She finally made one…..

IMG_8073_edited-2Back in 2013, I wrote a beginners t-shirt quilt tutorial for a few of my relatives who live far away. My cousin, Tanya, finally made hers! Her daughter is a cheerleader, so she laid Juliet’s t-shirts out in chronological order to “build” her quilt.

We had a blast Facebook messaging back and forth during the process. It was her first quilt, and – understandably – she had a lot of questions. Tanya was SO excited about making it, and would message me every step of the way. And I was determined to teach her as much as I could right from the beginning, even if it was over messaging! Everything from prewashing to the essential supplies she’d need to the binding stitches. Get it right the first time, and there will be no “unlearning”! She did learn the hard way – and early! – about rotary cutters, though….

Tanya's fingerHere’s one of my favorite messages I got from her. She had fun!Screen shot 2015-04-18 at 6.43.43 AM_edited-1

I offered to quilt the quilt for her, so she shipped it off to me. Tanya did a wonderful job for her first quilting experience! She wanted a polka-dot backing, so I placed an order for Riley Blake’s polka dots from Backside Fabrics. What a wonderful company. Extremely friendly and very fast delivery. My order came quickly, and the quilt was soon on the frame.

quilt on frame copyI opted to quilt it quite simply – SID and FMQ:

IMG_8077_edited-2I offered to apply her binding and make her label – but she’ll do it from now on. She was pressed for time as she wanted to give it to Juliet before her next cheer competition. I made an instructional video and sewed about 6″ of the binding so Tanya would know how to do her corners, and sent it on back to her. She spent an entire evening and the next day finishing up the binding, washed it up and was able to give Juliet her new quilt as they were preparing to leave for the competition:

JulietsquiltShe loves it! I also quilted her name into the quilt (a great identifier in case it’s lost or stolen!) and she’s still searching for it, lol.

Still searching for that hidden name....

Still searching for that hidden name….

….and now has a new cuddly “friend”….

Juliet snuggleTanya found a quilt shop just down the street from where she lives that offers “do-it-yourself” quilting on their longarm machines. She excited for the next quilt to be done 100% on her own. She’s a big scrapbooker and crafter, so she likes to do everything herself! It was fun watching a “newbie” learning to quilt – we had a blast together!

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Feeding my quilting obsession

IMG_3819That’s what my cousin, Tanya, did for me – she fed my obsession. She lives in California, I live in Ohio. She wanted to make a t-shirt quilt, so I wrote this tutorial for her and some other family members who live far away. Well, two years later (and 500 Facebook messages, LOL!) she’s made one! I can’t show it yet, as she hasn’t given it to the recipient…I never ruin a surprise. I offered to quilt it for her, so she mailed it off to me.

We also started talking about what supplies she’d need for quilting. I mentioned that the Wonder Clips were great for more than just binding. I also use them for marking seams to sew, holding folded edges together on bag handles while sewing, etc. She Googled them and found these craft clips from Hayley Cherie. When I mentioned I’d be putting them on my wish list as they were cheaper than the Wonder Clips, the next day they showed up on my doorstep, along with this message:

IMG_3826To be honest, this little message alone is a much bigger gift. It not only means that I helped her, it means that I passed on a craft and became a “teacher”. What bigger gift is there than that?

But please…feel free to feed the obsession anytime ;)

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Country color quilt finished!

Remember the post I did in February about that country fabric that jumped in my cart? Well, the quilt is finished and although it’s not my favorite colors, it did turn out surprisingly beautiful.

IMG_7949_edited-1The quilting, while repetitive (and after a while, quite boring!) was surprisingly simple and forgiving. I was going a bit “loopy” after a while. Bwaaa-haaa-haaa! I crack myself up sometimes. Hey – the voices in my head thought that was funny.

IMG_7960See how forgiving this quilting is? No matter how thick or thin I quilted those loops, it looks great. I almost like the back better than the front! The quilting enhanced this rather dull quilt and made it beautiful! Shoot, I can’t stop looking at the back. It’s almost prettier than the front.

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No, the edges aren’t wavy. It’s clumpy grass that’s not been cut yet this year – still a bit early to mow!

