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Quick Trip Quilt - Free pattern for a limited time

Quick Trip Quilt - Free pattern for a limited time

The Quick Trip Quilt is a fast and fresh take on the traditional trip around the world design. The chunky squares are great for showcasing your favourite large scale prints and clever piecing method make it the perfect weekend project.

For a limited time you can access the pattern for free 

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Stocktake Sale!

Stocktake Sale!

Its the end of financial year so its stock take time. 

And because I would rather cut it than count it,

there is 25% off almost everything.*

*Sorry folks the sale excludes recent collections which have arrived in the last 3 months like, Gleaned, Amalfi, Firelight and Kaleidoscope, as well as new Elizabeth Hartman patterns.

But there is still plenty of great stuff up for grabs, including classic C+S, our huge range of Kona cotton, Free Spirit Fabrics, Moda and more.

The sale is on now and will continue through until midnight Sunday 24 June.

Use the following code at the checkout:

EOFY_17-18

Or easier still just click on this link and the discount will automatically be applied

I will be away from the shop for a few days as I am travelling interstate for a workshop.  This means there will be a slight delay on shipping instead of the usual speedy service.  Your goodies will be popped in the mail as soon as I get back

Wendy

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Things I've been wanting to say about Cotton + Steel

Things I've been wanting to say about Cotton + Steel

My perspective as an independent patchwork shop owner in Australia

For me, being a Cotton and Steel stockist has felt like a tumultuous love affair. 

Its been hard work, at times stressful and sometimes there were even tears.  But when it was good it made my heart sing.

 I fell in love with C+S along with the rest of you because...

The founding designers of Kimberley Kight, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Sarah Watts, Alexia Marcelle-Abegg and Melody Miller brought us fabric which was fun, fresh and beautiful, but also with a fair hit of quirkiness.  

To top it off, the quality of RJR's base cloth is just plain fabulous,  The quilting cotton substrate is soft, but at the same time woven firmly enough that it doesn't feel flimsy. 

But one of my favourite things as a shop owner is the way the C+S fabrics released each season can be mixed and matched with ease.  Just look at these fabrics from Fall 2016 for example.

Even though each designer had their own distinctive style, the collections just 'hung' together so well.   This is demonstrated particularly well in some of the collaborative collections like the final collaborative collections from the team, Frost and Firelight which are due in store soon. 

Just click on the images and it will bring up all the prints in these collections.

C+S Frost C+S Firelight

The aesthetic was realised not just in the printed fabrics, but in every detail of the brand:

  • From the slick videos of fabric collecitons on social media,
  • the fun and funky selvages which lots of sewists now collect,
  • down to the presentation and packaging of their Cotton + Steel Thread by Sulky with the cheerfully coloured spools and sweet labels.

Cotton and steel thread australai

But most of all I just loved their fabric designs. 

Sometimes I would buy in entire collections, and at others just grab a few favourites.  You can check out all of the Cotton and Steel fabrics in stock here

But as a business owner I needed substance, not just style

On 11 May  I woke up to find the announcement on my Instagram feed that rocked us all.  All five founding designers had decided to leave Cotton + Steel; the brand they'd built for RJR from a standing start.   Founding designers just doesn't cover it does it?  Lets call them the Fab Five.  

It was yet another huge shake-up in the fabric industry.  It feels like the dust had only just begun to settle after Free Spirit Fabrics were pulled back from the brink.

Scarey stuff indeed for a small shop only in its second year of business.

Why did the founding Cotton and Steel designers leave?

A few days ago Abby Glassenberg from Craft Industry Alliance wrote a blog post about systems and management issues at RJR - the manufacturer that owns Cotton + Steel. 

Individual sources haven't been named, but so much of what she was saying aligned with my own experience as a patchwork shop owner. Neither the RJR executives or the designers themselves have gone on the record, but  Abby has also included a number of facts which are easily verifiable.  A good example is  the recent departure of senior RJR staff which corroborates the main thrust of the article.

You can read Abby's full piece here

My experiences with supply

Its been an issue.  

