Category: Blog Post

Tutorial: Something You May Not Know about PicMonkey

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I learned something about PicMonkey (the FREE photo editing website) that made me do a “Doh!” Homer move.

I’ve used PicMonkey lots of times to import my own photo and add cool effects, crazy fonts or neat stamp-like images. I’ve used it to create a banner for multiple blogs and websites and those little badge type images for your blog sidebar. All this time, I wished there was a way to create layers, similar to the process within Adobe Elements or other photo editing software. What I didn’t know was that the ability to import those layers was staring me in the face all along!

Today, I spent roughly an hour creating a custom invitation for my son’s birthday party. I was pretty darn proud of myself too. Really quick, before I tell you the cool thing about PicMonkey, do you want to know the fast steps I took to create that invitation?

NOTE: If you are lucky and your kid wants a Nick Jr. themed party, such as Paw Patrol (which mine had last year) check out the Nick Jr. website, last year I was able to download a printable invitation and just did a screenshot and added in his info on my computer, then I loaded it to the Facebook Event. This year, we have to create fancy printed invitations because we’re including the kids from his daycare class

Step 1) Determine a theme (my son chose Monster Jam/Monster Trucks)

Step 2) Search Google for invitation ideas, you can pretty much just type in “[theme] invitations” and a ton of images and websites will appear.

Step 3) Grab some wording that looks good, an image or two that you like and make sure you have the location and time of the event *yes, I Googled the location too.

Step 4) Open PicMonkey and Select the Design Option. The default will give you a large white square background (and by large, I mean 2000 x 2000 pixels, so keep that in mind when you’re adding text.

Step 5) Select a font you like and add the text, I chose a couple different fonts for interest and to highlight the Where and When information headings.

Now at this point, you’ve done all of this and you’re wondering HOW do I add that really cool picture of a Batman Monster truck to this cool invitation?? Well, I’m about to tell you…

Step 6) On the left menu on PicMonkey, select the Overlay option (it’s a butterfly icon), at the very top of that menu is an ADD YOUR OWN button. I’ve always ignored this button because it never made sense to me that I would have any overlays to add, but when I tried it and the window to select a file popped up, I said “doh!” and immediately selected the image of the Batman Monster truck that I had saved previously. TIP: If you pull the image in to Word or PowerPoint first you can add a cool effect, like a faded border and then from THERE, right-click and save the picture, it should save with the faded border effect on it.

Step 7) Save the image of the invitation you created and then import to Word for easy printing (card stock recommended)

Step 8) Trim the invitation down and layer on some color card stock for more WOW.

Step 9) Deliver to your child’s classmates and smile as you get that “Wow, she’s a super mom” look from the other parents (or not, because you drop the kid off at 7:30am when no one else is there)

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Happy Stitches!

Anna

Categories: Blog Post

Quilt Stories

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For the majority of my quilt making life the quilts I’ve made have had a personal purpose. I mean of course the purpose was to make something to keep me warm or to use pretty fabric. I’ve made one sample for a booth at Quilt market, it was several quilted pillow covers. That was fun at the time and then stressful when working on a deadline.

It seems like lately I see so many quilts that are made as a sample for quilt market (fall or spring) or to hang in a show (QuiltCon or Houston IQF) but do those quilts have the same story as one made for a new baby or a wedding quilt? What about one made with the fabric from clothes of a loved one who has passed to bring back memories whenever you’re snuggled under it or see it on display? I wonder about the story that the quilts that hang at market have. They are so beautiful and are often made with special care knowing that they will be put on display with the intention of promoting fabric line or new thread. Is that the beginning of that quilt’s story?

In 2015 at IQF I came across a booth in the Non-Profit booth area called the Quilt Alliance. I noticed that their mission is to document the history of a quilt. It didn’t take more than three minutes to decide to join this amazing group. This year, in 2016 I volunteered at the booth and spent a fun two hours encouraging people to sign the “Label Your Quilt” pledge. The Quilt Alliance is not just about encouraging people to label their quilts, they are the hosts behind the Share Our Stories and Go Tell It at the Quilt Show, short videos about the maker and the story behind the quilts hanging at different quilt shows. They even have a YouTube channel with these stories!

