Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Milk & Honey Beachcomber Bag

Milk & Honey fabric by Elea Lutz for Riley Blake Designs in Beachcomber Bag from Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt for Lucky Spool

My friend Elea and I have never actually met in person, but it feels like we have. We've talked back and forth so many times through online messages that it seems like we've been friends forever. I've been sewing with every one of her collections all the way back to her Milk, Sugar, and Flower fabric, the last scraps of which I'm still hoarding in a drawer. The cuteness of Elea's designs is perfectly matched by the sweetness of her spirit which comes through in everything she does. I've been so blessed to get to know her from a distance, and it feels like a fitting end to my professional sewing career to finish with a post about her beautiful new fabric line: Milk & Honey.

Milk & Honey fabric by Elea Lutz for Riley Blake Designs in Beachcomber Bag from Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt for Lucky Spool

Everything about this collection says "spring" to me, so I thought it would be the perfect choice for sewing up my own version of an Easter basket. After a lot of thought, I decided to use the pattern for the Beachcomber Bag from my book Patchwork USA, which I enlarged by doubling all my measurements. This, by the way, is something I do by subtracting the half inch seam allowance from each measurement, doubling the leftover number, and then adding the half inch back on. So a piece that was originally 4 1/2'' x 2 1/2'' would, when doubled in size, be 8 1/2'' x  4 1/2". You can do the same thing to shrink a project, just by halving the numbers instead of doubling them. It's a very handy thing when you want to size a pattern up or down, and I do it a lot!

Milk & Honey fabric by Elea Lutz for Riley Blake Designs in Beachcomber Bag from Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt for Lucky Spool

I used Elea's prints for the patchwork portion of the bag, alternating colored fabrics with low volume ones. A few Riley Blake basics found their way in there too, as I'm a huge fan of their tiny dot prints which look adorable with just about anything. Black and white RBD gingham is such a lovely contrast to the pastel colors in the center, and the light gray floral print from the collection made a beautiful lining. A bunny twill tape tag on one side and soft, cream colored cord for the drawstrings were the finishing touches.

Milk & Honey fabric by Elea Lutz for Riley Blake Designs in Beachcomber Bag from Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt for Lucky Spool

Now that my girls are all in their tween years, with Bunny plunging headlong into the teens when she turns 13 tomorrow (sob!), I try to think a bit outside the typical Easter basket contents of candy, plastic eggs, and stuffed animals. I'm a big fan of gifts with a theme to them. In fact, if you've seen my book Patchwork USA, you know that I added a chapter at the end called Share the Journey which lists dozens of ideas for gifting the projects in my book, including themed ideas for sharing handmade presents with everyone from a new mom to a new neighbor. So if you're looking for goodies that would work well in an Easter bag or basket for an older child, here are a just a handful of ideas:
  • Art pack: sketchpad, colored pencils, watercolor set, sharpener, eraser, ruler, drawing books
  • Fun & games: travel games, sidewalk chalk, jump rope, Rubik's cube, deck of cards
  • Spa set: lip balm, lotion, hair accessories, brush, spa goodies, nail polish
We actually celebrated Bunny's birthday with a party on Saturday so that the whole family could enjoy it together. She wanted a retro Palm Springs Spa themed birthday party this year, so that last gift idea came in handy for me this week. I have no doubt, though, that my girls would be perfectly happy to get a repeat of their spa favor bags for Easter once April rolls around.

So congratulations to my sweet friend Elea on another adorable fabric collection. And all of my thanks to the wonderful people at Riley Blake Designs who have been so incredibly lovely to work with over the years. There's no doubt that I love beautiful fabric, but it's really the people that I love the most. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Patchwork Snack Bag

Patchwork Gifts Eco Friendly Snack Bag sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This week I'll be doing my last two blog tour posts before officially starting my retirement, and I'm so happy to get to do them for two of the sweetest, most talented people I know! Today, I'm happy to share Patchwork Gifts: 20 Charming Patchwork Projects to Give and Keep by my friend Elise Baek. It's a gorgeous book, full of beautiful photography, and the projects are absolutely darling. Elise has a great line-up of amazing people on her tour which you can see here. She's even put together a clever Bingo game so you can play along during the tour to earn prizes. So much fun!

