Projects and Project Boxes

I am a multiple project type of gal. I like having multiple projects to work on. But sometimes I get carried away and the projects multiply faster than I can work on them. And that can be overwhelming. That’s when the project boxes come in handy. I can put some of the projects neatly away for a bit. They are all ready for when the mood strikes, but they are not laying around making me feel guilty for the way I choose to work.

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Recently I saw a tiny picture somewhere. It was just a simple quilt, a kind of a square in a square, and I thought, that would be a neat way to use my kantha stitching. It seemed to be a scrappy quilt, and the main square was large with the outer square being more of a frame (where I would embellish with kantha stitching.) Here, like this:

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So I went out and went through my stash, and had great fun cutting out hunks of all my favorite fabrics, and then carefully cutting them into 6 inch squares. I have enough to make each block a different fabric!

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As I cut the squares, I had great fun re-visiting old and new favorite fabrics. It occurred to me that this is a great idea for a memory quilt. So many memories are attached to my fabric–where I was when I bought it, who I was with, and sometimes even the quilts that I have made with the fabric.

Here are some of the other projects I am working on presently. And even more are in project boxes…

Here is the piece that I showed you bits of previously. I have to take long breaks with this one to figure out what I want to do next. So far, each time it seems like “adding more” is the best solution…

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I got out the ten little pieces that I intended for the “Characteristics of God” series. I am making them into sandwiches and embroidering the words on them.

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And in the evenings, this one seems to have taken preeminence, because it is so enjoyable to stitch on with that DMC Coton Floche thread. I choose one block to work on, and then choose the threads that I want to use. It usually takes an evening to stitch one block.

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Sharing My Work

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I love sharing my work with others. What I don’t love is paying $30-40 and having someone say “no thank you” with no explanation whatsoever. I don’t have a solution to this problem. But I think for $30-40, a short explanation of rejection should be included. Yes, I’ve heard all the explanations of why a piece might be rejected. I know that the more you enter your work, the higher the chance that it will eventually be accepted. But $30-40 is a lot of money. Children are dying of hunger and thirst every day, and I do mean this literally. It is something that concerns me. And selfishly spending $30-40 in the hopes that an unnamed stranger might like my work and accept it into their show is not something that I enjoy doing on a regular basis.

 

Here’s an interesting story about that. Last fall I entered a rug into the big rug hooking contest, Celebrations. One of my instructors felt that it had a very good chance of being accepted. A few weeks ago I realized that I had never heard from them pro or con. So I started investigating. And the question I asked was, “I would like to know if my rug was viewed.” Lo and behold, my $35 entry fee went through just fine. But the rug images never made it to the judges. Now, in all fairness, I have to give kudos to the woman I was corresponding with. She could have just brushed my concern aside. But she was honest, investigated what had happened, and was very apologetic about the whole situation.

 

Anyway, all that leaves me with still wanting to share my work with others. Recently, I showed a couple of the pieces in the “what they said” series to my pastor’s wife to see if there would be any interest in sharing them at my church. She was most enthusiastic, and I ended up displaying them for Easter weekend. I really loved sharing them with others. If anyone has a church that would like to have a display of any of my quilts, I would love to share them.

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Back story on these pieces. I always intended to mount them on cradled panel boards. I tried staining the boards, but I didn’t like that look. So I decided to paint them black. I was so careful. They were propped EVERYWHERE in my little wet studio (there are 18 pieces in this series!) I let them dry for several days, and then carefully brought them into my regular studio to mount the quilts on them. 10 of them had little bits of paint that chipped off! Back out to the studio for touch-ups. I shared a few of them with Teresa, the coordinator for the Oak Hills gallery, and she said they needed mounting hardware. Okay then. Ordered that from Amazon, and had a morning of adding little screws and wire to the back of each one. I kind of resented doing this, but I have to admit that it made hanging them extremely easy ūüôā

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After sharing them with my church, Grace Fellowship, in Jackson for a few weeks, they will go to Oak Hills Church in Folsom, and will be there from May 14 through June 18. If any of you are in the area, there will be an artist’s reception on Friday, May 19, from 7pm to 8:30pm. I’d love to see you!

