A Foray into Scrap Quilting

First, shop business: as I have returned home, my quilts are once again available for purchase in my Etsy shop!  Head on over to The Velvet Pincushion to see three quilts, two digital patterns, and a PDF manual for the Adler 187.  (I’ll be taking inventory soon to see which other items can be restored to the shop.  Meaning, which ones I can currently find.  (sheepish face)  If it’s still buried in the depths of the POD, it’s going to have to wait until after our next move…)

I am now embarking on a secret project that promises to plumb the very depths of my stash, as it requires a small mountain of scraps.  (Though I’m determined this is also going to be a year of finishing UFO’s.  Don’t judge my over-scheduling.)  Digging through them is like digging through the past.

Some of them I never bought, and have never used: scraps from a swap, or the free table at a guild meeting.  That’s what these are, mostly.

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But most of the scraps in my stash conjure up very specific memories.

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I used all four of these fabrics to make quilty presents.  The green stripe and the purple stardust went into baby quilts.  The dark green batik became the border for my brother-in-law’s quilt, “The Garden of Orderly Pathways,” and the modern floral became one stripe of many on the outside of a quilter’s portfolio for a friend at my old guild one Christmas.

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I realized, looking through this three-tier box stuffed full of scraps, that I’ve been collecting these since I was nineteen years old, the summer that I made my first quilts.  And every single one that comes from a fabric I’ve used, I could tell you exactly which quilt it went into, who got it, and what I was thinking when I designed it for them.  (Although, yes, some of them were bags, but you know what I mean.)

Here’s to another journey in gift-quilting.  Next I’ll need to look through the stash boxes…

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The Christmas Quilt, and What I’m Up To Now

So the big announcement is that my shop (The Velvet Pincushion) is open again on Etsy!  Only the digital items are currently available (since I’m still out of town), but on Friday I’ll be re-listing the quilts, and then taking stock of which other things I’m able to find in the wake of The Move, and which of those are really worth keeping up in the store.

And in case you’re wondering (because I’ve been a total flake about posting) the Christmas Quilt did get finished.  (Two months ago…)

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I extend my thanks gratefully to my dear and patient husband, who acted as quilt holder for this impromptu photo shoot literally minutes before I packed up the quilt to mail.

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I was really happy with how it turned out, and as it happens, one of my aunts won it in the raffle!

As for what I’m doing now, mostly I’ve been lying around my sister-in-law’s house in Seattle and spending time with the relations here that I haven’t gotten to visit for two years.  (How this happened I do not know, but thankfully I’ve fixed it.)  I’ve been trying to concentrate on living instead of thinking about achieving things all the time, with the result that I’ve spent a good amount of time soaking in my sister-in-law’s extra-deep bathtub, working on my novel, and walking in the rain (it’s Seattle; there’s always rain).

Oh, and eating really good food, because everything my sister-in-law makes is good, and hanging with my nephews, who are two, five, and eleven.  It’s still not exactly real to me that I’m an aunt; part of my brain remains convinced that it’s some sort of honorary courtesy, or possibly a mistake.  But the other night the eldest nephew helped me make no-bake cookies from my grandmother’s recipe, and that made me feel very much like a proper aunt, telling him how much butter to put in and that the point of the measuring cup is to fill it right up to the top, and letting him lick the spoon when we were done.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading back to where I live (with my sister-in-law in tow, because she wants to see a local Klimt exhibit), and things will get onto a more normal, crafty, exercisey, fiction-writing footing.  But, in the meantime, I’ve started a one-year-of-stitches hoop!

Here’s a picture of my first nine days’ progress!

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Follow me on Instagram @velvetpincushion to watch my progress.

See you soon!  (I hope…)

I’m back!

It’s been about five months since I posted last.  So, what did I do this summer?

What haven’t I done??

To cram as much activity as possible into a single sentence: We moved to California.

Take a moment to imagine the effort and time involved in packing up all of our everything (fifty boxes of books, thirteen boxes of crafty stuff, kitchen, clothes, shoes, Etsy stuff) and arranging for it to be moved three thousand miles to my in-laws’ driveway.  And then the unpacking (into a smaller space, two rooms in my in-laws’ house (one of which, out of great kindness, has been lent to me for use as a craft room)), and adjusting to a new place, and my husband adjusting to his new job, with all that that entails.

And that covers most of what I’ve been doing since May.  Although of course, not everything.

