Friday, August 29, 2008

A Little Bit of Help

I did it. I bought something for myself. I broke down and drove across town to an unfamiliar locale (only with my trusty GPS, of course) and found myself a Barnes and Noble (because I refuse to drive to the one downtown without James) at which I purchased some pretty cool books. What did I buy? Thought you'd never ask. I am proud to show you the newest additions to my library.

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Once I delve into the depths of this book I will let you know of the pleasures I find within. But for now, let me tell you I think this book is a MUST HAVE on every crocheters shelf. Yes, I really do. Just flipping through the pages I KNOW I will find help in desiging patterns that fit. (did you not read the title? That alone let's you know it will help in that regard) I can hardly wait to get started.

The next book to land into my bookshelf was this beauty...

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Doesn't look as fun, does it? Not really for those who simply crochet. But for me, this will be a gem (I hope). Inside are various articles of clothing and descriptions for the different styles in the fashion world. It shows the difference between burmuda shorts, culottes or capris, among the many. Did you know there were so many different lengths for pants? I saw about 8 in this book.

So, I plan to buy more in the future, but this is enough to get me started. I already spy a dress or two in that Lily Chin book I would love to try. Well, now I must be off to the local veggie stand to buy some fresh veggies. Have a lovelyiscious sort of day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Sometimes I wonder if I even DO think. I have no clue what on earth possessed me when I bought the fabric you are about to see. Its clearly not my style. I don't even like it all that much. There is a tad bit of intrigue when I gaze at it, but somehow it never progresses past that.

And then, to top it all off, I decided yesterday that I would make the skirt in a size 10 instead of a size 12 just to motivate myself to lose some extra weight. Why did I do that? (aside from the motivational factor I just mentioned) I don't know. Sometimes I really wonder at myself. So, now I have a skirt that doesn't fit and that I don't like.

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Where on earth did I put my brain???

I suppose once I get a zipper put in and once I lose the extra 15 pounds and once I get a nice brown knit shirt to go with this dreadful thing, I will come to like it enough to wear it. I suppose.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Perfectly Scrumptious Preview

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I am not going to tell you what this is but I will tell you that it is my latest design which shall be added to my Pure Sweetness Collection. I have been working on this since...oh...maybe last Thursday??? Not quite sure on the exact day I started but anyways, I am giving you a preview of it now. I am almost done with it and am guessing it will make it into testing on Wednesday. Yay! A new pattern and guess what! I am using my Apparal Design and Production Hand Book to "grade" this pattern. Yup. I am learning a bit of grading with this design. I figured I might as well start now. No better time than the present, right?

So, I thought I would let you know of my new goal. I am going to attempt to spend one hour every single day working on my business. That means forum housework (that tedious stuff I have to do in order for my pattern testing forum to run smoothly) and updating the website and editing patterns in testing and typing up new patterns and all that jazz. I figure if I spend an hour a day on this I'll be able to stay caught up on things. Next I plan to spend an hour every single day working on a new design. Just crocheting...or "grading". I figure if I do this I can keep new designs coming out regularly without having to quit my other hobbies. There will still be time each day to spend sewing or scrapbooking or knitting or anything else my little heart desires.

Now I am off to cook some red beans and rice with sausage for supper. Yum. Have a great evening everyone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stepping It Up

So here's the thing...it is midnight. I can't sleep. My mind is all in an uproar and I can't shut it down. I have been thinking quite a bit the past couple of days about my crochet business. I am not happy. Not happy at all. Why? Let me tell you...

1. I haven't designed anything new in quite some time. I have not released ANY patterns on my site since Jan. That alone makes me sad. I want to design, I really do. But why am I not? Because I am so caught up living life, I guess. Sewing? Carpal Tunnel? Kissing a 3 year old while baking chocolate chip cookies for Daddy? I don't really know.

