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My Week With Rob Appell

As a sales rep for Michael Miller Fabrics I must occasionally meet with my sales manager. In my case, my manager is Rob Appell, also the spokesperson for the company and a well known face. Rob decided to shadow me for a week in Utah. His goal was to listen to any concerns/ideas from shops, …

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Civilized Eatin’

I have just released my latest pattern, Civilized Eatin’. You can create a custom travel kit (mess kit if you’re a former scout) for all the fisherman, boaters, hunters or anyone who travels. It truly is the eco-friendly eat-on-the-go solution. The best part? You can whip these up in no time! So, how did this …

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Winter Wonderland Mystery Sew-A-Long – Block 1

Have you been waiting to start the Winter Wonderland Mystery Sew-A-Long? Well, wait no more! I’m happy to say that I am the designer for block #1, Winter Selfie, and here it is: Meet Snowball Adams, second cousin twice removed on his father’s side to the well known photographer, Ansel Adams. Unlike his famous cousin, …

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The Long Game!

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Twenty one years ago I started something and finally got to finish it. I had a brand new baby and her first Christmas was approaching. I needed a 1st Christmas ornament, but not just any ornament as I had something special in mind. I remember the day as if it were last week. It was the first time that I had left the house…by myself! The store that I wanted to go to was 45 minutes away and I knew Moosette would need to nurse again in a couple of hours. No time to waste. I ended up getting this handmade porcelain ornament. It was perfect.

It has lots of pink on it. Not my favorite color at all but it was for my little baby girl. Turns out, she’s not a pink person either! This ornament has hung on our tree every year. When it gets put away each year I slip a little note inside. I wrote down what her milestones were that year, who her besties were, what music she listened to, favorite foods. I even included a few personal things that only a Mom would include (shouldn’t everyone know when their boobs got bigger?)

I often thought about when I would give the ornament to her. Maybe when she turned 18 or had a child of her own…21 years old sounded perfect. It took some time to fish all the little rolled up notes from the belly of the ornament. Then she read them all out loud. We all laughed. It was interesting to see when the favorite foods/colors/music actually showed up in her life. Moosette and I both cried a little too.

All in all I think I did pretty good. I only missed two years…her second Christmas and 2017. She was just entering the terrible two stage at the time of the second Christmas so I’m sure I was a little flustered…I’ll give myself a pass on that one. I have no idea what prevented me from doing 2017. Now I’m wondering what I’m going to do when I put the Christmas decorations away this year…

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I Made A Light Box…For Almost FREE!

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I’ve been wanting a light box for awhile now. It just kept getting pushed down the to-do list. Well, today I made one. It may not be pretty but it’s very effective.

My Light Box – what are the chances that I would make it upside down? 100%…

I started out by watching this video. I liked that they had the light source come from the top instead of the sides like other tutorials. I did switch things up a bit though. They used a piece of poster board (as most tutorials do). Due to the size of the poster board it didn’t go all the way to the top of the box. I also didn’t have a piece of poster board on hand and that would have required a trip to the store. I did have some decor bond and some white fabric. I fused the fabric to the decor bond and cut it down to size. It ended up to be about the same flexibility and non-see-thru-ness of poster board. This was a big plus since I was planning on photographing taller items and wanted the background to go all the way up. An unexpected bonus was that I preferred the subtle texture of the background due to fabric instead of poster board.

I had almost all the other supplies on hand. Shocker…I still have boxes laying around after moving! I did have some led clamp lights from my vending days but wasn’t sure if they would work. While they are a bit clunky (and I may switch over to a more compact light source later) they work for now.

I then played with what to put over the opening at the top to diffuse the light. I tried a medium weight interfacing and a lightweight one. I preferred the lightweight. The lightweight was the only thing I didn’t have on hand. I spent 86 cents…breakout the loan paperwork!

Medium Weight Interfacing
Lightweight Interfacing
Lightweight Interfacing
Medium Weight Interfacing

I also tried a light inside the box but it really yellowed things out and created too many shadows.

