Grit

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Grit: perseverance and resilience. Grit: Courage and resolve; strength of character.

However you define it, I think we’d all agree that a bit of grit is a good thing. A lot of grit, even better.

This topic has come up often in our home of late as we negotiate mathematics, French, musical instruments, etc with our kids. These things are hard and they can’t be learnt overnight. In the case of music, they can’t even expect to be competent after a year.

We talk a lot about unrealistic expectations, persistence, coping with frustration/feeling inadequate and just doing the work.

I thought, hey, why not make a reminder of this to hang on the wall, because that’s what us crazy craft ladies do.

(Isn’t it weird when you have to help your kids with things you struggled with yourself in your youth? These talks are familiar from my childhood – I felt a lot of pressure to produce good grades and at times that left me panicky and anxious. It didn’t help that our family moved interstate and overseas, on average, every year of my schooling life (military brat alert). But I turned out okay, right? *twitches, tries to bite own face*

My dad’s version of the grit wall hanging was actually a song: Billy Ocean’s When the Going Gets Tough (the Tough Get Going). Ah, doesn’t that take you back? I would try to sing it to myself whenever I felt overwhelmed by whatever was tripping my fuses at that particular instance. I know you want to see that video clip again – here it is:

Equal ties for the best part of this video are Kathleen Turner’s hair and Michael Douglas’ dance moves.)

So, back to grit.

I used the postage stamp method that Elizabeth Hartman describes so well on her blog, but with a heavier weight fusible to give it some body.

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The squares and HSTs were all cut 1.5 inches to finish 1 inch when sewn. The piece is 12″ x 21″.

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Once it was basted I matchstick-quilted the letters vertically, then all the black squares horizontally. For the low volume fabrics I quilted out radially from the centre. Binding is a white Lizzy House bracelets fabric.

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Grit now resides in the study with its hand made friends, ever ready to be pointed at when my kids (or I) need a reminder to keep at it.

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In other news, I broke my fabric diet and bought some Carolyn Friedlander Doe because I am only human.

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I am also super close to putting out a second pattern in my shop. I had some fun with purple on this sample, definitely not one of my go-to colours.

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And finally, I will have another newsletter out soon – so if you’d like free instructions for this lap-sized quilt then come on over and join the newsletter list.

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Until next time, happy sewing and grittiness!

P.S. For those interested, here’s a good little TED talk on grit and success and kids.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.

Au Revoir, 2014.

Hello there! I hope everyone had a relaxing, peaceful, family-and-friend-filled Christmas (I won’t say healthy, because that’d be silly).

Did Santa bring some more fabric for your stash or maybe a sewing book you’ve been coveting? I treated myself to some yardage for quilt backs, but resisted anything smaller – I really need to work on reducing my stash.

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To contradict that last statement completely, I only managed to sew one gift this Christmas. Ha! That’s sad.

I made this version of Jeni Baker’s awesome drawstring bag for one of my kid’s teachers (filled with soap, hand cream and a lavender satchel). I think this bag looks so festive – it reminds me of a wee Santa sack.

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My little sister has also been foiling my ‘reduce the stash’ plan, but in the nicest way. Now that she lives in Hong Kong she can get her hands on all sorts of garment fabric and she recently brought me this lovely collection:

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From the back there is Missoni (!), an Ikat print, a white/cobalt super-soft, lawn-like cotton and a smoky blue dobby cotton.

I have managed some other sewing – I finished a sample for my next quilt pattern. Well, I almost finished. I got up to the part where I should hand sew down the binding but met with some furry resistance.

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It just seems so mean to move a sleeping cat, let alone two of ‘em.

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I’m not sure why they feel the need to sleep on a quilt. Here in Queensland it has been hot and wet, which as we all know is nice when you’re with a lady, but it ain’t no good when you’re in the jungle (or the sewing room for that matter).

So while I waited for Rex and Tilly to wake up and move to the cool tiles in the kitchen, I rummaged around my stash to put together some fabrics for a log cabin quilt for my daughter.