This was great practice for me, since I did the same pattern throughout the quilt. I had planned to give it as my Girl’s Club Christmas Exchange gift, but our group decided we’d rather try becoming millionaires and had a blast scratching off eighty $1 lottery tickets instead. And won $36. No quilt machine upgrade for me, LOL! Instead, I will give it to Shirley, who I wrote about in this post. I can’t think of a better person to receive it. She has created a memory that will always make me smile. And remind me why I quilt.

IMG_7984_edited-2I pat myself heartily on the back as I say I absolutely rock at perfect binding corners…..and the crowd goes wild in awe and amazement…..

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I love this quilt – especially how you quilted it!  It’s kind of cool how such a simple design can look so pretty.  I think the loops compliment the triangles beautifully!

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I got a wild hair

I started a new project, because apparently I just can’t have enough UFOs.

This was inspired partly by this woven pillow cover I made a couple of years ago, and partly by a gorgeous woven leather handbag that I saw in a store.  It was gorgeous but hoooo boy, very expensive!

I bought some lightweight denim and cut it into 1″ strips.

cuttingRan the strips through a bias maker.

binding toolI’d started out with putting a 1/4″ strip of fusible web in the center, but I ran out of it, so I resorted to starching the strips, then moved on to using Elmer’s glue.

Elmer’s has this neat little glue tube.

glue 1 It dispenses a thin line of glue at one end…

glue 2…and a wider one at the other end, with a tip that spreads the glue evenly and thinly.  It worked perfectly for my strips.

glue 3Next, I lined up the strips on a 45° angle and taped them down with duct tape.  Ha!  Never thought I’d use duct tape in a sewing project, but I was wrong!

weave 1My husband got curious when he saw me with his roll of duct tape in hand, so he came to see what I was doing.  After observing me for a few minutes, he dryly pointed out that although this is a quilting blog, there didn’t seem to be much sewing involved in this project.  He then asked me if I was going to swipe his WD-40 also.  I pointed out that not only do I know where he sleeps, I also cook his dinner.  He was quick to bring me a glass of wine and a slice of chocolate cake.

Next up:  I’m ready to start weaving!

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Green

A while back, twelve members of my quilting group decided they wanted to explore art quilting.  We decided to make one 12″ by 12″ quilt a month, with each member picking a theme that the rest of us could then interpret into a quilt.

Our first theme was “Green”.  I spent a lot of time contemplating ideas and designs for Green.  There are several possible interpretations; money, jealousy, earth-friendly, color.  I had a great idea for jealousy but I could not make it work in such a short period of time.  I knew a couple other members of my group were going with money and recycling ideas.  So I chose to simply feature the color, but I wanted to do something unexpected, something you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with “green”.

I made a green zebra.

s2b 1It was fun and surprisingly easy to make!  I browsed copyright-free images on the internet, found a zebra, cropped it to what I thought was an interesting perspective, and printed it out on freezer paper.  Since the paper is only 8.5″ by 11″, I couldn’t fill the whole width of the quilt with the image, but in the end I decided that this non-standard framing also added interest.

I ironed the freezer paper on the front of my green fabric, ironed fusible web on the back,  and spent a happy hour pretending I was back in Mrs. McGee’s first grade class, cutting out green zebra stripes.  I ironed it onto a solid white background and fused a stabilizer to the backing to support the stitching and give the quilt some stiffness, so it would hang nicely.  Then I sandwiched the quilt with batting as usual, and quilted it with a zigzag stitch in metallic green thread all around the raw edges.  I wanted it to be subtle but sparkly.  I contemplated further quilting in the white areas, but in the end I decided it would distract from the main image.

s2b 4I’ve never been much of an art quilt fan; I think there are maybe 20 art quilts I’ve seen that I actually liked.  And I’m not much of an artist, either.  I can’t draw, paint, sketch, etc.  I have no sense of perspective and I can’t figure out how to illustrate light and shadows well.  But for some reason, when I was asked if I wanted to participate in this art quilt challenge, I said yes.  And I’m really glad I did!  I surprised myself by accepting a challenge to do something I didn’t think I’d like doing.  And then I surprised myself even more by actually enjoying the entire process and being proud of my final product!