Inside Light
Inside Light

Light boxes are great for photographing items without distracting backgrounds, excessive shadows and letting the items take center stage. If you’re thinking of a light box I highly recommend getting it done. It took me about an hour and a half, start to finish. Easy peasy! Who knows, after I play with it a bit I may gussy up the outside…maybe some purple paint…a little something snappy…

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Homemade Ramen

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I don’t know how it is at your house but things get pretty creative in the menu planning department around here towards the end of the month. Such is life when you only get paid once per month. Last week I was trying to figure out what to make when I started thinking about the cash-poor/starving-college-student staple, ramen. I decided to see if I could make a homemade version and take it up a notch. I scored! Here we go…

  • 3 boneless chicken thighs
  • a bit of oil for sauteing
  • 1/2 onion, chopped small
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped small
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, small
  • 2-3 baby bella mushrooms, chopped small
  • 8 cups chicken stock, homemade or boxed
  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 package of thin fettuccine noodles or thick spaghetti noodles
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg
  • garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cured sumac, optional but highly recommended *see note below

In a large stock pot quickly brown chicken in oil until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside to cool a bit then chop into small bite sized pieces. While the chicken is cooling saute onion, carrots, mushrooms and broccoli in the same pot until almost done. Add chicken stock to pan being sure to scrape up all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pot. Add chicken back to pot and season to taste with the spices. Once it’s come to a boil add noodles and cook until they are al-dente. Add the butter, corn and peas to the pot and mix well. Crack egg into cup and mix well. With a spoon in one hand, get the stock swirling in a circle. With the other hand slooowwllly add the egg to form ribbons. Serve it up. Tastes even better the next day when the noodles have soaked up the juices!

One of the beauties of ramen is all the different versions there are. Feel free to add or eliminate items to suit your own tastes.

*Sumac Note: I love to try new spices and this is my new favorite one. You probably won’t find it in your local grocery store. I get mine from The Spice House. This spice hails from Turkey. According to their description it is “Big and bright with lemony notes of sour cherry and dried cranberries…” It really did put the OMG in this dish. Try it out yourself! Will your ramen taste ok without it? Probably, but I’m not willing to risk it…

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A Quick Meal For Those Busy Days!

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I love to feed my family a homemade meal made with fresh and healthy ingredients. Some days though…I just want something quick to make. I’m sure you can relate to a busy day during the run-up to the holidays. Today was just such a day for me. I decided to make Tater Tot Casserole. It may not be the healthiest but it’s stick-to-your-ribs fulfilling and it’s tasty. It’s not something I make often but it was perfect for today. 10 minutes of assembly and I’m back to work.

You’ll need the following ingredients:

1 pound of hamburger (you will not have a chance to drain the fat so don’t use the cheap stuff, get the least % of fat available!)

2 cans cream of XXX soup – you can totally change the flavor profile by which soups you use – cream of celery, mushroom, chicken, chicken with flavorings… Today I used Cream of Mushroom with Roasted Garlic and Cream of Chicken with Mushroom

1 container of French Fried Onions – the kind you use in the famous green bean casserole. It used to come in a small cardboard “can” but I can’t find those anymore. It would use the whole container. Now I get them in the salad fixings sections but it’s in a bigger bag so there will be leftovers. Side note: super tasty on a salad!

1 package of Tater Tots – I used the store brand, it was a two pound bag and there were still some left over

Salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder

Layer it up!

1.Spread the raw hamburger evenly in a 9X13 pan and pat down. 

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. I don’t measure, just sprinkle. Easy on the salt though, the other ingredients have salt too.

3. Crush the fried onions in your hands and spread over the hamburger. )

4. Place dollops of the cream soups on top of the onions. Spread into an even layer making sure not to move all the onions to one end!

5. Place frozen tater tots on top. I line them up like little soldiers. If you wanted to take a little more time maybe you could come up with a cute quilt pattern for them!

6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until soup is bubbly and the tater tots are browned. Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. If you don’t let it rest, it will be a big pile of mush. Still tasty, just not very pretty.

Today I served it with steamed broccoli. Depending on your appetite you can get about 6-8 servings. Bonus – we have enough leftover for lunch tomorrow!

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31 Day Blog Challenge

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Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com has issued a 31 day blog challenge for the month of December and I’ve decided to take the challenge! Each day (hopefully!) I will do a blog post. I have the first few days all done and scheduled. Several more are in my head and just need to be written.

What kinds of things will I blog about? Quilting tips, recipes, color inspiration photos, highlights of cool products…all fun and informative stuff. We’re even going to have a couple of FLASH SALES. Super prices on cool products for a very quick time period. What day will those be on you ask? Well…you’re just gonna have to check back to find out!

Lots of folks have taken up Cheryl’s challenge. You can find the list of participants here. See ya tomorrow!

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Early Autumn in New England

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Autumn in New England is one of my favorite things. People who don’t live here (or other places where the colors change) don’t realize that it’s a slow, gradual process. Prime leaf peeping season for my neighborhood is the first week of October (give or take a week) but we start seeing signs sometime in August. They are subtle signs but they’re there if you look. A stray colored leaf in a sea of green, the sudden disappearance of mosquitoes and the shortening days. The temperature is still usually warm during the day but you do get the occasional crisp evening. That’s when mushroom season really ramps up. I never knew mushrooms came in so many forms and colors. I took a walk around my property and snapped some photos. All these were taken on the same day. I left my toes in some of the photos for size reference. Lots of shrooms! Maybe their color or form will inspire a new quilt!

