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Patchwork Pulse Newsletter Issue #001
August 05, 2009

Patchwork Pulse brings you the latest quilting news, tips, techniques and how-to information! View as a Web Page.

Patchwork Pulse, Issue #001
August 2009

In This Issue:
Welcome quilters! This is the first issue of my quilting newsletter. Whew! They say the first one is the hardest to produce. No argument here. My head simmers with many quilting ideas, and I look forward to serving you a heaping helping each month.

Did Slaves use Quilts as Escape Tools?

Hidden in Plain View
Did slaves use coded quilts to help them escape? And if so, how did they pull it off?

The story goes that slaves sewed many quilts, each with a specific pattern. They would display them in specific locations, such as in a window or on a porch, so they would be viewable to the runaway slaves.

To the casual eye, the quilts were a means to keep warm. In actuality, the patterns were symbols which gave instructions or visual maps for the journey north.

For example, the Monkey Wrench pattern advised slaves to prepare for their escape by gathering tools and supplies.

The Drunkard's Path warned slaves to zig zag along their route. This was much safer than traveling in a straight path. The Sailboat pattern informed slaves that a body of water was nearby and that a boat awaited them.

Monkey Wrench Drunkard's Path

Slaves used many quilt designs to communicate with one another. You can read more about these fascinating quilts in Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad.

Some people believe these stories are true; others don't. But one thing is for sure, these tales have passed from generation to generation. They remain a fiber in the fabric of American history.

9 Easy Ways to Thread a Needle

Sewing ThreadAre you having trouble threading your needles? I know the feeling. My eyesight isn't what it used to be, either.

So, I set out to find easier ways to thread a needle. My attempts were successful. Here are some clever ways to win the battle of needle and thread.

1. Place White Paper or Fabric Behind the Needle's Eye.
It's amazing how much more visible the eye becomes. Keep a scrap of white fabric or paper near your sewing area for this purpose.

2. Cut the End of the Thread at an Angle.
This works better than cutting the thread straight across. A cut thread passes through the needle better than a frayed thread.

3. Run Your Thread Through Beeswax or Chapstick.
This stiffens the thread, so it glides through the needle with ease.

4. Use a Needle Threader.
I know, it sounds so obvious, but these really work. You might already have one installed on your sewing machine and not even know it. Don't laugh. This actually happened to a friend of mine.

If you're not sure, check your sewing machine manual. You can also buy an inexpensive needle threader. There are several types, and you can find them at fabric stores, quilting shops and even in grocery stores!

5. Magnifying Glasses
Magnifying glasses always come in handy. But, did you know that they're made in several styles? For example, you can buy a hands-free magnifier that sits on your tabletop.

Or, how about the visor-type magnifier that you wear on your head? They even make magnifying lenses that fit over your regular glasses!

6. Tweezers
Sometimes all you need is a pair of long-bent handle tweezers. If you have a serger, you probably already have a pair. Tweezers hold your thread as you glide it through the needle.

7. Make a Fold at the End of Your Thread.
Crease the fold with your fingers. Slide the creased thread through the eye of your needle. Easy as pie!

8. Enlist the Help of Younger Eyes!
Seek help from someone who's blessed with good eyesight. Maybe a son, a daughter or a grandchild?

9. Use a Needle that Matches the Thread Size.
Thread should glide through the eye of needle. So, if you feel any tension or resistance, your needle and thread aren't matched correctly. If the needle's eye is too small, the thread will fray or break.

Make sure the needle's eye is large enough for the thread to pass through. Needles, thread and fabric should always be compatible. We'll learn more about these in future issues of this newsletter.

Free Pattern of the Month

Patchwork Hot Pads
Patchwork Hot Pads

Our free pattern of the month comes from Kristin of Sew, Mama, Sew! You'll love this easy-to-follow tutorial for creating these cute and colorful Patchwork Hot Pads.

They're made from strips of fabric, which means they're easy enough for beginners to sew. Without a doubt, these hot pads will add spice, (pun intended) to any kitchen's decor.

Product Review: Quilter's FabriCalc

New quilters always ask me how to calculate the size of their blocks, borders and quilts. As much as I'd like to help, I'm extremely busy. So, I tell them about the Quilter's FabriCalc Quilt Design Calculator. I personally use and recommend this hand-held calculator, which is made especially for traditional quilters.

Quilter's FabriCalc
Quilter's FabriCalc
This fabric-estimating calculator does all the math for you. It tells you how much fabric to buy, what size to cut your fabric pieces, how much it will cost and so much more!

I love my calculator because it saves me a lot of time and frustration. All the answers are at my fingertips. I just punch in my numbers and it does the rest, instantly.

The best thing I love about my calculator is that I don't waste money buying more fabric than I need. This alone is worth the cost of the calculator.

No more guesswork for me. Now, I spend more time doing what I love the most, quilting! Here's a sampling of what Quilter's Fabricalc can do:

Calculations that Create Quilt Designs:
  • Create quilt designs using Block functions with or without Sashing; solves Diagonals.

  • Find total Yardage, including Backing, Binding, Borders and Drop for any quilting project.

  • Calculate the total yardage for Squares, ½ Square Triangles, ¼ Square Triangles, 45° and 60° Diamonds.

  • Reverse the calculations: Find the number of Squares and Diamonds that can be cut from fabric in your “stash.”

  • Store fabric yardage solutions for six individual types of fabric, and view total yardage required for all material

  • Use "Preferences" settings to select Fractional or Decimal displays, Mitered or Straight Corners and more>

  • Find total costs for material
This is a wonderful tool to have in your quilting arsenal.

Why Did the Mad Hatter Go Mad?

Mad HatterDid you ever wonder where the term, "Mad as a Hatter" originated? Sources say the phrase was coined around 1837, when fancy felt hats were popular. In those days, hat makers or "hatters" used mercurious nitrate (mercury salt) to cure the felt.

The hatters were exposed to mercury-soaked felt for long periods of time. Little did they know that mercury affected their nervous system. Soon, they began to exhibit signs of mental illness.

Their bizarre behavior was accompanied by uncontrollable twitches, tremors, distorted speech and impaired vision. In advanced cases, the hatters experienced hallucinations and finally death.

The townspeople thought the hatters were going "mad." In this case, that seems fitting (no pun intended). Crazy ha?

Quilter of the Month, Could This be You?

Quilter of the Month
We feature a new quilter of the month in every issue of our newsletter. That's because we enjoy learning about quilters who live in different parts of our world. And, we know our readers do, too!

So, please tell us about yourself, including details about your quilting projects and lifestyle. If we select you as our Quilter of the Month, we'll feature your photo and essay in an upcoming issue of our newsletter!

Sorry, this feature is temporarily closed.


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©2009 Gloria Massard

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