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Solution to Wheelies and Long Dragging Stitches on my Longarm

For those who have been following my blog for any length of time, you know I’ve been griping about having long, dragging stitches in my quilts. This issue has been plaguing me since I bought my longarm back in Nov 16. There have literally been crying tears, screams, stomping, and tantrums as I could NEVER solve the problem. I could kind of solve it somewhat, but never completely. I have the King Quilter 18” (a Tin Lizzie), a Quilt Butler computer, and a Grace GQ frame. $15k worth of quilting equipment that hadn’t worked right since I got it. Faith, my friends. You must have faith. And wine. Wine definitely helps.

One day (a year ago?) in my local quilt shop, I was lamenting about my problem and one of the employees said, “It sounds like your carriage doesn’t understand what your computer is telling it to do.” Hmmm. Interesting. So I got to looking under the carriage and sure enough, there were spots on the frame where the wheels of the lower carriage didn’t touch at all. Like completely free-spinning! And where the wheels weren’t touching the frame, is where the long stitches occurred. Now this sounds like I figured it out that day. No…my life doesn’t work like that. First I fiddled around with the encoders, then I messed with leveling the frame again, then I worked with realigning the tracks to make them parallel by taking the frame completely apart (twice) and putting it back together. I’ve fiddled with the alignment of the wheels on the carriage to make them fit the tracks in the troubled spots – but then they didn’t fit on the other parts. Needless to say, there has been a host of adjustments made to my frame and my carriage over the past 19 months. Everything is level – everything is parallel. SO WHAT THE HECK IS THE PROBLEM??? Grrrr.

Then this week I FINALLY came across a way to definitively identify the root cause of the problem. In a nutshell, it was the tracks not being perfectly parallel, but finding that out was not as easy as it seems. If you only measure the parallel-ness (not a word but you know what I mean) sporadically on the frame like left/right/center, you don’t get the true picture. A laser level is the ONLY way to know and get it right because the tracks may be the EXACT same distance apart at each end of the frame, but in the middle of the frame there may be a tiny point where it twerks to the left or right 1/8” and then 3 feet later, it’s a full 1/2” off, but it’s still parallel to the track across from it. Like the entire frame takes a left turn at center where the two halves come together.

Here’s an example of long stitches in the tan triangles.

Last Sunday, because use of the computer causing long stitches, I decided to use a pantograph to complete a quilt I need to get in the mail next week. So I printed out the pantograph on legal paper and taped the sheets end-to-end and laid them out on the frame table. They didn’t match exactly across the bottom edges but that was probably due to my lousy paper cutting and taping skills. Then I put my plastic grid on top of the pantograph and lo’ and behold, it would not lay straight on the table from one end to the other. If I forced both ends to rest solidly against the inner edge of the track on the frame, the plastic grid bubbled in the middle like a ski slope. Huh? What thuh? (I don’t have time for this – it will be fine.) Famous last words…

So I just let it go and let the grid lay flat wherever it wanted to, attempted to do the panto anyway, and the bobbin tension was so bad I had to rip it all out after 3 minutes. Did I mention screaming earlier? Yes, it was one of those days. No worries, I was alone in the house.

After the panto debacle, I decided to leave that project alone and trim up another quilt that was ready for binding. I laid out my two 36” Olfa green cutting mats on the frame, end-to-end (so I can trim the whole side on one go) and guess what? While each mat was laid straight against the inner edge of the track on the frame, they didn’t meet in the middle exactly – there was a 3/8” gap between them at the bottom edge – the gap formed an upside down V. If I forced them to exactly meet on the short end of each other, the left one didn’t sit flush against the straight edge of the track. Why? WHY? BECAUSE THE FRAME IS WONKY!! That’s why! My husband walked in the door just then and I’m dancing around going, “LOOK! LOOK! THIS IS THE PROBLEM!!”

He got his laser level and look. The laser light device is flush with the edge of the metal track making the laser beam start 1/2″away from the track. However, the ending point of the laser closest to me is touching the edge of the track. Where did that 1/2″ go? Mind you, the measurement between the tracks at the end of the frame show them to be parallel, so the issue kilters near the center of the frame.

Hubs loosened the screws under the frame, made a few bangs of a rubber mallet from the underside of the tracks and then tightened the screws and NIRVANA! We spent about an hour going back and forth, slowly up and down making sure that all wheels touched the frame completely at every inch. And if they didn’t, we gave the tracks a little tap to one side or the other. We did the front track first and then the back track. Here’s the laser showing the correct position.

The moment of truth came last night when I reloaded a quilt I’d removed for long stitches and the machine and computer and frame worked perfectly. Like completely, totally perfectly, PERFECT.