How about you?  Have you ever challenged yourself to do something you didn’t think you’d enjoy, only to discover you actually had fun?

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 I love the quilt! The metallic thread really brings it to life. And I love the way you thought “outside the box” and didn’t make the first green thing that came to mind. I did challenge myself to do a portrait quilt, thinking it would be the hardest thing ever. I don’t do well with color theory, and making the quilt helped me learn color-matching. Instead of being hard, it was thrilling watching the portrait come together! Your quilts always amaze me – the thought your truly put into them – and because of you I always step up my game when I’m preparing a quilt. You’re my quilting “hero”, and I love to surprise you with something you’re not expecting from me!

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Diagonal Quilt Back Tutorial

I love John Flynn’s method of making a quilt back (it’s about halfway down the page on the link). It uses less fabric, and avoids a straight seam in the center of a quilt, which is a pain when trying to longarm. He has a PDF to calculate the yardage needed,and if you suck at math like I do, he’s also got a great app that figures out the calculation for you – well worth the $1.99. But instructions on exactly how to do this were nowhere to be found. When I made my Australia t-shirt quilt I used this method for the backing, and remembered to take pictures of how I did it. Hopefully this will help some others who are trying it out for the first time. A couple of tips: Having a helper will make this process SO much easier. Trying to do the diagonal fold by myself was quite taxing! Also, look at the selvage of the fabric you’re considering. If the selvage edge is quite thick with no print on it, reduce your width of fabric in your calculation. You don’t want to end up with selvage in your quilt!

Step One: Take your full length of fabric and fold it diagonally from corner to corner.

fold fabricStep Two: Cut along the diagonal fold. This is the scariest part. That’s a LOT of fabric to cut, and you’re thinking “No way can this work!” and how you’re gonna kick yourself in the arse if it doesn’t because that’s a lot of money you just spent on this backing. But take a deep breath and just CUT. If your calculations were correct when you bought the fabric, this will work. Cut the fabric!

cut fabric2Step Three: Open the fabric.

Unfold fabric

Ignore the man in the work work boots. That’s a cutout of Taylor Lautner from the Twilight series. We made him a cheerleader and gave him pom-poms, lol.

Step Four: Skooch the fabric. Move one side down and you’ll see the backing magically get wider. Once again, two people make this job SO much easier!

skooch fabricStep Five. Carefully lay your quilt on top of the fabric, and keep skooching and checking until the backing completely shows underneath the quilt. And remember, you’re going to lose 1/2″ in your seam allowance, so be sure to allow for that. Since I longarm my quilts I needed extra backing area, so I adjusted my backing to give me the four extra inches on each side that I’d need.

Check for sizeStep Six: Once you’ve skootched to size, just fold and sew along that seam line, and cut off the corner triangles. That’s it!

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My skills have definitely improved…..

I belong to “The Girl’s Club”, a group of 8 girls who have been getting together for over 25 years. Way, way back, when I first started quilting, I made 7 small tablerunners for each of our mothers for Mothers Day. They were given to them when we took all of our mom’s out for tea lunch to celebrate.  Yesterday, we attended the 80th birthday party for one of those mothers, Shirley, and as soon as I walked in the door she grabbed my hand and said “I’ve got something special to show you”. There, on a display table with all the photographs from her childhood, was the tablerunner she received at that lunch. It brought tears to my eyes. Although I don’t often see Shirley, she always makes a point to say how much she cherishes that little tablerunner, and displays it proudly. THIS is why I quilt.

I took a few pitiful phone pictures of it, and boy have I learned a lot since those first days of quilting!

IMG_2594-1Oh my. Look at how wavy it is! The binding is about 10 different sizes, and look at those corners. The blocks were paper-pieced, so they look pretty darn good though. The stripes even go the right way!

