happypathbookclub

our book club reads happy books!

Leap!

First things first – I missed last month’s book club. Boo me! (and there’s a very good chance I will be miss this month’s meeting to – I have to work, I think. Boo me again!)

Last month’s book was “The Divorce Papers” by Susan Rieger. I had  a very hard time getting into this book and the details of it just didn’t stay with me. My biggest recollection about it was skimming (and when I say skimming ,I mean skipping) through all the boring (to me) legal documents. I am really curious to see how everyone else liked it – what was the consensus – thumbs up or thumbs down?

So on to unfinished business. In my last (long ago!) post, I hinted that I had picked a word for 2015. For about 6 months or so, I have had this postcard propped up on a shelf in my sewing room.

leap

The  postcard is an advertisement for a fabric line and  was included in a package I received of fabric purchases.

I must admit, when I first read it my initial thought was, “that’s not true!” A picture of an empty swimming pool and disastrous consequences of leaping  popped into my mind! But I knew that wasn’t the intent of the card and it really gave me food for thought (especially the fact that my mind had instantly gone to that dark place!) At the time, I was working (struggling!!) with designing this quilt:

hot mess

I was really feeling like giving up. I didn’t have to complete it, I  had been inspired by a particular fabric to create a wall hanging for my office. No one would know or care if I never finished it. But I got that postcard in the mail and I propped it on my shelf and it began to give me the message: try something, eventually something will work. And eventually I came up with this:

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So, I have changed my attitude about this little postcard and it still is propped up on shelf. I no longer see empty swimming pools! Now when I’m not sure how to get something done, I just start, and work it out as I go. And it has made me more aware of the many people who always are there, willing to help. So that is why I decided to make my word for 2015 “Leap”. And that is why, in addition to book club books, this year I will be reading books like this:

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I started classes to get my Masters. It feels like a big leap for me, but so far, exciting and good. I have leapt,and so far, the nets have appeared!

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Building Blocks Complete!

This past January I wanted to make a fun New Year’s resolution, so I joined Leah Day’s “Building Block Quilt Along” .

Today, I’m happy to say, I’m finished!!

bb1

I was so happy to be done this quilt that when I finished it yesterday morning I needed to take a picture of it immediately before I put it in the washing machine. (I always have this fear every time I wash a new quilt: either the colors will run, or it will fall apart.) I was mad because it was raining so I couldn’t take a picture outside. But then I asked myself – “self, what are you going to do with this quilt right after you take the picture? Put it in a washing machine with water? Rain is just water –  take your picture!”

So I stood outside on my front lawn in the rain in my pajamas and took a picture – I hope no one got a picture of that!

I’ll be honest, by the end of this quilt along I was more than ready to be done. When I started, I was working at a very leisurely pace. Every Friday night I worked on the new block for the week. In between, I worked on other projects. But the pace picked up just around the time I started work on some projects that had tight deadlines, and it started to feel not so leisurely and I fell a little behind.

But I’m happy I pushed through and caught up, because I think it was a good idea to get it done before the holidays. I don’t think I would have completed it by the end of the year otherwise. I’m working on holiday gifts now and with many other holiday activities coming up, this project would have been hard to squeeze in.

I chose this project because, inspired my new sewing machine, I really wanted to get better at free motion quilting.

wiggly ubb7

These wiggly U’s are my first block.

This wonky star is one of my

last blocks.

Is there improvement? I’ll let you be the judge.

I know I have learned a lot from this quilt:

  1. I don’t like super dense quilting.
  2. I hate marking designs. I started out meticulously tracing each design with a light box, which was a big part of the project beginning to feel like a chore. By the end, I had given up on the light box for all but the most intricate designs. I gave up tracing circles  – even if I traced them perfectly (I didn’t!) I would not sew them perfectly.
  3. When trying to pick my favorite blocks, all the ones I picked were ones with straight line quilting. Which is kind of funny, since I never thought of straight lines as a free motion quilting design. I thought of it as walking foot design. But FMQ lines are so much faster. And it is easy to mark – you just need a ruler and marking pencil – no light box!

bb8 bb9 

I love these straight lines!