Of course, there is always the overachiever. That one tree that just HAS to finish before everyone else. I’m sure you’ve met the human version of this at a quilt class before…

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Moving Tips For Quilters

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Are you a quilter with a move in your future? Me too! Let me share some tips to make that move easier!

Many years ago when I moved from California to New Hampshire I had a serious problem. I knew if my hubby saw 20 boxes all labeled “fabric” there would be trouble. I had to come up with a plan. Getting rid of my stash was not one of the options! While I was out cornering the market on boxes, moving blankets, tape, sharpies and all the other moving supplies it hit me…why was I going to buy (at a premium price mind you!) a stack of paper to wrap fragile items in when I had scads of fabric at home? I already owned it…and I wouldn’t have to label one single solitary box with the dreaded “fabric”! I was determined to make it work.

Here we are in the “pink” section…

I dutifully wrapped every dish, bowl, knick-knack and tchotchke. Not a single thing was damaged during the cross country move. Unwrapping all that stuff was actually kind of fun. Ooh, I like this fabric (unroll, unroll…) Ooh, I remember this cool thing! The only downside was a lot of smoothing, ironing and folding of fabric when all was said and done. But what quilter doesn’t appreciate a little fabric petting time??

One yard pieces are the perfect size for most items. Half yards are great for smaller items. Larger pieces can either be for larger items or padding around larger items. Don’t forget fabric makes great filler to keep all those treasures from banging around in the box too.

If you’re a scrap collector…they make great filler. Here is a partially filled jar of vintage buttons with scraps to keep them from clattering around.

And let’s not forget other items as well. Remember that over sized purple sweatshirt with the special sleeves that you are someday going to turn into one of those one-of-a-kind quilted jackets? Just slip in your treasured artwork, wrap the sleeves in a hug and chuck it in the box. All safe and cozy. You’ll get around to that quilted jacket someday…when they come back in style…

If you have a sizable fabric stash…don’t forget to place a piece on the top of the box before closing. This will ensure you have no leftover fabric…err…I mean it will make sure everything in the box stays in place. Yup, that’s what I meant.

Invest in a brand new sharpie and a tape dispenser. A real dispenser, not those cheap ones that come with 3 yards of tape attached to them. A real one that takes full size rolls of packing tape and has a nice sharp set of teeth to cut the tape. You’ll thank me later. Unless you get too friendly with the sharp teeth…

Have a labeling system in place too. I mark each side of the box with a letter (K=kitchen, L=living room, T=Terri…). That way, no matter how they get loaded on the truck you will always see the letter. On the top of the box I note the important items within that box. Once you get to your new place, put all the like boxes together. All the K boxes go in the kitchen, all L boxes go in the living room, all T boxes go in my studio, etc. (see the first photo)

If you come up with your own labeling system make sure to write it down somewhere so you don’t forget. No need for those 3 boxes labeled “feminine products” to end up in the wrong hands where it’s discovered that’s just code for fabric. Not that I’ve ever done that…

Before ya know it, you’ll be all done packing, and there won’t be a single box labeled “fabric”. I’m still packing for our current move to Colorado but I haven’t run out of fabric yet so it’s all good.

When we were planning out our plan of attack for this move hubby and I were trying to decide how many boxes to get when he turns to me (in all seriousness) and says “Do we have enough fabric for this move?” Ummm….yes dear, we’re all good!

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A New Adventure!

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Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been a little quiet lately. That’s ’cause I’ve been working REALLY hard on our new adventure. Last month we started our 19th year in business. A lot has changed in that 19 years…and it’s about to change again. We’re moving to Colorado! Yup, this frugal yankee is heading west (again!) I’m sure you have questions so let’s get to answering them.

The cupboards are empty and the boxes are piling up!

Are you closing?

Absolutely not! Just changing things up!

Will you still vend at quilt shows?

Short answer…no. I do have a couple of shows left to do and then that’s it. I have enjoyed the company of quilters at shows, loved talking with all of you and seeing what you’re working on…but the schlepping of boxes to and fro is getting really hard on my old knees. Moosette is an adult now with her own life and I can no longer ask her to take time away from her obligations to help me. So I’m taking the opportunity of our family move to go back to my roots of teaching, pattern designing and expanding on the retreats that I do. I’m excited about the changes coming!

