Monday, July 18, 2016

In Control, or Not

I want to thank all of you readers who took the time to leave kind, thoughtful, generous comments on my last postThank you!  I appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than you know.  (I haven't responded to your comments yet but I will, soon.)

My husband's surgery went well today.  They let me visit for only a few minutes while he was recovering in intensive care.  He had at least half a dozen tubes including a breathing tube, several IVs, and a few other tubes coming from/going into places that aren't natural openings.  Ugh.

The surgeon quipped that this was a good time to say anything I wanted to my husband because he couldn’t talk back.  And the nurse chimed in, "And he won't remember anything you say, either."  A little levity after a long, serious, grueling day.

Knowing the surgery could last from four to eight hours, I waited at home till four hours had passed, then spent the next few hours in the waiting room at the hospital.  After seeing my husband I returned home.  While at home I sewed and did a few chores.

liberated log cabin quilt blocks

As I was sewing these liberated log cabin blocks I was thinking, "I can't do this out-of-control block-making.  I need more structure.  I need to be in control."   (It feels like I'm living a life out of control at the moment.)  While I sewed I continued to think about this and it eventually occurred to me that with blocks like this I am in control.  I'm the one who's controlling the size of the logs, the size of the blocks, the colors, the color placement, everything about these blocks.  I think it feels out of control because only a few decisions were made before cutting and sewing.

When I sew a block from a specific pattern with squares or triangles cut to specific sizes, I'm in control, then, too.  It happens before I cut anything, while I cut, and while I carefully sew -- all for accuracy to that specific pattern.

With liberated blocks the control happens throughout the whole process of making the blocks but in a different way.  I will have chosen my fabrics (and therefore colors) and the pattern, but I may not have chosen the exact sizes of each piece of a block.  The blocks may be put together in a way that looks less accurate than a traditional quilt block.  But all of those choices are in my control and will determine how the finished blocks look.

Liberated quilting may look more playful, less structured, and less controlled than traditional blocks but I believe the creator must have as much or possibly more control than with traditional blocks.

I wish life were as easy to control as quilt blocks.  My life is certainly beyond my ability to control it at the moment.  I know He is and was always in control, but when things were going smoothly, I had the impression of having some control over my life.  Now, my control extends only as far as my own actions and thoughts. 

Even so, isn't life grand?!  And how wonderful that we get to play with fabric and make quilts.

I hope you're having a good day today.

--Nancy.
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Life Interrupted

The regular rhythm and routines of our lives have been interrupted this week (and will be for weeks to come).  My husband had a heart attack on Tuesday and has been in the hospital since then having tests and being monitored.  He's scheduled for triple bypass surgery on Monday.  He and I mutually agree that being the patient and being the caregiver are equally difficult and stressful, but in different ways.  He was caregiver when I had hip replacement surgeries a dozen years ago.  Now it's my turn.

Sewing a few (almost) mindless blocks is relaxing during times like this.  I began these weeks ago -- chose the colors, decided the size -- but until I sew more and lay them out I won't know if they will work for their intended purpose.  (They are paler in real life than in the photograph.)

improv log cabin blocks

These rust-colored flowers at the far side of the hospital parking lot caught my eye as I walked toward the entrance. 

On the way out I stopped to take a closer look . It wasn't until then that I realized they were orange and maroon/purple/violet.
I doubt I would ever have put those two colors together, but I might now.

I've had to pick up the Buckeye Beauty blocks.  My older daughter, her husband, and their three little ones are coming to visit this weekend.  I know she wants to see her father and I couldn't tell her not to come.  Many years ago my own father went into the hospital on a Thursday having suffered from a heart attack.  I was 8 months pregnant at the time but intended to visit him that weekend.  My mom insisted we not come, that we wait and see.  My father died the following Monday.  I believe my husband will be fine but I would never tell either of my daughters not to visit in a situation like this.

