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Sewing Tips: Basic Stitches (plus the Double Needle)

 

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Sometimes all it takes is a visual picture to understand what some of these sewing terms and words are.
Basting, stitch length, zig-zag, double needle…….do those words sound like crazy talk?
Yes?  Well, let me explain.  And then you won’t get nervous when seeing those words in the future.
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First of all, a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch are very common stitches on sewing machines.  If you have a very basic machine (or sometimes an older ones), you may not have a zig-zag stitch.  Or you may have a fancier machine with tons of other options and stitches.  Those are exciting too.
But these two stitches are controlled by the stitch width and stitch length.  You should have some sort of knobs or buttons on your sewing machine to control these 2 functions.
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If you are using the straight stitch and adjust the stitch length, you will produce different looking stitches.  The largest stitch length (shown on the left) is also called a basting stitch and can help you with temporarily holding fabrics in place or to use to gather fabric (gathering tutorial here). If you adjust the stitch width of the zig-zag stitch, you’ll get wider zig-zags…….and if you increase the length, you will increase the distance between each zig-zag.
Play around with some scrap fabric and adjust your settings.  See what you can come up with.
Now, have you ever needed to sew two stitches right next to each other……and hate how your stitches aren’t perfectly straight??  Oh, you’re not sure you would ever need 2 stitches in a row?  Well, if you look down at your clothing, you may see 2 stitches right next to each other.  (Yes, the stitches below are done with a serger……but you can mimic the look with a double needle.)
Or maybe you are quilting, making a bag, or sewing some hot pads…..and would like 2 straight stitches next to each other.  Well here’s how to do it.  Easy, easy.
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Now, let me explain something. I have had a double needle for a couple of years and rarely pull it out.  You need (or so I thought) 2 mini spools of thread to fit on the top of your sewing machine, to thread into the 2 needles…..and I rarely have 2 of the same color……..especially in the color I need.  And I always grumble while sewing 2 seams next to each other, wishing I was using my double needle.  The other day, someone commented about using a double needle for something and I laughed it off, knowing I didn’t have enough spools in the correct color.  And then I realized I could just load up a bobbin and use it as a spool of thread.  Oh, that seemed obvious? Oops, it took me a while.  Dang.
So after 2 years of loving my double needle but rarely being prepared……..my double needle and I are now great friends.  I love those 2 straight lines.
To begin, you need to purchase a double needle for a few dollars.  There are different sizes, and that just means the distance between the 2 needles.  I use a 4.0 size needle.  Works great for me.  (Make sure that whatever size you get isn’t too wide for the opening in your plate.  You can’t go any wider than your max zig-zag stitch.)
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See how the top post of the needle is just like your regular needle?  Take out your single needle and slide in the double needle.  Secure it in place. You don’t need a special machine to use the double needle.
Then, purchase 2 mini spools of thread or 1 spool and load up a bobbin.  Put both spools where you would place your single spool of thread.
(UPDATE: Some of you have had troubles loading the two colors on one pole because of twisting and tangling.  If that’s the case, try separating the two spools more and take a look at this updated tutorial.)
Now, grab your two thread ends and begin winding them through your machine, as if it were one thread.
Then at the end, separate your threads……..
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……..and thread each end through a needle.
Then begin stitching with your straight stitch, just like normal.  You can adjust the stitch length (just like explained above), to help with your different projects.  You can also backstitch, just like normal.
When done, you have a perfectly straight set of lines.
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Aren’t they lovely?
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And from the back……it creates sort of a zig-zag.
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And because of that zig-zag in the back, it helps while sewing with knits.  I tend to increase my stitch length just a bit, just so it doesn’t pull so much and can skip over more of the knit fabric in one stitch.  Looks great as the hem of those knit projects.
And again, from the back.
And just so you can see, the double needle stitch allows for a bit of stretch.
(Animated image tutorial here.)
Isn’t that double needle fantastic?
I will be using my double needle more often……now that I realized that there is a solution to my lack of thread spools in the same color.  Yay.
Now hurry to the store and pick one up.
UPDATE: And again, here’s another updated tutorial with a few more helps.
Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
stitches
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Comments

  1. Cat says:

    NO FLIPPING WAY! I was clueless… thank you SO much. The pictures really make it simple to understand too!

