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List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Posted by hoosierquilt (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 12:21

Okay, going out shopping today, to pick up some basic tools and supplies for my mosaic class coming up. I used to do some stained glass "back in the day", so I do have some experience, but never with mosaics. I really want to try to make one trip for the majority of my tools & supplies if possible (probably not realistic, but worth a try). I have a list from the instructor, but beyond pestering her with specifics (this would be my 4th email to her, I don't want her to think I'm an idiot or a stalker at this point), I am hoping this great forum can give me a little more specific guidance. Here's the list, and if you could add anything else that I might need to get started, and add some further explanation for some things (like size of containers, etc.), that sure would be helplful. I still have no idea if there is a stained glass/mosaic supply store here in my area (N. San Diego county, Calif.), so going to Lowe's/Home Depot to start with:

1. Glass nippers (I may still have my old stained glass nippers somewhere in the garage)
2. Glass cutter (who knows where that went)
3. Glass cutting oil
4. Putty knife (what kind, size, brand???)
5. Gloves (I assume just dishwashing gloves? Latex gloves? Something easy to work in)
6. Safety glasses
7. Container for grout (how big, plastic wash bucket okay, better to get a round one, a rectangular one??)
8. Bucket for water (5 gal okay or too big?)
9. Lintless cloths (what cloth is "lintless"??)
10. Grout sponge (size, are they actually special sponges sold as "grout sponges"??)
11. "Adhesives" (seriously?? There are about a gazillion types of adhesives. This project will have water in it, should I buy a specific type of adhesive for a bird bath project? Are there 2 or 3 different types of adhesives that I should have on hand? Clear silicone adhesive, some other type??)

I think the glass tiles or glass will be provided, so don't need that, nor will I need to buy grout (I hope, as I have NO idea where to buy grout, color, kind, etc.) Anything else I need to get started? Maybe a large tool carrier to put everything in? Trying to get this stuff collected prior to class. We're going to make a bird bath from a 14" terra cotta saucer. Great first project. Then onto what I really want to make, which is a mosaic cover for our fire pit. Thank you everyone, I appreciate any help!! Such a great forum and so nice to have this for beginners :-)

Patty S.

This post was edited by hoosierquilt on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 12:38


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Putty knife-If that is for spreading grout or something, I simply use a small icing spatula-metal, about a buck at the dollar store. I actually got a handful and gave them as gifts to fellow artists who loved them.
I think a 5 gal bucket is a bit large-2 gal is what I keep.
grout container-butter bowl, yogurt container, sour cream container, something on that order. you will most likely toss it and you dont need a lot. I always mix too much
Adhesive-defintely silicone, maybe some thinset mortar. I prefer silicone, but everyone has a preference. thinset is heavy but good for outdoors as is silicone.
Yes there are grout sponges-they are synthetic, smaller pored and dont hold as much water as a normal sponge. I personally dont use a sponge at all.
Lintless cloths-not fuzzy towels. shop rags, etc without fuzziness to get caught on glass edges.
Yes a big carrier is handy.
additional-tile nippers. If you are cutting china, porcelain or vitreous, tile nippers are stronger than wheeled nippers 15 bucks or so for a nice pair of compound ones.
also-If you are doing a bird bath on terracotta I strongly suggest sealing it inside and out before you mosaic with a tile sealer. The terracotta is porous and absorbs moisture which can degrade your mosaic from behind, especially if left outside, and I advise bringing it inside in winter as freezing can damage the terracotta even if sealed.
Cutting oil. there are varying opinions on this, but for the most part, I only occasionally swipe my cutting blade with some. it dirties the glass, can interfere with adhesives, and according to some experts, most glass cutter blades unless they are carbon steel dont need it. I use a fancy cutter for some things, but for a lot of straight cuts or scoring china or tile I use the ol 3 dollar red cutter and it works great. And that one I oil occasionally.
Oh-gloves. I use latex surgical type gloves. those darn dishwashing gloves are tougher but unweildy.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Thank you SO much, Wacky! I did pick up a flexible putty knife. Got two buckets, one is 1 gal (like the size of a gallon of ice cream) and another 2 gal one for just water. I have everything else - regular nippers (should have probably gotten the compound ones, but we'll see how much tile I end up using over time, and pick one up if I do). Have a carbide blade two wheeled cutter, so I'll skip the cutting oil. I used to use that with stained glass work, but see that I don't need it with mosaics and the cutters I have. I had a pair of grozers, just have to try to dig them up. I will get some car towels (that are not terry), good idea, I see what you mean. Will seal the terra cotta saucer, any suggestions on a product to use? I live in S. Calif. pretty close to the beach, so no freezing temps for me, fortunately. Will get a box of latex gloves (I'm a nurse, so I can always get a box).

