Thursday, April 2, 2020

Staying with Grace

I've been trying to write a blog post for over a week now, but the words keep escaping me. What can I say to you, friends, that you're not already experiencing yourselves? Yes, it's hard to stay home all the time. No, nothing much has changed in the past few weeks. Yes, some days are harder than others. No, I'm not handling everything well either.

Sometimes I think we're doing great. We already homeschool, so that was something stable in our little world. I'm grateful that we can stay in touch with friends and family through technology, and I'm so thankful that we can still get together with our church family on Sunday mornings online. Having James here with us, teaching from home, has been an absolute joy. He brings encouragement to all of us every day -- playing board games with the girls, giving my parents a hand when they need it, and always there to listen to me and make me laugh.

Other days I can feel myself coming apart a little bit. I give in to tears or make frequent visits to the bowl of cookie dough in the refrigerator when I'm frustrated or discouraged. I stay up too late at night and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I had a near panic attack sitting in my car at the Walgreen's drive-thru last Monday as I watched the clerk bag up my dad's medication and place my change into an envelope, suddenly wondering if both were covered with the virus. James and I are the only ones who run errands right now so that my parents can stay safe, both of them being in the high risk group due to their age and health issues. I've had nights when I couldn't sleep for worrying over whether we're doing enough.

And then this passage from Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist spoke to me last weekend:

"It's easy to be liked by strangers. It's very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you're always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you're giving them aren't cutting it....It seems to me that one of the the great hazards is quick love, which is actually charm. We get used to smiling, hugging, bantering, practicing good eye contact. And it's easier than true, slow, awkward, painful connection with someone who sees all the worst parts of you. Your act is easy. Being with you, deeply with, is difficult. It is better to be loved than admired. It is better to be truly known and seen and taken care of by a small tribe than adored by strangers who think they know you in a meaningful way. We know that's true. But many of us, functionally, have gotten that math wrong in one season or another....Quick charm will always be easier for me than deep connection. People out there are easier than the ones in here. But quick charm is like sugar -- it rots us. It winds us up and leaves us jonesing, but it doesn't feed us. Only love feeds us. And love happens over years, repetitive motions, staying, staying, staying. Showing up again. Coming clean again, being seen again. That's how love is built....It's all in here, not out there."

I've wondered if one reason why this temporary life change is so difficult is because all the coping mechanisms that we've used for so long are being stripped away. When you're confined to your house with your family for days on end, there's no room for quick charm. Even worse, your quirks and irritations and insecurities have nowhere to hide. You have to deal with them and so do the people you love. And though right now we have no choice except to stay where we are, there's a big difference between staying resentfully and staying with grace. I can be a very generous, patient person on social media . . . over the phone . . . when I'm all by myself. It's harder to be any of that when the dogs are barking incessantly and the sink is full of dirty dishes and the girls are fighting with me and each other. My family needs my love, and the truth is that sometimes I feel so worn out that it seems like I can't even muster the will to try. But I have to keep trying, even when the best I can say is, "I'm cranky and tired and not happy with you right now, but I'm going to love you anyway because you're mine." I've told my girls so many times that love isn't a feeling; it's what we choose to do. I'm learning that lesson over and over again these days.

But like I said, there are good things happening at our house too. So let's talk about some of them...

1. Quarantine is delicious. I've been cooking so much more and making a greater variety of food. We've also been eating more meals together as a family which is wonderful. Preparing food for seven people each day can quickly become an endless job, so I've started making a large meal at lunch which can then be stretched for leftovers at dinner. Mom makes a loaf of her famous oatmeal bread in our bread machine almost every day, and we use any stale slices that don't get eaten to make croutons for salad. A big pot of soup or stew can last us for two days or more, and every now and then I'll make extra pans of pasta bake or enchiladas that can go in the freezer to be pulled out on a day when I'm too tired or busy to cook. All in all, I think we're wasting less food and making better use of our groceries than we have in ages, and that feels pretty great.

2. Time stuck at home is the perfect chance to tackle all the jobs that we've been putting off because we didn't have the time. James has been working on replacing old sink drains in the upstairs bathrooms. I'm deep cleaning our closet for the first time since we moved in five years ago and slowly getting my sewing space reorganized. It feels fantastic to get some of these jobs finished after they've been on my to-do list for so long. On the other hand, though, I'm not freaking out over dog hair on the floor and a cluttered pantry stuffed full of food and paper products right now because nobody's going to see it but us. So it's good to walk that balance between taking on some long overdue organizational projects while not going crazy over the day-to-day stuff.