  2. Pingback: Teaching Kids To Sew, Part 5: Stitch types, sewing on curves, and seam allowances | Make It and Love It
  3. fashion(ha ha).☺ says:

    I was trying to get together a couple of hobby’s,and fashion/came up loud and clear so I used my tablet to search for how to sew guide’s and clicked on your website and I have to say i was really happy to find a website that helped me.

    PS
    So thanks a lot.☺☺

    ???thank you.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great helpful hints ..thxs

  5. Celine says:

    Threads are really cheap in China…A spool of thread usually costs less than a dollar. Some spools come in rather large sizes (and natually heavy, you can put them on the table/ cabinet/ floor, etc.) and I just put the ‘other’ spool of thread behind my machine. Since it doesn’t move about when I use the machine, most of the time everything goes smoothly:)

  6. Ali says:

    Shut up!,,,,,I never knew how they did that knit stitch. I thought it was a serger or something I didn’t have. YOU ROCK,,,,,

  7. Teresa Cunningham says:

    Thank you, thank you! I bought a double needle a couple of years ago, & didn’t know how to thread it. Didn’t know if it used a shared bobbin or what! Why don’t the manuals for the machine tell you this stuff? My life will be changed after today.

  8. Joan says:

    I’m new to the double needle, problem is that the right needle isn’t picking up the bobbin thread. I’ve slowed down, cleaned bobbin casing, re threaded, etc. manual says to put one thread behind needle bar thread guide and one outside. They still tangle up and the thread that is suppose to be out ends up in guide tangled. H E L P! I can’t find any solutions.

    1. Ana says:

      Most machines had option for 2 separate needles to be put in. So you can put the double needle in the left or right spot. Try that and see how it works.

  9. Kassandra says:

    OMG! I love this site! Everything I need to know right here! I am trying this ASAP.

  10. laura says:

    Grazie per aver condiviso questo. io non conoscevo l’uso del doppio ago: ora si! Grazie a te. Ho accorciato una gonna di maglina con la doppia cucitura ed è venuta benissimo.
    I love your blog.Ciao da Bologna (Italy)
    Laura

  11. Gweny says:

    Hi there.. I was wondering if there would be enough stretch in the double needle stitch for a bathing suit?

  12. Christine says:

    Thank you! I wish I had ventured to try this sooner. Never imagined it was so fuss free, I wish I could recall all of those hemmed garments with the not-quite parallel lines I have been responsible for! Never again.

  13. Rebeca says:

    Thank you for your simple to follow insight to sewing with a twin needle.
    Q: If I wanted to zig-zag what kind of plate should I buy?

  14. Double needle fan says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! Now loving the double needle… Makes my sewing projects more fun and give a really professional finish. Hems, stretch fabrics, casings for elastic.. Endless! DN you are my new best friend

  15. Michael Chylinski says:

    You say the hems with the double rows of stitching at the bottom, like on a tshirt, are created with a serger. I’m pretty sure you mean a cover lock machine or a serger that will do a cover lock stitch, not all sergers do a cover lock stitch, and I have heard the ones that will take some finagling to get it converted to cover lock.

    There is a straight stitch that has much more stretch, on my machine it’s little icon looks like 3 stitch lines. The stitch you show will snap the threads if you stretch it too much. Another tip is that there are decorative stitches that can be use for hemming, I think all have lots of stretch and a double needle is not required, but some can be done with the double needle.