2. Testers are really hard to come by. Good testers. The kind that finish a project they start. The kind that find errors and let you know they found them so you can correct them. The kind that don't run off in the middle of testing with your pattern, never to be heard from again. These are the kind of testers that are hard to come by. I guess these kind of testers want paid. I wish I could pay my testers. That might just solve my issues. Oh how I wish I made enough money at this business to pay them. Maybe then they would stick around.

3. My designs are sub-par. You would think that after two years of doing this, I would be getting better at it. Nope. I do believe I am getting worse. Either that or my knowledge is increasing so that now I know how terrible at this I really am. Either way, my designs are not good. Wait. Not the designs. The designs are great...its the patterns. The interpretation of the designs so that others can crochet the same thing that's in my head...that's the part that's no good.

What makes me say this? I learned something today. Something that would have been very valuable two years ago. Its a little word called "grading". Ever heard of that word? I hadn't until today. Once I heard it, I knew immediately what my patterns were lacking. They lack grading. The subtle changes between sizes that make the design fit each of the different sizes. The point? You can't just plug in some numbers and do math and have the article of clothing look, fit and feel the same on all the sizes. No. There has to be some "grading".

Okay. So, why does this have me feeling discouraged? Because I feel as though all my work for the past two years has been in vain. Because I don't know if I have what it takes inside of me to learn this new skill. Because I don't know...I just don't know. Do I need to re-design all my previous patterns now to bring them up to par? I just don't feel right selling things I know are wrong. Do I just start over with my new designs and leave the old ones alone? Do I quit?

Opps. Did I say that? Well, to be honest...the thought has crossed my mind. Seriously, I've been contemplating it. But, can I give it up? I don't think I can. I have invested too much time and love and passion into this to give it up so easily. (I won't even mention finances...that has been invested too) So where does that leave me? Well, I guess I must now learn "grading". That's the only option left open to me. I can't quit. I love it too much. I can't sell sub-par patterns. (that would be WRONG) So, I have to better myself. I must learn the art of grading patterns. I must apply myself fully to this and learn and study until I have mastered it and can proudly say, "I designed that".

Now that I got that off my mind, maybe I will go try to get some sleep. We are heading out early tomorrow to hit the beach. (Ohhhhhh...I'm gonna be soooooo tired) Goodnight Ya'll.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cute Fabric Storage Solution

My mother has a couple issues of a Victorian Country magazine and while I was at her house I flipped through one of them. Gorgeous stuff. Absolutely gorgeous. No other word describes it quite as well as "gorgeous." One picture showed some fabric purses hanging on hooks on the wall. As soon as I saw it, I knew immediately what I was going to do. Make some.

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For what? For storage of course. Inside these cutesy bags are doll clothes. Now, instead of having them in plastic shoeboxes at the top of Chloe's closet, they are toddler height so she can play with them to her hearts content. (and put them away easily too)

Here is how I made these gorgeous and yet simple bags.

Step 1 - I used fat quarters. I simply sewed up the sides of two fat quarters for each bag. (fat quarters are on sale for 99 cents at Joanns right now)

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Step 2 - Invert the outside fat quarter so right side is facing. Leave the lining (the second fat quarter) wrong side out. Place the lining in the bag so seams match.

Step 3 - Sew 1/4" around top of bag to join lining to outer bag. You should be able to see the right side of the lining in the bag and the right side of the fabric outside of the bag.

Step 4 - Fold the 1/4" at top of bag to the inside along stitching and iron flat. Fold down again 1" and iron flat a second time.

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Step 5 - Sew along bottom fold to make a casing for the ribbon, leaving a 1" hole on either side of the bag at the side seams for the ribbon.

Step 6 - cut two equal lengths of ribbon and insert into casing, one on each side of purse so the ends come out the sides. Gather up the bag on the ribbon until bag opening is desired size. Knot the ribbons together on both sides close to the openings in the casing to keep the ribbon in place.

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Step 7 - Now tie the ribbons together in a bow and hang on the wall.

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This project only took me a couple of hours to whip up (and screw the hooks into the wall with my drill) and I have to admit I like it a whole lot better than plastic shoeboxes.