Despite the efforts of our local distributor, fabric collections often arrive incomplete, with the missing prints turning up in dribs and drabs weeks, and sometimes months later. 

In fairness this happens with other fabric companies as well, and in the last 6-9 months or so, many of the issues with RJR seemed like they had improved.   BUT, at the time of writing I am still waiting on this missing striped lawn from Rifle Paper Co's Amalfi, while the rest of the collection arrived mid-April.

Wearing the cost of shipping fabrics separately to customers who purchased bundles on pre-sale hits hard.

Cotton and Steel quilting cottons wholesale at a substantially higher price than other manufacturers.  In an effort to keep the retail price down I've absorbed as much of the price difference as possible, but having to ship these fabrics separately to customers who purchased bundles on pre-order erodes an already narrow margin.   

The fabrics that arrive late are often doomed to languish on the shelves like orphans, particularly with eagerly awaited collections like Amalfi and last year's Christmas themed Noel,  when some of the companion prints have sold out and it's no longer possible to make up bundles of the full collection.

Most challenging was the beautiful, but incredibly angst-ridden Quicker by the Dozen block of the month.

cotton and steel block of the month

I had to sit on thousands of dollars worth of fabric while I waited for the pattern and some missing key fabrics to arrive so I could kick things off.

The patterns arrived so I finally started  the block of the month program 3 months later than anticipated, and I did so crossing my fingers the remainder of the missing fabric wasn’t far off.  As it turned out fabric I ordered at Australian Quilt Market in November of 2016 finally arrived in September 2017.

It was hugely stressful as at that time The Next Stitch was a start up. I'd quit my job at the end of 2016 and sunk a lot of cash into establishing my business.  Quicker by the Dozen was a key part of my marketing plan for 2017. 

With the supply issues it felt like there was no way to protect the reputation of my fledgling business, or provide the seamless experience to my customers that I wanted.

There were tears, I was a grumpy cow to be around, and I felt like giving up. 

The difficulties went even further back than this.  Only a couple of months after I had started trading in 2016, I also felt the heat of big-boy bullying tactics when I started promoting an early range on social media. This was only a couple of months after I started trading in 2016 and I think I had all of 150 Instagram followers at the time.  I was a minnow as my reach was miniscule. 

Even though I had paid in full and the bolts were stacked on my shelves, I was forced to stop selling it for 6 weeks, until such time it was also available for sale in  particular stores in the US. I wasn't the only Australian store this happened to.

I mean seriously - I bought it and  so I owned it.

Has it all been worth it? 

Absolutely. 

The quality of the fabric and thread is outstanding and the designs are fabulous. Each new range has been fresh and always a delight, but also immediately recognisable as C+S. 

Retailing C+S has helped me build my business so its totally been worth it.

To infinity and beyond 

Will you still be able to buy Cotton + Steel at The Next Stitch?

I've had quite a few people ask me this.  In the short term of course the answer is 

 a big fat yes!

I've not had enough yet, and judging by the outpouring on social media and the way the Cotton and Steel back catalogue has been flying off the shelves, neither have you.

A landslide of new fabric from the last collections of our Fab Five is scheduled to arrive between now and the next Quilt Market in Fall Market. I don't have room for everything, but I've already been busy placing my orders. 

Watch this space!

In the last few days it has been confirmed that Rifle Paper Co will be continuing to design collections for Cotton + Steel beyond their next release English Garden.

This is great news for the brand and I will also watching like a hawk for more Rifle Paper Co collections and stuff from new C+S designers.

What about future fabric collections from the Fab Five?

Honestly - I don't feel ready for a total break up with these gals. Its complicated though. 

As long as the quality of the base cloth is as good as we have all come to expect and the focus of distribution is independent retailers rather than the big chain stores I will most likely lining up with my cheque book.

For now though, there is still time to jump in and pre-order the last two collaborative collections on quilting cotton from the founding designers.  Firelight is running late and should have been in store by now.

Firelight is an autumn themed collection and features trippy owls, painterly florals and acorns and ginko leaves in blues.