  16. Nica says:

    There are SO many comments, so excuse me if somebody asked this already! I have an antique Singer 99K and I am a novice sewer (self teaching myself thru all the wonderful people like you that are willing to take the time to share your knowledge). Do you know if a double needle like this will even work with my old machine (which is only a straight stitch machine)? Thank You

    1. Michael Chylinski says:

      It is very important to note some machines you need to change the stitch plate to accommodate the double needle, some only have a small round hole that the needle goes in and out of, and if yours is like that you need to change it out for the one with wider hole. The hole sizes are like that so fabric can’t be pushed in to the hole and get caught up in the works. Other than that, any sewing machine should be able to use a double needle. Where to put the second spool of thread can be an issue, if you machine doesn’t have a holder for a second spool, most sewing machine stores have solutions for that.

  17. Katie says:

    Thank you for this guide! I hope I can get a double needle to help me hem knits!

  18. Sarah says:

    Great tutorial! I need one of those needles sooo bad now! Thanks for the inspiration. I Love your blog!!

  19. Christa says:

    Wonderful article, and I love the last picture-great touch!

  20. Caroline says:

    Amazingly helpful, after I have sewed for 15+ years..now I know how to do it! Thank you!!

  21. manoj says:

    plz sand me your price list of all swing machine on wil.manojsharma@gmail.com

  22. Donna Quarry says:

    I just discovered that using a double needle can also hide a hem line. I had smocked my daughter a special dress about 25 yrs. ago. At that time, dresses were hemed just below the knees. Now, they come nearly to the floor. In the mean time, I now have a 2 year old granddaughter. I wanted her to wear the dress, but discovered that after washing 3-4 times, the hem line could still be seen. I sewed bias tape on the bottom of the dress to lengthen it. Using the double needle, I sewed over the hemline which looks like a tuck which I love. I came down another 1/2 inch below that tuck and made another, and then one more. I hemed the dress, and seeing my little granddaughter wearing her mother’s dress 25 years later was such a joy. Loved the double needle.

  23. Jennifer Galler says:

    Thank you so much for the clear instructions and explanations!! I have been trying to figure out how to do this stitch, I had seen someone mention using a double needle but they explained it very badly, I thought I would need to buy a serger to hem my stretch fabrics, now I will try this and save myself £200, yippee!!

  24. Anonymous says:

    thankso lot. that is very useful

  25. Maria V. says:

    I’ve had a double needle for years and had no idea how to use it. I SO gotta try this! Thank you!

  26. Sheree Bartholomew says:

    OMG!! I have been sewing since I was 10 (over 20 years) and I have owned several difference sewing machines and didnt know that double needles existed (thought you needed a special machine). Thank you sooooo much, I will not only go out and hopefully get a double needle, but will also convert my youngest tights into leggings too.

  27. elizabeth says:

    great thanks alot
    i will now use mine as my machine does candlewicking which i believe uses a twin needle

  28. Brenda.Bush says:

    I have two spindles on my machine so I can put spools and/or spool & bobbin on separate ones….however, I came across another tutorial the other day similar to yours and they said when you have to put them both on the same spindle to put one going under and the other going over and this will eliminate the chance of the thread getting tangled…just wanted to share.

  29. Kathy says:

    So many things just fell into place for me while reading this post! I recently got an older machine, with two spool holders. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I needed two. Now I know. Not only that, but I’ve found out my old machine is capable of using a double needle! Thank you~

  30. Melanie says:

    Thank you Thank you Thank you!!! I had no idea…..I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the wonderful pictures they are so helpful!

  31. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this. Braved knits on my regular machine and it was so easy. I do need some more bobbins if I’m going to do more of this! I made three pairs of leggings last night. Thanks again.

  32. Chantel says:

    This is amazing! I never knew there was such a thing as a double needle! I read through the post, went to my sewing machine, opened up the compartment and saw that it had a double needle in there along with another spool holder thing, I’m so excited to try this needle out!

  33. Jenn says:

    Oh my gosh…I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you posted this!!! I bought several double needles a few months ago and intended to use them to hem some of my daughter’s too-short leggings, with the intention of turning them into capris or little shorts to go under a skirt.