Preserving Pictures

I found a box of old family photos while as my parent's house and spent a happy afternoon browsing through them. Lo and behold, my mother walked into the room producing the photo album you see below. Inside I saw pictures of myself that I never knew existed. Pictures from my childhood. Even pictures taken of me as an infant before I was adopted. I had been told that we didn't own anything from that time. You can imagine how delighted I was to see a picture of me at 3 months old and how identical Chloe looked to me. Oh me oh my...what a delightful find. I don't have that picture to show you now but maybe in the next couple of months I can get my hands on it.

You see...I made a deal with my mother. I promised her that if I could take one photo album home with me, I would professionally scan the pictures so I could have copy, I would make a scrapbook for myself and copy it off for all my siblings as Christmas presents and then I would return the photos to her in a brand new album. Her albums are the old magnetic kind that have lost their "magnetisim" somewhere through the years and no longer hold the photos. When we look through the album photos slid out onto the floor and everywhere.

Now the deal is that once I return the album and prove that I am not going to "steal" her pictures, she will then send me the next album in the pile. Pretty good deal if you ask me. Works well for both of us.

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This last picture is of my little sister and I shortly after we were adopted. I am a little in shock still from seeing this picture which I never knew existed. I think I will copy it in that large size and frame it for my wall. What a precious picture. Now i have my work cut out for me getting these scanned and into a scrapbook for the family. Hopefully I can get it done by Christams!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

No Place Like Home

Thursday morning, at approximately 2:00 am, we walked through our front door. Ahhh...it feels good to finally be home. A month and a half of traveling and living at the mercy of others can sure wear a person out. Now I can eat whatever I want to eat and whenever I want to eat it. I can sleep when I want to sleep and wear my pajamas till noon and email friends just as quickly as I please.

My homecoming, though, was not without blemish. The first thing I noticed when I walked through my front door was the overwhelming aroma of cat. Not the most pleasant smell in the world, let me tell you. (and at 2:00 in the morning to boot) Poor Pattycakes has been holed up here in a closed up house for a month now. No open windows and no air conditioner. You can imagine what that would do with "cat smell". Those of you who know me well know that one thing I cannot abide in a house with pets is the smell of pets. My chief goal in life is to clean my house well enough that no one knows I even own pets. So you can well imagine what I spent my Thursday afternoon doing in addition to unpacking.

The next thing I noticed when I woke up was the fact that there was NO food in the house. I had frozen the milk, butter and all such things like that so I had nothing I could use for breakfast. My dear SIL packed some snacks to take on the plane for us of which we managed to save some leftovers. So for breakfast Thursday we ate granola bars and Yogos. Then we went grocery shopping.

Walking out the back door to the car, I saw my garden. Oh boy, did it look good. A proper jungle. The flowers were blooming, if you could see them from beneath the weeds. If only it wasn't weeds it would look so beautiful. But it IS weeds and now I have a major job to tackle out there.

And the main thing that I noticed when we got home was the lack of James anywhere. Hanging up my clothes in the closet next to his winter sweaters was hard for me. I can feel him hugging me in one of those sweaters and boy...it makes me miss him terribly. Reality hit. Bills needed paid. Floors needed mopped. Furniture needed dusted. And my hubby is not here. I am having a little trouble adjusting to being home again. But not to worry. It STILL feels good to be here. If only I could shake this weird feeling like I am all alone. Maybe I'll go shopping. I have a remodeling project I may attempt this weekend. Chloe's closet!!

Give me a few days and I'll me my old self again. My brain just needs time to wrap around the fact that I am finally home and this is not some dream. Have a lovely weekend everyone. Enjoy your home today! Enjoy the freedoms you have in your own home. Enjoy the people who share your home with you, your loved ones. And thank the good Lord that you have a place to call home.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bulldozer

James rang me up yesterday and at some point in the conversation I announced that my brother drove his bulldozer over to my parent’s house to begin an excavation job for my father’s new garage. If anyone reading this knows my husband then you can imagine the sort of things that came out of his mouth. Yup! Silly Questions. I will transcribe our conversation here for you. It went something like this...