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Sewing Machines

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I have three sewing machines. My first machine, a Janome Memory Craft 6500 has been an excellent machine. I probably got it 15¬†years ago, and it is still a fine sewing machine. One day I complained to the mechanic at Meissner’s that it was a long way to bring my machine in for routine servicing. He took the time to show me how to care for my machine myself, and it has been many years since I have paid for a tune-up. I use my Janome almost every single day.

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And then one day, maybe 10 years ago, with all the talk of featherweights, I had to get my own Singer Featherweight. I was extremely lucky, because I bought it on eBay from someone who was not a sewer. It has worked most excellently for me, and has not needed any repairs. The thing I like the most about my featherweight is the certainty of each stitch. I am told this is partly because it only does one thing (straight stitch) and it has a single hole face plate. I finally remembered to ask at Meissner’s if they had a single hole face plate for my Janome. They did! I am excited to try it out. And I’m pretty sure I will break a few needles before I remember that I need to switch it out when I want¬†to zig zag. I usually use my featherweight once a month when I get together with a few friends for a sewing day. But if I am sewing triangles or other more precise shapes, I will get my featherweight out to use at home.

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And then a year ago, I got my Juki sit down long arm machine. I was in love with it, and then the motor malfunctioned. That really threw me for a loop. Even though Juki replaced the motor, you’re left with that niggling thought will it happen again? But now, after using it for about five months with no problems whatsoever, I am starting to relax again. I love the certainty of the stitches. I love that it is fairly easy to wind a bobbin and replace the bobbin (haha, after much practice ūüôā ) I love that there is only one place to oil before each bobbin change. And of course, I love the spaciousness of it. It is so much easier to work on than trying to stuff a big quilt under my Janome. I quilt on my Juki 3 or 4 days each week.

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All the pictures are of recent quilting I have done on the Juki.

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Scrappity Scrap

I like scrap quilts. For one thing, you feel like you are using up valuable leftover fabric. For another thing–ALL THE COLORS! Bits and pieces of favorite fabrics go through your hands as you piece them together.

Remember this? I had this top leftover from my first attempt at a kantha blanket. A friend is working hard at opening a home for recovering drug addicts. She asked if I would provide a couple of quilts. I thought this would be perfect, bright and cheery.

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As I quilted, I realized I could include some encouraging verses in the lighter squares.

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So I made another one.

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Quilted a little differently, but including a few verses in it as well.

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And then… I definitely over-estimated the number of strips I would need for my Katie PM class. ¬†If I didn’t sew all those 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″ strips together right away, I knew they would become very shreddy and would be headed for the dustbin. So I sewed them all together and decided a rail fence pattern would be just right.

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Remember all these cross-cut blocks? I really like making them. I used quite a few of them for small quilts at my Christmas boutique sale. But there were more left than I had remembered. You can see that I added a few other orphan blocks into it. You know, I love piecing blocks without measuring. But eventually they have to all fit together into a quilt. And that can be quite a chore. Its like doing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing. Anyway, I did like this quilt when it was done, and wondered if it would be a good one for another kantha blanket.

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When I put the sandwich together, I used muslin for the backing and Hobbs 80/20 for the batting. (I normally use Quilter’s Dream cotton¬†for my batting. I bought a big roll of the Hobbs with a Joann’s coupon for all the unquilted tops that I am working on finishing.)

I wrote a few posts ago about a new thread I found. Its DMC coton floche¬†thread. Its supposed to be the same thickness as two strands of DMC embroidery thread. Anyway, I liked it very much. It has more of a mat finish than perle cotton, and is a bit thinner than a number 8. I thought it might be very nice for doing a kantha blanket. And then I found this on Etsy. This woman is very cleverly dividing the large hanks that the coton floche¬†thread comes in, and selling them in multi-color packets. I ordered one in mostly soft neutral colors to do this quilt. Here’s the first square. I worried about there being a lot of seam lines to stitch through. But the Hobbs batting and the muslin, combined with this finer thread are making it a dream to stitch through.

Here’s the first block. I thought I might do this one block by block instead of straight line over the whole quilt.

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And that’s what’s going on in between the other projects I’ve written about!

Inspiration

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Inspiration? Where does it come from? And when do you know its right? What makes some art “good” and other art “no good?” Recently I’ve been working a lot on a whole cloth embroidered piece. I had a general idea when I started, and of course, that idea has gone through several transformations since I started. But at each stage, I have despaired at whether or not this is a “worthy” piece. Should I just give up? Or should I continue on? How do you know when its time to stop, or if the next step will be just what the piece needs?