While sitting with my husband at the hospital or waiting while he has tests, I am stitching the binding to the back of the Red Wings quilt.  (I find it difficult to just sit.)  At least I will have accomplished one goal this month.

If you leave a comment I will respond but it may take me a few days or a week longer than usual.

Happy quilting to you!

--Nancy.
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Buckeye Beauty Block Play

I've been playing with the Buckeye Beauty blocks again.  Lynn Roddy Brown's original quilt (scroll down at this link) had blocks with both light and dark centers sewn together slightly differently.  In her layout all the light centers went in one direction and the dark centers in another.  Something about my blocks with that layout bothered me so I cut and sewed more blocks with dark centers and tried a layout with only those.


I wasn't sure I liked all darks any better than I did my original lights and darks.  Something  doesn't work, in my opinion. 

With more darks to choose from I tried the light/dark layout again.

I think this might be a go.  (Unfortunately my vacuum ate one of the light-centered blocks this afternoon so I'll have to figure out which one and either remake it or unstitch a finished dark-center block and restitch it as a light-center block.)  There may be one or two blocks I will change out and there may be some changes in the block placements.  This quilt will also get a border, probably green, maybe plaid, or maybe brown.  I suppose I should try out border fabrics before I sew the blocks together?

This is probably not a quilt I will ever love but I don't dislike it.  I know that I'll make another, different quilt in the future for the little guy who will get this when it's finished.  For now he can lie on it, spit up on it, play peek-a-boo with it, and cuddle up in it when winter comes.  It will withstand all of those and endure for many years (unless it gets lost like his sister's quilt), until he outgrows it.

I'm learning that every quilt will not be spectacular.  We hope they all will be but some quilts will be fabulous quilts, some will be great quilts, and some will be okay, everyday quilts.  But they can all keep someone warm, and perhaps warm that someone's heart because of the love that was sewn into every seam and stitch.

Happy quilting to you.

I'm linking this post to
Oh Scrap! at Quilting is more fun than Housework
Moving It Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times
Thanks for hosting, ladies.  I appreciate it.

--Nancy.
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Friday, July 8, 2016

Proportion, Size, Symmetry, Balance -- How Does a Quilter Decide?

Vintage 9-patch quilt set on point with alternate setting blocks
One of the things I love about traditional quilts is the rhythm created by blocks repeated across the surface of a quilt.  Even when colors vary, lights and darks change places, or many or few fabrics are used, I can usually see that rhythm (sometimes held in place only by sashing between blocks, other times interrupted by faded fabric).  Those variations create interest for me.  I see the whole then devour the quilt one block at a time.

I also love the balance and symmetry that I see in old quilts.  Of course, not all old quilts have balance or symmetry in the blocks or across the surface.  Those quilts that don't are, perhaps, more interesting and I try to imagine the creative ethic, experience/knowledge, and circumstances of the quilter.  What prompted her to choose those colors, or to use one odd block with 35 others all the same, or to make the quilt the size it is?

When making quilts --modern, traditional, improv, any quilts-- I give too much thought to quilt sizes and proportions.  Maybe it's because I'm still learning how to "get it right."  Not that there's any particular wrong about a quilt size but there are some sizes and proportions that seem more pleasing to the eye and are possibly more useful.  In fact, when I'm riding in the car with my husband driving and I have a quilt book in tow that I've finished reading or looking at the photos, I sometimes go through it quilt by quilt and write down the sizes of each.  Weird, I know.  What I've found is that quilt sizes and proportions vary a lot.  A whole lot!  (One of these days I'm going to type the numbers into some kind of order so I can compare.)

For instance, a few quilts in Unconventional & Unexpected:  American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000, had these measurements (in inches):
61 x 78
61 x 81
62 x 71
62 x 77
62 x 80
62 x 85
63 x 79
63 x 81
63 x 87
64 x 80
64 x 87
65 x 78

I struggle with quilt sizes.  In a blog comment someone told me the quilt size I chose would depend on the bed I was going to use for the quilt.  She's right, of course, except that I don't make quilts for beds, I make quilts to keep people warm, maybe on a bed, but just as often for a nap.  And I make quilts to play with fabric.  But I also want quilts that are a comfortable size:  not too long, not too short, not too wide, not too narrow.  (I'm sure you've seen a hired man's quilt, at least in a book:  narrow and long.)  Proportion matters to me.