Will you still have your website?

Absolutely! It will just change with the new direction. I will be eliminating most of the fabrics (sale!) and only carry a few that correlate to things I’m teaching. A lot of the notions/gadgets/fun stuff/patterns will slim down (sale!) Our products will also be going back to our roots and concentrating on the unique, hard-to-find quality items.

What happens to the retreats you run?

Not a darn thing! My autumn in New England retreat will not have any visible changes. I’ll just have further to go to get there! I have teachers already booked through 2020 so I know I’ll be coming back for my fall color fix. I still plan to continue the Quilt Professionals retreat as well. Once I get settled into Colorado I’ll be looking into expanding my retreats to other parts of the country.

How did this all come about?

When you fall in love and marry a California boy and you’re a frugal yankee, you end up being by-coastal! We knew when Moosette graduated from college that we would move to a warmer climate. She graduates next May so we figured we would spend the next year getting the house ready to sell (purging, fixing all the honey-do’s…) when it was time. An unexpected opportunity fell in our laps and we found ourselves with a sold house (no honey-do’s, no staging, no fuss) and no place to go. We had already decided on the Colorado Springs area so we hopped on a plane to go house hunting. We ended up with a new house but it won’t be finished being built until next spring. Quickly found a place to ride out the winter here and we now have a plan. Once our new house is ready we’ll head west. Once Moosette has graduated she and her boyfriend will head west as well.

This will be the view from our front porch and back yard…minus the construction equipment…maybe a road put in…and our house…beautiful Pike’s Peak.

Thank You!

I will miss my woods, the lake, living in a small town…but I will miss the people here most of all. Thank you to all of our customers over the past 13 years we’ve lived in New Hampshire. You have made our business grow. As I said earlier…I’m not closing, just changing things up. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me teaching at a New England quilt show in the future!

I’m really looking forward to our new family adventure and all the possibilities that await us. I hope you’ll stay in touch via our newsletter or social media outlets…we’ll still be there! I’ll also be sharing bits about our move. I know there is a post coming next week on how to move when you’re a quilter!

So, thank you for the past. I’m looking forward to a bright future!

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Maine Quilts!!

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EvaPaige - Oompah

I’m a busy little moose packing up for Maine Quilts. Thought I would take a break and tell you all about the great things we have planned for the show!

EvaPaige - Oompah

I’m very excited to have a guest in my booth on Thursday from 10-2. Beth Helfter of EvaPaige Quilt Designs will have her new book, Oompah! on hand for signing and she will be telling you all about her really fun way to make oodles of half square triangles. It will be a very entertaining time in the booth that day!

I’m also doing a demo everyday in the show’s demo area:

 Care & Feeding of Your Rotary Tools

Thursday – 3pm – Slotted Trimmer & Clearly Perfect Angles – want to know how to make half square triangles easily, accurately and with NO DRAWING OF THE LINES? Stop by and I’ll show ya!

Friday – 3pm – Care & Feeding Of Your Rotary Tools – I’ll be passing on tips and tricks to keep your rotary mats and cutters in tip-top working condition.

Saturday – 3pm – Housekeeping For Quilters – no…not that housekeeping (shudder…) I’ll be sharing tips on keeping all your expensive tools (machine, iron…) clean and ready for use. Okay…maybe I’ll throw in a great tip for doing the other kind of housekeeping.

Bargain Bin 

We will also have an enlarged Bargain Bin. We have lots of onsey-twosey stuff to get rid of. All fabrics will be 40% off too! Stock up while you can. Hope to see you at the show!

Maine Quilts

Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive, Augusta Maine

Show hours: Wednesday 7/25 champagne preview 7pm-9pm, Thursday-Saturday 7/26-28 9am-5pm

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Totes & Bags – Adding Pizzazz!

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Solid Oak Online

Are you a tote or bag maker? Today I’m gonna show you some quick tips for adding some pizzazz to your finished totes. What we’re sharing can also work on any purchased bags you have, not just ones you crafted! Ready to start? Let’s go! Adding a zipper pull is probably the easiest way to jazz up a bag. What can you use as a pull? Oh…we’ll get to that! Be sure and check out my nails…they look awesome! I usually break one just before taking photos…or smash my finger…

Tools & Supplies:

You don’t really need anything, tool-wise, different from what you probably already own. I made jewelry in a past life so I still have tools (and beads, more beads, maybe some more…I might have a problem…) that are basically smaller versions of household tools. You can use household tools they’re just a bit large and clunky. If you’re just going to bling up a bag or two, no need to buy tools. If you find you like how easy, inexpensive and sooo simple it is to do that you want to jazz up lots of bags then maybe spring for a small pair or two of jewelers pliers. You can get them at just about any big-box craft store that sells jewelry findings (that’s what they call the parts and pieces). Two pair would be ideal.

jewelry findings
Jewelry Findings!

