A Few of My Favorite Things

This year has been an interesting one for me.  Let’s just say that 2017 has presented me with lots of opportunities for growth.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful life, and I am very grateful for every aspect of it, both the chuckles and the challenges.  But I have found myself as this year is beginning to come to a close taking time for a lot of personal inventory.  Asking myself questions like, “What am I supposed to do now?”  And hearing myself say things like, “Well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would.”  Midlife crisis?  I dunno.  Maybe.  I think I thought I was too young for that, and that really that only happened to men, but of course neither of those statements are true.  We all have to reevaluate ourselves from time to time if we have any hope of making any real progress in life.

So, for the last week or so I have kind of put the breaks on a lot of things in my life.  Not permanently, but just long enough for me to slow down and think more clearly.  But just because I said, “Whoa, Nellie” on certain aspects of my life did not mean that the blows quit coming.  A client who will not forgive me.  Difficulty and hurt in a relationship in my family.  Watching someone I care about struggle, and knowing there is nothing I can do.  Making another really big, really embarrassing mistake.  And then there was the trip to Utah.

That I am not on.

When this trip was scheduled, I was anticipating having a very different list of things on my plate, and I knew that I really couldn’t take the time to go out west with my husband for a long weekend and camping and hunting trip with the family.  A few weeks ago it became obvious that things were changing and that I really did have time to go, but I also knew that plane tickets are pricy, and we really do plan those kinds of things pretty far in advance in order to keep our costs as low as possible.  It was just too late.

Dropping Jeff and a friend off at the airport was feeling a lot like salt being rubbed into the wound that has been 2017, but I am pretty much over that crap.  No, I was not happy about missing out on a chance to see kids, grandkids, in-laws, nieces and nephews.  No, I was not happy about missing out on clear, cool mountain air, campfire smells, dutch oven cooking and more stars than I used to think it was possible to see in one night.  But there are lots of things to love right here in my own backyard.  Lots of things things to counteract salt, and bind up a wound.

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Doughnut Dollies is my most favorite donut shop ever.  It is also 46 miles from my house.  Obviously, I can’t make a trip to Marietta, GA every day or even every week just for my beloved donuts, but I can once in awhile.  We live south of Atlanta, and south of the airport, so I began my trek north for the day.  I went straight to Doughnut Dollies from the airport, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

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Like I said on Instagram, caramel goes pretty dang well with salt, and even better on a donut, so a salted caramel donut it was.  And an orange gingerbread one for the road.  I know the question begs to be asked, “Why is Doughnut Dollies the best?”  I love their hip, crafty and creative takes on my favorite pastry, and the shop itself is an absolute delight, but really the reason I love them so is the texture.  I love bread.  Soft, fluffy white bread.  These donuts are much more bread-like than most donuts, and I love that the donut itself doesn’t seem to be as sweet as others.  The sweet seems to be more in the add-ons, and I just really like the balance.  (This may also explain why I hate Krispy Kreme donuts, especially when they are hot.  It’s like just eating fried sugar.  Bleh.)  Plus, the peeps that work at Dollie’s are really nice, so that’s always a plus.

From Marietta, I decided to keep heading north.  This weekend is the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay, and Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega.  The weather is beautiful and finally starting to be a little bit cooler and drier, which around here is nothing but good news and puts a lot of people in a good mood and stirs up a desire to head to our version of the mountains.  A lot of people.  Knowing that this weekend is festival weekend up north, I also knew that it meant the apples are in, and it’s time to make applesauce, but I wanted to get up there before the crowds.  So, I plugged in Sybil and headed up the highway.

From the Atlanta area, I just take I-75 north to I-575, and stay on it until it ends and becomes GA-515.  The first apple places you come to in Ellijay are on the right, Panorama and Penland’s.  I have to be honest, I always stop here, but it’s not really usually to buy apples.  My husband’s favorite hot sauce comes from this place, and they don’t take phone orders and they don’t ship.  So I stock up on it, and a few other gift items for the holidays.  I did buy a peck of Arkansas Black, and of course, some apple cider donuts.  They are my second favorites behind Doughnut Dollies.  Every time I go there I am greeted by busloads of seniors headed to Ellijay for the day, and quite honestly, I think that is their biggest clientele.  I don’t have any opinions about Penland’s, as quite honestly I’ve never been there.  I just get what I come for at Panorama, and then move along.