Even the tension looked smoother than it ever had.

I have a happy, happy Longarm quilting machine! And Becky is a happy, happy girl! Remember…faith!

 

Storing WIPs – The ArtBin Box

Someone had asked on a Facebook group that I am in for long arm quilters how we stored our works in progress. Several months ago I found the perfect solution at Sam’s Club. The ArtBin 12″ x 12″ box.

The ArtBin box has been an awesome find! It is a heavy duty plastic that has latches and a handle for easy carrying. I have not noticed any plastic smell inside the ArtBin and there has not been any color transfer from the boxes that I have purchased.

Here is a pic of the label so you can see exactly what it is.

The ones I found at Sam’s Club were tinted in different translucent colors. I love that they are translucent so that I can see my projects inside without having to open the box.

I found them at Joann’s Fabrics online and they are about $10 each. I don’t remember what I paid for the four box bundle at Sam’s Club.

This 12″ x 12″ box holds everything I need to make a quilt. I like using precuts so it even holds a 10″ x 10″ layer cake with no problems. I love that I can put everything together from fabric to thread and pattern and keep it all in one place. Then I can close it up and take it wherever I need to go. It’s also very handy to store everything in one place in between sewing sessions.

How how do you store your works in progress?

My Fabric Vacation

Hubs and I just took our first real vacation since 2011.  Oh, we have 3-day weekends at the coast but these past 10 days we caravanned to New Orleans, Louisiana with 4 other families in our RVs, and then traveled to Manhattan, Kansas for Keith’s 40th high school reunion.

May 24, 2018 we headed for Louisiana and stopped at 12 Oak RV Park in Lake Charles.  We proceeded to lose some cash at the local casino (only $150) and then took off the next day for New Orleans.  We had an amazing 4 days there visiting Bourbon Street, shopping in the local open air market, and hanging at the pool in the resort before heading back to the RVs to grill up dinner.

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While we were shopping in the market, I came across some marble dice imported from Pakistan and while some might think Yahtzee, I saw pattern weights!  I HAD to have them!  They are substantial…look at their size against the grid mat, and are just the right weight and smoothness to be moved around on pattern pieces.  I can’t wait to use them!  And I love to play Yahtzee so they just represent fun to me in every way.  🙂

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One day when some of our group wanted to do a plantation mansion tour, I opted out for fabric shops!  LOL  My first stop was Mes Amis Quilts and they had a really cute easy quilt with Ghastlie’s fabric.  I loved the ladies in this shop!  For those who don’t know, the Ghastlie’s are like the Adams Family of today and kids just love them.  Keith’s 11 y/o granddaughter is totally into Monster High (ghoul-like Barbies) and I thought she’d love this quilt for her birthday.  Of course I brought along a sewing machine, and even with limited space in the RV, I set up shop and whipped up her quilt top!

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The pattern is Bookends, and while the cover on the pattern is “ghastlie” LOL (I don’t think they could have chosen an uglier sample on the cover), it is perfect for any group of novelty prints you might want to make up.

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On another day, I absolutely HAD to visit Promenade Fine Fabrics. This shop is highly recommended by my 2018 RTW Faster’s group and they didn’t disappoint.

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You garment seamstresses wouldn’t believe this place.  Seriously…just look at the button selection!  Those are all tubes and drawers with thousands of buttons.

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Here is a photo from inside the front door.  If all you have ever shopped in is big box fabric stores (which I do all the time) you really should put this on your bucket list to see and feel textiles you’ve never seen in your life.  You want $50 a yard lace for your wedding gown or Louis Vitton swim fabric?  They have it.

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This fabric has an underlining that is the color of orange sherbet and the 3D lace just sparkles.  The photo doesn’t do it justice.  I just stood there and stared going “Oh wow”.  I looked for the price but couldn’t find it.  If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.  This stuff is royal wedding quality.

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Mr. Herbert Halpern is the owner and one of the sweetest!  He is the epitome of old school customer service.  Absolutely one of the best in the business.

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He sold me on a panel piece by Maggy London.  I see a new dress in my future!  Can’t you just see the border print in the flare at the hem on the dress in the link?

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After Promenade, I headed over to the Quilted Owl and found my summer quilt project!

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I LOVE this quilt and absolutely had to make it for my bed.  Can you believe this quilter doesn’t have one of her own quilts on her own bed?  It’s crazy but that madness is about to end.

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The ladies there were amazing as well and helped me find the exact same background fabrics and made great suggestions for scrappy block pieces.  The pattern is Love Worn.  Really y’all, this quilt just “spoke” to me and I just had to make it.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  I’ve never had a reproduction pattern or fabric do this to me but it will look amazing in my master bedroom.