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I was encouraged to read Denise Schmidt‘s words in the new book, Abstract and Geometric. She is a trained AND commercially successful artist. She said

Looking and seeing is the only way to know. If I am not happy with how a quilt looks, the only way past this is to uncover what is not working by trying other solutions. Anything that changes your perspective can be a tool that helps you see more clearly. It can sometimes be a challenge, and no one is immune to it, but it is part of the creative process. I wish I could say it gets easier, but somehow it is always the same. It is less painful if you give yourself over to it and accept that design is a process of trial and error, of getting out of your own way, and of knowing your tools.

Okay then. So the other day I decided to spend the whole day working on this piece (I usually work on machine work during the day, and only hand embroider in the evening.)

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I decided to see if there was a good movie to watch while I worked. I chose one called Imber’s Left Hand. SO inspirational! This was a well-known artist who got Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Early on, he lost the use of his right hand, and so he just switched to his left hand and continued to paint. Lou Gehrig’s disease slowly erodes the use of all of the muscles in your body, but Imber continued to paint until 3 days before his death. And as I watched, I saw the exact process that Denise had described–many times he would paint something, and decide that it just wasn’t working, and paint right over it.

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And there’s the rub, right? Our work, whether with machine or by hand, is painstakingly slow compared to other artist’s work. And its not so easy to wipe it out or do it over. Sometimes we just have to let it go, and start from scratch with new information about what works and what doesn’t.

So you might have noticed I am not showing you the entire piece. That is because I am so unsure of it, so wondering whether to give up or go on. The piece is on the design wall now, pondering the next step. And, encouraged by these other artists, I am going to go into the studio and let myself cut up more fabric and put it back together. I am going to try my next big idea, not knowing whether or not it will work or whether it will be considered art. I am going to accept that design is a process of trial and error.

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Good News

While I was at Empty Spools, I got an email that two of my quilts had been accepted into the Sacred Threads exhibit! I was very excited. But when I read which two had been accepted (I entered four,) I was surprised, and then a little sad. My Hallelujah! quilt, that I worked on for so long last year, was not one of the two accepted. And then, of course, I started to doubt myself. Its just a stupid quilt with a lot of words on it. It has no artistic merit.

Fortunately, I had the quilt with me, and so I rolled it out on the bed, and thought, I still like it! Who knows why some quilts are accepted, and others are not. I am glad about the two that were accepted, as they have rather limited possibilities, as fas as exhibition goes.

The Fire Quilt was accepted:

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“On a Wednesday in September 2015, the Butte Fire roared through our mountain community. Homes were destroyed, and many, including myself, were evacuated. Extremely dry conditions made it difficult to contain. After a few days, I came home to ash-filled air. The fire was still not contained, but my house was safe. On Sunday, I made my way to church. The church was closer to the fire, and the building was smoky. But the church was filled, and several families whose houses had burned to the ground were there. We worshipped together, culminating with the Doxology. It was such a moving experience, I wanted to commemorate it with a quilt.”

Close-up:

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And “His Kingdom Will Never End” was accepted:

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“The inspiration for this quilt came out of my frustration with some of my fellow Christians, who seem to forget that His kingdom will never end, and think that its up to them to ‚Äúfight‚ÄĚ to keep it going. Other people choose to ignore God and His kingdom. It does not matter. All around the world, His kingdom continues to appear and grow. HIS KINGDOM WILL NEVER END.”

Close-up:

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Some more good news! Do you remember when I entered a few of my quilts in Quilting in the Garden, held in September at one of my favorite nurseries?

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Well, when I picked up the quilts, the woman that coordinates the show told me how much she enjoyed my embroidered quilt, and asked if I ever taught. Now, I don’t want to teach all the time, but Alden Lane Nursery is one of my favorite places to visit, and I also have really enjoyed taking classes there. They do a quality job of coordinating the class,¬†and it is a beautiful location, of course.

 

So, long story short, I am going to teach there in September, on the Friday before the quilt show. And, I am to be a guest artist, and will have a display of my quilts in their greenhouse. I am so excited about this. Its hard to think about anything besides embroidery on quilts…. which is one reason why I don’t want to teach all the time. There’s not enough time left for artistic endeavor. I was glad to read Judy Martin‘s thoughts on this. I felt validated in my thinking. But teaching once or twice a year is energizing. It challenges me to go one step further, thinking “what if?”