If you’ve made quilts for display at market or specifically to enter in a show, I’d love to talk to you about this. Also if you only make quilts for family/friends I’d love to hear your story too. Please fill out the form below and I’ll get in contact with you soon.

Happy stitches,

Anna

Categories: Blog Post

Life is Messy – KonMarie Process continued

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I’ve tried to think about how to apply the Konmarie techniques for decluttering to my fabric stash. I mean, that category just embodies so much for me, it’s sentimental, it’s precious, it evokes joy in some way or form. But if I touch every piece of fabric (which I’ve been known to spend an hour or two just re-folding it to put on the shelf) will I find that every piece brings me joy? Truthfully, no. In 2015 I not only tried to refrain from buying new fabric, but I also decided to gift some fabric that I had remaining from when I had a fabric shop, I purchased it a long time ago and it was not anything I was in love with. I feel like I passed on a lot of joy to other people who seemed so happy to get that fabric! I know they will put it to good use and it gave me joy to give it away! I also recently sent a priority box full of fabric to a woman who is teaching second graders how to sew. How exciting is that!?

I think I will find more joy in making quilts out of the fabrics that bring me the most joy than just keeping them there to look pretty on a shelf.

Here’s the funny part. The fabrics on my fabric shelf are sorted by color and they are in ROY G BIV color order! Plus a separate cube each for grays, black and white, and low volumes. But the fabrics in the color cubes are not my MOST favorite, MOST precious. Those are stored in other places. Maybe in a plastic container on a top shelf, maybe stacked on top of the cube bookcase, maybe in that red cabinet with my Quilt Books. I don’t know why but I haven’t even given my favorite fabrics the place of “honor” Maybe because I didn’t want to break them up to store them with the color groups. That makes sense. But if I were to sort through all my color fabrics and determine what I want to really keep for future projects, I bet I would have room left over for those favorite fabrics.

People often ask if they should store their fabrics by color or by designer (or both). Sorting my non-precious fabric by color made a lot of sense, because then I could see that I had a TON of blues and reds and greens so I consciously stopped buying those colors. I was low on purple, orange and yellows, so those became more appealing to me once I did the color sort. But now, I’m considering the need to have them sorted this way. Then again, I also really love how they look in order like that. Maybe I just need an extension to my current bookcase (the one I have is the Kallax from IKEA which has 9 cubes but they have a variety of configurations).

As I said before though, the process of sorting through all of this should be devoted to a special Fabric Sorting Day. A special day when the kid is at school and hubby is at work and the rest of the house is clean so that I feel like I can give myself permission to enjoy the process.

It is definitely some food for thought.

Happy Stitches,

Anna

P.S. Did you know that my friend Kristan has a FREE 7 day mini course about how to declutter? You can enroll for FREE right here!

Modern Mommy Monday

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We’re coming up on MJ’s 4th birthday and I think every year when it gets close to his birthday I start thinking about the things I’ve done as a mom (with hubs’ contribution if course) that have worked or not worked. The big one this year is that he’s going to be ready to move to a booster seat in the car. That means the ginormous car seat we bought for him 4 years ago will be no more, that’s HUGE!
He’s gone through so many milestones this year, potty training was a HUGE one (that happened right before he turned 3 but it’s taken this whole year to get through the night dry). He’s also starting to sleep in his big boy bed, and has consciously decided he does NOT want to sleep in his toddler bed anymore. We’ve purposely made decisions to encourage him to be independent and make choices that reflect that and I enjoy seeing him choose the big bed over the toddler bed. He has also sorted through his toys and decided which ones he wants to give away to his “friends” (which means donate to Goodwill).

I think I was a non traditional parent when it came to baby stuff. We bought the giant convertible car seat instead of the carrier, I never really carried a huge diaper bag, just kept back ups in the car. I shopped at resale shops and we are so fortunate that a friend has a son who is 2 years older than MJ and when she cleans out his clothes we are the willing recipient.

I never worried about a heated wipe holder and honestly we lived in a one bedroom apartment and the boy never had a nursery, he slept in a bassinet (gift from a friend) and we didn’t buy a crib until he was at least 6 months old.