Patchwork Gifts Eco Friendly Snack Bag sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

For my project, I chose the Eco-Friendly Snack Bag. As Elise says in the book, you can use food grade vinyl on the inside if you want to fill the bag with snacks, but it will work just as well for carrying trinkets and toys. I decided to go with a compromise and use mine for storing wrapped truffles, since I like to keep a small goody bag hidden away in my desk for chocolate emergencies.

Patchwork Gifts Eco Friendly Snack Bag sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The nice thing about this pattern is that the construction is so simple that you can really focus your time on adding lots of cute embellishments. For my label, I used a favorite chocolate print that I've been saving for something special, and it was my guide for all the color choices for the other fabric and notions. After some thought, I decided to give my label finished edges (rather than the raw edges recommended in the pattern) just so that it would hold up a little longer with all the wear and tear that everything gets in my house. As always, I had to add a little tag to the side of my main label made from twill tape. The top of my bag seemed to need a little something more, so I also sewed a tiny text label there along with a few buttons. The sides of the bag are bound in my favorite plaid print from Perfect Party by the Cottage Mama which I just restocked in my fabric stash last week. The only other change that I made to the pattern was deciding not to add a gusset at the bottom.

Patchwork Gifts Eco Friendly Snack Bag sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I love the simplicity of this piece -- it doesn't even need a snap or a button for closure! -- and it was so much fun to sew. Now the trick will be keeping my girls from seeing what's inside...

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Book That Might Have Been

Bed of Roses EPP Blocks by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

First, let me say . . . thank you.

I wish I could put more into those two words. They don't even begin to convey how full my heart is after reading all the beautiful comments you left on my blog and Instagram account over the past week. I had no idea -- truly, none -- that I would receive so much love and encouragement from so many people. It was really helpful to listen to you talk about your own struggles with finding balance (Isn't it always such a relief to know that we're not alone?), and hearing how much my stories and patterns and books have touched your lives just meant the world to me. I wish I could take each one of you out for a nice long chat with coffee and cupcakes and all the hugs. You are such a blessing to me!

I took my last dose of antibiotics this morning, and it looks like my body is slowly returning to normal after getting pummeled so badly for the last two weeks. Scaling back on all my commitments will, I hope, keep it that way. I've been dealing with massive fatigue, partly due to the medicine, but my energy is starting to come back again. This means, of course, that my typical instincts are kicking in to go-go-go, and I have to keep reminding myself that that's not the way we do things around here anymore. I feel utterly ridiculous trying to explain to people that resting is hard for me, but it really is. The guilt, the restlessness, the crazy way my mind can't seem to get off the hamster wheel when I'm lying in bed at night -- it's hard to break those habits when I've been doing life this way for so many years. A friend of mine was telling me yesterday how excited he was for me to have this chance to slow down. And I said that I'm happy about it too, only I feel like I don't quite remember how to do it. It's like trying to get on a bicycle again when you haven't been riding for twenty years. You're pretty sure you remember how this works, but you feel pretty foolish when you first get started. For so long I've felt like a slacker if I'm not being productive every single second of the day. So learning that it's okay to, say, enjoy a movie with my kids without feeling compelled to keep my hands busy with another sewing sample while we watch it is kind of a big deal for me.