If you have been thinking about trying quilted embroidery, I hope you will join me at Alden Lane Nursery on Friday, September 22!

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Weekend Fun

Did you know that this weekend is International Quilting Weekend? The Quilt Show is opening ALL 220 of their shows for the whole weekend! You can check out all your favorite quilt artists to your heart’s content, all for free. Here’s the link to how to do it. There is also a huge contest with lots of great prizes that you can enter for free. I am still a huge fan of TQS, and look forward to the new video that comes out every two weeks.¬†If you haven’t already seen it, my show is number 1512.

Finished!

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When I returned home from Empty Spools, I had a couple of projects that I had left mid-stream, and I went back to work on those. Once those were well under way, I went back, determined to finish my project from Katie’s Artful Log Cabins class. Yesterday I finished the piecing and made the quilt sandwich, and today I completed the quilting, and put the binding on. Gotta love a 30″ X 40″ quilt. Even with dense quilting, it moved right along.

I don’t think its a masterpiece, but I am pleased with the finished product. I think it reflects my garden well, and I will enjoy looking at it for a while.

I did try Katie’s method of grid quilting block by block, and I did enjoy that.

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I am especially pleased that I made the decision to change the quilting in two areas–the reflective opening of the imaginary cathedral window, and pebble quilting to imitate the flower shapes of the white flowers. Oh, and you might notice that I circled the one little ladybug that showed up on the quilt ūüôā

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I had enough pre-cut strips to use as the binding! And, I definitely over-cut the amount of strips I needed for class. I am thinking about making some regular  log cabin blocks with the leftovers. It might be fun to experiment with them.

Artful Log Cabins at Empty Spools

Well, here goes! Empty Spools Seminars started on Sunday afternoon. I checked into my room, unpacked my suitcases quickly, and then walked over to check into the Seminar (they have a beautiful huge hall (Merrill Hall) that is headquarters for all the goings on all week.) And then I drove straight over to Katie Pasquini Masopust’s classroom because we were supposed to have an hour and a half intro to the class. And indeed, it was an intro Plus! Katie shared with us quite a few of her artful log cabin quilts along with the inspiration photo for each of them. ¬†Then Katie had each of us (there were 18 in our class) show our inspiration pictures (here’s the blog where I shared the pictures I had chosen.) I did discuss the little waterfall picture with her, and she agreed that there wasn’t enough contrast in it to do this technique. So I did use the same picture that I had chosen. The finished quilts are supposed to be more abstract than representational.

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And then Katie had us take out our tracing paper and draw several grids over the inspiration photo! That was more than I had thought we would do on this  first afternoon! But I had been thinking about how I would do this particular photo, and I liked the very first grid I drew. Katie approved.

And then it was on to dinner and after dinner back to Merrill Hall for¬†¬†a presentation by the ¬†Artist in Residence.¬†Empty Spools has been running for 30 years, and pretty much everything about it was very well organized. I appreciated that each evening session started exactly on time, and usually lasted about 45 minutes. It was fun having the evening sessions, because at Asilomar, there are no TV’s in the rooms!

And the next morning, bright and early, we were back at work. Katie had us finalize our grids, and then trace them onto acetate. Then we taped the acetate to a white paper backing so that she could take them and have them enlarged at Kinko’s.

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Each person decided how large they wanted their final quilt to be. So my grid, which was based on my 8X10 photograph, was enlarged 400%, which made my quilt about 36X40″. Katie had two enlargements made–one for your placement grid, and the second so that you could cut each piece out and use it as a template. I think that this is the first time I have used this method, and I do think that it could be very useful in other applications.

When Katie returned with our full size grids, we were ready to start our log cabin blocks. Each block was started with the original little block from the 8X10 drawing (we used the tracing paper pattern and cut each of fabric from that pattern, including a 1/4″ edge.)

We put the acetate back over the photograph, and used that for color placement in constructing each block. I forgot to tell you that Katie had instructed us to pre-cut our strips before we came. I was VERY happy that I had done that, as it saved a lot of time in the workshop.

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And even with saving that time, I still did not finish my quilt. Katie had instructed us to bring batting and backing with us, and several women got to that point, and completely quilted their pieces. Here is my piece so far:

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One of the most interesting things I learned from Katie was that even though she does most of these quilts with intense grid quilting, she quilts each block separately. Which seems so much easier than running long grid lines the entire length of the quilt! If you are interested in seeing more of the workshop photos, you can visit Katie’s FB page.