I guess I’ve started to think about this more because I have 5 friends who recently announced they are preggers and that always makes me reflect on the way I have done things as a parent.

To those 5 friends who probably don’t even read my blog, best of luck to you, I’m always here if you want some mommy or baby advice (but don’t expect it to be conventional wisdom). And I sincerely hope that I am able to make all of you something that will make being a new mom easier and more joyful.

Happy stitches,

Anna

Life is Messy

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I am reading through the Marie Kondo book called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and it’s been…interesting. I find myself having to hush my inner voice that says “This woman is obsessive compulsive!” and “She definitely does NOT have children or probably a significant other” She describes how she comes home each day, follows a very specific routine of putting everything in it’s place, everything she has in her purse is taken out and put away and she thanks it for doing it’s job that day.

Yes, I realize she is from a different culture. As an American, I think I would feel silly (and probably get some strange looks from my husband) if I spoke to my clothes and the things in my purse every day. (Although I did hear my son saying “Bye house” when we walked out the door the other day). While the idea of putting everything in a specific space does have some appeal (one morning my husband woke me up about 10 minutes to 6 AM to help him find his keys) and I do have a routine of keeping specific items in a certain pocket in my purse or putting my keys in a specific spot, but talking to my clothes? No, probably isn’t going to happen. But that’s OK.

Now, how has this book helped me? It has inspired me. The core concept of her book is to only keep items that give you joy and discard the rest. Let’s just say this is a struggle because I’m not the only person in my house. Marie Kondo addresses this briefly by saying to only worry about your own stuff. That seems to make sense, until you realize that even if you narrow your own stuff down to just the things that bring you joy, some of the items owned by the other people in your home may still cause mental clutter. I’m still trying to figure out how to address that.

What have I managed to do so far?

I’ve sorted through my clothes (which I’d say was less than most people have anyway) and only kept those things that I find joy in wearing. (I think I need to buy new clothes soon)

I’ve re-folded all the clothes in my dresser so that they follow her way of folding and now I can see all my clothes (did the same for hub’s drawer) and now I’m finding that when I used to hate folding clothes, I’m treating it as a mini meditation. Last night I folded clothes before bed while the boy was falling asleep. It was a quiet activity to do and I didn’t need a lot of light, then I could put things away and go to sleep with a clear “laundry conscience” which is my new favorite word (I just made up).

I’ve tackled the kitchen cupboards. This is a big one because we don’t own a lot of kitchen stuff, but we have a TON of cupboard space so the empty cupboards became a sort of dumping ground for our stuff. Well, no more! I was going to just tackle ONE cupboard, but once I did one, I just kept going and went through all of them. No big deal, I also scrubbed the kitchen counters, sorted through the drawers (except for one junk drawer I still need to tackle). I haven’t gone through the lower cabinets yet. That’s where we store some appliances and things, I don’t think I’ll have a problem sorting through them either. Truth is we just don’t cook super fancy meals that require special tools, so why keep all that clutter around?

I also sorted through my Quilt Book cabinet upstairs. I was able to donate a lot of books to my local library. I get so excited thinking about all the people who will be able to learn about sewing by checking out those books from our library. I wanted to try the “touch everything and only keep what brings you joy” technique in my sewing area, but it needs to be reserved for a time when I can devote a full day to it.

My husband thinks I’m on some crazy decluttering spree right now, and maybe I am. In remembering my word for the year, which is Passion, I’m sort of throwing myself into the process of cleaning up. I guess everyone thinks about cleaning things up in January, maybe in preparation for Spring Cleaning. The weather here in Houston is so Spring like that perhaps it’s spurring these feelings early. I know I could halfheartedly try to declutter a specific area, but it will immediately rebound to clutter again (which is something Marie Kondo addresses in her book). I want to avoid that. I think that methodically going through everything in the house is going to really help me understand what we have and why we have it.

A lot of people don’t do a whole house clean up unless they have a major life event like a new baby or a big move. We don’t have plans for either in our future but why not do the clean up anyway? Why start the year as a continuation of the things that were weighing us down last year?

More thoughts on this in another post. I’ve probably bothered you long enough.