Perfect, thank you SO much! I will post a photo of my bird bath when I'm done, and hopefully, my fire pit cover (the REAL project) when that's done. So excited to start doing mosaic work!

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Im a nurse too! guess thats why I choose those gloves, LOL. I usually double glove, because they will rip. Some ppl dont wear gloves at all, but being a nurse, I cant afford to have my hands stained like that. I use groziers quite a bit too,

It all depends on what you are working with- I use a variety of tools at different times, and also according to what the old arthritis dictates. If working with china or ceramic another inexpensive tool I love is called a tile plier. one side scores, the other side breaks, like glass breaking pliers but for heavy tile.
Sealer-some people use a masonry sealer, some use a coat of watered down weld bond glue, I prefer Kilz brand primer. I use it on nearly everything I mosaic on except glass. It drys to a kind of rough finish with good tooth to adhere to. Its especially awesome on wood. clean white background to work on that seals the wood.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tile pliers


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Hah! Looks like nurses are a creative bunch :-) I'll look from Kilz primer. Maybe Michael's or Hobby Lobby. That sounds like it would be perfect to use, especially for my fire pit cover, which I plan to use plywood for. I will definitely want to seal that so it doesn't warp. Appreciate all the help. I feel like I'm the typical beginner with a zillion questions. Trying to search the forum so I don't have to ask those types of questions that have already been answered (probably a lot). So, whacky, is this the Kilz primer/sealer you use?

Patty S.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kilz Premium Primer & Sealer

This post was edited by hoosierquilt on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 15:36


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Mine doesnt say premium, but maybe theyve changed the can since I bought some. Lasts forever.

On the wood outside. Dont do it. No matter how well sealed or how high grade the wood, because it is a natural material, it will swell and shrink from the weather, and that movement will crack your grout and pop your pieces off eventually. You may get a couple of years you may not. Concrete backer board or a product called WEDI board are better durable choices. you coat these materials with a skim coat of thinset and mosaic onto that. It will last 100 years and be lighter. I build my own substrate all the time from styrofoam covered in concrete or thinset. You can make any shape you wish, and make a very large piece that you can actually handle.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Thanks, Wacky. WEDI or backer board it will be. Glad I mentioned it!! Lighter is always better. I'm trying to argue with my hubby about a handle/no handle. I do NOT want a handle. I think that would look dumb. And, I want it to sit on top of the fire pit (which is a half circle, I'll post a photo tomorrow of it). That way, you can just easily pick it up and set it to the side. I would have to mosaic the edge, but I planned on doing that anyway.

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

If you use a mortar skim coat, I think it would look fine without mosaic. and edges are a weak spot. Ive also seen people use copper flashing to edge tabletops with mosaic on them, that might look good.


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Just want to underscore what Wacky said about plywood outdoors. There's no way to seal it enough to keep it from expanding and contracting and breaking up the mosaic due to humidity and rain. You can use it all day long on indoor projects but never outside.

LOVE the idea of a copper edge. I've got a mosaic mirror I made and did that on the edge. It's indoors, but it's almost 20 years old and still looks great. Outside, I can imagine how beautiful it would be as it started to weather.

As for supplies, it looks like everyone has already covered what I'd suggest. Good luck! Looking forward to seeing some of your projects.


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Copper flashing sounds really nice, I will have to check into that. And lori, definitely will not be using plywood. I would be crushed if all my hard work fell off in a couple of years. We don't get a lot of rain here in S. California, but even a little may be too much. Lori, where did you buy the copper edging?

And, having a tough time finding Mapei Ultraflex II. Lowe's does not carry it anymore (but carries something they say is "identical"). I did see they had a mosaic & glass mortar which had a polymer in it. Maybe that's the same thing, now? Could Mapei be changing the name of this to something else? And, what is the difference between Ultraflex II and Keracolor Sanded Grout? They polymer, the sand, both?