    Well, when I looked online for tutorials for threading a double needle, the stuff I found was ridiculously complicated. Several places said that you needed to have an extra post on your machine (I was planning on using my bobbin winder as my “extra post” (I was that desperate), but then the tutorials said that the spools had to be wound facing in two different directions, and that the second spool needed to be threaded through the machine backwards or something, and I got completely lost and ended up giving up on the idea entirely.

    Well, here I am, and now I’ve seen how simple it can be!! I didn’t realize I could just put both spools on the same post and thread them through the machine the same way, only splitting them at the bottom!! How incredibly SIMPLE!!

    It’s after 11:00 p.m. here, and I’m lying in bed as I type this…and I’m seriously debating getting back out of bed, rummaging through my sewing supplies to find my double needles, and giving this a try right this second. Of course, then I’d want to sew everything I’d been planning to do over the past six months with my double needles, and I would be up all night!! LOL

    Anyway, thank you, THANK YOU!! Your site is absolutely awesome. I’ve seen other people do tutorials for similar projects or techniques, and yours make so much more sense! Thanks for taking the time to really make these understandable for the average, somewhat craftily challenged gal!

    I’m going to try the shirring technique you talked about earlier, too! I bought the elastic thread several months ago…but again, I couldn’t find a tutorial that made very much sense as to how to use it. I’ve bookmarked your tutorial and I’m going to start shirring something tomorrow! I don’t know what, but I’m shirring SOMETHING, darn it!! :-) YIPPEE!!!

    Thank you!!! You rock!

    Smiles, Jenn

  34. Brianna says:

    This could change my world! Thank you!

  35. Leanna says:

    I learned how to sew by using your blog–I’ve been following your blog for years, yet I somehow glanced over this tutorial because I was so set in the mindset that my machine couldn’t do a double needle, but you keep on mentioning it in so many of your posts. So I finally came back to this and read it in full…now I feel so silly! I could have been using one all this time! Doh! And now I’m all giddy inside thinking of all the possibilities and itching to make some professional looking leggings for my two little girls out of some of my old knit tops. You are such an inspiration to me! Thanks!

  36. RC says:

    I need to repair a tshirt hem and did a halfbaked job on it because I didn’t have two spools of the same color. DUH. BOBBIN. I can’t wait to get home and rip out what I did and start over. This is gonna be great!

  37. francheska kyle cagula says:

    Its not working ahahhahahahahahahahhahahahaha…..

  38. Esse Hominem says:

    Nice tip.
    I have always wondered how to use a double needle on my Pfaff 332, now I know…
    Esse

  39. Stacey says:

    I just realized I have a double needle!! I didn’t know how to use it but now I do! Thanks for your tutorial!! And I love the zig zag it makes on the back. Makes me feel almost like I have a serger! Ha!

  40. Melanie Fleming says:

    Oh my gosh, I’m so stoked, I couldn’t figure out how to use a double needle. Thank you soooo much! Now I have to go get one….like yesterday :).

  41. Loribelle says:

    Thank you for publishing the information on the double needle technique. I have been trying to picture this in my head and was coming up blank. Your explanation and pictures helped me a lot.

  42. SJ says:

    Hi Ashley,
    Thank you so much for this tutorial. Will I need a ball point twin needle for knits? I bought the same one pictured, but my thread is breaking. Help!
    Thanks,

  43. ste says:

    Thank you so much for having a straight forward and easy to understand description of how to use a double needle! I’m usually afraid to try things from tutorials but I’m absolutely not at all with this!

  44. Phoebe says:

    This is such a great idea! I’m so glad you did this. I was trying to find all these excuses of why I need a new machine, but if I could use this then maybe I don’t need one (yet!) But this is awesome

  45. texmex says:

    Thanks for your tuto, it helped me today, as I used a double needle for the first time.