Happy Stitches,

Anna

Deep Thoughts

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I love to sew, I love to make things from little bits of fabric.  Sometimes I start making things and get a little distracted but we all do that, right? I see every project, finished or not, as a learning process.  Toward the end of 2015 I learned how to sew curves, or at least how to sew the Drunkard’s Path block. I didn’t attend a class, I didn’t watch a tutorial online, I just cut the fabric and sewed it together.  For the most part, they came out pretty good. I used to think I had passion for creating and drive for teaching people to sew. Those are important ingredients if you own your own business. You have to believe passionately in what you’re doing and have the drive to make it a viable business.

I still have passion to create but the drive isn’t there as much anymore. Maybe that’s what we call losing our sew-jo.  I don’t know if I’ve lost mine or I’m just feeling low today for whatever reason. I wish I could do a job everyday where I had both passion and drive.  I wish I could be as excited to go to work as I am when I get to go to a quilt retreat.  I know that some people who seem to have jobs like that.  I guess they are the lucky ones. Or maybe they just portray that their job is that great.

I decided to choose a word to inspire me this year. Last year I chose Happy and every time I saw a poster or quote or sign that said something about happy (which was pretty often) it reminded me to be happy. I believe the saying that happiness is an inside job.

This year my word is passion. I think I was spending my life on auto pilot, just trying to make it through every day. This year I want that to change. If I do something I want it to be with passion,  throw my whole self into it. My family has a little tendency to be obsessive about things. My dad will choose an interest and pursue it with passion for at least a month and then move on to the next thing. My sister is the same way.  My mom is passionate about football (the Cowboys) and basketball (the Spurs) and recently I’ve actually been able to chat with her because I’ve started watching the Texans play.

I always thought my passion was sewing or quilting and I think it still is, but at this moment, my passion is getting my house in order. I’ve started reading the Marie Kondo book about tidying/decluttering and it is making a difference. It’s inspired me to spend an entire evening methodically cleaning out my kitchen cupboards.

I think passion also means being present for my family. I sometimes slip into Instagram world where I only want to scroll through and see what’s new and I ignore everyone else. I don’t want to miss my family moments because I’m involved in what other people are doing on social media.

I think the sew-jo will come back eventually but for right now, I have other things to do. This is why I intentionally do not choose to do projects with deadlines. I’m only accountable to myself (except the Quilters Bee Mod which is one block a month).

Oh and my other passion right now is getting into shape. I’m trying to reach my daily step goal a couple times a week and that’s really hard! Thankfully hubby was supportive of us joining a gym so we can both go and the kid can go to a play room.

Well that’s all my deep thoughts for the day. Do you have a guiding word this year?

Anna

Categories: Blog Post

Inspiration is Everywhere

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Heather Jones (right) and me with her book!

So as it turns out, I must be searching for inspiration and someone is trying to tell me that I should look in my surroundings.  I was so thrilled when I saw that my LQS was going to host Heather Jones on Friday for a book signing since she was here for quilt market.

I love her book Quilt Local which was inspired by her surroundings in rural Ohio. Of course my surroundings are almost the complete opposite because I live in suburban Houston and work downtown where I’m surrounded by a pretty cool urban landscape.

The second book I recieved as a birthday gift this weekend is called Wanderlust Quilts, written by Mandy Leins and it’s also about being inspired by architecture but it’s from ancient civilizations! Two very different books that both tell a story of finding inspiration from your environment.

Both books have gotten my brain thinking and I can’t wait to see what they inspire me to make! Also it makes me either want to move to a farm or visit more of my urban landscape to take pictures and be inspired. (The second is more likely than the first.)

Happy stitches!

Anna

Categories: Blog Post

Progress Report a.k.a Work in Progress Wednesday

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The beginning of something
The beginning of something

I really surprised myself over the weekend. I started a new project and felt like I made significant progress. During a recent retreat my new friend Jennilee and I started chatting about my new made up hashtag/challenge to myself called Use It or Lose It. She asked what it was and I said I was challenging myself to use my fabric, not just my scraps but the yardage I have on my shelves. Even to the point of using my favorite fabric too. She thought it was a great idea so we decided to challenge each other to make a quilt top using some sort of square pattern in the month of August.  Given that this girl finished something ridiculous like 3 or 4 quilts over the course of the weekend I may have been a little too excited to challenge her. I’m pretty lucky if I finish an entire quilt in one year.

