Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Way Forward

Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My Greek Cross quilt is finished at last, beautifully quilted by my sweet friend Jennifer of Farm Fresh Stitches, washed and dried to crinkly perfection, and now lovingly draped across the arm of the overstuffed chair in my bedroom. A quilt used to take me about a month to sew from start to finish. This time it took a year and a half from piecing the first block to putting the last stitch in the binding, but considering everything else that happened in that span of time, this feels like a special victory.

Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This quilt was for me and my husband, so I used a lot of vintage style prints for the centers since we both love that look. Each block felt like its own little work of art. I've really come to believe that if you love every block by itself, you'll love them all together as a group, especially if it's a large group. Sometimes quantity really does seem to enhance the quality.

Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I've been doing a lot of cleaning and purging over the last few months, trying to let go of things I don't need and share them with others who might be able to use them. As I was going through my storage room, I came across several large containers of sewing samples made over a few years. It was a little sobering to look at all those projects, sewn up quickly and compulsively so that I would have a large enough supply of bright, shiny photos to put in my Instagram feed. I think I would rather stop sewing altogether than get back on that hamster wheel. Meaningful, enjoyable projects -- no matter how long or short a time they take to complete -- seem like the sane and happy way forward.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Life As I Know It

Heather Ross baby quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Now that we're a few days into the new year, I feel like I can finally sit down and write about the old one. 2023 was rough for our family, and while I'm thankful for the good things, I'm not terribly sorry to see it go. My father had three surgeries on his heart over several months, one being particularly delicate and serious. And then three weeks after his last surgery, I had a hysterectomy in an attempt to heal the anemia that I've been dealing with for years, the original health problem that forced me to take a break from professional sewing work back in 2020. It was, to say the least, a lot to deal with all at once. We spent months in recovery with some very difficult days, but the Lord brought us through it. Both Dad and I are doing very well at this point, in so much better shape than I would have expected, and we couldn't be more grateful for the dear friends from our church family who carried us through that time with prayer, encouragement, and lots of home cooked meals. 

In light of all that, there wasn't quite as much sewing as I'd hoped there would be in the second half of the year, but I did manage to fit in a few projects during the last few months.

A zipper pouch for a dear friend of mine...

Patchwork Pouch by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

A little quilt for a sweet mama who just had her second baby girl...

Heather Ross baby quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

And the beginnings of a clamshell project using paper templates from the Etsy shop of one of my longest and dearest quilting friends, Erin of Why Not Sew. I have yet to sew these together, but they've been waiting for me on a wooden tray in my sewing room. I went with a breakfast theme in my fabric choices, an ode to my youngest daughter who loves the first meal of the day, and my plan is to eventually turn these into a pillow for our breakfast nook.

Paper pieced clamshells by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I have fabric for two more quilts on my sewing table right now. One will be a baby quilt for another friend who's due in early summer, and the other will be a graduation quilt for my eldest daughter who finishes high school in late May. It's such an interesting pairing, those two quilts-to-be -- the beginning and end of childhood in two stacks of fabric. I was sorting out the prints for my daughter's quilt the other day and was reminded again that life as I know it will be changing forever at the end of spring. This is the way it is, I tell myself. Every mother comes to this moment. It's good and right that our children grow up and become the independent adults we wanted them to be, and I wouldn't have it any other way, really. But there are moments when my heart cries...just a little.

Monday, June 26, 2023


Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My girls came home on Saturday, giddy and exhausted after almost a week of having all kinds of fun at church camp. It was the first time all three of them had been away from me at once, and I honestly wasn't sure how I was going to deal with it. After more than sixteen years of motherhood, I'm a little out of practice at living life without kids around. But having enjoyed a quiet week of dinner dates, shopping trips, swimming, sewing, and long conversations with James and my parents, I feel like I've been given such a gift. I can appreciate all the joys of motherhood right now, enjoy watching my girls grow in confidence and independence, and know that there will still be a wonderful life waiting for me when they leave the nest someday. It's like getting a small glimpse of the future while still being so thankful for today. 

Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

But truly, the sewing was fantastic this week -- hours all by myself in the loft finishing my Greek Cross quilt top while simultaneously starting another quilt that I designed years ago for my unrealized Carnival of Patchwork book. I sewed more in the last six days than I have in the last six months. Small projects have always been my specialty because that's usually all I have time for, and to some extent, I didn't have the patience or attention span for large quilts. But now I can really see the pleasure of working on extended projects. 