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We got home on Thursday, May 31, and then flew to Kansas on Friday June 1st.  I had just enough time to do laundry and pack!  On Saturday morning while Keith caught up with his BFF from high school, I headed out to All About Quilts and found some gorgeous panels.  I love to make these up because they are so quick and easy.  I’ll donate the finishes to local fund raisers.

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Right when I walked in, they had some yummy fat quarters that called to me.  Seriously, you could hear them…”Psst, hey Becky, check us out!”  LOL  Can you say GORGEOUS?  They are from Charming from Planted Seeds Designs.  That dark is a very navy blue vs. black.  I did a little searching and found, Flutter, a pattern that was designed just for this fabric by the fabric designer herself!  MSQC has lots of this in stock so I’ll be getting my backing from them.

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So that’s it!  That’s my fabric vacation!  I had so much fun and hubs was such a sweetie to indulge me as I headed off to locations unknown in foreign cities.  That Google Maps lady is invaluable!

We stopped at another casino on our way home and I won back what I’d lost so I broke even.  That’s a total win in my book!

What’s in your queue for your summer projects?

Fall into a Quilt Along – Hedgehog

I need to start another block of the month like I need a hole in the head.  But… this little guy is SO cute!  It only took me about an hour to make the block.  I found this blog, Quilting with Vanda, when I read a post from another quilter that I follow who is doing it too.

The good thing about this particular BOM is that I don’t have to buy any fabric or patterns.  The pattern is sent to me via email and I will make the blocks from my existing fabric stash.  That’s a good thing right?

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I printed the pattern and then I scanned it into my Brother Scan-n-Cut and uploaded the pages to the Brother Scan-n-Cut Canvas in the cloud.  The reason for this is to remove all the extraneous marks like size indicator blocks and pattern piece identifiers.  If I don’t do this, the machine will want to cut them out.

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The canvas workspace is really easy to navigate and use.  It has a ton of features that I don’t use because I’m not a paper crafter.  In this image, all I have left to remove is the 1 inch square block.  Now, there’s a step here I’m not showing.  It’s hard to see but some of the pieces have open spaces in the shape. That’s to show that they go under something else.  I used the draw tool (the one with the pencil) to draw a line to finish off the shape.  If I didn’t do this, the cutter wouldn’t cut it out completely.

SNC Canvas

 

Then I downloaded the images back to the cutting machine and cut them out with the push of a button.  I LOVE that machine!  I didn’t get a photo of the mat with the fabric ready to cut (sorry), but here are the pieces after the cut outs.  I backed them before cutting with Heat-n-Bond Stretch.  See how cleanly they cut?  Did I tell you I love this machine?  I have the Scan n Cut 650Wireless version.

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I’m not a fan of blanket stitching applique on a domestic sewing machine so I used my mid-arm sit down to stitch down all the pieces using a straight (ha ha) line.  Now, it’s dang near impossible to get the stitching as neat and perfect as a domestic machine so I used a tactic I learned in my quilting class.  Use repetition to hide mistakes.  I stitched many times over a very uneven line to create a kind of child’s cartoon-y effect.  I’m going to do this for each block in the quilt and I think it will be adorable!

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Can’t wait for the next block!

 

Easy Furry Animal Tails

I got a text from my son last week that said, “Are you able and willing to make Callie another white tail with Velcro for her pj’s?  It broke about an inch below the Velcro and she is very sad. 🙂  ”   Callie is my 3.5 year old granddaughter.

What is he talking about?  OK, so I made something and it broke.  I asked him to send a photo and when I got it I laughed.

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I had totally forgotten about this.  I literally cut a piece of furry yarn I picked up at Wal-Mart and stitched it to Velcro.  Apparently she’s been wearing it to death and was sad when it broke.  Well!  We can’t have that can we?  Isn’t it amazing what kids love?  It’s like watching a child play with the wrapping paper vs. the gift.

I went digging around in my sweat shop and located the furry yarn.  Apparently I’d bought some brown too.

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This time instead of just cutting a piece of it, I actually did a crochet loop to create a tail that’s a bit fluffier.  And in the spirit of loving my son and DIL that much, I made two more for the boys to prevent a screaming match.  Aiden isn’t quite two, but he would realize that the other two have something he doesn’t so Grammy to the rescue.

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This time instead of Velcro, I doubled up the end to create a solid piece to stitch on and zigzagged it to a scrap of 80/20 Warm and Natural.  I sacrificed three of my quilting safety pins so they can attach the tails to garments.

