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a bag of encouragement

Hello all, Mary Ellen here.

Let me first just pass on some “modern” quilt info before I get to my real topic. There’s been quite a bit written here lately about modern quilting and “QuiltCon” was mentioned. At Craftsy you can watch all the lectures for free. Haven’t done it yet, but am going to make it a priority so perhaps I can figure out what all of the hubbub is about.  Enough of that commercial…

I recently gave a demo at a local shop on making quilted gifts of comfort . One of the gifts I spoke about I called a “bag of encouragement.” We all have situations where a loved one or friend needs some encouragement. It could be due to illness, an accident, some other life event or maybe “just because”. I think many of us would like to give gifts which are a bit more personal than something bought at the store, but because we all lead busy lives we don’t always have the time to make complicated gifts. Here are some suggestions for a relatively quick one. Kind of the Sandra Lee, Semi-Homemade sort of gift. Some of these items I make ahead from scraps and keep in a gift drawer in the spare bedroom, then I’m halfway home when I need to put together a “somewhat handmade” gift. First–the bag. I keep an eye out for plain canvas tote bags in a variety of sizes at local craft big box stores. Check the embroidery departments and the kids’ craft aisles. (Good way to use those coupons that just can not be wasted) I usually buy the cream-colored ones–and just sew bands of fabric around the top opening. This fabric can be girly, “kid” ish, or manly depending on the intended recipient. Of course if you have the time and an easy pattern, you could make a simple bag. I prefer cloth bags over paper gift bags for this purpose. In my demo I imagined that the bag was going to a female friend after illness. So in the bag I included some chocolates, of course! I took a few fancy drugstore purchased chocolates out of the bag they came in, (sampled one for quality control), and put a few in a clear cellophane bag with a nice ribbon at the top. You can get the cello bags at Candymakers over on Genesee St., most craft stores, and some grocery stores. I bought a nice mug and made a small mug rug to go with it. This is a great way to use up small quilted bits trimmed off  other projects or your orphan or practice blocks. Just square them up and add a binding. That’s another thing you can do ahead. Use your leftover binding bits, or deliberately make a bit of extra to use on the quilt trimmings. Tea bags of course had to be included-nothing is a comforting as a nice hot cup of tea! To make those tea bags a bit more special (just plain old tea bags from the grocery store) I used the address label template on my computer. Instead of address information, I entered some encouraging quotations. I printed them out on regular paper and cut them into rectangles. Samples here: tea bag labels  and “how to” here: tea bag personalizing. I fold them and glue the paper label already on the tea bag inside the fold. Bam! Stepped those bags up a notch. Next I put together a collection of encouraging quotations. My quote samples (jar of encouragement) were originally gathered for my niece when she was going through a tough time while away at college.  These were printed out on heavier paper, cut into rectangles and curled like you would curl ribbon. I bought a small candy jar at the dollar store, put the quotes inside, and then added a ribbon and label to the jar lid. Voila! My favorite source for quotes is Quote Garden. They are sorted nicely so you can find quotes for nearly any occasion without too much trouble.Finally I included a small bag of lavender. Organdy drawstring bags can be found in the bridal aisle of the craft stores (coupon again!) and lavender can be found in many health food stores. ( I purchase lavender and other potpourri supplies at There is a minimum order amount.) You do not need the #1 grade edible lavender (actually it’s not as fragrant), #2 grade is generally not as pretty but smells much nicer. There are scientific studies of the power of lavender fragrance to relax, reduce anxiety and promote most restful sleep. All good things. Put them all in your bag, add some shredded paper if you think it’s not quite full enough, put on a homemade gift tag and you’re ready to make a visit of encouragement (bag of encouragement details).

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