I keep going north on GA-515, then turn right on GA-52.  This is where the majority of the apple markets and farms are located.  There are little bitty, no fuss places like Hudson’s Apple House, and there are larger markets complete with petting farms and hayrides like Hillcrest Orchards, and there are several in between.  It really just depends on what you are looking for.  When my kids were younger, we went to the bigger places more often because there is a bit of tourism and fun about it, but nowadays I really am just going for the apples. I realized on my drive up that it was the first time that I had ever made the drive without my family.  It made me a little sad, but then I gloried in the fact that I could do what I wanted without worrying about this or that, and I got over it quick.  Apparently that’s the name of the game.

I love Hudson’s Apple House.  It might be my favorite stop of all.  It is small, and located in what looks to be an old service station.  The family is lovely, and I always like to visit with them.  There’s no fuss.  Just apples.  And kindness.  I wanted a tart, hard apple, but not just a Granny Smith, so she offered for me to try a Pippin, which was delightful.  If my family and other close friends are reading this post, they are probably laughing at that pic of the partially eaten apple.  I hate biting into food like that because I feel like I get it all over my face and I’m sticky and dirty and need a shower.  But, she wanted me to try it before I bought it, so I did, and I loved it, but I was really glad I had wipes in the car.

My other favorite on Ga-52 is the B.J. Reece Apple House.  It is one of the bigger places, and is a little touristy, but seriously has a really great selection of apples.  I think you can also pick your own here, and they may have hayrides and things like that, but I don’t really pay any attention to it.  I’m just there for some serious apple shopping, a jug of peach cider, and maybe some produce.  I didn’t buy as much as I usually do this year, something I will explain in another post, but I did pick up some Braeburn apples, which I am looking forward to using.

If I had the kids with me, I would have continued on southeast on GA-52 and gone to Burt’s Farm.  I took the kids there many times when they were younger to pick out a pumpkin, or just to take photos with the rows and rows of pumpkins of every size and color.  When they were very small, it wasn’t as well known, and it was easy to park, and there weren’t a lot of crowds to contend with.  It is still gorgeous. and lots of fun, but it is also a popular destination for school field trips, and is often packed with people at this time of year.  I did debate about going over to Amicalola Falls just past Burt’s Farm to climb the stairs by the falls, just to see if I could do it and not feel like I was dying like I did the last time, but I opted for a different route. I still think I might go back up sometime this fall.  I feel those stairs challenging me.

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Instead, where GA-52 takes a sharp left to head towards Burt’s and the falls, I turned right onto GA-183 and followed Sybil’s directions back south and into Atlanta.  When I got to Intown Quilters I shared apple cider donut and apple joy with Sarah and the crew, and they shared fabric and fiber joy with me.  It lifts my spirits so much to be with creative friends and talk about our passions.  I love this shop, and it’s crew.  I never leave there empty handed or without inspiration, and yesterday was no exception.  We laughed and chatted, and even disagreed, and in the end I left with both my hands and my heart filled.  It was a good day.

Even though 2017 and I have been battling it out, I know that in the end I will prevail.  I’m totally watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve this year because while 2017 is going down in flames, I will live on.  This year may have beaten me up a bit, but I’ve lived long enough to know that bruises heal, even the ego type.  It is just a matter of time, and as my husband says, learning how to fall so maybe next time there are no bruises, or at least smaller ones that heal faster.

Getting it together

This past January I weighed more than I ever did 9 months prego and on the verge of delivery. I was not by any stretch what most people think of as extremely overweight, but I still could not move. I dreaded putting away dishes because if I knelt down, I had to use the countertop to pull myself back up again. And stairs. Don’t get me started about the stairs.  I didn’t like driving my fun little car anymore because it was so hard to get in and out of it.  Then I had a customer pull me out into the hallway during an event in The Green Apricot studio to tell me that I really needed to get it together.  That I should enjoy the holidays and my upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, but that when I got back I needed to do better.  All these quilters just sit behind their machines and get fat.  I was, obviously, totally offended.