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I’m planning to join in the Log Cabin Quiltalong that starts tomorrow. Tomorrow as in the first day of the shiny New Year.

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Holy crap, 2015! Can you believe it? Are you excited for the New Year? I know I am, although I can’t really say why. In fact, I’ve been feeling rather joyous and positive and just happy to be alive for the past month or so, so I’m either pregnant or my dabbling in the I Quit Sugar diet is working it’s mojo on my brain chemistry. I hope it’s the later because if it’s the former I am in some deep, deep trouble (the mister had a vasectomy last year).

Are you doing the whole setting goals thing again? Meh, I don’t think I could be bothered. I can’t even be bothered reviewing what I didn’t get done this year. I’m going to do a bit of a mini-plan, just for the first quarter of the year. So much changes as the year progresses, I kind of feel like it’s a waste of effort to plan for what I should be doing in 6-12 months time… so much can change between now and then. Maybe I’ll just go with the theme option, choosing a word to guide what I hope to achieve in 2015.

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Now for some bad news – I’m guessing you’ve all heard about the new process for collecting VAT on digital products sold to the EU? Yeah, it’s not the most well thought out plan when it comes to small business.

I would happily flaunt the law if they agreed to extradite me to France, but I can’t see that happening, so for the moment I will be restricting sales to the EU. Hopefully the powers that be will instigate a minimum threshold below which VAT doesn’t need to be collected/processed, because it is a great deal of paperwork when you’re a one-woman-show. I’m sure rational thought will prevail! [In the meantime, if you are in the EU and are desperate for a pattern, email me and we’ll work something out. Something legal, I promise ;) ]

Alright, it’s time for me to go and prep some food for New Year’s Eve celebrations. And now that the cats have moved onto the ironing board I could even fit a little hand sewing in before festivities begin.

I wish you all, from the bottom of my heart, a happy, healthy, fulfilling and prosperous 2015.

K x

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#tbt – Valletta, Malta

Over two years ago, just before we left France to return to Australia, we took a week-long holiday to Malta.

We had an incredible time and I took soooo many photographs, which explains why these were hiding out on my hard drive.

We spent this day in Valletta (the capital), and here’s what went on:

First stop – the Palace State Rooms. When the Knights of St John took control of Malta in the late 1500s they built a new capital at Valletta and this palace for the Order’s Grand Master.

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The Knights of St John (retitled the Knights of Malta) reigned over the island for over 200 years until an upstart by the name of Napoleon arrived in 1798.

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French rule didn’t sit well with the Maltese so they rebelled about two years after that and soon after became a part of the British Empire.

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I love history as much as I love a good chandelier, and Malta has tons:

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The Palace Armoury is located in the area that housed the stables back in the Grand Masters’ time.

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The Great Siege of Malta (where the Knights of Malta and the Maltese resisted the Ottoman Empire’s invasion) was in 1565 and there are plenty of examples of armour from this time period.

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I had to put both these helmets in because, honestly, how on earth could you see, hear and communicate wearing these? What a nightmare.

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How about some fancy gold inlaid armour?

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There were examples of other weaponry as well. Check out this folding gun – both the stock and barrel folded so it could fit into a coat’s inner pocket.

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How about this sword-gun? You can see the barrel running along the side of the blade and a trigger mechanism is housed in the sword hilt. For those days when you just can’t decide…

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Here’s all the paraphernalia needed to operate a flintlock musket. They must have had to carry it all around in those cute bags you see at the back there. The Maltese were metrosexual before their time.

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Here are the drills to fire the bloody thing. Seriously, who could be bothered? Much quicker to just run them through with your sword-gun.

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After the Armoury, we had a brief stroll around some of Valletta’s streets and squares:

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Then we took a guided boat tour around the peninsula that Valletta is built on.

This little guy was only 16 months old then and his thumb-sucking brother (I’d forgotten about that) had just turned 3.

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After our guided tour we jumped on the ferry to get back to our apartment in Vittoriosa.

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A magical day. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Malta, there’s still so much I’d like to see.

