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. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Hello Summer

Rifle Paper Co Bon Voyage Zipper Pouch by Fabric Mutt

This morning I sewed my first project in ages, a zipper pouch made of canvas from Rifle Paper Co.'s Bon Voyage collection that will be a gift for a friend. It felt so good to sew again. I never realize how much I miss it until I come back to my fabric and thread after some time away.

My sewing room is in a state of total chaos at the moment which is why there has been neither sewing nor posting around here for some time. In the fall, my sister and I will be teaching enrichment classes to our girls every other week, so I'm trying to reconfigure my setup ahead of time to have classroom space as well as work space for my own projects. I'll be teaching music and sewing, my sister will be doing cooking and art, and my brother in law will be giving the girls pointers in martial arts and self-defense. It's going to be so great, and I'm excited to get into the planning stages over the next month. Once I have everything looking somewhat put together again, I'll show you pictures of the finished space. 

Fabric Mutt

After months of work, my husband's garden is in full swing. With all the craziness at the supermarket this year, we decided to go big here at home, so the garden is about four times larger. The photo above was actually taken a few weeks ago, and at this point we've got a lot more growth happening, especially in the watermelon patch in the lower right hand corner of the picture which is now wreathed in vines.. Keeping it alive during this Texas heat streak has been a challenge, but so far it's working. My husband has already harvested all the sweet onions and some of the herbs for my cooking, and they taste amazing. My youngest loves to go out every morning and snag a few raspberries from the berry bushes after breakfast along with a mint leaf or two. It's her favorite morning treat. 

Tagalong Pincushion from Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Now that we've wrapped up the school year, I'm thinking about projects for the summer. Most of them involve cleaning and organization, but I'm also hoping to finish the quilt I've been slowly working on as well as the EPP pillow I started years ago. After that, I'm going to open up some favorite books and see what looks like fun.

But summers are mostly for family, and I'm happily storing up the memories from every minute of time I get to spend with my favorite people in the world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I love putting together themed gift bags and care packages for friends and family whenever I get the chance, and this tiny patchwork bag is perfect for that sort of thing. Pick a theme -- stationery supplies, beauty items, sewing notions, sweet treats -- and fill this mini tote to the top with small treasures. I find that aside from the winter holidays, late spring is usually the time when I most need gifts for Easter, birthdays, Mother's Day, and the inevitable celebrations as we head into summer. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It's always fun to make the bag itself part of the present, and you can customize the fabric you use for your patchwork squares to fit the recipient. If you need a whole lot of bags in a hurry, try replacing the patchwork panel on each side with a single fabric rectangle for faster sewing. I hope this hardworking little pattern will be incredibly useful to you in the months ahead!

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial

Finished Size: 6 1/2" x 7" x 3" (including handle)

All seam allowances are 1/4".


From assorted scraps, cut...

- (12) red squares, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (A)

- (12) low volume squares with red accents, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (B)

*Note: for a faster project, replace all the 1 1/2" squares with 2 rectangles, 4 1/2" x 3 1/2", cut from the same feature print.

From 10" square of vintage floral red print, cut...

- (2) squares, 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" (C)

From fat eighth of low volume music print, cut...

- (2) rectangles, 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" (D)

- (2) rectangles, 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" (E)

- (1) rectangle, 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" (F)

From long scrap of red scallop stripe print, cut...

- (1) rectangle, 12 1/2" x 2" (G)

From fat quarter of batting, cut...

- (2) rectangles, 4 1/2" x 5 1/2" (H)

- (2) rectangles, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" (I)

- (1) rectangle, 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" (J)

From low volume floral print, cut...

- (2) rectangles, 4 1/2" x 5 1/2" (K)

- (2) rectangles, 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" (L)

- (1) rectangle, 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" (M)

Additional supplies: button, 5 1/2" piece of thin white elastic cord, matching thread, adhesive basting spray, binding clips.


The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

1. Split the A and B squares in half into 2 groups of 12, 4 squares across and 3 squares down, alternating the A and B squares as shown. Sew each group of 12 together. Note: If you are using 2 rectangles, 4 1/2" x 3 1/2" instead, you may skip this step.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

2. Spray the back of each patchwork piece with adhesive basting spray and attach to the lower edge of an H batting rectangle. Quilt as desired. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

3. Line the lower long edge of a D rectangle up with the top of the patchwork piece from step 2 with right sides together (the D rectangle should be upside down) and stitch them together along the edge (see photo). Flip the D rectangle up and away from the patchwork so that the wrong side of the piece is against the upper half of the batting. Press. Topstitch 1/8" from either side of the seam. Repeat with the other patchwork piece and D rectangle to give you 2 finished main panels.

