Method or Just Madness?

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This is a long and winding tale, mostly about my creative process, but also peppered with photos here and there, showing examples of my decision making along the way. Now would be the time to pour yourself a tall cool one or, better yet, make yourself a rootbeer float, this is going to take a while.

My initial idea for the corner four patches

Trying something bolder for those four patches

Even though all the other ones were sewn already!

This was my first big dilemma with my initial concept – I wanted to have a fairly soft, low volume effect, punched up with a bit of that lovely aqua and orchid combination. I chose softly muted mushroomy prints to make all of the four patches and then the doubting began. Was it too soft? too non-descript? was I losing the shape of those connecting squares too much? So then I started making the four patches in bolder prints, using the same orchid hue that I was using for the outside surroundings of the small star blocks… and picked apart the mushroom toned ones.

Mushroom coloured four patches

Orchid coloured four patches

After laying out a selection of blocks on my design floor, I decided that the orchid colour emphasized the square around the small stars too much, creating a look that was too ‘blocky’ and taking away from the larger aqua stars which I felt should be a more striking design element in this quilt. So… that meant more picking and back to my initial concept with those softer prints.

Lesson #1: Follow your instincts

My next big dilemma came when I had all the blocks up on the design wall. The thing that really caught my eye initially with this quilt design was the unique border design and right from the beginning I knew I wanted to do something very low volume to enhance the visual effect of  the broken border. After choosing two favourite neutral prints that I loved, I constructed all the border pieces and it wasn’t until the entire quilt was on the design wall that I realized it wasn’t working.

Not quite right

Well, talk about disappointed! The quilt just lost something in the translation between my imagination and actual reality. I had to walk away from it and I didn’t return for at least a week or more. I had, however, taken some photographs in order to better analyze just where I’d gone wrong. After much debate (in my head and out loud) I decided that although I had initially desired an overall softness in the tone of this quilt, there was something lacking in the cohesiveness of the design. I had introduced two fabrics in the border that were used nowhere else in the quilt, and because they were both so ‘quiet’, the broken border concept almost completely disappeared, leaving the edge of the quilt just hanging there. There just had to be a better solution!

Lesson #2: Never give up trying to improve your work.

Final results!

Just like in relationships, in times of trouble sometimes you just have to step back a ways to gain perspective and think clearly. And I’m so glad I did! Even though this is not exactly what my initial idea was, I actually think it has improved immensely!

Lesson #3: Don’t let your initial concept blind you to better ideas.

After much deliberation I decided to scrap the border pieces and re-introduce the fabric I had used for the background on the large star blocks. This accomplished two goals by enhancing those stars that I had earlier deemed an important element in the design, and by building a relationship between the border and the interior of the quilt I had achieved cohesion. This was also achieved by using another aqua print on the outside edge that was very close in tone to the stars but not exactly the same, therefore, visually interesting.

Yesterday afternoon I managed to get the entire quilt top sewn together and cannot help staring at it. I am so pleased that I stuck with it and I’m sure that when it’s quilted it will be one of my all-time favourites. I already have the perfect backing fabric set aside, having ordered it from Daryl at FabricSpark as soon as I saw this brand new line appear on my computer screen.

Tokyo Milk presents Neptune and the Mermaid

Neptune's Neverland

I have fallen head over heels in love, love at first sight, and crazy! stupid! love! for this amazing line of fabric and I’m so happy that I ordered it the moment I spotted it, as I’ve heard it’s selling out all over the place! The Neptune’s Neverland is the print I’m using for the back of my quilt and the orchid coloured fabric at the top is a strong candidate for binding (there’s just enough) but I haven’t quite decided on that yet… I’ll just wait until the quilting is done and then decide.

So that’s all for now. Wishing you happy stitching.

As always, carol xoxox

 

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Lilac Festival

All last week the entire house was scented with lilacs, as every jar and vase was filled to bursting capacity with blooms of every colour. Most were from the garden but some were picked at my studio space where a lovely large hedge of lilacs has survived untended for many years, except to be picked by passing school children. This has definitely been the year of the blossom, with the crabs, apples, chokecherries, nankings, and now the lilacs showing off, in all their glory, for all to see and enjoy.