3. Being together as a family is the best. For a few days the pool was (just barely) warm enough to go swimming, so we made the most of it. James has been taking the girls outside after lunch or in the afternoon to play basketball, soccer, foursquare, or just walk laps around the front circle. Sometimes we go for walks as a family, and sometimes my husband and I go out for a "date walk" while my parents stay home with the girls. Almost every night we watch a show or movie together. Since my eighth grader is studying World War II, we've been introducing the girls to some old movies from the time period that are favorites of ours. The girls have enjoyed To Be or Not to Be and Casablanca, and we had some great discussions about both films. I've also been reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud to the family while the girls take turns practicing hairstyles on me in the evenings before bed. It's been interesting to talk about the Ingalls family's isolation brought on by blizzards versus our quarantine due to the virus. We all agree that we definitely have it better than they did.

4. Quiet time is good for the soul. I find that I make it through the day much better when I start and end with some simple encouragement. So before I face the news on my laptop in the morning, I read my Bible for a few minutes as I drink my coffee. And each night before I head to bed, I spend some time at my desk writing my thoughts down in a journal and reading a short devotion from Each New Day by Corrie ten Boom, a woman of deep faith whose writings have meant so much to me over the years (read her book The Hiding Place if you haven't already -- it's unforgettable). These small, quiet moments have been anchors for my soul. Some days they're the only thing keeping me from flying all to pieces, and they're habits I want to keep even after this crazy time is over.

5. Sewing still makes me happy. The days are busier than I would have expected, but I still try to sneak off to my sewing machine when I can. Making pretty little things just because I want to is such a wonderful way to spend an hour, and it always lifts my spirits.

I'm thinking of you often, friends. You're always in my prayers. Be safe and well, and know that you're loved.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The only bright side to being stuck indoors during these crazy days of social distancing is that there's a lot more time for everyone to sew. That's why I've decided to take some of the patterns I've written over the last year for Carnival of Patchwork and publish about one a week on the blog as free tutorials over the next month or so. Hopefully this will give you something to look forward to and enjoy!

These Button Card Needlebooks are first on my list of quick, fun projects to share with you. I adore vintage button cards -- not just for the artwork on the cards but for the buttons themselves. They’re like miniature works of art, and I love looking at them. What better way to remember these gorgeous sewing notions from the past than with a cute little patchwork needlebook. Forgive my poorly lit photos today. It's been pouring rain all day, and I probably should have waited for the sun that's coming next week, but I wanted to get this tutorial out to you all as soon as possible!

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Because you’re working with such small pieces for the cover art, this is a great place to let your fussy cutting skills shine. Try doing an online search for vintage button cards to get ideas for how you want to design your own. Illustrations are perfect for the feature print at the top, and I like to use narrow stripes on either side of the text scrap at the bottom to draw the eye to the words. You can use any number of buttons you like in any formation as long as they fit inside the solid square. Linen and canvas prints will work just as well as quilting cotton. The cover of the middle book above is made with pieces from my linen and canvas stash, and I love the added texture those substrates bring to the piece.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I used wool for the pages inside my books, but felt will work just as well if that's what you have on hand. These strawberry pins, by the way, are from my friend Vickie who sells the cutest notions in her Etsy shop. It's funny to me how these are called needlebooks, but I always want to fill them full of cute pins instead...

Alright, let's get to sewing!

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial
Finished Size: 3" x 5 1/4"

From scrap of feature print, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 3’’ x 2’’ for front cover (A)

From scrap of coordinating solid, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 3’’ x 3’’ for front cover (B)

From scrap of text print, cut: 
- (1) rectangle, 2’’ x 1’’ for front cover (C)

From scrap of striped print, cut:
- (2) squares, 1’’ x 1’’ for front cover (D)

From 5’’ square of white solid, cut:
- 2 rectangles, 3/4’’ x 5’’ for front cover border (E)
- 2 rectangles, 3 1/2’’ x 3/4’’ for front cover border (F)

From 10’’ square of geometric print, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 3 1/2’’ x 6’’ for back cover (G)

From 1/4 yard of batting, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 4 1/2’’ x 12’’ for interfacing (H)

From 10’’ square of floral print, cut:
- (2) rectangles, 3 1/2’’ x 5 3/4’’ for lining (I)

From 5’’ square of wool, cut:
- (2) rectangles, 2 1/2’’ x 5’’ for pages (J)

Additional Supplies: matching thread, binding clips, chopstick or turning tool, adhesive basting spray, buttons

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

1. Arrange pieces A-F as shown. 

2. Sew a D square to the right and left edges of the C rectangle. Sew this unit to the lower edge of the B square and then sew that unit to the lower edge of the A rectangle. 