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Then I saw this pic that my husband took of me on our trip, and I finally had a discussion with myself.  The conclusion was I am not getting younger, and it isn’t going to get easier. so get started. So I did.

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The irony of looking like this for most of my life was that I ate everything in sight and never did anything athletic or that even remotely looked like exercise.  Like never.  Ever.  When this photo was taken, I was about 37 years old.  I had brought 4 humans into this world who at the time were about 11, 13, 15 and 16 years old.  I had been divorced and remarried, and honestly had been through a lot.  But I was not prepared for what was to come in the next couple of years.

The difference between those two pictures is about 7 years, My Great Depression, and 50 pounds.  When I was 39, I went through some tough times.  I gained 30 pounds in about 3 months.  I then struggled through a deep depression that would last for about 2 years, and still lingers from time to time.  After the initial gain, I just kept adding on, a little more each year.  I went from being able to carry my weight around with little effort, and even less thought, to not being able to get off of the couch without my hips hurting.  I couldn’t get up a single flight of stairs without being winded.  But seriously, you don’t want to hear the stair rant.

Now, to be clear, I don’t really care to be as small as I used to be.  I am a grown woman, and I am totally cool with what that means.  In fact, I would be just fine with what the scales read last January if I also could move around with ease.  Now, again to be clear, I do have issues with vanity just like everyone else, and there is a part of me that would like to be size such-and-such again, or at least close to it, but almost as soon as I have those thoughts, I am reminded that it really is irrelevant.

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The difference between the picture at the beach and the bathroom selfie is about 10 months, about 200 workouts, a very different outlook on food, very little neck and joint pain, and 25 pounds.  I took this picture yesterday so that I could thank my friend for sending me this cute LulaRoe top.  We kinda have a joke running because almost every item of clothing I buy from her I say, “A jean jacket would be cute with that!”  So, I posted it on social media, really only thinking about the shirt, but when a couple of my friends made some kind comments, it got me to thinking.  I started looking over pics from this past year, and it has made me really grateful.

I like the woman in the pic with the orange bandana.  I also like the woman in the pic on the beach.  But I don’t really want to be either of them again.  The bathroom selfie is who I am today, and I like her too.  She’s been through a lot.  She’s made a lot of mistakes.  A lot.  She’s cried a lot.  She’s laughed a lot.  She still has trouble letting go of some of her baggage, but she’s learning to move on.  She’s learning about who she is, and who she isn’t.  She’s taking time to sort things out.  Slow down a bit.  Find balance.  Then pick up and run the race when the race is on, but slow down for the training.

There will be more pics.  And when there are, I want to be glad that I am no longer the woman in this bathroom selfie.  It’s all about progress.  It’s always about progress.

 

A Lobster Tale

by Angela Gubler.  Originally written June 2016.

“I think I’d like to have dinner with you.”

“Hmmm, that sounds nice.  How about an appetizer?”

“Yes- what do you have in mind?”

“How about some lobster rolls?  I really love lobster.”

“Actually, I don’t really like lobster.  Why don’t we try something else?”

“Sure- how about this instead?”

“Much better.  These artichoke hearts are amazing.  So yummy.  I’m so glad we are here.  I love spending time with you.”

“I’m glad we are here, too.  You liked the appetizer, didn’t you? ”

“Yes, it was nice.  What should we have for our main course?”

“How about steak and lobster tail.  I really love lobster.”

“Oh, I like steak.  Especially a filet.  But I don’t like lobster.  Remember?  I told you that earlier.”

“You just haven’t had it like this.  It’s amazing.  You’ll love it.”

“I dunno.  I’ve tried it lots of times, and I never seem to like it.”

“Just one bite.  I’m sure you’re going to love it.”

“Okay.  I’ll try it again.  You are a great cook- the steak is amazing- so maybe you are right and I will like the lobster.  Just one bite.”

“Here.  I even dipped it in butter.  It’s so good.”

“Oh, no.  I don’t think it’s the way you make it.  I really just don’t like it.”

“Here’s another bite.  I’m sure you will like this better.  I love it.”

“I don’t feel very good.  I think I’m finished.”

“I think more lobster will help you feel better.  Here’s another bite.  I love you.  It’s wonderful.”