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Now I just need to get these into the mail.  No, I’m not modeling them.  I’ll post an update when I get a photo back.  🙂   This is a perfect thing to put in a goody bag for a young one’s birthday party.  This fur comes in all kinds of colors and is really inexpensive.  You’d have a house full of long-tailed critters who can make great fun of it!

Quilter’s Planner Turned Diary

I bought a Quilter’s Planner late last year when that type of thing usually floats around the interwebs trying to get you organized for the new year. I think I saw a blog on this one and liked it because of the awesome way #LoriHolt organizes her scraps and she shows you how-to inside.  Have I done that yet?  Um, no.

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I’m usually not much for planners. I’m more of a spontaneous quilter that runs after shiny, pretty things than a planner. Actually writing things down that I plan to do over the next year usually ends up making me feel crappy about how much I actually didn’t get done after all.   I wrote these five projects down in January and haven’t touched a one of them.

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However this particular planner has a part for something like a daily log or diary and I thought I’d put it to use to truly capture any little thing I did that pertained to quilting or sewing. There are lots of quilters on FB that say they don’t have time to quilt or sew and I usually try to tell them to do just one little thing a day and then after a couple of weeks, the project is finished…provided a shiny object doesn’t intervene.   Taking my own advice, I decided to log what I had done that day.  I keep the planner on the end table in the living room so I can jot down a short note while watching TV with hubs.  I started on Jan 1st.

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I’m REALLY surprised at how much I actually do every day that pertains to my quilting or sewing when I don’t think I’ve gotten anything done!  I try to make a note for every day if I can, and if I can’t, I try to write why I couldn’t like a conference I attended March 8-11.  See March 13?  I watched quilt ruler videos on YouTube.  It’s not stitching, but it pertains to my learning so I captured the activity.

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I’m feeling much more accomplished than trying to keep up with a planned list.  Have you thought of doing this or do you do it?  How do you stay organized with your stitching time?

#Simplicity4092 Costume & Daughters of the American Revolution

I am a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution ( NSDAR or DAR for short) and to be a member of this organization, you must have a proven ancestor who fought in the American Revolution. My mother dug into genealogy (ha ha) when I was a child, and she was able to join the DAR and subsequently, put me into CAR (Children) where I remained a member until the age of 18 and then I dutifully joined DAR in 1982. There is an SAR (Sons) too if you were wondering. NSDAR has about 180,000 members and there are over 18,000 just in Texas. The NSDAR national headquarters encompasses an entire city block in Washington DC and is just around the corner from the White House. You’ve heard of Constitution Week? Well you can thank the DAR for petitioning Congress in 1955 for that and President Eisenhower signing it into law.

DAR is an amazing organization of which I’m very proud to be a part. We stand for historical preservation, conservation of historical sites, community service, education, and above all else American patriotism. My local chapter, the Susanna Dickinson Chapter, meets monthly in the East Central School Museum and they are an incredible group of ladies who do everything from sponsor the DAR Good Citizen Essay Contest at East Central High School ($100 award), to placing flags on veterans’ graves at Sayer Salem Cemetery, to doing field trips to local historical sites, and attending US Naturalization ceremonies when they are held in downtown San Antonio.

This past weekend was the 119th Texas State DAR State Conference held at the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio on the Riverwalk. Over 1,000 Texas Daughters descended on downtown in full splendor a to attend business meetings, present state awards ($1,000 to History Teacher of the Year – a Brit of all things! ha ha He found the humor as well), and honor distinguished military veterans. The conference began on Wednesday with the Boy Scouts of America doing a flag retirement ceremony in front of the Alamo.

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It was such a moving ceremony that at times I got teary. It was so wonderful to see young people lead hundreds of spectators in the Pledge of Allegiance and then one by one, talk about the history and meaning of our flag. The proper way to dispose of a flag is to burn it and bury the ashes, but with no burning allowed on Alamo grounds, they cut the flag into 4 sections, leaving the blue field of stars intact to show unity of states as a country and then reverently folded the 4 sections into a box to be burned later. I’ve never seen it done like this and it was very nicely and respectfully performed.

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They marched in and out as a complete color guard and it was simply wonderful to be there.