ANNA: “David drove his bulldozer over this morning all the way from his house. It took him 45 minutes to make the 15 minute drive.”
JAMES: “Oh Really? Why did he drive that over?”
ANNA: “To help Daddy dig out the bank of dirt where he wants his new garage.”
JAMES: “How did David get it up that driveway?”
(Daddy’s driveway is VERY steep)
ANNA: “He drove it up.”
JAMES: (in disbelief) “Nah!" (pause) "How did he get it up your DAD’S driveway?”
ANNA: “He drove it up! This thing is huge. It drove right on up the driveway and even up that embankment next to the garage a couple of times.”
JAMES: “Just to dig a little bit of dirt out?”
ANNA: “Do you remember that huge embankment of dirt next to the garage? It’s a mountain, James. The house is sitting next to the mountain. They needed the bulldozer.”
JAMES: “Why couldn’t they just get out a couple of shovels and dig the dirt out that way?”
ANNA: “I don’t think you realize the size of this bulldozer, James. Its not a little lawnmower tractor. Daddy is building a 3 car garage where the mountain used to be.”
JAMES: “Does David have a license to drive this thing?”

That is where the conversation ended. I decided at that point that I needed to take pictures of this project to show James the magnitude of the endeavor. So, now I present to you...David’s bulldozer.

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David is changing out the bucket of the bulldozer for the forks. The forks are what he uses to lift up all the roots from the tree stumps. It was so fascinating to watch David use this machine. He is so skilled at it, driving it this way and that, lifting up the bucket, setting it down in the precise location he wanted it to pull the dirt down the bank, then lifting up the bucket filled with dirt. Here is where the mountain was...

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...and here is where it ended up.

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Look at that picture that shows where the mountain was. Can you see the current carport? A few days ago, the embankment came out past the post of the carport. When the car was parked in the carport, you could barely open the car door wide enough to get into the car. The car would need backed out into the driveway. Now all that dirt is gone.

So, there you have it James. Its a big project, too big for shovels! And I've just been informed that the proper name for the thing is not a bulldozer but a big forklift. Hmmm...biggest forklift I've ever seen. Have a wonderful dirt-digging kind of day! (and yes...go dig in the dirt. Its fun!!!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Truly Vintage Treasures

I remember my Grandmother Anna, tall and graceful. She used to wear her hair parted down the middle with each side braided and then wrapped back and forth across the top of her head. As a little girl I stood and watched her braid her hair in this manner and I loved it. I now, occasionally, braid my hair in the same way purely for nostalgic reasons. When I think of “vintage”, I think of my Grandmother’s era. My grandmother passed away when I was but 8 or 9 years old. How I wish I could have known this lady more. I think we would have been wonderful friends. (we do share the same name, you know) I can just picture us, sitting in her lovely parlour and crocheting dainty doilies together. Or stitching table runners or hand piecing a Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt together. (I must remember to snap a picture of that quilt she made which now hangs in my mother’s living room. Gorgeous quilt)

When I arrived here to my parents house, my mother informed me that I could browse through my Grandma Anna’s old sewing cabinet and I could have anything in there that my little heart desired. Ahhhhh!!! Can you imagine? Heaven for such a girl as I. I was also informed that whenever I can get that cabinet to my house, its mine. Wooo Hooo!!! How do you ship a sewing cabinet?

Anyways, I want to share with you the few treasures I picked to fit into my already overly crowded suitcase. (the rest will have to wait for my next trip out) I want you all to know that what you are about to view are truly vintage items. My grandmother quit crocheting and such when my father was a small boy. He recalls her doing it, but says she quit when he was quite young yet. So…that would make everything you are about to view dated to the mid-40’s or earlier. One item even has the postmark of 1941. Most everything doesn’t even have a postmark yet so I am guessing they were from the 30’s.

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Above you see a box containing old hankies with holes along the edges to crochet around. One of the hankies has a bit of green thread crocheted around the edge. I am thinking I may do some embroidery work on the hankie to finish it off. Also there are two spools of little thread. Totally vintage. One says it is Coats and Clark size 70 tatting thread. Lovely!!!