“You seem to really love it.  I want to like it, too.  But I don’t.  Is there any more steak? Or maybe artichoke hearts?”

“No, no more steak or artichoke hearts.  Just lobster.  I love lobster.”

“I hate lobster.  I want to leave.”

“But you can’t leave.  I’m not finished yet.  Don’t you want to stay with me?  I make a great steak.”

“I do like the steak.  But you said you don’t have any more steak.  Just lobster.  And I don’t want lobster.  I think I’m sick.”

“You’re not sick.  Just eat the lobster, and think of the steak.  It’s the practically the same thing.  I love lobster.”

“It’s not working.  I know you love lobster, but I really don’t like it.  I don’t know what to do.”

“You love me, don’t you?  And I love lobster.  So you love lobster.”

“No, I don’t think it works like that.  I do love you, but I still don’t like lobster.”

“Eat it anyway.”

“What?”

“Eat it anyway.  I don’t care that you don’t like it.  I like it.  Eat it.  I love you.”

“I need to go.  It’s getting late, and I want to be prepared for the morning.”

“I will die if you leave.  I can’t eat lobster alone.  I need you.”

“I don’t want you to die.”

“Have another bite of lobster.  It’s so good.  I love it.”

“I don’t want any more lobster.  I hate it.”

“You hate it because you won’t even try it.  You make me love lobster.”

“I feel dizzy.  I don’t feel well.  I think I am finished and I want to go.”

“Don’t go.  I will die.”

“I don’t want you to die.  But I don’t like lobster, and you aren’t happy when I don’t eat lobster.  Which makes me sad.  So I think it’s time for me to go.  I am leaving.”

“You can’t leave.  You will never be able to digest the steak I gave you.  It will sit in your stomach forever.  Like a rock.  The only thing that will make it go away is if you eat lobster with me.  If you don’t eat lobster with me, you will drag through life with me in your gut.  You won’t be able to eat anything else.”

“I can’t see.  I am so tired.  I think I am dying.”

“It’s your own fault.  You don’t like lobster.”

“I can’t die.  I have to be ready for tomorrow.  I have to go.  Let me go.”

“You’re gonna die.  You can’t survive without having lobster with me.  You may as well stay.  I love you.”

“I might die.  I don’t think you love me.  I don’t know how I feel about you anymore.  I have to go.  I am leaving.”

“One more bite.  I love lobster.”

Not another bite.  Not another word.  Not another minute.  I might die, but I am going.  I am gone.

Love All Around- The Block

Last week my sweet friend, Lee Monroe- aka May Chappell, sent me a note asking if I could do a little something for her. I would have likely said of course no matter what she asked, but I was especially grateful to be asked to be a part of making her Love All Around block.

One thing I’ve learned from my faith is to make the most of all that is good, and to minimize the power of all that is negative. And let’s face it, there is a lot of negative out there.

Don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I implying that sticking one’s head in the sand is the way to go.  Pretending all is well when it isn’t simply allows the thing to stick around, or worse, become more powerful. It takes purposeful action to make a difference. Everything we say and do begs the question, “Is this making the situation better, or worse?”

I have to be honest. I am excessively sensitive. I get overwhelmed by all of the negativity that hits me in the face everyday. It makes my chest feel heavy, and I have to take a minute to remind myself of all that is truly good and beautiful in the world.

But that’s the thing that’s so amazing. It turns out that there are way more beautiful and wonderful and happy and positive and loving things and people in the world than there are hateful, sad and negative. Really.  There are. And the great part is that the more you fill the world with genuine kindness and love, the less room there is for the other stuff.

I know that sometimes we hurt. Deeply. And sometimes we are afraid. Often with good cause. Both hurt and fear are powerful reactions, and both can lead to anger and hate.

We can’t help being hurt. We can’t help being afraid. That’s just part of being human.  But we can stop from being angry, and especially from hating.

There’s a moment when we decide. When we choose between peace and anger, between love and hate. That moment is where the power lies. That moment is when we begin to change the world.  For good or for bad.

So, maybe take a minute or two to slow down.  Maybe make this block, and allow yourself to think of ways you can be the one. And maybe you can also be reminded of what you already know.