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Ironically, the copper flashing I bought was the same stuff you get in the garden section of Home Depot to keep away slugs. It's a perfect strip that's about an inch and a half wide.

As for Mapei, go on line at Lowes. My Lowes did not carry Maipei either, but I was able to order it on line then pick it up at the store. Before that, I used something else that you had to buy the polymer separate and mix it with the water. It was kind of a pain. Before that--when I was a complete newbie--I used premixed thinset. Two years later, all the tiles have fallen off everything I made using pre-mixed grout. That stuff is horrible-horrible.

After I started ordering Maipei on line, my Lowes switched their thinset and grout to Maipei. I like to think I was responsible for that, LOL

I'm up here in Northern California. I've had some cracking on a tabletop I made because I ignored the "no ceramic tile" rule for outdoor mosaics. I thought our temps didn't get low enough to do damage from freeze, but apparently they do. Now, especially because I make outdoor garden art that I sell on Etsy, I stick to only concrete bases and glass, stone or porcelain tiles for anything outdoor. It's the only way to be sure it will last for years.


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I use what ever thinset they happen to have at the store. Never used an admix either. Grout-again, I use whatever is handy that I can mix with water, dont like fooling with the admix. Early on I had some grout problems-one batch would be great, the next sticky and muddy and horrible. Then I found out the grout settles in storage and the different particles can stratify and you get different stuff in each batch you mix. So I started putting my grout in plastic containers with a tight lid and I shake and roll and mix it up well before I use it. Havent had a problem since.
Also-Its expensive and I use it on special projects, especially like a birdbath where it will have water sitting it-epoxy grout.
Its not difficult to do-but you MUST follow the directions, but the result is absolutely beautiful and very tough. I dont recommend it for a first project, and your birdbath will be fine without it, but you might consider it for your firepit cover. It fills the spaces evenly, cures to a beautiful gloss that is very tough, stainresistant and mold mildew resistant etc. especially for a large flat project. But again, you cant wing it like we mosaic people are wont to do, you must follow the directions. something to research and think about.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Okay, I actually have some of that copper stuff, Lori! And, I did try to order the Mapei Ultraflex II fro Lowe's, but they called me to tell me that they no longer carry a product by that name, but that "we have something identical to it with the exact same stock number". Since I am not experienced enough, I cancelled the order. And I need to know what you are on Etsy, so I can go and see your lovely mosaics!

Thanks, wacky. Trying to understand the difference between "thinset", "grout", "sanded grout", polymer mixes, etc. Need to do more reading and studying. Right now, to me, they are all "stuff you mix with water to stick tiles/glass on and put between the tiles/glass." My two projects will both be outside and will stay outside. We rarely get temps below 32 degrees here (we all freak out if we have a night or two that drop below that, being about 6 miles from the ocean in San Diego county!) So, I want to make sure both my bird bath and my fire pit cover are completely weatherproof. Both will be made with glass/vitreous glass/metallic glass and no tiles, if that makes a difference. You have both been so extremely helpful, I really, REALLY appreciate it!

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Well, that's disturbing. I hope I don't have a problem getting my Maipei from Lowes. I'll have to find a new place to go!

Thinset is what you use to stick the tiles to your base. On the package, it is usually called "Tile Mortar". For outdoor mosaics make sure it's got a polymer in it. I know there are other brands that are probably just fine. As long as it's rated for outdoor use (usually by having the polymer additive) you will be fine.

IMG_4061

Grout is what you use to fill in the gaps of your mosaic once the thinset has dried (I wait 24 hours between thinset and grout). Grout is also rated for indoor vs outdoor. As long as you get the "outdoor" version it's fine. Again, the Maipei grout I use indicates it's got the polymer additive. Honestly, most grout should be rated for outdoor use, since it's the same thing you'd want to use in a shower.

IMG_4062

Sanded vs unsanded: Honestly, for almost everything you'll do, you want to stick to sanded. Unsanded is only for very, very small gaps between tiles. Like less than 1/4".

Grout comes in a ton of colors. I use colored grout on my jewelry (I make mosaic pendants). But for outdoor use, I stick to a light gray. It's the most neutral grout color. Any other color can really change the look of your mosaic--sometimes in a bad way. I would experiment with colored grout on smaller projects. Not something you spent days and days on. It sucks to ruin something at the end because you picked a bad color. I've done it a lot.