I have to say, the thing I love best about my quilt (besides having finished it) are my fabric choices. I started out the year with the idea that I wanted to use fabric I already owned in my projects this year before buying any more (BTW, this was a miserable failure – I bought a LOT of fabric this year). I owned just the right amount of the green batik for this project, but didn’t have enough solid fabric (well, I didn’t have any solid fabric), so I bought the Kona navy with a half price coupon at JoAnn’s. This project was great for using up odd pieces of batting. For backing, I used various print navy’s that I had on hand.

bb4

I have seen so many beautiful & creative  quilts on the Building Block Facebook group. But I have never regretted my fabric choices. Everytime I sat down to sew, that navy and green made me happy. I hope everyone else working on the project had the same experience.

Finally, I have to say another great part of this project was following along with other quilters on the Facebook groups. Sometimes the internet can be a mean place, but I didn’t see that once with this group. I posted some of my progress pictures occasionally, and when I did, I was overwhelmed with the generosity of the group with their praise and encouragement. It made me feel bad that I didn’t comment on others posts more often. So to all the group members,let me say, thank you for sharing your amazing work with us! And thanks Leah for a great Quilt Along!

Here’s a picture after washing – yeah it’s still a quilt!!

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Latest Finish!

I completed this project in August.

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I delayed posting about it because I felt like it needed one more thing:

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Meet my grandbaby, Nadia Claire!
She is such a delight and I love her so much!

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Head in the Clouds, Nose in a Book…

Ever since I purchased my new sewing machine in November I’ve been sewing like a mad woman. I come home from work and sew for a couple of hours. So fun and relaxing! Between November and the end of May I completed 4 t-shirt quilts, 3 handbags, 2 twin size, 1 wall hanging and 1 baby quilt. I was always working on 2 or 3 projects at once, and all of them but 2 had a deadline. And I kept adding more projects to the list of things I wanted to make in the very near future.

At the end of May, I stopped to take stock (and to dig my sewing room out of the chaos that working on 3 projects at a time creates.) I had met all my deadlines, but I knew I had another one looming in October. Looking at what I didn’t accomplish on my previous list, of course the things that didn’t get done were things I wanted to make for myself. One thing in particular stuck out. Back in February I bought a piece of fabric which I wanted to make into a wall hanging.

reading in treesReading & quilting – two of my favorite things. I wanted to make this fabric into a wall hanging for my new office at the library. And I had not started it yet. I realized two things were standing in my way: no deadline and no design.

The deadline was the easy part. I figured I just wanted a small wall hanging – I could be finished by the end of June. The design was really what was holding me back. After searching books, magazines, and the internet for a pattern of the design I had in my head, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and design my own quilt. Gulp! I do not have quilt design software, I can’t use Adobe Illustrator, I can’t draw. I can do math, but I don’t like to. But the math teachers always say,” someday you’ll need this stuff”. That day had come. I went totally old school:

graph paper

In an hour or so I had sketched out my idea for the quilt and broken down the design into steps. If I tackled one little step each day, I should have no problem meeting the deadline.

Ha! Truthfully, there were no “little” steps.  I had no idea how to execute this design.

I thought it would be cute to duplicate the starburst hanging from one of the tree branches in the fabric. Surely I could quickly find a star pattern and make the block. But none of the pieced star patterns were exactly what I wanted. Reluctantly, I realized that I had to delve into the world of paper piecing, and I finally found what I wanted.

While certainly not the most difficult paper pieced block in the world, not really a beginner project, especially in a 6″ size. Especially since I was determined to use a striped fabric for it. I borrowed a Carol Doak book from the library and I quickly understood why she has such a reputation as an expert in paper piecing.

I was encouraged by my 1st try with “practice” fabric…

sunburst

…but definitely saw areas I needed to work on. And it was at this early point in the project I had to accept that it would never be as perfect as I imagined it in my head.

The third time was the charm:

starburst

On to the next challenge: the stack of books. Again, I thought it would be easy, and again, it wasn’t really. How do you make  random strips of fabric look like a stack of books? But then I found the idea of using the fabric selvedges for titles, and I was off and running.