A little more about Asilomar and the whole Empty Spools experience. The food was very good, served cafeteria style. There were always several selections for each meal. And there were always vegetables and salad available at each meal. There was an evening program each night except Wednesday (which I was very grateful to have that night off.) But I enjoyed all the programs. Each evening there was show and tell from the students. Most of the students were showing work that they had completed a previous year at Empty Spools. Each teacher spoke, about 3 or 4 each night. Some of them had a slide show, and others showed real quilts. Katie was on her way (after Empty Spools) to do a one-woman show in Spain, and so she brought all thirty of the quilts for that show with her. It was a real privilege to be able to see her work so close-up and  to hear about the way she constructs her quilts.

Another thing that was very nice was that the quilt shop in Pacific Grove (Back Porch Fabrics) provided a shuttle van from 4-6pm each night, so you didn’t even have to drive into town and find a parking space! There was also a tour of the 17-Mile Drive. I did not do that, but heard about it from one of my table mates. And of course, there were miles of beautiful walking paths and the ocean, and they even had bikes to rent, which I would have loved, except all my energies were focused on quilting!

And then I came home and started working on and finishing projects that I had left off before I left for Empty Spools. I am planning to get back to my Log Cabin project tomorrow!

Empty Spools!

Empty Spools Seminars has been running for 30 years! It is a well-oiled machine, but still has a nice informal atmosphere. I have looked at their brochures and online offerings for years, and was very excited to attend this year. I chose Katie Pasquini Masopust’s Artful Log Cabins for two reasons–I admire Katie’s work as an artist, and second…log cabins. It just sounded fun.

But first, I have to tell you about my excellent adventure on my way to Pacific Grove, where ¬†Empty Spools is held. I had read about a new quilt shop, Bay Quilts, somewhere on some blog. It sounded like a great shop, plus it was very near to two places I had enjoyed on a previous trip–Philz Coffee, and Farm Burger.

I drove across the delta–a beautiful drive, and not bad traffic, and started with an early lunch at Farm Burger. Excellent food, and I actually received a burger that was cooked they way I ordered it–medium rare! Then I got a cup of hand-crafted coffee at Philz, and I was on my way to Bay Quilts.

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See that blue cart? They provide those so you can put all the bolts of fabric in there as you walk around!

This is my new favorite quilt store! My pictures don’t do it justice. The owner told me that very soon they plan to have a virtual tour on their website and FB page, so check there if you are interested. But I can just tell you that they have a FULL line of about every solid fabric you can think of, as well as some hand dyes and specialty fabrics, and a good assortment of newer prints. And the service was just the way I like it. They greeted me, but allowed me to wander as long as I wanted, and then when I needed help, they were friendly and quick. Also, the prices were very reasonable.

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The shop owner owned this beautiful Hollis Chatelaine quilt, and very generously hung it at the shop for others to enjoy. It was a privilege to see it up close.

And then it was time to head south to Pacific Grove. Empty Spools is held at Asilomar, an historic campground. It is huge and spread out. I stayed in a group of rooms that had been there since 1913! Very nice and solid, simple but comfortable. Of course, being huge and spread out, there was a LOT of walking. I was so tired, but proud of myself for walking everywhere.

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Yes, this is as close as I got to the ocean…

This post is getting too long, and I want to tell you about my discovery on the way home, so I think I’ll do a separate post about my workshop and the Empty Spools experience. Fast forward to Friday, and I was anxious to get “over the hill” before the commute traffic started. I decided to skip the last lunch, and get started on my journey home.

I had picked up a brochure in the main meeting room for a shop that said they had lots of thread, Madonna Needleworks¬†in Morgan Hill. That was pretty much right on the way home. What can I say? I texted several friends, saying that this shop was “thread heaven.” The owner claims that they carry every single needlepoint thread available. Honestly, it looked like it. Not all, but many of those threads can be used in quilting and embellishing quilts.

Views of the shop:

I ended up choosing a lot of threads from the same line.

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That larger skein of pink is a DMC specialty thread that is equal to two strands of their regular embroidery floss.

And then also chose some pink silks for a new little pink project that I have started.

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I will be back soon. I have so much to write about that it is hard to know where to start!