I seal my outdoor mosaics with this product called Lastiseal. It comes clear, in matte or semi-gloss finish. I brush it on with a brush, wait a few minutes then wipe it off before it has a chance to dry too much on your tiles. It also comes in tons of colors. I play with the color sealers on my outdoor mosaics. Grout with gray, then color it with the color sealer when I want a finished grout that's not gray. (That's how I've ruined a few, by picking a bad color LOL). Their 8 oz sample bottle would last you a long time.

Here's their web link: http://www.radonseal.com/color-sealer/color-sealer.htm

And thanks for being interested in my Etsy site. Here's the link. You can see the effects of the colored sealers on the outdoor mosaics. All my outdoor pieces are grouted in gray then colored with the sealer. My pendants are colored using actual colored grout because the pendants don't get sealed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mosaics by Lori


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

I usually keep 3 colors of grout-gray, white, and black. I love black. Its a personal preference, and yep thats the grout I usually get, at Lowes or Menards if you have those. I use thinset for outdoor pieces a lot, but I also use silicone, which is my personal preference. Everone figures out what they like to work with the best and usually sticks with that. I usually dont seal-again, a personal preference, I dont like how it looks. There are a million tricks and ways to do things, we all have fun learning!


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I bought those 3 Mapei Keracolor sanded grouts - white (so I could add colorant if I wanted, or, wanted to do something with white grout), grey and charcoal. Just not clear on what "thinset" is, compared to grout. I'll get it figured out. If I can get the name of a thinset product, then I can read up on the ingredients and read about what makes them different. My instructor is going to use Elmer's Glue to glue the tiles down, but she states we will be waterproofing the bird bath, so not to worry. Hopefully it will all stay stuck down. I would prefer to use GE Silicone II clear adhesive, but she knows far more than I do, so I guess we'll see how it turns out! I'll be sure to post photos of both of my projects when they're done!

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

I've got no idea how Elmers glue could be used on a birdbath. Elmers is water soluable. It will dissolve when water hits it, no matter how long you dry it. Grout is porous, water soaks through it, and waterproofing isn't something I'd trust enough to use Elmers as the glue.

Hope that's not your birdbath.

Your instincts are right to use something like silicone instead. Honestly, the best adhesive for a mosaic depends on what you are adhering your tiles to. On my jewelry, I use Weldbond. My outdoor mosaics are always on a concrete base (I make the concrete part too), thus I use thinset.

Here's a blog post on a bird bath project I did. I made the whole thing except the base. The bath is a couple years old now. The water in it has completely frozen solid on more than one occasion and I haven't had a chip or crack.

Oh, and on sealers: I don't like those glossy sealers either. They make things look "fake". The Lastiseal sealer disappears into the grout and gets wiped off the tiles so you don't see any sort of "coating" on top of it, which I prefer. I agree it's not always necessary, as long as you build your mosaic correctly using the proper base, adhesive and grout. Especially if you're just making projects for yourself and they'll stay here in California. I'm charging money for my items and shipping them all over the country, so I take the extra precaution of sealing to make sure they last no matter what the climate.

If you're fireplace surround is something people are going to be setting drinks or food on, I'd probably seal just in case a glass of red wine got spilled on it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bird Bath Project


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Thank you, Lori. GREAT explanation. And yes, that was exactly the product I ordered for pick up at my local Lowe's. I may email Mapei directly and ask them if there is new product that is replacing UltraFlex II. If I find out something, I'll post to this message thread.

And yes, I'm a little concerned about the Elmer's Glue. Not sure how to go about suggesting maybe something more suitable since I'm the complete novice and student! We are starting with a 14 or 15" terra cotta saucer (the kind that go under a terra cotta plate). I plan on sealing it, first, with Kilz primer and sealer that whacky suggested, so I have that now, and will wash it off well, let it dry thoroughly, then prime the inside. So, I'm thinking that GE Silicone II is the best product to use. Either that, or thin set? The instructor is a very experienced mosaic artist. So, guess we'll just to see how the class goes.

Thanks for the tip on the Latiseal, going on my "more list of stuff to get", lol!!! Yes, definitely will seal the fire pit cover, as folks will definitely set stuff on it. Thanks for the tip. Guess I'll just have to see how it goes. I may be re-doing the birdbath in a year or so. Thank you for your link to your bird bath, I'll read through it.

Patty S.