But it's not just the physical sizes and proportions I think about, it's also the balance in a quilt.  In an on-point setting, a row can end with four blocks or five blocks (or any two other numbers depending on the size of the blocks and the width of the quilt).  When the ends don't have the same number of blocks it looks odd to me.  Uneven, unbalanced.  To my eyes, the same number of blocks on both ends and on both sides looks balanced.

I have three quilts that seem too long. 

First:  String-X.  
Scrappy String-X quilt
Finished it measures 69" x 93".  That's 7' 9" long!  Who needs a quilt that long?  Each diagonal string block measures 7", each set of our measures 14" x 14".  When I was deciding the layout of the quilt I knew I wanted the ends to be balanced.  The quilt could have been 7", 14", or 21" shorter, but only by leaving a row of blocks off of each end would it still have been balanced.  I could have had a quilt that measure 69 x

Second:  Plaid Churn Dash.
Churndash quilt of thrift store plaid shirts
This quilt measures 64" x 89". The blocks are 7 1/2" square.  Again, it's a quilt with the blocks set on point.  (Maybe it's only on point settings that create this problem of quilts that are balanced are too long.  I don't know.)

And last, Red Wings (my most recent quilting finish).  It hasn't been bound or washed and dried yet, so the measurements will change after all that happens.  As it is now, it measures 64 3/4" x 97 1/4".  It's an inch shorter than String-X was before being washed and 2 1/4" inches narrower.  It's just shy of 8 feet!!!  I knew it would be long but I wanted those balanced ends.   

Here it is with one row folded under on the end.  It measures 64 3/4" x 89".  The overall measurement is better but it doesn't look balanced to me.  One end has 5 half-blocks, the other has 4 half-blocks (which are cut off toward the bottom of the photo).

Lastly, here it is with two squares folded under on one end.  It's balanced with 4 half-squares on each end, but it looks squatty to me.  It measures 64 3/4" x 81", nearly 7 feet.

I've seriously thought of cutting off the end of this quilt, even though it would mean I'd have a bias edge to deal with, but I can't make myself cut it to 81".  It could end up only 73" or 74" long.

The other consideration when deciding the size of a quilt is shrinkage.  By the time I finish hand quilting I've lost at least an inch in width and two in length.  Add to that (or subtract from that, if you will) the shrinkage from washing and drying and the loss in width could be from 2 to 5 inches and between 2 and 7 inches in length.  (To date the only bats I've used are Mountain Mist Cream Rose and Soft & Crafty 80/20 cotton/poly.)

If you've read this far you're a trooper and I thank you.  I hope you'll go one step further and tell me how you decide the size of your quilts.  Do you choose it by blocks:  x # of blocks by y # of blocks?  Do you go for length and width without consideration for balance?  Do you try to balance the ends and sides to have the same number of blocks?  Do you consider shrinkage when you're deciding the size of a quilt?

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about proportions, sizes, symmetry, and balance when making a quilt.  I appreciate it!

I'd love lots of responses to my questions so I'm linking to
- TGIFF : Go West Flimsy at The Carpenters Daughter Who Quilts
- Off the Wall Friday at Creations... Quilts, Art.... Whatever
- Fabric Frenzy Friday at Forth Worth Fabric Studio {Blog}
- Fabric, Thread and Yarn at France Nadeau
- finish it up Friday at crazy mom quilts
- Can I get a Whoop Whoop?  at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
- Midweek Makers #27 at  Quilt Fabrication
Thanks for hosting, ladies!