We got to see the solar eclipse…

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There’s been a trip to Aspen…

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And Japan…

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I’ve joined a new quilt guild, and gone to the Pacific International Quilt Festival…

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This was one of my favorites, because it embraces all the challenge of the Passicaglia quilt while also stepping outside it, and doing something original with a rigid and demanding design.

I’ve bought a bike (and named her Fiona), and I now have a functional craft room (for the very first time)…

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…where I am working on a new quilt!

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Design made in Electric Quilt 7, which I recently acquired (so, of course, now they’re releasing EQ8.)

…And I’m getting back to working on my novel.

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Some of these stories I’ll tell in the coming days.  I never decided to stop blogging, you know; I just kept putting off writing the next post.  (I suspect that the real reason I’m starting up again today is that my husband is in Toronto and my in-laws are in Seattle, and it’s helpful, on a day when you’re having to get back to a routine mostly on your own, to remember that you have in fact been doing things all this time.)

Fall down seven times, get up eight!

How to Hang a Quilt with Picture-Hanging Strips

Welcome to my first web tutorial!

A couple years ago I was gifted an excellent modern quilt in my guild’s annual Secret Gift Exchange.  The best place to hang it (and almost the only bare space big enough in our apartment) was over the fireplace, on a brick wall.  I wondered: how am I going to hang a quilt on a brick wall?  Any adhesive strong enough would surely damage the quilt, now or when I took it off, and I quailed at the thought of trying to install hardware onto brick.

Then I realized I could hang the quilt the same way I had hung a framed poster and three bulletin boards on the same brick surface: with picture hanging strips!  Command makes these two-part strips that lock into each other like velcro, to hang framed things on the wall without damaging the paint.

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One set of strips go onto the back of the frame, the other onto the wall, and they lock together to hold the frame in place.  This creates a stronger grip than the poster-hanging strips, and can take a lot more weight.  On an uneven surface like a brick wall, this will work even better with a quilt, because the quilt is flexible and can bend around any irregularities in the surface.  All it takes is one extra step and a little whip-stitching, and you can hang a quilt on an unfriendly (or lease-protected) surface with the greatest of ease.

How to Hang a Quilt with Picture-Hanging Strips: The Tutorial

This is a straightforward process that anyone with a minimum of sewing skill can perform.

You will need:

  1. A quilt
  2. Picture hanging strips.  You’ll need one pair for each end of the quilt, and one for every eighteen inches of width along the top edge.  (So, for this 30″-wide quilt, I’m using three pairs of hanging strips.)
  3. Scissors
  4. Needle
  5. Thread (basic sewing thread is fine)
  6. Thimble (recommended)
  7. Optional: someone to help hang the quilt and make sure it’s hanging straight

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Here’s a summary of the instructions, for people who like to get right to the point, or for you to check later:

  1. Take half of the strips; remove the paper and adhesive backing.
  2. Whip-stitch the prepared strips to the top edge of the back of the quilt below the binding, one an inch from each corner and every eighteen inches, being careful to only pick up the backing in your stitches.
  3. Gently attach the remaining wall-strips to the quilt-strips.
  4. Position the quilt on the wall.
  5. Remove the paper backing from the wall-strips, and press into place gently.
  6. Peel off the quilt, apply pressure for 30 seconds to each wall-strip, and then wait for an hour.
  7. Hang the quilt!  Re-align the strips on the quilt to the strips on the wall, and press hard, locking the strips.  Enjoy!

And now for the details and pictures.

Preparing the strips

For the strips that will attach directly to the quilt, we’re going to sew them on, rather than using their adhesive.  They can easily be removed later if you want (much like a hanging sleeve), and the adhesive won’t actually hang on to the fabric anyway.  So the first step is to remove the sticky part of the strip.  Fortunately, they’re designed to make this easy: it’s the same thing you do to pull them off of the wall.

First, divide your strips into two equal groups.  Set one group aside to use later; this step is just for the ones we’re sewing onto the quilt.

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Take your first strip, and peel the paper backing off.

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Next, take the tab at the bottom of the strip between your thumb and forefinger.  Holding firmly onto the other end of the strip with your other hand, pull the tab sideways to peel the adhesive off the back of the strip.  It should stretch and peel off fairly easily.

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Your prepared strip should now look like the bottom one below.

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Repeat with the rest of the strips that will be sewn onto your quilt.