To see more on Malta and it’s amazing history and architecture, check out my previous posts: An intro to Malta, Malta’s ancient history and Mdina, the walled city.

 

A few things…

Hello Everyone – ready for the weekend? Yay! Before I veg out in front of a movie here are a few announcements:

1. Don’t forget to vote in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival. There are so many inspiring quilts there that you may find it a little hard, but do your best! I’m entered in the Original Design category and will have my fingers crossed.

2. Handmade Holidays is on again over at Sew Mama Sew. Each day in November a different blogger curates a collection of gifts you can make, for a different type of recipient. I’ll be there one of the days – I put together my favourite ideas for holiday gifts for teachers.

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3. Elizabeth Olwen has a beautiful Look Book out for her new line Wildwood. See if you can spot my quilt in there.

4. Finally, a few shots from Halloween. Our local street of shops put on a little event for the kids. We all had a good time playing Throw the Brain in the Acid and collecting sweet treats. Hope yours was fun too!

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Diamonds in the Deep Blue

This post is a recap of my Diamonds in the Deep quilt (pattern is in my Pattern Shop, see menu above) as an entry in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival. It’s been both brilliant and painful to watch all the amazing Houston Quilt Market photos roll in – brilliant because there are so many talented quilters out there and painful because I live on the other side of the world and can’t attend! It’s hard to watch everyone having fun without you!

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Thank goodness for Amy at Amy’s Creative Side for putting together the Blogger’s Quilt Festival, so all of us sad sacks who can’t attend can at least enjoy each others’ sewing efforts.

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This quilt is my own design, so I’m entering it in the Original Designs category. Entries close on Halloween (phew, just made it) and voting will be from 1-7 Nov with the winner of each category announced 8 Nov.

More than the opportunity to win a prize, Amy’s Festival is just a great way to see what everyone’s been up to in the past 6 months.

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There’s not a huge amount of story behind the design of this quilt. Those that know me know how I love a good colour gradation in a quilt. Normally I achieve this by taking identical blocks and changing the colours it is made from. This time, I have kept the colours static and changed the blocks themselves. There are four different log cabin variations used to make the colour morph from predominantly dark to light.

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I previously made a scrappier version of this quilt but I had always planned to make it in just two colours. I really love red and white quilts (Did you see the red and white display at Market? Sob.) but I’m a blue girl at heart so it was always going to be navy. This is probably the most grown up quilt I own!

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Pattern: Diamonds in the Deep (my own)

Size: 52″ x 78″

Fabrics: Kona Snow and Kona Celestial

Quilting: By the wonderful QuiltJane

A shout-out to Fizzle

A bit of a behind-the-scenes of my blogging follows – if you’re only here for the sewing then you might want to skip this post.

However, if you’d like to start a blog or have ever contemplated starting your own little (or behemoth) craft business online (or already have one) then hopefully you’ll find this post helpful.

About three years ago, after I’d been blogging for a few years, I wondered if I should try and earn a little money to support my fabric habit, or at least cover my blogging costs.  Looking around the interwebs I found a ridiculous amount of information on online marketing and many, many examples of how I did NOT want to make money. I eventually stumbled upon a blog called ThinkTraffic (now called The Sparkline), which offered fun and non-sleazy advice on blogging and selling products/services online.

One day Corbett, the fella running ThinkTraffic, told his audience about a brand new membership site he was starting called Fizzle.

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The idea really appealed to me because I loved the idea of one place, one community, which could give me all the answers I needed. I’d had enough of hunting around for information on blogging and then having to gauge if there was some sort of agenda attached to it (were they just saying this to sell me something?) I actually liked the idea of having to pay to be part of such a community – the membership fee kept out the tire-kickers and trolls and meant the members were pretty serious about getting results. The membership fee also meant I knew how Corbett, Caleb and Chase (Fizzle co-founders) were getting paid and that they would be compelled to keep coming up with more good stuff.