3. Sew the E rectangles to the right and left edges of the unit from step 2, and then sew the F rectangles to the upper and lower edges. 

4. Sew a short end of the G rectangle to the upper edge of the unit from step 3. Use adhesive basting spray to fuse the wrong side of the cover to the center of the H rectangle. Quilt as desired and trim off excess batting to make a 3 1/2’’ x 11’’ rectangle.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

5. Arrange buttons as desired on the solid square on the cover. Use needle and thread to sew the buttons on by hand or wait until after step 10. (The timing of when to sew the buttons onto the front is up to you. If you don’t want your stitches to show on the inside of the book, then add them as your last step when you finish sewing the cover. If you’re more concerned about having an easier time turning the book right side out and pressing it, then save the buttons to the very end. You can always cover the stitches over with something fun like this iron-on fabric stamp that my friend Cheri made for me!)

6. Stack the two J rectangles on top of each other and baste them together at one short end.

7. Stack in this order from bottom to top: I rectangle (right side up), J rectangles, I rectangle (right side down). Align all pieces at the upper edge where the J rectangles are basted together and sew them together along that edge. 

8. Open up the lining so that it lies flat and place it RST with the cover, holding them together with binding clips. Sew all the way around the outside edge, leaving a 3’’ gap in the side on what will be the back cover. Backstitch at the start and finish. Trim the corners.

9. Carefully turn the needlebook right side out through the gap, gently pushing out the corners with a chopstick. Tuck the raw edges of the gap into the opening and press the book while open and flat. 

10. Topstitch around the outside of the book 1/16’’ from the edge. Close the book and press one more time. If you waited to add the buttons, sew them on now to finish.

Button Card Needlebook Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

If you sew one of these, be sure to share photos with the hashtag #buttoncardneedlebook and tag me @fabricmutt. These look so adorable in a sewing space, and I think they make a pretty sweet gift for a friend too!

Incidentally, I posted a video on Instagram giving a few tips on surviving the quarantine with your kids at home. If you're not on IG, you can see it here. You'll get a tour of our homeschool setup, a few ideas for maintaining your sanity in a packed house, and a peek at my overflowing bookshelves in the upstairs hall. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I talked about. I'm always here and happy to help!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Cross Stitch Quilt Block & Pillow Tutorials

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Pillow Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I have a million memories from my childhood of watching my mother with a piece of cross stitch in her hands. Her handmade pictures were all over our house, and I remember sitting at the breakfast table when I was a little girl, studying them thoughtfully while I ate my cereal in the mornings. Those same pictures are now hanging in our breakfast nook where my daughters start the day, such a wonderful way to carry on that legacy.

For a long time now, I've been wanting to do a cross stitch quilt block, and when I was working on my book proposal last year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it. The quilt blocks in this pillow look like a row of patchwork cross stitches to me, and I love that they remind me of my mother every time I see them. 

Incidentally, I've decided that all the projects and information that I share with you here on the blog that would have gone into that next book are going to be tagged under the label "Carnival of Patchwork." Hopefully that will help you find it in the search box on the left if you're looking for anything from this series!

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Pillow Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This little block is so much fun to sew, and I love that it looks great in every project where I've used it. My first pattern was the patchwork pillow at the top of this post which I hand quilted. I love this one so much that it sits in a place of honor on my bed where I can look at it every day.

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My next attempt was a zipper pouch that I made in shades of pink, yellow, aqua, and white. It's interesting to me how the look of the block changes without the sashing strips in between. I honestly can't decide which style I like better at this point.

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

And just to show that I could make something using only one block, I turned this one into a little pincushion. I didn't actually plan for the H to land at the top, but I think it was meant to be!

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Those numbers running along the lower edge are so much fun. I added 1" borders to the block and then finished it using the directions for my Tagalong Pincushion pattern in Patchwork USA. Feel free to do the same!

I wanted to share the tutorial with you so that you can play with this block in any number of projects that you can dream up. Here's how you make one...