Bed of Roses EPP Blocks by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I promised that I'd tell you more about the book that might have been, the one that I've been working on for most of the last year. It was going to be called Carnival of Patchwork, and I've been living with it for such a long time that it's still hard to believe that it isn't going to happen. But if you all don't mind, I'd love to share a good bit of the finished content here on my blog over the next few months. It won't be as pretty as it would have been in print, but it will be something fun for you and me to enjoy together. The book was going to be all about playing with patchwork. I wanted to give you tips for playing with patterns, fabric, and thread along with some organizational ideas for your sewing room. And then there were the projects. I probably have at least a third of them done and several in process like the EPP blocks you see in the photos above which are destined to become a pillow. I'll be sharing these with you here and there and maybe giving you the gift of a tutorial once in a while. I would love to see some of these patterns come to life, even if it isn't in the way I'd originally planned.

One of my favorite parts of the design process is pulling inspiration from Pinterest to explain the style and feel that I want for a book. Here and here are the boards I had put together for Carnival of Patchwork. I'm just crazy about these colors and design elements, and they make me so happy every time I scroll through them. When I was on there today, I actually found a whole slew of secret boards leftover from when I was mulling over potential themes for fabric collections several years back. I've now made them all public, so be sure to drop by my Pinterest page to see all the new stuff if that's something you enjoy.

Well, I've got a small stack of papers to grade on my desk, so I'd better get to it before we have our evening TV hour with the kids. Right now we're going through episodes of The Phil Silvers Show (also known as Sgt. Bilko), and it's so much fun to hear my girls giggling like crazy over an old black-and-white show like this one. I hope your week is off to a lovely start, friends!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Why I'm Retiring from Professional Sewing

Criss Cross Applesauce Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Oh, my friends, this is a hard one . . . a long one. And I'll need you to be patient with me, because even as I'm typing this sentence, I'm struggling to find the words and to keep the tears from falling. But there's a happy ending to this story, I promise. So let's begin at the beginning . . .

In the fall of 2011, I was an exhausted stay-at-home mother of three little girls under the age of five. My days were long, full of dishes and laundry and mindless cartoons, swinging wildly between frantic activity and tedious boredom. I loved the time I was investing in my daughters, but it was a challenge that left me burned out and stale by the end of each week. It quickly became obvious that I needed some time to play.

And so I tried quilting. 

It wasn’t until I started sewing that I realized how desperate I had been for creative playtime. It energized me, gave me a break from the craziness to breathe and think and make again. I look back on those early days now and smile. 

My new hobby started a chain reaction that I honestly never expected when I first picked it up. It would be easy to say that everything just happened all at once, that it was completely beyond my control, but I know that's not really true. A combination of factors caused things to take off in a big way over that first year -- my love for sewing, my need for community and acceptance, my sometimes compulsive personality that leads me to chase new pursuits with a passion that borders on obsession, and just being in the right place at the right time. And like so many things in life, it was both wonderful and difficult together.

My quilting led me to blogging which then led me to social media. Over time, I sewed samples for fabric companies and publishers, hosted blog tours and sew alongs, and eventually wrote my first book, Sew Organized for the Busy Girl for C&T Publishing. This led to more sample sewing, more blog tours, pattern writing for magazines, and invitations to teach and share my projects. I got the opportunity of a lifetime when Riley Blake Designs gave me a contract to design fabric for them, and I threw myself into the work with a fervor, spending countless hours at my computer sketching ideas for fabric collections. When Lucky Spool gave me the chance to write a second book, Patchwork USA, I was overjoyed, pulling together years of patterns and stories to create what was definitely my favorite project yet. I couldn't have been more thrilled when it was finally published last July.

On the flip side, balancing my creative pursuits along with homeschooling my daughters, keeping house, and staying involved in family and church activities was getting more difficult by the day. "I don't know how you do it all!" people would say, and I felt desperate to maintain that image of being both capable and creative, a busy person with important things to do. But there was no denying that the hobby I adored had become all consuming work, and I was struggling to hold it all together. My own perfectionism and the constant pressure to keep producing as much as I could had sent my to-do list spinning out of control. 