This post was edited by hoosierquilt on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 0:42


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

I'm concerned that the adhesives and grouts you have chosen may not be able to stand the heat ...

I would suggest instead a silicate gel or a water glass based adhesive.

Link goes to a youtube video of someone who explains the process of using sodium silicate and pearlite (lightweight expanded volcanic glass, commonly used in gardening and in head-containing modern devices for various things) to create the lining of a working forge. The sodium silicate is the high-temp binding agent.

Just don't forget to seal it against water damage, as sodium silicate is still water soluble.

Here is a link that might be useful: Water Glass (coffee can foundry build)


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Skie, what heat are you referring to? The bird bath will not be in any signficant heat. Our temps are pretty moderate here in San Diego county near the coast. We freak out if it gets to 90 degrees here. The fire pit cover would not go over a flame. The fire pit would be turned off, and cool before I'd put the cover on :-)

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Ahh ... alright then! :)


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" I may email Mapei directly and ask them if there is new product that is replacing UltraFlex II. If I find out something, I'll post to this message thread."

Oh that would be great!


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Okay, sent off an email this morning to Mapei, and they responded back very quickly. Here is the answer:

"The Ultraflex 2 was not replaced but about two years ago now we changed the packaging for Lowe’s trying to make them more DIY friendly. At Lowe’s the Porcelain tile mortar is the Ultraflex 2."

So, the Porcelain Tile Mortar is Ultraflex 2. Will be picking up a bag of this for my thin set.

Patty S.


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Good to know! Thanks so much for looking into it and for sharing with us.


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Elmers? for real? Oh boy. being a professional doesnt mean they dont make mistakes-Ive seen very well paid professionals make some whoppers. And hey-if your grout is absolutely perfect, water might never get behind there and loosen the tiles. But grout is not an adhesive, which people often forget.
And just because it was mentioned, the particular silicone I use will take heat up to 350 degrees.
Beautiful birdbath Lori! such nice neat work. Its been nice to "talk shop" on here with everyone.


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I know, wacky. I'm going to have to find a very tactful and diplomatic way of asking her about the Elmer's Glue, and would she mind ever so much if I used GE Silicone II instead? I really don't want to have to re-do the bird bath. And, I'd like it to look reasonably decent so I can add it into my garden as part of some functional yard art.

This has been such a helpful thread, and I am SO thankful I found all of you. I really do appreciate all your help and great tips!

Patty S.


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Thanks Wacky! It was a fun project.

Patty, are you sure she's not just planning on using the Elmers as a sealer? I can't find it (I have a ton of books on mosaics and garden art) but I swear I've seen someone use dilluted Elmers as a sealer over the terra cotta pot prior to doing the mosaic, but the tiles are actually glued on using either thinset or some other form of glue. Maybe that was the plan?


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Yup, lori. I had asked her what adhesive she wanted us to buy for our terra cotta bird bath, as it was on her list of supplies, but no specification as to what "adhesive" (since there are so many options out there.) She responded back saying, that we going to be using Elmers glue on the saucers. She stated she uses Elmers on wood and metal.
She explained that the reason we could do this with the saucer is because we would be covering the glass with waterproof grout and then we're going to be sealing the surface. She also stated that in making most outdoor mosaics, you should use mortar or you could use E6000, but she said it was more expensive and it's really stinky. She is a very good mosaic artist, so, hoping she has some great tricks up her sleeve! I feel really fortunate that we even had classes in our area, so guess I will be an attentive student, and learn everything I can. She may have some tricks up her sleeve I am not aware of. :-)

Patty S.


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Well, I certainly can't profess to know everything about everything, heh. I say go for it, don't worry and have fun! Looking forward to pictures when it's done!


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RE: List of Basic Mosaic Tools & Supplies

Thanks, lori. I don't want to diss the teacher before I even take the class, lol! We'll see if she will let me use silicone adhesive. I really would feel better using something I know is waterproof, because I am sure my grouting skills will be minimal at best, so no guarantee I won't have some teeny tiny gap in my grouting. If not, then you can bet I'm going to grout the living daylights out of this bird bath. I'm a quilter/sewer/machine embroiderer and a bit of a perfectionist (I bet no one could tell that by my million questions about mosaics), so I hate having to do anything over. The instructor seems very nice and is very patient will my several emails to her, asking a bunch of dumb, newbie questions. Looking forward to having a little time to myself with this class!

Patty S.


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