Frost is  a winter themed collection and is due in June.   I't will work for your Christmas stitching projects, but is certainly a lot less Christmasy than previous holiday collections like Noel, Tinsel and Garland.

Who know's perhaps Frost will arrive in the same shipment as Firelight. \_O_/ 

cotton and steel frost fabric

 

 

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Tips for making Salty the Seahorse

Tips for making Salty the Seahorse

Salty the Seahorse is the very last sea creature to make in Elizabeth Hartman's Awesome Ocean quilt.  I can't believe it - but I'm also pretty excited to be so close to finally being able to lay all of my blocks out in the final arrangement.

Here are my tips for making Salty:

1. Get organised and prep for success

The list of pieces to cut is pretty long - I mean 43 pieces is a LOT for a 6 x 12 inch block  right?. The time spent being systematic and cutting in layers will really speed things up when you sit down to sew.

Cut multiple layers at once

I talked about this right back in the first post in the series when we were making Ocatvian the Octopus.  I cut through four thickesses of fabric at a time.  I find any more than this I get a tiny bit of movement and inaccuracy, and that is the last thing you want when cutting small pieces like the 1" squares.

STOP!  There is a small error in the pattern

When you are cutting the background pieces, you will need to cut two 'R' pieces for each block, not the one that is outlined in the cutting list.  'R' is used  in the head fin unit as well as for making the snout.

Awesome Ocean pattern error

When cutting the Reef fabrics (Fabric 2) for the seahorse bodies, it pays to double check which direction the pattern is running as you layer the fabrics ready to cut. The little fish print doesn't matter as much as the pattern looks fine running horizontally or vertaically just as long as you are consistent, but you really want the seahorse prints to be standing up straight.

 reef seahorse fabric in nectarine

As you cut these Reef Fabric prints you will need to cut two 'G' rectangles.  One needs the pattern running vertically and the other horizontally, so take a moment to study the cutting diagram on the bottom of page 21 in your pattern booklet carefully.

 Label the pieces

I saw this great tip on Elizabeth Hartman's Instagram feed.  She uses sticky dots to label the pieces - just one on the top of each stack.

Ingenious!

You can check out her post here

I didn't have any of those pretty multi-coloured dots on hand so I just chopped up some Avery printer labels and it worked a treat.

Awesome Ocean prep

 2. Work on multiple sections at once

Like I said before - there are a lot of pieces in these blocks, and as my iron is at the other end of the house, I chain pieced different units at a time and pressed them all in one hit.

piecing the sea horse body

Here you can see the body, dorsal fin and neck units all pieced and waiting to be ironed.  As none of these seams intersect, I have sewn all of these units in the one sitting, just finger pressing as I worked.  Once pressed the block starts to come together quickly.

3. Working with those directional prints

Wherever you sew a straight seam along the edges of the block pieces, getting the correct alignment of the directional fabrics is fairly intuitive.  Its another matter when sewing the angles though

Sewing the the angle on the snout unit

I've cut the school of fish fabric so that the fish are facing upwards.  

Salty seahorse making the snout

When piecing the  'FRF' unit, to get the angle correct for that 'bridge of thenose' piece you want the heads of the fish to point to the right, tails to the left (see above).  

To be perfectly honest -  it probably doesn't really matter if you don't bother to go to the trouble for the seahorse fabrics because of the larger scale.  BUT, because they are smaller, the school of fish fabric will show up if sewn in the wrong direction, particularly if sewn perpendicular  to the rest of the patterned fabrics in the block.

Here's a couple of pics showing my process as I chain pieced them:

sewing the seahorse snout

sewing the seahorse snout unit

Salty Seahorse's snout units are pretty small, so use the seam allowance on the left of your pressor foot as a guide, rather than the raw edges on the right like this.

making salty's snout

I've covered this in more detail in the Preppy the Whale blog post.  You can pop back and check it out here.

There were even more angles to manage when making the inner curves of the tail unit (WFFF).