My family was getting the short end of the stick in so many ways. I shudder now to think of how many times my girls asked me to play with them, only to hear, “Not now . . . Mommy has to finish this first.”  And of course, whenever I finished that thing, there was the next thing. So many afternoons and evenings my wonderfully supportive husband took the girls outside to ride bicycles or swim or play in the front yard so that I could meet upcoming deadlines on time. And I would sit upstairs glued to my computer screen or my sewing machine, every now and then glancing outside the window to see them all having fun together down below, feeling an ache in my heart because I was missing out on moments that I knew I could never get back. Even when I was with them, I wasn't always really there emotionally. I remember taking the girls out for a mommy-daughter lunch one day. We placed our order, sat down in a booth, and I automatically pulled my cell phone out of my pocket to check emails. My oldest daughter reached out her hand and gently placed it over the screen. "Stay in the moment, Mommy," she said quietly, with a meaningful look that cut me to the heart.

It was almost two years ago that I started having unexplained health problems leading to doctor visits, with every one ending in the same diagnosis: “It’s stress. You’re doing too much. You’ve got to slow down.” With each warning, I promised the doctors and my worried family that I would handle it this time, really. Yet every time I tried to scale back my commitments, they slowly crept back in . . . and so did the ongoing stress and fatigue. I wanted to have it all, but I didn't know how to manage it all. Eight years ago, the solution to my stress was sewing. Now sewing seemed to be the problem.

But I didn’t want to stop sewing. I just wanted to find a way to make it fun again. How could I return to the place where I began, those early days spent happily stitching away at my dining room table while my toddlers played nearby? Could I rediscover the hobby that I loved so much? Was there a way to balance creativity and everything else in my life? I knew that something had to change, but I didn't know how.

And then last week I was hit hard by a sudden serious infection with which my burned out immune system seemed completely unable to cope. The fact that it wasn't life threatening didn't make it any less frightening, but it was, at last, the wake-up call I had been needing. There's something about lying on your bed in a state of pain, helplessness, and total exhaustion that has a way of clearing the mind. I finally came to grips with the fact that my health and my family had to come first -- truly first -- and that the only way to do it was to make a clean break with the work that was throwing my priorities out of order. There were still tears and discussions with family and plenty of emails to write, but for the first time in ages, I felt a peace that had been lacking in my heart for too long. I had the power to make a choice, and this was the one I wanted to make.

So what does this mean going forward? It means that at the end of February, after I finish two more blog tour commitments which I want to honor, I will be retiring from professional sewing. It means that I will no longer be doing blog tours for sewing books or fabric collections, and that all my teaching will be at home with my three precious girls. It means that I won't be writing any more patterns for magazines or subscription boxes. And it means letting go of a third book which I've been working on for the last nine months. I can't even begin to express to you how hard it is for me to walk away from these things, but I know without a doubt that it's what I need to do.

Yet the truth is that, in spite of my sadness and regret, I feel so incredibly blessed! I've gotten to have a fantastic side career for all these years, work with all kinds of unbelievably talented people, learn a host of new skills, and meet so many dear friends from all over the world in the process. It's been one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life, and I'm deeply grateful for it.

And just because I won't be working professionally anymore does NOT mean that I won't be sewing and blogging and dropping in on social media. Things will be a little different, of course. There will be more works in progress, I think, and more slow sewing, and sometimes just me talking about what's going on in this new life experiment I'm beginning. In the weeks ahead, I'll show you some of the projects I've been working on in secret over the past year for that third book I'd been planning (like the sneaky peek at the top of this post!), and it will be so much fun to finally share them with you.