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

One Monthly Goal for July


I wish I could promise that this will be one of the last photos you'll see of this quilt, but I won't because I'm not sure.  I expect I'll want to post about it after it's bound and been washed and dried.

Now that the quilting is finished, my One Monthly Goal (OMG) for July is to choose and cut binding, then stitch it to finish the quilt.   Knowing me, choosing the binding will take longer than cutting and sewing it.

I'm linking this post to OMG:  July Goalsetting at Red Letter Quilts.  Thanks for hosting, Heidi.

--Nancy.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Two More Vintage Quilts

I missed these photos yesterday when I posted the photos of the other vintage quilts.  They are too bright and beautiful not to share.

I don't know the ages of either of these quilts but based on what I've read online I think the fabrics in these quilts may be from the late 1800s.

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt

Is this yellow called chrome yellow?  It was beyond lemony yellow.
red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

red and chrome yellow antique churndash quilt block

I think this quilt may have been equally old.
antique red and white nine-patch quilt

antique red fabric in antique red and white nine-patch quilt

Remember you can click on the photos to see details.  The image will open in a new window and you'll be able to enlarge one more time.

Thanks for visiting.

--Nancy.
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Five Antique Shop Quilts

In June we went to a little antique mall around the corner from our auto repair shop.  I love looking at nearly everything old but especially at old quilts and quilt tops. 

I found one booth with many quilts and quilt tops.  Each was gathered and tied at the top, hanging close to each other against a wall.  It was impossible to see a whole quilt without removing it from its hook, and since I knew I probably wouldn't be buying any of them, I tried to photograph them by holding each out with one hand while holding my camera with the other.

These two sunbursts
vintage sunburst quilt block
vintage sunburst quilt block
were in the quilt below.  I'm not a big fan of blue but this was almost irresistible.  (I'm not using Lightbox so you can click on the photos to see more detail.  The enlarged image will open in a new tab or window and you'll be able to click again to enlarge even more.  In some of the photos you can see the hand quilting clearly.)
vintage sunburst quilt

These two blocks
vintage tumbling blocks quilt block
vintage tumbling blocks quilt block
were in this quilt (below).
vintage tumbling blocks quilt
I'm always impressed by quilts with this pattern that can look like 3-dimensional blocks or like stars, depending on the color placement.

Double nine-patch is such a simple quilt pattern.  When I think about patterns to sew I usually pass over this idea thinking it too ordinary, but when I see the finished quilts I think they pack a lot of punch, in a vintage kind of way.
vintage double nine-patch quilt

This simple stripey flying geese quilt is another pattern that I am impressed with when I see a finished quilt but that I pass over when I think about what pattern to make next.  I love the colors in this one.
vintage stripey flying geese quilt

And then there was this quilt top.  Vintage improv, perhaps?  I don't believe I've ever seen a vintage/antique quilt with so many pieces so haphazardly sewn together.
vintage scrappy improv-style quilt top
What an assortment of fabrics, sewn willy-nilly, with no discernable pattern at all.  I had to study it a while to see how the blocks were sewn together. 
vintage scrappy improv-style quilt top
Add caption

Oh, here is how the quilts were hung, against several walls of this booth.

Happy quilting to you!
--Nancy.
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Monday, July 4, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Night & Stars - Gwennie-Inspired Medallion Quilt

The summer nights of my childhood were devoted to being outside with friends.  We played hide-and-seek or tag, badminton, croquet, or rode bikes.  Summer evenings were long and leisurely, at least as long as half a day.  We played until dark began to creep up and we searched for the first star to make a wish.   By then the lightening bugs flew around us like little stars sailing through the dark.  We caught them in jars to watch the magic for a few minutes.  When the dark descended deeper we sat on the porch steps or on lawn chairs, visiting and enjoying the night, until time to go inside and to bed. 

Some nights, after a good soaking rain, my father and I took flashlights out to search the sodden ground for night crawlers.  We had to be quick!  We envisioned our next fishing trip.