People, to make a long story a little shorter, I will just say that every aspect of designing and making this quilt was hard!! I pondered over every element and agonized every time I had to cut into my “good fabric”.

Here is the quilt in its “hot mess” phase, when I seriously considered abandoning the quilt altogether:

hot mess

But out of sheer stubbornness I persisted. I tackled applique even though I am bad at it. I ripped seams, I made half square triangles when I never had any intention of doing so. I eliminated fabric that I really, really wanted to use because it didn’t work. I made a squirrel even though I hate squirrels.  I endured some moments of  panic, worried that I wouldn’t know when the quilt top was finished – I would just keep adding things to it and it would keep getting crazier looking!  But I realized as soon as I sewed the Perle cotton from the tree branches to make the star and books look they were hanging from trees that it was finally finished.

quilt top

 

And then I promptly took the Perle cotton off , because, really, how do you expect to quilt it when there is loose thread on a quilt top that you want to remain loose. (I really meant it when I said I did everything at least twice.)

I quilted it and hand bound it and put the Perle cotton back on. And I even named it. Which I never do. But the name just came to me, so I accepted the gift, because that was the only thing that “just came to me” on this quilt.

“Head in the Clouds, Nose in a Book” designed & made by Pat Hartman.

Inspired by the “Quiet Time” fabric collection by Tamara Kate.

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“The Blessings”

Book Club was at my house this month. The book was “The Blessings” by Elise Juska.

blessings

I really enjoyed this book. As I noted at book club, it reinforced for me how much I love a depressing book! Although, I did not find this book as depressing as most other club members did. While the Blessings face many challenges in the course of the novel, doesn’t every family? And I found the way the family supported and accepted  each other inspiring. I found many of the relationships moving, particularly the one between the matriarch and the young widow, Lauren. I also loved the style in which it was written. Each chapter is told from a different family member’s point of view. Other book club members wanted the details that were missing from each person’s story, but I feel like all the snippets came together beautifully to tell the story of the whole family.

One thing we all agreed on: we loved that the setting was Philadelphia. Although all but one of us live in the ‘burbs, I still consider myself a Northeast Philly girl. The details of the story were very different, but this family felt very much like my own. And while I have never actually ate pink fluff, I know exactly what it is and have avoided it on many occasions. I actually considered that it would be the perfect refreshment for book club, but decided to have something that people would actually want to eat! I decided to go with some classic Philly food: pretzels, Federal donuts, and Goldenberg Peanut Chews. And a little fruit salad just because it’s good for you.

FederalDonuts-HalfDozenInBox-2

So we had a good book discussion and good food, but something else that caught my attention was Janet’s fun Birthday project. To celebrate a milestone birthday, she has set a goal to do 50 fun things this summer. It has been fun seeing what she has been up via her Facebook posts!

It got me thinking about having fun too! So even though I don’t have a specific goal in mind, here are some fun things I have been up to:

1. Booked a vacation to Jamaica! As we know, anticipation is half the fun.

2. Made plans with my friend Mary to attend Quilt Odyssey again this year! I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to hear about all Mary’s quilting accomplishments since I’ve seen her. I know she was as  inspired as I was last year and she got busy with her quilting too.

3. Went to see the movie “Jersey Boys”. What made it even more fun was my son asked me to go with him. It was nice to go with someone who wasn’t just going because he owes me for “Edge of Tomorrow” (and he still does!). It brought back nice memories of seeing the Broadway show together and we both really liked it way more than we thought we would. I must say I was never a Clint Eastwood fan and when I heard he was directing and producing it, I was nervous. But I’m happy to say I was wrong. He did a great job translating a fun show into a fun movie. Music, the mob, and merriment! What more could you want? Go see it!