So, when the virtual doors of Fizzle swooshed open for the first time two years ago, I took up a membership (back then it was still in beta-testing) and have been paying my thirty-odd dollars a month (exchange rate dependant) ever since.

Although I’ve been a very happy Fizzle member for a long time, I’ve never felt comfortable mentioning it here because I didn’t want to appear to be taking advantage of our relationship with Fizzle’s affiliate program (I’d receive a small percentage cut on my membership fee for any referrals).

But Fizzle are now offering a one-month trial membership for $1 and I think it’d be pretty crappy of me not to let you know. For one month you can poke around all their great resources and see if it’s right for you. Don’t worry – I don’t get anything from that, I would only get a reduced fee if you decided you love the site and want to sign up for another month (it’s a month-by-month thing, you can bow out whenever you like). If you do decide you love Fizzle as much as I do and continue on, please accept my thanks for contributing towards keeping this blog running.

So just what’s inside this Fizzle site? There’s tons of goodies and I can’t really do it justice here but here’s what I love the most:

  1. Video courses on just about any topic you can think of pertaining to blogging and online business: Start a blog that matters, Choosing a topic, Connect with anyone, Intro to website traffic, Defining your audience, Essentials of Website design for online business, Google Analytics; I’ve also made good use of the WordPress Tutorials and Build your email list course. They’ll even teach you how to podcast or how to shoot and edit videos. Like Craftsy, you watch these videos whenever you want and new courses are introduced each month or so.
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  2. The forum. It’s full of people (other Fizzle members) who have been there, done that and are happy to help you do the same. People from all different countries and business backgrounds (craft, online marketing, music, fitness, anything you can sell online). The forum was where I found the Fizzler who designed my logo and how I found the guy who drew my caricature for my About Page. Any questions you have about your own blog/business – post it in the forums and you’ll get great input from a huge variety of viewpoints.Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 4.08.58 pm
  3. Interview videos. Hour long individual interviews with a bunch of successful online entrepreneurs. People such as Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Dana and John Shultz of Minimalist Baker, Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months. The interviews are all inspiring and really interesting.
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  4. The community. The forum is a big part of this, but it stretches beyond that. There are regular webinars/podcasts where you can ask questions, there are mastermind groups where you can find a bunch of like-minded people who’ll help you and keep you motivated towards achieving your goals, there are regular emails celebrating the successes of Fizzle members. All of this takes time and care from the Fizzle founders, and has yielded a fun little community that you can participate in as much or as little as you like. I dive in and out as my real-life commitments dictate, there’s no pressure to do otherwise (unless you want people to hold you to something).
  5. It’s FUN. The guys are funny and irreverent as well as being knowledgeable and great teachers. There are in-jokes and outtakes and the occasional pineapple.

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So that’s it. I’d definitely recommend checking out Fizzle if you’re:

  • thinking about starting a blog
  • wanting to improve your blog, or
  • considering an online business in some form.

For a dollar it’s a really low-risk way of seeing if Fizzle would be as useful for you as it is for me. If you have any questions, just ask them below (or email me).

I really hope it is – I’d love to see more crafters inside Fizzle!

Halloween Drawstring Treat Bag Tutorial

It’s true that Halloween isn’t that big a deal here in Australia. If anything, it’s probably been embraced more by Aussie adults than the kids – you’re much more likely to see Halloween used as an excuse for a party than see kids out Trick or Treating.

Regardless, that won’t stop me sewing something up for the occasion! These little fabric drawstring bags are small and sweet (approx 3.5 x 5.5″ finished) and the perfect size for a little Halloween gift (maybe for a teacher or a special friend) when you don’t want to go too over-the-top with the amount of sugar you’re gifting.

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You’ll need 2 x 9″ squares of fabric and 2 x 25″ lengths of ribbon to make a bag (ribbon width 3/8″ is perfect, but most will work – just don’t go too thick as it makes it hard to fully draw in the bag top).

I chose 9″ squares to maximise using a fat quarter. Two contrasting fat quarters will give you four bags.