Greek Cross Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I'd like to think it's because I'm growing up a little bit in my forties, or maybe I'm just finally settling down. Either way, this seems like a good development, and I'm feeling rather giddy about it myself.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Summer Days

Patchwork Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My husband remarked just the other day that our summer is already a third over which seems incredible to me. Didn't we just start this vacation train? Granted, the last month has been packed with events of all kinds, but more on that in a minute. First...pillows!

Patchwork Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

When I have the chance, I try to sew a pillow or two for the local pregnancy care center. They put together the most beautiful supply baskets for new moms, and they like to have something handmade on top. Since I'm currently pathetically slow when it comes to churning out even a baby quilt, I've taken to sewing up pillows instead, and so far it's working out quite nicely. Both of these are actually from a few months ago, so I'm a little late in sharing them. But I'm hoping to have more finished by the end of vacation.

Patchwork Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I love having the chance to use up some of the children's fabric leftover from sewing samples for Riley Blake several years back. Jill Howarth is still one of my favorite designers, and even though my daughters have outgrown these sorts of prints, I still like to keep this type of fabric around for baby gifts and that sort of thing. Making these pillows is also a fun way to play with different blocks, which keeps it interesting for me as I sew.

I pulled out a stack of quilt blocks last night that I started working on over a year ago. It was so great to see them with fresh eyes and remember how much I loved putting these fabric combinations together over time. I'm hoping to finally sew them into a quilt top this week if all goes as I plan.

The hardest thing this summer has been that my dad's heart started to fail 4 weeks ago, and he wound up in the hospital getting a pacemaker put in, which is thankfully working so far. Unfortunately, it looks like he'll be going back in for open heart surgery soon to fix a few other serious issues that need attention. There have been lots of tests and appointments this month, but we're glad he's getting the help he needs and praying that all goes well. 

Lake Tahoe Anniversary Party by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Last weekend my parents' celebrated 47 years of marriage, and I threw them a small dinner party themed around their honeymoon which was spent on a road trip up through California and then back down the Pacific Coast. 

Lake Tahoe Anniversary Party by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

They drove to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, and even got to see the Righteous Brothers and the Carpenters in concert during their trip. I've heard many times how beautiful it was and how much they loved it. 

Lake Tahoe Anniversary Party by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I used some leftover wool felt to sew up bunting to hang overhead and little camp flags for each place setting. Bunny brought down her record player and vintage vinyl to listen to (she was extremely proud that she scored an inexpensive Righteous Brothers record at the local antiques mall just a few days before the party) while we enjoyed our picnic lunches and cake.

Lake Tahoe Anniversary Party by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It was such a sweet time. 

Texas Flowers by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My husband's best friend came out from Southern California to stay with us during the week of their anniversary, and it was such a joy to have him here. He got to see the Texas Hill Country at its absolute best, with blue skies full of puffy clouds, wildflowers blooming everywhere, and lazy evenings on the back patio watching the fireflies play. 

Texas Flowers by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My own flower garden was all decked out in vibrant colors, and I was so thankful to get one last beautiful week of spring before the switch flipped to summer and the whole outdoors morphed overnight into a giant sauna. But that just gives me a good excuse to stay inside and sew, which I'm trying to do for at least fifteen minutes every day this summer. It's been doing me a world of good to get daily creative time, and I'm absolutely loving it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Drum Stick Bag

Drum Stick Kit Bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

There have been so many signs this year that my daughters aren't little girls anymore, and one of the biggest is our loft. The toys that cluttered the floor in that room for years are gone, packed away over the summer except for a few small bins of toddler playthings that my girls use when they're babysitting. Except for the occasional Lego project or jigsaw puzzle on the breakfast nook table, that part of our life seems to be over. My feelings on the subject are decidedly mixed. Nostalgia gets the better of me now and then, but honestly, it's wonderful to see the girls growing up. There's so much to love about this new chapter in our lives, and the loft has become part of that story. What used to be the play area has now become the music studio, and it's definitely one of the most popular hangouts in our house.

Drum Stick Kit Bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

We've always been a musical family. James and I both spent time learning music when we were growing up, and I've been singing for school, church, and other events since I was a child. Any number of instruments have found a place in our home over the years and each of us can play at least a little bit on one or more of them: piano, guitar (acoustic and electric), ukulele, banjo, and mandolin. We took things to a whole new level this year when my youngest daughter was given an electric drum set by a family friend who was heading off to college and didn't need it anymore. Mouse had already started taking drum lessons from one of the drummers at our church, and this allowed her skills to really take off. Bunny and Bear have both been singing on youth worship teams at church and putting in more time on piano and guitar this year, so it just seemed natural for the three of them to form their own band. While I'm always here to advise them when they need help, it's been fantastic to watch them work together to choose music, practice for hours on end, and then perform for the family every few months on special holidays. Right now they're working on a Valentine's Day program, and it already sounds pretty great. 