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At the conference, I was a committee of One and in charge of Meal Greeters for the entire week. I had the dubious honor of making sure that only those who paid for their meals got into breakfasts, brunches, lunches, teas, receptions, and formal dinners. I live about 30 miles from the hotel and made the trip back and forth every day from Wednesday through Sunday. Some days I had plenty of volunteers in place and others I was checking tags myself but I was there from dark until …dark. When a breakfast begins at 6:30am, I had to get up a 4:00am to get there in time. The only reason I did this was because my former chapter Regent was a co-chair of the conference organizing committee and I promised her my full support over a year ago when she agreed to the assignment. She stayed in the hotel but at over $150 a night, I decided to drive back and forth. If you have vertigo, skip the next image of inside the hotel from above. That’s the San Antonio Riverwalk just outside the glass windows below.

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We were honored to have Mrs. Gregg Abbott, the Texas Governor’s wife, join us for our Educational Awards luncheon. That little doll on the head table is wearing a replica of the gown she wore at her husband’s inauguration. Texas State DAR is sponsoring a historical display of all Texas First Lady’s gowns at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and there were 48 hand made miniature gowns on display at the conference that were made by Texas Daughters. A raffle was held to help fund the display. You know I really wanted to win all those doll dresses. Sorry, no photo but here’s Mrs. Abbott.

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One of the Fiesta events my chapter attends every year is the Pilgrimage to the Alamo. Fiesta San Antonio is a huge 10-day long celebration that is the largest party in the country. It was second only to Mardi Gras in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina. Fiesta occurs every April and it is the celebration of Texas’ independence from Mexico. There are parades of all kinds, night parties, historical displays, and a gazillion other events during the celebration. They even shut down local schools for the Battle of Flowers parade. The Pilgrimage is a very somber event held during the daytime where hundreds of people gather in their respective groups – everything from the Scouts, to the Junior League, to the 4H…you name it – and we walk in silence about a mile through the streets of downtown San Antonio to lay wreaths at the Alamo. As we walk into Alamo Plaza, the names of the patriots who died there during the Battle of the Alamo (1836) are read over a loud speaker and there are thousands of spectators all over the plaza. In attendance, there’s usually a Texas Congressman and/or Senator, general officers and colonels from the local military installations, and a full herd of ladies in yellow dresses and hats from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (descendants of Texas patriots). We, the DAR, are frequently confused with them, the DRT. They have the Alamo; we have the Constitution. 😉 So there!

During this Fiesta event, members of my group attend in full colonial costume. Have you ever been horrified to discover that you have turned into the parent who embarrassed you beyond belief as a teen? It happened to me this weekend. Enter Simplicity 4092.

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During certain DAR events throughout my life, my mother would go in costume. I was mortified by this and tried to stay as far from her as possible to disavow any relation to that whack job across the room. She loved every minute of it – from the sewing to the display and she usually wore something she pattern drafted herself that was more of a dress that would be worn at home. Not me. If I’m doing this, it will be as a lady of means by golly. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned to enjoy the freedom that being a bit older gives you. And by freedom, I mean I couldn’t care less what other people think. It’s so liberating! And it’s so FUN! Today I thank my mom for paving the way.

I decided to test out my new dress at the Education Awards luncheon at State Conference on Saturday. This gown took me about 3 months to sew. The pattern must have over a million pieces and the final product weighs about 20 pounds. The overskirt is a brocade I found stuffed on a roll in a back rack at Hancock’s about 3 years ago and the underskirt is a tone-on-tone drapery fabric. I couldn’t find the right shade of lace so I ordered white and tea dyed it. The fit of the bodice was a real challenge and while it fits, it’s not the most comfortable in the armseye. I imagine it would fit better with a corset, but I’m a seamstress, not a masochist. I stuffed the panniers with scraps of quilt batting. The pictures don’t do the dress justice. The green shimmers in the light along with the gold stripe and it’s really beautiful.

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No showing of teeth when you smile. Ladies didn’t do that back then.

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Moving around in that hoop was a true challenge. Sitting in one is its own form of misery. I have respect for my ancestors who suffered through fashion.

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Y’all, this was an absolute BLAST! So many ladies wanted to know about the dress and I received a ton of compliments. One even asked me to make her one for $250…um’ no. I was the only one in costume during the Education Awards luncheon so I was besieged with Daughters who wanted selfies. It was a relief, because these women are sticklers for historical accuracy. Non-convention goers wanted to know why I was dressed like that and I was able to share information about DAR.

Here are the ladies from my chapter before the luncheon began. The only downside to these dresses is that by the time you add the hoop and panniers, you’re as broad as a Chevy Suburban. 😀 It was a fabulous time and I can’t wait to wear it again next month for Fiesta!

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If you are interested in learning more about DAR, please visit their website linked above or if you are local, message me. I’m the Chapter Registrar and help perspectives complete their applications. You need your first three generations of birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses. DAR can help from there. If you are interested in SAR, I can point you in the right direction too.