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Sew your 2 x 9″ squares together, right sides facing each other. Use a quarter inch seam and leave a 2″ gap in the perimeter, 1″ from one of the corners:

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Turn inside out through the gap and press – make sure you press the gap edges in so they match the seam line.

Decide which colour you’d like to see on the bag body vs flaps and and place your square with the bag body colour up. Then fold opposite corners of the square over 3.5″ to reveal your flap colour.

Hint: fold the corner that has your turning gap in it, so you don’t have to worry about sewing it shut.

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We need to sew a housing for the drawstring/ribbon – I used a half inch gap for this. If you have chosen a very thick ribbon you might need to increase this. Mark your line and sew it down, remembering to backstitch at the start and end of the line for strength. (I used water soluble marker to mark my lines, which I wiped off at the end.)

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Fold the entire piece in half along the remaining diagonal line. Both folded corners should meet with the flaps facing out.

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Fold the bottom points in together and cross them over a tad.

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Finger press the fold line so that when you open it up again you can mark a line along that crease.

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Sew down both lines, again backstitching at the start and end of the seam.

Invert these triangles so that they wrap around the outside of the bag, revealing the flap colour fabric (a bit like an origami fold out). The points of these triangles will meet in the middle of the bottom of the bag.

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Use a few hand-sewn stitches to secure the two points of the triangles together (just to each other, no need to sew it to the bottom of the bag).

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Turn the whole bag inside out so we can box the bottom corners. Ensure the corners of the triangle flaps you just created are nestled in nicely to the corners of the bag body.

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Flatten one of the corners at the bottom of the bag as seen below – you want the side seam of the bag to be running straight down the centre of the triangle point you form.

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Mark a line 3/4″ from the top point of the triangle. ( I used the 45 degree lines on my cutting mat – when your triangle top fits in there it’s easy to mark the triangle base so that it’s square.

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Sew along the line (it will be thick sewing given you have the bag and the flaps to sew through). Then do the same for the other corner.

Turn your bag right-way-out again – it’s almost finished.

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Take a length of ribbon and thread one end through each ribbon housing. Tie the two ribbon ends together.

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Take the other length of ribbon and do the same, just from the opposite housing opening.

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There you have a cute little bag ready for a handful of treats (or any other small gift like a severed tongue or a tarantula).

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Linking up with Sew Can She’s Show Off Saturday. Happy sewing and happy weekend!

Beautiful Brisbane

If you follow along on Instagram you’ll already know last weekend we had an overnight in the city, without children. We went to a beer festival, then a meal, then a ferry trip back to a hotel. In the morning we slept in, had a big, fatty cooked breakfast, then second breakfast and then an early lunch. We rolled home feeling pretty darn happy with ourselves.

My head couldn’t understand how we’d had 6 years of that before kids came along, it seems like another lifetime.

Brisbane put on a wonderful show:

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Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re up to!

Navy Diamonds in the Deep

Nothing like a finish on a Friday, right? I’ll admit this has been finished for a while, I just dragged the chain on taking some photographs. Luckily my resident tall person helped me out so that I can show you my lap-sized Diamonds in the Deep quilt.

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I am very drawn to two-colour quilts and wanted to try this pattern in blue – I chose Kona’s Celestial and Snow. This quilt actually gave me the quilt pattern name – to me the diamond centres of the block looked like they were bubbling up from the deep water to the sea foam on top. (Imagine the photo above upside down. Here, I’ll do it for you:)

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This quilt marks the first time I engaged the services of a long arm quilter. I am extremely fortunate to have the lovely Quilt Jane living 20 minutes drive from me! She tested a few different patterns before settling on a swirl that works very well with the water theme of the quilt.

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All-over quilting will add a new dimension to this quilt as it will always show quite clearly at one of the ends – there’s really no way to find a thread that will blend into both fabric colours. I love the effect and thank Jane for her wonderful contribution to this quilt.

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So, any finishes for the rest of you? Maybe one planned for the weekend? Whatever you get up to, I hope you have a wonderful time (and hopefully a little sewing, too!)

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Linking up with TGIFF and Finish it Up Fridays.