  Give them the option to purchase a kit for the cocktail napkins in a coordinating fabric when they sign up for the class.  And, once again, a Thanksgiving set would be perfect as well – offer alternate color choices for your student.

Item #TQC602  Retail $2.50 (sold in packages of 24)
Table Napkins


Item #TQC603  Retail $2.50 (sold in packages of 24)
Cocktail Napkins

Month Nine

Everyone loves stockings – and they are a great way to teach new techniques.  You could even add a technique a month as a bonus to the other classes.  After all, EVERYONE in the family needs a stocking so, depending on the size of the family, your customers will need to make several.  Remember, they make great “wrapping” as well.  All you need is a great stocking shape.  Then piece and quilt a foundation to this size.  One month you can piece one out of half-square triangles and demonstrate Triangle Paper on a Roll.  The next month you may want to demonstrate English Paper-Piecing with hexagon templates.  The mini twister is another great demo.  Mini 60 degree triangles with the CGRT60 would also be great.  Make mini quilts and turn them into stockings – or doll quilts…give your customers options….

Item #VINE219  Retail $9.00

Month Ten

An Advent calendar is a must in any house with children.  This quick and easy version is fun – but don’t be surprised if your customers want to make more than one (one for each family in their lives….)

Item ABQ155  Retail $9.99

Month Eleven

Whether you use this bag as a wine caddy or a lunch bag, it is a great last minute gift.  Why not use it as the “wrapping” for a great gift?  This bag uses Thermal Fleece so it is a great opportunity to teach simple machine quilting.  You can even serve Sparkling Grape Juice to get in the mood!

Item #ABQ145  Retail $9.99

Month Twelve

By this time of the year, your customers are in the midst of the holidays.  Why not turn your class into a Christmas party?  This candle mat is kitted and is all handwork.  They can come, visit with each other, and learn a few embroidery stitches and embellishing techniques.  They will be so relaxed, they won’t want to leave.  Since these are so portable, they will have plenty of time to finish them for Christmas.  There are several to choose from:  http://www.checkerdist.com/products/search?keywords=candle&relatedto=

Item #BR161K  Retail $14.00

You can change the projects, but the concept is the same.  Offer teachable moments in each class, give them projects that won’t become a member of their “Unfinished Projects” and they will come…..