Honestly, I'm still coming to terms with this change in my life, still figuring out what it's going to look like. It reminds me of when we moved to Texas five years ago and let our dogs Emma and Fritz out into our huge backyard for the first time. After growing up playing on the small patch of grass in our suburban California backyard surrounded by a cinder block wall, they had no idea how to handle the massive stretch of lawn behind our new home on almost two acres of land. That first evening, they stepped cautiously through the gate, sniffing as they went, and slowly they started to walk and then run between the trees with their tongues hanging out their mouths as if they were laughing. It was all good until Emma suddenly spotted the neighbor's dog through the metal fence posts. Having no experience with a see-through fence, she thought she could run through it, headed straight for the unfamiliar dog at breakneck speed, and slammed right into the metal bars. I thought she had killed herself for a minute, but she got up and shook her head in a daze while James went to go bend the bars back into place. I have a feeling that this new life may be something like that for me. At times I'm going to be unsure of myself and go slowly, some days I'm going to be giddy with freedom, and once in a while I'm going to crash and have to shake it off while I figure out what my new boundaries are going to be.

But for now I'm going to rest and heal, read more books, sit outside with my girls while they show me how well they can ride their bikes, have coffee with James without talking endlessly about my to-do list, and enjoy the fun of starting a new sewing project without having to write down any measurements while I do it. I suppose that sewing, like anything else in life, can pull you to pieces if you turn it into something it was never meant to be: a compulsive assembly line, a popularity contest, the measure of your worth. It's time for me to slow down and appreciate this hobby for what it is, to remember why I loved it in the first place, this chance to make something beautiful with my own two hands.

I'm finding my way back to joy, friends, and it feels a lot like going home.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Picnic Party Mug Rug

Picnic Party Mug Rug by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Playing with Patchwork and Sewing by Nicole Calver

My friend Nicole is known for so many things, not the least of which are the stunning patterns she's created for Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine, but to me she'll always be the girl who made the incredible quilted bag for the Sewvivor Challenge back in 2014 which featured a storm trooper and AT-AT walkers on the sides. Nicole is one of those people from the the online sewing family that I've known and loved for years, and it gives me so much joy to see her now publish her first book: Playing with Patchwork and Sewing. If you're looking for a skill builder book, this is the perfect choice. Nicole takes different techniques like patchwork, applique, foundation piecing and gives you three projects, each at varying difficulty levels. It's a great way to stretch your sewing muscles a bit and try something new.

Picnic Party Mug Rug by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Playing with Patchwork and Sewing by Nicole Calver

There was no way that I was going to miss out on being a part of the book tour, but I warned Nicole that I might have to shrink something down into a smaller project to fit it into my schedule. She insisted that this was fantastic, that she -- like me -- loves to see people take her patterns and change them to fit their needs. So this, my friends, is the Picnic Party Quilt pattern. The blocks originally finish at 12" and give you a 60" square quilt, perfect for a lunch date outside on the grass. My squares, however, are sized down to finish at 1" and make a sweet little mug rug which goes nicely with a cup of tea in the afternoon. I pulled out some favorite prints for this one, including that beautiful kitchen print which was a Christmas gift from my dear friend Ayumi. I've been eager to use it ever since I opened the package last month, and I love how it looks in this project.

Picnic Party Mug Rug by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Playing with Patchwork and Sewing by Nicole Calver

The back of my mug rug is one of my favorite old prints from the Katie Jump Rope collection by Denyse Schmidt from what now feels like a million years ago. But I love the way the brown centers of the flowers coordinate with the brown gingham that I used for the binding. Little details like that just make my heart so happy.

Picnic Party Mug Rug by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Playing with Patchwork and Sewing by Nicole Calver

Let me know if you pick up a copy of the book in the next few months. I'd love to hear what you think of it!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Tilda Club USA is Taking New Members!

Tilda Club USA Project: Ombre Mini Folio by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

For several months now, I've been designing patterns for the Tilda Club USA subscription box put out by my dear friend Julie of The Intrepid Thread. It's been a fun challenge for me to create something small and simple that people can enjoying making every month just for fun. And yes, getting my hands on these gorgeous Tilda prints has been pretty wonderful too!