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Applying the Strips to Your Quilt

First, decide which way is up on your quilt, or which way you want to be up.  We’ll be sewing all of the strips along the top edge, on the back, just below the binding.

Position one of your strips on the back of the quilt, on the top edge you’ve selected, near one corner.  I recommend leaving an inch or two between your strip and the corner.  You’ll see why later on.

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Holding the strip in place with your thumb, use a whip-stitch to sew the strip down to the back of your quilt.  Pick up just a few threads of the backing fabric with each stitch, as if you were sewing on a hanging sleeve.  (For beginners, be careful to just pick up the back of the quilt with your stitches; don’t push the needle all the way through, or the stitches will show on the other side!)

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Stitch down the whole outside edge of the strip, tying a knot once or twice as you go.  When you get back to where you started, tie a knot and cut.  I don’t think there’s any real need to bury the ends, but if you want to, then by all means!

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Repeat to add a strip at the other top corner of your quilt, and another one about every eighteen inches along the top edge.

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Hanging the Quilt

From here we’re going to be following the manufacturer’s instructions for applying Picture Hanging Strips, which you can also read on the back of the package.

Once all your strips are sewn on, take up the remaining strips.  Gently attach one to each strip that you’ve sewn onto the quilt, making sure they lock a little bit, but not completely.

You may need an extra person for this step, depending on how big your quilt is.  When you’ve decided where you want to hang it on the wall, position the quilt on the wall, making sure it’s hanging flat and level.  While holding one half of the top edge in place, fold the other half down at an angle, and peel the paper backing off the strips.  Gently fold that side of the quilt back into place, pressing firmly on the strips.

Repeat for the other half of the quilt.

Gently peel your quilt away from the wall.  The wall-strips should stick to the wall; if one comes off, disengage it from the quilt and put it back in the right place.

Hold pressure on each wall-strip for thirty seconds.

Wait for an hour.

Now you can hang your quilt!  Align your quilt-strips with the wall-strips, and press hard; you should hear the velcro locking into place.

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If you suddenly decide that it should actually be an inch to the right, fear not!  You can peel off the quilt and move it about an inch either way, and press it back into place again.  (This is why we left an inch or two at each corner when we sewed the strips on; it leaves room to hide the end of a wall-strip that might otherwise poke out and be conspicuous.)

Enjoy!

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New Whole Cloth Quilt for Sale!

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This is my most recent finished piece, “Variations on a Squiggle.”  It began life as a simple quilt sandwich to practice with on a rented longarm machine at Olde City Quilts; I took their class a few months ago, and I was itching to get back and use one of those machines again!  I cut two pieces of muslin and a corresponding rectangle of cotton batting, packed my Quilter’s Planner and an Angela Walters book, and spent a lovely two hours doodling away on the longarm.

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I had no plan when I started, just the two books and my memory of some motifs that I learned from The Inbox Jaunt (which I can’t recommend enough, by the way; beautifully clear instructions and a million cute motifs for free motion).  I scribbled and meandered, wandered and looped, and whenever I didn’t know what to do next I’d find a good stopping point (usually one of the edges), flip through one of the books, find my next design, and take off!

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It was a liberating, centering creative experience, almost a form of meditation, to make this; I was so focused on trying things out, drawing the lines.  Everything else fell away.

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When I was done, I took a look at the whole thing and was surprised at how cohesive it looked.  One of my favorite things about free-motion quilting is that it’s very forgiving; you might think you’re doing a terrible job in the moment, but as soon as you pull back and see the whole, all the imperfections sort of blend into the background, and you find yourself marveling at the idea that you could make something like this.

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Since it came out so well, I decided to finish it!  I found a lovely mulberry cotton in my stash for the binding, sewed a hanging sleeve to the back, and added a label.  (I bought some sheets of printer-friendly fabric last year.  It goes through the printer quite as easily as shipping labels; you just have to remember to press the label with the iron for a few seconds to set the ink.)

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“Variations on a Squiggle” is now listed for sale in my Etsy store.  It’s been hanging in my living room for a few days now, and continues to be an object of visual interest, so I’m hopeful that somebody out there will want to hang it up in their home too.

Next time, my first web tutorial (really this time): How to Hang a Quilt with Picture-Hanging Strips!

An Old Project Returns

A few weeks ago I resumed knitting Aron’s Aran sweater, which I started last year.