Drum Stick Kit Bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Anyway, Mouse has been asking me to sew a special bag for carrying her drum sticks to her weekly lessons, and I decided that today was the day to get it done. She's obsessed with cats, so I pulled out a favorite Japanese print that I've been saving for ages to fussy cut a few scraps for the project. I featured one on the flap and the other on a tiny pocket on the back. The blue ticking stripe canvas print makes a soft but sturdy exterior, and I paired it with a matching cream and blue dot print for the lining. A wrist strap on top will hopefully make it a little easier to hold. The hardest thing about this whole project was sewing a bag with such an incredibly narrow opening - just 2 1/2" in diameter - but by going slowly, I was able to do it.

Drum Stick Kit Bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I can't tell you how delightful it was to start and finish a project in one morning. Usually I save my sewing as an incentive for getting my daily work done, but the truth is that there's always more to do than I can finish before bedtime. My days fly by, and I get to the end of them without ever getting around to the reward. I think I'm going to start taking my sewing time in the morning for a while and see what happens. It feels a little naughty, like I'm sneaking dessert right before dinner, but this was just too much fun not to try it again.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Almost Christmas

Almost Christmas by Heidi Staples at Fabric Mutt

Confession: I really wasn't in the mood for Christmas this year.

When the end of November rolled around and it was time to start putting up decorations, I just didn't have the heart for it. Everything seemed so pointless. All that work, and it was coming down in a month anyway. The very thought of digging those boxes out again made me exhausted...

I went shopping for the small gifts I use for the girls' Advent calendar each year, and instead of getting excited as I walked through the aisles of the Christmas section at Target, I felt tired and overstimulated. It was all too noisy, too expensive, too much. What did any of this have to do with anything? I came home empty handed and flopped down on the couch, wondering aloud to my husband if he had any idea what the heck was wrong with me. I couldn't ever remember feeling this unexcited about my favorite season. 

Christmas Decor by Heidi Staples at Fabric Mutt

I spent a weekend in the doldrums over my unexpected lack of Christmas spirit, and then I decided that it was time to get over it, whether I felt like it or not. Decorations were set out, presents were wrapped, parties of all kinds were attended. Day by day, we've been ticking the usual December activities off our list: enjoying cookies and cocoa, watching favorite Christmas movies, and heading out to see the lights after dark. And while I haven't had any grand revelations like Ebenezer Scrooge, I've found that sometimes you just have to get started doing the right thing before the feelings come along after you. As a Christian, December 25th is a reminder each year that there's a God Who loves me and went to a whole lot of trouble to show it. His love is always there even when I'm not at my best, and that hope is what keeps me going every day of the year.

Christmas Advent Calendar by Heidi Staples at Fabric Mutt

Of course, once I settled down and finally started enjoying myself, I immediately came down with a case of strep throat that looked ready to derail the whole thing. But isn't it funny how things work out sometimes? This may have been the most relaxed I've ever been in the days leading up to the holiday. Instead of running around trying to make everything perfect at the last minute, I've suddenly been forced to sit back and take it all in. Sick or not, I've thoroughly enjoyed watching my dear girls take over the Christmas cooking (with delicious results!), laughing together with my family around the fireplace in the evenings, and sitting on the couch enjoying the twinkle lights that Mom and I spread all over the house this year. I'm hoping to even pick up a little hand quilting project later today if I feel up to it. 

So it's almost Christmas, and I'm going to enjoy it while it's here. I hope you do too, friends.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Where They Love You

Fabric Mutt Patchwork Binder Cover

Time, as always, gets away from me, but I'm still a little stunned to see that it's been the better part of five months since I last visited this space. I've been busily adding projects to my "want to sew" list, with precious little sewing time actually happening. There are reasons for this, of course. Now that I have three teenage daughters, a lot more time is being devoted to my new official job title of "chauffeur." It's been wonderful to see them getting involved in so many different activities as they grow up, and I couldn't be prouder, but I'm definitely racking up the miles on my dear old minivan. I've also gotten to start teaching sewing classes to my girls and their cousins, which has been all kinds of fun and the main focus of my creative time for the moment.