3a. I saw the trailer for “Gone Girl” before “Jersey Boys”! I had seen it on the internet before, but seeing it on the big screen got me excited all over again! Creepy and amazing! I must admit, when I saw “opening October 3rd”, my immediate thought was, “I hope Trish holds off having the baby till after this date”.  She is the #1 person I want to see this movie with (even if she has to leave the theater 10x to go the bathroom!). She’s the one I know will enjoy seeing what kind of movie they make of the wonderful novel. And she will enjoy bashing it with me if they wreck it. (Hello, “Time Traveler’s Wife!) But I have high hopes for the movie. David Fincher who directed “The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, and “House of Cards” is the director. Hopefully he will do his usual brilliant job. And while I initially had my doubts about Ben Affleck as Nick, the idea is growing on me. He has the right look, and the one-facial-expression-for-every-occasion acting style he displayed in “Argo” may work for portraying  a dazed man who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife.

Watch the trailer! And do fun things  this summer!

 

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Are Capri Pants Still a Thing…?

…and if not, what’s a middle-aged woman who’s self-conscious about her baggy knees supposed to wear in the summer?

(Note to self: explore skirts as a summer life-style choice)

clothes on bedAll the clothes are going! hangersSo are the hangers.

This is halfway through the process of emptying out my closet.

shoes

I need to rethink the shoes. This is the keep pile.

pink shoes

Look what I found! I still love them – they’re staying. I will wear them one more time to be absolutely sure they hurt like hell.

pursesNone of these purses or bags cost more than $30. Why do I have such a hard time getting rid of them?

fanny packYes. That’s a fanny pack. I am tossing it. So I will never be tempted.

hatsHow do I have a drawer full of Phillies hats in my closet? That I never wear? (They are still there. Is it even possible to get rid of a Phillies hat?)phillies hatAlthough, I have almost reached that stage in life when I can give stuff to my daughter and say, “”I thought the baby would like this.” (and then she can throw it out for me!)

pantyhoseI can’t remember the last time I wore pantyhose. Why do I have a drawer full of it in my closet? If I ever have need of it, I will run to the drug store that is a minute and a half from my house and buy myself a brand new pair. (Wait, do they still sell pantyhose?)

white pantyhoseI am not now, nor have I ever been, a nurse. I am grateful that I cannot remember the outfit that went with  this white pantyhose!

Full disclosure: I bagged up the pantyhose and put it in my sewing room. In case I ever make a stuffed animal. Hello, my name is Pat and I am a hoarder.

Holy UFO, Batman! I found another unfinished object I forgot I had.

ufoI bought this Block of the Month project because I thought it would be a good way to learn to quilt. Ha! This is a very applique-heavy project that was way beyond my skill level at the time. (It may still be above my skill level.) It is amazing that I ever became a quilter.

Have a great weekend everyone! I’m off to go shopping – I have a closet to fill!

 

 

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Hey! I Wrote a Blog Post!

I’m happy to be back blogging after a short hiatus. The main reason for the absence  is because I missed the March meeting – for the first time! (Except for the very first meeting, but I hadn’t joined the group yet.)I was so bummed that I had to miss the meeting , because the book was “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Stinson.rosie projectI had read the book back in October, so I wanted to re-read it to refresh my memory. I mostly hate re-reading because I feel like it takes away  time I could be spending reading something new. So I listened to it on CD. To be honest, I think I loved it even more on audio. I never heard how everyone else liked it – please leave a comment and let me know!

 

This month’s book was “Drama High” by Michael Sokolove.

drama high

This book seemed like a no brainer to me because our book group is composed of former “drama mamas” and high school drama participants. And the story is very local – it is about the drama program at Truman High School and its drama teacher Lou Volpe. I may be exaggerating a little when I say Bensalem High School considers Truman its arch rival, but I was interested to see how everyone responded to the book. Some of our members have met Lou Volpe and seen the productions chronicled in the book. Most of the members seemed to enjoy the book. The two members that really hated it were members of BHS drama not so long ago. I understand why they were irritated – BHS has a great drama program and teacher also. But it was a reminder that there are great teachers everywhere and they make a big difference in children’s lives.

I can’t resist posting a memory quilt picture of my great times at drama high:BHS Drama quilt frontThe most fun I had at book club was sharing this piece of news I received right around Valentine’s Day:

bib

I can’t wait to be a Grandmom! Here’s how I’ve been practicing:

When I see a brand new baby, I do not say, “That baby needs a hat!”        I’m not sure why I get the urge to say the phrase  that irritated me the most when I was a young mother. (And what was I thinking – that baby probably did need a hat!!)