I spent some time in the garden this morning, taking photos of the amazing progress that’s happening there too, but I’ll wait until the end of the week to share those with you. I’m also hoping to show some evidence of progress with photos of quilt tops as well, but for now there is just this simple teaser of a simple project that still needs to be tweeked but, for now, had to be bumped off the design wall to make room for bigger priorities. But, since it fit with the colour scheme of the day…

Work in progress

This project began with the purchase of a small scrap bag of mostly batiks and because they featured various shades of purples, a colour I don’t use very often in my work, I saw this as a personal challenge. Sometimes it’s a good idea to step out of my comfort zone and using a fabric selection put together by someone else is a great jumping off point for me. I really enjoy making it my own by adding other fabrics from my stash, but the real challenge comes from starting off with a simple design concept and then improvising as it progresses until it becomes something quite unique. What you’re seeing is the very beginning stages of what I hope will eventually develop into a much more interesting or exciting design.

Unfortunately, as all good distractions must come to an end, duty calls and this one has been tucked away for a rainy day, when there will be more time to play. Time is a-tickin’ and I’m trying to focus on the tasks at hand… but more on that next time.

As always, happy stitching, carol xox

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Blowing in the Wind

A little iris flowerbed

Patio flower pots

This is the year of the garden! And it seems as though I’ve spent much more time there than at the sewing machine, but oh! the results are worth it! We’ve had perfect weather for flora and foliage to flourish, with the past week delivering lovely showers, keeping all things green and beautiful. The rain also means a great time saver for us, as without it we must haul water for the garden and flowerbeds, and then there’s the two or three hours spent hand watering everything. It’s a huge time commitment and certainly takes me away from other things, but I find great joy in the process and the garden can also be extremely inspiring.

Blocks all sewn together

You might remember this quilt as one that was up on the design wall a while back. I hadn’t done an update report on it for quite some time but I am still plugging away at it when I get a chance. As you can see, the blocks are all stitched together and there are two border sections added on, one at the top and one at the bottom of the quilt. These are all hand appliqued with various motifs and objects pertaining to the garden or my personal life, and it’s been great fun to pick and choose odd, quirky objects to include. I cut all the border strips and have been doing the applique on each one prior to stitching the borders onto the center of the quilt. This makes the hand sewing a bit less awkward by reducing the bulk of fabric, but there will be some applique to do when all the borders are on, just to fill in the corners.

Like petals in the wind

Working on border #3 now

Windy days

So between the rain and the wind there has been little opportunity for good quality quilt photos but sometimes you just have to go for it… and have fun with it. I wasn’t even going to post these pictures after I uploaded them to the computer, as there wasn’t really a good one amongst them, where the quilt hangs lovely and straight. The way I look at it though, lovely and straight can be highly overrated and although I muttered some cuss words under my breath while taking the pictures, I giggled a lot too. I must have looked a complete fool trying to calm the wind and wrestle the quilt into submission.

I’m attempting to have this quilt top complete by the end of the month as it has been lingering on my 17 in 2017 list and holding up the progression on other projects, but I’ve also just recently sent in my ‘Intent to Enter’ form for a big show this fall and must get a hustle on that list now. I’m entering eight fairly large quilts into the show and they are mostly in various stages of completion. I probably won’t be posting about them until the show is over as I’m not quite sure about the committee’s policy on publishing prior to the exhibition, so better safe than sorry. I promise there will still be lots of progress to report on, however, as I’ve been digging deep into the archives and found some ancient projects that I’d like to move along to the finished stage.

Stay tuned for more weather reports, garden updates, and of course, stitching news. As always, carol xox

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A Tisket, A Tasket, Five Little Baskets

Basket #1

Basket #2

Basket #3

Basket #4

Basket #5

It was an absolutely splendid day today and as promised, I managed to get outside to take photos of my five basket blocks. In order to stay out of the slight breeze I snuck round to the west side of my old farmhouse and hung each block on the garden trellis that is mounted on that wall. The clear afternoon sunlight gives a very true version of the colours in the cottons and hand-dyed wools that I used in each block but in order to properly view the embroidery I needed to get closer.