On autumn and winter nights my mother and I sometimes went for walks, bundled in sweaters, or coats and mittens.  Down our macadam street away from the houses toward the edge of our little village we meandered with no destination and no hurry, just a time to enjoy the night.  The stars shone bright and high and we came home refreshed and ready for sleep.

Many childhood memories came to mind as I brainstormed ideas for this "childhood" border.  Several would have made great borders, but night and the stars won.

Gwennie-Inspired medallion quilt along

As it is now this quilt measures about 35" x 39 1/2".  The blue border will finish at 6". 

The theme for the next border is log cabins, chosen by Cathy at Big Lake Quilter.  I love log cabin blocks!  There are so many kinds and so many colors to choose from.  They have many more seams and this will be a bigger border:  I better not procrastinate anything about this border.  Another round of fun begins!

If you'd like to see other Gwennie-inspired medallion quilts, click over to Cynthia's blog, wabi-sabi quilts, where you can see plenty of luscious beauty!  It's not too late to join!

--Nancy.
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

One Monthly Goal June Finish


It's not pretty yet because I haven't cut or bound the edges, but it's finished.  Hooray!  This was my One Monthly Goal (OMG) for June

I can hardly wait to cut binding, measure and sew it to the edges, then hand stitch it in place.  Slow me, this is perhaps my second finish of the year! 

I'm linking this post to OMG It's Finished: June Finishes Linkup! at Red Letter Quilts

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Know It When I See It -- #BraveQuilter

Are you like me?  When something's right it goes practically unnoticed: everything is as it should be and nothing calls attention to itself.  But when something's wrong it stands out like a sore thumb: the furniture askew, the counter covered with crumbs, the crooked painting on the wall, that one weed that was missed.  Wrong practically screams at me, "fix me!"  When it comes to quilting, my imagination can't get past pins holding fabric shapes in place.  It's my misfortune that everything needs to be stitched down before I can see whether it's right or wrong, whether it works or not.  Then, when it all works together, I know it when I see it.

I chose the little butterscotch/gold fabric for the centers of the flowers, stitched them down, pressed the block, and took photos.  Here it is.


Don't those yellow centers stand out like sore thumbs?  The flowers seem say to me, "fix us, please fix us!"  I don't know if the color is wrong, the size is wrong, or the shape is wrong, but to me, those centers are like bulls' eyes, drawing my attention directly to them.

I thought little stars would be great in the centers of the flowers but I don't applique well enough, especially tiny pieces like they would need to be, to create and stitch stars.  The five-cornered centers seemed like they would be a great substitute.  Now I think perhaps not.  But maybe the shape's okay and I just need to change the fabric.  It's back to the drawing board for me.

To some it may seem like a big deal to unstitch the centers, choose and prepare new ones, and applique them in place, but I've learned that sometimes things don't work as I imagine they will and I have to make changes.  For me it's part of the creative process.  And I'd rather make the changes before I sew the next border.  The less fabric I have to hold while stitching those little centers, the better.

My #bravequilter challenge for June was to applique the pieces onto this 21" x 24" block and keep it flat.  I succeeded in those two objectives (even though I will probably unstitch those little butterscotch centers and applique other centers).  And I also managed to add one narrow border as a "buffer" between the center and the next wider border--and the block is still flat and square.   I call it success.  One of these months I won't have to set goals toward bravery!

I'm linking this post to #BraveQuilter Wrap Up Linky for June at Pink Doxies.  Thanks for hosting, Julie.

I'm also linking this post to WOW at Esther's Blog and Let's Bee Social #131 at Sew Fresh Quilts.

--Nancy.
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Monday, June 27, 2016

Slow Stitching Flower Centers

I finally decided on fabric for the centers and middles of these six flowers and I'm excited about them.  Two have the the first center stitched.  I'll finish the other four and then stitch all six middle pieces onto the centers.

applique flower for Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt

I searched for small brown and tan gingham but did not find any, therefore the black and tan is it.  I think it will be fine once the next center is sewn.