Fabric Mutt Fabric Swatch Pack

The first thing we did was assemble these swatch packs so that the girls could see the difference between different types of fabric and interfacing. I had almost no grasp on this when I first started sewing, and I think it's important for them to understand which textiles are best suited to which types of projects. I like that they can feel the fabric for themselves on these little cards and that we can add more as we go along if we need to. 

Fabric Mutt Linen Pincushions

Next we practiced our hand stitching with some simple pincushions. I fussy cut squares from one of my favorite linen prints, and the girls practiced sewing a button on the tag and using a ladder stitch to close up the side seam. I'm trying to show them how to make pretty things but also teach them skills that will be useful for typical quick fix emergencies that arise in everyday life. The top three mending projects I do each year are 1) sewing buttons back onto clothing, 2) hemming pants or dresses, and 3) using a ladder stitch to sew the ripped seams on stuffed animals closed. We'll hit hemming next month when we make pillow cases out of leftover yardage from my old fabric collections. 

Fabric Mutt Patchwork Binder Cover

So they can have a record of what we're learning, I'm putting together mini binders for the girls filled with project instructions and basic sewing tips. We'll make binder covers for their notebooks later this year, but I made my own first. It was such a treat to play with my favorite kind of scrappy patchwork again. I've been saving that large piece of text print for a long time, and it was great to finally use it on something I'm going to be seeing a lot.

Fabric Mutt Patchwork Binder Cover Pocket

I used this small piece from a favorite Cathe Holden print for the pen pocket on the inner back flap. I absolutely adore her collage prints, and this collection of vintage fabric labels was just too perfect to pass up.

Fat Quarter Shop Goodies for Fabric Mutt

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I opened my mailbox to find these beautiful gifts from Fat Quarter Shop inside. Considering how little time I've been able to devote to sewing lately, I feel completely undeserving of them, but I'm so grateful. Looking through these patterns and booklets has gotten me excited about trying to sew for fun more often. I've really missed it. Hopefully I'll have some work to show from this stack of inspiration in the months ahead.

Gus the Cat at Fabric Mutt

We added two more pets to the family zoo over the last few months so that everyone would have a buddy. Gus is a sweet little orange tabby who has a constant purr and a hilariously squeaky meow. (His official name is Burton Guster, after my favorite character from the old USA tv show Psych.) He's extremely affectionate and loves to cuddle with us.

Gus the Cat at Fabric Mutt

Gus and Joey are slowly getting to know each other, and I'm thankful to say that we've passed the hissing stage and are now hovering on the threshold of irritable tolerance. I'm calling that progress.

Gus the Cat at Fabric Mutt

Joey was not amused to have his space invaded, but I had seen the signs of loneliness over the last year. I think that as much as he resents the presence of an intruder, he likes having another cat around. I'm definitely enjoying the extra kitty snuggles myself.

Sam and Rosie at Fabric Mutt

Our sweet Sam has had a rough time of it lately. We brought Rosie home for him back in June (their names are actually Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton, for you Lord of the Rings' fans out there), and I've never seen two dogs bond at first sight like they did. Just about every photo I have of the two of them together is a blur since they seem to think their full time work is auditioning for careers in professional wrestling...

Rosie at Fabric Mutt

Rosie is an incredibly loving dog who adores her "big brother." They had a glorious summer together, tearing around our backyard like a pair of happy maniacs. Then Sam started limping occasionally about two months back. Two weeks ago, the limp went from occasional to constant, and after consulting with our vet over the x-rays she took last week, it appears that Sam not only has a torn ligament, but also a genetic condition which has resulted in the bones in both of his back legs being crooked and his knees being constantly out of joint. 

Sam at Fabric Mutt

It's hard to know what this is going to mean for our sweet boy, who has always been a handful (picture an energetic Jack Russell terrier in an 80 pound lab's body -- this guy literally bounces off the walls), and I've been overwhelmed by the various possible outcomes, none of which are great. We're taking him to a specialist next week to see if anything can be done to make things easier on him. Whatever happens, we're going to love him through it. 

There's a little wooden sign that's hung in our house for years that reads "home is where they love you," and every year I believe it more. This is what home is meant to be. As I was talking with my family earlier this week about all the issues we've had with the pets we've taken in over the years, I laughed through my tears, remarking that we seem to be a home for misfits. But isn't that what we all are to some extent? Being part of a family isn't always easy, and loving people (and pets) isn't always terribly convenient or comfortable, but that's the calling. It's what we've chosen to do with our lives. I don't have a single doubt that we're going to be glad we did. 

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