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Needle Treasures - Gentle St. Nick Kit

This past weekend Drew & I went up to Madison to watch our 5 week old nephew M. What a cutie! He was due for a feeding when we first arrived, and he had the best drunken baby look after he finished his bottle. He actually had the perfect stoner look with his full belly and sleepy eyes. :-b
Anyway, while we were up there, I got the materials I needed to finish the Gentle St. Nick stocking. (All the JoAnn fabrics near us have closed & the closest one is about an hour away!)

So Monday I put together the bulk of the stocking and last night I did the finishing work at the top. I kind of suck at putting stockings together. I took HomeEc in 7th grade and a quilting class in my 20's, but I've never really learned how to sew - I just put things together how it seems they ought to go and hope for the best! On both Drew's and this stocking, it ends up with these bad gathers on the back side. I'd guess it has something to do with the velvet shifting, or that the cording adds extra bulk to the inside when I'm sewing it. I did cut out little "darts" in the seam allowance, but I don't know what else to do. If anyone knows what causes this, or a way to avoid it, I'd be grateful!

I've finished all the stitching on my "Toilet Heart", but haven't figured out how to place the words so they don't bug me.