4. Spray the back of each C square with adhesive basting spray and attach to the lower edge of an I batting rectangle. Repeat step 3 directions, using E rectangles to finish the 2 side panels.

5. Spray the back of the F rectangle and attach it to the J batting rectangle to finish the bottom panel. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

6. Fold the elastic piece in half to make a loop, placing the raw edges centered on the top edge of the back main panel. Stitch back and forth over this 1/8" from the edge to hold it in place.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

7. Make the handle by folding the G strip in half lengthwise with wrong sides together and press. Unfold and then fold each long edge in to meet in the center and press again. Without unfolding, refold along the first line so that the raw edges are trapped in the middle. (You are actually making double fold quilt binding.) Topstitch along each long edge to hold the sides together and create a strap. Cut the strap in half so that each piece is 6 1/4" long.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

8. Use binding clips to hold the raw edges of a strap in place along the top edge of a main panel piece so that the outer edge of the strap is 3/4" from the side edge of the panel. Stitch in place 1/8" from the edge. Repeat with the other strap on the other main panel.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

9. Line up the lower edge of a main panel with a long edge of the bottom panel, right sides together, and sew together. Press the seam towards the main panel. Repeat with the other main panel on the other long edge of the bottom panel.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

10. Line up the lower edge of a side panel with a short edge of the bottom panel, right sides together. Sew along the lower edge of the side panel first, stopping 1/4" from each corner and backstitching. Do the same on the other side with the other side panel.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

11. Line up the side edges of a side panel with the side edges of the main panels and hold them together with binding clips as well (see photo), carefully matching up the seam that goes down the middle of each panel first. Sew along the side edges, starting at the top of the panel and going just past the 1/4" mark before the lower edge before backstitching. Repeat with the other side panel. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

You should now have a finished bag exterior. Turn the exterior right side out.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

12. Now repeat steps 9-11 with the K, L, and M rectangles to create the bag lining with ONE EXCEPTION: when repeating step 9, leave a 3" gap in the middle on one side as you stitch the main panel to the bottom panel so that you'll be able to turn the bag right side out. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Do NOT turn the bag lining right side out when you finish this step.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

14. Place the bag exterior inside the bag lining so that the right sides are together. Carefully line up the side seams and top edges, making sure that the straps and elastic loop are sandwiched between the exterior and lining.

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

15. Stitch all the way around the top edge of the bag. Gently pull the bag right side out through the gap in the lining. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

16. Tuck the raw edges inside the gap in the lining and stitch it closed, backstitching at both ends.

17. Push the lining inside the bag, press carefully as needed, and then topstitch 1/8" from the top edge of the bag. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

18. Center a button on the D rectangle of the front main panel (adjusting the position depending on how tightly you want the bag to close when fastened) and stitch in place by hand. 

The Darling Gift Bag Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Now just fill the bag with goodies and share it with someone you love. Enjoy, friends!

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Mostly Practical

Patchwork quilt as you go pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Exactly one week ago I went to bed feeling a little off, not realizing that I had acquired an extremely nasty case of strep throat which is still raging as I type this evening. I'm on antibiotics, but it's going to be a slow recovery. Speaking and sleeping without coughing are a real challenge, and I've been utterly dependent on my husband who was off all this week on spring break. I'm both sad to have lost the week of activities we had planned and thankful that he was here to run the house and take care of me while I've spent the week in bed reading books and binge watching Remember WENN, an old favorite show that came out when I was in college. I like to think that I'm pretty good about going with the flow, but this week has definitely stretched my limits on that front.

I was thrilled to hear how many of you would like a tutorial for the little bag I shared in my last post! I have all the pieces cut out and waiting on my sewing table, and as soon as I'm well enough, I'll be putting it together and writing up the pattern for you. 

Patchwork quilt as you go pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Since I don't have anything brand new to share, I thought I would show a few pictures of sewing projects I finished during my absence from the blog this past year or so. I'm afraid these photos aren't the best quality since they were originally just meant for family viewing. (I would retake the pictures, but at this point, these pieces are not quite in the same condition they were originally. Let's just call them "well loved.") The pillow at the top of the post was a quilt-as-you-go project I did for fun using some fabric I printed on Spoonflower using digital art I purchased from one of my favorite shops on Etsy after getting permission from the artist. Her retro designs are absolutely adorable, and I knew they would be perfect for fussy cutting. I had originally intended to keep this pillow upstairs in my bedroom, but it's become my husband's favorite back pillow when he's sitting in the family room at night.