You will need to place the 'F' squares on the top right and bottom left  so that the fish are 'swimming' to the right.  The bottom left corner needs to be reversed like this:

making salty seahorse tail unit

You may find it easier to add a dot of glue to the corner which will eventually be cut away to secure all three pieces at once before stitching.  Once again, its only this school of fish print that you really need to fuss over.

pieced tail unit

Take the time to double check your placement by folding the corners back before trimming the corners.

Once you have all those angels stitched, with a bit more snappy chain piecing the rest of the block comes together pretty quickly.

Happy sewing everyone

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3 reasons to choose Kona Cotton & how to win a Kona card

3 reasons to choose Kona Cotton &  how to win a Kona card

When I opened The Next Stitch just over 2 years choosing which line of solids to stock was one of the easiest parts of the process.  While my head was swirling with logo proofs and building my website, this was a no-brainer.  

It was only ever going to be Kona cotton solids from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

So why only Kona cotton?

1. Its a colour thing

kona cotton rainbow
There are just so many to choose from.  Robert Kaufman's Kona cotton range continues to be the largest range of quilting cotton solids available on the market.  There are currently over 340 different shades and we have over 120 of them in stock.  You can check them out here 

The names of Kona solids have become part of the language of modern quilters. Let's face it, if someone mentions 'Pickle', we all know they are talking about this delicious shade of yellow-green.

 

    2. You can't beat Kona cotton for quality

    Have you ever cut into a solid fabric to find it frays easily?  Or held it up to the light to find a horrible loose weave?  If so, you can be certain it wasn't a Kona cotton.

    Kona cotton is soft yet sturdy.  I actually like to mix it up a bit and use different substrates of printed fabrics in my quilts.  Kona is a perfect all rounder.  It is softness and even weave works beautifully with lawn, and its sturdy enough to pair perfectly with heavier fabrics such as linen and canvas.

    The fabric is woven in a similar way to standard cotton sheeting, but with extra thread woven in.  This creates the higher thread count and firmer weave, while  retaining a soft cloth which is easy to stitch.

    2. Kona COTY & 90 free patterns

    For the last three years Robert Kaufman has released a limited edition Kona Cotton Colour of the Year.  2018's colour is a shade of orange called Kona Tiger Lily.

    kona tigerlily in australia

    As you can see, Tiger Lily is deeper than Kona Tangerine (excuse my grotty chip - I spilled my coffee on it), and a similar value to Kona Flame, but not as saturated.

    Each year some of our favourite designers are invited to create a pattern using the colour of the year.   One of my favourites for Tiger Lily was this fun Mushroom quilt designed by Elizabeth Hartman.

    Elizabeth Hartman Mushroom quilt patter

    You can grab a copy of the Mushroom quilt here - its FREE by the way.

    If orange isn't your thing there are over 90 free patterns ranging from uber modern  through to traditional block based designs on the Robert Kaufman website. 

    Exclusive Kona bundles

    With so many colours to choose from it can be a little paralysing so I've pulled together some bundles which are exclusive to The Next Stitch

    You could go for one of our bright and bold Kona Rainbow Bundles , or for something soft and pretty there's our Gelato bundles
    kona rainbow bundles.kona gelato bundle
    We also have a Kona Club which is a great way to build a stash of solids. 

    Its also perfect if receiving regular fabric deliveries makes your heart skip a beat ;-).  
    kona club

    Win a Kona colour card 

    Enter our competition over on Instagram and win yourself and your quilting buddy one of the brand new 340 Kona colour cards valued at $45

     To enter all you need to do is:

    1. Repost using #nextstitchwithkona
    2. Tag a friend you's like us to give a card to
    3. Follow us on Instagram

    The competition is open to Australian  entrants only (sorry to my international followers) and the winners will be announced 8 May.

     

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    Making Elizabeth Hartman's Tony the Turtle blocks

    Making Elizabeth Hartman's Tony the Turtle blocks
    The turtle blocks from Elizabeth Hartman require a little patience but overall are fun to make. Here are all my tips for making Tony the Turtle with successful strip piecing and cross cutting, and accurately making those tiny eye units Continue reading