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block
Finished size: 2" x 2"

From a 5" square of a colored print, cut:
(1) rectangle, 1 1/4" x 3 3/4" (A)
(2) rectangles, 1 1/4" x 1 3/4" (B)

From a 5" square of low volume print, cut:
(4) squares, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (C)

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Pillow Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

1. Arrange the pieces for a single block as shown. Sew the C squares to either side of the B rectangles (the B rectangle will extend slightly beyond the C squares). Press seams open.

2. Center a B/C unit on one long side of the A rectangle and sew in place (the A rectangle will extend slightly beyond the B/C unit). Repeat on the other side of the A rectangle with the other B/C unit. Press seams open.

3. Using a ruler and rotary cutter, rotate the block so that it forms an X shape. Centering the block, carefully trim to a 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” square.

I know that some of you can take those directions and run with them all over the place, but if you're looking for set of directions for a finished project, here are the instructions for the Cross Stitch Patchwork Pillow.

Cross-Stitch Patchwork Pillow
Finished size: 12" x 16"

From (24) 5’’ squares of colored prints, cut from each print:
- (1) rectangle, 1 1/4” x 3 3/4’’ (A) 
- (2) rectangles, 1 1/4” x 1 3/4’’ (B)

From (24) 5’’ squares of low volume prints, cut from each print:
- (4) squares, 1 1/2’’ x 1 1/2’’ (C)

From 1/3 yard white solid, cut…
- (16) rectangles, 1’’ x 2 1/2’’ (D)
- (3) rectangles, 12 1/2’’ x 1’’ (E)
- (2) rectangles, 2 1/2’’ x 10’’ (F)
- (2) rectangles, 16 1/2’’ x 1 3/4’’ (G)

From 1/2 yard batting, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 18’’ x 15’’ (H)

From 1/2 yard muslin, cut:
- (1) rectangle, 18’’ x 15’’ (I)

From 1/2 yard red gingham, cut 2 rectangles, 13’’ x 12 1/2’’ (J)

Additional Supplies: matching thread, binding clips, chopstick/turning tool

1. Sort the pieces for each block into 24 stacks. Each stack should include 1 A rectangle and 2 B rectangles from a single colored print and 4 C squares from a single low volume print.

2. Arrange the pieces for a single block as shown in the quilt block diagram above. Sew the C squares to either side of the B rectangles (the B rectangle will extend slightly beyond the C squares). Press seams open.

3. Center a B/C unit on one long side of the A rectangle and sew in place (the A rectangle will extend slightly beyond the B/C unit). Repeat on the other side of the A rectangle with the other B/C unit. Press seams open.

4. Using a ruler and rotary cutter, rotate the block so that it forms an X shape. Centering the block, carefully trim to a 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” square.

5. Repeat steps 2-4 with the pieces for the remaining 23 blocks. 

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Pillow Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

6. Arrange the quilt blocks, D rectangles, and E rectangles as shown above. Sew the blocks and D pieces together in rows. Then sew the rows and E pieces together to form the pillow top.

7. Sew the F rectangles to the right and left edges of the pillow top. Sew the G rectangles to the upper and lower edges. 

8. Stack in this order from bottom to top: I rectangle, H rectangle, pillow top (right side up). Use adhesive basting spray to fuse them together and quilt as desired.

9. Fold a 12 1/2’’ end of an J piece under (toward the wrong side) approximately 3/8’’ twice. Topstitch 1/4’’ from the fold. Repeat with the other J piece.

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Pillow Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

10. Finish the pillow by placing the each of the backing pieces from step 9 right sides together with the pillow top. The hemmed edges should point toward the center, overlapping each other, and the opposite raw edges should line up with the shorter right and left sides of the pillow top. (See the directions for the Road Trip Pillow on page 44 in my book Patchwork USA if you need to see diagrams that explain this more thoroughly.) Hold them together with binding clips, and then sew all around the outside edge. Trim the corners, turn the pillow cover right side out, gently push out the corners with a chopstick, and press.

Cross-Stitch Quilt Block Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

If you make one of these, be sure to tag it #fabricmuttcrossstitchblock or #crossstitchpatchworkpillow and tag me @fabricmutt. I'm hoping at some point to start on a quilt with this pattern -- maybe making the blocks twice as big so it won't take me quite as long to finish. We'll see...