  46. Ann says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to do a double stay stitch for knit fabrics like what I see on my own knit tops. I notice the double stay stitch on my knit tops is different than your double stitch. The hem on my knit top is only turned up once with the raw edge showing, then the stitch secures the edge well. I want that stitch and was wondering if there’s a sowing machine, not a serger, that can do that stitch? I don’t believe the stitch you show here would secure the edge with it being turned up once, but I will try it. Thank you for showing us this stitch and how it’s done. Great Video! Applaud!

  47. Marion says:

    I didn’t even know they existed! I had no idea…thank you so much.

  48. Toni says:

    Thanks for all the advice. I have just finished my first clothing piece for my 5 month old son. A pair of fleece pants finished with a double needle! I would never have attempted to use one without your advice and pictures. They are about 4 sized too big, but they look neat and almost professionally made.

  49. darlene says:

    i cannot believe i have not ever used a double needle; i’ve been sewing for neigh untoo 40 years … i’ve had them for years but …… i didn’t have the *fresh courage take* that it needed …. i was aksed to hem a pair of stretch pants for my friend’s daughter …. did a ton of research online (this was not one of the blogs) and tried stay tape, serging on a clear elastic, fused steam-a-seam2 on the back side of the pants … nothing really looked good: the stitches *tunneled* and i hated the look … so, read a bit more and moved the tension on my bernina to about 3.9, lengthened the stitch to almost 5.75 and just did it ….

    OH, MAN …. these guys are my new bffs … love the double needle … i used a stretch twin by schmetz b/c when sewing knits, stretch works great …

    great tut — too late for me, but i’m pinning b/c it’s sooo good!

    darlene

  50. Helen says:

    What type of sewing machine do you have?

  51. cintia says:

    Love the double needle!!! I have always skipped the stretchy fabric because I don’t have a serger, I am glad I found your post, I can’t wait to try it, Thank you.

  52. Autumn says:

    I am soooo going to try the double needle technique! Like so many of us, I also thought I needed a special machine to do this.

    A little nervous reading all the posters here who ran into problems. Hoping that may turn out like my second hand serger, which I was too scared to use for a year because I read so many getting-to-grips-with-my-serger horror stories. Worked wonderfully after about an hour figuring out how to thread it and set the tension. It didn’t even need to much swearing!

    Fingers crossed twin needle is the same!

  53. Aylah says:

    Fantastic! I just bought a double needle and wasn’t sure how to thread the machine to use it. This is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  54. Frédélimaliya says:

    Wow!!!! thank you very much!!! I pinterest you :)

  55. Hilary says:

    Oh my goodness.. I’m SO glad you posted about the double needed. I’ve been sewing for over 10 years and could never figure it out. Now it seems so simple! Thanks again for taking the time to share!

  56. Kathy says:

    You are a genius! I’ve had a double needle tucked away, and was too afraid to give it a whirl, now I am terribly excited to use it! Thanks for taking the fear out of it!

  57. Colleen says:

    Are you kidding me?! I’ve sewn two straight lines separately for so long – or a straight line and a zig-zag, or another serger-like stitch – trying to get a perfect effect, wondering if I should buy a serger to finish knits perfectly… I was completely avoiding the double needle which came with my (cheapo) machine. Figured it was not something I was ever going to master. Why, oh why?! Thanks so much for pressing on and trying something I was afraid to try. Great!

    (found your tutorial referenced on I Still Love You)

  58. Kelly says:

    Thank you! Thank you! I was actually looking for a new machine that did just this. So excited that I already own one!!! You just saved me some serious money!!!

  59. shelley says:

    I have the same question as Allison…#98. I have had nothing but problems with my double needle. One side ALWAYS skips stitches and then everything ends up all tangled. I worked on a hem last night and had to rip it out 5 times before I just switched back to a single needle. Is it a bobbin issue? What can I do to insure that the bobbin catches both stitches every time? Any suggestions you could give would be WONDERFUL!!! And thanks again for sharing your sewing world with us, I just love reading your blog!!