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By which I mean, I finally decided I definitely WAS making it on needles that were too small, and unraveled it and started again.

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The bigger needles are producing a much more supple knit, and I’m borrowing a trick I learned from a sock knitter and making the back and front at the same time, each from its own ball of yarn.

But of course, last week I got bored and decided to start a smaller project as a break from this long-term goal.

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This is going to be a chunky cowl for my sister-in-law, who’s very artistic and a little bit goth.  I think she’ll like the color scheme, and the chunkiness.  (The yarn is Schoppel Reggae Ombre, in two colorways.)

Now, what is that red-white-and-black quilty pile in the left-hand corner of my pictures, you might ask?  Unsurprisingly, it’s a quilt, the quilt that this post is really about.

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I don’t have a picture of the whole thing right now, but you get the general idea.  I made this quilt for one of my brothers ten years ago, as a gift for his high school graduation.  He was about to start at Texas A&M, and very excited about it, which is what inspired the color scheme.  If memory serves, I picked the double Irish chain pattern because it was interesting, but not over-complicated, and I thought it would work well with the colors.  In the ten years since I gave it to him, my brother’s taken this quilt everywhere: to college, on tours with Drum Corps International, various bachelor pads, and most recently to his billet with the Marine Corps.  There is no higher compliment for a quilt or the person who made it.

So you might be wondering why I have it now, and how it made its way back into my project queue.  We had Christmas at my parents’ house, and my brother asked me if I would take a look at his quilt, because it needed some repairs.  I said sure.  But when he showed it to me, the top edge of it was completely split open (because apparently I made this quilt before I learned how to bind things properly) and the batting (polyester (horrors!)) was separating in a big way.  Not to mention that the borders were coming apart in places, and the backing (flannel) was tearing.

What can I say?  This quilt has lived an active life.

Now, while I am fully of the opinion that it is right and proper for a quilt to be loved to death, I was hoping for a longer lifespan for this one, and the damage was such that I told my brother I would have to take the top and the back apart and completely re-quilt it.  (I also remembered that this was the first quilt I ever machine-quilted, and I did it with just a regular presser foot and not the walking foot, which made the stitching really tight.  Did I mention I was self-taught?)

He was at first reluctant to entertain this plan.  (I don’t think he thought that I would ruin it; he just didn’t want me to take it away (and possibly never give it back…).)

I eventually persuaded him that the quilt would be better once I’d overhauled it (if only because the batting would be cotton instead of polyester), and that if he didn’t let me take it it would only deteriorate faster.  He finally agreed when I offered to get him a replacement blanket to tide him over while I worked on this one.

And after all that, it’s still taken me almost four months to get around to it.  I am the procrastinator par excellence.  😦

My mom visited me in February, and while she was here she completely unpicked the quilting stitches and tossed out the batting and the backing (which were both in tatters). Last week I bought a new backing for the quilt (the exact same JoAnn’s polyester-cotton blend that I used to make it ten years ago), and this last Sunday (after a break in the wake of finishing my Green Deconstruction quilt and a gift table-runner) I finally picked up my brother’s quilt and started mending the borders.

Unfortunately I came to the conclusion that the borders cannot be mended.  They’ve got holes worn in them around the edges in some places, and have gotten very uneven in others from the backing being pulled off.  They also had the A&M logo embroidered into them at the corners, AFTER I’d layered and quilted the quilt, all the way through the quilt sandwich, and those stitching holes are never coming out.  So, I’m cutting new borders, probably out of my stash of black Kona cotton, which is not going to perfectly match the poly-blend black squares that make up the pattern (especially not after ten years’ washing), but I think it’ll be okay.

And I’ve discovered that I pieced this quilt, like my first two quilts, with hand-quilting thread.  Which, if you don’t know, is very thick and meant to be used only for hand-quilting, and should never ever be run through a sewing machine.  How I got my machine to handle it I’ll never know.

So yeah.

 

I’ve got two of the borders off now; I’ll cut new ones, sew them on, embroider the logo into the corners, and then she’ll be ready for re-quilting.  With the walking foot this time, and cotton batting, and a proper binding, and at long last, a label.

And then, once it’s completely overhauled, back it goes to the Marine Corps!

Tune in next time for my first web tutorial: how to hang a quilt with picture-hanging strips!