Tilda Club USA Project: Pocket Pincushion by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Julie opens up the club membership three times a year for new people, and today is one of those days! Monthly members get...
  • a box of 6 Tilda fat quarters with matching notions and goodies
  • a digital Block of the Month pattern
  • digital patterns for small projects (many of which are designed by me!)
  • surprise projects here and there
  • a members-only forum and Facebook group
  • weekly live Q&A chat sessions
It's a pretty good deal and a nice way to make connections with other people who love to sew. I especially love that she's now offering an inexpensive digital membership option, so if you're already overflowing with fabric and don't need the monthly box, you can still access all the other perks of the club.

Tilda Club USA Project: Pocket Pincushion by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

If you're interested in joining, just click here to see all the options. Membership closes on Thursday, so hurry on over!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A New Plan

As a girl who lives by her lists, it helps me to have a place to keep them together so I don't wind up with post-it notes all over the house. I talked about keeping a sewing calendar in Sew Organized for the Busy Girl, which has been really helpful to me in my creative work. Nowadays I keep a lot of that information in a monthly calendar on my phone, but I also like have something on paper where I can write down the daily steps that get me to those weekly goals. I spent the last week of 2019 looking for the perfect planner to carry me into the new year, but after several hours spent combing through what was available both online and in stores, I came up empty. So this year I decided to try something new: I made my own planner pages from scratch on Adobe Illustrator.

I had originally planned to bring the file to the local office store and have it printed and spiral bound, but my mom encouraged me to live with the pages in a binder for a few weeks first so that I could make adjustments as needed. It was good advice. I've found a few ways to streamline the page as I go along.

While I often have special appointments in my schedule, most of the items on my to-do list fall under a recurring set of categories: cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, writing, and sewing. There are some things that I need to do every single day, but can easily forget to do (feed the dogs) or forget whether or not I've done them (take my allergy medicine) if they're not on a list in front of me. I love having these daily chores already built into the page so that all I have to do is check them off. There's also room to write down extra tasks that come up as well as a spot at the top for special activities or important things that need my attention right away.

In my drive to work through a checklist, it's easy for me to forget about the small everyday things that are going on in my life, so I added room at the bottom of the page to keep track of those too. There's a place to list what I'm reading, listening to, and watching every other day. I like that this will not only help me stay faithful in keeping my annual list of what books I've read, but it will also let me see what's influencing my thinking throughout the year.

My favorite feature, though, is the small section in the lower right corner for moments that I want to remember -- little victories, quirky happenings, funny things that the girls say. Just looking back over the pages I have already, I can't help but smile at the memories I'm recording, things that could have so easily been forgotten otherwise. The time we were watching White Christmas for a family movie night, and James declared that the pale yellow socks that Danny Kaye was wearing were the height of fashion...so of course I had to track down a pair for him online (he loves them!). The day that Bunny scored a 98% on both her history AND science semester finals. The night when Bear lost a tooth not five minutes after the girls were talking about how much they wanted ice cream (we celebrate every lost tooth with ice cream in our family; it's a tradition). The morning that Mouse came to me excited because she had actually enjoyed a math lesson for the first time ever. "Because," she added (I kid you not), "multiplication and division are the death of all good things." I ran right over to my planner to write that one down before I could forget it, let me tell you...

I love hearing what other people are doing when it comes to planners and organization. What do you use to stay on top of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule? Do you like using a planner or not? Have any of you tried making your own? What are the most helpful tricks you've found when it comes to getting your to-do list done each day? Please share!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Coffee with James

Coffee and Cake on a Riley Blake Designs Shortcake Fabric Placemat by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

As much as I can't wait to go on vacation when the holidays roll around, I'm just as content to get back to the school routine once they're over. I like the stability of a schedule, the sanity that it brings to the kids and to me. The only sad part is not having my husband here with us. There's not a doubt in my mind that the biggest perk of being married to a teacher is getting to have him home for weekends, holidays, and vacations. It's given us the chance to do so many things together as a family, and I never take it for granted.