The stems and leaves were cut from a variety of batiks and are all stitched by hand using traditional needle turned applique. The berries and blooms are a combination of felted wool and hand-dyed wool, and have all been applied with a buttonhole or blanket stitch. I had a great time choosing from #8 and #12 perle cotton, stranded embroidery thread, and hand-dyed threads including some wools. In addition to the buttonhole stitch I added French knots, straight stitch, and lazy daisy stitches to embellish the individual flowers, before trimming the blocks down to twelve and a half inches. Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to head over to the studio to get all the blocks up on the large design wall and decide on proper placement. I can’t wait to see this one come together!

As always, carol xoxox

 

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May Flowers

Nanking Cherry Bush

The month of May has been full of gardening activity and it has been a true pleasure to be out in yard enjoying an incredible display of blossoms on the shrubs and trees.

Apple tree

We have a small orchard of apple and crabapple trees on our property and never before have they displayed such an abundance.

Crabapple tree

The branches of each tree are so loaded with blossoms that it creates an amazing bower exploding with colour and fragrance.

The only way to describe some of the trees is to compare them to a beautiful bride draped in a white lace gown. It’s breathtaking!

Crabapple shrub with double blooms

And as breathtaking as all the visual delight is, I can’t even begin to describe the amazing scent that lingers on the evening air. The past few evenings I’ve just stood nearby taking deep breaths of ‘beauty’, filling my lungs with the month of May, attempting to absorb as much of it as possible as it all too quickly draws to a close.

My little needlebook and pincushion

Interior pages of my needlebook

Each page embellished differently

Hand embroidered details

A little gift to myself

Well, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post you must be commended on your endurance and high tolerance of photo heavy posts. Although I’ve been in the garden most good weather days, I still have had the pedal to the floor (sewing machine pedal, of course). I’ve done a lot of piecing this month and have spent time on some handwork too, accomplishing the last of my applique basket blocks for my project I started in Red Deer last month. With every block now complete, I can begin sewing the top together… but more on that next time.

The little project that I’ve posted here today was just a whimsy that I produced last month but hadn’t time to blog about until now. The tiny pincushion was created only a few days ago, when I had some triangles leftover from a larger project – you know, those awkward little cut off corners that are almost too small to use so you throw them into the garbage and then when inspiration strikes, you dig them back out again and make the sweetest tiny pincushion you’ve ever laid your eyes on. After all, those are treasured Liberty fabric scraps and don’t really deserve to be thrown in the trash.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update, even though it’s a bit less quilty and a lot more overdue. Now that the garden has been planted and all my pots are well under way, I’m feeling as though I’m back on track again and should be able to post regularly once more. Next up is a progress report on my 17 in 2017 projects and I’ll be sure to snap some photos of my applique basket blocks too.

As always, carol xoxox

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Plenty Spring Fling

Amber's cheeky attitude shines through every quilt she makes!

Quilts on every pew!

Spectacular lighting from the stained glass!

Wonderful variety of quilts

A familiar quilt in the crowd :o )

The view from the pulpit

Janine showing off one her quilts in the show

What a wonderful afternoon we had at the Spring Fling in Plenty yesterday! With temperatures reaching over 30 degrees celsius, most people gravitated into the church basement where it was cooler to sit and visit, sip coffee, and snack on home baked sweets. A soup and sandwich supper was served at 5:00 and the vendors selling goods seemed to be having a steady flow of customers. Unfortunately I have no photos of food or shopping to share with you as I spent my day upstairs with all the lovely quilts!

The Plenty United church was the most beautiful venue for this very special event, with the stained glass windows enhancing the quilts and vice-versa. The quilt show was put on by the Plenty Piecemakers Club that was started by yours truly about six years ago, with many of the quilts made as a result of workshops and challenges presented over the years. The amazing part about this exhibition is that most quilts you see were made by only three people – Janine, Amber, and myself. As you can see by the photos, we had no problem filling the entire church with a vast variety of ‘love-liness’.

The best part of my day was watching the expression on the faces of people as they entered the church and encountered the quilts on display. I swear their faces just lit up with joy!