#mommade

#mommade

I remember my mom making this years ago when I was much younger. Being a maker is definitely something gained from both my mother and grandmother. Grandma had a little closet off of the dining area that she had packed to the ceiling with note cards and paper and glue and a sundry assortment of crafting accoutrements. To me, it was like Grandma’s secret stash. I never saw anyone open that brown slatted folding door except Grandma. It was like her version of Mary Poppins’ bag. Of course, I was a kid and didn’t live close by, so I’m probably totally wrong and her stash was more likely spread all over the house, carefully tucked away. For instance, I recently inherited her sewing machine, and until my mom gave it to me, I never knew it existed. Which is crazy because she sewed stuff all the time, especially things like adult bibs and comfort pillows that her ladies group worked on together. But I digress.

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Mom did needlepoint, cross stitch, crochet, garment sewing and crafting, and looking back I can see how she understood how things went together. I have a tendency to attack stuff because I like it and want to make it and I’ll figure out how to do it as I go. She seemed to have been a bit more methodical about it. She also had a stash of fabric and crafting supplies that I was obsessed with when I was growing up. The button tin was a favorite, as I’m sure it was for most kids of a sewist.

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I think it was hard for her to teach me. I wasn’t very patient, and I didn’t want to start with basic stuff.  I remember her making clothes for me- shirt and shorts sets when I was younger, and my mermaidish prom dress with enormous sleeves when I was older. She was very good at garment sewing, and she taught me that if you don’t cut it out correctly, you may as well throw it away.

Grandma doesn’t craft much anymore because she says it frustrates her that she can’t make her hands do what she wants. My mom doesn’t sew anymore either, but I wish she did. I keep asking her, and I will keep asking her. Who knows, one of these days she may get the bug again. I’m grateful to have a few things that she has made, but I’m even more grateful to have the memories of the things she’s made. I’m grateful for memories of Grandma sitting at her spot at the kitchen table by the sliding glass doors gluing together little Christmas broaches made of foam and pipe cleaners for her group of friends.  It matters to me.

So, this makers gonna make.  Because they matter to me.

An editorial based on an editorial…

A very interesting and controversial editorial about the Modern Quilt Guild just came to my attention, and I started to share it on The Green Apricot Facebook page, but it occurred to me that it might be post-worthy. The blog article I’m referring to is “You can’t break up if there wasn’t a relationship in the first place” by Mandy Leins, and you should click this link to read it before continuing to read my post.

I currently belong to three guilds, including WAMQG, but I have no misgivings about the foibles and failings of quilt guilds at large, both traditional and modern. Leadership is often more of a dictatorship, and the membership is often lazy and demanding. Politics run rampant, feelings get hurt, bylaws are completely ignored or conveniently and quietly rewritten, and money is spent and decisions are made without bringing a motion to the floor for voting.

But… Friendships are formed. Newbies and experienced ones are supported. Programs help with progress. Challenges bring both laughter and tears. And few things are as powerful as a group of quilters armed with sewing supplies and a charitable mission.

So, join a guild. Or don’t. Quit your guild. Or don’t. But how about make a decision with your eyes open, and confident that you are being true to yourself by spending time doing things that matter to you with people, good or bad, that you can care for?

I am not an MQG insider, and I did not know some of the details mentioned in this post. While in a lot of ways I think this is sad, I have to say I felt a bit relieved to read it because it put a voice to a number of concerns that have been crawling under my skin, but haven’t made themselves manifest. I’m a bit cautious these days when it comes to guilds, and frankly, any organized groups of people who try to define or pigeon-hole its members to the point of elitism, but I still find value in them. I also think that in the grand scheme of things, MQG is still very young, and it will be interesting to see how it forms and changes over time. And how exactly people who lie outside of its boundaries respond.

It’s kind of exciting to witness it all.

Computerized quilting is not real quilting.

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It’s totally true.  If you use a computerized longarm quilting machine, your quilt will not actually be quilted.  And even if it looks like it’s quilted, it is not near as good as it would have been if it had been hand guided.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

Kind of like how umpteen years ago if you quilted a quilt on your domestic machine it was not really quilted.  And even if it looked like it was quilted, it wasn’t near as good as it would have been if it had been hand quilted.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

I suppose dishes also are not clean unless washed by hand in the sink.  Using lye.