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These are potholders Grandma Anna started and didn't finish. I aim to finish them when I get home. I will hang them in my kitchen next to these next ones that she completed.

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Aren't they absolutely beautiful? I love them. I want to see if I can mimic her stitches and make up some more in other colors.

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Now this is truly a treasure. What a gorgeous treasure to find stuffed into a little corner of the sewing cabinet. An unfinished doily. I can complete the row that she last worked on simply by following her already finished work. I am going to try to find the pattern for this doily in her things, but I don't know if I will be able to. It looks to me like the sides will have a pineapple on them as well. I think I may be able to come up with something to finish it. The thread is so old and looks to be about size 50. What a treasure.

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Tucked in amongst everything else, I found this stack of mail order patterns. Quite a few too. These are the envelopes they came in with the postmarks on them. The postage for these are 1 cents. Gosh...that was a long time ago!!! Anyways, in each of these envelopes there are transfers for embroidery or crochet patterns...and sometimes BOTH! Look at this!!!

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You can see (or maybe not since its so small) that Grandma Anna crocheted a little basket. The embroidery would be done on the edge of a pillowcase or table runner/scarf and the crocheted basket would be attached to the bottom. It would appear as though the embroidered flowers were coming out of the basket. So, those of you who know me, know that I MUST finish this. Ohhhh what a treasure!

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In some of these envelopes, Grandma Anna included the newspaper clipping that she ordered the pattern from. How neat is that? Also in the sewing cabinet are tons of other clippings to order patterns. I wonder if she wanted to order all of them. I wish I could order them nowadays.

I am so blessed to receive such a neat treasure. Every time I embroider or crochet now, I will think of my Grandmother Anna. And I aim to finish these things she started so I can have memories of her throughout my house. What a blessing to have such a heritage.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Bavarian Delights

I just wanted to share some more photos of Leavenworth with you all. This really is one of the coolest places in the world. It rates right up there with Stratford-upon-Avon in my book. I suggest you grab a towel or cloth of some sort as this post may leave you drooling all over your keyboard.

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I could leave it at that picture alone and I know you all would want to go there. But I can't do that. I MUST show you more!!!!

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All the shops in this village are painted decoratively and have flower boxes everywhere. Its gorgeous. The construction did take away from the ambiance a tad, but oh...what a gorgeous place. And the German food was to die for. I loved it!!! Reminded me of when we lived in Germany...although the Bratwurst was quite a bit more spendy than it was while living there.

The coolest thing was seeing the doggie dishes filled with water outside the shops. Each shop would put out a doggie dish for the dogs. I guess its a dog-friendly place. Tons of people were walking around the village with thier dogs in tow. What a fun place.

Now I leave you with two more embroidered squares for that quilt I told you I was working on. Have a wonderful day!!!

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An Encouraging Word

The other day I was reading my Bible in 1 Thessalonians and I read the following verse.

1 Thess 1:2-3
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.


Something struck me! Am I am encourager? The Bible tells us to encourage people, but what exactly does that mean? When I read the verses above, it hit me. Most of the New Testament books were letters written to various churches and more than half of them written by Paul. Most of them include a little introduction at the beginning like the one you see above. Stating what the church is doing that is good.

After realizing this, I wondered if that is what encouragement is? Simply stating to the people around us what they are doing right and what blesses us? Then I realized that I could be an encouragement to people around me. I can write letters to missionaries. I can tell them thank you for the work they are doing produced by their faith. Its sad to me how many missionaries leave the mission field because the wife gets too lonely and feels homesick. (of the kids or even sometimes the husbands. Most of the time its the wife though) Could I play a part in keeping missionaries on the field presenting Christ's gospel to other worlds?

I took up the torch this weekend and made some cards with my mother to send to my girlfriend Mary in Africa.

