Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry Maker Tree

Merry Maker Christmas Tree by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

It all started when I saw a package of Shiny Brite vintage reproduction ornaments on sale at Macy's. I've been desperately wanting to get my hands on some of the originals, but they're way out of my wallet's league. So I decided to get these instead as a treat, thinking that they would look cute on a miniature tree in my sewing room. But by the time I got them home, I found out that the ornaments were too large for the small silver tinsel tree I had bought for them. The girls helped me hang the Shiny Brites on our big family tree instead, and I was left wondering what to do with my lonely little sewing room tree.

Why not, I suddenly thought, have a Merry Maker Tree to match my creative space? It was such a fun challenge to come up with tiny decorations that fit the sewing theme.

Merry Maker Christmas Tree by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

Small white ric rac trim and a string of Lori Holt's colorful buttons strung on white Aurifil floss made perfect garlands.

Pixie Cup for Merry Maker Tree by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

I used a mix of Christmas and everyday prints in shades of pink, red, and green to sew a wide, handles-free Pixie Cup for the base of the tree which I filled with snowy white batting to cover up the trunk.

Merry Maker Christmas Tree by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

And a wooden spool of red and white baker's twine held in place with a single pin made the perfect tree topper.

Merry Maker Christmas Tree by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

Putting this tree together was such a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and it makes me smile every time I see it on the cabinet next to my great grandfather's old typewriter. I may add more decorations in the next week, or maybe not. We'll see. Taking time to do something just for the fun of it was good for my soul. It seems like the perfect way to celebrate Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Quilt for Snuffy

Miniature Doll Quilt & Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Oh my friends, what a week it's been. Little Mouse came down with what we thought was a stomach bug last Saturday night. Unfortunately it was a more serious virus than we knew, culminating in a long day at the emergency room on Thursday so that she could be treated for dehydration. I'm very grateful to say that she's on the mend, but we're still taking it a day at a time. She's in that delicate place right now where she's getting her strength back but still needs to stay quiet (no easy feat for this little bundle of energy), and it's a challenge to keep her calm so that she doesn't relapse. The hardest part of all is that our church is having it's Christmas children's program and festival tomorrow morning, which she'll have to miss. Breaking the news to her last night was painful, after her long week of hoping against hope that she'd get well in time. After she spent a while sobbing in my arms and then in her Daddy's, I told her that maybe we could sew something special this weekend together to make up for it, perhaps a quilt for her beloved stuffed dog Snuffy.

Miniature Doll Quilt & Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It was a game changer. There were more tears before the day was over, but it was definitely the turning point. I sit here now and think back on how many times the prospect of "sewing time with Mommy" saved the day with my girls. It has so often been a way to help them through difficult moments.

Miniature Doll Quilt & Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

So while the rest of the family went to Saturday lunch at our favorite Mexcian restaurant, Mouse and I went upstairs to sew. Miniature doll quilts are such a wonderful project when you want to sew something with a child. You don't even really need a pattern. Just pick the fabrics, choose a shape or design, sew the top, and then cut a backing print to fit. I like to use a piece of muslin or cotton fabric instead of batting so that the quilt isn't too stiff. Instead of binding, I just sew the front and back together, leaving an opening for turning, and then once it's turned right side out, I tuck the raw edges inside and stitch 1/8" from the edge all around. So simple!

Miniature Doll Quilt & Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

We made a little pillow to go along with the quilt, adding pom-pom trim at Mouse's request. She was absolutely delighted with the finish, and immediately wanted to tuck Snuffy in for a nap.

Miniature Doll Quilt & Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

She's spent the rest of the day resting on the couch in the family room cuddling with her little pup and watching old episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies. I love to hear her giggling from the next room.

After a week like this one, it's the most beautiful music in the world.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Constance Organizer Tutorial Revisited

Constance Organizer Tutorial by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

Just over five years ago, I did a series of sewing posts for a blog called The Glamorous Housewife, which I recently found out has since gone defunct. Consequently, people have been clicking on the tutorial link for my Constance Organizer tutorial and sadly coming up empty. I've gotten quite a few emails about it in the last few weeks from people who want to make them as Christmas presents for friends and family (especially teachers!), so after spending a bit of time tracking down the text and photos from that original post, I'm reposting it all here for you below. It's a quick little tutorial and a truly useful gift. If you make one, please share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #constanceorganizer and tag me @fabricmutt. Enjoy!

Constance Organizer Tutorial by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

It took me years, but I finally learned the secret to getting (most of) what I need to do finished every day: lists. It's all about lists for me when it comes to organization. If it's not written down, forget it. Unfortunately, I usually end up with two or three running lists for different areas of my life, and then it comes down to trying to track down the lists themselves so I can figure out what I needed to remember in the first place. The solution? A handy little organizer for keeping everything straight.

This little beauty has a place for everything I could possibly need: notepad, post-it notes, note cards, business cards, a pen, and even a few vintage postcards for inspiration. The version you'll see in the tutorial photos is one that I made for myself using all cotton prints and a dark brown solid for accent pieces. Though I hadn't intended for this to be a seasonal project, the prints all rather remind me of fall -- definitely my favorite time of the year.

Joel McCrea & Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier

This month's tutorial is inspired by The More the Merrier, a wonderful 1940's screwball comedy. Jean Arthur stars as Constance Milligan, a compulsively organized working girl who decides to sublet half of her apartment to help out with the housing shortage in wartime Washington, D.C. Life takes a crazy turn when retired millionaire Benjamin Dingle (played by Charles Coburn) moves in and then decides to do a little matchmaking by renting half of his half to a handsome soldier named Joe Carter (played by Joel McCrea). It's classic comedy at its best, and Jean Arthur's costumes are absolutely divine examples of 1940's fashion. If you'd like to see an updated version of the story, it was remade in 1966 as Walk Don't Run  -- this time concerning close quarters during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and featuring an utterly charming Cary Grant in his last film appearance.