As always, with love, carol

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Back to my PHD

Currently on the design wall

I have finally come to terms with the fact that I lost an entire month of quilting time and that one third of the year is over, yikes. It is now time to move on and get back on track with my 17 in 2017 list, perhaps with a few adjustments made to the line-up of my PHD  ’projects half done’.

To be perfectly honest, the current project on the design wall has been sitting there, waiting patiently, since the beginning of April and now that I’ve cleared my other top priority commitments, I’ve been able to get back to this one. The center portion of each block had been constructed ages ago and were just waiting for the corner triangles to be added but, because I had chosen a complicated floral fabric featuring a variety of colour and pattern, I stalled out on it and set it aside about a year ago. It was one of those quilts that definitely required design wall space, as the placement of the blocks and that feature fabric is crucial in the overall concept. In the above photo you can see most of the blocks are without the corner triangles and the ones that have their corners sewn on are scattered randomly. After completing only a few, I realized that this project needed to be seen in its entirety, on the wall, before continuing to add the rest of the triangles.

One of these things just doesn't belong

Whenever I’m creating a scrappy project, I find the design wall is my most useful tool. I can happily sew blocks together for days and weeks but when it comes time to stitch them all together, I really must move into my large studio and get those blocks up on the wall for proper placement. That is the stage when most of the design work becomes apparent and also when something ‘not quite right’ will jump off the wall and smack you between the eyes. I need to be able to step back quite a distance to see what needs to be edited, and in this case it was only one weirdo block that didn’t quite work with the rest. It was easily replaced with a new block that flowed much better with the others.

Placement progress

After cutting out all the necessary triangles, I spent an afternoon placing and replacing them until they were Goldilocks-just-right and now I’m ready to start attaching them to their centers. After pressing and trimming each block it will be a breeze sewing them together, and I can’t wait to see them ‘tighten up’ as a quilt top.

Today Lori at Humble Quilts opened up her linky party for the doll quilt exchange and I would highly recommend checking that out.

Tomorrow I will be participating in the Spring Fling Quilt Show at the Plenty United Church from 2:00 until 7:00, where there will be soup, sandwiches, sweets, and coffee served. A few local home-based businesses will have various goods for sale and I will have a table of quilts and pincushions for sale. Although the Plenty Piecemakers are a small group and haven’t gathered officially since last summer, there’s sure to be a lovely selection of quilts on display – I’ll be sure to bring my camera. I can’t wait to see what everyone has been working on over the winter.

As always, carol

 

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Humble Doll Quilt Exchange

Mini Flying Geese

Oh! Happy days! And happy May day! I received some very exciting mail today! My swap partner is Merry and she lives in the state of Washington, and I could not be more thrilled with the sweet mini quilt that she made especially for me. As you can see in the photo, there is nothing ‘humble’ about it as she is a wonderfully talented quilter with a great eye for colour. I just love those tiny 1″ x 2″ flying geese stitched in ‘Canadian’ reds – so appropriate. Included in the parcel was a set of quilt themed notecards, which was a very thoughtful surprise. And speaking of surprises, take a look at this terrific label on the back!

Mini Quilt Label

OMG! What a lovely touch to this extremely special quilt! Thank you so much, Merry, for making my first Humble Quilt Swap such a fun, uplifting, and positive experience. I only wish I knew where she scored that perfect postcard fabric – I’d love to get my hands on some!

Happy stitching, carol xox

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April Fizzled…

a little pile of four patch corner blocks

I’m very sad to see the month of April come to an end, as I truly missed out on at least three quarters of the month due to illness and now feel completely off schedule. Not much major stitching has happened in the past week but I fiddled around here and there, off and on, with the project I started in Red Deer. Believe it or not, those little four patch units gave me the most trouble I’ve had in a long time… not with the actual construction, but with design choices. I ended up creating four entire blocks using different fabric in a darker colour for those cornerstones and then spent an entire afternoon seam ripping them apart to remake them. Sometimes you must make a big mistake to know how to proceed correctly.