Do your applique pieces get wrinkled as you stitch them?  Mine do!  After they're all stitched I'll press the whole block before measuring for the first border.

applique flower for Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt

These flowers are from my Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt.  I'm still in the process of sewing the first border but expect to have it finished and sewn onto the center within the next few days.

I'm linking this post to
Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts
Moving It Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilts
Main Crush Monday (MCM #26) at Cooking Up Quilts
Thanks for hosting, ladies.

--Nancy.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Star and Centers for Flowers

I've been working on my Gwenny-Inspired Medallion quilt.  This might look like a small star....

scrappy star for gwennie-inspired medallion quilt

And I'm still trying to decide on the centers for the flowers in the basket in the center of the medallion.  The "perfect" fabric seems to be elusive -- or at least not in my collection.  Ha!

applique flower for gwennie-inspired medallion quilt

applique flower for gwennie-inspired medallion quilt

applique flower for gwennie-inspired medallion quilt

I tried several yellows and they looked garish.  Blues/aquas/turquoises looked bland.  Red won't do it because the flowers are all in the red range.  Brown was too dark.  I don't think I want solid black.  This checked black layered with this yellow/coral may work -- or not.  It works with the basket better than any of the other centers but I need to look at in the daylight, too.  I may finish the quilt and still be trying to decide on the centers for these flowers -- but I hope not!

Thanks for visiting and especially thanks if you leave a comment.

I'm linking this post to
Oh Scrap! at Quilting is more fun than Housework
WOW at Esther's Blog
Let's Bee Social #130 at Sew Fresh Quilts
Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation

Happy day to you!
--Nancy.
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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stitching Oh-So-Slowly Today

I have just this strip of blue sashing to hand quilt and this quilt will be finished.


I'm normally thrilled to finish a quilt but this one, not so much.  That's because I don't have other handwork ready to begin.  No quilt layered and basted, no applique to stitch, nothing. 

Sometimes when quilting is my handwork and I'm also working on sewing quilt blocks and I'm also thinking about some process on a third quilt I forget to plan ahead to have handwork ready.  Tomorrow I'll give more thought to which quilt to layer next and/or choose a hand applique project.  (I like having small handwork to take in the car.)

Are you doing some slow stitching today?  If so, I hope you find it restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating.

I'm linking this post to Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts.  Click the link to see the slow stitching others are doing today.

I hope you have a pleasant and restful Sabbath.  (And Happy Birthday to my daughter!)

--Nancy.
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Sweet and Simple

Two-year-old Olivia likes dresses best in summer heat -- they are so much cooler -- so I made her a simple, little play dress. 


I chose sweet fabric and used an older pattern:  New Look #6367.  The pattern calls for a faced bodice but I wanted O's dress to be as cool as possible so I altered the pattern, cut bias tape from the dress fabric, and used it around the neckline and armholes.  Instead of the extra layers from plackets for buttons, I stitched a turned in the seam at the back and used loops instead of buttonholes.  All seams are French seams except where the bodice meets the skirt.  It's ready for wash-and-wear and plenty of play.  Hooray for a finish!


I had forgotten that printed pattern sizes run larger than the sizing of ready-made clothes.  O wears a size 2 dress and according to pattern measurements she should wear a size 2 pattern, but when I measured the paper pattern pieces they were inches too large.  Instead of cutting according to the pattern information I cut two sizes smaller.  Little O doesn't live close enough for me to run over and have her try this on but I have no doubt that it will fit, probably with growing room.

I hope both she and her mom like it.  I've found that if mom doesn't like something (book, toy, item of clothing) it doesn't get used and the child doesn't have a chance to choose whether she likes it or not.

I one more little dress to stitch.  After it's finished we'll either take them when we visit next or send them along via regular mail.

I'm linking this post to finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, WIPS Be Gone at A Quilting Reader's Garden, and Can I get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  Thanks for hosting, ladies.

I hope you have a great weekend!
--Nancy.
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