I still maintain that piecing and quilting by hand is easier.  Don’t get me wrong- it totally takes skill and practice, and let’s face it, a lot of time.  But, because it is less technical, it is more forgiving.  I love hand work as much as I love machine work.  I think there is a time and a place for all of the creative processes in quilting.  I don’t think there is a time or a place for snobbery.  Whatever process a maker is using to create their work is a part of who they are, as well as a part of the piece they are working on.  And quite frankly, you’re a jerk if you can’t appreciate that.

This is a customer quilt that Juan and I tackled together.  I learned a few things, as I do on every project.  The results are often very similar, regardless of what I learn, but what is different is the way the quilting is approached.  I am constantly learning ways to express the idea that the quilt is evoking, as well as how to approach the project more efficiently.  It’s very similar to graphic design.  I get an idea of what the quilt wants, then I search through Juan’s library for designs that I can manipulate into what I have in my brain.  I have always been a problem solver when it comes to technology.  I want a final result.  I don’t know how to get exactly what I want.  So I take what I do know, and usually fool the computer into doing what I want it to do.  I also usually end up finding out there was an easier way, and if I had just made a phone call, or oh, I dunno, read the manual or watched the training videos, I would have saved myself a lot of time and effort.  Along these lines, I went to a gathering of Statler owners at Joan Knight’s home this last weekend, and was astounded at how many things I could have done to make this quilt easier.  Having said that, I’m still pretty pleased I pulled off what I did.  Even if it did take a long time.

Here are some examples-

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This was especially difficult.  Before you start judging, I am aware it isn’t perfect.  But I still am pleased with the outcome.  The maker of this quilt spent a lot of time on the piecing, and that’s what was standing out to me throughout the quilt.  So, I made a real effort to keep the quilting minimal on the prints.  You will see in other photos that the white space (negative or background space) was generally quilted more densely than the other areas.  In this case, the drunkard’s path wanted to pop.  I needed to outline those stitch lines, but I did not know how to do the curves.  I ended up chopping up an already designed circle into the pieces that I needed, fit them into the right places along the path, then stitched them.  Then I went back and did the straight line quilting, and kind of connected the dots between the curves. I learned this past weekend that I could have laid out the design on the computer, connected the curves with the straight lines, and Juan would have stitched it out in one fell swoop.  But he didn’t share that info with me.

This was a mistake I made that had to be ripped out and quilted again.  These two blocks were in complimentary locations on the quilt, and required being quilted similarly.  As I mentioned before, it seemed that the quilting needed to truly emphasize the piecing, so the quilting in these two blocks needed to be in the “background.”  In order to do this, I have to program Juan to skip over portions of the area that he is stitching, which normally works well, but in this case, didn’t.  The area that I am pointing at in the fourth photo should not have been quilted.  I didn’t get a picture of the corrected block, but I did take it out and restitch it.

The background of this block was a grid or crosshatch, and as I mentioned before, I programed Juan to skip around the pieced and appliqued part of the block.  for some reason, the computer chose to stitch the cross lines in the area between the bloom and the stem on one side of the block, but not on the other.  I believe it’s because of the size of the space, but I honestly don’t know for sure.  I went back in with Juan to stitch in the missing lines after the background was complete.

This one made me cringe for a minute.  Can you see what’s wrong in the first photo?  How about the second?  Maybe the third?  Or how about the fourth?  At this point in the process, I was pretty far along with the quilt, and I was a bit miffed when Juan started skipping stitches.  I mean really.  What the what.  But, it was easily rectified.  Just needed a new needle.  I quilt pretty heavily most of the time, so it is not uncommon on a quilt this large, and this densely quilted, to go through more than one needle.  Just because the common practice is a new needle for a new project, sometimes you need more than one new needle for each new project.

I felt like the end result was pleasing, and it really was pretty much the way I envisioned it finishing.  The maker created a beautiful canvas on which to work, and she was pleased with the outcome.  I was grateful that Juan and I could be a part of it.

Quilt pattern: Unkown;  Fabric: Unknown, 1930’s reproduction; Digitized quilt patterns: Multiple designers; Thread: King Tut #960, Morning Sky by Superior Threads.