We were driving home from lunch early last week in my minivan, music playing on the radio while the girls chattered together in the backseat, when James turned and asked if I would join him for coffee and sweets when we got home. It was the start of a beautiful new habit which we hope to continue on the weekends. Every afternoon for the rest of the week we sat down at the dining room table with mugs of coffee and something sweet -- usually chocolate -- and talked about what was on our minds: goals for the new year, lesson planning, my next book, the girls, our own struggles and how to beat them. It was like dating again only better: all the interest and attention of those early days when we were getting to know each other mixed with the comfort and familiarity of all these years of shared history together.

Now I'm sitting here at the table after lunch, and I miss my coffee with James. And I'm counting down the hours until Saturday afternoon...

Monday, January 6, 2020

Sew Cute Fruit Pouch

Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama for Zakka Workshop Fruit Pouch Sewed by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I've been influenced by zakka -- the Japanese concept of making pretty, practical items to beautify your everyday life -- since I first started sewing back in 2011. This has led me to spend a lot of time finding books and fabric by Japanese designers, which are full of wonderful inspiration in this area. My latest purchase is Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama. I had already bought a copy of the book from my favorite online shop Sunny Day Supply when I got an email from Lindsay at Zakka Workshop asking if I would be interested in joining the book tour, so the timing was perfect. I'm eternally grateful to Zakka Workshop, which has taken so many wonderful Japanese craft books and translated them into English so that even more people can enjoy them.

Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama for Zakka Workshop Fruit Pouch Sewed by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

For my project, I chose the round fruit pouch, because I had never made a pouch like this before. This is one of the things I love about Japanese sewing books: they always seem to be full of interesting techniques that I haven't tried yet. I was pleased with how easily the pouch came together, including the applique on the front, which is something I don't get the chance to do very often. Thankfully my dear friends Mary and Shawn at Sunny Day Supply had the zipper I needed in stock, and they were kind enough to send me the leaves and flower for applique as well. Be sure to check out their shop this month, because they're going to have all kinds of wonderful supplies for the projects in this book on hand if you need them!

Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama for Zakka Workshop Fruit Pouch Sewed by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The back of the pouch was supposed to be a four square block, but I fell so completely in love with this new print by my friend Elea Lutz (of which I'll be sharing more with you next month during her fabric tour!), that I just couldn't resist using it all in one piece. I used the tiny floral print from my Date Night collection for the lining and binding on the pouch which gave a nice continuity from the outside to the inside of the project. I love the color and small scale of this print, and I'm going to be so sad when I run out of it!

Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama for Zakka Workshop Fruit Pouch Sewed by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The hardest part of this project by far was sewing in the zipper by hand. The directions were perfectly clear and helpful, mind you. I'm just not used to putting a zipper in this way, and it took me a few tries to get my stitches right. Once I got in the swing of it, though, it came together nicely.

Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama for Zakka Workshop Fruit Pouch Sewed by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I'm so pleased with this sweet little pouch, and it feels great to tuck a few more skills under my crafty belt. The book is chock full of adorable projects featuring more techniques that I haven't tried, so I'm probably going to be pulling this title off the shelf now and then in the next year whenever I want to learn something new. If you're on Instagram, be sure to stop by my post to leave a comment so that you can be entered to win a copy of this book for yourself. I really think you'll like this one.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

What I Learned in 2019

Big Bear Cabin Quilt from Patchwork USA for Lucky Spool by Heidi Staples
My Big Bear Cabin Quilt from Patchwork USA

Happy New Year, friends! It's been a whirlwind of holidays and activities, family time and friendship over the past two months, and I've loved every second of it. So much has been happening in real time that it's been difficult to slip away to this space, but I'm tiptoeing back into the blog, and it feels great to be here with you again.

2019 was good to me. There were things to celebrate and not too many things to mourn. There was plenty of learning and growing which is always helpful. And there was a conscious decision to set aside time for family which was probably the best thing of all. I sat down this morning to think about what stood out to me over the past 12 months, and this is what came to mind...