 

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Star Bright

I haven’t got any work done on my Building Blocks Quilt Along for the past 2 weeks. Here’s why:Star BrightThis is the “Star Bright” baby quilt I made from a pattern by Katie Blakesley from SwimBikeQuilt. (and a big thank you to Katie for this free pattern!)

I have a baby shower to go to tomorrow and I wanted to make a gender neutral quilt. I had been wanting to make a quilt with a modern feel and when I saw this pattern it was a no brainer. Every baby is a super star!

I had so much fun making this quilt!

1. I had to buy all new fabric for this quilt – only one small piece of the yellow print is from my stash. I headed over the bridge and visited a lovely quilt shop for the first time – Olde City Quilts. About 20 minutes away and such beautiful fabrics and a wide selection of threads. And the staff was so nice! I’ve already been back once, and I’m planning another trip soon.

2. I didn’t do any free motion quilting, but I’m pretty happy with what I did with my walking foot. In the past I only used it for stitching in the ditch. I ditched the ditch stitching this time!

star quilting

3. Tried spray basting for the first time – loved it!

4. Used striped fabric! First I have to say I hate stripes. I knew I wanted something graphic for the binding and when I saw this striped fabric I felt the colors were a perfect match and didn’t over think it too much. Once I got it home I wavered between “well, it will match the colors of the quilt” and “I hate it!” It wasn’t till I took the last stitch, turned it over, and held it up to admire that I was able to say: “The stripes are cute – I love it!”

5. Flannel on the back and custom labels! Fancy!

label

6. I  copied off all the quilting blogs of been reading and took my quilt outside to photograph the quilt. I even uttered the words “I wish we had a fresh coat of snow so I could photograph it on snow.” I’m sorry! Now that I decided my weathered deck would work fine, I take it back. No Snowmegedden this week please!!

Now that this quilt is finished (Good-bye! I will miss you!) I will catch up on my Quilt Along. But I am also thinking about another fun project. When I saw this fabric, I didn’t think twice – I ordered immediately!

reading in trees

Considering the name of my blog is “Happypathbookclub” and I work in a library, the only question could be “why wouldn’t you buy this fabric?” This looks like the happiest book club ever! (The fabric is Quiet Times by Tamara Kate) I didn’t notice the “I Heart Books ” carved into the tree trunk when I ordered, but it just made me love it more! Now I’m about to do something else I’ve never really done  before – design my own quilt. I have a couple of ideas so far. One of them involves that star shape ornament hanging from a branch. Anybody have ideas or advice for me?

 

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Made with Love

I must admit, from a sewing table perspective, I’m spoiled.

I learned to sew on my mother’s White sewing machine in a built-in cabinet. It looked very similar to this:

White Sewing Machine 77MG and Cabinet

When I got my own Kenmore  sewing machine shortly after I got married, my husband got me a great sewing machine cabinet to put it in.  It has lots of storage and a hydraulic lift so you can use the machine flush with the table or  on the table top for free arm sewing. When I got my Brother sewing machine, my husband modified the opening to accommodate my new machine. It looks like this:

brother

When I got my new Babylock Jane, he tried to modify it again, but for various reasons it didn’t work. The machine is too heavy and it has a vertical bobbin that is awkward to access without the extension table attached.  I’ve been using my Jane on the top of the old sewing cabinet. But as I mentioned, I am spoiled and I am used  to sewing in a set in table. Also, I have been working on so many projects lately (including Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt Along) I thought it would be nice to have my Brother set up too. Less thread changing, foot changing etc. So  I went on the hunt for a DIY sewing table.  As predicted, Husband was not impressed with the Ikea table. Once he found a table he thought was suitable, the hard part was over. (The hard part for me, that is!)

Of course I forgot to take a picture of the table before we modified it, but here’s a link:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Dining-Table-Natural/5924565

We began our project with  a lot of staring, pondering, and  planning (probably the most important step!),  followed by a lot of measuring and a couple of trips to Home Depot and Harbor Freight.