one sewn and one partially sewn

My progress report is as follows: all eight of the large star blocks complete, all twelve of the small star blocks complete, all five basket blocks completely pieced but only two appliqued, and half of the partial small star blocks that make up the border are pieced. I’m planning to kit up the three remaining basket blocks by prepping the stems and wool pieces, making the handwork really convenient to work on in my ‘down’ times. Hopefully I can finish all three blocks in May and begin putting the quilt top together.

cheese baskets mini quilt

My final ‘big’ (little) finish for this month was my Humble doll quilt for the swap hosted by Lori of Humble Quilts. I was working on this little 17″ x 17″ reproduction quilt when she announced her annual exchange. I hadn’t taken part in the past but what really appealed to me was the idea of connecting with quilters from around the world. One of the main criteria on Lori’s list of guidelines was to ‘make a quilt that you’d like to receive’ and since I was already making this quilt for myself, I thought why not make a second one for the swap. Those sweet little cheddar cheese baskets are only four inches square, and the little inner border is mitered at the corners, which was no easy task at only half an inch wide. I did some quilting by machine to stabilize the whole thing and then hand quilted around each basket and filled the center square with a simple grid of hand quilting. My little mini was sent out to the U.S.A. about a week ago but I haven’t heard if it’s arrived yet, and at this point in time I haven’t received one in the mail. I will certainly be posting photos when it gets here though… so stay tuned…

and in the meantime… happy stitching! love carol

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…and now for something completely different!

Magazine that I'm working from

Today I thought I’d share some photos of my brand new project that I started while on my annual Bubby Vacation in Red Deer at the end of March. I was saving this project as a reward for sticking to my finishing up schedule for three months and had gathered all the fabrics together to take with me. I hadn’t cut into a single thing until I was settled into the hotel room and then just went gung-ho!

A brand new project

So this is the quilt that I’m making from the Primitive Quilts and Projects Spring 2017 magazine. It’s a good size, 78″ x 78″, and offers up lots of opportunity for my own interpretation. I love the combination of piecing and applique, but what really intrigued me was the unusual border treatment. I had a great time choosing fabrics for this quilt and went in a totally different direction for both colour and style, ending up with quite a modern look.

Large checkered stars

The pattern calls for eight of these large 12″ star blocks, which are a main feature in the design of the quilt. I used some of my treasured Liberty of London cottons in the centers of the stars and a lovely Grunge cotton for the star points. The background fabric is soft and subtle with a beautiful thistle print, reflecting my Scottish heritage.

Smaller star blocks

Next on the list are these little six inch star blocks that will be surrounded by sashing to bring them up to twelve inches. I need to make 24 of these and so far, have completed six. I’m using a couple of different neutral background fabrics for these blocks just to add some visual interest. The stars will be sashed with various shades of orchid and violet to really make them pop.

Bare baskets

The main design element in this quilt are the five basket blocks that are featured in the middle, forming a medallion of sorts. The baskets are pieced and then bouquets are appliqued on top. I pieced my baskets using five different taupey gray Civil War reproduction cottons and used the same light tan background for all five blocks.

Basket Number 2 still in progress

At first, I was planning to do all the applique work in cotton, using the traditional needle turn technique, but while shopping the vendors at the Central Alberta Quilt Show I found some amazing hand dyed wools that stopped me in my tracks. I am now combining both traditional applique and primitive wool applique to each of the bouquets of flowers and foliage, while adding some interesting embroidery stitches to enhance the wool. I’ve gathered many of my own hand dyed threads, including wools, pearl cottons, and embroidery floss, to use in this project and I’m really pleased with the results so far.

Basket Block #1 is complete

The applique and embroidery work is definitely more time consuming than machine piecing but I’m finding it so lovely to just sit back, relax, and do handwork for a change. This just might get me back in the mood for some of those other half done handwork projects that have lingered on the design wall for far too long, and perhaps I’ll make some adjustments to my ’17 in 2017′ project list. Keep watching for progress reports on this new quilt project, even though I will be setting it aside for the next two weeks in order to finish off a few other mandatory commitments that have end-of -the-month deadlines attached to them, I don’t think I’ll be able to tear myself away from it completely. Those baskets are too much fun :o )

Happy stitching, love carol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Misplaced Most of April!