1. biggest sewing accomplishment: Patchwork USA has been in the works since 2015, and I was thrilled to see it finally released into the world last July. This book is dear to my heart for many reasons, which you can read about here. Getting beautiful messages from readers who love it has brought all kinds of joy to my heart. To each one of you who bought it, thanks a million! And to those of you who haven't, you can still get a copy of your own. I hope you'll love it as much as I do.

2. biggest life change: This was the year that I felt the definite shift from being the mother of 3 little girls to the mother of 3 preteen daughters. It's been wonderful, terrifying, frustrating, exhausting, and exciting all at once, but we're finding our way one step at a time. Having my amazing husband and parents here to support me has been a lifesaver in this area more times than I can count, and together we make a great team. I'm learning the value of perspective and patience, and that sometimes it's better (but not easier) to hold my tongue and listen when the girls are having an off day. I'm pretty darn proud of these young women we're raising, who are each so smart and strong and fun. Being their mother is the hardest job in the world, but it's the best one too.

3. most surprising new habit: I've spent my whole life as a night owl, but this year I dabbled in being an early bird, and I'm still amazed at how much I like it. I don't do it every day, but getting up before dawn and sitting down with a cup of coffee (another new habit, believe it or not!) and my Bible to have a bit of quiet time before the girls are awake has been an anchor for my soul in the mornings. I'm craving more of that peace as I go into the new year.

4. most challenging new habit: I started intermittent fasting at the end of November, which basically just means that on most days, I don't eat after 2:30 in the afternoon. It's been a slow adjustment, but so far I've been pleased to see that it's really helping some of the health issues that were plaguing me last year. Like most things, it seems to get easier the longer you do it. We'll see how it goes over the next few months.

5. favorite unexpected project: I had so much fun designing some enamel pins and vinyl stickers for Maker Pin Co. last spring! They're still available here if you like that sort of thing. It was a dream assignment for me, and I love sharing them with friends when I can.

6. most influential read: The book that had the biggest impact on me this year was definitely Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I had been hurtling through life at breakneck speed for too long without realizing how much it was costing me, and this book was the wake up call I desperately needed. I'm still figuring out a lot of this stuff as I go along, but the change has been real and important in how I spend my days, and I'm so grateful.

7. favorite new accessory: My glasses are a permanent fixture now that I've crossed over into my 40's, but I like seeing a more interesting face look back at me in the mirror. Being able to read without feeling like I'm going blind is pretty nice too.

8. biggest schedule change: Now that my girls are getting older (they're currently in 4th, 5th, and 8th grade), school is taking a lot more of my time each day. We do a DVD based home school program where the girls watch their classes (taught by amazing teachers in real classrooms) at their desks, and then I make sure that they do their assignments, help them study for quizzes and tests, reteach lessons or tutor as needed, and grade all their papers. As the work is getting more challenging, the time I need to devote to teaching each day is growing. I'm perfectly happy with that since my daughters' education is the most important work I do, but it's meant that I've had to get creative sometimes when it comes to finishing the rest of my tasks each day. Exploring new ways to do this better is on my list of goals for 2020.

So those are the highlights that come to mind at the moment. I had another birthday last month, and it feels surprisingly good. The best thing about being 42 so far is realizing that I no longer need to make excuses for who I want to be. I don't need to apologize for wearing message tees, listening to Billie Holiday, reading old books about the Civil War, and staying home at night watching reruns of Psych with my husband instead of going out on the town. I don't have to feel guilty about lying down for 15 minutes with a good book in the afternoon, letting the dishes sit on the kitchen counter until later in the day, or sneaking off to get ice cream on the weekend without my daughters. The best thing I'm learning is that I don't have to be an all or nothing person in every area of my life. I can ease into new habits, tweak them a bit here and there, and take time to see what works instead of feeling like I have to start a new regime and get everything right immediately or it's no good. It takes a lot of pressure off when you stop trying to live up to the Pinterest boards and give yourself permission to be a human being.

But seriously, don't tell my daughters about the ice cream, because I still feel a little guilty about that one...
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