IMG_2592-1_edited-2I obviously hadn’t learned the importance of pressing yet. There are gaps at nearly every seam. Nor did I know what “stitch in the ditch” was, as it surely could’ve used it. My binding. Oh my goodness, look at those huge stitches! I’m betting you could almost stick your pinkie finger underneath. Even funnier, look at how skinny the binding is here, and how wide it is in the picture below…..

IMG_2593-1_edited-1ROFL!!!! I think it was almost an inch wide on the back! I had put a sleeve on each one in case the mom’s wanted to hang them up. Do ya think I’d use the matching thread to sew those? Noooooo….let’s make that stitching stand out!!

IMG_2592-1_edited-1And you can see the loooong hand stitching in that pink fabric. Yes, I hand quilted these – it was long before I learned to machine stitch when quilting the quilt! And even funnier….

IMG_2593-1You can also see a bit of the hand stitching on the back. Man-oh-man, about every stitch length available there. And in every direction known to man.

It was great to observe this little quilt after so many years. My gradual improvements are hard to see over the years. I’m proud of how I’ve progressed!

The most gratifying thing is that this simple quilt, with all it’s mistakes, is adored and cherished by this lovely woman. She appreciates the work that went into it, even though I was a beginner. These little moments remind me that my quilts bring true joy!

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Holy Crap! I AM $ew Worth It!!

With great interest, I’ve been following the plethora of posts – and comments (pro and con) – regarding what we quilters are really worth. These are quotes from some of the comments I’ve seen regarding charging for quilts:

-        “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”

-        “ It was made from stash scraps, so I don’t charge for those.”

-        “Sometimes it is good to be busy rather than counting the profit.”

-        “Just charge 19 cents per square inch – that will cover everything”

Ugh. We really question ourselves and our abilities, don’t we? Sam Hunter, who got us all thinking with her series “We Are $ew Worth It” has posted a wealth of information on this subject, and you can find a listing of all of the posts here. If you’ve not read them (and I’ll assume your computer has been on the blink for the past couple of years because everyone is talking about this!), I highly recommend you do. It really stimulated my “what did this quilt really cost me?” line of thinking.

On one hand, I can’t help but agree with the posts that we ARE worth it, but how do you get that through to the non-quilters who want us to make something for them for practically nothing? They have absolutely no idea what it takes. I’ve got 50 years of sewing experience, and 18 years of quilting experience. That’s not saying I’m a pro. I’m good – even great at some aspects – but not as adept as some quilters. I have my limitations, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Those limitations lessen with every new quilt technique I learn, so I’m continually improving my skills. Also, like 98% of you, I do it for fun, for the love of quilting. I don’t teach, I’ve never written a book, nor won any major show awards. Although I did win Best of Show ribbon at a small county fair for a t-shirt quilt I made for my niece – does that count?!?!? My SIL entered it and I didn’t even know until after it won. So someone else proclaimed my worth on that one. Many of the posts I’ve read are by well-known quilters, either in the quilt world or blog-wise. Yes, their quilts are going to sell for more. So I certainly can’t put myself in their position. I’m a little quilter with big dreams. Not of winning awards or writing books, but creating things out of my comfort zone. So, on the other hand, I can’t expect to get all that much for my quilts. Which is why I don’t sell them. But what is my quilt really worth? What value do I put on myself? I decided to put this question to the test.

The Challenge

I made this quilt as a housewarming gift for my niece, Britni.

Britni's Quilt2

She’s a beautiful girl who recently moved from Ohio to Indiana, away from every family member and friend she knows. A new adventure! I wanted her to have something “Ohio” to cuddle with, and when I saw this pattern called Twin Sisters from Robinson Pattern Company, I knew it was perfect. Ohio Stars in Scarlet and Gray – Buckeye colors! We quilters all know this is a pretty dang simple pattern, so this was the quilt I decided to test myself with. An easy quilt. It’ll be pretty inexpensive to make, right?

I started by downloading and tailoring Mollie Sparkles cost sheet to my needs. I worked up what I thought my worth would be, estimating my time.

My guess. Wow. I'm worth more than I thought before I've even begun!

My guess. Wow. I’m worth more than I thought before I’ve even begun!