Then it was time to break out the power tools!

Before we cut out the big  hole for the machine Husband cut out holes at all the corners so we could have rounded edges.

table top

“Duh” moment of the day: I was sent in search of a circle that would match the curves on the corner of my Jane. After a short hunt I found a prescription bottle, and as Husband drilled he mentioned  that the proper tool for the job  would be a stencil  with all different size circles on it. My reply? “Oh yeah – I just bought one last week!” (I’ll be FMQ circles soon!)

circles

In case you were wondering, the prescription bottle measured  exactly 1.5 inches! (That’s all I’ve done with the stencil so far – good investment!)

Time to cut the big hole:

table hole

Next we cut some boards and  attached them to the bottom of the table with construction adhesive and screws into the side of the table. We clamped them till the glue set. (well, till we were tired of waiting!)

table clamps

Then it was time to cut a piece of birch to size and get out the nail gun. I always get nervous when the nail gun comes out but we managed to get the wood attached with no stray nails in the brain, eye, etc. Excellent!

bottom

Here’s the finished  table, complete with a hole drilled  for the wires and to accommodate the presser foot knee lift. I love it!

jane

If you’re thinking about making your own sewing table, I say go for it! (says she who had her husband do it!) There are some important crossover skills between quilting and carpentry. In particular, the “staring, pondering, and planning” part. Also, the “measure twice, cut once” part. Although, in this case I would recommend “measure 5 or 6 times, cut once”. Fabric is a little less expensive to replace than a wooden table!

My husband hates when I talk about him on this blog. But on Valentine’s Day, I just have to. He has always indulged and spoiled me, whether it was buying me an awesome sewing cabinet at a time in our lives when it was a big extravagance,  or taking the “easy little projects” I find for him and taking them to the next level. He always supports me and my crazy ideas whether they are small (thread holder) or big (starting work full-time at a time in life when most people are thinking of retirement). Love you, hon – thanks for being my Valentine!

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A Blogging Worm Hole

I recently found myself caught in a blogging worm hole and it took me a long time to get out!

It  started out when I started looking online for a sewing table for my new sewing machine. I found a lot of ideas, but the table that best fit what I had in mind was this one.

I knew this would be a snap for my husband to make. I also knew the hardest part of convincing him to make it for me was the Ikea table that was involved. ( I really don’t have an adequate explanation for his hatred of all things Ikea). Suffice it to say, I moved on. And on, and on and on….

I had entered a quilting blog wormhole!

In the course of my search, I came across many Modern Quilting websites. My favorite was SwimBikeQuilt.com. I came for the interesting blog title. I stayed for the beautiful quilts.

Photo courtesy of SwimBikeQuilt

I was certainly aware of the Modern Quilting movement and I’m ashamed to say, had kind of dismissed it. Ironically, the things that caused me to initial reject this kind of quilting are now what draws me to it: the (deceptively) simple designs and the frequent use of solids, particularly white. Looking back, I think my lack of confidence in my quilting skills made me skeptical of these kind of quilts for me. Years ago I used a solid color for the backing on a quilt and I was horrified – every mistake stood out so much! Ever since, I have used a print as backing fabric. Well actually, I use prints for the back and front of my quilts. I have no solids at all in my fabric stash!

I kept reading and reading about Modern Quilting. And looking and looking at pictures of gorgeous quilts. I felt a little guilty about my obsessive blog reading. Here is a short list of the more productive things I could have been doing:

1. Cleaning the house (who are we kidding?!)

2. Reading an actual book.

3. Talking to people.

3. Getting the paperwork together for tax prep (again, who are we kidding?!)

4. Doing paperwork for my husband’s business.

5. Making actual quilts.

6. Cooking for my family (ok, just kidding with that one)

7. Building an actual sewing table. (stay tuned)

In spite of feeling slightly guilty for spending too much time reading quilting blogs, I don’t regret it. I have emerged from my wormhole with   ideas for some fun new projects.

What did I learn? Keep your mind open to new ideas and be willing to try something new. Push yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Good advice for quilting,  and  for life!

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