Losing seventeen days out of one month can be quite devastating and I’m not sure how I’m going to ever catch up on all I need to do. My annual trip to Red Deer was wonderful until halfway through when I began to feel unwell, and by the time I arrived back home on Sunday evening I was full-blown feverish and horribly ill. By Wednesday of that same week I ended up in emergency where I was diagnosed with a lung infection and bronchitis, prescribed an antibiotic and an inhaler to help me breath, and ordered to bed rest for at least the next three days. After three days of bed rest I ventured out to do some regular house chores, as things were well underway to falling apart right before my eyes, and laundry was piling up like Mount Vesuvius. In my weakened state, I bent over to pick up a heavy basket of freshly washed laundry to hang on the clothesline, which resulted in me pulling my back out and was sent

Pineapple Blossom Wedding Quilt

hobbling back to bed where I’ve had no relief from the pain for the past ten days… but at least I’m not coughing up rainbows anymore. My antibiotic is finished and I’m attempting to come to terms with all that lost time. You know you’re really sick when you can’t even stitch in bed! I don’t remember the last time I went two entire weeks without sewing something! I’m not even sure it’s ever happened before.

The one thing that I did accomplish little by little, was the binding on the wedding quilt, with the final stitch going in last Wednesday. Now all I have to do is design and attach the label to the back and I’ll be ready for the presentation in July. Even though it started out as completely not my style of quilt, I am thrilled with how this project turned out and truly hope my son and new daughter in law will love it just as much as I do. The border fabric added a cool graffiti style edgey-ness, enhancing the piecing and bringing all the prints/colours together, and the yellow and black ‘pedestrian’ stripe binding is the perfect final touch for the quilt top… and that backing.

Quilt backing is perfect!

I’m showing a photo of the back of the quilt in the hopes you can see the quilting design more clearly. I used a freeform paisley pattern in a variegated gray thread for the quilt center and a variation on a freeform feather and swirl pattern stitched with black thread in the border, giving the quilt a lovely curvy texture to balance out the hard pointy lines in the pieced pineapple blocks. And is that not the cutest binding you ever did see? I love it!

I’ll be back here again really soon with more updates, but in the meantime ‘Happy Stitching’ from carol xxx

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Pineapple Blossoms in the Bag!

Close up on the quilting

It was down to the crunch but I’m happy to say that the Pineapple Blossom wedding quilt is folded neatly away and tucked in my luggage ready for late night hotel room binding sessions. With any luck I’ll be able to complete the binding before returning home on Sunday, but if not I’m quite sure I’ll at least get a good start on the almost 400 inches of hand stitching.

Backing fabric!

I thought you might like to see a shot of the wild backing fabric I ordered online from Sew Sisters in Ontario. It’s a Kaffe Fassett wide back, which was lovely not having to piece a backing for once, but it has a very slippery texture almost like a cotton sateen and it was giving me all sorts of tension issues on the longarm. At first I was truly discouraged but decided to persevere, taking my time with adjustments and trials until I reached a nice ‘middle road’ tension. A fact that probably didn’t help the whole matter was that I was using a different colour thread for the top stitching than what was in the bobbin, which shows every sin that you make in quilting, of course. In the end, I love the texture of the quilting and the wild back is a wonderful surprise.

Happy Spring Daffys!

In this photo you can see a bit of the border fabric that I chose but the best part is the great black and yellow ‘pedestrian’ stripe that I used for the binding. What a lucky find! I hope it doesn’t make me dizzy while I’m stitching it on :o )

This will more than likely be the final post this month but I promise to take a proper full quilt photo of this one when it’s finally finished. I hope that by the time I get back home next Monday, the weather will be pleasant enough to do a clothesline photograph, as this one is too large to hang anywhere else. I will be taking my camera to Red Deer so expect a variety of travel/quilt/ process pictures coming up, as I’m started a brand new project that I want to share. Tammy and I will be exchanging our mini quilts that we’ve been secretly working on this past winter which amounts to even more photos. And last but not least, I’ve already selected my P.H.D. (project half done) for the month of April and managed to get the blocks up on the design wall in the studio, but more on that when I return next week. In the meantime, happy spring stitching! I am now officially on retreat!!!

as always, carol

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