I had previously purchased my fabrics, so the cost on the guesstimate and actual are both the same for supplies. I found a great deal on the fabrics, but if I were actually in business, the fabric costs I would charge my customer would have been the retail price, not the sale price. But since this was personal, I’m using the sale price. The batting was already in my stash, but I’m including everything – and I paid for that stash, so it’s got to be included!

Let’s Quilt!

I decided to add the free app Hours Keeper to my iPad to track my time. I wanted to be as accurate as possible. It allows you to put in “break” times for lunch, putting the laundry in the dryer, etc. I’m ready to start. These were my considerations:

Time: My time clock started from the moment I turned the lights on in my sewing room. NOT when I started cutting or sewing. Why? Because it’s the same as going to work. When I worked as an office manager, my hours began the moment I stepped in the door, not when I sat down to work. Seriously, was that first cup of coffee you took 3 minutes to prepare after you got to your office on your time or theirs? And that 5 minute conversation on the way to your desk with the co-worker about their kid being sick  – your time or company time? Company time, always company time. So when I turn on my machines, my radio or TV, plug in my iron and pull out the fabrics, it’s on company time in my sewing room. Because if I weren’t making this quilt, I wouldn’t be doing those things.

Rate per hour: It’s $25/hr. Period. I’m worth it. Well, I thought I was worth $20/hr until my blog buddy Peggi put me in my place about that. My experience is worth the price. See? I needed someone else to convince me of my worth! How blasted sad is that?? Shoot, my perfectly square quilt binding corners are worth even more, as far as I’m concerned. I rock at those mitered corners.

Shipping & Misc. charges: This includes pretty much everything you can’t see. Fuel & time at the fabric store, electricity, water for prewashing and pressing (I used 3 gallons of water just for pressing!), and machine wear & tear.

Thread: I used the chart supplied by Superior Threads to estimate my thread usage. You can see that chart here.

Creating label: I create my labels in Photoshop, with a pic of the recipient and a QR code with my email address in case it is lost.

Britni's Label_edited-1

I print it out on June Tailor Iron-On Print & Press, iron that onto white fabric, then make my label. The cost of the Print & Press and fabric is included in the create label cost.

Quilting: I do my own quilting on my midarm machine, no computer is used. Only rulers, my hands and alcohol when I’m frustrated. Although alcohol, sadly, is not included here. Never drink and drive your machine. Alcohol appeared after the light switch was turned off.

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Binding: Two-inch bindings are machine-sewn to the front, hand-sewn to the back in my world. Always. Since I machine stitch everything else, this hand-sewing is my own personal love going into the quilt. The charge for the binding also includes the final trimming of all stray threads throughout the quilt.

So I began. And I kept immaculate time. Every. Single. Moment.

The Eye-Opening Results

Here are my final numbers:

The final numbers. Holy. Cow.

The final numbers. Holy. Cow.

Oh my goodness, I about fainted. This quilt is worth – in time, expense and profit – $2090.55. And this is for a lap sized quilt – 65 x78″! Can you imagine the final cost for a queen-sized quilt? Or a hand-appliqued quilt?

Apparently I quilt much slower than I thought. I guessed a total of 23.75 hours to make this simple quilt. Sounds reasonable. Nope. Nearly 66 hours from start to finish. That’s a 36% time difference. I spend 36% longer to quilt than I imagined. Apparently time really does fly when you’re having fun!

Broken down, here are the guess-and-actual differences:

Screen shot 2015-03-12 at 4.52.37 PMMy piecing time did include 12 minutes of frogging (I told you I timed everything!). Why did I include that? Well, when I made a mistake at the office, did I clock out, correct the mistake, then clock back in? No. The company paid me to correct my work. Frogging is part of the work. So the charge stays. It also included 18 minutes of clean-up time after the quilt was completed. This quilt created that mess, and my room should be back to where it was before I began this quilt.

I also included a half hour of exploring an easier way to create hourglass blocks. The instructions wanted me to cut triangles, and since I’m not fond of those bias edges, I knew there was an easier way. So this cost included searching for instructions I remembered seeing on the internet and printing them out. Obviously, I don’t do many hourglass blocks.