The Garden of Light Green Meditations

I wrote this post as the opening for this blog last year, in May, so it’s a bit of a time-travel piece.  Why I never published it, I’m no longer sure.  All my time referents should be understood as dating from that time.

I’ve just finished a project and am about to embark on some new ones, so it’s a perfect time to start a blog.  Hello! My name is Nicole, and I am a fabric addict.

Fortunately I am also a quilter, so some of the fabric gets put to good use.  Of course, I’m always undertaking more projects than I could possibly finish.  A couple years ago I decided to make a list so I could keep track of them, and was flabbergasted to discover that I had no less than eighteen things going at that particular time.  Last week I started talking about designing a new quilt for one of our nephews, with the very modest aim of giving it to him for Christmas (seven months from now), and my husband asked me, “How many quilts are you in debt right now?”  (In other words, how many quilts am I definitely planning to do and have bought stuff for, that are unfinished or not started?)  I counted them up in my head, and replied, “Nine.”

So you can understand how excited I am to have actually finished something.

This particular quilt, as you might have gathered, is entitled “The Garden of Light Green Meditations,” which is in honor of two things: the sashing (which was only selected as the perfect fabric after much anxiety and suffering and several phone calls); and its predecessor and progenitor quilt, “The Garden of Orderly Pathways.”

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You can get a better idea of the colors from this picture:

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I designed and made “The Garden of Orderly Pathways” for my brother-in-law (intending to give it to him for Christmas 2014 and actually giving it to him for Christmas 2015, by which time he had forgotten about it and was very surprised to finally receive it).   The motifs are batiked, rather than appliquéd; I free-motion quilted around all the squiggles in complementary colors (mostly variegated) so that the motifs would show through on the backing, which is black.  It came out really well and my brother-in-law absolutely loved it.

When we showed “Orderly Pathways” to one of my husband’s aunts, she liked it so much that she offered me money to make one for her too.

Which makes this the first quilt that I have ever made for sale!  At that time (December 2015) I hadn’t yet decided to start my Etsy store (The Velvet Pincushion), so this was a brave new world for me.

I’m also excited to have it finished because this has been the project that wouldn’t end.  I started it in February.  I knew I would be free-motion quilting each motif (as I did with the first quilt), and it had been so hard wrestling the first quilt through my domestic machine to quilt around all the tiny squiggles, that I decided to do this one quilt-as-you-go: quilt each square first and THEN sew them all together.

I read tutorials, I watched videos, I was confident I understood the method.  I finished the quilting in pretty good time (considering all the tiny squiggles), and thought I was practically done.

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Attaching all the blocks to each other couldn’t take as much time as the quilting had, could it?

Sure it could.

The thing about quilt-as-you-go is, that when you assemble pre-quilted blocks together, you have to cover the join both on the front and on the back.  This means each joining has to be sewn three times: once to attach the front and back sashing to the edge of the first block; once to attach the other edge of the front sashing to the second block; and once to attach the other side of the back sashing to the second block.  Multiplied by forty-one blocks and twenty setting triangles.

First you arrange the blocks into rows.  Then you join the blocks together to make the rows, and since everything is on the diagonal, there are two rows that have only one block, two that have three, two that have five, two that have seven, and one that has nine.  That one almost seemed to stretch across the room.  (Did I mention that this quilt is made with wool batting, so the long rows also got really bulky and heavy?)

Then you sew the rows together.

And the quilt GROWS…

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I’m sure you will understand that there were times when I carefully avoided wrestling long heavy strips of quilt through the sewing machine, with the result that a week or two went by when I got nothing done on it.

But the other thing that happened, was that the more the quilt grew, the more beautiful it became.

I finally put the binding on last Saturday, and sewed the label on on Sunday.

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Yesterday I took it to my local English Conversation group (more about that another time), and everybody oohed and aahed over it, and some of the people who were holding it up just stood and stared at it for a while, and there’s no higher compliment for a quilt than that.  Tonight I took it to my quilt guild for show and tell, and got many more compliments and quite a few questions.  It’s great to have a venue where I can talk about my process.

Later update: The quilt’s recipients have been very pleased with it.  They commissioned this to go on their bed, but my aunt-in-law told me a few months ago that they were getting hardware to hang it on the wall instead, because it’s too nice for the bed.  On one level, I find that really flattering.  But another part of me is yelling, “No!  Quilts are for sleeping under!”  But the really important thing is that they like it.

Stay tuned!  New stuff next time!