Well, then Kim (owner of Honey Hill Retreat center) went and showed me her Trip Around the World quilt made with 30s prints and I realized that would be the perfect pattern! It’s so fast, the cutting is uber simple and it really does use up a lot of fabric.  So on Saturday I spent every free minute cutting my blues, reds and some low volume into strips.

Everything is still laying out on my sewing/dining room table, I have a little work station set up and I keep all the sharp and pointy objects out of reach but this way I can go over and sew for a short burst of time when the kid is distracted and I feel like I’m really making progress!

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In fact, I’ve finished 5 blocks since Sunday! This is blocks 1-4 (of course) As you can see, I’m using reds, aquas and trying to use some low volume to create a secondary pattern but it’s not quite working out. I’m OK with that though. The point was to get a quilt top finished in the month of August. I may need two extra weeks to work on it but I think I might meet the challenge! And Jennilee is on a work trip out of town this week so I get a head start on her, haha!

If you want to follow along with this progress, check out my tag #useitorloseitstash and also check out #sewtake20 which is a tag created by a few of my Late Night Quilter buddies who are trying to break projects down into 20 minute bites and sew every day. So far this week I’ve managed to Sew on Monday and Wednesday! It feels great! Although I think tonight I need to start everything even earlier. Staying up past midnight is killing me.

Happy Stitches,

Anna

Categories: Blog Post

Tutorial Tuesday: Pinterest

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Tutorial Tuesday

Do you know which website I adore almost as much as I love Instagram (and you know how much I love Instagram)?  Pinterest.  If I’m looking for ideas for decorating or parties,  I’ll search there before I search Google.  Why? Probably because of the visual nature of the site and the ease in which I can find items and save them for reference later by pinning them to a virtual cork board. If I need inspiration for a mini quilt or color ideas, Pinterest, it’s so easy to create a new board and save every item that catches my eye.

How does it work?

I think Pinterest is the best tool for nursing moms who are holding the new baby in one arm and only have one free arm. To use Pinterest you only need to have one hand free for clicking the mouse. In fact when I was nursing my son I think my pins probably doubled in that time. The pins come from everywhere around the interwebs. When you sign up you can install a widget in your browser tool bar that is the little “p” logo, that allows you to find content all around the Web and pin it to whatever board makes the most sense to you. I have at least 10 boards that are only quilt related posts. I have 3 or 4 that are about different types of organizing, I have inspirational sayings boards, and some for recipes that I may or may not ever make (but they sure look good). I even have a board of items that I’d NEVER make in 100 years, it’s called Not in 100 Years!  (If you want more of that, look up @pinterestyouredrunk on Instagram, hilarious!)

Following Boards vs Following People

When you join pinterest you’ll be prompted to follow people you know who are on there, it really is just another form of social media after all, depending on how you sign in it will pull from your Facebook friends or your email (I think it pulls from FB because I noticed my profile picture is always the same as my FB picture). You can visit the boards your friends have created and pin from their boards OR choose to follow their boards.  I’d highly recommend you follow specific boards instead of following people because even though you love your sister and you may be interested in her quilt board and her ideas for fast recipes, you may not have any interested in her newly created board about hiking the Appalachian mountains. Anytime she pins something to the boards you are following,  those items will show up in your feed on your home page. So only following the boards you are interested in will keep your feed less cluttered. I made the mistake when I first joined of following people and ended up with 30 or so pins about wedding plans and tropical plants in my feed and realized I needed to be more selective.

A recent addition is that Pinterest will show related posts which are not from people you follow and promoted posts from people who are paying to get their content in front of your eyes. Recently, I’ve started seeing pins in completely different languages show up as related posts, which is rather annoying but I’ll talk more about what to do about that next week.

I hope this quick Pinterest overview has piqued your curiosity and you’ll consider checking it out. The Android app is really user friendly but the website is great too (they started out just before Smart Phones became the thing). If you decide to sign up, look for me, my name is craftygirlanna and I have something like 3500 pins for your entertainment (although most of them are quilt related).