The profit? I applied 15%, but when I think about it, is it really enough? When you buy clothes or electronics, isn’t the profit margin around 50%? Frankly, I probably should have used at least 20%. My actual costs for supplies was $159.12. My profit was $272.68. Which means it will take 58% of my profits to replace the supplies I used in this quilt. Doesn’t leave a whole lot to invest in anything else, does it?

What did I learn?

First and foremost, feel free to call me Cher, as I’ve been totally “Clueless” of the time and energy I spend on a quilt. The time alone is enough to make me realize that I haven’t been giving myself the credit that is due to me. I am blown away at what it really took to make this quilt. When I look at these final numbers, I’m actually embarrassed that I ever said “Pish-posh, it was nothing”! It certainly was something.

It also make me realize that I’m now going to seriously think before I give a quilt away. While others may say “It is better to sell the quilt at a lesser price than have it laying around my house”, I’d rather have it laying around my house than give it to someone who won’t appreciate (or pay a fair amount) for the work that’s gone into my masterpiece – be it a simple or intricate quilt. Not that I’ve got quilts lying around. I make quilts with someone in mind. There’s almost always a reason behind my quilts.

As I’ve said, I don’t sell my quilts. However, now that I’ve completed this eye-opening test, I will have no problem saying “My fees start at $1000″ when asked if I will make a quilt for someone (caveat: Family doesn’t count. My family is da’bomb. They pay me with unconditional love.). Because it’s the only way this nincompoop will stop giving her services away. And I’d never offer it on Etsy, Ebay, or anywhere else for less than $2000, either. I promise not to diminish the value of quilters who are trying to sell their quilts for what they’re worth.

I now have the ammunition to educate non-quilters of my worth. My quilts may not have a designer label, but they are beautiful, handcrafted, and worthy of appreciation.

Most importantly, I will take praise for my quilts with immense gratitude and hold my head high because I know exactly what went into making it, and I’m proud of that! I am an artist.

I challenge every quilter (or crafter of any kind!) to take this test and actually time yourself. How long does it actually take you to quilt….really??? Education starts at home. I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out about yourself.

In closing, I’ll say it again: Holy Crap! I AM $ew Worth It! Thank you, Sam Hunter, for starting a conversation that truly opened my eyes.

PS: Peggi found some interesting information on Pricing Strategies for Designers. I’m going to investigate this information and will post a follow-up on what this quilt would be worth if I had my own company, according to those guidelines.

 

Valerie’s Memorial Quilt

Four years after my mom passed away, I’ve finally finished the memorial quilt for my sister, Valerie. God bless her for being patient! This is the 5th of 6 memorial quilts.

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IMG_3433-1The center squares are made from our mom’s clothes.  I quilted them with freehand leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3428-1The denim blue outer heart border was quilted with squiggly lines. I love making these – it was a lesson in patience, for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3445-1The butterflies were made with my dad’s favorite sweatshirt jacket, which he wore whenever he was working out in the garage. I put an extra layer of batting behind the butterflies so they’d puff out a bit more, then added black antennae and had the butterflies “carrying” the name by wrapping around the letters. How cute is that?!?! I wish I’d have used a thicker thread, but it looks cute as hell anyway.

 

 

 

IMG_3447-1“Charlie” was Valerie’s nickname, and only mom and dad called her that. I did the lettering in Word, printed it out, taped it together, then did the applique with Mistyfuse. Dang, Mistyfuse is incredible – I didn’t have to reverse the lettering or worry about the fabric fraying!

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Valerie embroidered all of the labels on mom’s sewing machine that she inherited. The picture is from Val’s wedding – one of our favorite pictures, and it was embroidered onto dad’s t-shirts. She made 4 of these – and must have used miles of thread! Because it is on knit, the words are a bit hard to read, but that’s okay-we know what it says!

Valerie loves it, and I’m so glad she does. I now have one more memorial quilt to make – mine. But it will wait for a while. Those quilts take a lot out of me emotionally, and I have to do some happy quilts now. I will love having my own to cuddle up with….soon…..

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