You might need some special parts – jewelry findings. There are various ways you can attach zipper pulls but I find that rings are generally the best. Rings come in two versions – split rings and jump rings. Split rings are tiny versions of key rings, generally two circles of wire and you “scoot” whatever you are attaching along the wire circle. Jump rings are one circle of wire which you open, attach your items and close. Two pair of pliers are handy for this task! I prefer split rings for attaching zipper pulls because they hold up better as you tug and pull during usage.

jewelry findings

Split Rings vs. Jump Rings

Here’s a little tip for opening/closing jump rings…open them side to side, not along the circle. If you bend them open side to side you can easily reclose them to retain their circle shape. If you open them along the circle you can never get them back to a circle shape!

Opening Jump Rings
Opening Jump Rings-don’t do the left, do the right!

two pliers
2 Pliers Are Better Than 1!

Whatever findings you choose to use, you can pick up a variety pack of sizes/colors for a couple of dollars. So…now we know how to attach…let’s learn what to attach!

Adding On:

If you can stick a hole in it to attach, you can make it into a zipper pull! I love to use charms and other “found” items as pulls. There’s a great company online that has all kinds of really cool charms and doo-dads. Solid Oak Online.  Click on their name to check ’em out. In full disclosure, they did send me some stuff for free to try out. I can assure you that I will be ordering from them again in the future. Moosette also wandered by when I was checking out their website. She pushed me out of the way and started her own list…sigh… Poke around and you can find some really cool things. Here’s what I started with…

Solid Oak Online
Choices…

I found some neat sewing charms and arrows with pearls in the Steampunk section, variegated silk ribbon with metal label charms in the Brianna section and a really cool sugar skull (that’s two sided!) in the Thaneeya section.  If sparkly stuff is more your style, they have plenty of that…seriously, poke around.

First up, a tote make-over…

tote makeovertote makeover

These two totes have lace zippers on the pockets. These zippers come with a decent zipper pull but it just seems a little small to me for this size bag. We don’t need any findings for these two. I simply (and oh so gently…) pried open the zipper just enough to remove the existing pull and replace with a new one. Gently cinch it back up and all done. I can keep the old pulls for another project too. The green bag got the arrow with pearl and the purple bag got some scissors. You can find the pattern for this bag right here.

  

Next up is a little bag that my friend Judy made for me. I had this button pull attached which came with it’s own hook type of attachment. The hook is a little wide for the small opening in the zipper tab so it’s always getting stuck and twisted. I could replace the hook with a split ring but I think this thimble charm goes much better with the fabric on the bag.

Here’s the cute sugar skulls on another bag. This charm is two sided which makes it perfect for a zipper pull. It also comes with a lobster claw attachment so it’s really easy to install! Seriously, it took less than a minute.

 

This is a purchased leather bag that I use as my briefcase. It has a leather tab on the zipper. Nice but boring. I cut off the tab and there was a wide loop which allowed me to attach all kinds of stuff! Oops…looks like I need to mend a seam there too…

 

I put two arrows, one on each side and a spool in the middle. The spool sits on top and is super handy to grab and zip. The arrows dangle down for some zing. Oh look, that seam got fixed!

Next came the silk ribbon and this metal label charm. You simply slide the metal label onto the ribbon. What to do with this one…

maybe…

I thought about attaching it to the outer pocket of this bag with a half bow on either side. That would show off this beautiful silk ribbon but it didn’t really excite me.

I ended up just tying a pretty bow on the handle and attaching the label to one leg of the bow. A knot on each end of the legs keeps the label on and keeps the ribbon from fraying. Perfect.

Your Turn:

As you can see it is really easy to add a little something extra to the totes and bags you make…or the ones you purchase! Each of these took just a couple of minutes to do. It actually took much longer to photograph and write this than to do the actual jazzing up! The examples I’ve shared today would not cost a lot either. If you wanted to up your game a bit and go for some fancier bling that is certainly possible…but it still won’t cost a whole lot!

Something spooky this way comes…

Thanks to Solid Oak Online for letting me play with some of their products. They were all solidly made (guess that should have been obvious from their name…) no cheap junk at this shop. I know they will last for quite some time. There was one more piece in my package. I have a plan for this spider web but that will have to wait for a future post about adding some bling to my quilts! So…how do you dress up your totes and bags?

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