Patchwork Heather Ross Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The next pillow is made up of patchwork squares from my Heather Ross collection which I made for the girls. Every evening our family reads a chapter of a book together (right now we're doing Little Women) and then we watch a show or movie before bed. During our movie time, my youngest daughter Mouse loves to curl up in front of the fireplace on her Test Tubes Quilt using this pillow as a headrest. 

Patchwork quilt as you go Bible cover by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

A few months back my sister came to me asking if I could make a cover for her Bible since the paperback cover was coming apart. She gave me total creative freedom, but I tried to insert little details that fit my sister well. This was another quilt-as-you-go piece, and I absolutely loved making it.

I've found that my sewing of the last few years has been mostly practical -- making things for which there is an actual need rather than just for fun -- but I love that the practical can also be beautiful. I have a few more useful sewing projects in mind for the months ahead. We'll see how many I can actually accomplish, but it's fun to think about them. The planning stage is still my favorite after all these years.

Hoping that you're all healthy and happy today, my friends.

Monday, March 7, 2022

A Bit of Sewing

Tiny patchwork gift bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It's been a busy week, but I managed to fit in a bit of sewing each day. I've been wanting to play around with a new pattern that I had sketched out on graph paper between grading papers and working in the kitchen. This cute little bag is the result. 

Tiny patchwork gift bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It's small -- those patchwork squares finish at 1" -- but it holds more than you would think. Wouldn't these be fun for little Easter baskets or party favor bags or sewing retreat gifts? You could even swap out the patchwork panel for a single print on the front and back to make a faster finish if you're in a hurry.

Tiny patchwork gift bag by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

So you tell me, friends...would you like a tutorial? I'm happy to just sew these up for my girls, but if you'd like to make some for yourselves, I can pull out my notes and write something up for the blog. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Having More Fun

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It's another 5 A.M. morning at my house. Having a puppy has put me back on newborn baby hours, and I'm feeling ever so grateful that I finished having children in my early 30's because I am definitely too old for this now. Still, despite the exhaustion that starts hitting me around 8:00 every night, there's something I'm coming to love about these quiet mornings with my Bible, journal, laptop, and coffee. There's a peace here before the whirlwind of the day begins, and getting to watch the sun rise outside my dining room window every morning is a nice bonus. My oldest daughter turns 15 tomorrow -- how is that even possible?? -- so today's to-do list is a bit longer than usual. I have dozens of balloons to blow up for her That Thing You Do! 1960's themed party, chocolate chip Heath bar cookies to bake for her ice cream sundae bar, and a whole lot of decorating to do. But this is the sort of thing I enjoy. Our family loves to celebrate everything, every chance we get, and we've made a lot of great memories over the years doing it. 

My sewing output has gone way down in the last 2 years, but I can honestly say that I'm having more fun with what I make. One of my favorite finished projects was actually for a sewing swap I did with my friend Angela almost a year ago. We each made a large version of the Booklet Pouch by Aneela Hoey for each other after we exchanged information about favorite fabric, colors, styles, etc. I decided to go with a retro theme in a rainbow of colors.

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The outer panels are made with linen and canvas for more stability. Instead of using just one fabric, I used rows of squares in a fun mix of prints. It would be embarrassing to tell you how long I spent rearranging these squares until I got them exactly the way I wanted them. There's something in me that just can't leave well enough alone until I'm satisfied that I love it. 

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I added a thin strip of fabric along either side of the zipper, and it wound up looking just like piping. Such a happy accident! I need to do this kind of thing more often. That zipper pull might just be my favorite thing about this project, aside from the patchwork exterior. 

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

A vintage text print for the inside cover was a great contrast with the bright, candy colored prints I used for almost everything else. The small pocket on the front inside cover holds a needle book and pair of snips, and I tucked some goodies inside the zipper pockets too.

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It was unbelievably hard to send this one off in the mail, but I knew it was going to a good home where it would be well used and loved. And that's what we want for our creations, right? 

vintage retro patchwork Aneela Hoey Booklet Pouch pattern sewn by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Happy weekend, friends!

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