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The little string of pearls is not attached yet. I am a little unsure of how I am going to accomplish that. I figured a few days of daydreaming might help me to solve this dilemma. Who knows. Maybe I'll hot glue it. Mama's got a gun. :)

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Same thing again with those flowers. I am not sure how to attach silk flowers to a card, but doesn't it just look darling with them??? The mimic the flowers in the picture that the bird is sitting on.

Then I made a card to send to James.

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This is the quote on the picture. "It takes a mighter good husband to be better than none." Mary Engelbreit, of course. (love her quotes)

Since we were making cards, I thought Chloe would enjoy making some for Daddy as well. I got out her stickers and away she went.

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So, I hope this will encourage whomever comes into contact with these cards. I am quite excited to realize just how easy this will be to encourage someone. Its a simple matter of stating what they are doing well. That is encouragement. A little note of thanks. A card. A phone call. It really is so simple.

What can you do for a missionary you know? Or a pastor? Or a friend? Or your parents? Or...perchance, your spouse???

Have a blessed day and smile at someone. (that counts as encouragement too.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Plethora of Quilting Inspiration

Oh me Oh my! If ever there was a quilter’s heaven I surely have found just such a place as that. We visited the Bavarian village of Leavenworth this past week, located right in the middle of the Washington Alps. Betcha didn’t know that Washington State has part of the Alps, did ya? Yes, its true. And right in the middle of these “alps” is the Bavarian village of Leavenworth.

We stayed in the cutest little bed and breakfast in this Bavarian village. A bed and breakfast with its own quilt shop inside. Ahhh! Like I said...Heaven! This quilt shop carries many discontinued and hard to find quilt books along with vintage fabrics. (of course, they also carry new things as well, but need I mention that??? The vintage is the part worthy of mention here)

The bed and breakfast is filled with vintage items gathered from antique stores by the owner as she travels to her various quilting shows throughout the land. You have got to see some of these quilts.

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And a close-up of the same quilt.

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The quilt above was the feature quilt in our room. Grandmother’s Flower Garden. One of my favorite quilt patterns of all time. If I had more Umph I would make this quilt. I am a little intimidated by the “hand piecing” portion of it though. (which is the WHOLE portion, mind you) If that wasn’t enough inspiration already, check out some of her embroidered items lying about.

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And aprons.

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Okay. So need I tell you that the itch attacked and there was nothing I could do but search her extensive book collection to find the perfect item for me to work on in the evenings? And I found two items of such perfection that I needed both of them.

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And I began straightaway on my new project. An embroidered quilt for Chloe. Three squares are complete, two of which I will show you now.

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This will be my “Leavenworth” quilt. One thing I learned while visiting my Aunt Jeanine last week is that I need to sign my quilts. She embroiders or writes on a piece of fabric her name and the date she made the quilt along with any bit of information she wants to include about the quilt and why she made it. She then sews this piece of fabric to the back of the quilt for future generations to enjoy. I plan to do that with this quilt.

I now have ideas for the next 20 or so quilts I will be making. (don’t ask me when I will be making them for I don’t know the answer to that question. I dream big, however, and 20 quilts is not so big that I can’t accomplish it in my lifetime. I just need to finish my first one.) I would love to make a memory quilt. Each square would represent a year in our marriage. I would embroider designs that have to do with that year…like wedding bells for when we got married or a baby in a cradle for when Chloe was born. I would also appliqué pieces to the quilt too. Like a shape of Germany for when we lived there or a tea cup when we lived in England. Each square would be unique and not necessarily the same size as the last one. I would even crazy quilt parts of it too.

Another quilt would be photographs that would be transferred onto fabric and made into squares. Wouldn’t that be so cute? I would also love to try my hand at a Penny Square quilt. I am unsure how I would manage with all that red. It might get boring, I don’t know. I could try though.

So, be on the lookout for this lady to be sewing a few quilts in the future. I can’t help it. I have seen so many that I am now unable to stop myself from drooling. And hey! I am going to need quite a few quilts for my farm house whenever I get that someday. No farmhouse is complete without a plethora of quilts abounding in every crook and cranny.