Constance Organizer Tutorial by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

By the way, there are always ways to tweak any of my tutorials to make them fit your own style. I made another one of these organizers for my mom using linen accents and a magnetic clasp. This version is a little more grown-up, and I love the vintage inspired prints it uses (scroll to the end of this post for a look inside this one). It never ceases to amaze me how a change in fabric can transform the whole feel of a project. Even though this is an item that's going to see a lot of everyday use, I think it's important to use fabrics that you love. Those lists are easier to face when they're framed by happy fabric.

But enough chit-chat . . . let's get sewing!

(2) 6.75 x 10.5" print for exterior
(1) 4 x 10.5" solid (linen or cotton) for exterior accent
(1) 10.5 x 16.5" batting for exterior
(2) 8.5 x 10.5" print for lining
(1) 10.5 x 16.5" interfacing for lining (I used Pellon 809 Decor Bond)
(1) 8.5 x 14" solid (linen or cotton) for pad pocket
(1) 7 x 8.5" interfacing for pad pocket
(1) 8.5 x 16" print for top interior pocket
(1) 8 x 8.5" interfacing for top interior pocket
(1) 8.5 x 13" for middle interior pocket
(1) 6.5 x 8.5" interfacing for middle interior pocket
(4) 4.75 x 8.5" prints for interior zipper pocket and lining (cut 2 each of 2 different prints)
(1) 3 x 3.5" solid (linen or cotton) for exterior flap
(1) 3 x 3.5" print for flap lining
(1) 3 x 3.5" batting for flap
(1) 3 x 3.5" interfacing for flap
(1) 9" or larger zipper for interior zipper pocket
(1) magnetic snap or (1) 2" piece of velcro
Adhesive basting spray or fabric glue
Chopstick for turning
Sewing clips or clothespins
Coordinating thread

Note: All seams will be 1/4" wide. Don't forget to press your work between steps to keep things neat and tidy. Half the work is cutting out all the pieces for this project. Once you have the prep work done, it goes together pretty quickly!

Step One: Make the basic interior pockets. Take the fabrics for the pad pocket and the top and middle interior pockets, fold them with wrong sides together (8.5" ends meeting), and press the folds well. Slip the matching piece of interfacing between those wrong sides and press again so it sticks in place. Top stitch 1/4" from the fold on each piece. Baste the pad pocket in place on the bottom of one of the 8.5 x 10.5" lining pieces. (That means setting your machine to its longest stitch length and sewing around the sides and bottom 1/8" from the edge. This will hold it in place when you're sewing everything together later.) If you're using linen, by the way, keep in mind that it can be a little finicky at times, so don't worry if it seems to stretch a tad while you sew. You can always trim the extra bits off later.

Step Two: Make the interior zipper pocket. Stack in this order along an 8.5" edge: lining piece (right side up), zipper (right side up), exterior piece (right side down). Sew down that edge, fold the fabrics back so that the wrong sides are together, and press. Top stitch 1/4" from the zipper and then repeat on the other side. Trim the zipper ends off on each side of the pocket, making sure that the zipper pull is in the middle first! Fold the sides of the pocket together so that you match up all four pieces of fabric and the lining pieces have their right sides together. Baste the sides of the zipper pocket together.

Step Three: Assemble all the interior pockets. Stack the three interior pockets in order from top to bottom: top interior, middle interior, and zipper pocket. Line them up along the bottom edge of the lining piece and baste along the sides and bottom.

Step Four: Finish the interior. Stack the two lining pieces right sides together and stitch along the 10.5" side, joining them together so that the pad pocket will be on the right when opened. Press the seam to one side and place the whole interior piece on top of the matching piece of interfacing, pressing it in place. Be careful with your ironing around that zipper! Once the interfacing is securely attached, flip the piece back over to the right side. Measure and mark a line 1.25" from the center seam. Stitch a line down the solid pocket to create a pen pocket in the center, making sure that you backstitch at the top so the pocket doesn't come loose with use.

Step Five: Make the cover. Sew the two exterior prints to either 10.5" side of the solid accent strip which should be in the center. Attach the batting to the back of the cover and then top stitch down both sides of each of the seams. Center and sew half of the 2" piece of velcro about 1" from the edge on the right side of the cover (scroll down to step six for a photo of this). I usually sew around a piece of velcro at least twice just to be sure that it's not going to budge anytime soon.

Step Six: Make the flap. Attach batting to the flap exterior with fabric glue or adhesive basting spray and iron the interfacing onto the flap lining piece. Stack the lining and exterior pieces with their right sides together and sew all around them, leaving a few inches open on the bottom for turning. Trim around the edges, clipping the corners, and turn right side out using the chopstick to poke out the corners. Tuck in the raw edges and and topstitch 1/8" from the edge all the way around the flap. Center the other half of the velcro on the right side on the flap lining about 1/4" from the edge and sew all the way around it twice.

Center the flap on the left side of the exterior, about 1" from the edge with the velcro pointing away from the cover. Sew a 1/4" wide rectangle on the flap to hold it in place on the cover.

Step Seven: Finish the organizer. Stack the lining and exterior with right sides together, tucking the flap inside out of the way. Clip them together and then sew all the way around the outside of the pieces, backstitching at both ends and leaving a gap for turning on what will be the upper side of the back of the organizer. Trim all the way around the stitching and then turn it (carefully!) right side out, using the chopstick to press out the corners. Tuck the raw edges inside the gap and press it well -- again being careful of that zipper! -- then topstich 1/8" all the way around the outside. Tuck in your office supplies, and you're in business!

Constance Organizer Tutorial by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

Happy sewing!
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