Fair Warning

Oh and fair warning: Pinterest is the best way to waste time since Spider Solitaire (the computer version). When you start pinning you may get sucked into the time vortex and look up thinking a couple of minutes have passed and it has been two hours. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If I can figure out how, I’m going to link this up with Late Night Quilter (Stephanie) Tutorial Tuesday round up.

Happy Stitches!

Anna

Make Beautiful Things

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Found on Pinterest
Found on Pinterest

I think I’ve always had some sort of entrepreneurial spirit. I think it runs in my family. I’ve been told that my grandmother (the one who was a quilter) used to pick up old furniture off the side of the road and paint it to sell (this was way before chalk paint and Pinterest), she also had a ceramics shop and a restaurant at one time. I’m sure she was super resourceful, being the mother of 10 children.

When I was growing up, I had the typical lemonade stand (plus popcorn) at my parents’ garage sale.  I was always searching for another way to sell things to make some money. It was a fun way to pass the time. As I got older I would offer to scrub the bathrooms for some cash and take my parents’ car and hand wash it at the car wash. Our agreement was that they would give me $5 and I could keep anything I didn’t use (you remember those timed car washes that gave you about a minute of spray time for a 25 cents? I could usually wash and vacuum the car for roughly $2)

I’ve also probably always been crafty (I think I remember trying to figure out how to sell friendship bracelets) so when Etsy came into the world, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make stuff to sell. The problem is, I’ve had a lot of experience with reality since I was 8 or 9 years old and I realized that it’s difficult to really make enough money selling handmade items to be profitable. And I know myself and I just wouldn’t enjoy making custom items for other people (don’t even ask about the curtains or the table runners I’ve made on commission).

So I came to a realization yesterday. Even though I want to build my blog readership and post more often, I’ve decided that I’m not in pursuit of sponsorship dollars or book deals. As the picture above says, I just want to make beautiful things and tell people about them. I want to make things for people who I know and family who I love so that I know that deep down they will love and appreciate the handmade gifts. I want to make pretty mini quilts to put up in my cubicle at work so that when people ask me about them I can say “yes I made these, no, I don’t sell them” which most of what I usually say (except most of the minis in my cubicle are not made by me because of swaps and such, I’m going to bring those home for a mini display wall in my sewing space.) I don’t want to work my tail off to promote an Etsy shop and end up burned out making things for other people. I no longer WANT to have a handmade business, I just want to make beautiful things.

I feel that when blogging first really started it was because people wanted a voice. I think that crafty people started blogging because they wanted a way to feel accountable because somehow when you write something down that people can see, or put it out into the world, you feel like you have to do it or risk disappointing your readers.

As you’ve undoubtedly seen, I don’t use a lot of photos in my blog posts because I use Instagram for that purpose, for the most part, my blog is my voice, the thoughts in my head and things I want to share with anyone who is willing to read it.

This sort of goes back to a Quilt Without Obligation discussion that happened a while back. I always end up comparing myself to the amazing quilters that I follow on IG who ARE writing patterns and promoting their blog to build readership and who WANT to design a fabric line or write a book. I just want to make pretty things and share my process and successes and failures along the way.

Of course, if someone wants to give me a book deal, I’m certainly open to the idea, but for now, I’m just going to use my precious free quilting time to make things I want to make, with very limited or flexible deadlines. I still need to finish up my 80s 90s Swap project, am working on a mini medallion swap with my friend Emily and have a monthly Quilters Bee Mod block to make, but the rest of my projects are going to be flexible.

It always makes me so sad to think of the practical hoards of fabric and unfinished quilt tops that end up being sold at garage sales and on eBay because that quilter didn’t get the chance to finish the tops or use the fabric. I’ve done pretty well with my Use My Stash/No Buy Challenge for 2015. It has been remarkably easy to NOT buy fabric since I have such a nice stash to work with. Now I just need to work on quilting and binding the tops!

Alright, I think that is all I needed to say for now. It’s very surprising how significant of a realization this is for me.  I know I’m not the only one out there who feels like this.

Thanks for sticking with me for this long post!

Happy Stitches,

Anna

Categories: Blog Post Just Me