    1. Monica says:

      Let me just say I haven’t yet tried the double needle, but am going to get one soon, but if it’s anything like when a single needle has this problem it may be the plate of the platform may be catching a thread(s) before it enters the bobbin case, or perhaps your needle(s) have a burr on it and you may need to replace it. I just took a sewing machine maintenance class (I’m no expert by any means), and the man who taught the class constantly told us that the first thing we check when we have a problem is the needle. If that doesn’t work then I would take it to a repair shop or wherever you bought it from to help you figure out why it doesn’t work. I hope this helps.

  60. Yara says:

    Well I’m sure glad I poked around your blog today. After years of sewing, it had never occurred to me that I could use an extra bobbin for double needle sewing! Doh!

  61. Carol says:

    Thank-you!!!! This is so helpful. I have a double needle but never have used it. This post was great and yes I will give it a try.

  62. Trimble says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! Have you ever had an issue with the left needle of a double needle dropping stitches while the right needle works just fine? If so, were you able to solve the problem?

    1. Laura says:

      For me it’s the right needle dropping stitches, I came back to this page to see if there was a solution!

  63. Shandi says:

    So…I went and picked up a double needle and I had troubles with the thread shreading/fraying inside my machine until it would break…I was just wondering if you had this problem at all!? And if you had any tips for me!?

  64. Vicki says:

    I’ve always wondered how to use a double needle! Thank you for sharing your mahvelous tip!!!

  65. Sara says:

    Your blog is absolutelly fantastic! Thank you for great tutorials!

  66. Chrissy craft says:

    Well the lightbulb went off for me with the twin needle a couple of months ago while making receiving blankets.

    I enjoyed the tutorial and once again ‘ Duh’……..figured out the bobbin as the second spool a very long time ago but
    just never thought to put it with the other spool,

    Thank you so much …here I am 66 yrs old and have sewn all my life…learn something everyday…:o)

  67. Kelli says:

    I really want a double needle now. I didn’t know something like this existed. Thank you for the awesome tutorial!

  68. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much! I couldn’t remember how to thread the two spools of thread. Your explanation was clear and I finished my project!

  69. Grandma Margaret says:

    I’m 60 years old and have been sewing “forever,” and never knew this! Your double-needle tutorial is AWESOME! Thanks!

  70. Josselyn's Tutus says:

    I tried the double needle last night, and within my first stitch, it broke!!! Piece flew everywhere ugh. Do you know what I could have possible done wrong for this to happen? Going to go get another one today, so hopefully this time it will work!

  71. Marlene says:

    Twin Needles are fun with two different threads. You can also do some decorative stitches with the Twin needle. Like two rows of Zigzag, small florals. Install the needle select the pattern. Rotate the flywheel towards you and listen to make sure you aren’t hitting the needle. No clicking? Then you are set to do it. Thread Up!
    Triple Needle also is available. Can do less patterns with it. Mostly Straight Stitch and small ZigZag.

  72. Cher says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tip, was in the same boat as you in regards to threads…will most definitely be getting out the double needle & giving it a go now :)

  73. Chere says:

    Amazing! Bought a double needle this morning – so excited to get started on little leggings! Thank you!

  74. Rachael says:

    THANK YOU, i just finished a project using your tutorial and it gave me the confidence to use the double needle and the project was a huge success, THANK YOU

  75. Condo Blues says:

    I’m also in the bought a double needle it sits in the drawer club. After your tute,I’m going to find an excuse to use it!

  76. Marie says:

    Oh my gosh, thank you for this!! I could never figure it out where to put the second spool of thread, so I never bothered to even try. This is incredibly helpful, and now I want to try it out!

  77. Allison says:

    I have issues with my double needle, it came with my machine so I know it’s the right size. It always skips stitches and gets all tangled no matter what I do to try and get it to work right. It’s worked for me once and it only worked for a minute and then went back to its tangling and skipping. I’m at a loss on what to do to get it to work.

  78. Candace Rasmussen says:

    This is SO awesome!! Thank you so much! I have always wanted to know how to do this and I didn’t even know I could with my machine! This is fantastic! Can’t wait to try it!

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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