Have fun!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Being Real

Scrappy Linen Log Cabin Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Last week I talked by phone with my friend Stephanie who asked me to do an episode of her popular Modern Sewciety podcast about what brought me to the decision to retire from professional sewing. As someone who had struggled with these issues herself, she felt that it was an important conversation to have, and I'm so glad she did. We spent over an hour sharing our hearts about the joys and challenges of this work. Being real . . . it seems to be the theme that's guiding this new season. Real conversations about real things with real people in real life. It's messy and difficult sometimes, but it's what we've got. It's who we are. And it's so much better to look at that reality than to try to be something we're not. So pour yourself a cup of tea, pick up your favorite slow sewing project, and settle in with the link right here for some good, honest conversation with friends.

Scrappy Linen Log Cabin Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

On another note, it's been almost a year since I started working on my scrappy linen log cabin quilt (Sunny Day Supply is actually getting ready to host another round of their annual log cabin sew along that got me started on this one!), but I finally finished it last week just in time to gift it to my niece for her first birthday today. I absolutely love this quilt, and as hard as it is to let it go, I'm so happy that it's going to her.

For months, I was stumped on the quilting. I tried both machine and hand quilting several times, but I always wound up pulling the stitches out when they didn't look quite right. After getting so much wonderful encouragement from friends on Instagram to finish it up, I decided to do the simplest quilting possible on my machine, and it finally worked. The linen had to be handled carefully at times, as it does like to stretch a bit, but it came together in the end.

Scrappy Linen Log Cabin Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The back of the quilt is a Melody Miller print, back from her solo Ruby Star days, which I've always loved. I added a tag on the back with my niece's name and mine, which I embroidered by hand. It takes a little extra time, but for something special and personal like this, it's so worth it. The quilt is bound in a rainbow striped canvas print from IKEA that I've been saving for years. I like the touch of whimsy that it adds to the border, and it makes a wonderful frame for the whole project.

Scrappy Linen Log Cabin Quilt by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This quilt is absolutely packed full of favorite prints that I've been collecting since my very first year of sewing. It almost feels like a time capsule of the past eight years. I love it so much. I hope that every time my niece wraps herself up in it, she'll remember -- as I've always told my girls since they were little -- that she's all wrapped up in our love too.

Saturday, February 22, 2020


Lecien Retro 30's Child Smile Cheater Panel Hand Quilted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I'm propped up in bed with a quilt and my favorite patchwork pillow today, enjoying the warm sunshine that's streaming through the windows. My youngest and I were hit hard by a flu bug yesterday, and while she's young enough that her energy is already coming back in droves this morning, I'm feeling weak and wobbly and perfectly content to curl up in bed with my laptop and books when I'm not sleeping. My favorite mix of jazz/swing/blues/big band music is playing beside me on my phone. Click here if you'd like to listen to my playlist too on Google Play Music -- I'm happy to share it with you. While I'm too tired to dance, it's awfully hard to keep still when Ray Charles is singing "Hallelujah, I Love Her So." There are so many memories on this playlist. I used to listen to "Moonlight Serenade" on my favorite Glenn Miller album while working in the office at my part time children's director job at my church during college, and I remember singing along with Frank Sinatra's "Sweet Lorraine" in the mornings on the way to my fifth grade classroom when I got my first teaching job. James and I took swing dancing lessons just for fun back when we were engaged, where we usually found ourselves dancing to "More" by Bobby Darin, which seemed to be a favorite tune for the instructors. And "At Last" by Etta James has always been our special song. So there's a lot more in this music than just melodies for me.

I'm finally making some progress on one of my longstanding reading goals: to make it all the way through the 3-volume The Civil War: a Narrative by Shelby Foote. That's almost 3,000 pages worth of history, and I'm only on page 323, but for a girl like me who loves American history, it's fascinating. Foote has a remarkable way of including little details that really make these people and events come alive, and it's nice to spend an afternoon getting lost in the past for a while.

Last October at Quilt Market, my friend Joanna Burgarino, the editor of Quilts & More magazine, interviewed me for the American Patchwork & Quilting podcast. Joanna was the technical editor on my first book, and she's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. It was so much fun to get to spend this time with her, and I hope you'll enjoy it. You can listen to Episode #459 right here (our chat begins around 22:31) online.

The photo above is a project I started earlier this week, a cheater panel that I purchased from my favorite shop, Sunny Day Supply, which I'm quilting by hand. It's just the sort of slow, simple project I've been wanting to work on for so long, and I love picking it up whenever I get the urge.

Well, I think another nap may be calling my name, so I'd better close up the laptop for now. Hope you're all having a beautiful weekend, friends!

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...
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